St Vincent by St Vincent
After 2012’s excellent Love This Giant with the inimitable David Byrne, I was very excited to see where Annie Clark was headed next, musically. The influence of that collaboration is definitely evident here, some of the synth basslines even echoing the funky horns of that record. I also feel the influence of the other David B here though: maybe it’s my bias, but it’s hard not to hear some Bowie in this album. From Clark’s glam-invoking dress and hairdo on the cover, to the lyrical focus on futurism and detachment, a dedication to cutting-edge musical textures, and even the melody of I Prefer Your Love, which, to my ear, echoes Ashes to Ashes quite closely in the verses.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if St Vincent has been reading some Marshall McLuhan (or again, maybe that’s just me) as well: “When people turn the TV on it looks just like a window” she lilts in Digital Witness, a response to our internet-saturated, “pics or it didn’t happen” modern reality. All of this amid the buzzing, whirring, and outright rocking of Clark’s tight, sparse arrangements and her own displays of guitar virtuosity and fearless vocal prowess. Look, I just really like this record okay!
Close to the Glass by The Notwist
The Notwist, despite their somewhat experimental approach to instrumentation and texture, have a fairly mellow sound. I didn’t even notice when they became one of my favorite bands: more and more often, I just kept returning to their albums, until I happened to notice one day they had quietly snuck into my most played tracks on iTunes. This is to say, if you aren’t immediately gripped by this album, give it a little time. listen to it again. It’s a grower.
On this record, The Notwist continue to hone their buzzing, clattering, electro-tinged indie pop, sounding both more electronic and a little poppier than their last effort. With six years and numerous side projects between that album and this, The Notwist sound refreshed and ready to make this album. After the appropriately-titled beeps and boops of Signals, and the cut-up samba of the title track, we come to Kong, a slice of absolutely immaculate guitar-pop, featuring a previously-unheard falsetto from frontman Markus Acher. The lyrics are a little hard to make out through Acher’s German accent, but there’s something in there about a superhero’s ghost– deciphering is part of the appeal with these guys, to me. Which is not to say there isn’t meaning to be had here. Later, in Casino, Acher croons one of my favorite lyrics in recent memory: “After a life in the casino / we know that gambling is a joke / to say ‘I’m not here for the money’ / is just another word for broke.” If you like this record, be sure to also check out their 2002 breakthrough, Neon Golden.
Did you like these albums? Hate them? Just feel sort of indifferent? let me know!