When a musician decides to form a group or duo after an exciting career, or even start a side project, it’s practically impossible to not compare it to the works they’ve done. We all thought of it when you read this. Whether it’s Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters, or Thom Yorke in Atoms for Peace, the original work lingers with the artist. Nicolas Jaar was somebody I didn’t believe would survive in the destructive business of music. After a solid 2011 release with Space Is Only Noise, I did not believe it could be replicated, nor should be as it would feel too forced. Oddly enough, during this time frame Jaar was working on another project with fellow touring guitarist, Dave Herrington, and they formed the duo Darkside. Combining the electronic tension of Jaar’s studio work with the organic sounds found in the live performances, they eased their way through recording the finally released Psychic album.
I usually stay away from reading reviews until I have my own opinion, but I stumbled across a mixture of positive and negative. I feel as though this album has been misjudged by both sides. One critic said it resembled the unasked question of, “What does Nicolas Jaar and Eric Clapton sound like together?” To me, that’s a dumb comment. I can see the resemblance, but I would honestly be intrigued into what the combo would sound like. Psychic does branch off from the usual spectrum Jaar likes to take, but the eerie and tense atmosphere sticks with the listener. The monster opener, “Golden Arrow”, clocks in at just under 12 minutes. There’s more excitement in these 12 minutes than the 46 in Space Is Only Noise. While comparable, Psychic could appeal to a different audience that wasn’t content with the prior release by Jaar.
These eight tracks have their distinct moments that clearly separate one from another. The minute and a half lingerer “Sitra” is completely different from the following track, “Heart”. They fit together like a puzzle piece, but the following song reminds me of an abstract brit-pop tune. The addition to Herrington’s guitar allows for these odd, but compelling moments to flow smoothly. At the core, these are electronic dance tracks, but from the listeners perspective, they come across as very experimental at times. The structure to them, although quite simple, is hidden by Jaar’s need to keep the beat slower. Some songs, like the closer “Metatron”, fall into ambient territory. That’s the beauty of Jaar’s experimental side. He’s able to flip the listeners perspective of genres and how they fit together.
Going back to the Clapton comment, I hear it the more I listen, but still I wouldn’t consider it bad. Psychic does embrace Herrington’s bluesy guitar licks, but they don’t create a blues feel. I have more of a Jon Hopkin’s Immunity sound in mind. That’s probably due to the fact that both albums are released in 2013 and they have eight tracks. Besides that, there’s really nothing in common. What Psychic does carry that surprised me is Tom Wait vocals that aren’t sung by the man himself. At first, it was hard to swallow these raspy vocals, but the more I listen, the more I understand how it pieces together with the ‘blues’ combination.
What captures my attention with each listen is the other strange additions that Jaar included. I feel like there are many different versions of songs that were made over the two years it took to record. Should there be more guitar? Is the beat hidden enough? Do these vocals sound like noise enough? I bet none of these questions were asked, but I began to think about how these two completely different musicians came to a solid conclusion about their contributions to Psychic. Up front, it sounds like a Nicolas Jaar album. Behind the scenes it feels like Dave Herrington may have had more of an influence. There’s multiple ways to look at this album, whether you hear the blues or the electronics, they oddly fit together nicely to create an album that will be more enjoyable as time went on. Even I was hesitant with my first listen.
MITNG has been covering the recent news for Reflektor very heavily, and it’s come to the surface that a studio release for a song titled “Afterlife” has arrived. On Zane Lowe’s BBC radio show, he premiered the track, which resembles the early 80′s dance floor scene, especially in England. It still has that classic Arcade Fire twist to it, but it’s nice to see the band try new sounds. I’m really excited to see what happens with the rest of Reflektor, which is released October 29th.
Listen to “Afterlife” below:
As the date draws nearer to the ultimate release for Reflektor, Arcade Fire seamlessly excite fans again with another trailer. Since appearing at performances like the YouTube’s Music Awards, and the Bridge School Benefit Show, they’ll perform on “The Colbert Report” October 21st. Expect (or hope) to hear some new tracks. The band continues to hold us on a string.
Nonethless, view the cryptic and beautiful trailer below:
From the beginning of “Side A”, it’s obvious that Danny Brown has changed. Since his 2011 release, XXX, Danny has reached some major ups and downs. His unique character of being Detroit’s King Pin in rap has been hidden by the fact that he isn’t a usual player in the modern rap game. Compared to fellow Detroit-ee, Big Sean, Danny resembles someone who has just escaped a psych ward. His gap-toothed, psychotic smile was a clear influence for the infamous Miley Cyrus tongue flair that she seems to flaunt at every opportunity. From an outsiders view, Danny Brown is the devil of hip-hop today.
Old doesn’t play out like XXX. From the beginning, Danny raps about how people keep asking to change back to his older style, but in reality, Danny isn’t interested in it. He wants to keep the ball rolling and stay on top of his game. The idea does make sense; why play safe in a genre where playing safe creates losers. Danny isn’t about staying within the realms of his peers. He’s outlandish, crude, original, and honest, but his approach to compacting all these different ideas strays from traditional values in rap. While XXX presented a wild and dirty side to Danny, he’s taken more of an aggressive and louder approach on Old.
He’s lucky enough to have the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, Charli XCX, A$AP Rocky, and surprisingly Purity Ring make appearances on this album. The Purity Ring feature was the most shocking, considering that they pretty much take over the track and make it a Danny Brown feature (“25 Bucks”). Old does impress with production. He still wants the raw sound to be forefront, but his music does have a trap influence this time around. Lyrically, Danny is all about reacting to the fame. He’s struggled with handling money, attention, and the whole celebrity life, and it’s clearer than ever on Old. “Clean Up” talks about how he feels guilty for spending money on clothes, because he’s fall victim to consumerism. It’s a great perspective from someone who generally give a detailed description of his drug and sex life.
Danny doesn’t waste anytime here. All 19 songs are concise, and to the point. The features feel useful, with the exception of Charli XCX, who’s contribution could have been done by any female vocalist. I won’t lie, her name does give the song that extra push for the ‘wow’ factor. These tracks flow generally well, minus “25 Bucks”, which includes the unique Purity Ring sound. You can imagine how the sleek production contrasts a lot of the typical Danny Brown production. Old does show the influence of Danny Brown in the industry. Being able to have that all-star lineup of features goes to show how far he’s come since XXX.
The second half (“Side B [Dope Song]” onward) is all party based, trap songs that actually stand out very well. They’re very enjoyable, but I can only take so much of Danny’s crude yelps. Old closes very well with “Float On”, which like most of the album, discusses the hardships of growing up in Detroit’s Linwood area. From food-stamps to crack cocaine, he’s seen it all. The disturbing imagery feels very real on his lyrics. He’s an underrated lyricist who knows how to really engage the listener on an album. Old provides better diversity than XXX, and feels like it’s the next logical step in his hopeful and fast-growing career. He’s on top of his game so far, but I wonder how much potential he has before he hits a wall. Right now, it’s better to dwell on a very solid album that deserves the respect of many.