Music

Mixel Pixel: Let's Be Friends

Photo: Bek Andersen

While Mixel Pixel has a knack for constructing short, lo-fi pop songs, their penchant for penning silly, juvenile lyrics often makes it hard to take those songs seriously.


Mixel Pixel

Let's Be Friends

Label: Mental Monkey
US Release Date: 2008-06-03
UK Release Date: Unavailable
Amazon
iTunes

There's little doubt that the topic of love has been duly scrutinized by pop musicians over the years. But friendship? Not so much. This fact likely served as part of the inspiration behind Let's Be Friends, the latest full-length from Brooklyn art-pop ensemble Mixel Pixel. As per its title, the album deals mostly with the concept of friendship, specifically that of chief songwriters Rob Corradetti and Kaia Wong. What else is the record about? According to the press release, cats, death, drugs, fashion, inner peace, lightning, loneliness, love, New York City, rebirth and sex. Oh, so it's like every other indie-pop album released during the last decade, then? Well, no. The main reason being that in contrast to the average self-serious indie rock outfit, Mixel Pixel treats every topic on that list with an equal degree of winking irreverence.

Allow me to illustrate. On opening number "What Ever Happened to One", Wong and Corradetti trade off lines, telling each other of their likes and dislikes over a sparse backdrop of Felt-esque guitars, a bouncy bassline and a battery-powered beat. Halfway through the song, Corradetti drops the bomb, "My parents are dead / They're up in the sky" and Wong responds "My parents divorced / When I was five". It's hard to know how to approach these lines -- whether to read them as confessional or facetious -- and the following chorus of "Yeah / Oh baby, yeah" doesn't exactly help clarify matters. However, we eventually learn the truth midway through the record, on the title track "Let's Be Friends". "My parents didn't divorce/When I was five", Wong admits over a squelchy synth and yet another preset-sounding lo-fi beat. "And mine didn't actually die", Corradetti chimes in. "That was just a lie". Psyche!

This isn't to suggest, however, that Mixel Pixel are merely art-pop pranksters more interested in mocking, rather than contributing to the Brookyln hipster discourse. Quite the opposite, in fact: the musical content of Let's Be Friends clearly demonstrates that the members of Mixel Pixel harbor a few soft spots for the sacred cows of college rock. "Great Invention" opens up with a foreboding bass line and an echoey bass-bass-snare-snare beat that recall early Jesus and Mary Chain. "I was looking for a problem in the shape of a girl", Corradetti sings, presaging a tale of misguided romance. Just before the chorus, a fuzzed-out guitar kicks in, thereby completing the Reid brothers allusion. "Cats", meanwhile, sounds like Tears For Fears fronted by Stephin Merritt, with Corradetti declaring "I don't want to talk about your cats / 'Cuz that's not my scene" in an overstated baritone, as stargazing synth chords blossom around him.

"You Could Be" wears out its welcome pretty fast, sounding like a warped Sesame Street tune built using a palette of Casiotone noises. "You could be an actress or you could be a writer", Corradetti sings before moving on to more surreal professions: "You could be a diamond or you could be a star/You could be the silver strings on my guitar". Likewise, "So Regal (Tigershark Kiss)" aims for the hazy atmospherics of Mazzy Star but wacky lines like "But will you ever ever dance with me?/Even if I water plants for you?" undermine the song's mood.

Ultimately, Mixel Pixel's penchant for penning such silly, juvenile lyrics proves to be both the band's greatest asset and most frustrating trait. While Corradetti and Wong's bubbly demeanor sets them apart from other artists mining similar sonic territory, their decidedly precious interest in topics like shortbread cookies, puffy stickers and sleeping bags can be a little grating in large doses. While there's no denying that Mixel Pixel has a knack for constructing short, lo-fi pop songs with psychedelic and shoegaze tendencies, their lyrics often make it hard to take those songs seriously. Perhaps that's by design, though. After all, when two friends goof off together, the primary objective is usually nothing more ambitious than making each other laugh.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image