Friday, April 26, 2013

PopMatters: Junip, JUNIP

This quarter is pitilessly handing my ass to me and hence the infrequency of my posts, but that didn't stop me recently from investing some time arguing with assholes on the Internet.  It's not that I usually resist the temptation.  There's not usually a temptation to resist.  Sometimes, though, in the kind of venue of arts discourse where readers and writers mingle with mutual intellectual respect, something approaching an honest-to-goodness public sphere emerges, and the Internet redeems itself for all its many broken promises.  When a compulsive naysayer enters these spaces, engaging him (or her, although I'm convinced trolling is generally the domain of bored and emasculated men) can be a valuable opportunity to exercise my critical faculties and indulge some bitter wit for the entertainment of my imagined peers, at the expense of either A) a casual sociopath or B) someone much, much too attached to the cultural object in question.  Having experienced this experience's modest rewards before, I thought I might give it another go on my colleague's review of Iron & Wine's latest soft-rock crowdpleaser.  No such luck; it didn't seem I had much of an audience, besides the author and one other likeminded interlocutor.

Anyway.  From my latest review, an uncontroversial take on a thoroughly uncontroversial  band, an excerpt:
Junip is José González’s band because the band is more than happy to let González – as singer and songwriter and, to a lesser extent, guitarist – take the fore. It’s not that he does the heavy lifting, it’s that there’s no heavy lifting to do: on their several EPs, Fields, and now Junip, Junip commits to a kind of coffee-shop psychedelia, in which students of Nuggets buy minivans and behave themselves. Whatever heady flourishes drummer Elias Araya and organist Tobias Winterkorn do work up never divert González’s MOR navigation. His singing splits the difference between Stevie Nicks and Nick Drake, and the band’s sound follows suit; if Junip leans in the direction of Fleetwood Mac’s slick pop affect, like Pink Moon, it’s still quiet no matter how loud you crank the volume.
As in the review I wrote just prior, the best thing about this album is the music video that preempted its release:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

PopMatters: Bonobo, THE NORTH BORDERS

"You're waiting for the what to drop?"
To break one hiatus by breaking another: my first blog post in a month, linking to my first music review in three-and-a-half.  An excerpt:
If anything, Bonobo continues on his latest to forgo the kind of fashionable displeasure that might attract readier critical favor. But ifThe North Borders sustains attention with deceptive simplicity, that deception is itself deceptive. Green’s intricate arrangements—melodic but never quite melodies—cue ears to listen closely, but rewards are scant; as evasive as they can be, these tracks aren’t for chinstrokers. Perhaps the album will prove to have long-term potential, but for now, The North Borders might be too modest for its own good.
Although this album didn't exactly knock my socks off, I will vouch wholeheartedly for some tracks, such as "Cirrus," especially the cool-as-shit orphan media psychedelia commissioned for it:

Note: the producer of the record I reviewed is not, in fact, a dwarf chimpanzee.