Tag Archives: Father John Misty

A Swanky 2012: Part One

21 Dec

[For an Introduction to A Swanky 2012, go here.]

 

The Bowl:  Las Vegas Bowl – Washington v. Boise State 

The Pick:  UW (+5)

The Album:  Blunderbuss by Jack White

Considering he was the predominant musical decision-maker in The White Stripes, it wasn’t too surprising that Jack White continued the musical themes of later Stripes’ albums on his first official solo release, Blunderbuss.  As the Stripes progressed through their discography, they moved from a messy, primitive version of blues-rock to more layered and polished songs that brought in instruments like pianos and xylophones to round out the sound and take things in new directions.  Blunderbuss is an extension of that well-rounded approach to rock and roll.

On Blunderbuss, Jack still has his signature guitar wail jumping around on tracks, but he also relies heavily on touches like pianos, fiddles, and slide guitars.  The result is an album that traffics in lush country and blues sounds, with more progressive and swelling musical moments than sporadic and frenetic ones.

Not that there’s a total lack of the sneering and balls-out electric attack that White made his name on – “Sixteen Saltines” and “Freedom at 21” in particular offer up a pure rock attitude that few other releases this year could consistently rival.  On the whole, Blunderbuss lives up to its name, with its emphasis on grandiose, powerful, and vintage musical touches.  What makes it a great record is that it also maintains an immediate and contemporary feeling – the deep emotions and energy pulsing underneath the music make an impact even if you don’t happen to be listening on your vintage record player.

 

The Bowl:  Pinstripe Bowl – West Virginia v. Syracuse

The Pick:  WVU (-4)

The Album:  good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar

Defining a ‘hip-hop album of the year’ is a trickier proposition than a lot of other musical genres.  The criteria that a ‘best album’ must meet depends on what side a listener comes down on a variety of different aesthetic arguments – the value of an independent release versus one from a major label, the value of lyrical content versus lyrical flow, the value of the beats’ production versus the value of the artists’ wordplay over said beats.  Different value decisions on arguments like these can greatly affect how someone perceives the overall strength or weakness of a particular hip-hop record.

Taking many of these value arguments into account, Kendrick’s good kid is the rare record that is an album of the year contender across the board.  Facing improbably high expectations as the supposed savior of West Coast hip-hop, especially after a public co-sign by the good Dr. Dre himself, Kendrick rose to the occasion by doing something many others before him had failed to do – he expanded his sound and opened his music to a wider audience without compromising the unique and singular artistic voice inside him.

Make that voices, actually.  Borrowing a page from Biggie’s book, Kendrick stretches his vocals all over good kid, delivering a wordy, mesmerizing lyrical flow in several different registers and time signatures.  The result is a breathlessly talented vocal performance, and one that backs up all the flash of the style with actual substance.  Kendrick pinwheels between entertaining tales of street life and haunting inner dialogues, pondering where he can find a compromise between an enlightened social consciousness and the hard-edged street mentality that’s glorified by his peers.

There’s not really a dull or uninspired moment on the record, with Kendrick indulging his jazz influences by taking songs in entirely unexpected yet brilliant new sonic directions.  And in the end, he manages to embrace, deconstruct, and elevate the West Coast hip-hop legacy that he was tasked to salvage.  On that front in particular, all you need to do is listen to “m.A.A.d city” – all the way through the insanely great 6-second instrumental coda that pours a 40 out in Eazy-E’s memory – and you know that the West Coast, and hip-hop as a whole, is in good hands.

 

The Bowl:  Alamo Bowl – Texas v. Oregon State

The Pick:  OSU (-2)

The Albumchannel ORANGE by Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean’s major-label debut was surrounded by a heady buzz before its release, due in large part to his public honesty about a past relationship with a man.  Once channel ORANGE dropped however, the music itself pushed everything aside as the only discussion point worth mentioning.  The album is a lush, seductive, and compulsively listenable showcase of Frank’s considerable talents.

Frank’s voice and accompanying production can sound a lot like Stevie Wonder at times, and ORANGE also sounds a lot like vintage Stevie at several points when it finds the sweet spot between getting spiritual and getting weird.  There are the earnest odes to past, current, and hopefully future lovers, and then there are esoteric excursions into whatever universal headspace Frank is concerned with at the time.

The soundscape of ORANGE is constantly shifting, and just when something like the proggy R&B of “Pyramids” starts to get too close to self-indulgent territory, a tightly wound piece of funky soul like “Lost” will get things moving forward again.  The most striking aspect of ORANGE  is arguably Frank’s gift for crafting and delivering vocal hooks, and when those hooks are put together with his voice, it’s a lethal combination.  “Thinking About You” is a perfect example of the rest of the record – it slinks into your head and doesn’t leave until you’ve heard it enough times to be convinced that Franks’ falsetto is your own.

 

The Bowl:  Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – TCU v. Michigan State

The Pick:  TCU (-2.5)

The Album:  Fear Fun by Father John Misty

Hearing a beautifully melodic voice over a quietly strumming guitar deliver an opening lyric of “Pour me another drink / and punch me in the face / you can call me Nancy” was one of the most pleasurable listening experiences in 2012.  That piece of music and subsequent response can accurately sum up the rest of Father John Misty’s debut album, Fear Fun. 

FJM frontman Josh Tillman was introduced to the music world as the drummer of the Fleet Foxes, and he brings some of that group’s musical aesthetic choices to his new project.  There’s some of that vintage, folksy sound, the powerful yet delicate vocals, the use of choral-esqe harmonizing.  Outside of those similarities, however, the music of FJM takes a hard left from the classical, introspective, and straight-faced earnestness of Fleet Foxes.  Instead, we get a wicked sense of humor and dry, gleeful tales of overindulgent debauchery.

If you happen to catch a glimpse of an FJM live performance, you can get a pretty clear image of what Tillman’s getting at with this group.  There’s a serious band dynamic, and a clear love of the music they’re making – the soaring, almost achingly beautiful moments that FJM can hit have some real emotion coursing through them.  And then at the same time, there’s Tillman in the front, slyly smiling and unable to stop from slowly sashaying his hips to the groove as he drops one-liner after one-liner.  It’s rootsy, folkish rock music from a too-smart-for-his-own-good troubadour.  And it’s great enough to stand on its own as much more than just a big band side project.

 

The Bowl:  Chick-fil-A Bowl – Clemson v. LSU

The Pick:  LSU (-4)

The Album:  Young Hunger by Chad Valley

Chad Valley wears his musical influences loudly and proudly.  R & B and power pop from the 80s and 90s are embraced, dressed up, given beats to play with, and then left loose to dance all over Young Hunger.  The result is an album that sounds vaguely familiar, yet wholly unique at the same time.  Valley’s high-register vocals underscore the sensitive and lovelorn subjects and emotions his lyrics typically cover, and the earnest sentimentality of many tracks may turn off some of the more cynical listeners out there.

Underneath the shiny exterior, however, lay some funky grooves that hit somewhere deeper.  It’s here where Young Hunger becomes more than just a bedroom-produced homage to some music geek’s beloved genre classics.  Valley brings in some of indie music’s more promising new faces, and they help him build hook on top of hook before setting things off on inspired melodic runs.

Young Hunger will lure you in and lull you to a trance on the soft bed of Valley’s vocals and warm production.  Before you realize it, he’s locked you in, and the beats start getting a little more dynamic.  At that point, it’s only a matter of time before you’re out on the dancefloor, professing your love right along with him.

 

Part Two of A Swanky 2012 Coming Soon…

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Hot Routes: Week Fifteen

8 Dec

Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Fifteen

The college football regular season is officially concluded, so Hot Routes will be strictly professional for the next couple of weekends.  Watch out for the official Swanky Bowl Preview, dropping soon and ready to take care of all your Holiday football and music needs.

 

Atlanta (11-1) at Carolina (3-9)

The pick: Carolina (+3.5)

The track:  Neighborhood Watch by Memory Tapes

On the new release Grace/Confusion, Davye Hawke continues the dreamy power-pop aesthetic of earlier Memory Tapes songs while also adding some heftier and edgier beats.  The ethereal vocals are still there, often matched by yearning instrumentals, but things don’t often stay lightweight for long.  Songs like “Neighborhood Watch” begin quietly, almost meditatively, before things heat up with grinding guitars, dirty synth breakdowns, and pounding rhythms.

 

San Diego (4-8) at Pittsburgh (7-5)

The pick:  Pittsburgh (-8)

The track:  There There by Radiohead

The Chargers have had an awful season so far, and with the firing of the coach and the GM pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point, things are probably going to get uglier.  Pittsburgh will have Big Ben back, and will be fired up to get a win and help their playoff positioning.  There won’t be much resistance from an opposing team wondering how to quit on things without seeming too obvious about it.

 

Miami (5-7) at San Francisco (8-3)

The pick:  Miami (+11)

The track:  Sway by The Rolling Stones

Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, is written in such a conversational way, and filled with such vivid anecdotes, that you can almost feel like you were right there with him, pushing the debauchery to the limit and pushing rock and roll to a whole different level.  Hearing him talk about honing his craft and writing classic songs, you realize how easy it is to take the Stones’ music and legacy for granted.  Their famous work is still omnipresent in today’s culture, and when you’re hearing “Satisfaction” on classic rock radio for the umpteenth time, you don’t usually pay attention to how singular and searingly effective the guitar work is.  Underneath all the urban legends and towering image, Keith Richards is an amazing guitar player who lays down the blues as well as anyone, living or dead.

 

New Orleans at New York Giants

The pick:  New York (-4.5)

The track:  Nancy From Now On (Live) by Father John Misty

 

Tennessee (4-8) at Indianapolis (8-4)

The pick:  Indianapolis (-5.5)

The track:  Watch The Show by M. Ward

 

Houston (11-1) at New England (9-3)

The pick:  Houston (+3.5)

The track:  Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time!

 

 

Last Week’s Record:  6-0

Overall Record:  45-31

Personal Soundtrack

24 May

The Song

I’m Writing A Novel by Father John Misty

 

If you like your tales of surreal benders to come with a biting sense of humor and a soundtrack influenced by artists like Dylan and Creedence, then Father John Misty has a song for you.  “I’m Writing A Novel” is a literate, tongue-in-cheek account of one narrator’s drug- and drink-fueled experiences through a dreamlike version of Los Angeles.

Frontman J. Tillman is the former drummer for Fleet Foxes, and while Father John Misty has a bit of the same rootsy and mystical sound as Foxes, Misty’s self-titled debut album is a distinctly different musical beast.  When describing some of his mindset behind the band, Tillman has said “I like humor and sex and mischief.”  Living up to that billing, Father John Misty is filled with wildly diverse sonic touches and a sharp sense of humor that is totally unique.  Tillman is clearly having a great time getting out from the Hugely Popular Band dynamic of Fleet Foxes and is letting his own voice sound out.  And as songs like “I’m Writing A Novel” indicate, that voice is awesomely weird.

The song’s lyrical accounts of L.A. hop all over the city, stopping at landmarks like Laurel Canyon, Malibu, and West Hollywood, and offer up sarcastic, vivid images of a community of drinks, drugs, dreams, and art.  It could be 2012, or it could be 1969 – the free-wheeling spirit of L.A. in “Novel” is a timeless one.  Lyrics like “I don’t need any new friends, Mama / But I could really use something to do,” or “We could do ayahuasca / Baby if I wasn’t holding all these drinks” are slyly funny and brilliant ways to describe aspects of the unique and surreal land that Los Angeles can sometimes be.  If you’re looking for that kind of L.A., Father John Misty is an excellent host.

The Activity

It’s a little past midday, and the temperature sits comfortably above 80 degrees on another cloudless day in Los Angeles.  Your morning boredom had stirred you to venture out on a hike in the Laurel Canyon area – a decision you’re second-guessing as you find yourself deep within the canyon’s scruffy wilderness without a definite idea of where you’re going or how to get back to your car.  The air hangs heavily in the heat, and occasionally seems to shimmer in sync with the chirping and buzzing of unseen insects.

You didn’t think the heat would be a factor when you first started out, but now that you’re a couple of hours and one big water bottle down, a nagging feeling of wooziness has started to creep in.  You don’t want to pass out from heat stroke all the way out here, so you stop for a moment in a shady part of the gravelly path.  As you catch your breath, the faint sound of music starts up from somewhere farther up the trail.  Straining to listen, you make out a definite guitar tone, jangling along in a catchy melody that you’re instantly drawn to.  Not stopping to wonder if it’s all just in your heat-addled mind, you leave the safety of the shade and head towards the direction of this mysterious sound.  As you round a sharp turn in the path, you come upon a small clearing amid the low-hanging canyon trees, in which sit four long-haired and bearded fellows in varying combinations of jorts, tank-tops, or no shirts at all.  They are all smiling and plugging along on guitars, roughly matching each other as they play the same stomping guitar line.  The term ‘folkish rockish’ floats into your head, stays a bit, and then floats out.

The tallest of the group sees you standing there and stops playing.  He gets up and walks towards you, smiling the whole way.  The rest of the group continues their playing while he crosses the clearing and extends a welcoming hand.  “I’m Father J,” he says, giving you a firm handshake and offering what appears to be a bottle of water with his free hand.  “…but you can call me Misty.”

You take the water bottle thankfully and in your thirsty state, take a healthy drink without hesitation.  It tastes mostly like water, with a bit of a bitter aftertaste.  Whatever, it’s refreshing.  As you hand it back, Misty smiles even wider.  “You wanna take a ride out of here and go to a party?’

It’s probably the heat, but your head is starting to feel more and more  like it’s a bit disconnected from the rest of your body -you figure it would probably be a good idea to take a break from the great outdoors for a bit.  Before you can even finish nodding Yes, Father J has tossed you the water bottle again and shoots off into the brush, shouting “Be right back.”  A throaty roar sounds out from his direction after a few seconds, and shortly thereafter, a vehicle that looks like a beefed-up combination of an ATV and a golf cart comes shooting into the clearing.  Father J is at the wheel, and he nods at you to climb in on the passenger seat beside him.  You hop in, and he takes off through the brush, seemingly plowing through a no-man’s land, but with a distinct sense of purpose.  The blowing wind makes your mouth dry, so you polish off the rest of the water bottle without thinking.  “Great ayahuasca, huh?” Father J yells above the engine and the wind.  You’re confused.  “Aya What?”

Before you can clarify, Father J’s monster kart barrels out of the brush and on to an actual road, skidding into a breakneck left turn immediately upon impact with the pavement.  The road twists down the canyon, passing secluded driveways and discrete address markers indicating the presence of large homes or compounds set back among the brush.  Without warning and without losing speed, Father J pulls another breakneck turn, to the right this time, on to a dirt driveway that wasn’t visible until you were already on it.  The kart careens down this claustrophobic trail for several hundred feet before coming upon the front yard of an enormous canyon home.  Father J skids to a stop and hops out; you try to follow him but realize that your motor skills have been altered a bit.  Taking your time, you get down and stretch out, feeling like if you’re not careful, your feet could leave the ground at any second and you’d be hopelessly airborne.

The sounds of more music and the splashing laughter of a pool party can be heard from the house’s direction, and Father J puts a hand on your shoulder as you walk over.  “There’s a great new group playing tonight, got their first set of songs ready to go,” he says, handing over a neatly rolled J.  “Crosby, Nash, and Stills or something like that.  Here take this, it will calm you down in case things get touchy.”  You take it wordlessly, and as some vaguely familiar music twinkles from the house, you begin to get the distinct feeling that you are very, very far away from the L.A. that you call home.  Oh well, you think, as you continue concentrating on keeping your feet on the ground.  That will be something to deal with when you wake up.  And you trust Misty.

 

Bonus Father John Misty Track Covering Humor/Sex/Mischief in LA: