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, Corinne Osnos joins Bryce and I to chat about genre-benders, sisterly acts, and killer collabs.

Feast your ear-tongues on these music pops, this is Some Songs Considered: #066.

Some Song Lindsay Likes…

It’s Called…

“Liberate Yaself”

It’s By…

Abdu Ali and Dan Deacon

The PR Elevator Pitch…

The collaboration between Baltimore electronic veteran Dan Deacon and rising hip-hop firebrand Abdu Ali both accentuate and tame each’s liking for overstimulating, experimental bangers.

Perfect for this playlist…

“Dance Yaself Clean”

But, IMHO…

– Lindsay

The music coming out of Baltimore right now is the ideal (and rare) fusion of experimentation, originality, and grit. There’s a strong sense of community between disparate, sonically diverse artists, and I’ve been waiting for this specific collaboration since the pair shared a stage at the height of last year’s DIY-propelled Fields Fest: Dan Deacon, the loveable, ambitious electronic philosopher king; Abdu Ali, the slap-you-into-wokeness, rage-queen of avant hip hop: both fresh live.

The offspring of their work is the 6-minute “Liberate Yaself,” which emphasizes the best of both artists while simultaneously softening their respective edges. A signature of Abdu Ali’s sound is haphazard leaps between production styles, often occurring within a single track, but the trance-like build of Deacon’s hallucinogenic style allows for a sharper focus on the rapper’s bold lyrics and feisty delivery. And while Ali’s solo work is always powerful, combining it with Deacon’s instrumentation — note the second movement of the song — creates a grandiose effect reminiscent of Dan’s 2012 “America” # suite.

On the flip-side, Ali’s vocals and delivery bring a new edge to Deacon’s work, usually dominated by his helium-inspired vocal manipulation. Dan’s music has always been about psychedelic escape, but Ali’s music comes from a place of passion and struggle: the black, queer experience in modern America. His words “we birthed this world, this world is ours, so who are you to tell me who am I?/ I’ma rage, I’ma a rage, I’ma rage” bring purpose to Deacon’s music, exceeding his typical surrealism.

They’ll earn my $_:

You name it, I’ll buy it. Tapes, vinyl, show tickets. I’d probably spend upwards of $30 on an Abdu Ali x Dan Deacon t-shirt alone.

– Bryce

I think “experimental” is the right word to use here, because while I understand why someone would think mixing the electric orchestration of Dan Deacon and the raw passion of Abdu Ali might make for some kind of sonic invincibility potion, the end result reveals, for me, an enthalpic imbalance that my molecules are unfortunately biochemically repulsed by.

Don’t get me wrong, I love both of these artists individually, and I appreciate their willingness to slosh around seemingly disparate solutions. However, I can’t go so far as to call mad experimentation alchemy, and the next time I want to hear a hip-hop artist go hard over electronic mosaics I will be putting on Lupe Fiasco’s Friend of the People EP# like the results-driven man of science I am.

They’ll earn my $_:

$0 when bonded together; $20, each, when successfully isolated.

– Corinne

It’s a little wacky, a lot frenetic, but I’m not offended by it like Bryce ‐ and I definitely want to get up and dance to this boomerang of a track. The track makes a significant sonic shift about halfway through; although it’s a nice break from the berating of beats that is first half, it drags on for too long.

They’ll earn my $_:

On drugs, only, ever.

 

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Some Song Bryce Likes…

It’s Called…

“Tired as Fuck”

It’s By…

The Staves

The PR Elevator Pitch…

Juxtaposed against a fraying world coming apart the seams, these three sisters from England quilt a faultless take on folk that drapes itself across generations and genres.

Send This Track To…

Your friend who is still listening to HAIM in 2017.

But, IMHO…

– Bryce

Legend has it The Staves began performing together at open-mic nights hosted by a local pub in their hometown of Waterford, England. In the almost decade since, their Fleetwood-inspired, harmony-heavy blend of folk has stumbled upon some could-be singles (“Steady” #, “The Motherlode” #, “Sleeping In A Car” #) over the course of a handful releases, and earned them the respect of Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver fame, who has had the Staveley-Taylor sisters open for him on multiple tours). However, it’s not until their most recent single, “Tired As Fuck,” that I personally became sonically gripped by them.

Maybe it’s the subtle addition of that unruly, fuzzy guitar, maybe it’s the professionally picayune production, maybe it’s just those intoxicating hums they do; regardless, there’s something about this casually vulgar song that elevates it beyond not just their back catalogue (yes, even the LP Justin Vernon produced), but the entirety of the typically-tiresome, 3-sisters folk rock genre.

I guess what I’m saying is, maybe it’s time to stop sleeping on The Staves.

They’ll earn my $_:

$15, for a DC9/Rock and Roll Hotel/Songbyrd ticket; or whatever they’ve negotiated as an opener for Mr. Iver’s next tour.

– Lindsay

For me, this track fills a void in late spring and early summer when my folksy/sassy/bittersweet tendencies sprout like weeds. The pull of the outdoors and some continental travel means that I need at least one well-harmonized indie folk, Americana banger in rotation. And it is often only one single, not a full album, and it rarely holds my interest past August. Still, the hot summer evenings we spent together will always mean something, or at least that’s what I’ve told them all.

Ask Laura Gibson’s “Empire Builder” # in 2016, Elle King’s “Exes and Ohs” # in 2015, and First Aid Kit’s “My Silver Lining” # in 2014, and they’ll tell you that what we had was special, however fleeting.

It looks like the Staves “Tired as Fuck” and I will be sharing a passionate summer together in 2017. Will my infatuation last when the weather gets cold? Will I begin to delve into their whole discography? Will I shoot them a birthday text in October? Probably not.

They’ll earn my $_:

Cents on the dollar for regular Spotify plays.

– Corinne

As someone who still actively listens to the Dixie Chicks, HAIM, and First Aid Kit, the Staves’ have been in and out of my music repertoire for awhile now. The Staves are undeniably more badass than First Aid Kit and their vocals put HAIM to shame, but they lack a certain je ne sais pas. I am way more taken with this track than most of their other songs, which tend to be pretty — but also pretty boring. Highlights include the chorus — with the three sisters’ harmonizing (“Never had a prayer to swallow”) — and the guitar solo.

I can imagine myself eating this track up during a Coachella sunrise set; much like I did The Head and The Heart’s track “Shake” # in Indio circa 2014. It’s the message, however, in a Trump-torn, Brexiting future, that really makes me appreciate this song.

They’ll earn my $_:

$20 for their greatest hits vinyl in 20 years.

 

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Some Song Corinne Likes…

It’s Called…

“While We Are Young”

It’s By…

City of the Sun

The PR Elevator Pitch…

The latest track from Brooklyn-based trio City of the Sun cultivates a sonic experience that is spiritual and soul-bending, casting a moodiness that lingers long after the song ends.

In A Dream World They’d Be Touring With…

Sufjan Stevens

But, IMHO…

-Corinne

Instrumental rock is a rare breed these days. Rock bands have become lyrically driven “soft” rock. And their aesthetic is soft — in the sense that a City of the Sun show is definitely not the kind of concert you mosh at, or dance much at all, for that matter. But in terms of instrumentation and complexity, they’re a hard-hitting/ genre-bending /heart-wrenching force to be reckoned with. 
 
Every City of the Sun song tells a narrative, without lyrics, which is a feat. Their music doesn’t inculcate you with heavy noise or angry jargon‐ it forces you to just listen. And if you let it, the song envelops you. Sans lyrics, you’re listening to the instrumental intricacies, the sounds and chords you can’t quite identify, the emotions it stirs up in you, and the synergy of the percussion. There’s a worldliness to the band’s sound, as well — a testament to lead guitarist John Pita’s Ecuadorian heritage and the fact the trio (consisting of Pita, Avi Snow, and Zach Para) have travelled the world busking (you can tease out influences from South American, Middle Eastern, African, and Spanish music on tracks like “Those Days Are Now”# off their 2016 album To The Sun And All The Cities In Between).

“While We Are Young” opens slowly with guitars strumming and a faint fret scratch, and a (naïve to the City of the Sun) listener’s ear might wonder if it’s going to be monochromatic. But this band is a master of layering. They seamlessly add in drumbeats and chords as the track progresses until 3/4th of the way through, a new intensity and speed has been forged.

Seeing them perform live, too, is an ethereal experience I endorse 100%.

They’ll Earn My $_:

$200 for a private show.

– Lindsay

Corinne, your timing is impeccable. I worked with City of the Sun a few weeks ago for their show at DC venue Songbyrd Music House, and I was so smitten I almost wrote about them this week. To see them live before hearing them on record was a lucky privilege, and gave me a bit of a skewed perspective. They walked into the venue looking like young, bubbly versions of the Clash — but proceeded to blow my mind with the gorgeous, worldly, energetic swell made from a few small instruments. My friend asked halfway through the show if City of the Sun was “a flamenco Explosions in the Sky”? I have to agree with that, both in skill and commercial appeal.

City of the Sun is brimming with raw talent. Like Corinne mentioned, instrumental rock is a rare breed. When a band does it well, the audience responds with equal parts awe and elation. I believe this band is going to have a relatively smooth route to success, built on the backs of a core, die-hard audience; not the type that regularly goes to “rock shows” but the type that will buy a ticket (or 4) to every regional show for the next 10 years, because they understand this “rock band” is an exception.

They’ll Earn My $_:

$12-14 for their next mid-size venue show.

– Bryce

I had the pleasure of recently reading Lary Wallace’s fantastic essay for AEON examining why our propensity to discover/appreciate new music dissipates over time, in which he eloquently articulates something I can only bluntly self-diagnose here: this kind of song makes me feel old. And not in the I-just-turned-30, my-lower-back-hurts kind of way; more like how I feel when I find myself still shopping at Urban Outfitters only to realize that their clothes, while echoing the same appealing styles of my misspent youth, just don’t fit the same as they used to.

To quote Mr. Wallace, “More than with any other art form, music requires that its consumer not just appreciate adroit execution but take ownership of a sensibility. I’m not saying it’s impossible with musicians younger than ourselves — it’s happened to me many times. But it’s certainly rare.” So, ultimately, where you both hear wordless narratives with this song, I hear the same chord structures fellow instrumentalist Broke For Free was playing back in 2012#; when you hear flamenco Explosions in the Sky, I hear a four-on-the-floor bass drum and the repetitive major-scale arpeggios that make up the sonic backbone of most car ads these days.

Maybe I need to see this band live to ‘get’ what makes this band so enticing. Or maybe it’s just not for me, because it’s not meant to be.

They’ll Earn My $_:

$0, though I might offer them a butterscotch candy while they listen to my tales of music past.

 
 

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