We’re always on the lookout for great new tracks to share with our readers, and William Brittelle’s “Sheena Easton” definitely falls under that category. It’s a cut off of Brittelle’s sophomore release, Television Landscape, which landed in stores just weeks ago. In the course of an album marked by complex orchestrations that are by turns jazzy and jarring and some frankly mind-bending arrangements, Brittelle collaborates with a slew of musicians from bands like the Long Count and Alarm Will Sound, and on “Sheena Easton,” the patently unfairly talented kids of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. And if that’s not enough of a taste, you can get a load of the album’s opening track, “Dunes of Vermillion”, on Brittelle’s MySpace page.
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“Nineteen eighty-nine! / The number another summer”, Chuck D declared on “Fight the Power”, the pinnacle song from that summer’s most incendiary movie, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.
But that summer was far from just another summer. The summer began with the protests in Tiananmen Square, which at first looked peaceful, but then turned shockingly violent as thousands of demonstrators were killed during China’s brutal crackdown. Also during that summer, the Eastern Bloc countries were falling at an astounding rate, culminating with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall was a defining closer to the 1980s. For many, the ‘80s felt like a big party. This was reflected in popular music, fashion and movies. Sure, East and West had the threat of “mutually assured destruction” looming over, but heyah, at least the economy was booming. But as the ‘80s and the Cold War drew to a close, there seemed to be a collective bit of hangover’s regret going on. For too long, it seemed like pop culture was a non-stop party. The charts were filled with either boy bands or hair-teased pop metal (with a few bright exceptions, thanks to U2 and the unlikely top ten self-titled smash from Tracy Chapman). Now, as peace has broken out, it was time to get serious. If only there was a cause to galvanize this newfound sense of responsibility.
Since punk’s bricolage in the `70s, the anti-consumerist DIY ethic of self-reliance, self-production, and streetwise distribution has been an integral part of underground music, unchecked within the various “scenes” that have come to us as sub-genres and subtle variations on the themes that all that is indie has given us. This ideology, applicable now to everything from education to the Green Movement’s digs at urban gardening and organic lifestyle, seems most resolute, by way of sheer technology and perhaps owing to its genesis, in the realm of music production and recording.
And while the breadth of this aesthetic is perhaps immeasurable, it seems that DIY is something that Dan Barrett’s Enemies List record label, specializing in home-recorded music, is doing right and very well, releasing shoegaze, black metal, drone-y noise pop, some of it like the infant works of the Jesus And Mary Chain and M83 further wrought through a beautiful pedalboard. It’s a wonder someone from the Deftones hasn’t contacted them for work.
The year 1967 makes one think of “hard” culture: hard drugs, hard music. It was the year of The Velvet Underground & Nico, Boogie With Canned Heat, Forever Changes, and Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a year of gritty electric blues and twisted psychedelic pop. Now, hear the sunshine-bubblegum-daisy-puppy pop of “Kites Are Fun”, by the recently rejuvenated family band, the Free Design. Some—persuaded no doubt by the era, the novelty, and the peace and love vibe—would describe the record as psychedelic. But what does that mean?
There’s certainly not much that’s mind-bending about the song’s quiet, precise arrangements, or the hushed falsetto harmonies that croon lines like “I like flying / Flying kites”. The patter of the drums and the gentle thrum of the bass suggest folk or jazz in their least experimental forms. In the song’s refrain, the singers land high on the ‘n’ in “fun” and sustain the note into the next measure; the effect is somewhat comic, since the sung word enacts its connotation of benign and mindless diversion. The orchestral instrumentation, especially the flute, pigeonhole the track into an easy listening vibe rather than expanding its affective vocabulary.
Everest is a So Cal band made up of musical veterans that embrace a solid rock format, although for “Let Go” the group has also added some strings to the mix. It’s a lush sonic landscape with a hard-hitting rhythmic romp from a band only a few years old, yet clearly comprised of accomplished musicians. Frontman Russell Pollard played with Sebadoh, the Watson Twins, and the Folk Implosion, just to name a few. The group was tapped by Neil Young to tour with him in 2008 and two Everest CDs were released on his label, Vapor Records. These five guys are also a fave opening act of Minus the Bear as well as My Morning Jacket.
“Let Go” is the opening track of the band’s new release, On Approach. It was actually recorded at an old chicken ranch before the group completed the process in its studio in L.A. The video for the song begins with a nice little intro of the band tuning up in a studio. After some cooing vocals the lyrics begin with a simple yet sweet concern: “May I come in / My old friend / You’re looking thin / Do you feel alright?”