The Psychic Hipsters Pop 10 Yindies And Crunksters And Christians, O My!
A more or less monthly column in which our eerily intuitive pop-culture snoop predicts the names, records and concepts about to go pop!
R. Kelly Trapped in the Closet (Chapters 1-5) (Jive) This five-part song is a radio serial-style cliffhanger about a man who goes home with a strange woman and is discovered by her husband in the closet. In Part II, we learn that the cuckolded husband is a pastor, and a switch-hitter. (Trapped in the closet, get it?) Its a JerrySpringer-quality drama hot, stupid, hilarious. Better yet, the music is whacked, dispensing with traditional song structure and, instead, building and building at the service of the story: Synth bubbles burp and pop; a piano tinkles; violins swirl. Is it good enough to excuse R. for peeing on a teenage girl and videotaping it a few years back? Did Thriller earn MJ the right to give Macaulay Culkin a tug job? I dont know, but Trapped In the Closet is so rad youll wish the king of shmoove R&B many years of freedom. The songs final installment was released on Tuesday.
Sufjan Stevens Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty) Stevens piercing vocals raise the hair on my neck like Simon & Garfunkel, yet his arrangements for acoustic guitar, oboe, banjo, etc. remind me of classical artists Philip Glass and Steve Reich ever-shifting, yet compositionally rock-solid. Illinois, the second installment in his ludicrously ambitious 50 States project one record for each! includes tunes about Superman and Casimir Polaski Day. His deeply empathetic ballad about clown-cum-serial-killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. always brings a tear to my eye. And get this: Stevens is a Christian with a liberal sociopolitical bent. Hes exactly the kind of songwriter America needs right now, and Illinois is my frontrunner for album of the year.
Indie Yuppies Adam Shore, general manager of the hipper-than-thou, faux-indie Vice Recordings, recently observed: There has been created, in the past two to three years, an indie-yuppie establishment. Bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Iron and Wine, the Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, they are great bands, with great albums, great songs, high quality. And to me, its just so fucking boring. Its like fancy-coffee-drinking, Volvo-riding music for kids. And kids should be listening to music that shakes them up more, makes them uncomfortable. Now yuppies, buppies, bobos and guppies have yindies to contend with. If KCRWs Nic Harcourt desires yet another sideline, may we recommend him as charter member of the Yindie Chamber of Commerce.
Konono No. 1 Congotronics (Crammed Discs) Konono No. 1 are a group of Congolese street musicians who amplify thumb pianos through mikes and amps cobbled from old auto parts. The sound is distorted, dirty and primitive, and the dudes in the group are old, if not Buena Vista Social Club old. In spirit, though, their oddly hewn rhythms sound like precursors to the glitchy digital instrumentals of mid-90s artists like Aphex Twin and Tortoise. A superior novelty.
1-866-411-SONG Their Web site explains this musical detective service quite well: 1. You hear a great song 2. Call (866) 411-SONG and hold your mobile phone near the music for 15 seconds 3. You get a text message with the song and artist name, plus a link to get the ring tone, CD and more! They claim a database of 2.5 million songs; I couldnt get it to identify Gwen Stefanis Hollaback Girl. Still, Ive heard reports from satisfied customers whove IDd super-obscure stuff (e.g., Cleaners From Venus). Warning: It costs $.99 per successful ID, and may be addictive.
Creepy 70s Folk The vogue for spaced-out, seriously obscure 70s folk albums began in the early naughts with Linda Perhacs and Vashti Bunyan reissues of dubious legality. More established labels have since gotten into the act. At best, these can be haunting messages in a bottle; at worst, they sound dated and creepy. Unfortunately, Gary Higgins Red Hash (Drag City) frequently falls into the latter category (Ive really gone insane/Cant even spell my name/The cuckoo is in pain/again). Web resources on these folks are scarce, or touched with a hokey New Age vibe. What to say about Ms. Perhacs site besides, Whoa, trippy Photoshop abuse!
Brad Paisley Alcohol (Arista Nashville) This country star will release his album Time Well Wasted in mid-August, but this twangy single is already a runaway hit. Word is, Paisley wanted to deliver a Serious Message about the dangers of drinking. But the songs unique POV its sung from the perspective of alcohol will likely turn it into a Caucasian party anthem: I got you in trouble in high school/and college, now that was a ball/You had some of the best times/youll never remember with me/Alcohol, Alcohol.
Synth-Free Ambient Music The usually prescient Brian Eno recently explained why his new album, Another Day on Earth, returns to song-based material: I started to notice that you could buy keyboards of such complexity that you basically press one note and youve got a career as an ambient artist. I thought, there doesnt seem much challenge in that any longer. Hes obviously missed The Golden Morning Breaks (The Leaf Label), the latest by French artist Colleen (a.k.a. Cécile Schott), and Belladona (Anti), by his one-time collaborator Daniel Lanois. The latters emotive pedal-steel playing hints at Americana; Colleen is more Baroque and continental. Both records make for memorable, synth-free and sublime ambiance.
Missy Elliott Lose Control (Atlantic) Miss Misdemeanor extends her reign as the most consistently on-point artist in the world of dance/hip-hop. This self-produced single from her new album, Cook Book, features a cameo by Lil Jons crunk protégé Ciara and samples a cascading electronic pulse from early techno group Cybotron. The track polishes the dirty South to a high-modernist sheen.
Dungen Ta Det Lugnt (Kemado) In late 2004, a cadre of influential hipsters (Vice magazine, Pitchfork) fell in love with Dungens import-only release a poppy update on the acid-fried psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s. This month, Dungen (pronounced doon-YUN, we think) mounts its first U.S. tour, in advance of a U.S. release. Unfortunately, Dungens chosen genre is irredeemable, and since its lyrics are entirely in Swedish, theres little here to which English-speakers can relate. Dungen appears at the Troubadour on Saturday, July 9.
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