If the last decade in pop music has taught us anything, it’s that nostalgia can be a double-edged sword. When it goes wrong, it’s about as satisfying as swallowing a mouthful of processed spray cheese. When done right, revisiting the tropes and aesthetics of decades past can go down nicely. M83’s 2011 double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, fell into the latter camp and—bolstered by its ubiquitous single “Midnight City”—transformed Anthony Gonzalez’s curious 15-year-old project into a soundtrack for Victoria’s Secret commercials and Tom Cruise sci-fi flicks. Surely this shift explains something about the new M83 album, the fascinating and somewhat flummoxing Junk.
A talk with singer and guitarist Andrew Savage about Human Performance and what it means to be a functioning, feeling person who also plays in a rock band.
I wrote about the excellent new record from MONEY, Suicide Songs, for Pitchfork.
Late in the day yesterday, I spoke with Deerhunter and Atlas Sound’s Bradford Cox aboutthe death of David Bowie. Bowie has been an enormous influence on Cox’s life. He expounded on the legacy the man left him personally and to the world at large.
For those of us who came of age in the early ’90s, Tortoise — Chicago’s iconic post-rock granddaddies — were a kind of gateway drug for what could be ostensibly deemed “experimental” music. The band’s landmark 1996 release, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, provided, for me at least, essential first contact with what was essentially genre-less instrumental music — a discovery that would eventually lead me to seeking out things like Can, Neu!, and Sonny Sharrock. And even though Tortoise have always been generally slotted under the vague banner of “post-rock” their back catalog — now seven albums deep — is pretty singular. Jazz-inflected and imbued with elements of rock, dub, and ambient electronica, their music has, for the better part of 25 years, remained wonderfully inscrutable. The same is true of the band’s forthcoming full-length, The Catastrophist, which might actually be their most weirdly adventurous to date. The LP includes funk-appropriate basslines, feather-light interplaying guitars, and a variety of otherworldly synthed-out instrumentals. Perhaps weirdest of all, the album includes a cover of David Essex’s 1973 pop hit “Rock On,” which the band manages to make sound oddly ominous. Elsewhere, Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley shows up to add vocals to “Yonder Blue,” which is perhaps one of the loveliest songs the band has ever recorded. In other hands, so many disparate elements and influences might sound like a crazy mess, but The Catastrophist has the same kind of measured, sanguine quality that has been the hallmark of almost every Tortoise album. None of this should make sense, but for some reason all of it does. I talked to Tortoise drummer John McEntire and guitarist Jeff Parker about The Catastrophist and how they got here. And before you get to that, you can listen to “Rock On.”