Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a music column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.

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Each week, I invite some hot name from the world of music to talk the coolest tunes. Today, Keith Mathias of Bandwidth.fm/The Washington City Paper joins Bryce and I to chat about radio-ready ambitions, adrenaline-injecting battlecries, and perfect blasts.

Feast your ear-tongues on these music pops, this is Some Songs Considered: #063.

Some Song Lindsay Likes…

It’s Called…

“Radio”

It’s By…

Sylvan Esso

The PR Elevator Pitch…

After an explosive break-out in 2013, former folk vocalist Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn return as the electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso, who captivated listeners and audiences with sultry vocals and infectious beats.

In 6 Months We Will…

I’m too emotionally invested in this band to speculate an answer to that question.

I’m Pretty Sure Pitchfork Said…

Sylvan Esso’s cliché sophomore subject matter and music industry gripes are saved buy the energy of their catchiest and most club-ready song to date.

But, IMHO…

– Lindsay

Guys I’m afraid I love Sylvan Esso unconditionally. Keep that in mind…

I’ve been ranting, analyzing, and primarily stressing over Sylvan Esso’s imminent sophomore release. They’re first album had me so smitten, but I’m a worrier and I couldn’t help but fear for the duo’s second attempt. Too often, we see electro-pop acts burst onto the scene with a sound that too-quickly becomes stale; or worse, their sudden popularity causes their sound to homogenize into pop flaccidity (looking at you Chvrches and Purity Ring.)

But in all that worrying, I forgot that I love the personalities behind the Sylvan Esso (Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn) almost as much as I love their music. “Radio” is not a sonic departure from their first album – if anything it begins to reveal the Sylvan Esso model: bass heavy beats, immaculate production, Amelia’s charming vocal performance and relatable lyrics that find insightful meaning in the mundane (radio play, coffee, cat calling etc.) – yet objective observations aside, their sound has not lost its oozing charisma. Sylvan Esso analyzes their own climb to fame with a critical look at the pressures and requirements of making the jump to the next level of mainstream popularity – and they do so by making their most accessible, danceable song yet.

So is this and admission of their radio-ready ambitions or a tongue in cheek satire of the short lifespan electro-pop? I don’t know but this song is an infectious banger, and I trust Amelia and Nick to make the right choices.

They’ll Earn My $_:
Considering I spent over $200 on albums, tickets, and travel to more distant shows the year following Sylvan Esso’s first release, I’m afraid to think about the total dollar amount this time around.

– Keith

This is just the kind of infectious, catchy electro-pop that makes for the most infectious of earworms. The driving beats and Meath’s vocals are really what do it for me. There’s a lot of energy here, which takes it from a decently danceable track to something far more interesting.

That said, I’m not entirely sure this is the kind of song I’m going to be listening to in two weeks, let alone two months. It’s infectious and pretty and I like it a lot, but it sounds a lot like every other made-for-NPR electro-pop group I’ve heard over the past several years. Maybe I’m just not hip enough to get it, but I’m kind of okay with tracks like this being little more than flashes in the pan for me.

They’ll Earn My $_:

$10 to catch a show. I’ll be the guy dancing his ass off.

– Bryce

On December 31st of 2013, as the final hours of the year ticked away, Sylvan Esso unceremoniously uploaded what was only their third song at the time – “Coffee”# – to their SoundCloud. On January 27th of 2014, every square inch of DC9 became engulfed by well-bundled Washingtonians willing to brave a nasty cold front (and miss the State of the Union!) in order to hear that song live. And when Amerlia Meath started singing the eerily applicable opening lines – “True, it’s a dance we know the moves…” – she was visibly taken aback by the response. “It was the first time where everyone knew the words,” she confessed to me in an interview we did later that year (they had sold out the Howard Theater).

I bring that bit of ‘I was there’ history up because – as Keith so aptly put it – “Radio” does sound a lot like every other made-for-NPR electro-pop group over the past few years. But – as Lindsay so deftly alluded – I also think Sylvan Esso knows that too and, in their own way, is trying to steer both into and out of the mainstream curve with a song that simultaneously celebrates and laments their newfound elevated status (e.g. “You Wanted A Hit”#, “Dance Dance”#). For a first single back, I wanted a hit I could dance to. They gave me that and forced me to confront a hypocritical and creatively stymying musical industrial complex in the process. Two thumbs up and a pat on the back.

They’ll Earn My $_:
$40; the 9:30 Club ticket + the album purchased at the show.

 

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Some Song Bryce Likes…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vE7no4dBIes

It’s Called…

“War Ready”

It’s By…

Vince Staples

The PR Elevator Pitch…

After captivating audiences with his hit 2015 LP Summertime ’06, 23-year-old hip-hop wunderkid Vince Staples unleashes his ripping new Prima Donna EP onto the world – recruiting heavy hitters James Blake, A$AP Rocky, DJ Dahi, and No I.D. as backup.

Perfect For This Playlist…

Fall Workout Mix

I’m Pretty Sure Pitchfork Said…

The wise-beyond-his-years former gangbanger Vince Staples has become a guiding light for a genre struggling to define itself, but that doesn’t mean other can’t bask in his glow.

But, IMHO…

– Bryce

In a phenomenal interview with Amos Barshad last year, Vince Staples blew my (and Amos’) mind when he contextualized what hip-hop “means” for someone like him who was born in 1993: “I’m 21 years old. My mom was [listening to N.W.A]. Why would I listen to N.W.A if I’m not listening to my parents? Public Enemy would mean nothing to me when I was growing up. N-​-​-​-​s wasn’t marching in Long Beach.” I loved using that little nugget of knowledge at hipster music cocktail parties. However, I’m pretty sure now that he (and producer James Blake!) are chopping up the closing lines of “ATLiens”# to use as EP-leading, adrenaline-injecting battlecries I don’t think anyone will be that surprised or impressed to find out that, despite the similarities Staples may share with those genre stalwarts, this kid’s idols were of the more sonically eclectic and thematically flexible generation that succeeded those shock-and-awe political activist groups of the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Not to say Summertime ’06 wasn’t full of all kinds of eclecticism and most kinds of cool, but it’s really great to hear Vince truly testing the limits of his already natural swagger, both on the mic and away from it#).

He’ll Earn My $_:

$30 the next time he comes back through DC, which I can only assume will be a graduation from sold-out U Street Music Hall to the 9:30 Club stage he deserves to be on (maybe with RN-favorite K.A.A.N. opening?!?!)

– Keith

The space present within the first thirty seconds of this track is cool. Like, really cool. I’m normally not expecting my listening experience to be interrupted by repeated periods of silence within a song’s opening moments. It’s exactly this kind of creativity and willingness to take risks that I am all about. Couple that with a bit from Andre 3000 and I’m in.

That said, this kind of loses steam for me after about a minute as the song becomes more conventional. Maybe this is simply a matter of taste, maybe this is a symptom of the fact that hip hop is one of the slimmer genres in my iTunes library. Either way, I found myself looking for another moment that inspired in me the same excitement as the opening moments.

He’ll Earn My $_:

Collective Spotify cash from at least one listen to every song in his catalogue. I’m on board now.

– Lindsay

If we believe music lovers find and understand different artist at different times in their life, this is the moment I fell hard for Vince Staples (sorry it took so long). I love to hear popular music formulas twisted and skewed, and “War Ready”’s first few seconds hit all my buttons for abnormality. The stop/start beat, minimalist production, and underlying anxiety and it’s only 2:30? If you can be that withholding with your music in 2016, I can only imagine what else he’s got in store.

And, not to make this about anyone but Vince, but “War Ready” is exactly the sonic redemption I needed this week after listening to MIA’s latest, heartbreakingly-tepid single “Freedun” (I don’t even want to link to it). MIA needs a new swagger, and Vince Staples has it.

He’ll Earn My $_:

Collective Spotify cash from at least one listen to every song in his catalogue. I’m on board now.

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Some Song Keith Likes…

It’s Called…

“Carminite”

It’s By…

Torrid Husk

The PR Elevator Pitch…

Four dudes descend from the mountains of West Virginia to show us that we know nothing about making black metal.

Send This Track To…

Your friends who like to say there hasn’t been a good metal album since 1992.

I’m Pretty Sure Pitchfork Said…

The reclusive West Virginians add another guitar player to the mix, further fleshing out their already mature take on the black metal genre.

But, IMHO…

– Keith

Despite being a relatively young band, Torrid Husk has taken on a kind of mythic status for me. They don’t play out a whole heck of a lot, so when they do, it’s more like going to church than going to a metal show. These dudes rip, and this track is nothing if not a showcase for the absurd amounts of talent each member possesses. Most American black metal doesn’t even come close to being this good.

Perhaps the biggest change here from their earlier work (2014’s Caesious EP and Crawling Mountain Apogee, a split with D.C. black metal/sludge band Myopic), is the addition of new guitar player Miles. This is a bigger, bolder, more intricately conceived Torrid Husk than we’ve seen in the past, and they’re much better for it.

Also of note: Tony Cordone is the kind of drummer most bands would kill to have. Listen to those perfect blasts.

They’ll Earn My $_:
$7 for the split, plus whatever it takes to finally get a full length album out of them.

– Lindsay

Black Metal is a genre that is very foreign to me. It’s also a sensory overload. These two factors make it very hard to dabble around black metal artist without getting lost and confused, so thank you Keith for guiding me through this and doing your job so exactly. I have so many questions though: do most black metal bands come from mountainous rural areas? I may have a hard time reconciling this sound with real, breathing humans if they come from anywhere else. And how the hell to they pull this off live? I’m suspending disbelief for now.

This is the first time I’m listening to black metal critically, and while I’m not sure I could pop on a whole Torrid Husk album during a road trip, I respect anyone with the creative and physical stamina to make something that has this many distinct movements. But until I see this live, I feel like I’m missing a link in my understanding of music.

I will say that cover art is surprisingly beautiful, so extra props to these guys for having an eye for aesthetics.

They’ll Earn My $_:

How much does a black metal show cost? I’m so ignorant. If it’s $15 or under, I’ll pay it; I’m on a budget this year.

– Bryce

I also have never been to a strictly ‘black metal’ show but I grew up going to see Thrice and I am one of the few Coheed and Cambria diehards left, so I think I get why some people like diving so deep into those waters there’s no light at all. I personally, however, have always been more partial to snorkeling than scuba-diving.

The physicality and precision that’s on display is incredibly impressive, but I will always wish a wild-haired man’s falceto was over top of it instead of the bottom-feeding guttural screaming.

They’ll Earn My $_:

$0, but I might lend them my copy of Second Stage Turbine Blade?

 

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