This week I’ll be going over my top ten most-played artists of the past month, according to last.fm., and ranting briefly about why they are where they are on my rank. Summer has officially disbanded as far as education is concerned, but seeing as the past month was august, there’s plenty of end-of-summer jams on display. That shouldn’t keep you from checking out anything you haven’t yet – one person’s summer jams are another’s “help my driveway was snowed in” soundtrack.
- Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza
Weird, I don’t actually remember listening to this. That’s not super uncommon though, considering I only heard it once and it was to fall asleep. However, I do remember waking up for a brief moment to the song “Local Shopping” and thinking…..”hey, this is Boards of Canada”. I also thought it sounded super awesome with a beat, which the original track (“Open the Light”) lacks. It was a nice pounding beat too. One minute I was asleep and then the next my head is literally bouncing up and down. Felt pretty good.
- Luxury Elite
More vaporwave. Never actually gave Luxury Elite a full chance even though it was one of the first albums I checked out in the genre, but TV Party wound up being pretty excellent. Listening to the album reminded me what makes vaorwave so special, and that is how there aren’t many particularly obvious qualities that makes one artist greater than another – it’s not like traditional gauges for quality can be applied to a genre founded on the idea of warping pre-existing songs and celebrating kitschy midi muzak and mall ambience. It’s always fun to see what – and why – people list as their favorite albums because most lists I’ve seen are very unique, aside from a few decidedly higher-tier pieces like Eccojams or Far Side Virtual.
Part of the late-night instrumental hip-hop Dilla descendents, Ta-Ku reminds me a bit of Shlohmo’s imagery and focus on broken-glass and hand-clap beat aesthetics. Weirdly perfect for pool parties. Also makes for a good late-night companion for artsy venues in SL, which is actually where I chilled out to this album (Songs To Break Up To).
“Wasted Time feat. Thandiwe Phoenix”
- Architecture in Tokyo
Lo-fi sunny daze goodies from, well, presumably Tokyo. This is more vaporwave of the elevator/”please wait while we transfer your call” variety, with a mix of syrupy down-pitched obscurities for good measure. Track 4, “トロピカルBEACH”, was particularly surreal. Like a lot of albums of this nature, it was over with quickly, which actually sucks because Summer Paradise was pretty solid for how short it was.
- Macdonald Duck Éclair
In a subgenre of J-pop lies “picopop”, which is basically what grindcore is to metal, for lack of a not-terrible analogy – speedier, noisier, and even a bit sillier than the genre it draws from. Seriously throw that analogy right in the trash. Anyway, it’s been pretty hit-or-miss from what I’ve come across, but Macdonald Duck Éclair’s Short Short has probably been one of the better albums in the genre. It’s petite, cutesy, and takes aesthetic cues from several different genres, such as shibuya-kei and electronic, and overall a pretty easy album to like. No regrets seeing this reach the number six spot on my list for the month.
Much like My Bloody Valentine (in more ways than one), loveliescrushing is an album I prefer to listen in bed with the TV off and the window closed. This is shoegaze going off the deep end. It’s a bizarrely effective hybrid of sheer cacophony and gorgeously soothing atmosphere – just like the genre it belongs to, but the dichotomy is much greater. If you found the vacuum-core of Loveless to be a turnoff, you’ll find loveliescrushing to be largely unlistenable, as it is riddled with bitter, violent noise and melody is much more subtly implemented. However, if that sounds attractive to you and you dig avant-garde-isms then by all means get their debut album Bloweyelashwish, which is what I’ve been jamming. Even if you don’t, this is a ridiculously good song:
This one too:
Welcome To Sa-World might not be the greatest Japanese electropop album I’ve ever heard, but evidently it has a charm worthy of stealing a spot on a most-played artist list anyway. It also has a bit of variety worth revisiting. I stated this in my review, but her voice is something you either like or you don’t, and the songs themselves are a mixed bag. With tracks like this however, you can hardly call it bad:
- Miami Vice
You can feel the heat wave just listening to Miami Vice. It felt pretty good over the summer, but the real gift (or pointless tease, depending on your perspective) is spinning one of these pretty little albums this upcoming fall/winter and escaping from either midterms or the chilly weather. No one with judge you for practicing a little escapism. Also works reasonably well taking a long bus ride in the rain (speaking from experience).
As summer comes to a close, J-pop party jams come into heavier rotation. This is music for all those end-of-season festivals, starting at the lukewarm dusk and ceasing only the next morning. And Perfume do it better than anybody – lighting up the starry skies with high-energy and illusory shooting stars you imagined in the heat of the night (fun fact: they’re real, they just stopped to sit and listen to Perfume’s show). School may have already started but Perfume have a weird talent for getting you up in the morning if you happen to wake up with one of their songs playing in your head. Recommended with coffee and a morning jog.
- Julia Holter
The time I’ve spent with Julia Holter over the past year has been concentrated and sparse, but for me that’s usually a sign that an artist has a special place in my heart. Some artists are addicting, while others create a truly intimate experience for the listener that one will try hard to keep sacred and avoid tainting with the dregs of other artists. In the case of Holter’s music, it may not have racked up a hundred plays over the last month, but it has impacted me the most. I genuinely have a hard time explaining why, other than that everything she does seems to resonate with me deeply – calling her voice angelic would be an embarrassment (and pretty lame), especially because it’s not even an adequate summation of everything she’s capable of. Other times she’s playful (with her gorgeous compositions as well) in a way that seems to ignore what a lot of people’s idea of “playful” is at the moment. But most triumphant of all is how she achieves both serene delicacy and grandiose atmosphere, with thunderous theatrics that speak loudly even when brought down to a whisper hush. It also doesn’t hurt that both her albums Ekstasis and Loud City Song are virtually flawless- this is especially true for the latter, which is a rarity in which EVERY song hits me with a level of shiver-inducing potency that most albums only achieve once. It only came out last year, but waiting for new material has been a truly torturous endeavor.
“Horns Surrounding Me”