There's always been something appealing about Mike Kinsella's low-stakes approach to his Owen project—his near total lack of professional ambition nicely offsets the genteel virtuosity of his recordings. Since he became a stay-at-home father, that feel-ing has only intensified—listening to his new album you quickly begin to suspect that the people he's looking to impress with it could fit comfortably on a couch together, and probably do so on a daily basis. Ghost Town's subdued, tranquil energy places it firmly in the tradition of rock's great "new dad" albums, but also hovering over it is the recent death of Kinsella's own father—for years he and his brother Tim have been working out their complicated relationships with their dad through their music. Kinsella's lyrics sometimes sound like they're addressed to a child, but it's not always clear if it's his daughter or him-self as a kid. The sweeping pop melody of standout track "O, Evelyn" runs a direct line to the early-aughts emo scene whose groundwork Kinsella helped build, but the song excises emo's narcissism and self-pity, reclaiming the genre for people who've grown up enough to start caring about somebody else.
Flosstradamus featuring Kid Sister
In an article about the Chicago footwork scene that I wrote a year and a half ago, I theorized that while footwork dancing had the potential to break into the mainstream (in fact it had already attracted producers of dance-crew shows and directors of music videos), footwork music would have a much tougher time crossing over. The beats are too fast and stray too far from the four-on-the-floor template; most tracks don't have much in the way of melody, and all of them would probably sound completely alien to the average Britney fan. That hypothesis pissed off a lot of people in the footwork scene, which I initially saw as the natural defensive reaction of an insular community—but after hearing Flosstradamus's new single, I'm willing to admit that I may have been completely wrong. Produced by half the duo, Josh Young (a footwork fan from way back), and with a vocal from his sibling Kid Sister (ditto), "Luuk Out Gurl" takes some of footwork music's freakier elements—a double-time beat, lurching pitch shifts that carry both the drums and the vocal sample back and forth between different tunings—and somehow bends them to the rules of a radio-friendly pop song. Knowing the way dance-music styles trickle up, it's not hard to imagine Britney's take on it.
(Rainbow Body/Catholic Tapes)
Mark Robinson has covered so much ground, both in and out of Unrest, that I can't remember if he ever made a record where he took a sorta-cheeky stab at emulating My Bloody Valentine with electronic instruments and cheap tape machines, but for the purposes of describing Illusions it'd be handy if he did—that hypothetical album is exactly what I'd compare Golden Birthday's new one to. Inflicting sonic distress upon bubblegum pop is such a great strategy that even the nosediving overall quality of the artists practicing it can't completely ruin the fun, and Golden Birthday have at least two virtues that help them rise above that pack. One is the artful hookiness of their songs, which manage to get really, really sweet without ever being cloying. The other is the band's lack of restraint in weirding those songs up—they might bury them under drifts of distortion, for instance, or warp them till they start to sound like the playback from a partly melted tape.