The good ship Arbiter is setting out on brave new seas, and in response to the conch’s call, a hardy crew has assembled.
Reviews, essays and all manner of creativity from this lovely lot will be appearing before you even know it. However, before we get to all of that, it seems pertinent to introduce you to each of them. Over the course of the next few weeks, we’re going to feature a handful of these freshly plucked writers/artists/creators, giving them to chance to spin a few words in order to give you a sense of their individual niches within the grand, Technicolor Arbiter of Taste pillow-fort we’re building.
They’re picking their Top 5 moments of 2013 thus far, plucking the ripest fruit from the tallest branches of everything this spectacular year has offered up so far. An embarrassment of riches has been piled up in near-all musical climes over the last eight months, and so the intention is that – as well as an opportunity for a meet-and-greet – these short lists will be a handy guide for all and sundry within our present Cave of Wonders
Are you sitting comfortably?
1. A WINGED VICTORY FOR THE SULLEN STARTING TO RECORD AGAIN/ ANNOUNCING A UK TOUR
Classical composer, Dustin O’Halloran, and former Stars of the Lid man (and ambient pro), Adam Wiltzie, got together back at the beginning of 2011 to form their inconspicuous little super-group and produce an album of the sort of sparse, pensive neoclassical that would have probably been overlooked if it weren’t for a brilliant review on Drowned In Sound. Thankfully it wasn’t, and now the duo have just announced a UK tour, new music and collaboration with Royal Ballet resident director Wayne McGregor.
2. RHYE – WOMAN
On YouTube you can find a video of Rhye frontman Mike Milosh, in the shadows as ever, crooning lovesick album highlight ‘Open’ to a lone female fan sat on his living room floor. About as graspable as the man himself, Rhye’s music is the sort of RnB that’s not entirely sure of itself – the sort of RnB you can listen to in your living room – and Woman is far too preoccupied with being a pristinely executed love letter of an LP to really care.
3. APPARAT – KRIEG UN FRIEDEN
Apparat, aka Sascha Ring, was approached in 2012 by German theatre director Sebastian Hartmann with lofty task of soundtracking a stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and out came Krieg und Frieden. A forty-five minute landscape of rangy drone, interspersed with Ring’s haunting vocal lines and all these whirs and clicks and little cuts of desolation don’t make for the easiest listening, but so far as atmosphere goes, Krieg und Frieden is a near-perfect exercise in scope and continuity.
4. KANYE WEST SUGGESTING THE 2ND VERSE ON ‘NEW SLAVES’ IS THE BEST EVER
5. WHP LINE-UPS
So far as big events go, once the festival season is done with and the only place it’s worth being is inside, Warehouse Project is the where everything laptop-made is at. What with their relatively new venue (with some ridiculous 5000 capacity) and a series of line-ups which include a Four Tet and Caribou curated night (sold out), a Modeselektor curated night and Flylo, Rustie, Jamie XX and John Talabot at a single event.
I love a bit of scandal. Nothing rocks my boat better than some juicy goss about our favourite artists. Whether it’s Yeezy proclaiming himself a god, or Miguel performing a near fatal drop-kick at the Grammys, the music world will always bring us plenty to talk about, and 2013 has been no exception. So, it seems only right that I list the top 5 most scandalous moments of the year so far. I’m talking about those head-turning, OMG moments that had us screaming at our various screens.
1. BEYONCÉ & LIP-GATE
During the inauguration of President Barack Obama’s second term, Beyoncé gave a ‘belting’ performance of the national anthem. Yet, moments after the Texan superstar had hit that last note, the Internet went into over-drive as many doubted whether Beyoncé sang live. For nearly 3 days, the mystery of Lip-gate stole headlines with everyone from the White House to Jennifer Lopez and a marine spokesman being dragged into the debate. At one point, even Pavarotti found himself in the did she/didn’t she palaver. Alas, at the Superbowl Conference, Beyoncé confirmed the rumours, admitting that she did lip-sync due to lack of practice. However, we all know who got the last laugh. Quick to put the haters in their place, Queen B gave a special a capella rendition of ‘Star Spangled Banner’ for the press, then later stunned the world with her 14 minute power-house half-time set at the Super Bowl which brought the lights down. Literally. All hail Queen B!
2. CHRIS BROWN, PLEASE STAND UP!
Chris Brown reached new lows of douchetude when he refused to applaud Frank Ocean’s win at the Grammy’s last February. jpg and gif-galore in the immediate wake of the awards night saw Chris Brown sitting bitter after losing the Best Contemporary Album to the ‘Pyramids’ singer. While the star-filled audience gave Ocean a standing ovation, Brown failed to play the gracious loser.
The sit-down protest marked the climax of an on-going feud with Ocean that had started two weeks prior. The feud started when the two singers knuckled heads outside a recording studio in Los Angeles, after Ocean allegedly refused to shake Brown’s hand – “oooosh”. Luckily no one pressed charges, but there is no doubt someone’s pride was hurt. Twice. [UPDATE: Frank Ocean’s cousin is suing Brown for unspecified damages. More power to him.]
3. ROBIN THICKE AND HIS ‘BLURRED LINES’
He may have the hit of the summer but Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines has left feminists appropriately apoplectic for its misogynistic lyrics and raunchy video. With two versions available (the naked and slightly less naked version), the video sees Robin Thicke crooning after the scantily – clad models in his attempts to “liberate” them. Some, like Tricia Romano, suggest that the video, with its lyrics, seems quite ‘rapey’ and trivializes sexual consent. Thicke, on the other hand, argued that the video is tongue-in-cheek with its outrageous props, including an oversized needle and a baby lamb*.
In fact, the singer recently claimed the song was a feminist movement in itself, arguing that the song is supposed to stir up conversation about the relationship between men and women [citing the lyric: “That man is not your maker” – begging the questions: 1) that man or men at large? 2) Why deliberately confuse the diction that grounds your feminist argument with Jamaica? 3) And just how much were those preposterous balloons?] Although I am not totally sold on Thicke’s ‘feminist movement’ line, I am very sure we will be talking about (and singing) Blurred Lines for a while.
*(Just to clarify the needle in question is not used on the lamb. The needle is completely plastic. No animals were harmed during the making of the video.)
4. MILEY CYRUS JUST CAN’T STOP… please Miley, just stop.
Another video that has risen more than a few eyebrows is Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Cant Stop’. Graduating from her Disney days, the video sees Cyrus gyrating, twerking (yes I said twerking) and giving her best impression of a Rude Gal. Girl-on-doll action and oversized teddy bears galore, the video draws on Cyrus’ real life party experiences. But many are not happy with this new rock and roll lifestyle. Parents of the tween generation have cried out against the pop star, suggesting that her on-screen antics set a bad example for her younger fans, while others have taken privy to the alleged MDMA drug referencing.
In defence, Cyrus maintained that the intention of the video was to show a different side to her personality and was made all in good fun. Yet, with the release of an even raunchier Director’s Cut edition, the ‘We Can’t Stop’ video will continue to split audiences. Though, I won’t lie, I am grateful to Cyrus for showing white girls everywhere that twerking is not out of bounds.
5. TMZ’S DEAD WRONG ABOUT LIL WAYNE
Concluding our list of scandals is TMZ’s ominous coverage of Lil Wayne’s health scare earlier this March. The entertainment news outlet reported that Lil Wayne was in a critical condition and receiving his last rites, after suffering seizures while on a video shoot. However, Lil Wayne’s posse were quick to discredit TMZ’s report, tweeting moments after the story broke that Lil Wayne was indeed alive. To top it off, the man himself tweeted to his fans that he was fine and well.
Although the last-rites portion of the story was (very quietly) dropped, TMZ have found themselves in the dog house within the hip-hop community. Lil Wayne fans and rappers Mack Main and TI have expressed their sentiments towards the media outlet with a series of expletive deletes. So it’s safe to say, TMZ won’t be making this mistake again anytime soon.
1. JON HOPKINS – ‘OPEN EYE SIGNAL’
Hopkins has put together one of the stand-out, complete electronic records of the year so far and ‘Open Eye Signal’ is just one of the highlights – the video, chosen here is this awesome 8-minute cinematic journey following a dude exploring some cool locales on a skateboard…what’s not to love. Production sounds fresh and when I saw Mister Hopkins perform live earlier this year, his material is just as captivating.
2. MIKAL CRONIN – MCII
Is he simply another San Fran psych-stoner or the real deal? The music press seems to have divided him in this way, yet he’s neither completely one nor the other in my opinion. After cutting his teeth for a number of years as the bassist in Ty Segall’s band, Mikal Cronin’s sophomore record MCII has proven to be one of the most simple, effective and fun records of 2013 so far. No expert production, no complicated song structures, no game-changing sonic experiences, just great, life-affirming 3-minute pop songs. Sometimes you just want that, that’s why Mikal’s made my list.
3. CHIC – WEST HOLTS, GLASTONBURY
It’s been a golden year for Nile Rodgers, thanks to his production and songwriting talents on Daft Punk’s mega-hit ‘Get Lucky’. His performance with Chic at Glastonbury was not only a major highlight of the biggest British music festival, but it also felt like it doubled up as a great personal celebration for Mr Rodgers’ successful career as funk-master-general.
4. MY BLOODY VALENTINE – MBV
Loveless changed my outlook on music, so the return of My Bloody Valentine and the release of mbv earlier this year was always going to be special, whether it was deemed to be disappointing musically or not. Being one of the most divisive rock bands of all time, it seems apt that people are almost exactly split on whether they think MBV have delivered or not on mbv…for me that question is irrelevant- they’re back and feel perhaps more relevant than they must have in the early nineties, given the prevalence of shoe-gaze copyists who have attempted to emulate Kevin Shields’ wall of noise with relative degrees of success in the past decade…and to notice that although it’s been 20 years nobody has been able to effectively recreate the sonic palate Shields achieves with Loveless and showcases again with mbv.
5. PARQUET COURTS – SXSW
4 guys playing crappy instruments with crappy effects, singing about being stoned and starving just seemed to hit the spot in March this year. 10 songs in 25 minutes can never be bad, right?