Frank Ocean’s music touches such a raw nerve because it’s the rare album that fully appeals on a here-and-now pop level while referencing classic pop — in this case, pop and soul maestros like Stevie Wonder and Elton John — and offering something else entirely. This something else is that human, overexposed, heart-and-mind-on-sleeve content that firmly roots Channel Orange in the social network era. I was late to the game; the first time I heard “Thinkin Bout You” was the day before Ocean very publicly came out of the closet. That happenstance was strange for me — the thing that first struck me about the song, aside from its obvious craft, the kind of instantly memorable hit that combines a suave, easy to follow melody and arrangement with dagger-in-the-heart lyrics, was an indescribable “third” quality beyond music and lyrics that I usually find with my favorite music, whether it’s The Smashing Pumpkins, The Beatles or, perhaps more relatedly, morose ’90s/'00s R&B hits like PM Dawn’s “Die Without You,” Fabolous & Tamia’s “So Into You,” Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor” and so on. It’s that sort of feeling that hits you immediately and reminds you of all the stupid unrequited crushes, moments of indirection, and fleeting feelings of serenity in youth. That Ocean possibly wrote the song about his own unrequited same-sex love made sense to me, since that’s pretty much what the song reminded me of. But beyond any personal affiliation with the song, the ability to communicate such universal but difficult to pin down feelings so instantly is quite rare, and so thus should be treasured in the way rave reviews have been pouring in for Channel Orange. Indeed, I think “Thinkin Bout You” is the best song anyone will release this year, and Channel Orange likely will be the album of the year. Beyond that opening instant classic, Channel Orange brims with power. Take the lush Marvin Gaye-meets-How to Dress Well-meets-Kanye West depiction of new parenthood in “Sierra Leone,” its lyrics offering a welcome balance of vagueness and detail devoid of judgment, communicating feelings of joy and trepidation. He celebrates and also exposes the lives of privileged black youth in a seemingly realistic way, beyond the bling-style fantasies of much of hip-hop, in songs like “Sweet Life” and the brilliant “Super Rich Kids,” which sounds like a hip-hop “Benny and the Jets” playing over an episode of the similarly revelatory reality show “Baldwin Hills.” He creates an sprawling, Kanye-style centerpiece with “Pyramids,” an epic track buoyed by raunchy synth riffs that turn glittering in the song’s sweetly disintegrating second half. And he continues to explore his evolving sexuality on a trio of closing ballads, in which he sounds as comfortable and natural singing about love between men, and between men and women. Though that doesn’t at all overshadow the rest of the album, which has more merits in spades to stand on its own, it can’t be ignored, either, as a huge moment for hip-hop — for all music — as a knocking down of barriers in music, sexuality and male image through some of the most dazzling, yet thoughtful pop music being made today.
Rock music has way too many incredibly memorable guitar riffs to limit a best of list to just one hundred, but the 100 riffs that guitarist Alex Chadwick of The Chicago Music Exchange came up with for the above video performance ain't half bad, and it is a nice informal overview of the history of rock n' roll. Sure it's a subjective selection that includes a lot of mega hits of the genre, and no doubt every rock fan could come up with their own unique list of a hundred best guitar riffs. But I like what Alex has done: from his playing to his choices of riffs, and from how he segues from song to song, to how he plays it on his 1958 Fender Strat all in chronological order. Below is that list of songs and artists in order with the artist names that are blue highlighted linking back to the Amoeba Online Store. where you can find their respective music (CDs, LPs, DVDs) including (in near all cases) the song played by Alex.
1 "Mr. Sandman" Chet Atkins
3 "Words of Love" Buddy Holly
4 "Johnny B Goode" Chuck Berry
5 "Rumble" Link Wray
Poolside – “Slowdown”
(Sally Struthers voice) Do you like watching scrawny L.A. hipsters swim and sing catchy tunes that sound like hip-hop without the rapping? Sure, we all do.
Poolside’s big summer single bowed yesterday on Pitchfork, along with its trashy summer vibes video. This thing was made to soundtrack the Ace and Standard hotels, all easy beats and lush synth hooks. Scoff if you must; this sort of thing is rarely done as well as it is here. Their nicely titled Pacific Standard Time album comes out July 9.
Best Coast – "The Only Place" video and KCRW performance
Best Coast debuted a super cute video for “The Only Place,” from the album of the same name, this week where Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno run around L.A. and give viewers a tour of the “real” L.A.: tacky souvenir shops, backyard pools, bikes, our gross but awesome river. And lots of Bobb! It’s as sweetly low-key and breezy as the song.
It’s June! That means Summer is here (it isn’t, but who cares). Which means it’s time to pretend you don’t actually still have to work and have responsibilities and all of that and just spend all your money on records and all your time listening to them. It’s as good a time as any to do so, as there are a number of big releases coming down the pipe this month.
First of all, there’s the new album from A Place to Bury Strangers, Worship, out June 26th. I’ve been a huge fan of these guys since frontman Oliver Ackermann formed Skywave in the early 2000s and have enjoyed their progression from an industrial-shoegaze band to augmenting their sound with elements of coldwave while retaining their core sound. There’s basically no better band from which to get your extra loud dream-pop guitar fix than APTBS. Check out the video for the album’s first single, “You Are the One.”
There’s a lot of buzz around Diiv (formerly Dive), who release their debut, Oshin, also on June 26th, and why shouldn’t there be, as the band is fronted by Z. Cole Smith, who also is a member of Beach Fossils, who to me are easily one of the best guitar bands around. Similarly to BF, Diiv delivers intricate yet poolside-ready guitar goodness but also lacquers on some Creation Records era sound blankets. Just listen to “How Long Have You Known?” and tell me you’re not hungry for more.