When I saw Lowell perform in a bar/sandwich shop in Portland last week, I left feeling both sweaty and lucky. The small venue had been packed with people dancing to Lowell's catchy beats—the Toronto-based performer filled the place with such energy and power that I’ll bet a lifetime supply of sandwiches the next time she comes through town, it will be on a sold-out international tour.
Autumn is a glut of new music and bands on tour, so it's precisely zero surprising that our new music roundup for October is our longest yet. This month, we've got the world premiere of a new video by Julia Weldon, a song by a band called Hand Job Academy, and much, much more.
In that way that some people (read: me) obsessively decide which three wishes they'd choose if they had three wishes, I have considered carefully whose voice I would want if some fairy godmother appeared and granted me the power to actually not sound like a squawking turkey when I sing. The choice gets tougher, though, between the top two.
I've written about Robyn a lot, I know. This has, as I've mentioned, been the Year of Robyn for me. But this video hit last week and aside from being steamy, sent me spiraling off into a train of thought that I couldn't keep to myself.
Talking with a friend about the video and the tubes full of liquid that Robyn is wrapped in, I used the term "abstract futurism," which is totally me being pretentious. And yet, the tone of a lot of Robyn's songs, both on the Body Talk recordings and her previous work, evokes a world of robots and a world of love--the visual best suited was maybe already snagged by Bjork for "All Is Full Of Love".
Because I'm not a musician, I'm a writer, I tend to like and analyze and pick at the lyrics of songs. But at the same time, to be any sort of a pop music critic I have to look at the whole package, not just the lyrics. Each part of a pop song is a deliberate choice, and sometimes those choices deliberately contradict one another, undercut one meaning and substitute another, add layer upon layer and give you things to think about with each listen.
Or: How Robyn Released Three Albums in a Year And Kept Them Interesting.
When I look back at 2010, it will probably have been the Year of Robyn. It was the Year of Pop Music for me, really, but I came back to Robyn again and again. Part of that was accidental—I finally sat down and listened to Robyn, really absorbed that a really great dance-pop track was as brilliant an achievement as a really great, multilayered indie rock song.
Esperanza Spalding has been flying just under the radar for years now, especially for those who don't follow jazz pop news (it's not all about Norah Jones, people!), but recently experienced something of a breakout in her February performance on the PBS program Austin City Limits. The day after her performance, Spalding, became the second most-popular search term on Google and millions of PBS viewers were (I assume) smitten.