In Spotify Essentials, the Daily Dot curates custom playlists created by some of our favorite artists, staff writers, and Web community leaders. This week, Nick Divers of Tumblr’s Best Roof Talk Ever spins an uncanny love story using rare soul singles.
In the early 1970’s, American R&B was extremely popular in Britain. While Southern England followed the American charts into newer genres like funk and disco, Northerners still pined after rare records from soul music’s earlier roots. As all-night dance clubs started popping up in cities like Manchester, Tunstall, and Blackpool, a subgenre was born. They called it Northern Soul.
These clubs spun rare records—lost singles from the decade past—ignored by America’s predominantly “white” radio. And because the parties lasted all night, the music consisted almost entirely of uptempo stompers, meant to be worn out until the sun came up.
Soul music is my favorite American musical genre because it gives voice to the genuine human spirit. When compared to some of the music made today, it seems almost cheesy by comparison—but the honesty contained within the lyrics is only foreign because of how often we resist straightforwardness within our own selves. Northern soul conquers that with an overpowering amount of optimism.
This playlist, A Northern Soul Love Story, is just that. It’s a soul opera of sorts, telling the story of two people falling in love, conquering second thoughts, distance, and then confronting infidelity, breaking up, struggling to move on, and finally, finding reconciliation and a way back to each other. Though the lyrics will take you through the ups and downs of falling in love, the tempo will pave a road straight through your heart, block off the sidewalks, and throw an hour-long soul parade.
We have all found that it’s often our best times that turn into our worst ones. Northern soul taught me that I was still allowed to dance through all of it.
In Spotify Essentials, the Daily Dot curates custom playlists created by some of our favorite artists and Web community leaders. This week, bassist Steve Terebecki outlines the tracks that helped shape the sound and vision of critically acclaimed Austin band White Denim.
This playlist is a stream of consciousness of songs that I think of when I think of White Denim in its earliest stages. I’m sure we had many conversations about music, many that I don’t remember specifically, and these songs somehow leaked into my memory of our early talks and understanding of each other’s taste.
These are not influences necessarily. “Influences” is a word that always grossed this group out. We trusted each other’s taste for the most part, and when it came time to record a song, we patiently waited to see what each other would do to see how the song would turn out without a great deal of conversation about influence. If a person was happy with his contribution, then the band was happy. At least that’s how I saw it.
If White Denim were a Venn diagram, this would be a cross section of our interests—but from my point of view. Inevitably, it’s probably a little heavy on my influence, but I definitely left out certain groups that I know don’t necessarily represent the others (Big Boys, Minutemen). I can’t really remember who I pushed when I joined the group; I think the main one may have been Sir Lord Baltimore. The majority of the rest of the playlist we already knew and liked, though I can easily say that James identifies with the S.O.S. Band as much as Josh identifies with Joyce.
There was a surprising amount of groups that we had a mutual love for. Of course, James [Petralli] and Josh [Block] have a history that goes back to their teens. When we entered van life, there was a great deal of mutual discovery. The merch guy from Tapes ‘n Tapes hipped us to Patto, and it blew all of our minds because none of us had heard that group. Nitzinger was also more of a mutual discovery. The huge common group we shared made it that much easier to explore and share.
I thought about adding a few more songs, but two hours is long enough right? I did add a Dukes of Stratosphear song because that was a real early staple in the WD listening.
As far as the Nickelback and Insane Clown Posse… sense of humor and irony has always been a part of this group (although mostly absent from D). We named our group White Denim for crying out loud. We certainly didn’t know it was going to be around for four records and three EPs. ICP and Nickelback represent some of the worst of the worst. It always has felt good and useful to hear a complete cross section of what was felt as “the best” and “the worst” of music. It completes the picture in a weird way. These two groups have filled that void for us even in the early days. They’re hilariously bad to the point of enjoyment again. It’s comforting to me to know (and I’m hoping that I’m not alone) that you can make music that is so ridiculous and that people can still relate to it. In this case it really helps to get a belly laugh out of the lyrics.
“Losing My Edge” is arguably the definitive LCD Soundsystem track—the first stone cast in the NYC dance-punk band’s enduring “Us vs. Them” legacy.
Over a beat jacked from a Killing Joke B-side, bandleader James Murphy recasts his past in the present on the 2002 single, throwing every reference against the wall if only to see what sticks: Gil Scott-Heron, Daft Punk, Joy Division, David Axelrod, the Sonics (x4). It’s a jarring piece of music criticism and autobiography in the form of an electro banger, one that tackles the absurdity of tastemakers in the Internet age, when entire music discographies are but a mouse click away.
With its litany of references, “Losing My Edge” outlines a rough blueprint for one of the defining bands of the past decade (an idea brilliantly illustrated in a Venn diagram by Tumblr statisticians I Love Charts): for starters, the romantic sincerity of A-ha and the Human League clashing with the irony of 10cc and pulsing confrontation of Suicide.
Yet, “Losing My Edge” alternately offers a paint-by-numbers buyer’s guide for aspiring record collectors, a CliffsNotes to the sort of deep cuts and seminal artists expected in DFA 101.
While most of the reference points are fairly obvious (Can, Lou Reed, et. al), there’s still a great deal to learn from Murphy’s encyclopedic confessional—parallels to be drawn, veiled references to be acknowledged, like the way spectral progression of Ashra’s “Lotus (Parts I- IV)” hints at LCD’s classic “All My Friends.”
Not every band name-checked in the track gets its fair due here. The ultra-rare 1968 debut by Detroit’s Index won’t be hitting Spotify anytime soon, and a few other concessions had to be made, like swapping Royal Trux with hellhound blues of “Sweet Little HiFi,” a live cut by Jon Spencer’s previous band, Pussy Galore, recorded at CBGBs in 1989.
Otherwise, it’s all here: 53 tracks (one by each artist mentioned in the LCD original) spanning more than four hours, sequenced to create a relatively cohesive experience. Despite such disparate source material, there’s a surprising continuity to the mix, a through line that can be traced from Faust’s astounding krautrock to the galactic techno of Model 500’s Juan Atkins and the deep-space exploration of Sun Ra’s free-jazz.
“You don’t know what you really want,” Murphy pivots in the song’s closing refrain, almost taunting the listener.
This is a good starting point to find out.
The Daily Dot is proud to present a new way to spread holiday cheer: GIF cards. Each business day leading up to Christmas, we’ll be presenting two or more fun and easy-to-share GIFs to get you and your loved ones in the spirit of the season. To see our entire catalog, visit us on Tumblr.
Frustrated with the fact that coloring books never cater to the hip-hop crowd? Worry no more. There’s a new coloring book on the scene that makes rap art fun.
Introducing Bun B’s Jumbo Coloring and Rap Activity Tumblr, a collaborative effort between Houston rapper and UGK cofounder Bun B and freelance rap journalist Shea Serrano.
“It’s a collection of printable rap-related coloring and activity pages,” the two suggest on the Tumblr’s About page. “That’s basically it.”
Rap Coloring Book on Twitter.
The Royal Tenenbaums / All of the Lights
In Father John Misty’s national television debut – performing a spectacular, full-band rendition of “Only Son of a Ladiesman” on Late Night with David Letterman – Josh Tillman did jazz hands. Twice.
“It’s only jazz hands for a lack of a better word,” scoffs Tillman from his home in Los Angeles. “I forgot that what I was supposed to do was stand up forlornly and do my best to portray the bruised angel that I am inside.”
He pauses to grind some coffee, still in his underwear, apparently, and with a cigarette in hand.
“This is the sweet spot where I still have the capacity to confuse people,” he continues. “I haven’t totally solidified a reputation yet, so it makes everything all the more strange.”
Tillman is clearly the midst of a personal transformation. After touring with the Fleet Foxes and a decade of stark solo recordings, Tillman rechristened himself Father John Misty, abandoning his works of quiet desperation and contemplation. His debut album, Fear Fun (Sub Pop), captures his grand awakening, with flourishes of Laurel Canyon soft-rock, a strong literary streak, and grandiose pop arrangements that suggest Lee Hazelwood’s production work. It’s one of the finest and most refreshing albums of the year.
“For a long time I thought honesty or truth was permanently embedded in the plaintive, mournful aesthetic that I was employing,” Tillman observes. “I was putting my impulses at odds with what I created to make those J. Tillman records. I reached an impasse where I was just fucking sick of that. I just thought, I’m not second guessing my instincts anymore to fit into what people expect from a singer-songwriter.
“It was really about pure identity: Who are you right now and what do you want to say?”
Tillman settled on the name Father John Misty mostly for comedic effect, a sly nod to the Source Family (“I just thing those dudes are hysterical”), but he’s clearly embracing the character. He carries himself like Jim Morrison in his dark, shaman period, engaging his audience with wry and at times rambling stage banter.
“The only things worth doing are polarizing,” he says. “I can only get the kind of audience I’m interested in by alienating a certain amount of people. Really, I’m trying to appeal myself, in the same way that all great boxers only fight themselves.” [via Austin Chronicle]
Stranger (Western Vinyl)
Strange how distance can bring people together in new and profound ways. Recorded over two years primarily at Tortoise’s Soma Electronic Music Studios in Chicago, Balmorhea’s Stranger came into focus over great distances and lengths of time, with multi-instrumentalist Michael Muller in Brooklyn and guitarist/pianist Rob Lowe secluded in Alpine.
The local ensemble was born to constant transition, forever in search of a fleeting moment. From the sketched intimacy of its eponymous debut in 2007 and youthful splendor of 2008’s Rivers Arms, to the colonial expanse of 2009 breakthrough All Is Wild, All Is Silent and the eerie, restrained tranquility of 2010’s Constellations, Balmorhea moves and morphs like weather patterns.
Yet Balmorhea’s fifth studio album marks a dramatic transformation in approach and temperament, packing a visceral immediacy only teased with last year’s Live at Sint-Elisabethkerk. The compositions here are more self-contained and complicated, with everything – swelling strings, wordless vocals, xylophone, and steel drums – in its rightful place without sounding overly composed. “Pyrakantha” bridges the band’s past and present, a soft trance of pensive guitars, fading into a bed of static synthesizers that settles into a guitar-driven groove that’s subtly propelled by the nuanced percussion of stellar new addition Kendall Clark.
Centerpiece “Artifact” presents an epic onto itself a three-part suite venturing into prog rock. Layers of deft guitar arpeggios and rolling piano top circling guitar loops in a game of chutes and ladders between Muller and Low that climaxes like Explosions in the Sky by the way of Robert Fripp’s The Repercussions of Angelic Behavior.
With Stranger, Balmorhea finally comes into full bloom.
I knew it.