After all the hype had died down, and they’d played the last show of an extensive international tour, the members of Future Islands must have found themselves in an insecure place. In March 2014, the band’s popularity boomed all at once thanks largely to a breakthrough moment — their ecstatic performance of “Seasons (Waiting on You)” on The Late Show with David Letterman — and the subsequent internet craze that this moment spawned. By mid-2015, however, I imagine the natural uncertainties of being a band post-15 minutes of fame had set in. Would Future Islands be forever remembered as that band that played on Letterman? What could lay ahead for them now that their big moment of mainstream attention had come and gone?
What has remained constant throughout James Blake’s career — from his basically instrumental, sample-heavy, early E.P.s, to the steady turn toward full-scale R&B documented by his two studio albums — is that he has always seemed to be an artist in the process of evolving. For this reason, I was surprised when I turned on “Modern Soul,” a song Blake debuted on BBC1 last week. A possible selection from his forthcoming studio album Radio Silence, the song would have seemed right at home on Blake’s more recent L.P., 2013’s Overgrown. Like so much of Overgrown, “Modern Soul” is piano based and melodic, but also features electronic instrumentation and distortion. All is set to the background by Blake’s soulful baritone, sounding great, but pretty much the same as ever.
“The better and better I get at what I do, the younger and younger I am… when I made Graduation I was six years old… when I made 808s I jumped to five years old… then the Taylor Swift thing happened right and I had to grow back up and I delivered what could be considered my most… perfected work and I had to turn to like a seven year old… I almost reached 10, I almost reached 10 years old when I did Dark Fantasy… and then when I went to Yeezus like I kinda got back to under five like four-and-a-half and now I’m mentally, completely, three years old… but don’t let me get proper money support backing and put my work out and let the earth speak back to it, I’m going to be two-and-a-half years old, by the time I’m like fifty I’m going to be one, and by the time I’m dead I’m going to be zero.”
Kanye West said this as a guest on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast back in November 2013. Listening to the full interview, one hears a characteristically exuberant Kanye basking in the glow of his recent critical success, Yeezus. Originally, opinions on Yeezus had been more mixed. In the months immediately following its early summer release, a vocal minority of reviewers criticized the lyrics on Yeezus for their sloppiness and their frequent lapses into nonsense and needless offensiveness. Indeed Kanye must have been feeling some of this backlash even in November, as later on in the Easton Ellis Interview he used his Peter Pan-ism to justify what are arguably the most odious lyrics on Yeezus: “Eatin’ Asian pussy, all I need was sweet and sour sauce.” The criticisms, however, were soon drowned out by the far more abundant praise.
New York-based nonprofit The Moth treated Ithacans to a Saturday evening of true stories told live, and I was lucky enough to be there, sitting in the orchestra section of The State Theater. As a long time listener to The Moth’s highly subscribed-to podcast and someone who has therefore been informed innumerable times during the podcast’s opening that “since its launch in 1997, The Moth has presented thousands of stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide,” it felt great to finally be seeing the spectacle in person. Given the intimate nature of The Moth’s platform, it is not uncommon for stories to inspire tears at one moment and laughter in the next, from tellers and listeners alike. The Moth never fails to keep its audience engrossed from start to finish, and Saturday night’s event was no exception. Storytellers spoke of experiences ranging from the relatable (being a child and constructing something marvelous in your backyard) to the totally unexpected (being a punk-rocker, and having your heart melted while serving jury duty).
Porches frontman Aaron Maine seems to have spent the past couple of years enjoying, like so many of us, a great run of ’80s synthpop inspired indie records. His latest release Pool bears heavily the mark of their influence. I began listening to Porches in 2014 after (unfortunately) missing their Fanclub Collective show at Watermargin. At the time, the band was promoting Slow Dance in The Cosmos — a lo-fi pop/indie rock ode to melancholy punctuated by moments of high energy and lyrical hilarity (see “Headsgiving,” “Fog Fog,” “Jesus Universe”). At the time, the band both exemplified and exceeded much of what I would have expected from a band touring the basement scene/small venue circuit.