Tag Archives: Geoff Schorkopf

Das Racist

Courtesy of MySpace

Das Racist MySpace

During their first string of Brooklyn shows, Victor Vazquez and Himanshu Suri — better known as Das Racist — performed by plugging an iPod into a 1/8” cable and rapping over their only track, what was then a 20-minute ode to fast food chains. Amateur third-of-an-hour, indeed. “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” the song in question, became a Williamsburg, NY, hit and soon a viral joke sensation in the summer of 2009. Everyone from hipsters to bros found solace in the cheesy (zing!) goodness of “Pizza Hut.” But these weird guys had no shot at a real rap rep, right?

Perhaps surprisingly, Das Racist’s bizarre, slurred approach to spittin’ rhymes and culturally topical, self-referencial lyrics have resurfaced this year with renewed vigor. The duo’s two recent mixtapes, “Shut Up, Dude” and “Sit Down, Man,” have received attention from the blogosphere, featuring guests El-P and Chairlift and production from the omnipresent Diplo. Their aesthetic has been called by The New York Times “as much a commentary on hip-hop as a rigorous practice of it.”

The group’s style has a tendency to polarize listeners. The band members themselves describe their vibe as “deconstructionist: sawing out the legs of hip-hop as they celebrate it.” Indeed, on tracks such as “hahahaha jk?” the band explores a series of non-sequiturs: a mix of references to “Days of Our Lives,” Dwight from “The Office,” live-action role-playing, 2-D movies, generally making dope rhymes and a mockery at the same time. On “I’m Up On That,” Das Racist sounds more Madvillain than ever, examining race through Queens’ riots, Reggie Bush and Hinduism — “brown man for dummies.”

When I saw Das Racist at a show for the College Music Journal Music Marathon, the band didn’t even play “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” Apparently, they’ve attempted to distance themselves from the days of the 20-minute grease-heaven anthem. Yet somehow, the band has found a way to evolve: the show was a wild house party with legit lyricism, matched by their effervescent sense of humor.

—By Editor-At-Large Geoff Schorkopf

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Johnny Flynn

Courtesy of MySpace

Johnny Flynn MySpace

Actor, poet, heart-throb, songwriter — Renaissance Man. Johnny Flynn is a Jack of many trades.

The folk singer, whose most recent album Been Listening saw release in the States last week, began his life in the theater. Citing Shakespeare and Yeats as major influences, the versatile Flynn is a member of the “Propeller Theater Troupe” in London, England. As a member, he has acted in several productions, including William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

In 2006, he moved from proscenium to concert hall and costumed garb to steel guitar, forming the band Sussex Wit.

Been Listening, the Londoner’s follow-up to his break through debut A Larum, makes better use of his band: generous strings, bombastic horns and multi-track harmonies are prominent throughout the record. On “Kentucky Pill,” the album’s opening track, Flynn enjoys a “cow-tipping expedition” with his childhood friends. The very Americana folk song centers around a trumpet hook — uplifting and proud — before the album trudges into darker, love-lorn territories.

Indeed, there is a strange aura about Flynn, whose English upbringing clearly did not involve “living in boxes by the rails” and “cow tipping” with pals from the Deep South. Like Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale or the more popular Mumford & Sons, Flynn represents a piece of the nu-folk scene in Sussex. The scene wears their Bob Dylan and chamber artists (think British Fleet Foxes) influences on their sleeves with pride.

Flynn, like Dylan or The Band, is a storyteller first, lifting ideas from personal history, newspaper clippings and the oral tradition. In “Barnacled Warship,” he narrates the life of a troubled soldier going off to war; in “Churlish May,” he describes a year-long love story, culminating in spring.

Johnny Flynn performed last night at Atlanta’s Masquerade venue, playing an acoustic set without his five-man backing band. And yet that’s all Flynn needs to shine: his guitar, his stories and his endlessly appealing wit.

— By Editor-at-Large Geoffrey Schorkopf

The xx

The+xx

The xx’s myspace

There’s something about minimalistic art that gets me every time: The way Piet Mondrian turns four vibrant squares of color into a complex and thoroughly satisfying artistic expression, the way Samuel Beckett transforms the bare essence of a play into transcendence or how Philip Glass makes spacey music oddly effecting.

The xx, the latest schoolboy-turned-rockstar graduates of England’s famous Elliot School for performing arts, employs minimalistic beauty in its debut album, xx. The four 20-year-old kids exhibit startling maturity and elegance in their work, all while using only a few masterful brush strokes. Lead vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim sing with sultry descants. The pair’s intoxicating and smooth vocals harmonize like two lovers in bed — there is something dark and deeply “sexxual” hidden between their quiet table manners. On the track “Basic Space,” Croft and Sim’s vocals parallel changes in simple instrumentation to create a slowly evolving pop song. Like Romeo and Juliet forced to sit next to each other at a dark dinner table amongst their families, the sexual tension on xx is palpable.

The xx has a clear affinity for American R&B. The album opens with “Intro” and “VCR,” which provide listeners with the rare glimpse at guitar and keyboard solos — the rest of the album emphasizes romantic lyricism, mutually abstract and poppy spaciousness and the basic beauty of the human voice. The xx presents its music graciously, allowing room for the songs to breathe and take on lives of their own.

— By Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

Neon Indian

Lefse Records

Lefse Records

Neon Indian – “Terminally Chill”

Some especially heartbroken lovers out there in Valentine Land pine over the scenic summer days spent with their inamorato — the restless nights, the breathless moments, all the high times they could have spent together after a now-broken relationship.

Neon Indian, on the other hand, seems to have only one regret for the summer — quite a different kind of longing for “high times.” In “Should Have Taken Acid With You,” the absolutely quirky and instantly unforgettable breakup song, singer Alan Palomo combines drug-induced melancholy with euphoric nostalgia to create low-fi gold. The two-minute song wears its New Order and The Magnetic Fields influences on its sleeves, integrates cartoonish instrumentals to the palette, yet still finds ways to stay poppy and fresh. What separates Neon Indian from its influences is the intricacy of its minute propensities. With complex layers of synthesizers and warped computer instruments, Neon Indian buries hook after hook into intricate harmonies.

Palomo, the one-man show behind the Austin, Texas project, is now based in Brooklyn, performing numerous shows there. Neon Indian’s first LP, Psychic Chasms, drops Oct. 13, and is set to include Palomo’s trademark relaxed vocals and bizarre keyboards.

Neon Indian’s other songs maintain the same utterly chill sense of pop, as with blogosphere favorite “Deadbeat Summer.” Palomo celebrates staying in and drugging out, riding a hallucinogenic wave toward a Ferris Bueller-esque chorus, which makes doing nothing seem like a groovy and epochal triumph.

In “Terminally Chill,” one of the best introductions to Neon Indian’s laidback sentimentalism, Palomo experiments with electronica and simplistic drums, making the tune a headphone-ready trip.

Neon Indian songs jive like MGMT jams, but without all the rush to live fast and die young with cocaine and model wives. Palomo has tried harder than any artist in recent memory to turn “not trying” into an art form.

— By Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

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Annie Powers/The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – “Come Saturday”

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is not content with happiness. No, this band is a straight-up, completely legal hit of pure ecstasy, rocking exhuberantly with their influences on their sleeves, combining ’80s notions of electropop with ’60s lyrical storytelling.

The New York based-band succeeds on its mix of jovial amatuerism and pop chops. Its songs are well-crafted shoegaze gems in the same vein as My Bloody Valentine, but also contain sloppy, low-fi instrumentals like any great start-up garage band. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart plays simple, hook-filled songs that could easily fit in the yet-to-be-filmed “High School Musical 4.” Appropriately, the band stole its name from an unpublished children’s story of the same name.

The group’s self-titled debut album boasts sugary pop hits that the listener can simply rock out to. “Come Saturday” is a teen ode to hanging out with your sweetheart on the weekend: “Who cares if there’s a party somewhere? / We’re gonna stay in.” Lead singer Kip Berman’s excited, baritone vocals harmonize wonderfully with keyboardist Peggy Wang’s airy, fragile voice, as if they are simulaneously singing to one another and discovering true love.

Yet, the group is not just twee pop and dreamy lyrics — The Pains match substance with its style. The noisy instruments demand to be heard, yet blend perfectly together. On “Young Adult Friction,” the band is firing on all cylinders, merging innumerable production tracks together to create a multi-layed, giddy tune.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is a promising, gleeful band — hopefully, it will mature while keeping the heart of a kid.

–By Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

Passion Pit

pit
Courtesy of Passion Pit

Michael Angelakos is a lover. He’s the kind of lover who sees romance in terms of techno beats and freakin’ on the dance floo’. He’s the kind of lover who digs on Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” and Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” simultaneously. He’s the kind of lover who professes his desire of a woman by shrieking out brilliantly feminine falsettos. But he is, nevertheless, a lover.

Angelakos, the lead vocalist of electro-pop up-and-comers Passion Pit, presented his then-girlfriend his musical project, Chunk of Change, as a belated Valentine’s Day gift. Chunk of Change, the four-song EP/ode-to-love, eventually leaked into the Emerson College community, developing Passion Pit a viral buzz and following around the Boston area.

Passion Pit slowly developed into a full band, reissuing its EP and touring with artists such as Death Cab For Cutie and Girl Talk. Its sound is boundlessly energetic, tightly focused and hook-filled.

On tracks such as “Cuddle Fuddle” (all in all, the poorest choice of song title on the EP), Passion Pit experiments with odd synth choices and ooey gooey lyrics such as “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair / Things are better when you’re with me.” Many of the keyboard instrumentals sound as if they are being tortured, with overly distorted xylophones and computerized pianos seemingly begging for mercy. Luckily, the band never strays too far from pop goodness, singalong choruses and hooky, Walt Disney-esque lyrics.

“Sleepyhead,” Passion Pit’s love note to dance floors and narcoleptics everywhere, shows the band at their best — and weirdest. The song contains samples of Irish harp playing by Mary O’Hara matched with the perfectionist keyboards of Angelakos and pianist Ian Hultquist. Angelakos’ extremely high-pitched falsettos fit in perfectly alongside MGMT-ish electronics and disco-influenced bass licks.

Passion Pit’s debut album, Manners, is due out May 18, promising to deliver more love to the world. The part of the world that grooves on eccentric techno, that is.

by Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

Air France

air france
Courtesy of Air France

Air France’s Myspace

Air France is not a band. Not really. Air France is a bird singing happily to its friend while constructing its nest in a palm tree. Air France is a couple on their honeymoon, sipping adult beverages out of coconuts and watching the sunset.

Air France is sex on a beach.

By combining influences from the Balearic Islands with the warmth and beauty of the shoe-glaze genre, Air France creates breathtaking, sublime music, transporting listeners to an exotic and incredible new world. Like DJ Shadow or RJD2, the group merges older recorded material, such as animal noises and personal conversations, with catalog instrumentation and some of their own digital electrobeats. Truly, the Swedish duo, who chose to ironically share a moniker with the Paris-based airline, knows how to spin.

Air France’s latest EP, No Way Down, borders on aleatoric — meaning “random” — music, by carefully piecing together conversations, oohs and ahhs, tropical birds, children laughing, ocean waves and instruments like horns, strings and synths. Most of the tracks lack vocals completely, sounding something like the background music you would find at a travel boutique night club.

The track “June Evenings” opens with a far-off woman’s voice bemoaning the changing of seasons: “Spring has arrived early here, a time for lovers / And it is as if the season mocks my sadness.” These melodramatic words launch the song into trumpets, indecipherable vocals and even a verse of whistles.

On a standout track, “Collapsing at Your Doorstep,” Air France combines marimbas, exotic drums and a hypnotic vocal pattern to create the most danceable and accessible tune on the EP. The song gives off a worldbeat vibe, as if the entire universe of Air France takes place under a canopy dance party on some distant beach.

Luckily for the listener, Air France will fly you there, free of charge.

by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf