Young Fresh Fellows: Tiempo De Lujo

No alcohol or drugs were involved with the making of this record. And it shows, to a certain extent.

Young Fresh Fellows

Tiempo De Lujo

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2012-08-21
UK Release Date: 2012-08-27
Label website
Artist website

Seattle’s longstanding power pop/garage band Young Fresh Fellows is likely a band you might have heard about as opposed to actually heard, owing to the fact that much of their output has been on small, somewhat rather obscure indie labels. They’re probably most famous for being ‘80s indie rock associates of such bands as the Replacements – I can’t find an official source for this, but, reportedly, when ‘Mats frontman Paul Westerberg got married for the first time in 1987, the wedding band was none other than the Young Fresh Fellows. Probably for that connection, I recall that a lot of ‘Mats fans loved the Fellows quite a bit: there was quite a bit of chatter about these guys on the Replacements Usenet group in the mid-‘90s when I used to frequent quite regularly (okay, daily). Since then, singer Scott McCaughey has arguably gone to much more widespread acclaim for his work with his other band, the Minus 5, which, of course, also features Peter Buck, ex of R.E.M. That’s notwithstanding the fact that, from 1994 until the band’s demise last year, McCaughey was basically a de facto member of R.E.M., contributing to their live shows and albums. However, while the Young Fresh Fellows never really got lumped into the Seattle Sound of the ‘90s and never reached an ascendant level of fame (a problem shared by fellow Seattle power-popsters the Posies), they have been lauded in some quarters – making them, perhaps, more of an indie pop musicians’ favourite. They even have had a 2004 tribute album to their name, and have been namedropped in song by none other than They Might Be Giants, which is kind of fitting because McCaughey and the Giants share similar vocal tics.

In any event, the Young Fresh Fellows are back with their first album since 2009, Tiempo De Lujo, which is purportedly Spanish for “Time of Luxury”, but Google Translate spits the term out as “Class Time”. Regardless, Tiempo De Lujo has all of the hallmarks of a quirky, garage-based album: it was purportedly cut in a period of 12 hours, and the band was very focused in making the record. “We never even stopped to get beer. Or burritos,” notes McCaughey. “I think we had a cup of tea once. Or a seltzer water with a hint of lemon. Rick Buckler of the Jam came by to return a blazer, but otherwise we forged ahead pretty much uninterrupted.” McCaughey has even said elsewhere that “no alcohol or drugs were involved with the making of this record.” And it shows, to a certain extent. Tiempo De Lujo is a record of 12 sometimes silly, but otherwise no nonsense rock songs. It is a pretty fun, good times disc, notwithstanding the fact that midway through the album there’s a song called “The Say Goodbye Centre” which gives way to “Funeral Factory” which, in turn, is followed by “Death of an Embalmer”. However, the overall feeling of Tiempo De Lujo is one of uplift and you get the sense that its principles or creators had a whale of a excellent experience in making the disc.

If anything, Tiempo De Lujo is an album that clearly belongs to drummer Tad Hutchison, at least in its opening three shots. (There’s even a song titled “Tad’s Pad”, which would appear to be a homage to him.) First song “Another Ten Reasons” starts out with a flashy punk rock beat put to tape by Hutchinson, and the song gradually shifts tempo from fast to super-fast, making it an agreeable slice of poppy punk, augmented by some flashy guitar fret work that feels almost like speed metal. “Tad’s Pad” features a solo by Hutchison playfully rolling along the toms. Follow-up song “A Fake Hello” features a disco-like military marching beat put down largely on the hi-hat. From there, the disc settles down into more poppy territory by and large, harkening back to the classics of the ‘60s as the longest song on the disc clocks in at a very radio friendly three-and-a-half minutes. “Margaret” is a nice jangle pop tune, and sort of sounds a little R.E.M.-like, at least if they had more of a demented sense of humour. “Broken Monkey” is a Mellotron-led piece of minor key pop that might make you a bit misty-eyed. And “Love Luggage” with its harmonica-led blues riff and spoken word lyrics, sounds a little like Nuggets-era pop. Clearly, Tiempo De Lujo is a bit all over the map in terms of an overall sound and approach, but this has the effect of keeping things a bit lively.

If there’s anything to find at fault with Tiempo De Lujo, it’s that it’s nothing remarkable. There’s a certain sense of déjà vu that permeates the proceedings: “Tad’s Pad” features a garagey guitar line that seems vaguely familiar of the Hives (the guitar tone is a carbon copy of “Hate to Say I Told You So”, which would be an example of a band copying a band who is copying another band of yore). And “So Many Electric Guitars”, while a nice rockabilly-esque scorcher, feels pretty rote and been there, done that. A great deal of the material also harkens back to unusual pop of the ‘90s, such as bands as Too Much Joy and They Might Be Giants, which is not necessarily a knock, per se, but does have a bit of an effect of “dating” the material a bit. Still, Tiempo De Lujo is a largely hooky and appreciative rock album, one that doesn’t light the world on fire with innovation, but is a nice primer for those new to the Young Fresh Fellows sound as well as being an album fans are sure to embrace. Regardless of what it means, Tiempo De Lujo is not a bad album to spend some time with, and is a fun, delightful album of slightly off-kilter pop. Here’s hoping that it will reach the audience it so cleverly deserves.


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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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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