“Dust is everywhere — SWEEP!” So goes the refrain of the first single off N.Y. indie-rock heroes Parquet Courts’ new album. Human Performance seems less concerned with proving anything to anyone than ever, yet finds the band settling into itself nicely and coming up with some of its most weirdly catchy songs. Since releasing the excellent Light up Gold in 2013, the band has fallen into a certain lineage of brainy New York indie rock of yore, from Talking Heads and Television through Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys. Then came Sunbathing Animal, the thorny but ultimately winning follow-up, along with assorted albums and EPs that saw them trying on various guises, with the results thrillingly mercurial but hit-or-miss as far as listening goes. Now, on songs like the Velvet Underground-ish title track; short, rhythmically clever tunes like “Outside” and “I Was Just Here”; and shoutalong slacker anthems like “Paraphrased”; and verbose Nuggets jams like "Berlin Got Blurry," Parquet Courts sound comfortable yet energized, mature but real in their embrace of the surreal and off-kilter. As it’s been somewhat both exhilarating and maddening to watch them over the past couple of years, Human Performance is that redemptive album that shows keeping an eye on Parquet Courts is well worth your time. Their best yet. Read my interview with the band a couple of years back, and check out their episode of “What’s In My Bag?” below, along with the video for “Berlin Got Blurry.”
Hey! It’s almost spring. That means a ton of great albums are on the way. Check out this list of 20 that we’re looking forward to.
The alt-rock trio’s third album was recorded in the band’s native Wales. Check out the fun video for “The Last Thing on my Mind” below, which flips the tables on the female objectification. (It’s kinda NSFW.)
The former lead singer of Husker Du and Sugar’s latest album is a “triumph of opposing forces and properties” from “the master of balancing personal darkness with melodic brightness,” according to a press release. Watch the video for the introspective “Voices in My Head” below.
Noise Pop, the Bay Area’s premiere indie music and arts festival, returns for its 24th year with events all over San Francisco and Oakland, February 19 - 28!
This year's line-up includes live shows from Kamasi Washington (2/25, Independent), Parquet Courts (2/26, The New Parish), Drive Like Jehu (2/26, Independent), Carly Rae Jepsen (2/27, The Warfield), Vince Staples (2/27, Independent), and so many more. The film portion of the festival also promises to be amazing with screenings of six films at SF's Roxie Theater, including hip-hop documentary Hustlers Convention (1/19) and a look into LA punk rock band The Skulls with Who Is Billy Bones (1/21).
Check out the full schedule of events and more HERE, where you can also get individual tickets, General Music Badges, Super Fan Badges, Music & Film Badges, and Film Series Badges.
Enter to win a pair of festival passes HERE! Contest ends February 13th.
And speaking of Kamasi Washington, here's the time he dropped by Amoeba Hollywood:
Ghanaian highlife artist Ata Kak was brought to light through ethnomusicologist Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes From Africa blog when he posted the unstoppable “Daa Nyinaa.” Shimkovitz bought the Ata Kak tape more than a decade ago and finally found him living in Ghana. Only 50 copies of the original Obaa Sima tape were made, and though the original master DAT had disintegrated, Shimkovitz’s tape was used to reissue Obaa Sima. Details of Shimkovitz’s search for Ata Kak could likely fill a book (in fact, a documentary is being made), but it only serves to give the truly awesome Obaa Sima even more allure, as does the tape hiss from the transfer. Its seven tracks offer nothing but good times, a non-stop party that sounds removed from time, full of delightfully rinky-dink synths, instant-play beats and Ata Kak’s motormouth rap. The slightly off-time nature of the backups on “Agdaya,” the louder than necessary mix of the vocals—all things that could be construed as negative instead feel like happy accidents that make Obaa Sima sound so singular. One track flows into another across Obaa Sima, coming into centerpiece “Daa Nyinaa,” an Afro-house masterpiece of warehouse-party cool. But stick around for the slightly sinister “Yemmpa Aba” and head-bobbing vocal-less closer “Bome Nnwon,” which will have you replaying the entire album once its final handclap echoes into silence. When Ata Kak is on, you won’t want to listen to anything else. If you need me, I’ll be watching this video on repeat:
The former Walkmen frontman leaves us swooning on his solo debut. Backing away from the post-punk of his former band, Black Hours sees Leithauser focusing on digging his gravelly voice through chamber pop environs, singing heartily among stirring strings and vibes on “The Silent Orchestra.” Little the Walkmen did had the vibrant energy of a song like “Alexandra,” with Leithauser smiling his way through an irresistible jig. But Leithauser also throws a bone to those who miss the Walkmen’s nocturnal musings with songs like “11 O’Clock Friday Night,” a kind of New York at night drinking song with some clanging percussion amid the CBGBs guitars to keep it tied to the orchestrated feel of the rest of the album, and the lonely piano ballad “St. Mary’s County.” Throughout, Leithauser’s voice has never sounded better, growing further into a manly howl like a young Rod Stewart. He sounds as terrific crying into a pool of whiskey and reverb on the countrified “I Retired” as he does returning to his roots on the defiant “I Don’t Need Anyone.” While we’ll always miss the Walkmen, the thing we were gonna miss the most was that voice. Black Hours makes their departure sting less, as it’s opens a triumphant new avenue for Leithauser.