"Dangerous Days" - Zola Jesus
Well that didn’t take long. Last week, we got an ambient trailer for a new album from Zola Jesus, along with the title Taiga and word that it’d be released in October. This tells us so much more.
We have a release date - October 7 from Mute - but that’s not as important as this song. This song, you guys. Nika Roza Danilova has been getting bigger and more expansive in her music, but this is so much more, so very pop. Crystal clear, melodic pop that soars through night skies, something that could capture the same swath of people that fell for “Midnight City,” the M83 track Danilova wasn’t on.
I loved Conatus, but I’m also immediately in on this new shift. In the past, various permuations on “goth” would often be included in blurbs on Zola Jesus. Danilova is far beyond that now, or at least some brand new version of it. There are still plenty of traces of old iterations - the music, though its jagged edges have been sanded smooth, is still familiar, and the voice is unmistakable - but that first verse could pop up when turning the radio dial without so much as arched eyebrow. Please, let this song start popping up everywhere.
- Tyler Hanan
Taiga trailer - Zola Jesus
Nika Roza Danilova, she of the Zola Jesus moniker, has announced her new album. The follow-up to 2011’s fantastic Conatus and the gorgeous collection of lush reimaginings that was last year’s Versions is due in October.
The new trailer is wickedly fantastic, giving away little while portending much. It’s a confident bit, demanding attention as it crescendos. We don’t get to hear what comes next, but I’m ready for it. These fifty seconds get the imagination bubbling and boiling with furious excitement.
- Tyler Hanan
"Avalanche (Slow)" - Zola Jesus
Today in things we’re totally in the tank for, the first notes off Versions have echoed out into the internet. Versions is introduces us to a new Nika Roza Danilova after a spring thaw, her frigid electronics wiped away in favor of string compositions arranged by JG Thirwell and performed by the Mivos Quartet, just as they were at the transfixing Guggenheim performance.
This first taste was premiered by the fine folks of NPR’s All Songs Considered, whose weekly podcast is often a treasure trove of beautiful - or at the very least interesting - music, hosted by some incredibly knowledgeable - if at times a tad too aware of that fact - people.
That first taste, when it first alights upon the ear in a tranquil, tender, oh so very non-Conatus-like manner, is a revelation.
Versions will be released on August 20th on Sacred Bones Records. Embedded below is Pitchfork’s +1 video featuring clips of the performance and of Danilova’s accompanying comments.
- Tyler Hanan
"Diamonds" [Rihanna cover] - Zola Jesus
Nika Roza Danilova tweeting four days ago about potentially covering Rihanna’s “Diamonds” was probably my favorite thing to happen this week, right up until she tweeted out the actual cover the very next day. Damn, that is a nice turnaround.
It’s a pretty straight cover, but doesn’t mean it isn’t everything we could’ve wanted. It’s as wonderful as one would expect, as Nika’s powerful voice and here freed pop sensibility pair with the song flawlessly. Did I mention she’s in studio? Life is beautiful right now.
- Tyler Hanan
My favorite holiday is almost gone, but I’ll refuse to let it go for another few days still. Music is just as big a Halloween event for me as decorations and haunted houses; plus, I actually have the time and funds to indulge it. Epic post rock (Godspeed You!, Mogwai), drawn-out, creepy electronic and drone (Oneohtrix Point Never and Tim Hecker) and the queerer realms of ambient pop (Julia Holter, whose Halloween-ready Tragedy is sadly not on Spotify) - these are the things that pique my interest even more than normal this time of year. So enjoy your Halloween, folks. I wasn’t able to embrace it as much as I would’ve liked, but we’ll take what we can. Pick out some of your favorite soundtracks and blast those through the house, double-check your beds and closets, and for the love of John Carpenter, do not go outside to investigate that sound. I’ll be watching Trick ‘r Treat and Halloween if you need me. [link]
- Oneohtrix Point Never - “Andro”
- Crystal Castles - “Year of Silence”
- Soft Moon - “Into the Depths”
- Mogwai - “Batcat”
- Young Widows - “Miss Tambourine Wrist”
- Tim Hecker - “Borderlands”
- Zomby - “Haunted”
- Julia Holter - “Goddess Eyes I”
- Zola Jesus - “Avalanche”
- Explosions in the Sky - “Greet Death”
- Mount Eerie - “House Shape”
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor - “East Hastings
"New France" ft. Zola Jesus - Orbital
A lot going on here - the adventure of the fuzzy lion starts off creepy, gets pretty rad, then rips your heart out before pulling off a few seconds of adorable at the end. I like it more than a lot of the music videos permeating YouTube and Vimeo. The fact that the track is incredible and my poorly-veiled bias for anything Zola Jesus has a hand help out more than a bit, I suppose. There’s also a making-of video that’s half the length, but with the exact same soundtrack [link]. Finally, the new Orbital album, Wonky, will be released on April 1st in the UK and on the following day in the US. No fooling.
- Tyler Hanan
I may need to amend the title “The Best of February” to something a little more accurate - something like “The Best of February… On Spotify.” Being limited by the fact that Spotify apparently doesn’t have all the music ever, great releases such as the ones by Burial, Shlohmo, Hooray!, Teen Suicide, and numerous others that would have made this mix didn’t. Be that as it may, there were still at least thirteen February releases that I have heard, enjoyed, and found (at least a portion of) on Spotify. The list is light on anything too heavy, as I haven’t heard much hardcore, metal, punk, etc., this month, but I enjoy it nonetheless. Feel free to share what you think we’ve forgotten - we love broadening our music horizons. [link]
- Grimes - Oblivion // Visions
- Royal Baths - Nightmare Voodoo // Better Luck Next Life
- Zola Jesus - In Your Nature (David Lynch Remix) // In Your Nature
- Air - Parade // Le Voyage Dans La Lune
- The Menzingers - Burn After Writing // On the Impossible Past
- Cursive - The Cat and Mouse // I Am Gemini
- Archers of Loaf - Greatest of All Time // Vee Vee (Remastered)
- Frankie Rose - Pair of Wings // Interstellar
- fun. - We Are Young (ft. Janelle Monae) // Some Nights
- Islands - This Is Not A Song // A Sleep & A Forgetting
- Tennis - My Better Self // Young & Old
- Perfume Genius - 17 // Put Your Back N 2 It
- Sleigh Bells - End of the Line // Reign of Terror
PS: Yes, I did think ending the album with the words “it’s the end of the line, so goodbye” was clever.
- Tyler Hanan
Somehow, I forgot that we were getting new Burial material. Luckily, we don’t have to count on me for anything important, and the typical y excellent 3-track Kindred EP is available for streaming and download on the Hyperdub site (vinyl coming later). [link]
Dirty Ghosts will be releasing Metal Moon on February 21st. The big story is Aesop Rock’s presence as co-producer, and rightfully so, but Allyson Baker’s vocal performance is also vital. [link]
Estrogen Highs have released the lo-fi, punchy first single “I Wanna Be Tall” off their upcoming LP Irrelevant Future. [link]
The new Freshkills album is out on March 13th on a label called… Bat Rabies Alert? You know what, I like it. You do you. Anyways, “Positive Vibes” is available for download on Spinner. [link]
I have zero explanation for how the Orbital/Zola Jesus track “New France” didn’t land on the previous roundup. Just listen to it again and appreciate the goodness. [link]
The Shins' Port of Morrow won’t be here until March 20th, but we’ll get a taste of it next week with the Simple Song 7”. The video for the B-side, “September,” was posted last week to widespread “omgs.” [link]
Warm Ghost has released the
weirdest sex dream NSFW video for “Myths on Rotting Ships.” It’s good for those who like good music and pretty weird, very nude music. [link]
It’s been said many times already, but let us all take a moment to remember and appreciate Whitney Houston - taken far too early at 48.
- Tyler Hanan
"In Your Nature" (David Lynch remix) - Zola Jesus
What an incredible pairing this is. Zola Jesus is one of my favorite artists, one who I find similar to Janelle Monáe with the grandiosity and scope of her music, and David Lynch is, at the very least, one of the most interesting creators out there, spanning a number of different mediums. The result was something more startling for its lack of over weirdness, though Lynch manages to give it an off-kilter aura, as always. He has transformed it into a different song. It’s a much more mellow, conservative cut, one that becomes more and more likeable with each listen. A 7” featuring the origanl and the remix is now available through Sacred Bones, as well; hurry to get the limited edition version before I buy them all. [link]
- Tyler Hanan
Trying to quantify all the best a year has to offer is, if we’re honest, more than a bit audacious. We feel a need to catalogue and rate everything - albums, movies, books, singles, remixes, videos, sports plays, memes, celebrity faux pas - an endless parade of people trying to establish their knowledge of all that is worth knowing in a single year. I’m not here to trash this exponentially growing phenomenon, though - that would be hypocritical of me. I just want to put into words what a “Best of“ list is to me..
I’m not going to pretend that our lists contain everything worth knowing. Making these lists is a personal endeavor. They do not answer “what was 2011?” These lists answer “what was 2011 to me?”
A question that could seem like a copout or a way of hedging our bets even before any criticism is made, but it’s one that is honest about what this is. Unless one is staying within very specific boundaries - say, English horror films or Canadian black metal - it’s impossible to see or hear everything. Without hearing everything, there can be no list that is 100% definitive. It might be 75% or 85% or even the 99%, but we are still undereducated for the task of getting all of the very best.
So what was music in 2011 to you? What will we look back and remember, and what should we remember? As we looked back on Nevermind this year, what album will we be looking back on in 2021, 2031, and beyond? Perhaps we will remember two of the greatest artists of their time uniting to create Watch the Throne, an album and tour the likes of which we may never see again. It could be that this is the year people point to and say, ‘there, there the great hardcore band of their age peaked, that is when Fucked Up cemented their legacy.’ The new albums from Wye Oak, Girls, and tUnE-yArDs can be found topping many lists. Will they last? Or will we find ourselves looking back in ten years, brows knit with a mixture of perplexity and fond nostalgia, wondering how we could possibly have ranked them above the true classics?
What was this year in music to me? It will be a long time until I know for sure. I have always believed a top five is easy, but a top twenty is impossible. Picking a few favorites immediately, those few having cemented themselves indelibly into our minds having conquered all of our objective and subjective criteria, is not difficult. Picking out the differences between numbers eighteen, nineteen, and twenty versus twenty-one and twenty-two, though is a far more difficult task. Long-time favorites - Joan of Arc, The Mountain Goats, and Thursday - released albums that number among their best. Youth Lagoon crafted the heart-rending “Montana,” my favorite song, with a video that made me weep at the combined beauty. Kurt Vile, Girls, Bon Iver, PJ Harvey - all topping lists, all containing at least a few elements I enjoy. Liturgy and Deafheaven either changing or disgracing the black metal landscape, depending on who you ask. M83, Drake, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown, James Blake, St. Vincent, Wye Oak - none of them are here. The Roots and Common, two more favorites of mine, simply arrived too late in the year. How the fuck do we organize all this (especially for the unfortunate saps that have to work this all around a day job and school - for now).
So this list is what I’ve cobbled together. There are albums I love missing. There are records I have yet to hear lurking. This list could easily change by the time it goes up - it’s an inevitability. This is a picture of my 2011. There may be less Kanye, less dubstep, less of the burgeoning mainstream indie rock, than what was present in the headlines… but that’s the point. This is my 2011, which I would like to share with you. We share our personal years in music so that we can expand our own, learning more about the year even after it is long past. 2011 was a wonderful year for music, and it will only get better with age.
EPs of the Year
- The Golden Filter - Syndromes
- Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) - Home After Three Months Away
- matt pond PA - Spring Fools EP
- Mogwai - Earth Division EP
- Holy Other - With U
- Jens Lekman - An Argument With Myself
Songs of the Year
- Arrange - “When’d You Find Me?”
- Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - “Two Against One” ft. Jack White
- Fucked Up - “Serve Me Right”
- German Error Message - “In Comforting”
- The Golden Filter - “Mother”
- The Humans - Sea of Size
- Iceage - “White Rune”
- Joan of Arc - “Love Life”
- Mister Heavenly - “Pineapple Girl”
- The Mountain Goats - “Damn These Vampires”
- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - “Heart In Your Heartbreak (Twin Shadow remix)“
- Pygmy Lush - “Yellow Hall”
- Shabazz Palaces - “free press and curl”
- St. Vincent - “Cruel”
- tUnE-yArDs - “Bizness”
- True Widow - “Skull Eyes”
- TV on the Radio - “Caffeinated Consciousness
- Yacht - “Dystopia”
- Youth Lagoon - “Montana”
- Young Widows - “Miss Tambourine Wrist”
- Yuck - “Get Away”
- Zola Jesus - “Skin”
Hear (almost) all these songs on Tyler’s Spotify playlist. [link]
Albums of the Year
Arrange - Plantation
As great a place as any to start the list, the music of Malcom Lacey has grown exponentially over the last year. Plantation may sound soft and delicate, but it gave my mind a proverbial slap to the face with how it unexpectedly floored me. The piano sprinkled liberally throughout, vacillating between a deep serenity and a twinkling pretty vision, serves as a tremendous hook for many tracks and as the piece that ties them all together.