The backstory on this album is a doozy…
School of Seven Bells formed back in 2007 when twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza from On!Air!Library! shared an opening bill for Interpol with Secret Machines and met Benjamin Curtis from Secret Machines. The trio eventually left their respective bands to form School of Seven Bells. They released some singles and their debut album “Alpinisms” came out in 2008. They had some success with their debut and by the time they released their second album two years later, it debuted in the Billboard Top 10 Electronic Albums chart. During that tour in 2010, Claudia left the band and her sister Alejandra and Curtis who had been a couple, broke up. That would be enough to end most bands, but no, the duo kept moving along. They released a third album in 2012 which also cracked the Top 10 Electronic Albums chart. Then early in 2013 Curtis announced he had lymphoma. By the end of the year, Curtis had passed away at the age of 35. A few months after that, Deheza released a School of Seven Bells cover of Joey Ramone’s “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)” that was recorded while Curtis was in the hospital. The two had remained very close friends after they stopped dating.
It turns out their 4th album was nearly finished around the time Curtis got sick. Deheza initially had no desire to finish the work to complete the album, she wasn’t in a good place and still grieving Curtis’ death. However, last year she moved out from NY to LA and started work on completing the album with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (who’s worked with Beck and M83). Even though “SVIIB” finally came out recently more than two years after Curtis’ death, he still played a prominent role since most of the work had been completed prior to his demise. In fact, only one track “Confusion” was written after his diagnosis, and it was the last song they worked on together. The album is all about Deheza and Curtis’s relationship. She had the intention from the beginning that she wanted to chronicle their time together. She never actually told Curtis this, but the songs trace the whole arc of their relationship. Deheza stated that during the time they had been working on the album it was one of the happiest times in their lives. That explains why there is so much joy and positivism in most of the tracks. The album stands well on its own given any context, but when you listen to it given what actually transpired it elevates everything up to a whole different level. This album serves as a celebration and remembrance of not only Curtis as a person, but of the decade both of them spent together and the influence they had on each other’s lives.
The three cuts below represent 33% of the album. I won’t tell you where they’re placed on the album, you can listen to the lyrics and see if you can guess for yourself (or just look up the track listing online if you need to know).
“On My Heart” – Classic electronic sound as this track starts up. Deheza’s vocals provide a great accompaniment to the music as waves of synthesizers pulse in the background of the verses. Her singing of “with me your love stays” is the main hook on this track, as it repeats over and over in the latter part of the song.
“Open Your Eyes” – I hear some elements of The Knife in the music part of this track. Knowing how this album transpired, the chorus tugs at the heart. Plus, it’s extremely catchy and it will get stuck in your head. This track is one of the few melancholic ones on the album.
“Signals” – This is hardest hitting cut on the album, showing more of a dance groove. Alejandra’s vocals take on a singing/rap cadence during the verses, hitting right on the beat. This song also features some majestic sounding synthesizers and some nice vocal processing during the choruses. You can also hear some elements of M83 in this song (no doubt from the producer).
TheGuardian.com has ranked the band “White” as the band of the week. The young band performed at the Great Escape festival and was instantly a great hit. Their band consists of lead singer Leo Condie, guitar player Hamish Fingland, guitar player Chris Potter, bass player Lewis Andrew, and drum player Kirsten Lynn. White’s hit single, Future Pleasures, was their debut single as well. It makes allusions to great things of the past and present. You hear a thrilling guitar funk sound that dwells on the disco pop music of bands like Haircut 100 and Spandau Ballet. With all the familiarity in their music, it makes it one of the better debut singles to come from a Glaswegian band.
The members of White already have some experience with success. The lead singer, Leo Condie, previously recorded an album way back in 2009 with Malcolm Ross of the Low Miffs. The track was entitled “The Man Who Took on Love and Won.” The other members of White were previously in a band called “Kassidy,” which was apparently a band that flopped quickly. Some critics say the band members were just too young to take the band seriously. But now just a year ago, they all became part of White with Leo Condie and are finally experiencing success for the first time.
White is currently growing in popular with both music streaming online and live performances around the world. They have already coming out with a second single called “Living Fiction,” which is set to be released at the end of the summer. A lot of fans wonder why the band members chose the name “White.” Even though it may seem a bit provocative, it is a reflection of the color of each band member. White has not released any kind of mission statement or particular direction they plan on going. They just want to make people dance and think about their songs and music. It is their dream to work with producers like Stuart Price and Brian Eno. In the meantime, they are trying to define their music the best they can. White keeps straddling between older-type music and more modern stuff. Music lovers of today have tastes for all kinds of music, whether it is the type that reminds them of the past or new age stuff. When you listen to them play it is like listening to a band from the 1980s that have modern day thoughts and ideas. We will definitely be seeing more of them in the future.
A quick pre-holiday email this week…
Ryan Adams has been writing songs and playing in bands since he was 15 years old. His first band was a noisy, punk band, but he yearned to do something more melodic and he formed Whiskeytown when her was 20. Whiskeytown had great critical acclaim, but it was a tumultuous 5 year, 3 album run before they called it quits. Adams then went the solo route, with an alt-country sound and he earned immediate acclaim as well with his first solo album “Heartbreaker”. Adams has always been a prolific songwriter, he’s cranked out about 16 albums in 15 years as a solo artist. A year after his first album was released, he had written and recorded enough material for four albums. These 60 tracks were culled down to 13 for his second album “Demolition”. Adams continued to crank out albums over the years, and also starting working as a producer for other artists, including Fall Out Boy and Jenny Lewis.
This summer Adams announced he was recording and releasing a cover album of Taylor Swift’s “1989” (with her blessing). This album came out at the end of September. It’s an interesting experiment, pairing Swift the songwriter with Adams’ musicianship. He has an interesting take on her music, obviously with a different musical orientation. So I’m including a couple of his covers of big singles from Swift’s “1989”. If you’re intrigued, check out the entire album. Hopefully this endeavor nets Adams a few more fans who would have never listened to him otherwise.
“Blank Space” – Adams definitely takes on a melancholy sound on his take of “Blank Space”. I like his subdued approach and how he handles the chorus on this track. The sparse instrumentation, mostly his acoustic guitar, provide a very different backdrop than the original song.
“Style” – Adams brings everything up for this track, but with a different take than Swift’s. He does his own type of bombast, but it’s all guitars, bass and drums. He kind of sounds like another Adams on this track, Bryan Adams. I like what he did with this song though.
Floating Points, whose real name is Sam Shepherd, is known for being a great DJ. But he is also considered a different kind of DJ because he uses classical and jazz music instead of the common hip hop and rap. In fact, his first full length debut features a suite of songs that were all improvised and feature classical and jazz in them. If you are familiar with the works of Caribou and Four Tet then you will appreciate the meditative quality that comes from Shepherd’s music.
Floating Points new album “Elaenia” is said to contain songs with many different ideas and themes coming from them that the listener will always hear something new unraveled. Some might say this will make it difficult for listeners to stay committed to the music. However, they will be completely lost in the sound that it will wrap around them like a blanket.
The track called “Nespole” contains gradually intensifying saxophone sounds while there is a whole 10 minutes of freeform jazz, drums and flashes of strings. This combination of tunes creates music that is both romantic and suspenseful at the same time. As the listener keeps going forward to the next track in the album, each one will cleverly move into the next. This is even true in the middle of the chaotic final track of the album called “Peroration Six.” It contains a repetitive Middle C that sparks emotional feelings in the listener and keeps them listening right up until the very end.
Elaenia is actually the name of a beautiful little South American bird. Floating Points named the album Elaenia because the musical tracks are beautiful and impossible to keep contained in a cage. In other words, the music has such a powerful effect that it will touch the entire world and not just be confined to one type of music lover. That is why if you aren’t a fan of classical or jazz then you will still fall in love with the musical tracks on Elaenia. It has a special power to attract people and keep their attention right from the first track until the last.
Sam Shepherd is a young musician from the United Kingdom that has quickly made a name for himself throughout the world. He is not to be confused with the older playwright and Oscar nominated actor named Sam Shepherd, who recently got arrested on a DUI charge. The young musician Sam Shepherd likely goes by the name Floating Points in order to clearly stand out from the actor with the same name.
Lana Del Rey is a young singer who has achieved a lot in her mere 30 years in this world. But what makes her songs so popular? Some people say it is her voice while others say it is the lyrics of her songs. Many people have tried to sort through the symbolism, references and overall meaning of her songs, and they all take away something different from it. But when you try to decode the lyrics of Lana Del Rey’s songs, you’ll notice that she likes to use the word “daddy” quite a bit.
The people from the website “The Verge” have decided to really examine Del Rey’s lyrics and get to the bottom of their meaning. They have already created a brilliant interactive map of all the words that she uses in her songs. What this interactive map has revealed is a connection between the words and phrases she uses the most. The word “daddy” can be heard in fifteen of her songs, while only three of her songs have the phrase “pale moonlight.” Do you think this has any significance or is this just some rumor trying to insinuate something about Del Rey? The true fans of Del Rey will tell you that her lyrics will have a different meaning for everybody. She probably didn’t intend on her lyrics ever being decoded by anybody. After all, she is not some music spy who is trying to deliver subliminal messages in her songs. Del Rey is just a talented singer who is singing from her heart. It is up to her fans and other music lovers to decide what those lyrics mean to them.
Lana Del Rey, formally known as Lizzie Grant, will be releasing her fourth studio album this month which is entitled “Honeymoon.” Fans of Del Rey are already praising the artist for this album based on the samples they have already heard. If you are interested in getting your copy of the album on disc or digital stream you can go to Amazon, or a number of other online retail outlets. Del Rey is bound to continue to produce entertaining songs that will bring her new fans while keeping her current fans. As for the “daddy” debate, it doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Many people that listen to songs care more about the beat and rhythm than the actual lyrics themselves. Those who are decoding her lyrics will eventually come to terms with that.