Mendelsohn: I still have a little bit of a new music addiction, Klinger. There is nothing like getting a new record and being blown away by something I have never heard before. In reality, though, nothing sounds new anymore. After nearly a decade of Counterbalance, half of which we spent wandering the wilderness of the Great List, my brain has been trained to see through the wall of sound and start to dissect the influence behind each and every note. Some days I find the experience to be enlightening. Some days it can be crushing as it sucks the joy out of the simple experience of hearing new music. But then, that is the yin and yang of music, nay, of life itself. Pardon me for waxing philosophic, but I’ve been listening to Tame Impala’s newest record Currents and the psychedelic pop licks are starting to melt my brain.
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!!!‘s biography runs like this: since releasing their first album in 2001, they’ve rocked and partied hard. End of story.
After coming into prominence with 2003’s instantly-iconic groove-jam “Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)”, lead singer Nic Offer and his merry band of like-minded cohorts have moved away from their hardcore roots to become the de-facto dance-rock of the new millennium. Their songs groove, twist, and surprise, and even with a rotating group of regular members (to say nothing of the tragic passing of drummer Jerry Fuchs), they have slowly amassed an intensely devout cult following of the past decade and a half. Even with the success of “Giuliani”, the band has been touring and recording at a pretty consistent clip, often releasing one new album every three years, often shying away from the showboating controversies that so quickly sink other bands of the dance-rock contingent (whatever happened to, say, Black Kids?).
Klinger: The Great List, the compendium of critical hive-mindedness from which we still draw a good amount of inspiration, is a fascinating document, albeit one that demonstrates the extent to which critics the world over have fallen short in acknowledging some of your less traditionally cool genres. So while we spent the first couple years listening to way more trip-hop than I ever thought possible, country music, which is so ingrained in rock & roll’s DNA, has been all but ignored. In fact, the only artist to shatter the hayseed ceiling so far has been Johnny Cash, whose At Folsom Prison LP has been meandering around the back half of the 100s for years (it’s currently on the rise again, clocking in at No. 157). And for the record, I’m not counting Gram Parsons. Readers can go argue with me over on Facebook if they want.
We’re kind of done with calling things “chillwave” at this point, right?
After all, the first wave of the bedroom-borne genre of synth-heavy midtempo dance-pop has already crested, even if some of its most notable acts, like Washed Out and especially Neon Indian, are still releasing large-scale albums to this day. Sure, you could argue that Toledo’s John Jagos, who records under the name Brothertiger, is of the same ilk, but even that wouldn’t be totally fair in the long run, as his soundscaping has been a kind that focuses less on tone and more on songcraft outright, nailing the hooks time and time again, which is part of the reason why he already has a sizable audience even after releasing his debut set, the excellent Golden Years, a mere three years ago.
Since then, he dropped sophomore disc Future Splendors in late 2014, and will follow that one up almost to the day with a third album slated for the end of 2015. Yet between recording and touring, Jagos keeps a level head to himself, focusing on making the best damn music possible, honing in on a sound that would work on both dancefloors and private pajama parties all the same. In answering PopMatters’ 20 Questions, Jagos reveals a lot about his influences, ranging from his love of Brian Eno to his obsession with Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair, to say nothing of the fact that he likes to wear “a baseball hat when I travel; I’m not sure why, but it just feels right.”
It’s been over six years since the last Most Serene Republic album proper, which is the kind of statement that seems to carry the typical critical arc of a band seeking redemption (“Now they’re back and better than ever, guys!”), but when you get right down to it, the six years between the group’s heavily melodic 2009 set ... And the Ever Expanding Universe and this year’s long-overdue Mediac were filled with a strange bit of turmoil.