Music

The Avalanches - "Frankie Sinatra" (Singles Going Steady)

The Avalanches' first track in 16 years, "Frankie Sinatra" sounds distinctly like their work, but to simply call it a return to form would be inaccurate.

Emmanuel Elone: After decades of silence, the Avalanches finally return with a single that lives up to its hype. As far as hip-hop goes, "Frankie Sinatra" is about as wonky and kooky as it can get, with reggae rhythms, odd vocal samples, and the melody of John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" playing towards the end. As a whole, the foundation of this song feels like something that MF Doom would have produced, which is fitting since the New York rapper spits a few bars on it. Alongside him is Danny Brown, and while their verses are not as up-to-par as one would expect them to be, they are still crazy and pack a ton of personality. Taken as a whole, though, "Frankie Sinatra", as left-field as it is, would have benefitted from being a bit more erratic and spontaneous. It heads in that direction, but never reaches its destination in that regard. [7/10]

Pryor Stroud: Sample-hoarding DJ collective the Avalanches have been off the map since their seminal new-millennium LP Since I Left You, an 11-track collage of mash-up dance tracks stitched together from record-bin R&B and errant pop instrumentals. Their first track in 16 years, "Frankie Sinatra" sounds distinctly like their work, but to simply call it a return to form would be inaccurate. Structured around a singsong Calypso sample and a prototypically wild-eyed verse by Danny Brown, it wears its novelty on its sleeve; it's eccentric -- one could even say crazed -- and proud of it. To be sure, this doesn't bear any of the funk-tinged suavity that was so prominent on Since I Left You, but it's hard not to be transfixed by it. "Off this rocker / He's off his rocker", Brown's verse begins, his words offering a perfect description, not of the song's eponymous subject, but of the track itself: "Frankie Sinatra" always feels like it's about to tip over, careen off some psychological edge, and succumb to total insanity. [6/10]

Chris Ingalls: From their long-awaited second album (their first was released in 2000), the Avalanches' "Frankie Sinatra" is an interesting, eclectic stew built around a sample of "Bobby Sox Idol" by Wilmoth Houdini and has an exotic flavor -- the steady dance beat combined with the melody from another time gives the track a dancey yet dreamy feel. Just when you think things can't get any weirder, a snippet of "My Favorite Things" creeps in. There's a bit of a novelty vibe to the song that may be its ultimate downfall, but it may also be the surprise cult hit of the year. [6/10]

Chad Miller: Weird but funny. The music is pretty catchy even if it's unremarkable. By the second verse though, everything starts to grow old. By then the lyrics are pretty boring, and the music has run its course. [5/10]

SCORE: 6.00

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Music

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Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

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As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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