Some Songs Considered #018: FKA twigs, Blankus Larry, and Tiny Hazard
Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.
FKA twigs – In Time
by Charles Bramesco @intothecrevasse
I’ve been feeling the same / in the club at the rave
FKA twigs stands, defiant, at the intersection of pop and… something else. On paper, the British chanteuse resembles a chart-dominating hit machine in the tradition of Britney Spears, or even — gulp — Taylor Swift. Her distinctive sense of personal style has already rippled into the pop-cultural mainstream, the singer’s baby hair and tooth gaps attaining iconic significance seemingly overnight. She’s struck up a high-profile romance with Robert Pattinson, the former Twilight star with the power to make teen-girl ovaries explode on command. She’s collaborated with in-demand producers# and written songs about the perils of romance, all familiar territory in the world of pop.
And yet, in every case, there’s so much more than meets the eye. She’s used her own appearance as a forum for challenging traditional mores of beauty and race, she and Rob only hooked up once he had mercifully left his prettyboy screen-idol days behind, and to say that FKA twigs writes love songs would be a gross oversimplification.
“In Time,” the stunning centerpiece from twigs’ new five-song EP M3L155X (that’s pronounced ‘Melissa’), lurks on the dark underbelly of love, where erotic submission and emotional sublimation threaten to completely consume any sense of self. The narrator has hit a rocky patch with her significant other, and has made the age-old, eminently understandable faux pas of banking on future change in her man. It’s a lot easier to hope that the person you love will turn into the person you want them to be than to confront the notion that you might not be right for one another. twigs begs her man to get his shit together, pleading, “If you could commit to / making me happy / then stay with me in this.” But the whole of her assumed persona hinges on an unshakable self-respect, and twigs’ narrator refuses to pretend like she’s anything other than the stainless-steel goddess she is: “you’ll be doing me right / I’m your girl in the light / when I’m holding you down / you’ll be picking a fight / you’ve got a goddamn nerve.”
It’s a new sort of empowerment anthem, seamlessly reconciling the primal need for affection with a markedly feminist assertion of self-sufficiency. The song possesses all of the aches and pains of love lost, but with a commitment to the visceral thrills of pop. Naturally, twigs says it better: “I’ve been feeling the same / in the club, at the rave.”
Blankus Larry – “Girl You Make Me Wanna”
by Bryce Rudow (@brycetrudow)
As a rule, I would say that when I read the words ‘garage rock,’ I’m usually already a little skeptical from the get-go. It’s not that I don’t like garage rock as a sub-genre, it’s just that it’s like a good herbal saison; when you get it just right, it’s a beautiful clash for the senses, but unless it’s done really well, it’s a big ole unpalatable mess.
Fortunately for Blankus Larry, a garage rock group based out of my hometown of Washington DC, “Girl You Make Me Wanna,” is garage rock done really well.
After a previous incarnation as more of a pyschadelic outfit (a song from their 3-year-old LP brazenly flirts with the 9-minute mark), this recently-expanded-to-six-piece group has spent the past few months gearing up to get back into DC’s reburgeoning rock scene. They’ve played the sporadic live show, most notably one at Paperhaus, and seven months ago, they released an A/B single unto the world (which they are calling an F/U single because #rock) via DC Standard#.
While the A-side, “No Time, No Money,” is the kind of surf rock that makes me skeptical whenever I read the term ‘surf rock,’ once the world stumbles upon “Girl You Make Me Wanna,” this group could really turn some heads in advance of their new LP Problemo’s release, which should be out later this year. However, the band has admitted that they work in “Larry Standard Time”#, so who knows when that will really be.
Until then though, savor the crisp refreshment of this perfectly seasoned glass of garage rock straight from the nation’s capital.
Tiny Hazard, the band
by Lindsay Hogan (@LindsayHogan88)
I would fear for the state of indie music in America if it weren’t for the occasional run-ins with genre pushing, formula-rejecting experimental weirdos.
Tiny Hazard is a band who have been stuck in my head since I wandered into their set last December at The Pinch in DC. It was some of the most unabashedly dissonant and beautiful music I had seen all year. Up until that show, my opinion of experimental music did not account for a voice and talent like front-woman Alena Spanger.
They came out with a new single “Thirsty Sponge,” last week as part of a compilation project based around the Frank Stanford poem “The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You” and it re-ignited my (manageable) obsession with the band (other than this track, the Brooklyn quintet only has one EP and a couple of singles out).
But these few songs were complex and schizophrenic enough to keep me engaged since their brief set 8 months ago. “In a Little House” typifies the tilt-a-whirl of sounds Tiny Hazard creates in every track. The whimsically light vocals lure you innocently into the song and like the flick of a switch, you find yourself plunged into dissonant, experimental darkness.
Spanger’s vocals set the tone of every song, moving between operatic vulnerability, sultry story telling, and haunting yells. Her songwriting also forms the bulk of Tiny Hazard’s material, but the group is inherently collaborative. When summoned, the guitar and bass thrash and grind in satisfying contrast with Alena’s voice and childlike piano melodies. The band features a few multi-instrumentalists straddling synthesizers, cellos, and even a little banjo on the recording. But as wild as Tiny Hazard’s sound becomes, it is also controlled and measured, putting a sudden end to the sonic chaos as suddenly as it arose.
Yet too soon after hearing this band or the first time, I began to think of all the potential dangers floating around Brooklyn that could cause their sound to homogenize and lose its raw weirdness.
As someone who fell for their unabashed eclecticism, I can fearfully envision Tin Hazard compromising the disjointed experimentation for something more accessible and lucrative. They’re already dripping with talent, so it wouldn’t take much. And I can’t deny that more accessibly structured songs and consistent pop melodies would turn them into indie gods with both critical acclaim and a sprawling fan base.
Their single “Silhouette” from last year dabbles more in the direction of accessible pop. Its got a catchy beat that lures you into something danceable before unleashing their familiar fuzzed-out darkness in the spot where a chorus would normally be located. This could be the beginning of a successful balance of their disturbed, yet charming brand of art-pop. Maybe a few early experimental years is the perfect formula for this (or any band) to become a creative, but well-loved, power-house, kicking down the confines of modern pop.
All that being said, I respect the shit out of them for holding back. And if they never change, I’ll be happy. Keep Tiny Hazard Weird, or don’t. Its going to be great either way.
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