Posts tagged ‘The Juan MacLean’

April 19, 2010

Official “Drunk Girls” video is antithesis to “fan video”?

LCD Soundsystem released the official video for “Drunk Girls”, which features people in shitty panda costumes (really shitty) abusing in various ways James Murphy, Nancy Whang, and that other dude who plays drums. Kind of like the pandas are doing “experiments” on them? I have no clue. The video was co-directed by Spike Jonze, and I’d honestly rather go watch some Eric Wareheim videos instead. I guess, Murphy kept his promise of “i’m not going to make many expensive videos. know why? no one plays videos” which he said on his myspace. The “fan video”, which has been taken down, had more to do with the actual song since it was clips and pics of drunk chicks, despite Murphy finding it to be “everything” he “hates”. As Murphy said, the song is, “about drunk people and fun things and the fact that all of the boys of the L.A. mansion we recorded at were called ‘the girls’ by our chef. We were the ladies of the mansion.” Ah well, the album has leaked, so LCD Soundsystem are now streaming it on their site. Of course, the album is excellent. James Murphy has claimed this is the last LCD Soundsystem album. I usually think those proclamations are bullshit, but we’ll see. At least Nancy Whang has The Juan MacLean. Don’t know about the drummer though…

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December 10, 2009

25 Favorite Songs Of 2009

The xx


Every year I do a Top 10 Favorite Albums list. Frankly, I had a hard time listening to all the music I wanted to this year. This is partially due to it being an extremely strong year for music. It’s really one big cliche now, but in this day and age, I found myself much more listening to specific songs on my iPod, instead of whole albums. So, instead, I bring you the 25 songs I loved the most this year. I recommend all host albums as well.

1. Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes: For a long time I aggressively didn’t “get” Animal Collective, partially as a “fuck you” posture. This song was the key, because it’s an art-rave track. Art-rave. Merriweather Post Pavillion makes the rest of their albums make sense.

2. Annie – Don’t Stop: Annie does intelligent indie electropop, which she calls “pop with strange edges”. This song is one of three truly new songs on her 2009 version of the album Don’t Stop. The heavy (but not in your face) beat, the twinkling synths, the whole production by Paul Epworth add up to a pop song that doesn’t sound pop. Her breathy sweet vocal on top ties it together. Few singers can sing breathy AND with bravado like she does. That is why Annie is special.

3. Bat For Lashes – Sleep Alone: Natasha Khan mixes some Indian guitar, a huge bassline, a stuttering pounding beat, some maracas, synths, and her gorgeously sad voice for a bewitching track about her literally casting a spell to combat her loneliness. She deserves to be said in the same company as Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks, and I point to a track like this as proof. Except Natasha Khan can do beats better than most electronic producers.

4. The Big Pink – Velvet: The British do epic electronic rock better than anyone else, and this track comes in line with that grand tradition. Headphone filling.

5. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career: Phil Spector reverb. And Campbell’s vocals which say her maudlin career is over, but sound like it’s not. Yeah, that’s Camera Obscura. What made me love this song is that twinkling upward piano line that runs throughout.

6. Neko Case – This Tornado Loves Me: It’s a obsessed love song expressed by a personified tornado. And it breaks your heart. Enough said.

7. Delorean – Seasun: This house song makes the world feel glorious. It sounds like sunrise over an ocean. Such a thrill when that beat drops halfway through.

8. Franz Ferdinand – Live Alone: It’s just a classic FF track. Lots of swagger, great synth chorus that sends the song skyward, and lyrics that somehow make not moving in together sound totally awesome.

9. Girls Aloud – The Loving Kind: Co-written with the Pet Shop Boys. If the Spice Girls had had songs that sounded this effortlessly good to your ears, they might still be around. Girls Aloud knocked this song out on their FIFTH album. Girl group perfection.

10. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks: If the Beach Boys were still together and went indie-rock.

11. The Juan MacLean – Tonight: Disco house epic. Easily one of the very best tracks out of the DFA house so far. It’s how I feel about going out in song form: Melancholy, but hopeful and glad. I’ve played the song many times driving fast down the highway on my way out or back home late at night. The trumpet solo 5:30 – 6:45 makes life feel infinite.

12. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance: The first 35 seconds dominate. Frankly, this is the peak of Lady Gaga. It’s her on all cylinders, and makes me believe she’s a contender despite her bullshit. Sure, rave has existed for 20 years, but she’s managed to bring it to the masses like few else. Oh, and “Ra-ra-ah-ahah-roma-ro-mama-ga-ga-ooh-la-la.”

13. & 14. Major Lazer – Hold The Line / When You Hear The Bassline: Diplo and Switch’s dancehall creation was my favorite driving album this year. Shit is hot. The first two songs are the perfect example of how you start a mix. Atmospheric spaghetti western guitars begin “Hold The Line”, then the dancehall beat hits, and Mr Lex and Santigold sound badass. Love that Nokia vibration sound. It really makes your head vibrate. “When You Hear The Bassline” turns shit way up with that pounding… er bassline. I’ll put these two songs, and the entire album, against any hiphop, dancehall shit you play me, and it’ll be hotter.
Hold The Line:

When You Hear The Bassline:

15. Monsters Of Folk – Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.): Jim James, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst do some sorta trip hop sensual song. As a letter to God. I saw them live this year, and this song is gorgeous live.

16. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – The Tenure Itch: This to me is the sweetest, prettiest track off their album. For a debut album, they did their My Bloody Valentine indebted (heavily) thing really well, and this was my favorite moment. A song this romantic and shy is why their band name is the best name they could have.

17. The Phenomenal Handclap Band – All Of The Above: From an album that sounds like it was recorded in the 70’s, I think I listened to this song the most because of the strutting bassline that kicks in 47 seconds in.

18. The Raveonettes – Suicide: Their In And Out Of Control album was the Raveonettes embracing the pop part of their, in my opinion, iconic style. Which is appropriate, given Lust Lust Lust’s embrace of their feedback part. “Suicide” blew me away, because it is the sweetest, prettiest singing of the word “suicide” that has probably ever been committed to tape. And, the lyric is “Lick your lips and fuck suicide”, for the record. Only The Raveonettes.

19. Saint Etienne – The Sea: This track comes from the double disc reissue of a 1997 album that was previously Japan only, called Continental. “The Sea” comes late in an album filled with Saint Etienne’s usual pristine take on house and pop. Suddenly, Etienne drop a drum ‘n’ bass track. And, it’ll stand up to any drum ‘n’ bass track you’ll play me. Such is the greatness of Saint Etienne.

20. Saint Etienne – Girl VII (Richard X Remix): Taken from Richard X’s Foxbase Beta album, a remix of Saint Etienne’s entire debut album Foxbase Alpha. According to the commentary track to Foxbase Beta (yes, really), Saint Etienne say they wrote “Girl VII” to represent their impression of the glamour of London. Richard X takes “Girl VII” to such lush heights, you feel the glamour all the more. It’s one track on Foxbase Beta that I truly prefer to the original. And, that is rare in a remix. Somehow Richard X recreates “Girl VII” into a 4:30 minute constantly evolving and changing beast, yet all the elements came from, and follow, the original track. Epic. Perhaps the best remix I’ve ever heard.

21. Sally Shapiro – Mircale: Like others, I wasn’t as enamored with My Guilty Pleasure as much as Sally Shapiro’s debut. That’s what happens when you create a debut that’s borderline perfect. But, this electro track will always rank as one of her best. It’s Sally Shapiro at her most muscular and anthemic. And, for someone as breathy and shy as her, it was a welcome surprise.

22. Britney Spears – Womanizer: Why Britney is Britney.

23. The xx – Crystalized: I’m a huge sucker for male/female vocals. The way The xx weave their vocals together on “Crystalized” is magical. They do the atmospheric, minimalist, dreampop thing so well, and listening to this track and its host album breaks my heart in the best way possible.

24. Yacht – Afterlife: Here’s some sing-songy jaded female sung funky techno indie guitar shit. I’m still waiting for The DFA to get their due as a label. People mention labels like Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, and Saddle Creek. The DFA constantly shepherd incredible dance music, and I never hear their name mentioned unless LCD Soundsystem release music. Shame.

25. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero: Answered the question, “What if the YYYs added synthesizers?” Answer: Sound like the YYYs. Happily confirmed when the synthesizers become guitars after the first chorus. What a rush. They’re one of the very best bands we have right now.

May 6, 2009

Top 10 Favorite Albums 2009… so far

Yes, it’s only May 6th. That means 2009 has existed for only four months and some change. But, I can easily make a list of 10 albums that came out this year that I love. 2009 can end now. Most of the links below are to YouTube videos, and I hope you’ll click on them. In alphabetical order:

1. Art Brut – Art Brut Vs. Satan: Let’s face it, you listen to Art Brut for Eddie Argos, his blunt British voice and his acerbic lyrics. On Vs. Satan he drops more of his signature lines like “I fought the floor and the floor won” and “Why is everyone trying to sound like U2, it’s not a very cool thing to do.” Art Brut are a music geek’s band. Argos constantly recalls rock and roll’s history, and spends half the album talking about how much he loves music. How can you not love a band who writes a song called “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake”, which is about just that. Their music is deceptively simple, and seven minute final track “Mysterious Bruises” proves, to me at least, that they’re accomplished songwriters. Art Brut’s first album, Bang Bang Rock & Roll was a favorite of mine, but for some reason It’s A Bit Complicated didn’t quite connect with me as much. I can’t put a finger on what the difference is, but their new album is back to form.

2. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns: You can compare her to Kate Bush, Annie Lennox and others, but no one truly sounds like Natasha Khan. I see her witchy, mystic aesthetic as only continuing a great female tradition. Her voice is unique and powerful. Her way with rhythm and percussion, using tympani, shakers, bells, handclaps and whatever else is, in my opinion, her signature. I loved Fur And Gold, and I think this album is worlds better. “Sleep Alone” is my favorite song of the year so far, with its pulsing bassline, grooving beat, and vaguely Indian guitar. Khan was somehow able to impress Scott Walker enough to lend his voice to the theatrical closing duet “The Big Sleep”, and she stands shoulder to shoulder with someone I consider possibly the greatest living male vocalist. And, of course “Daniel”, which apparently is really about The Karate Kid character and amounts to a great new wave pop song that is in no way as cheesy as it sounds. I could say lots more, but maybe you should look at her performing “Daniel” and “Sleep Alone” on British show Later… With Jools Holland. That should convince you.

3. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career: This is what romance and heartbreak sounds like. If you like Camera Obscura already, you’ll know they’ve been building to this album. Much of My Maudlin Career is full on classical pop, songs like “French Navy” and Careless Love” melodically driven by strings. Other songs, like “Honey In The Sun” are horn and organ driven affairs. Their music is modern 50s and 60s pop, reminiscent of Roy Orbison, girl groups, and country. The album is produced with tons of reverb and echo, which gives it a dream-like quality. Traceyanne Campbell’s voice and lyrics are as sad and lovely as you could ever ask for. Example, “I know you mean well, yes I know that you do, but sooner or later you’re gonna break me in two” from “Towns and Cities”, later saying “Oh still I wanna tell you I love you best”. This album is how you imagine your heartbreak would sound if it were music. And, it should be played loud like you mean it.

4. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone: As I said in my earlier blog entry, Neko Case is an inventive, unique songwriter with arguably the best voice in music. Middle Cyclone is an emotional, dramatic album. It’s poetic and artistic. It’s organic and natural. “This Tornado Loves You” is one of the greatest love songs I’ve ever heard, literally told from the point of view of a tornado and a great metaphor for what love can feel like. She makes her covers of “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” and “Don’t Forget Me” her own songs. Her songs shift and change, like in “The Pharoahs” where it starts with one melody, and quickly shifts to a whole new melody. She does dark noir, like the sax laden “Red Tide”, or bright and fun like “People Got A Lot Of Nerve”. Really, she can do no wrong in my eyes. And yes, I even like to listen to the end track “Marais La Nuit” which is a 30 minute recording of frog song and night ambience.

5. The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love: I was pretty skeptical when I heard that the new Decemberists album was going to be their “rock opera”. I was pleasantly surprised, because I think this album is pretty fucking great. It continues the traditions of Pink Floyd and The Who. They even recall Heart with the vocals of Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) on “The Wanting Comes In Waves”. But, it sounds like The Decemberists. I barely know what’s going on in the story. Something about a girl getting kidnapped and some guy trying to get her back from a Queen? No? Oh well. It rocks, has harpsichords, strings, banjos and accordians. Like a Decemberists album. There are multiple vocalists and musical themes are repeated throughout, just like a rock opera should sound have. They really pull off the whole thing. It easily could have been a disaster.

6. The Juan MacLean – The Future Will Come: I listened to nothing else for two straight weeks. Like I said in my blog entry, I feel like this album is what the last 30 years of electronic dance music has led to. It’s fun, sad, and great to drive to.

7. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – S/t: Their feedback drenched guitars and precious male and female vocals will remind you of a few shoegazing bands. But, so what. Their debut album has 10 fantastic songs. From the drumless opening track “Contender” to the pounding “Be My Baby” drums of last track “Gentle Sons”, all you’ll think is that this is a great band to have around. Especially when they find time for the sweet brit-pop of the acoustic guitar driven “Stay Alive”.

8. Royksopp – Junior: Their third album is a happy medium between their debut, Melody A.M., and their second album, The Understanding. The pretty downtempo of one has been married to the pulsing electropop of the other. You have the pounding techno track “This Must Be It”, sung by The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, which they drop four songs into the album like they could do it in their sleep. Then the pretty whimsical pop of “Miss It So Much”, sung by Lykke Li (which reminded me how much I love her voice). The string epic “Royksopp Forever” starts off like an Air pastiche, but in the middle shifts into a gorgeous song befitting it’s name. Royksopp are known for being great producers, and this album sounds amazing. It’ll fill your headphones with clicks and whirs and synths, “True To Life” being a great example. I think ultimately what sets Royksopp apart is their music is fun to listen to, and it sounds like they had fun making it. After all, lead off song is called “Happy Up Here” and it samples the video game Space Invaders.

9. St. Vincent – Actor: I like this album more than her first album Marry Me. This album is lush with strings and woodwinds. Some songs groove, some songs float. Songs meander in different melodic directions at will, and at times will suddenly surprise you with sections of loud guitar and percussion. Annie Clark has a lovely voice, and the whole album is gorgeous to listen to. The more times you listen, the more you notice. She seamlessly and artistically mixes rock, jazz, classical, and electronica. There’s so much going on, and it just came out yesterday, so I really can’t begin to discuss specific tracks right now. You should see her live, she’s adorable and a great guitar player.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!: I can’t add much more than my previous blog entry. Provided they don’t break up for some reason, it’s safe to say YYYs are one of this generation’s greatest bands. I really never thought I’d enjoy string versions of YYYs songs as much as I do…

I feel I must comment on one more album:

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion: I’ve had a hard time “getting” Animal Collective. Each album is welcomed with tons of praise and love. And, I get that they’re talented, and I agree they have a truly original sound. But, their albums always have seemed like aural soup to me, with little for my ear to grab on to. Animal Collective mix folk, ambient, Beach Boys style vocals, psychedelic rock, etc etc etc. But, their newest album is a conscious effort to streamline their sound into four to five minute structures, and I have to say I really enjoy it. Especially “Summertime Clothes”, which is an actual electronic dance song with a great beat. Their music can be joyful, like “Brother Sport”, and they’re like a playful kitten you can’t help but warm up to despite how pretentious I think they can be. And, they can sing. I have to admit that. I’m going to have to give their earlier albums another chance now.

April 13, 2009

The Juan MacLean – The Future Will Come

The Future Will Come
This album sounds like the culmination and perfection of the past 30 years of dance music. I adore it. It makes me so happy I feel giddy at times, like on infectious electro track “A New Bot”. Other times it has a beautiful melancholy that fills my heart, like the 10 minute modern disco centerpiece “Tonight”. There’s the sexy new wave of “One Day” and “The Station”, with the icy back and forth vocals of John MacLean and Nancy Whang. Whang is a touring musician for LCD Soundsystem, and you also may recall her as the vocalist on LCD Soundsystem’s “Get Innocuous!” and “North American Scum”. The reason why this album is so excellent is best exemplified by the opening track, “The Simple Life”. It spends the first four of its eight minutes pulsing away, the drums, bass and synths joining for a slinky dance track that you’d be quite happy never ending. Then, after four minutes the song downshifts for a moment while Nancy Whang comes in. Suddenly, it becomes a real pop song with verses and a chorus along with the melody established in the first four minutes. It is sublime. There’s actual three/four minute pop songs, like the aforementioned “A New Bot” or the rave techno track “No Time”, which somehow finds time to recall the “Theme From Shaft” in the lyrics. The euphoric “Happy House”, already released in 2008, ends the album perfectly with incessant house piano in the first half, and techno synths in the last half. There’s also plenty of emotion in the lyrics, at times bitter as in “The Simple Life”, hopeful as in “Tonight”, or painfully sad in the comedown track “Human Disaster”.

Since 2002 The DFA have been, as a record label, production team, or artist, unparalleled in the quality of their output. Every year brings a new favorite album from their efforts. I didn’t think an album could rival the high watermark of LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver, but I think this album may do it.

Finally, this is another album that makes me think we need to retire words like “retro”. True artists are able to take the history and influences and create something new and modern. Here is another artist that has achieved this.

The Juan MacLean Website
The Juan Maclean Myspace

August 13, 2005

It surprises and scares, like me, like me

The Juan Maclean album is pretty spectacular. Better than the LCD Soundsystem album, in my opinion. There are a lot of great electronic and dance albums coming out this year. The Royksopp, the Deep Dish, the Annie discs. I’m really pleased. The DFA continue to impress. I cannot wait to hear the Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom album.

There’s a moment in the song “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears at 1:45 where they have this really cool synth chord progression and one of them yells out “YEAH!” with such joy. I love that moment. It’s one of my favorite in all music.

I bought the Antony And The Johnsons album about a week ago. I can’t get past the first song. It’s too affecting. I turn the album off after listening to the first song every time I put the album on.

Is there anything better than driving in warm weather with the windows down and blasting music? Other than sex?