The album’s title makes a direct and heartfelt reference to a real – life L.A. musician, long presumed dead, who resurfaced online in 2007 after 35 reclusive years to pen his autobiography and tragic life story in a series of blogs and YouTube tirades. “His book and life resonated with me to such a degree,” Pink states, “that I felt a need to dedicate my latest record to him.”
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson begins at the end and ends at the beginning. “We follow the protagonist through a battery of tests and mil estones, the first of which sees him reborn into life out of death,” Pink explains, referencing the opening track “Time To Meet Your God.” “From there, he seesaws his way between the innocent love and the rock – solid edifice of childhood – worn trauma that to gether constitute his lifelong initiation into the realm of artifice and theatrical disposability.”
Building upon his singular vision of pop songcraft, established by such seminal records as The Doldrums, Worn Copy, House Arrest, Loverboy, Before Today, M ature Themes, and pom pom, Pink revisits themes that have haunted his sonic cinemascapes since the late 1990s: mismanaged dreams, west coast mythologies, itinerant criminals, haunted boulevards, Hollywood legends, the impermanence of romance, bubblegum art ifice, movie stardom, childhood terror, acceptance of self, and narcissism projected through a celluloid filter of controversion.
Raised in Beverly Hills, Ariel Pink (born Ariel Marcus Rosenberg) started out as a visual artist before becoming a recording artist in the late ‘90s while attending Cal Arts. Between 1996 and 2004, he honed his craft writing, performing, recording, and producing a body of work that was experimental, impressionistic, and improvisational — often creating melodic accompaniments and percussive elements with his voice, as opposed to traditional drums or drum machines.
In 2003, Pink attracted the attention of Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label, earning his home recordings a small and devoted fan base through a series of limited editi on reissues. Drawing upon a list of long – forgotten iconoclasts and trailblazers like the Shaggs, the Cure, the Velvet Underground, Destroy All Monsters, the Godz, Cabaret
Voltaire, and R. Stevie Moore, Pink set himself to the task of redefining the musical lexicon for himself and others. “This mission,” he says, “remains mine to this day.”
Though critically misunderstood at the time, Pink’s lo – fi recordings wielded an enormous influence with insiders and outsiders, earning him the unsolicited distinction a s “the godfather of chillwave” and the face of the emergent genre of Hypnagogic Pop. Upon signing to the landmark record label 4AD in 2009, Pink’s fortunes with critics began to reverse, and his resulting first single, “Round and Round,” was named the #1 R ecord of 2010 by Pitchfork.
Since that period, Pink’s influence has grown, even as he and his work have waxed and waned within the popular political conversation. His music, in its earnest genre drag, continues to polarize. His embrace of the dark edges o f human folly and despair is juxtaposed with superficial joy, touching on aspects normally avoided in pop music like sarcasm, suspicion, nihilism, self – loathing, and denial. These shadows of the self make their brighter counterparts — love, desire, nostalgia , dreams, acceptance, and epiphany — all the more transcendent, striking deep chords of emotion with fans. In his frenzied portrayals of humanity’s baseness and beauty, Ariel Pink spins pathos into paradise.
Standout tracks from Dedicated to Bobby Jameson i nclude “Feels Like Heaven,” a lovelorn insta – classic paying tribute to the promise of romance, “Another Weekend,” which encapsulates the lingering euphoria of a regrettable weekend over the edge, “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson,” a rah – rah psych romp paying ho mage to L.A.’s punk history, and “Time to Live,” an ironic anti – suicide anthem that promotes survival as a form of resistance before devolving into a grungy, “Video Killed the Radio Star” – style breakdown that supposes life and death as being more or less t he same fate and embraces the immortal anarchy of a rock song as an alternative to the prison of reality.
Alternately contained and sprawling, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is a shimmering pop odyssey that represents more astonishing peaks and menacing valle ys in the career of a man who, through sheer originality and nerve, has become an American rock and roll institution. The album marks his first full – length release with the Brooklyn – based independent label Mexican Summer.
DIIV is the nom-de-plume of Z. Cole Smith, musical provocateur and front-man of an atmospheric and autumnally-charged new Brooklyn four-piece.
Recently inked to the uber-reliable Captured Tracks imprint, DIIV created instant vibrations in the blog-world with their impressionistic debut Sometime; finding it’s way onto the esteemed pages of Pitchfork and Altered Zones a mere matter of weeks after the group’s formation.
Enlisting the aid of NYC indie-scene-luminary, Devin Ruben Perez, former Smith Westerns drummer Colby Hewitt, and Mr. Smith’s childhood friend Andrew Bailey, DIIV craft a sound that is at once familial and frost-bitten. Indebted to classic kraut, dreamy Creation-records psychedelia, and the primitive-crunch of late-80’s Seattle, the band walk a divisive yet perfectly fused patch of classic-underground influence.
One part THC and two parts MDMA; the first offering from DIIV chemically fuses the reminiscent with the half-remembered building a musical world out of old-air and new breeze. These are songs that remind us of love in all it’s earthly perfections and perversions.
A lot of DIIV’s magnetism was birthed in the process Mr. Smith went through to discover these initial compositions. After returning from a US tour with Beach Fossils, Cole made a bold creative choice, settling into the window-facing corner of a painter’s studio in Bushwick, sans running water, holing up to craft his music.
In this AC-less wooden room, throughout the thick of the summer, Cole surrounded himself with cassettes and LP’s, the likes of Lucinda Williams, Arthur Russell, Faust, Nirvana, and Jandek; writings of N. Scott Momaday, James Welsh, Hart Crane, Marianne Moore, and James Baldwin; and dreams of aliens, affection, spirits, and the distant natural world (as he imagined it from his window facing the Morgan L train).
The resulting music is as cavernous as it is enveloping, asking you to get lost in it’s tangles in an era that demands your attention be focused into 140 characters.
For singer-songwriter Nick Hakim, it all started in a house in Jamaica Plains, MA with collaborators Naima and Solo Woods. There, he put the finishing touches on his breakthrough EPs, Where Will We Go, Pt. I & II, which would later release through his Earseed Records and earn critical praise from NPR and The New York Times. But it was where the sessions for the two-part project ended and the ideas began to materialize for what would become his full-length debut, Green Twins (releasing via ATO Records in 2017), an experimental step forward with emotional heft gleaned from his experiences in the years since.
The story of Green Twins truly began when, armed with the masters for his EPs, Hakim moved from Boston to Brooklyn, spending his time fleshing out unfinished ideas in his bedroom. He came up with lyrics on the spot while playing the live circuit at solo shows including Palisades and NYXO, recording sketches and lyrics on voice memos and a four-track cassette recorder, and embracing the local community of musicians by performing with bands like Jesse and Forever and Onyx Collective. From there, Green Twins came about as a sum of its parts: Hakim took the demo recordings to studios in New York City, Philadelphia and London, and built on them with engineers including Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering, production), keeping the original essence of the songs intact. Sarlo notes that “for other artists, a demo serves as a potential shape the song could form into. But for Nick, demos are more like creating a temple: a sanctuary that now we have to go into and somehow clean, furnish, and get ready for other people to experience the sermon in.”
“I put a lot of thought to the things I’d say, but a lot of it is what I was thinking in the moment, very specific songs,” he says of Green Twins, “many of them are like self-portraits”. The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to Portishead and My Bloody Valentine. “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs”, he continues. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib, and Screaming Jay Hawkins.”
“Bet She Looks Like You,” recorded mostly in his home bedroom, was one of the first songs that “started this fire for exploring this experiment through song.” Each track peels back a particular aspect of his life: on the title song, he gets deeply personal, reflecting on a recurring dream. “All these things reflect how I feel, how I write,” he says. “I sometimes have trouble articulating myself verbally. This is a place I can talk and be myself, with music, this intangible space I create.”
Hakim’s debut comes as the culmination of years chiseling his skills as a musician. Hailing from Washington, D.C., he grew up in a musical household—his older brother introduced him to bands like Bad Brains and Nirvana, and his parents exposed him to Nueva canción—while he set out on his own to discover the DC music scene. He didn’t take an interest in learning an instrument until later in high school, when he taught himself to play the keys. After graduation, he moved to Boston to continue his study of music. In the time since moving to Brooklyn and setting to work for three years on Green Twins, he embraced the live circuit, both as a solo musician and with his band, whom he’s brought together from within his community in Boston and New York.
With Green Twins, Hakim plans to tour through the beginning of the year, and hopes that folks will connect with the songs he’d written. “I think everybody feels insecure about certain things and everybody has lost people dear to them. I think I’m writing about common things that people feel,” he says. “I’m very grateful for anybody that’s listening or wants to be a part of my little world that I’ve created through song.”
“This record is definitely looser than our last one,” says Suuns singer/guitarist Ben Shemie. “It’s not as clinical. There’s more swagger.”
You can hear this freedom flowing through the 11 tracks on Felt, from Look No Further’s dramatically loping, surrender-to-the-soil skeletal rock – “Our minimalist overture,” notes Shemie – to the climactic bleep ’n’ bliss-out of pocket symphony Materials, which finds his vocoder-treated voice floating deliriously amid cavernous inner space. It’s both a continuation and rebirth, the Montreal quartet returning to beloved local facility Breakglass Studios (where they cut their first two albums with Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes) but this time recording themselves at their own pace, over five fertile sessions spanning several months. A simultaneous stretching out and honing in, mixed to audiophile perfection by St Vincent producer John Congleton (helmer of Suuns’ previous full-length Hold/Still), who flew up especially from Dallas to deploy his award-winning skills in situ.
While maintaining a pleasing economy – the closest thing to a ‘jam’ here is an otherworldly two-minute instrumental, aptly titled Moonbeams – the informality of self-production has enabled Suuns to explore bright new vistas. “It was different and exciting,” declares drummer Liam O’Neill. “In the past there was a more concerted effort on my part to drum in a controlled and genre-specific way. Self-consciously approaching things stylistically. Us doing it ourselves, that process was like a very receptive, limitless workshop to just try out ideas.”
Hence the hypnotic future-pop percolations of X-ALT, where guitarist Joseph Yarmush’s delicate precision is engulfed by squalls of giddy saxophone. Or the way Watch You, Watch Me’s organic/synthetic rush builds and and builds atop O’Neill’s elevatory rhythm and the ecstatic, Harmonia-meets-Game Boy patterns unleashed by electronics mastermind Max Henry. As befits a band who cite Andy Stott and My Bloody Valentine as touchstones yet don’t sound like either, Suuns have always seamlessly blended the programmed and played. Never mere fusionists, it’s now pointless trying to decode their sonic signature as ‘dance music that rocks’ or vice versa.
Eschewing presets, Henry devised fresh sounds for each song while also becoming a default musical director, orchestrating patches and oscillations. Quietly enthusing about “freaky post-techno” and Frank Ocean’s use of space, he’s among your more modest studio desk jockeys: “Yeah, I sat in the control room while the others played – hitting ‘record’ and ‘stop’. It also gave me the flexibility to move parts around and play with effects. I do have a sweet tooth for pop music. So if there’s a more straightforward option on the table, I tend to push for it. Of course, interesting pop music isn’t always about being straightforward, so it’s a good thing I don’t always get my way.”
Said sweetness is amplified by Ben Shemie’s newfound vocal range and buoyant melodies, showcased in such wholly unexpected delights as the yearning lilt of Make It Real and sax-smoothed Peace And Love, which sincerely comes on like a post-punk Sade. There’s a previously unheard confidence to the singer and lyricist, perhaps best exemplified by centre-piece Control, where his hushed tones are complemented by a bilingual voice musing on dreams and reality, sampled from an old Montreal social art project.
“The sample of that man speaking has a serendipitous story behind it. It’s a bit of audio I copied from a series of interviews of people living on the streets of Montreal called The Dream Listener. It was recorded by an artist 10 years ago at the St-James Drop-In Center to raise money for the clinic and asked them to talk about their dreams. I always thought it was a compelling sample, but didn’t realize until after we used it that the man in the recording was a family friend, a respected poet, whose struggled with mental illness. It makes the song the true centre piece of the album.”
Suuns are proud of their roots in Canada’s most socialist province, whilst not sounding quite like anything else the city has produced. “Conditions are great for musicians, but not so much if you want to be a high powered investment banker,” laughs Ben. “If I could compare Montreal to anywhere I’d say it’s kind of like Berlin, in the sense that there isn’t a huge industry, so there isn’t that much money. Plus you have to speak French if you want a career, so that stops too many people moving here. It’s gentrifying at a slower rate than other cities.”
Quebecois natives Shemie and Yarmush founded the group just over a decade ago, the latter having moved to Montreal from a nearby village: “Ben’s from the city but I grew up in the mountains – in the forest with nothing!” The only member not to be formally schooled in jazz, guitarist Yarmush studied photography and utilized his visual training to help realize Shemie’s novel concept for the eye-catching album artwork.
“I was at a barbecue last summer and there were balloons everywhere,” recalls the singer. “I like this idea of pressure, resistance, and pushing against something just before it brakes. And there is something strangely subversive about a finger pushing into a balloon. It seemed to fit the vibe of the record we were making. We made plaster casts of our hands, going for a non-denominational statue vibe. Joe came up with the colour scheme, the sickly green background, and shot the whole cover in an hour.”
It’s a suitably outré image for Felt, which breaks with Suuns’ earlier darkness for a more optimistic ambience. The record’s playful atmosphere is echoed by its double meaning title. “Some people might think of the material,” muses Ben. “I like that that could be misconstrued. Also it’s to have felt and not to feel – a little introspective, but that feeling’s in the past.”
JJUUJJUU is an astral union, an arcane ritual, and above all, a conversation.
Harnessing an unspoken energy, the trio have exponentially blossomed from a sonic experiment to a forceful, telepathic dialogue of distinct-but-aligned vibrations. Releasing this dynamic on an expanding spiral of planned and impromptu live shows in the American southwest, the magnetism of the duo only continues to grow, along with its devoted, traveling coterie of entranced acolytes.