FAV> ALBUM OF 2013: DEAFHEAVEN - SUNBATHER
Sunbather is the album that I always come back to in the end, this year. Very much like the other albums in this top 10, it feels like a home that I always look forward to come back to. Before this album, I hadn’t even known Deafheaven existed or that Sunbather turned out to be the epic monster that it is. Judging from the cover, you initially couldn’t tell much about what the band had in store for you, unless the record stores or the online music services did that categorization for you. But in the end, the record wowed me with its size, atmosphere, varying song styles, and the floating ambiences in between the hardest songs. For me it had everything: atmosphere, aggression, size, timidity, despair, optimism, beauty, immersion, ferocity, heart, technique, darkness, brightness etc. all hidden under a luminescent sea of noise and a reef of echoing guitars. It was all I needed, for awhile.
It is also, in my opinion, an album of which a lot of different people can enjoy. It can strike the hearts of hardcore kids and metalheads while also making indie kids and punk kids cry. Its an album that can be enjoyed simultaneously by the Pitchfork community and the Absolutepunk community and emerge out of this harmony a better record. Appreciation will always make a record sound better, especially if one shares it with others. It is a massive album in terms of its music: the atmosphere caused by the reverbing guitars and the drowned out screams, coupled with the dark ambient and noise interludes in between the “main” songs. It is an album that can be enjoyed by people who don’t normally listen to heavy music, much like how Swans’ The Seer captivated listeners of all kinds with its size and its unique ferocity back in 2012, winning many hearts and praise along the way.
Deafheaven will become a legendary band thanks to this record. 10 years from now, they would probably achieve the same kind of high that My Bloody Valentine reached, resonating in history as an incredible band with their own unique sound. This year, they have released my favourite album of 2013.
No. 5 Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Random Access Memories is an incredibly produced album possessing one of the defining sounds of 2013, and an album which survived the incredible hype cycle put upon it by desperate EDM snobs looking for a justified savior of their static scene and the myth-eating media unscathed.
Overhyping anything has the possibility of ruining an object or an event’s element of surprise and the expectations of many. Over the course of the first half of 2013, partly fueled by the “dying” EDM scene, the highly anticipated fourth album from French electronica duo Daft Punk was almost the only thing that dominated the music media.
All their previous releases have all become staples of dance music and has inspired dozens upon dozens of DJs and artists. Some currently big DJ names have credited their work a lot to Daft Punk’s brand of robotic French house music. It would be no surprise if a release by the duo would garner so much attention. The growing EDM scene in America is (still) facing a dire crossroads due to the threat of musical stagnation and over commercialization. They needed a savior in their legendary figures, to bring them out of the slump and back into the game. This, and coupled with the Daft Punk myth being eaten ravenously by the public, helped fuel the memorable hype that was not necessary from the beginning.
But how much were people’s expectations being too much? Was it simply because the album’s marketing scheme was incredibly effective? Or was it because the receiving end was being gluttonous in eating the myth that is Daft Punk? Is a marginally biased music media responsible for the dashed anticipation of the people who expected no more than another record like Discovery? Was it worth the drive (or flight) to a remote Australian town just to hear the record being played for the first time, in public, without any sight from the band itself?
In all ways, yes it was, depending on what one expected from Daft Punk. Sure, Random Access Memories still retained elements of the old Daft Punk, as one can hear in Giorgio by Moroder or in Contact, but overall, the duo came out with a record that was entirely different. Their famously digital trademarks have been replaced by the high production value of analogue drums and instruments, as well as making Pharrell Williams the number one pop star of the year.
I was initially skeptical in terms of the album due to my dismissiveness in believing that the album would be the album of the century. But upon hearing the album itself, I was more than impressed. In fact, I loved it, and was actually obsessed with it myself for the first week or so. I could not believe they had pulled off something so great, just doing their own thing in the midst of very high expectations.
What annoyed me about the album was the certain excessive hype that surrounded it. For one, when Get Lucky’s radio edit came out, it was played on Australian mainstream radio every three songs for almost two weeks. Too much of a good thing is never great, but this excessive hype was made for by the actual album.
It is no wonder that Daft Punk are one of the most praised acts in music, because boy do they bring their game to the table!
no. 6. TWIABP&IANLATD - Whenever if Ever
Emo has so, so much potential to cross over to other audiences, especially into the indie scene. The problem with bands that carry this label with them is that they have to work harder in proving the music world that they are not what the supposedly negative and stereotypical image of emo is. If you think about it, songs about depression, crying, self harm, wearing black, heartbreak, misery, rejection or what have you exist in all realms of music. But whenever certain people are told to describe emo, these categories will definitely show up some time in their description, and spoken with a negative connotation. Out of all the sounds that exist in alternative rock, for me, emo bands have the biggest potential to cross over into the indie scene, because they act like a literal bridge between indie rock and hardcore. Bands have to work hard to stand out with their own sound.
Enter The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. It seems that my discovery of this band was an answer to my prayers. Emo now has the possibility to be appreciated on another level, by new audiences.
For the record, I have never heard a band quite like them, I have never heard of a band whose sound is similar to that of Broken Social Scene and Thursday at the same time. Its as if Kevin Drew (BSS) started crying when he sang and then dragging his band’s music down with his moods. But I am incredibly joyed to hear a band like this, because they seemed to fulfill almost every criteria I set 4 years ago about being the perfect emo band of the future: they had originality, they melded unpredictable sounds, they stayed true in their lyrics, of which is able to hit the hearts of even the most aged emo fan. The only minor drawback about this band is its insistent band name (because of the amount of energy you would have to spend referring to the band’s full name). But aside from this, I was almost reduced to tears when hearing this album for the first time because it had been what I’d hoped for.
The music and the lyrics blend so well and are delivered flawlessly. The vocalist sounds like a wimpier version of Thursday’s Geoff Rickly, but he delivers his words with almost the same intensity as Rickly does. Even the instrumentation harkens Thursday’s final efforts to blend in post-rock into their music. Instrumental opus “Ultimate Steve” would not feel out of place in an Explosions in the Sky album, as the buildup-turned-ending is able to remind one of EITS’s The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. “Gig Life” is sadder than a lot of other emo songs I have ever heard and I could actually feel for the subject that is being left behind. The words are shouted, whispered, screamed, sung directly into the listener’s heart, immediately feeling their pain.
The post-rock comparisons and the intense delivery of the music and the devastating lyrics places this band on a par with such post-hardcore emo legends such as Thursday or Cap’n Jazz. Their musical aesthetic is certainly reminiscent of 90s emo, which can be said to be a literal bridge between indie rock and hardcore music. The harking of the Braid, Hey Mercedes or any Kinsella-related sounds are very transparent in this album.
In a way, I guess that this album is the album which is closest to my heart this year. Music publications such as Consequence of Sound are already predicting the return of emo, and so am i. With a resurgence of bands like TWIABP, it looks like Emo will evolve beautifully from its caterpillar and cocoon states, into a butterfly of triumph.
At the Throne of Mickey’s Judgment
Being a teen idol is certainly in my opinion, possibly the harshest job that a human being could ever hold. Especially if, these idols were bred by the semi-immortal super-empire that is Disney. The harshness of a career as a Disney teen idol will be felt the most when these idols inevitably age into adulthood and begin to mature, as they are supposed to be. During their active careers, the world and their corporate backers will give them the image as if they are on top of the world, and will stay there. When they age, it seems that their audience and their corporate backers slowly and painfully abandon them. These artists have their careers dictated by Disney, thus stifling any bouts of creativity that may pop up, and therefore narrowing what they are capable of as musicians.
Artists are merely merchandise to Disney, and that is why it is up to the artists to fight for their artistic integrity and their own identity. After having their identities forced upon them by Disney during their career, they will find themselves wanting their own as they inevitably age and become exposed to an adult world.
Miley Cyrus, is an excellent example of this, as her current image now was an effort on her own accord. She began to become aware of the music world outside of disney and started becoming.. who she is now: palling with hip-hop artists, starring in provocative videos of her own or of her new friends, basically creating her own image, however frowned upon it may be. By breaking out of the Disney mentality, she gained her individuality. The same goes for other Disney artists such as Selena Gomez or Demi Lovato, as they have become pop stars on their own, within their own image. They have managed to shed the Disney-ness out of themselves and managed to become themselves.
The thing with the recently split up Jonas Brothers, is that what they offer is not something that is wholly looked for by the mainstream. They are, with all due respect, a rock band. In the eyes of the rock world, the music that they make can be described as generic, even descending towards the term, “boyband”, mostly due to their teenage appeal. Rock bands are not accepted by the mainstream industry unless they are able to draw the crowds. The Jonases are of course able to do this, with their catchy songs and magazine friendly faces, but because they have become irrelevant over the years, no one would bother, at least not now. The Jonas Brothers, once at the receiving end of the deafening screams of teen girls and the disdain of elder siblings alike, have now announced their break up as a band, after catapulting to Disney stardom in 2008. It seemed that we who lived within the band’s lifetime witnessed how quickly their rise and how slowly their fall was.
By 2010, the band seemed to lose their relevance in the teeny bopper scene, as well as the music scene itself due to their previous reputation as former-teen idols. Three years later, the band split on the back of disappointing ticket sales and on apathetically received solo careers and renewed musical directions, and eventually “died”. They were, in lack of a better word, replaced by the “next big things”: Justin Bieber emerged in 2009 while One Direction came out in around 2010. Its harder for the Jonas Brothers to be taken seriously as a band due to them being a rock band coupled with their unfortunate history as a former Disney staple. And if they aren’t a rock band, what are they? They certainly dont have the kind of static choreography to lure the public (1D) or the publicity in all the changes they undertake as people and as artists (Bieber). One thing to note is that Bieber or 1D arent Disney-based, but are subjected to the same kind of artistic shackling and therefore are at risk of the same method of death. The problem lies behind their tailored image: the people within the industry who made them who they are. Disney is merely a huge example.
Change is frowned upon, at least by the marketing executives at Disney and also by the teens and tweens that grew up and idolised these stars, at least until they are old enough to realize that change is something that must happen. It has become a disturbing trend amongst the teeny bopper scene that once someone loses their “cuteness” (a.k.a. have reached adulthood, or wanting to) they suddenly lose their relevance and the scene would slowly and painfully abandon them, leaving the artist to fend for themselves in an industry where reputation matters incredibly. It is almost heart-breaking, to see The Jonas Brothers fall from their mountain-high fame to young adult has beens in only the course of 5 years, because with all due respect, they could actually pass off as a credible rock band (and i actually enjoyed some of their songs), if they followed their true instincts. They just had that unfortunate start.
This is why i think the Disney-backed teeny bopper scene is most probably the most judgmental music scene, outside of indie. Kids and teenagers have shorter attention spans than adults and most of them certainly do not consider the merits of appreciating music as it is at least until they start college. Whenever there is something else that excites them, they would abandon whatever was exciting them before. Its the same on how Disney treats its musical artists. The difference is that they are the ones responsible for creating the excitement. When a Disney star ages and starts doing normal adult things and start having a different and more mature lifestyle, they are immediately judged by not only their former audience and their parents but also to the world who knew them as these supposedly innocent human beings, seemingly kept oblivious by the power of Disney’s pop culture. That way, this thought stifles any creativity that the Disney artist may have or may want to implement on their music, because one thing we have to realise is that Jonas songs such as “Burning Up” or “SOS”, or Miley’s “Best of Both Worlds” arent owned by the artists. They are Disney’s and the artists are merely the vessel in which the conglomerate churns out innocence to an innocent audience.
The moral here is that, if you want to become a pop star, do not become a Disney star. Because once you have grown out of their mentality, you will find yourself having to fend for yourself in a world where your reputation as a teeny bopper artist will deter you from being taken seriously. Therefore, it is up to you to reach that stardom, or that level of desired musical creativity.
i’m sorry ma’am
Just like internet hype
Or like the world’s attention
towards a natural disaster
Or a death in the news
Your baby will not live long.
Like a record without a critic
A movie with an empty seat
Or the will of the young
And the humbleness of the old
And the food that we photograph
Or the colours that we pride
And in front of their eyes
Your baby will not live long.
Like another death in the news
Or several deaths in Africa
Or like your own problems
Like a spider weaving its web
Just like the human attention span,
I’m sorry m’aam.
But your baby will not live long.
hold my hand, be my best friend
be the fortress i’ll set to defend
Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit
Emo is back! And it has made quite a tremendous return.
Long thought to be dead ever since third wave (millennial) emo bands started to churn out records upon records of maturing material, encompassing more mature lyrics, mature attitude and musical progression, the music of the heartfelt hardcore kid slowly creeps back into the public conscience in a form where it still retains its rawness and offers listeners an interesting take. The new crop of “emo revival” bands mostly derive their sound from the 90s second-wave emo movement, which comprised of most of the groups from the American Midwest who in turn inspired the scene’s millennial generation of bands. Bands like Dads, The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Pity Sex, Dikembe and Snowing (RIP) emerge into the 2010s becoming torchbearers for the dying movement; shouting their heartfelt lyrics about loneliness, loss, self-loathing, awkward observations and the interestingly mundane, accompanied over a backdrop of simply complex chord progressions and shouting drums, harkening to the emo scene’s quiet 90s prime.
Second Wave Emo (1990s - early 2000s) is long thought to be emo’s “best” period by a lot of purists and non-purists alike simply because some of the movement’s most influential bands and the defining sound came from that era. Whilst the definition of emo at the first decade of the millennium was more of a condescending term placed by society to brand the music that skinny, eye liner wearing, wrist cutting, crying kids listen to, the bands that accompanied the lives of these poor kids got their lyrical and musical influence from their less theatrical predecessors in the 90s. In a way it was a “truer” form. Most bands in that era (Sunny Day Real Estate, The Get Up Kids, Cap’n Jazz, American Football, Mineral, Hey Mercedes, Braid, etc) each formed their own unique sound and as a result, the genre-bashing hipster of the new millennium would not be embarrassed to admit to liking these bands due to their musical similarities with current indie bands who more or less sound not much different. It is only natural that the 2010s emo revival draws upon the lyrical and musical aesthetic of bands from the Second Wave era, because this era is what defined the essence of emo: lonely kids (guys) singing/shouting about what is literally in front of their eyes in not-so-dramatic fashion amid each their own self-constructed sound notably consisting of math rock-laced guitar riffs and dissonant lyrical subjects.
A prime example of a defining Second Wave Emo band who possessed their own unique sound would be Seattle band Sunny Day Real Estate released a total of 4 albums in the 1990s, each with its own unique sound, while seemingly staying true to how they approached their composition. For me, Sunny Day started, grew up and left with their experimentalist tendencies and diverged upon their sound in different forms in their four albums: making up non-existent words, dissonant chords in pop-structured songs, perfectly alternating between shouting and singing per few seconds and having each track on a record sound seemingly different from one another, was part of the band’s musical aesthetic.
This is what i hear from the new crop of the 2010 emo revival bands so far: each incorporating their expansive musical influences in a way that they have created their own sound and staying honest in the process. And that, in my opinion, is what would guarantee their longevity in not just emo, but in the scope of music as well. Third wave bands (such as My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Brand New, etc.) were more theatrical in their music and in their lyrics and to me, they more embodied the archetypal personal image of emo that started the movement in the first place: hardcore kids who were not afraid to cry and show their heartfelt emotions. I’m not saying that because of this, their music is less honest than their predecessors, but that guiding aesthetic unfortunately homogenized their sound and as a result, bands in that era would have to really work hard to show that they weren’t merely copies of their peers in the scene.
Brand New, for one, seemed to become aware of this danger and went on their own direction, resulting in stand-out records that were not like any other within their scene. The unfortunate thing about Brand New is that even though in my opinion they had a different artistic approach towards their music than most of their peers, they were still lumped as part of a much maligned scene where “everyone sounds the same”. It was kind of like the Deftones and their association with the nu-metal era in the late 90s: they emerged at the same time, with a similar sound albeit a different approach, therefore the listening public would tend to associate the scene with the band, thus leaving little room for the mainstream public’s imagination toward the band’s sound. Deftones proved their difference by working hard to establish their own sound, and so did Brand New, but the problem with Brand New was that they have yet to “break out” of the scene the same way that Deftones did from theirs. They instead have been unfortunately reduced to playing nostalgia tours, which is kind of sad for a band of their caliber.
This is why i am excited for the new crop of emo revival bands: they emerged in a world where their underlying aesthetic has already been either ignored or dismissed with each their own sound, deriving influences and the philosophies of emo’s best and most memorable and staying true to that. The best thing about it is that each band i have heard so far stands out, artistically in their own way. If this continues, Emo will no longer be a derogatory term and will ultimately be embraced, at least in independent scenes, as something unique, and in a way, new.
Jakpost HW1: WEAK ENDS
Weekends, for me, for the past few months or so did not mean as much as they do now. Living in the state of unemployment for 4 to 5 months meant that practically every day was a weekend, and therefore i had a diminishing sense of what day it was, draining the true appreciation away from the glorious Saturdays and Sundays. Now, employed (basically), i return to a cyclical state of productivity and exhaustion, one that i have not experienced fully since the end of high school: the 5 day workday. In the university days, i longed for the weekends to cap off a hard week’s work, but during those days, i had complete, flexible control of when and why i get up in the morning. Once you’re properly employed, you no longer have that luxury because you don’t completely decide how busy you will be. Alas, i now have a renewed appreciation for the weekends as something to actually look forward to with all my heart.
So what were my activities during the end of this week? Mostly sleep, which is an incredibly boring answer. I usually use this time to catch up with mates and such, who are also resting their butts for the week.
Saturday started out right on the dot, as technically the Friday workday hadn’t finished yet. Me and a group of workmates from my reporter’s training class and some other departments embarked on a tour of the newspaper factory, basically observing how the newspapers get made, what machines they use, what philosophies they follow and where do they begin and where do they end. the newspapers were carried though machines, in a way that it looked almost hypnotic. After the factory, a needed stop at McDonalds and the distribution point deep within the Jakartan urban jungle, sleep welcomed me with open arms as i swam beneath the sheets of my bed and willfully drowned, until i resurfaced again 7 hours later.
The plan for the rest of Saturday was to just meet up with 4 of my other mates and just chill at one of their houses, and maybe squeezing in an hour in a music rehearsal studio or two, for productivity purposes. In the end, the latter did not happen for when we spent quite a long time discussing our opinions on the merits and the flaws of certain music records (this time it was focused around an album by Canadian band Arcade Fire, entitled Reflektor), over a few bottles of accessible beer in an empty, cavernous house in the middle of Lebak Bulus. The room was dominated with laughter and the presence of random musical instruments and empty canvases.
DIDGERIDOOS AND DIDGERIDON’TS canvases, paint and other weird things.
Typical sundays are usually spent indoors and unproductive, and that is exactly what was done. After a visit to the grandmother’s house for a visit and a (surprisingly quick and uneventful) family engagement party, it was back to the house, to spend the remaining hours charging (all) my batteries in preparation for the week ahead. As the sun goes down, it is now just me and the hypnotic electronic music of my good buddy SBTRKT to end the week.
At this point in one’s life, if there were to be empty spaces of time appearing before you, squeeze the most out of it.