Music

Pete Yorn: musicforthemorningafter (10th Anniversary Edition)

Two-disc set commemorates Yorn's first studio album and shows what it plainly is: a collection of beautiful songs, nearly each one a small victory.


Pete Yorn

musicforthemorningafter (10th Anniversary Edition)

Label: Sony/Legacy
US Release Date: 2011-03-29
UK Release Date: 2011-03-28
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

As far as movie soundtracks go, you could do worse than the one for the Farrelly brothers' Me, Myself, and Irene. Songs from late '90s staples of FM rock, from Third Eye Blind to the Offspring and Foo Fighters, make the collection a true alternative rock turn-of-the-century time capsule. But buried at the end, between tracks by the likes of Marvelous 3 and Billy Goodrum, was the soundtrack's best moment: "Strange Condition", the first ever recording from Pete Yorn. A year later, the song would be one of many standouts on Yorn's debut LP musicforthemorningafter. Showered with praise, the album would eventually reach Gold status and prove a modest success for Columbia Records.

Yorn's recordings over the rest of the decade never reached the standard set by his debut. But this double-disc 10th Anniversary treatment of musicforthemorningafter shows that Yorn had as much potential as any of the popular singer-songwriters to grace the airwaves in 2001. It's a reminder of what the original studio album plainly is: a collection of beautiful songs, nearly each one a small victory. With the help of some big-name producers, including Don Fleming (Teenage Fanclub, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) and Brad Wood (Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair), Yorn recorded 14 guitar-driven tunes that drew on alternative rock, roots rock, and Britpop while retaining the scraggy intimacy of a Springsteen album. (Yorn is also a New Jersey native.)

The first disc is the entire original studio album, newly remastered with one addition: the hidden track, "A Girl Like You", has been officially added as the last track. Most will remember musicforthemorningafter for its huge stock of melodies and incredible attention to detail. While the instrumentation varies nicely -- there's the propulsive drums and contrapuntal bass on opener "Life on a Chain", the syncopated guitar melody and Wurlitzer piano on "June", the crunchy guitars that buoy the refrain in "Sense" -- there's an undeniable coherence to the album, born mostly out of Yorn's vocals, which convey deep emotions at every turn.

The second disc begins with Yorn's entire live segment, on the morning the album was released in 2001, for Morning Becomes Eclectic, a radio show out of Santa Monica's KCRW 89.9 FM. The man was a good salesman, and his performances are mostly faithful interpretations of some of the album's best tracks. The stripped-down sound, though, gives Yorn more room to showcase his voice, which crackles with vulnerability on the coda to "Sense" and on the chorus to "On Your Side". Yorn sounds tired, but that fits the album's ethos. Music can sound this good when you're half-awake and haven't yet stepped out of your bedroom to begin your day.

On track six, his interview with Morning Becomes Eclectic host Nic Harcourt, Yorn comes across as funny and unassuming. He tells Harcourt that his older brothers helped to turn him into a "metalhead" when he was young (and points out the Monsters of Rock music festival t-shirt he's wearing), but that the Boss and Britpop influenced him the most. He jokingly calls himself "the Morrissey rip-off guy" before launching into a bluesy cover of the Smiths' "Panic". A few unreleased tracks (including "The Barber" and a remix of "Life on a Chain") are catchy, but don't add much to the bonus disc. B-side "Knew Enough to Know Nothing at All", meanwhile, has a strong hint of the melody on "Black", and wouldn't sound out of place on the original album.

In the "Show Outro", Yorn reminds listeners that he'll be playing "fully electric" that night at the Virgin Megastore on Sunset Boulevard. The store would close seven years later, a casualty of the stumbling economy and the massive popularity of MP3s and iTunes. So this live in-studo performance, in its own way, helped to forecast the demise of music store chains, and that the album dropped in 2001 at the peak of illegal file-sharing makes the irony all the more rich. Maybe some of you even first downloaded tracks from musicforthemorningafter on a certain peer-to-peer service.

But leaving aside the significance ten years ago of a radically changing landscape of music consumption, musicforthemorningafter stands on its own just fine, and still feels fresh and remarkable today. It turned out that this and Yorn’s next two LPs, Day I Forgot and Nightcrawler, comprised a kind of day-in-the-life trio of albums. But just waking up to musicforthemorningafter won’t do it justice. Instead, the songs on this astonishing album seem to matter most for what happens in the late night into early morning hours. They enrich the tiny moments that are just fragments in your head the next morning, but become vivid memories over time: sitting at a diner after a night out with friends; a lonely cab ride home at 2 a.m.; staring at someone you love in bed.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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