I Heard Your Single: A survey of the month’s releases, featuring Nicki Minaj & 2 Chainz, Animal Collective, Matthew Dear, and more
On the last Friday of each month I survey recent singles from local acts—selectively, not exhaustively. By “singles,” I mean everything from 7- and 12-inches to “focus tracks” (e.g., they gave the MP3 away two months before the album release, or made a video), and by “local” I mean they live in New York. (Remixes and guest appearances by New Yorkers on out-of-towners’ records also get looks in.) Suggestions are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org, no guarantees made. May brought us much of the same stuff as previous editions—only, you know, different:
And here I thought I was I’m finished with the singles from Nicki Minaj’s Roman Reloaded. Nope: “Beez in the Trap” (Cash Money) features plenty of what I liked best about “Stupid Hoe,” namely hard, minimal beats and lots of sneering—and while “Stupid Hoe” grew on me, “Beez” didn’t need to. The beats are descended from mid-’00s snap music, a la Ying Yang Twins’ “Wait (The Whisper Song),” from 1995, rather than the berserk gabber-techno pounding of “Hoe,” while Nicki herself insinuates rather than stabs away. There’s a guest verse by 2 Chainz, formerly known as Titi Boy of Playaz Circle, who’s apparently obligated by contract to appear on everybody’s single this year under his new name (see also Kanye’s “Mercy” and Nelly’s “Country Ass Nigga”), but not to improve anything with his presence (duly noted, recording industry).
Is there a more determinedly silly band going than Animal Collective? I never realized until I heard “Honeycomb” (Domino) just how much they remind me of Oingo Boingo—cluttered and spazzy, frantic and dippy, perfect for outsmarting everyone on the Internet and nobody in real life. The music sounds like the theme to the Science Channel’s “How It’s Made” remixed with a few extra tom-toms; the singing, as ever, sounds like a Beach Boys consisting entirely of Mike Love, and minus the low end. Enjoy the rancid Kool-Aid, fanboys.
These three don’t have much alike except I enjoy them: Punk quintet K-Holes’ “Rats” (Hardly Art) doesn’t have any new ideas, but it rampages so hard it overrides such niggling, including the sax. The Ice Choir’s “Teletrips” (Underwater Peoples; free download via Pitchfork) is studiously uncool synth new wave, with Kurt Feldman (formerly of the Deprecation Guild) breathing so hard it almost sounds like singing over keyboards set to the “karaoke” preset. And “Fields of Fire” (Ernest Jenning; download via My Old Kentucky Blog), by Trummors—vocalist Anne Cunningham and David Lerner, one-time member of Ted Leo’s Pharmacists—is jaunty, slightly jaundiced folk-country twang you can sing along with: “You will walk the line forever, I’m told.” Yee-haw!
These three, on the other hand, have a lot in common—they’re slow, doleful, late-night indie rock. The Dig’s “I Already Forgot Everything You Said” (The Dig) sounds regretful until the title line rears up at the end of each verse. Family Band’s “Night Song” (No Quarter; free download) has more sonic grit, with Kim Krans singing dreamlike over husband Johnny Ollsin’s quiet, far-away guitar line and a grainy percussion loop. Delicate Steve’s “Two Lovers” (Luaka Bop; free download via SoundCloud) has much the same insomniac vibe but with fewer words—just the title phrase, drawn out over strummed guitars that feel utterly romantic without being specifically about anything.
May was a big month for DFA Records affiliates. Not only did Reggie Watts headline Webster Hall, the duo Still Going—Eric Duncan and Liv Spencer, whose “Spaghetti Circus” Watts sang on in 2008—launched their own, self-named label with “D117” (Still Going Records). LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney contributes (he’s credited with “hi-hats” on the 12-inch label), as does Fischerspooner’s Lizzy Yoder, who sings the reverbed vocal snippets (“I love you so, just let me know”), but the star is the way Duncan and Spencer’s slow-building guitars and fuzzy synths gradually give way to disco strings and piano. Another step removed from DFA is Brooklyn’s electro-house producer Dances with White Girls, who began recording six years ago for Throne of Blood, the label run by the Rapture. His new single for Plant Music, “It’s About the House” (SoundCloud), is far more overtly anthem-like than “D117”: Morse code keyboard riffs and cut-up title-phrase (“’Bout! ’Bout! ’Bout! ’Bout!”), keyboard-bass blats like a tennis shoe dragging on the carpet, and circa-’92 commercial-techno moody strings.
DFA Records itself isn’t doing too badly these days, either. Veteran engineer Dennis McNany has worked with several DFA acts, but “Aura Go” (DFA) is only his second release under the name Jee Day, a collaboration with singer Jee Young Sim. It’s nominally an acid track—making extensive use of 303 squiggles—but with more of a strobe-like effect than a crazed-head-trip one. A similarly function-first M.O. marks Shit Robot’s “Space Race” b/w “Teenage Bass” (DFA; SoundCloud). Lots of pixelated, evenly building pulsations on both sides, with “Teenage Bass” featuring heavier 303, but while both sides sound good on their own, they cry out for the context a D.J. mix (or album—both tracks are earmarked for a 2013 Shit Robot C.D.).
Finally, my favorite local remix of the month is Something in Spanish’s “For Slowing Down (Matthew Dear vs. Audion Mix)” (Download via RCRD LBL). Audion is the alias Dear uses for his more direct, more acid-tinged techno, as opposed to the stylistically freeform songs he releases under his own name; here, for 12 minutes, he traverses both, the jittery groove first reframing the Brooklyn trio’s original song, then Dear’s own searing synth lines. We know Dear’s got a full-length coming this fall; here’s hoping Audion has something coming as well.
The Dig plays a CD release party tonight at Glasslands.