Readers share the music they're excited by--this week, Jim O'Rourke, Ringo Deathstarr, Laura Marling, Big Star and Malportado Kids.
Today we launch a new regular feature, "Our Spilt Milk," where readers can share the music, movies, shows, games, websites, podcasts or whatever that excites them. If you want to tell people about something you care about, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's make it happen.
Something Simple: In today’s music landscape, everything is too much. Blogs churn out new tracks or albums hourly. They detail the next big thing before the last one has had a chance to make a lasting imprint on listeners. The mantra “less is more” has been exiled as an antique. Largely ignored by the majority, the concept wastes away in the industry’s trash bin along with any track lacking an oversaturated, adrenaline-inducing drop.
Jim O’Rourke’s Simple Songs is a breathe of fresh air in this environment. The veteran experimentalist released this record May 19, his first in 14 years. The opening track, titled “Friends with Benefits,” could be viewed as O’Rourke’s message to his fans. He sings, “Nice to see you once again / Been a long time, my friend / Since you crossed my mind at all.”
With no lyric or instrumentation out of place or overdone, O’Rourke proves he still has a lot to say without needing many words to do so. (Alec Schwartzman, Editorial Intern at the Knight Foundation in Miami)
Love and Deathstarr: I first became aware of Ringo Deathstarr with the release of their 2011 CD Colour Trip. Loud fuzzy guitars that reminded me of Jesus and Mary Chain or A Place To Bury Strangers. Live the band delivers feedback laden set that washes through you like the surf on Hawaii's North Shore. Plus, Ringo Deathstarr, has to be one of the coolest band names going. (Emmett Pearce, DJ at CFMU-FM in Hamilton, Ontario)
Marling's New Movie: I remember the first time I heard Laura Marling. It was 2007 and I had stumbled across a video of her playing Later with Jools Holland, a terrified teenager who couldn't take her eyes off the ground and barely moved her lips; yet her effortless, soaring voice and knack for narratives was already evident. At the time I was also a teenager, just beginning to discover the world of contemporary music (picture a tepid stack of Ashlee Simpson and NOW albums) and one song by Laura Marling was enough to uproot me. Who is this alien woman? I thought, Where does this come from? She's since released five distinct albums, and with each album I've felt like I was growing up alongside Marling. I loved her severity, burgeoning confidence, mythical allusions, and the way she seemed to exist completely outside the contemporary world. Marling was a model of female power to me, someone who constructed her own world and wasn't messing around.
I was growing tired of her austerity, however, and ready to move on--that is, until Marling's fifth album Short Movie was released earlier this year. While her previous albums were absolutely poised, vast cinematic affairs, Short Movie is reckless in its honesty and confrontation. On "False Hope," Marling throws her voice against harsh consonants and takes laborious breaths. She snarls through the rollicking "Strange" and her lyrics are rooted in the American landscape. And for the first time in her career, she's even released a music video with a sense of humor.
The album excels in its particulars, roaming from a sleepless night on the Upper West Side to taking psychedelic drugs in California. Suddenly it seems that she really is of this century, albeit with one foot in and the other in some mystical parallel universe. Short Movie is also more willingly self-reflective. Marling criticizes herself on the title track: "I got up in the world today / wondering who it was I could save / Who do you think you are? / Just a girl that can play guitar." She asks the same questions about love, God, and her role in it all that she asks in previous albums. This time, she doesn't cast herself as the absolute authority. She's confident enough now to admit her failings and place herself closer to her music. Laura Marling is the only musician I've kept with me from my teenage to adult years because she grows without apology, elegantly shedding the skin of the album before. With Short Movie, she sloughs it off, leans in for a good look, and then turns around to grin. Laura Marling will play One Eyed Jacks June 23. (Stephanie Chen is a former My Spilt Milk contributor now in New York City)
No Kidding: What’s the most confrontational sound? Maybe that of a multicultural future that doesn’t need you. On the new Total Cultura, Providence, Rhode Island’s Malportado Kids double down on the alienation of anyone over 25 with electronic, synth-oriented music that employs the sounds of instruments from around the world set to Latin beats. Victoria Ruiz sing/shouts political lyrics in fuzzed Spanglish for maximum aggression, and nothing is sacred. The signature melody of the 1812 Overture is mocked on a rinkydink Casio on the “1492 Overture,” and when Ruiz sings Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” the way she sings everything else, she might as well be pissing on his shoes. “Soy La Pocha” begins with a sinuous sitar line, a speaker-rocking bass, and brittle electronic handclaps, establishing a musical world and point of view even before Ruiz comes with a voice that bores in like a power drill. It's the song I can’t stop listening to right now. (Alex Rawls, creator of My Spilt Milk in New Orleans)
A Big Test: I recently picked up a copy of the Record Store Day 2011 release of the test pressing of Big Star's Third album. The reissue is packaged in a replica of the tape box the masters live in in the vault at Ardent Studios in Memphis, complete with copies of mix notes, sheet music, lyrics, and while all that's fun and interesting, the shining star here (as it should be) is the music itself. Cut directly from the master itself, and done by the folks at Ardent for the first time since the record was recorded, it breathes and lives in ways the record hasn't before.
Sonically, it's a breath of fresh air. You feel like you're actually in Studio A while Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens are recording. Vocals come over your shoulder into your ear. The clarity of the strings adds a majesty that wasn't quite fulfilled before. Parts sit better in the mix. Jim Dickinson's production and John Fry's mix become more obvious parts of the equation. It all makes more sense, musically.
From an emotion standpoint, these improvements make the vibe and mood of the songs all the more compelling. There's a bite to Chilton's vocal that didn't make it out in previous mixes, and combined with weary, druggy, no-fucks-given attitude throughout the record, it becomes all the more clear that he's wrestling with some serious demons and putting the battle straight to tape. It's a record that definitely takes multiple listens to fully get into, but good Lord it's worth it. A dark, twisted, beautiful record that you don't get the likes of anymore. (Jonathan Pretus of The Breton Sound in New Orleans)