If there was ever a genre called “blue devils hip-hop”, Andy Kayes may just be its choice practitioner. His blustering, electronica-squelched hip-hop is heavily saturated with moods so blue, his music grows heavier with every play. The France-based Englishman has been working the underground scenes of Lyon for some years now, splitting his time between open mics and recording studios whilst hooking up with some of the genre’s most respected names.
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A 20-Year Pregnancy
Slow Dakota’s 2013 concept album Bürstner and the Baby destroyed my faith in the music world. Not in a “I’ve just listened to a Nickelback album” kind of way; no, in a slow way, over time, as I finally came to understand what the album is about.
Combat Rock (1982) gave the Clash the commercial success in America that their rabid fanbase felt they deserved and critics had expected from them since their landmark record London Calling was universally heralded as the last great record of the ‘70s. (Depending on which side of the Atlantic you were on, it could have also been the first great record of the ‘80s.). Combat Rock’s first two singles, the funky new-wave boogie of “Rock the Casbah” and the sloppy power pop of “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, were performing exceptionally well, getting them plenty of airtime on MTV, a booking on Saturday Night Live, and a gig as the opening act on the Who’s 1982 comeback tour in arenas across the United States.
Having been sentenced to musical purgatory has done wonders for Anna Domino’s mystique. A curio of ‘80s avant-pop, Domino forged ahead with her own special brand of slightly skewed pop, borrowing thoughtfully from various musical strains with jazz, rock, dance and folk being the primary influences she would use to bring form to her nearly amorphous art.
Domino’s songs were chronicles of lives at once contentious and enamoured, hanging in a curious balance of ambition and insecurity. Often, her dreamy passages recalled the amorously conflicted characters of Tama Janowitz novels; her songs were about women of the ‘80s who had found a new stretch of freedom to play around with as well as the growing awareness of not knowing what to do with all that newfound space. Much like the singer herself, who once made a living from making furniture out of found objects, her characters were victims of happenstance, often lost in the quirky, unusual situations afforded to them by city life.
I first discovered Hannah Marcus’ music nearly ten years back. Hearing the opening strains of “Laos”, a track off her last album, Desert Farmers, I was nearly frozen in place. I wasn’t sure how or why, but something in the song called to me on a deeper, more private level than any other song I had heard. It seemed to invade such a personal space within me where I held deeper, undisclosed emotions and, yet, it wholly belonged in that space. After half an hour’s worth of hearing the song on repeat, it found a home in me and it has since never left.
What especially caught my attention was Marcus’ utterly strange and distressing way of turning a phrase, sounding out a word with an inflection so alien, it startled and seduced in equal measure. Her songs were like doors to other worlds that explored the ideas of situational love and lives configured by loss and abandonment. In Marcus’ songs, people struggle not to survive but to simply exist; survival and the pain endured is merely an afterthought. To be able to encapsulate the heady and emotional complexities of human drama in the span of a pop song is an achievement in itself. To pen an indelible melody to accompany her striking visionary world is leaps and bounds over the moons of many songwriters.