Some Songs Considered #010: Hudson Mohawke, Amy Winehouse, The Internet, and the Best of DC’s House Show Scene
Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.
Hudson Mohawke – Lantern
by Bryce Rudow (@brycetrudow)
There’s a line in Modest Mouse’s wonderful “Blame It On The Tetons” that goes:
“All them eager actors gladly taking credit for the lines created by the people tucked away from sight”
And until recently, it was all that came to mind when I thought of Hudson Mohawke.
The Scottish producer/songwriter who got his first record deal based off unofficial tracks and well-circulated DJ mixes has racked up production credits on some of modern era Kanye’s best tracks – “Mercy,” “Blood on the Leaves,” “To The World” – and his collaboration with Lunice, TNGHT, put out one of the most brain-melting EPs of 2012. But until recently, Hudson Mohawke always seemed like a guy tucked behind the music industry’s curtain.
Now we have Lantern, the album he dropped on June 16th, and it’s impossible to ignore the man behind it. While there are a handful of guests on the album, only Miguel has any true name recognition, and it really shows how strong Hudson’s instrumentals are; you can plug in anyone who sounds sort of like someone famous, and they sound like a star with his production.
The best songs on the album though, are the ones that let the beats take center stage. The single “Scud Books” is everything most people like about Hudson Mohawke, just turned up to 11, and the two songs that close the album, “System” and “Brand New World”, seem like they were destined to burn the house down at the end of a set. But Lantern goes far beyond just bangerz, and Mohawke is so deft at jumping from genre to genre that it might take you a few seconds before you realize you’re listening to electro soul or what can only be described as Motown trap.
God, I need one cold one now.
Fun Fact: Hudson Mohawke’s original DJ name, at 15, was DJ Itchy, which I can only assume was the set-up to some amazing “CAUSE I LIKE TO SCRATCHY!” DJ puns.
Amy Winehouse – “You Know I’m No Good”
by Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse)
Asif Kapadia’s acclaimed new documentary Amy doesn’t debut until July 10, so even though our coverage of the chronicle of Amy Winehouse’s meteoric rise and tragic fall won’t run for a couple weeks, we can still get a little jump on matters in this week’s installment of Some Songs Considered.
“Rehab” was her mega-smash, “Back To Black” ventures into darker depths, but I’ll maintain that the high-water mark of Winehouse’s superb final studio album is “You Know I’m No Good”, a slinky, self-loathing seduction. That track encompasses so much of Winehouse’s star-crossed appeal, her insatiable appetite for destruction, her effortless charisma, her acumen as a songwriter, and her agility as a vocalist. “You Know I’m No Good” finds a rare talent operating at the height of her powers during her cruelly truncated heyday. It’s a marvelous song, but in the wake of the singer’s untimely death, it’s also become a historical document.
Winehouse plays a character not too far removed from herself, a chronically unsatisfied barfly who can’t stop stepping out on her man. Like a spiritual predecessor of Kanye’s confession that he could have a good girl but still be addicted to the hoodrats, Winehouse’s narrator has a penchant for greasy, unsubstantial jerk-offs hanging out wherever she might be around. (“Rolled-up sleeves and a skull t-shirt” doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you’d want to bring home to meet Mom and Dad.) It’s a bad habit and provides her with no real satisfaction, but the language with which she mournfully states it in the chorus suggests that she’s got no control over these tendencies. “I cheated myself / like I knew I would” hints at a pre-determined path of failure, that basic defects in her personality make her incapable of treating a lover well.
The second verse grows even more despondent, with talk of inability to feel joy and heaving sobs on the kitchen floor. Until the third verse drops the most hurtful bomb of all, as Winehouse’s narrator confronts her man with her many infidelities and he reacts with total indifference, having shut her out of his life completely. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking, watching as a difficult but sympathetic woman methodically drives everyone who cares about her out of her life.
It’s always tempting to project autobiographical readings onto popular entertainment, and doubly so when the figure behind the work has a personal backstory as engrossing and flashy as Winehouse’s. Regardless, a listener can’t shake the sense that the singer poured her soul, her personal pain and sorrow into the lyrics of this song. It’s reflected in Winehouse’s Grammy-winning performance, too. Her emotive vocals convey every ounce of hurt, bitterness, and dented hope. It’s remained such a moving snapshot of the late singer in part due to the reason that Hannibal Buress outlines in a scene from Broad City. Listening to her music, her passing seems so terribly inevitable. We all knew it was coming, and yet we were all powerless to intervene.
The Internet – “Girl”
by Julian Kimble (@JRK316)
With the new week came the official shift of the solstice, a change the L.A.-based outfit The Internet saw as a prime opportunity to release season-appropriate music. With their third album, Ego Death, due out this coming Tuesday, it appears as though the group felt that music nerds needed a slow-burner capturing the invincible feelings of young love on the verge to signal the summer’s arrival like fireworks on the Fourth of July. They were dead right, hence why we’re grateful for “Girl.”
The piercing calm of Syd the Kyd’s voice is as essential to the song’s resonance as her lyrics. Yet before she utters a single world, 24 seconds of instrumentation builds like the deep stare preceding a bold confession of affection. Right on cue, Syd delivers: “Girl, they don’t know your worth.” The volcanic theme bleeds into the opening verse (“Passion burning, causing rapture of laughter/Pressure building, falling faster and faster”), which paints the vivid picture of heart-fluttering conversations between would-be lovers finally acting on their mutual attraction.
The music video’s stoned euphoria supplements the song’s meaning, initially taking viewers into the abyss of outer space. When Syd insists that “anything you want is yours,” shots of her face (and that of the object of her desire) among the stars suggest that she isn’t referring to a planet, she means the entire galaxy. Syd lying atop a field of grass, looking upwards at the kaleidoscopic sky allude to time spent doing nothing with a significant other. These are the moments that — similar to a summer day, and the season in general — you never want to end.
Canadian producer Kaytranada adds his spacey bounce to “Girl,” providing another layer of serenity that remains as the sticky summer days inevitably turn to night. And while those feelings will survive night reverting back to day, the heat young lovers feel during the summer’s opening week might not endure through the dog days of August. The beauty of “Girl” is that it expertly captures Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo’s “ignore the outside world” proclamation#, even if what you two have is destined to fizzle out by the next seasonal changeover.
DC’s House Show Scene, The Best of Spring ’15
by Lindsay Hogan (@LindsayHogan88)
Not to brag, but Washington, DC has one of the more vibrant house show scenes in the country. I promise you on any given night, you can find a row house opening their living room or basement to some of the most creative, uncompromising and dedicated young bands. The culture that arises around these scrappy, DIY ventures is welcoming, collaborative, and really goddamn fun. And I’m saying that you (yes you) would be a happier little millennial if you pushed your comfort zone and went to more house shows. I could write whole columns on the subject (and I may yet), but since we just formally transitioned into summer, I present a quick wrap-up of some of the best things I saw this spring in my friend’s living rooms (in order of increasing weirdness):
Crown Larks showed up to play the 4th Anniversary of the Paperhaus, a house venue that has lasted longer than most of your meaningful relationships. This group from Chicago filled the room with a brand of dexterous psychedelic rock that was a pleasure to get lost in. The six-piece brought focused intensity and a huge array of sounds, effortlessly swapping more traditional instruments for a flutes and horns. This kind of avant-garde, hypnotic acid jazz is by its nature meant to be experienced live. Four and a half minute songs like Chapels stretch out into captivating 8 minute epics with each winding passage of the song becoming more pronounced and more surprising. Crown Larks may take a little more effort to sink into, but once you do, they’re not letting go.
Jamaican Queens are a fierce group from Detroit making, for better or worse, challengingly original pop songs; each of their songs seems to be a an off-kilter amalgamation of sounds and styles. This attitude and eccentricity was brought in force two weeks ago to a packed and steamy crowd at the Paperhaus. ‘Joe,’ is on its way to becoming one of my most treasured and unexpected summer jams. Its industrial, sarcastic, dangerously sexy and contains the sporadic 180 degree change in style that’s emblematic of Jamaican Queens. These guys have the clout to play bigger venues in DC, but the sweat drenched, weirdo dance party that broke out that night could only happen at the Paperhaus.
Cloud Becomes Your Hand
Cloud Becomes Your Hands is one of the most colorful musical acts I’ve seen in a while. With unforgiving, whimsical style, they showed up at DC’s most efficiently named house venue: “453 Florida.” While their talent and originality is not to be ignored, their live performance is something I described as “Monty Python’s take on LCD Soundsystem.” The fun they have playing together is infectious, from Stephe Cooper’s hippy-robot guitar solos to Sam Sowyrda’s loveable alien mallet percussion. Check out the video and bask in the unabashed weirdness of that that pom-pom hat. As a whole, these guys are a lot to take, but tell me you wouldn’t have a blast shedding your pretentions and rocking out to Cloud Becomes Your Hand in some living room in Shaw.
House shows have a lot to give. Show up, respect the space, and I promise they’ll make you younger.
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