Remember the whole Pixies/Breeders/Belly/Throwing Muses web of bands many years back? Or, more recently, the Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown/Frog Eyes/Handsome Furs/Divine Fits band sprawl? And let's not even get into Broken Social Scene. Well, none of these band associations holds a candle to Vivian Girls and the myriad bands, collaborations, side projects and what-have-yous that spring from the New York noise pop band. In light of recent release from onetime-Vivian Frankie Rose and the upcoming release by Vivian girl Ali Koehler in Upset, I've attempted to make a Vivian Girls tree for y'all. I'm sure I missed like 20 bands, let me know if I have!
Sandra Vu has been the cool presence behind the drum kit in a number of bands, both on record and live. She's helped propel such bands as Dirty Beaches, The Raveonettes, Midnight Movies, Boredoms and, most often, as the drummer for Dum Dum Girls.
Now she has her own project named SISU. Judging by her resume, SISU's debut album is somehow both comfortingly familiar, drawing from influences such as girl groups and noise pop, and something entirely new. The strange tones that strike across the skies of songs like "Counting Stars" and pulsating beats under songs like "Harpoons" draw more from krautrock, industrial and experimental music than contemporary shoegaze, while Vu's vocals range from disaffected and alien to front-and-center pop vocals. Blood Tears is a delight throughout, atmospheric and cool, yet catchy and immediately memorable.
I took a minute to speak with Vu about her new project and how she came into making music on her own.
Me: I hear SISU is the Finnish word for “extreme perseverance.” Why did you choose that name?
Vu: Originally, "SISU" stems from my name, but we later found out that it was a Finnish word. I like the meaning though so we've adopted it, respectfully.
Since Danny Brown launched from relative obscurity to stardom with his excellent mixtape XXX, it follows that his sophomore release should see the rapper sand the edges of his sound from his Internet-rap roots. Not so fast. Danny Brown’s Old doesn’t curb the weirdness that made XXX such a delight; it doubles down on it. The same highwire delivery and tight jeans that made 50 Cent balk at signing the dude are still going strong, though the humor of his previous work is turned down in favor of more straightforward storytelling—and as if in a bit for seriousness, Brown even includes “Side A” and “B” interludes to signify the break between the more laid-back first half and molly-addled crazy second half. Of course, Brown has just learned how to incorporate his wit into the songs more—“Wonderbread” is only slightly more horrifying than funny, about the perils of even going out for bread in the Detroit ghetto where he grew up, whereas the mind-bending “Lonely,” which features a sample from obscure French artist Morice Benin, sees Brown claiming his identity brilliantly (“Hipster by heart but I can tell you how the streets feel” he says, subtly reffing his childhood, selling drugs and time in prison without boasting). Brown’s collaborators—from the indie-minded Purity Ring to fellow rapper Schoolboy Q and especially the grime-influenced wunderkind Scruffizer, on the awesome “Dubstep”—aid in making Old a multifaceted affair. Producer Oh No (of Stones Throw duo Gangrene) helps set the stage for some of Old’s most striking tracks, like the Radiohead-ish “Gremlins” and manic “Red 2 Go,” though Brown at least shares the producer’s chair on each song. He offers some turn of phrase or stellar bit of production on every song, keeping you hooked on Old and hitting the replay button even after 19 tracks.
Western (in sound and location) duo Widowspeak have a new EP due Oct. 29 called The Swamps, following the excellent Almanac LP, released earlier this year. “Calico” digs deeper into their sound, moving leisurely with dusty guitars until Molly Hamilton makes the titular refrain something of a cryptic mantra over an insistent pulse. The band also has debuted the brisk “True Believer” from the EP; you can pick that song up already on Amoeba.com. They’ll be at L.A.’s Echo Oct. 16 and S.F.’s The Chapel Oct. 18 with Pure Bathing Culture.
Schoolboy Q – “Banger (MOSHPIT)”
L.A. rapper Schoolboy Q has unveiled another new track—there’s no word yet if this will be on his upcoming Oxymoron album, the followup to last year’s excellent Habits & Contradictions, which as of yet has no tracklist or release date—but it’s as hot as anything he’s put out so far, sorta dark but not really creepy, like a party track you put on to take things to the next level. Those “boom shacka lackas” are taking me back to NBA Jam right now.
While interviewing the band Dream Boys recently, I noted that their jangly new album seemed perfectly timed for fall. That got me thinking of other recent music that is well-suited for cardigan weather, the kind of records you want to snuggle up to when it starts to get cold out. So lots of EDM—j/k! Here are some records to get cozy up with on this first of October.
Dream Boys – Dream Boys
Just as genres like Paisley Underground, C86 and college rock gave ’60s sunshine pop an ’80s makeover, Dream Boys take a modern, emotionally gray yet laid-back approach to producing a detailed guitar-oriented sound. Enjoy poring over the jangly riffs of Dream Boys and read my interview with the band here.
Blouse pulled a bold move for its second album, especially considering the band is still up-and-coming, by radically changing its sound, forgoing the synth-heavy sound of its debut for a pretty straightforward rock sound incorporating new wave and alt-rock elements. It pays off, as Imperium is one of the season’s best rock albums, pairing dreamy vocals and lyrics with an emotionally direct sound.