Thursday, July 4, 2013

Catching Up: April 2013 Backtracks

It's been two months since our last mixtape and in that time there have been a lot of shows and a lot of music taken in. So since we've got a nice long weekend upon us, it would be a good time to catch up on our Monthly Backtracks Mixtapes. And with impending boredom approaching this might be one of those rare instances where we even manage to post 4 mixtapes in 4 days, of course a fitting follow-up to a couple of recent show benders where I caught 9 shows in 9 days in May and then a 5 shows in 5 day bender in June. To start, we play catch-up and come up with our April 2013 Backtracks mixtape.


April 2013 Backtracks
1. Sulk, "End Time": Like plenty of bands, I got introduced to this UK band from another DJ friend. He had played Sulk's previous incarnation, The Ruling Class one night when we were both spinning music. The song was "If You Wonder" and it sounded like the second coming of The Stone Roses (pun intended.) I came to discover that The Ruling Class would end up evolving into Sulk and on their debut full-length, Graceless, they would continue diving into that classic baggy Britpop sound -- simultaneously hazy, danceable, and psychedelic. They even revisit their days as The Ruling Class re-recording all 4 songs that made up their Tour De Force EP. "End Time" closes Graceless on a high note as everything comes together in one soaring crescendo.

2. Moon King, "Appel": Last year, Canada's Moon King seemingly appeared out of the ether with the dreamy, Obsession I EP. Here they return picking up where they left off with Obsession II, a slightly more reserved affair than some of the quicker-paced moments of its predecessor. Where their first offering hinted at Cocteau Twins airiness, this EP aims more for darker textures but not without crystalline moments like the one on "Appel."

3. Tempers, "Strange Harvest": New York's Tempers was a recent discovery for me. Just reading their bio made me instantly want to hear their music as words like "Factory Records" and "Wax Trax!' were used in describing them. It's not too far from the truth as dark, pulsating beats and siren-like vocals turn "Strange Harvest" into a heavenly electro throb that would fit perfectly on a dimly lit dancefloor.

4. No Joy, "E": No Joy's debut album, Ghost Blonde, may have relied heavily on a 90's-inspired guitar fuzz but their latest album, Wait To Pleasure, moves towards dreamier textures. There's still plenty of guitars but now they share space with airy synth washes which helps their music breathe a bit more. Album opener, "E" sets the pace building from a plodding rhythm into a delirious rush of guitar haze.

5. Young Galaxy, "Pretty Boy": Canada's Young Galaxy is one of those bands that evolve with every album moving from the straightforward indie rock of their debut to the breezy electro-pop of their latest offering, Ultramarine. The constant evolution fits them well, as "Pretty Boy" is a song built for summer crushes.

6. Charli XCX, "Lock You Up": It's no secret that I have a huge crush on Charli XCX. It helps that she writes some of the best pop songs this side of Robyn. April saw the release of her much anticipated debut full-length, True Romance. "Lock You Up" is a song that Charli has been performing for well over a year, and while newer songs such as "You (Ha Ha Ha)" and "Take My Hand" have surpassed it, there's no denying the power of "Lock You Up"'s addictive chorus. It's what makes it a highlight of her live shows.

7. OMD, "Metroland": OMD are elder statesmen of electro-pop having released music on Factory Records to their mainstream career peak of having their song, "If You Leave" soundtrack the prom scene in Pretty In Pink as well as real proms thereafter. Fast forward to 2013 and here they are putting out one of their best albums, English Electric. Its lead single, "Metroland" is a song worthy of obsession with its vintage OMD synths and longing vocals. But its highlight isn't either the synths or its catchiness but that beat change at the 5:30 mark. It's the kind of thing dreams are made of.

8. The Juan MacLean, "You Are My Destiny": I've always considered The Juan MacLean to be a bit underrated. Their stellar last album, The Future Will Come was one of my personal favorites from 2009. And like many of The Juan MacLean's best songs, "You Are My Destiny" features LCD Soundsystem's Nancy Whang on vocals. And like many of The Juan MacLean's best songs, it's a swirling dance opus in no rush of ever ending.

9. The Knife, "Stay Out Here": Enigmatic and experimental. Those are the two words that come to mind upon listening to The Knife's latest album, the challenging Shaking The Habitual. Though not sonically similar to Swans' The Seer, it shares the same ambitious spirit. There aren't many traditional "pop" moments on the album, but the nearly 11-minute "Stay Out Here," anchored by the powerful and imposing vocals of Light Asylum's Shannon Funchess, has moments where it approaches it before veering off into territories both hypnotic and abrasive.

So there you go. Tomorrow we'll dive back into May with some of the songs that made that month go by quicker than it should have. In the meantime, celebrate our nation's independence by listening loud and becoming immersed.

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