Music

Bobby Bare Jr.s Young Criminals Starvation League: The Longest Meow

Bare's newest release is comprised of 11 songs recorded with 11 friends in 11 hours. And though The Longest Meow is tagged as a release with the Young Criminals Starvation League, it's more of a return to the amped-up sound of his first band, Bare Jr.


Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals Starvation League

The Longest Meow

Label: Bloodshot
US Release Date: 2006-09-26
UK Release Date: 2006-09-25
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Damn him for being so lovable and talented -- all curly red hair, infectious energy and effortless wit. To add to my envy, he had one day this past March that included 11 hours more productive than the sum of my year-to-date. Dammit.

More on those 11 hours later. More on Bare's history now. Even those unfamiliar with Bare might be jealous of the fact he received a Grammy nomination at the age of five, for a collaboration ("Daddy, What If?") with his famous classic country father. He has more recently sung: "I was born at the Ryman Auditorium / during the Martha White portion of the Grand Old Opry." This may not be the exact truth, but it's close enough to be believable: Bobby Bare Jr. has music in his DNA.

But Bare isn't a genetic blueprint of his crooner father, nor a New Nashville schmuck: this he proved in 1998 with his debut rock 'n' roll band, appropriately named Bare Jr. The title of Bare Jr.'s first release -- Boo-tay -- hints that Bare isn't too serious, and the first line of the album is typical of the winking nature of his lyrics: "You dig me/ more than I dig myself/ and I'm in love with you/ 'cause I got nothing better to do...." Written from the perspective of a self-depreciative slacker, Boo-tay is the kind of break-up album that helps you laugh at the love who has left you, and the only remaining sting is the one in your ears from absorbing the album's country-rock masterpieces in all their loud glory. Brainwasher followed three years later, although it lacked the irreverent charm of the debut.

The Young Criminals Starvation League is the name of both Bare's next band and their self-titled 2002 album. This release distinguished itself from the previous two by employing a folk-pop template, complete with horns and a jazzy sound that bring Bare's brilliant lyrics to the forefront. Story songs and character studies such as "Flat-Chested Girl from Maynardville" and "The Monk at the Disco" matched the perception of a poet with the wit of a stand-up comic. Another strong album and EP followed, the band's songs delivered with an unflagging genuineness and personality. Bare and the Young Criminals' Starvation League covered "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" without a trace of irony, and often gracefully amused the listener with a melody and verse to ponder.

Context provided, let's revisit my envy and that productive day in March. Bare's newest release is comprised of 11 songs recorded with 11 friends in 11 hours. And though The Longest Meow is tagged as a release with the Young Criminals Starvation League, it's more of a return to the amped-up sound of Bare Jr. "Now I got electric blood!" is an apt line from the disc's opener, "The Heart Bionic," a pulsating boogie with skronking baritone sax and headboppin' rhythm. This incarnation of the 'League includes members of Clem Snide, Lambchop, Trail of Dead, and My Morning Jacket. I wish my friends were this cool, and that we could make an album this good. In one day.

The Longest Meow is as quirky, irreverent, and unique as Bare's past work. There are sonic echoes of his most recent efforts in the almost symphonic vibe of "Mayonnaise Brain" and in "Back to Blue", which merges a southwestern Calexico feel with the classic country spice of a weepy steel guitar. But there's also unprecedented volume and texture here, and an eccentric sense of sonic experimentation. "Sticky Chemical" is a campy organ rave-up, while "Uh Wuh Oh" is a spastic, electroplasmic rocker with chiming barrelhouse piano.

The most obvious influence on The Longest Meow is the presence of three members of My Morning Jacket. Were it Jim James instead of Bare wailing on "Snuggling World Championships", the song could be an outtake from My Morning Jacket's atmospheric Z. That band's southern rock sensibility, evident pre-Z, emerges in the lumbering, frenzied climax of closer "Stop Crying." The album's peak is "Borrow Your Cape," a five-minute-plus stretch-out which sees Bare breaking new ground -- it is his longest recorded song and contains his first overtly political lyrics. Incisive verses like "Brace your face with a grin to win/ the media's singing your tune/ and the wars have all run out of food/ as the schools are teaching something new" are punctuated by the maelstrom of My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel, while bandmate Patrick Hallahan propels with an insistent drumbeat. Along with the aforementioned "The Heart Bionic", these songs showcase the perfect fusion of My Morning Jacket's transcendent moments with the raucous energy of Bare Jr.

The flip side is that Bare's nuanced storytelling does sometimes get buried under the volume of The Longest Meow. Yet, Bare can't be blamed for trying something new. Throughout his career, Bare has always seemed to be perpetually winking at his listener. Sometimes, it’s a knowing wink. Elsewhere, it's a flirting wink. It can be a shy or smiling wink. Given the self-imposed time constraints of The Longest Meow, this album is a "look what I can do in one day" wink. Damn him.

7

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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