Dear You: Listen to Purity Ring

If you are one of the lofty intellectual types who descended to comment on Justin’s completely serious, 100% objective analysis of Owl City’s All Things Bright and Beautiful, then I come bearing an exciting message from the future— Purity Ring is the music you will listen to when you are all grown up, in your work-a-day life as an astronaut princess (after you have discovered that The Postal Service Exists, for Fuck’s Sake, and possibly after coming off a marathon bender with The Knife).

For clarity’s sake, I mean to compliment Purity Ring. For further clarity’s sake, listening to Owl City makes me want to hunt and kill men for sport. Why continue to pick on poor Mr. Young? Because Owl City is, honest-to-dog, one of the first things I thought about when I listened to Shrines, the debut album from Montreal duo Purity Ring— In fact, every plucky youngster with a copy of GarageBand and Give Up on his MacBook should sit up and take some fucking notes, because Ladies and Gentlemen, this is how you do your uplifting synth-pop correctly.

Observe: Non-Spotify link here.

It’s like hearing the voice of a child ghost roll and stutter over a jumble of half-dreamed nursery rhymes, and for all of singer Megan James’ talk of split bodies and torn out hearts, it’s unexpectedly uplifting. The album’s lyrical focus is on the body— ripping open interiors, bearing hearts and other organs, flushing out the nooks and crannies. Without James’ nearly pre-adolescent voice, none of this would work half as well. In “Fineshrine,” James sings  “Cut open my sternum and pull / My little ribs around you.” It’s easy to imagine a line like that issuing from the mouth of say, Ben Gibbard or Karin Dreijer Andersson, but it would be somber and sad from the former, and downright creepy from the latter. Here, it comes off as a warm invitation. (Side note. There’s a two-word genre description floating around on certain websites that I promised myself I wouldn’t use when talking about Purity Ring— hint: it rhymes with “kitsch mouse“— but when you literally rhyme the word “boil” with “toil” in a song, it’s hard not to give a just a little credence to the meaningless-genre-mongers.)

With Corin Roddick’s instrumentals, you get all the electronic hand-claps and snaps of an Usher slow jam, but with the added bonuses of Knife-like vocal screwiness (making James’ voice alternate between little girl and GLaDOS) and red light / green light rap tempos. Some of this might be a bit repetitive if Shrines didn’t clock out after a just-right 38 minutes (though a few songs have me doing the same double-take I do whenever I hear Cake: “wait a minute, are there noisemakers, trumpet, and John McCrea saying ‘yeah’ in every song?“). In fact, “Lofticries” aside, the few weaker tracks (two, by my count) on this album are the ones that push past the 4-minute mark. Speaking of weaker tracks, whoever the hell the guy I’m not bothering to look up whose guest vocals show up on “Grandloves,” go the hell away and never come back please, you’re fucking up the magic.

If you are not convinced after this, perhaps Purity Ring is not for you. Non-murgle-blurgle here.

That’s fine. Imaginative, fantastic pop from the Astral Plane  isn’t for everyone. Just go listen to the new Future of the Left, it’s probably more your speed. What’s that, you don’t like Future of the Left?

I think it’s time for you to go.

-Zac

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Great Fucking Albums #27: Le Tigre (Self-Titled)

Open this link in a new tab and keep reading. We’re going to listen to a song.

Maybe you were cognizant during the 90s. Do you remember Riot Grrrl? If so, you get one point, go to the next question. Do you remember it fondly? You get five points, next question. Are you a dude? Hooray, 20 points and I’m buying you a beer, because I really want to meet you. I’m serious. Where are you guys? A number of conversations I’ve had with other penis-owners about Le Tigre and other Riot Grrrl bands follow a distressingly common structure:

  1. Girlfriend is into this new band.
  2. Dude forced to listen to record / dragged to show.
  3. “Man-hating” experienced!
  4. Girlfriend morphs into lesbian and takes flight on majestic labia wings, never to be seen again.

These guys don’t just “not care for” this music, they blame it for ruining their lives. I’m not even— wait, are you listening to the song in the link? Isn’t that just catchy as hell?— Can you be angry or annoyed, but also having a good time? I’ll bet Kathleen Hanna thinks so, and I kinda think that’s what she set out to display with Le Tigre. Bikini Kill was the band that shitty ex-boyfriends needed to hate; shouldn’t they have self-selected out by the time Le Tigre rolled around? It’s like nobody got the memo when the music started being really fun.

The song you’re listening to, “Deceptacon,” neatly encapsulates pretty much everything you need to know about Le Tigre. If you don’t like this song, you probably won’t like the rest of the songs on the album. As a bonus, it pokes fun at NOFX, who, I just decided, are good stand-ins for the kind of nonsense, misapplied-masculinity douchebaggery that permeates… well, practically every music scene ever.

Check out NOFX’s “Kill Rock Stars” (I’d link to audio but I can’t seem to find any other than the Weird Al version— strange!), read the lyrics to Deceptacon, and know that NOFX also has a song called “Linoleum.” Too much work? I’ll break it down for you:

  1. Fat Mike sounds like Weird Al if Weird Al were boring and untalented.
  2. A lot of guys get really, really defensive when someone points out that they just might, in even a tiny way they didn’t realize, be contributing to a culture that gives gang rape a shrug and a hand-wave and insultsdegradesobjectifies and creepily pedolizes women.
  3. A lot of music sounds the same and that’s fucking boooooooooooooooooooring.
  4. It should be OK for women to do the same things as men, feel safe, and not have people lose their shit over it.

So why does Le Tigre qualify as a Great Fucking Album? Well, it rocks ass, for one thing; it’s also what pop-punk should actually sound like— but probably most impressively, this album is a badass teaching tool for feminism that doesn’t alienate male listeners. If you know a teenage boy, get him this album. With luck, it will open wonderful doors to X-Ray Spex, Sleater-Kinney, Patti Smith, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Screaming Females, and all kinds of other awesome stuff. He will learn that such questions as “what’s it like to be a girl in a band?” are stupid and unnecessary. Most importantly, it will help populate my world with more guys I want to buy a beer instead of slap in the coin purse.

-Zac

Warning: My Morning Jacket May Result in Unintended Pregnancy

I witnessed three separate diaper-changings at the My Morning Jacket show at McMenamin’s Edgefield last night. My friend Lea Anna suggested that the bands we like are “growing up,” but I would rather see this as testament to the virility of MMJ fans. And who wouldn’t want to sow some wild oats, after seeing Jim James explode on stage? Here is a man who has all the powers of a Dracula and a Sasquatch, with none of the drawbacks, plus some extra powers that probably come from the mystical combination of the two— powers like shredding ass on guitar and blasting forth with ovary-throbbing falsetto that I hope makes Prince nod in solemn approval.

Besides, after 13 years and 6 albums, MMJ had probably grown up long before I ever heard about them, and their broad set list showed it. There were plenty of tracks on hand from Circuital of course (including an impenetrably awesome rendition of “Holdin’ on to Black Metal,” complete with its very own chorus of Black Metal Girls), but the tracks seemed to be split neatly between Circuital, Z, Evil Urges, and It Still Moves, which suits a nascent fan like me just fine.

Other highlights included an extended, skull-shaking, pants-dampening version of “Off the Record;” the band chuckling along with the audience during “Outta My System;” and each song that featured the intensely badass drumming of Patrick Hallahan (spolier alert: it was all the songs).

I love being at shows where you can tell most people in the crowd are there because they clearly love the band. I go to concerts sometimes and see people that don’t look like they’re having a good time, or they’re texting or whatever, and I just want to ask: “what on earth motivated you to foot $20-50 to sit through something you’ll mostly ignore?” This show was not one of those shows. I had a doofus grin plastered on my face the whole time, and looking around saw plenty of the same, with people dancing and belting out lyrics at the top of their lungs from the pit to the nosebleeds.

So if you’ve been trying for a baby but haven’t had much luck, skip all those boola-boola fertility drugs and just go to a MMJ show. Count Sasquatch will hook you up.

~Zac