Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sugar Glyder Continues Ascent With 'Lovers'

Although surely not the most boring day in history (that woeful honor goes to April 11, 1954), August 4, 2010, was still rather unremarkable. Weather was seasonably warm across the country. The stock market behaved in its characteristic downtrending manner. No one particularly notable died, nor were there any noteworthy news stories that day. But that night on the corner of 32nd Street and 7th Avenue, Arcade Fire played a packed Madison Square Garden and a clogged (the Internet is a series of tubes, mind you) online live YouTube audience in support of their long-awaited Neon Bible followup, The Suburbs. The same Win Butler blog heartthrob who brought Merge Records its greatest record since the mythic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea with Funeral was performing in one of the most storied American venues this side of Radio City. No longer was this Canadian collective a Montreal secret. If it hadn't happened already, then August 4, 2010, surely marked Arcade Fire's arrival as a bona fide arena rock band. Like Kings of Leon before them, Arcade Fire had successfully risen from obscurity and indiehood to the mainstream—and accomplished the feat largely on the quality of their music alone. This was no corporate force-feeding by way of ClearChannel airwave saturation; rather, this was a direct result of old-fashioned good music winning over the ears of the masses.

Arcade Fire's music is of the variety that sounds at home reverberating off the walls of spacious venues; that begs to be echoed by a choir of frenzied concertgoers; that requires a space large enough to can contain Sarah Neufeld's passionate violin swells, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne's matrimonious harmonies, and the band's ambitious album concepts. You might call it… epic. But don't tell anyone I told you that. After all, if there's any rock equivalent of the dubstep "filthier than..." meme, it's the brotastic label of "epic" under which all Muse, Explosions in the Sky, and Coldplay records are categorized. But like Arcade Fire and quite unlike most bands that seek to fashion an "epic" sound, North Carolina's Sugar Glyder achieves such sprawling, larger-than-life sonorities without overblown production, without kitchen sink philosophies of the-more-layered-textures-the-better, and without vocals drenched in more reverb than St. Peter’s Cathedral on a hot day. It's grandness without grandiosity.

In this respect, Lovers at Lightspeed picks up where Poor Baby Zebra left off, offering Sugar Glyder's trademark blend of soaring guitar-driven rock, hummable melodies, phonaesthetically-conscious phrasings, and an acute awareness of how to manipulate chaos and order in the way that would make the Pixies jealous. That's not to say that the band's sound is outdated, however. Combined with these foundational elements that undergird any talented rock band are quintessentially now qualities that situate Sugar Glyder at the forefront of undiscovered independent artistry. Tracks like "Deep Into Summer" find the band integrating Local Natives-esque percussion while "The Work (and What May Come)" finds Howie, Rigo, Aoyagi, and Matthews effortlessly transitioning between tempos in an impressive display of their ever-progressing songwriting abilities.

And although they might be taking stylistic cues from Death Cab for Cutie (see: Howie's vocal timbre on "Ocean, I Love You" and melodramatic lyrical direction of the EP), Minus the Bear (see: repetition of short, simplistic melodic bits in guitar), and the aforementioned Local Natives, Sugar Glyder manages to make the EP unmistakably their own. The anthemic chants in "Ocean, I Love You" recall "The OK Song" and "Blackbeard Has Feelings Too," and the organ that introduces "The Work" hearkens back to the groovy organ that commands the breakdown in We Cracked the Sky's "Ice Cubes for Igloos." And perhaps most encouraging on this effort is Daniel Howie’s further vocal development, exploring the tone colors that his instrument is capable of as he scales up and down his register. Yet Howie doesn't allow his explorations to trigger timidity; instead, he flexes his vocal capabilities perhaps most impressively on any track in Sugar Glyder’s discography in "Deep Into Summer" as he effortlessly hits a note that puts Kelcey Ayer's wail in "Airplanes" to shame. Further adding to the vocal textures on Lovers, though, are welcome appearances from Bobby Matthews and Chris Rigo, lending their pipes to the chorus in "Deep Into Summer" and throughout the EP.

Praises aside, however, I must admit that this release, while stellar, does leave some to be desired for this listener. For one, the band seems wary to delve into the weirdness hinted at in earlier songs like "B C D E," "I Fear I Might Have Lost You…," and bizarre MacSpeak interludes of previous releases. While this may be a personal preference, I feel that it’s these more avant-garde leanings that would really set apart Sugar Glyder’s music from the rest, and perhaps this avenue will be investigated on the LP to come. Moreover, the lyrical content of Lovers is rather hackneyed for my taste. Granted, this may come with the territory, being a record about lovers and all, but I confess that I did find myself wincing at some of the nauseatingly love drunk words coming out of Howie’s mouth. But if Howie’s lyricism is the EP’s downfall, then it’s also Howie simultaneously saving the release with his incredible knack for pleasant-sounding phrasings. Referred to earlier with the Pitchfork-worthy (i.e., pretentious) terminology of “phonaesthetic,” Howie’s awareness of the euphony in words is perhaps the single element the unifies Sugar Glyder’s irresistible sound—that is, along with Rigo’s precisely-engineered melodious guitar lines, Aoyagi’s thumping bass, and Matthews’s noticeably more technical drumming. Take, for instance, “One More Snow,” which finds Howie’s proficiency as a wordsmith at its finest:

Seasoned with my infatuation for love and what it means

Reasons, sweet deliberation's got me tossin’ in my sheets.

If the selection and arrangement of those words doesn’t highlight the inherent sonic beauty of the English language, then I don’t know what does. It’s rhythmic and bouncy just sitting on the page, for cryin' out loud.

And when these words do come to life on Lovers at Lightspeed, I can’t help but wonder when August 4, 2010, is going to happen for Sugar Glyder. Because if there’s any justice in this music industry, then that day is coming. The band might stand to hasten the arrival of that day by marketing themselves less as a “punk” band and more as a buzzword-exploiting “experimental indie rock/post-punk” outfit, but I foresee the end result as inevitable: Chris Rigo, Daniel Howie, Bobby Matthews, and Emily Aoyagi are going to fill arenas. It’s simply a matter of time.

One More Snow

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Not Swag.

Mashup extraordinaires The White Panda are "performing" at Davidson College tonight. Let's just say I'm skeptical. Might start Twitter beef about it. Follow @muzjikssteven. If you don't get a review out of Muzjiks, then it's safe to assume that the "concert" was atrocious beyond words.

Hi, my name is Steven Hummel, and I'm a pessimistic, elitist fuckhead. I appreciate your readership.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Episode 1: The Return

1. Sugar Glyder: "One More Snow"
2. Rick Ross ft. Kanye West: "Live Fast, Die Young"
3. jj: "Still"
4. Gorillaz: "Hillbilly Man"
5. James Blake: "I Never Learnt to Share"
6. Endgames: "Ecstasy (Jam City Refix)"
7. Velour: "Booty Slammer"
8. Young Galaxy: "Peripheral Visionaries"
9. Chris Brown ft. Busta Rhymes & Lil Waynes: "Look At Me Now"
10. Kanye West ft. CyHi da Prynce: "Christmas in Harlem"
11. Earl Sweatshirt: "Earl"
12. Flying Lotus: "Do The Astral Plane"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MuzjiksFM is back!

Tomorrow night at 10 PM EST, MuzjiksFM will finally return to the airwaves. Watch this space for the streaming URL, the playlist, the podcast link, and the Soundcloud download. Get ready—Sirius XMU has nothing on us. Seriously. We run shit.

UPDATE: Stream here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mainstream Pop's First Attempt at Dubstep

Prepare to hear this for the next four months...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Funky disco soul revival?

It's not prevalent enough yet to call it a revival, but with Cee-Lo Green leading the pack with his Stevie Wonder-esque The Lady Killer, it's conceivable that a full-blown resurgence of the funkadelic sounds of the 70s could be on their way back to the mainstream. Perhaps it's just my wishful thinking, but here's a handful of examples of recent music that are fully indebted to the sounds of the yesteryear and give me hope for the future of grooviness. Now we jive.

Keep your eyes on the throne

This from Kanye's Twitter: Looks like the lead single from Watch the Throne, Yeezy's collaborative album with Jay-Z, is going to be in our hands sooner rather than later—as in this coming Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Daft Punk: Unmasked

Really cool article over at Trash Menagerie documenting Daft Punk sans masks. Check it out here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

News from EITS

Received this e-mail today from Explosions in the Sky:

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to 2011.

We're excited (and a little nervous) to announce that on April 6th we'll be playing at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Radio City is one of the most legendary and beautiful theaters in the world, so we feel pretty honored and lucky. It's like some sort of absurd daydream come true for us. Anyway, we'll be playing a bunch of new songs so we hope some of you can make it out that night. If you're interested in tickets, please go here.

Speaking of new we'd mentioned previously, our new album will be coming out sometime this spring. We're anxious to get it out there into the world and we'll have more details about it in the next few weeks.

Thanks for caring.



More than just WOMP

Bacon. Related enough.

Dubstep has the reputation—especially in the United States—of being a genre all about devastating bass that sometimes sounds like whales mating, other times sounds like grinding chainsaws, and still other times just sounds like a migraine waiting to happen. However, to reduce the genre to this would be entirely unfair. Although represented more prevalently in Europe, dubstep usually incorporates stuttering, off-kilter rhythms, groovy synthesized lines that reflect UK garage and funky influences, and more explicit dub vibes. You might say that it's the difference between dubstep and brostep, although that comes off fallaciously as sophistication versus novelty, which is not always the case. I will likely put together some kind of longer feature on the difference between dubstep and brostep in the near future, but for now, enjoy some tunes that are about more than just WOMP and WUBWUBWUB.

Also, a side note: if you haven't already, do yourself a favor and get Desto's discography. Dude's the absolute truth.

A brush with Odd Future

Above is the video for "Clear Eyes" off of OFWGKTA member Domo Genesis' latest, Rolling Papers. As you'll see, there's a shot with a phone ringing and a number being displayed on the screen. It reads "Tyler," so when I called the number, I thought maybe I would get in contact with the leader of the pack himself, Tyler, the Creator. Instead, I reached the director of the video who requested that I post his work on Muzjiks. This is the least I can do. Little does he know that he could potentially be in store for the Mike Jones treatment. Regardless, it's some unsettling visuals for Odd Future's signature drugged-out, listless brand of hip hop. Not nearly as shocking as Earl Sweatshirt's unbelievable "EARL" vid, but still worth a view nevertheless. If you like what you hear, you can head over to OF's tumblr to get Domo's Rolling Papers in full—fo' free.

Reupholstering vaginas since 1977

With its 808s-esque blip-bloop bouncing along and a distorted guitar riff giving the track a certain edginess beneath Kanye's rhymes, this My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy cut didn't quite make it off the Hawaiian cutting room floor. Frankly, I'm not sure where the song would've fit into the retail tracklist without sounding sorely out of place. In fact, before doing a quick Google search, I thought this was a leak from Watch the Throne, as the overall feel of "Eyes Closed" was altogether un-MBDTF-like. But then again, this is likely not completely mixed and mastered as it would have appeared on a final pressing. Regardless, it's is another quality piece of Yeezian hip hop for us to sink our teeth into, so I'm not complaining. Enjoy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Decatur's Finest: CyHi

It's official. I'm on CyHi Da Prynce's nuts. I'm not ashamed. Dude is the next big thing in hip hop. Not only do I have a man crush on the guy's voice, but his flow is dope as hell. If you liked what you heard on "Christian Dior Denim Flow" or "So Appaled," do yourself a favor and check out his two official mixtapes, namely Royal Flush. And you better believe that when CyHi drops his full-length, it's going to be fire. With Yeezy at the helm of GOOD Music production, you know Da Prynce's album is going to be on point. Enough babbling. Listen.