Music

The Whigs: Enjoy the Company

Photo: Joshua Black Wilkins

Enjoy the Company is one big rock and roll party, partially cribbing from the sounds of yesterday while sounding remarkably contemporary.


The Whigs

Enjoy the Company

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2012-09-18
UK Release Date: Import
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If you looked at the flip side of the jewel case for this Athens, Georgia group's fourth CD, Enjoy the Company, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the entire thing was one big throwback. “Staying Alive”, the opening cut and longest track clocking in at more than eight minutes, might make you think of a certain Bee Gees mega hit. “Thank You” might have you recalling Led Zeppelin’s second album. There’s also a song called “Rock and Roll Forever”, which is a song about, yes, playing rock music, which recalls the work of many rock bands/musicians that sung about rock or being in rock bands, such as Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Velvet Underground, AC/DC and the Ramones. And when you finally put the disc in your player and hear those opening notes to “Staying Alive”, with its stick-in-your-head melody, rolling guitars and jittery saxophone, you might be forgiven for feeling the song was a cover by some long-lost and forgotten ‘70s AM radio band. For some reason, I think about Pilot’s one mid-‘70s hit “Magic” when hearing “Staying Alive”, though the melodies are quite a bit dissimilar. But a similar radio-polished vibe is definitely there. Shrug. Maybe it’s just me.

All in all, Enjoy the Company is one big rock and roll party, partially cribbing from the sounds of yesterday while sounding remarkably contemporary – the whole thing sounds a little Foo Fighters-ish to these ears. Part of the latter might be because lauded pseudo-indie producer John Agnello has a hand in the proceedings, as he did on records for the likes of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., the Hold Steady and Drive-By Truckers. That is part of Enjoy the Company’s appeal. It sounds like something from a variety of eras, and some credit must be given where credit is due. The songs themselves are actually pretty on the spot, for the most part. There’s nothing here that’s going to alight the rock and roll world afire, but the 10 tracks that bulk up Enjoy the Company are generally pretty melodically tornado-proof, even if they may also be a tad bit inconsequential, if not silly. For instance, first single “Summer Heat” is simply about a friend who gets incarcerated over the triviality of an unpaid speeding ticket after being thrown out of a bar. Hardly the stuff that makes for sterling rock songs, per se, but it is catchy enough in its own way if you don’t pay much scrutiny to the song’s origins. In fact, you might find yourself pumping your fist in the air to it, which is pretty much the sole utility to the piece in question. Which is, of course, not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

What is truly the record’s really remarkable moment is the aforementioned “Staying Alive”: a jammy, meandering piece if there was one. The first four or so minutes of it are remarkably poppy, and have a knack for staying inside your head even after only a couple of listens, and then it turns into an impressive improv smack-down without running out of steam or running off course. It is a brave move for the band to take: to make what might be arguably their best song on the album and create something paradoxically both radio-friendly in tone and radio-unfriendly in length. I’m sure, though, that an edited version might move many a unit for the band. It’s simply a great late summery, back to school track that brings the rock to the table. The remainder of the album is peppered with consistent material, even if the remaining songs might not be as instantly memorable as “Staying Alive”. The late album track “Couple of Kids” does come close in all of its propulsive giddiness.

The album has quite a few two-and-a-half minute songs, presumably so short to make way for the behemoth that is “Staying Alive”, but they generally go down well as they have consistently catchy hooks and, of course, don’t overstay their welcome. Arguably the best of the batch immediately follows “Staying Alive”. That would be “Gospel”, which has a certain mid-tempo swing to it that is remarkably similar to anything that has come from the hands of Dave Grohl in recent years. Almost as equally impressive is “Tiny Treasures”, which has just the right dash of countrified steel guitar during the chorus. And the acoustic “Thank You” kind of resembles sonically "Wild Packs of Family Dogs” off of Modest Mouse’s beloved The Moon and Antarctica – even though the former is simply a rote love song that just about anyone could have written. Speaking of lyrics, there is the occasional howler, such as on "Thank You", which actually has a line that goes, "scream if you get bit by the snake in the yard". Yeah. Not sure if that's just bad sexual innuendo, or just bad.

Despite that, everything adds up to essentially make Enjoy the Company a decent, and yet strangely fulfilling listen. I find myself with reason to find fault with the record – lyrically, it is nothing spectacular, though it is positively uplifting at times (see “Thank You”) – and yet, I find myself enjoying it – really enjoying it – in equal measure. There are a couple of somewhat duff songs, particularly in the mid-section. “After Dark” is simply OK, though it seemingly goes nowhere during the course of its precisely four minutes, and “Waiting” is kind of rote and by-the-numbers for a rock song. But there’s a great deal to really love and appreciate with Enjoy the Company if you come to it with no expectation at all. Even though the choice of band name itself is rather suspect and may make you reach for a certain group fronted by Greg Dulli, the Whigs have crafted a simply enjoyable record with Enjoy the Company and there is certainly no shame in that. Simply put, Enjoy the Company isn’t an overly grossly spectacular record; it is just good time rock and roll. That’s not embarrassing in the least, and if you’re simply looking for a record to have some fun with, here’s an album that you’ll enjoy being in some company with.

6

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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