Nosaj Thing At The California Academy Of Sciences 2/21/13

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Photo: Taylor Soppe

On a night when San Franciscans peer at Amazonian tree frogs and uninterested caimans behind thick-paned glass with unironic PBR’s in hand, Jason Chung became the most scrutinized exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. Better known as Nosaj Thing, the Los Angeles beatmaster was the main attraction at the weekly Thursday menagerie, Nightlife, ringing in the event’s 21st birthday and the 2013 Noise Pop Festival.

If anything, it was a venue of low expectations. Thursday nights at the California Academy of Sciences are a time to sip an overpriced IPA after work, rub some sea cucumbers and maybe vibe to the musical act before the strict 10 PM close. Your night’s not going to be a bender. It’s certainly not Mighty or,  for something more familiar to Chung, LA’s Low End Theory, where he refined his shadow-fed sounds in the witching hours of early Thursday mornings. Which is why Thursday’s Nightlife show was so odd. Removed from his familiar darkness and thrown into an 8:45 set between the Rainforest biodome and planetarium, Nosaj Thing was out of his element and he showed it.

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Phoenix’s “Entertainment”

The BBC is officially cool again in my book. Yeah, I know they’ve been plagued with scandal for the past year, and the ugly kind. But yesterday, BBC Radio 1′s Zane Lowe announced to the world that he was the first person ever to get his hands on Phoenix’s newest single “Entertainment”, off of Bankrupt!, set to drop April 23. The track opens with maniacal synths, slows down just long enough to catch Thomas Mars’ placid vocals, and then continues its frenzied drive to conclusion. It’s crazy catchy, and seems to come from pretty much the same mold as its predecessors on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which is fine by me. Not that anyone doubted this, but if the rest of the album sounds half as lively as the melody line on “Entertainment”, their Coachella set(s) will be the sonic equivalent of a solar flare.

Jessie Ware and Sampha’s “Valentine”


We’re late on this one, but are there any singers right now more moving than Sampha and Jessie Ware? Two years since collaborating on this gem, “Valentine,” the two have gone on to become brilliant artists in their own right, the former as the man pulling the vocal strings behind SBTRKT’s post-dubstep goodness, and the latter shaping up as indie’s next diva-to-be.

On Valentine’s Day 2011, the pair released a heart-shaped vinyl for “Valentine” via Young Turks that’s still burning to this day. Clocking in at just over two minutes, the short song is nonetheless packed with the passion and tenderness that should fill every Feb. 14.

Jessie Ware and Sampha – Valentine  (download)

Foals’ Holy Fire

Foals are a five piece band froBLAH BLAH BLAH THIS ALBUM IS AMAZING (Photo courtesy of foals.co.uk)

If you missed it, Foals released “Inhaler” and “My Number” as appetizers to get the world salivating, but now the main course has arrived. Holy Fire is a meaty stew of exactly what the world has been starving for: more Foals. Their standard recipe includes searing guitar, raw drums and layered rhythms, but the overall flavor is certainly more intense and intentional than their previous albums.

It is not hard to understand what makes Holy Fire a milestone in Foals’ portfolio. For the first time, they have managed to make their mathy rhythms a vehicle for their messages rather than the focus of the songs. Singer Yannis Philippakis and drummer Jack Bevans both have origins in the heavily instrumental math rock group The Edmund Fitzgerald. The unpolished songs from The Edmund Fitzgerald are a pure example of the style that drives Foals.

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James Blake’s “Retrograde”

James Blake is alone now.

James Blake is alone now.

James Blake’s first new song in over a year is a gorgeous, grieving, blues-inflected ballad. If you think that description might fit every James Blake song post-CMYK, you’re not far wrong. “Retrograde” exhibits many trademark Blake sounds — the straining vocals over rousing piano chords, catchy melodies, wistful lyrics, all on top of rumbling bass and buzzing synths that kick in halfway through à la “Unluck.” Now, though, Blake’s sound is even more acoustic, substituting the vocal looping tomfoolery of his 2011 self-titled debut with good old fashioned harmonies, and paring down the beats to a kick drum and handclap. James Blake’s forthcoming album, Overgrown, is out April 8 via Republic.

Wildcat! Wildcat!’s “Please And Thank You”

wildcat2

Wildman! Wildman! (Brian Valdizno/treeswingers)

Wildcat! Wildcat! are slowly adding to their arsenal. With only a single 7″, The Chief, to their name, the LA-based trio have been quick to test and release new material before they arrive at the promise-band promise land that is SXSW. “Please And Thank You” comes just in time. A compliment to their highly energetic releases “Mr. Quiche” and “The Chief,” their latest song is subdued, though without sacrificing their signature falsetto duets. Sparked by pipe organ samples, “Please And Thank You” feeds off a church-going vibe, building toward soaring chorus that’s supplemented by rim taps and vibraphone. Powerful, it shows that Wildcat! Wildcat! is by no means a one-trick pony, or cat. Whatever.

Wildcat! Wildcat!- Please And Thank You (download)

Delphic’s Collections

Is the album art the best part? (Photo courtesy of polydor.co.uk)

Delphic‘s new album Collections is set to drop on Jan. 28, just over three years since the release of Acolyte. Their debut album was full of exciting instrumentals and strong electronic songs which stood alone well, but fit nicely together. A lot can happen in three years.

Delphic have admitted that the title, Collections, is representative of the intentionally eclectic mix of songs, but none have the core elements that made them an exciting new band in 2010. Instead, they all have lethargic tempos, incessant vocals and no character. The mystery is not very deep; Delphic have said that hip hop and R&B have influenced them most recently. It would not be surprising if the album was entirely based on beats rejected by Clams Casino and played at half speed.

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