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Top 10 Songs of 2015: #2 – “Multi-Love” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

25 Dec


I think it is reasonable to say most music written is about love. Love is an emotion that has such imperceptible power, it could carve a Grand Canyon into anyone’s heart. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson wrote his newest album in the wake of a relationship’s dissolution, though the falling out is not with his wife. Multi Love is an autobiographical record, about Nielson’s brief but intense experience with polyamory.

The title track of the record, though glossing over many of the finer details of the relationship, still provides an accurate portrait of Nielson’s broken spirit. “Multi love checked into my heart and trashed it like a hotel room,” the song begins. The image is so perfect, evoking this dingy, romantic version of what rock and roll was years ago. It matches the tinted feeling of the track (and record) and works together to form this emotional harmony.

Nielson did not enjoy such internal harmony at times during, and especially after one of his partners left the picture. His wife had suggested that a woman that both of them were mutually enamored with live with them for a few months. Like Nielson and his wife, the newcomer was a New Zealander, and once her visa expired, reality set in. Nielson was juggling feelings for his wife as well as this other woman that he knew so intimately, that his wife also knew intimately. His heart was pulled in multiple directions, with so many implications that he’d never even considered that he’d have to consider, and he was fatigued. This album is how he channeled his energy during his regular bouts of insomnia, and was a healthy way to cope with his loss.

The song shifts in energy via the instrumentation, where the syntax plays an integral role. The first verse slowly opens the track, introducing us to the God who suffocates Nielson with an emotion that destroys him and yet is the inspiration for this entire album. The drums give way for the next verse, then the blunt refrain:

“Multi love has got me on my knees
We were one, then become three
Mama, what have you done to me?
I’m half crazy”

The instrumentation from the beginning of the track returns with the third verse, as if reconsidering the whole affair. That sense is thrown out when the rock n roll image returns, this time with the energy of the drums behind it. It feels so matter-of-fact, as if to say, yes, I feel truly awful and it’s tough to comprehend but I don’t really want to keep discussing it so stop asking.

You wouldn’t have as many questions were you to listen to the album in full, out now on Jagjaguwar. The idea of polyamory is something I almost distrusted until I read more about Nielson, and the emotion in Multi Love is palpable. Pick a copy up today. 

Find more information on Unknown Mortal Orchestra on their website, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Top 10 Songs of 2015 – #4 “Here in Iowa” by Korallreven

22 Dec



“Here in Iowa” is an objectively great song. The samples are all over the place, but it’s the story behind the song that makes it so special. This is a farewell song, and every part of it contributes to the legacy of Korallreven. 

Perhaps I’m being too dramatic. Korallreven are a Swedish duo, comprised of Marcus Joons and Daniel Tjader, the latter of which is also known for his involvement with The Radio Dept. They put “Here in Iowa” out in August, and released a statement along with it, explaining that they would be ceasing to release material as Korallreven. This track gave their goodbye weight, carrying the emotion that a written note could not; it is, for all intents and purposes, an act of closure. 

But “Iowa” is not a sad song- on the contrary, it was also one of the happiest songs I heard all year. It reminds me of one of my favorite television farewells, the final scene of Flight of the Conchords. Bret and Jemaine were deported back to New Zealand and had to revert back to their old professions as shepherds, but they still found ways to do what they love- make music. I presume Joons and Tjader are going to work on other projects now, but of what nature I am unsure. I’m certainly looking forward to it, but I won’t forget Korallreven anytime soon.

Find more information on Korallreven, visit their out-of-date website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Top 10 Songs of 2015: #6 – “Not Enough” by demo taped

19 Dec

demo taped

Slowing making our way through the best songs of this year, we now arrive at number six. Adam Alexander is the very young, yet hyper talented brain behind demo taped, and his track “Not Enough” hit me pretty hard when it came out. I didn’t forget about it, and think it was absolutely one of the best of the year.

The song begins like a dream, or rather a faint memory coming back for the first time in years. Mournful cooing grows until we are completely immersed, then the real journey begins. Each line feels like a lyrical crescendo, with the most emphasis consistently on the final few syllables. The slant rhymes and crashing rhythm drive you right into demo taped’s arms. And the way he delivers those words- he really is “spitting out flowers,” in the sense that everything he says is beautiful.

The video that Alexander made to go along with the track is simple, yet complements the song really well. The elements of the track that make it so impressive are themselves simplistic, and seeing colors warp around filtered photos of flowers is mesmerizing. Alexander’s entire career is mesmerizing, really, and he still has so much ahead of him.

Follow demo taped on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Top 10 Songs of 2015: #8 – Don’t Wanna Fight by Alabama Shakes

17 Dec


Brittany Howard’s wail is pretty famous. Her band’s first hit, Alabama Shakes’ “Hold On,” was fairly popular when it came out and it lives on, used frequently as a transition between stories on NPR. The band released their sophomore LP, Sound & Color, earlier this year, with “Don’t Wanna Fight” as their lead single. The album in itself was an accomplishment, but what I really want to talk about is that beautiful funk ballad.

I will admit that my relationship with Alabama Shakes had at times been rocky. I enjoyed their sound, but their songs sometimes bleed together, and ultimately Boys & Girls never stuck with me. But this year, Alabama Shakes proved to me that they deserved a second chance. “Don’t Wanna Fight” grabs you immediately from that first squeal and keeps you until final the tear-soaked plea to just stop fighting. 

I think what makes “Don’t Wanna Fight” so transcendental is that it is the fight. Laura Marling has a song, “Strange,” which is written similarly, from the perspective of a person directly in the middle of an argument (though Marling technically sings from both perspectives). Marling sings frankly, whereas Howard becomes more and more unsettled as the song progresses. The bassline never changes, but does its job adding to the tension brought on by those emotional lyrics and vocals. To tell the truth, the instrumentation could have come from UMO’s first album, particularly because of that dusty, vintage guitar melody. Really though, Alabama Shakes have simply improved on a classic and simple style of music: soul-fire igniting funk. 

Sound & Color is out now. Find more information about Alabama Shakes on their website, and be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Top 10 Songs of 2015: #10 – Kissing by LUM

16 Dec


The first installment of our Best Of list has earned its spot purely by virtue of being the song I played the most this year. “Kissing” is a multi-faceted song, and every single tiny detail has forced me to play it incessantly.

“Kissing” is a glitchy tune that fills my spirit with some aural ooze, music that I can feel in my core. There are shimmering moments throughout; at one point we hear something I can only describe as a processed glockenspiel riff. This is one of those tracks that puts a grin on my face after I hear just the first few notes, with a lo-fi, attention-stealing intro that easily slides into a gorgeous cacophony by way of an unusual verse. The verses in this track are really more like short quips of commentary, but the more ambiguous, the more relatable, which could be another reason that I cling to it.

One thing most of the tracks I play on infinite repeat have in common is their singability- or how well I can approximate the noises that are lyrics so I can sing along. LUM may not have provided full lyrics like, say, Joanna Newsom, but there are so many audio clips used as part of the beats that it doesn’t matter. I find myself belting “huh huh huh” and “whoooa whoa” with the same enthusiasm as I might have sung “got it got it” last year.

LUM is a Canadian electronic artist on the label Bedroomer, but I have been unable to find many other details about him. He’s got a fairly current Instagram account, but there is only so much I can gather from out-of-context photos. He has a mustache! Other than that, all we have are beats. But if I had to, I could live on those for years.

Track Bedroomer to get updates on new sounds from LUM.

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