Matt Kemp Is The New Barry Bonds [Buzzfeed; May 9, 2012] (link)
According to Fangraphs, Kemp’s amassed 2.2 WAR so far this year. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement; it’s a statistic meant to encompass a player’s offensive & defensive value, and represent that value in terms of actual wins in comparison to a run-of-the-mill player. To paraphrase that in a succinct manner: Matt Kemp’s had a most excellent month.
Mr. Dream – Fatherland EP (album review) [Pitchfork; March 6, 2012] (link)
It’s like Mr. Dream wants to be heavyweights, but they’re just not able to hold their own in that weight class. What they can do is infuse their tighter, more melodic efforts with just the right amounts of dissonance and power. It’s on tracks like “Palace Complex” and especially “Believing And Shitting” where the songwriting, the playing, and the production choices all seem to have their eyes on the same prize, which is to make songs that emulate your Surfer Rosas and Secaucuses and other alt/indie touchstones with sounding exactly like them.
On Tramp, Sharon Van Etten’s sound finally outstrips the story of a bad boyfriend [Indy Week; February 8, 2012] (link)
Van Etten’s inspirational fable transcends genre or medium, the sort of thing that any savvy promoter or PR firm would leverage to the fullest. Last week, as Van Etten prepared the release of her third album, The New York Times Magazine recited this particular tale, just as astute music critics did in 2009 when Van Etten released her first record on the tiny independent label Language of Stone, run by musician and producer Greg Weeks. The story has worked exactly as expected; now, she’s ready to move past it.
Marissa Nadler, Self-Starter [The Village Voice; July 20, 2011] (link)
Even after showing she can handle herself around fuller arrangements on Songs III, and ably navigating drastic left turns like the drum machine-driven, psychedelically-leaning “Mary Come Alive” (on Little Hells), those tags persist. But while this was once a concern, Nadler doesn’t really care what anyone calls her music these days. “My main goal is to write beautiful music, and connect with people, and that’s about it.”
Fucked Up is this era’s great hardcore integrator [Indy Week; June 22, 2011] (link)
It’s nothing new for musicians—especially those with some semblance of underground credibility—to try and push aesthetic boundaries or fans’ buttons. Fucked Up, for instance, isn’t the first punk band to make a rock opera this decade, let alone ever. (Thanks to Green Day’s unwavering vigilance, they have also missed their chance to be the first punk group to hit the Broadway stage.) While Fucked Up has all but left the world of punk rock behind—and if they haven’t yet, these two David albums might be the group’s one-way ticket out—they are now fully ensconced in the musical subculture of indie rock, whose notions of propriety and integrity have proven to be as mercurial as they were strident in the past. Thankfully, that’s slowly been changing.
Live Fast, Die Faster [Kill Screen; June 6, ,2011] (link)
There’s something to be said for good old-fashioned indie ingenuity, though—by quickly embracing the gradual shift from brick-and-mortar CD retailers to online MP3 sales while simultaneously reinvigorating the presumably dead vinyl LP market, and by exploring the potential of social-networking tools, most indie outfits were able to weather this sea change. Couple that with a highly coveted brand identity—a notion, either implicit or implied, that the music matters first and foremost—and a bunch of old dinosaurs resistant to change; and when the dust settled, some of these scrappy, savvy Davids found themselves standing taller than the so-called Goliaths of their industry.
Hashfic: Studio 60’s Odd Second Life on Twitter [The Awl; May 18, 2011] (link)
It’s all laid bare in 140-character bits: the bonhomie, the backstage drama, the creative struggles, the 4 a.m. miracles and, every Friday night like clockwork, the live broadcast of the long-running comedy show they all work on. There are just a couple of catches—”Studio 60″ is actually a show about that aforementioned long-running comedy show, and it was cancelled four years ago.
Various Artists – Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Remixes (album review) [Pitchfork; December 4, 2009] (link)
In that rather stark light, the Score! releases can be viewed as a sort of prospectus for listeners, showing potential customers both the breadth and depth of their catalog, and their standing and influence within this musical community– a label doesn’t get to put out a charity remix compilation featuring far-flung folks like Barbara Morgenstern, Four Tet, and Jason Forrest without earning the respect of its peers. Thankfully, The Remixes is more than just a display of the power of the Merge Records Rolodex.