Friday, December 16th, 2022

Amnesty 2022, Part Three

Pam Ayres smiles on the cover of her 1976 album Some More Of Me Poems & Songs

Our end-of-year celebration continues with a Bollywood hit, some dancefloor operatics and a dash of technopunk. But what else lies in store? And will proceedings extend into a fourth day tomorrow? Stick around to find out.


Darren Hayes – Let’s Try Being In Love


[Video][Website]
[7.50]

Scott Mildenhall: Memetic though it may be, it’s never felt completely clear what is meant by that phrase immortalised by one of this year’s most important TV shows: “gay panic”. But finally, as the layers to this taut, vampish electro banger shed with  ever-increasing fervour, it all begins to make sense. Words, thoughts  and feelings tumble out of Darren Hayes like existential Jenga; decades of pent-up  desire far beyond the physical. Because these are not solely sensual kinetics — they’re ones of agitation. I have waited so long and longed so much that I no  longer know when I am. It’s an overload of articulation, the brain moving too fast for the body, all while the body is convulsing for its own cause. This is love, wanting love; waiting no longer for love. It’s a burst of actualisation.
[9]

Will Adams: “I’m in love with the idea of being in love”: I have been CALLED. OUT. The “Dancing on My Own” sequencer at the opening is a glorious fake-out; what could have been a bog-standard synthpop arrangement unfurls into a heavily percussive groove with cascading arpeggios, more in the realm of Hot Chip. When Hayes leaps into falsetto, I’m sold: he straddles the line between ebullient adoration and self-destructive desperation. As someone now thrust into their 30s with little-to-no experience in this whole Love thing, it’s a lot.
[7]

Ian Mathers: “I’m in love with the idea of being in love” — I’d expect nothing less from the man who gave us The Tension and the Spark years ago. But as the title indicates, maybe he’s trying to feel his way out of this thinking problem he has, and if that leads to more Fischerspooner-esque bangers from a voice that (metaphorically and sonically) doesn’t seem to have aged a day while he’s been gone, then I’m all for it.
[9]

Claire Biddles: Darren Hayes’ schtick is so unchangeable that the vocal track on “Let’s Try Being In Love” sounds like it was recorded without anyone knowing which keyboard preset they were going to whack behind it. Until the rhythmic synergy in the middle eight, this could convincingly be swapped to country, AOR ballad, industrial probably… the performance single-mindedness is admirable! And yet… it’s still pretty good! AND from an album called HOMOSEXUAL! The introspective outro also reminds me a bit of the introspective outro of “To the Moon and Back”, which is no bad thing.
[6]

Alfred Soto: By itself Darren Hayes’ uninhibited whinny would force me to check out, but at once hemmed in and urged on by the Moroder-esque sequencer track it conjures a fantasy of being in love that for once is correct: we’re often in love with love, and more fool you for not recognizing it. How many hands taste like the sea? How many hands should?
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: The synthpop arrangement of “Let’s Try Being in Love” would normally call for a singer in total control of the machine: steely and measured restraint. Darren Hayes is an octave higher and a thousand clouded windows breathier. His presence is infinitely more emotionally wet than the surroundings; the lyric, a desperate reverie of bergamot humidity and sea-tasting hands and dying alone, goes beyond going there. And the effect is exactly what he is singing about.
[9]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Darren Hayes’ voice is mixed in a way where he sounds separated from the dizzying synths. It makes sense given all his talk of artifice, and it’s pretty sly that the climax becomes this simulation of manifested desire, but it takes too long to get there. Please, I am a working man, I don’t have time to wait around for love.
[3]

Nortey Dowuona: I’m ready Darren. The acid is in the Essential. the money is in the trunk. Let’s go Mongolia.
[10]


Indravathi Chauhan & Devi Sri Prasad – Oo Antava Oo Oo Antava


[Video]
[7.33]

Rachel Saywitz: This sharp, sexy coil of a melody wound its way into my mind this January, and through the rest of my 2022. I feel like a bad bitch every time Chauhan’s sweet, seductive call brushes against my ears, playing into my most gratifying desires. The frantic pace of the song’s snake-charming sax-line is a request to let go of my body and tap into the deepest parts of myself. “Will you say yes dear, or will you say no?” goes the title, Chauhan intensifying each repetition of it until the line becomes a burst of pleasure. For me, the answer will always be yes.
[8]

Frank Kogan: In the film clip actor-dancer Samantha is matching steps and wits with a hairy man and his aggressive cigarette smoke; in the music, Indravathi Chauhan is contending with synths that rise like fast-growing tendrils.
[8]

Jessica Doyle: In the first few seconds I was thinking this could shape up to be a great addition to a workout or dance-around-the-house playlist… and then the other three-and-a-half minutes turned out to be just more of the same. That’s far too long a set, or not enough to keep you forgetting that there are still dishes in the sink. One point back for the playful video cameo by playback singer Indravathi Chauhan.
[5]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I think the way the title “Oo Antava Oo Oo Antava” looks is a more beautiful example of hypnotic repetition than what happens in the actual song.
[5]

Ian Mathers: The double-strength climax is so good that it’d be easy to overlook the fact that it’s so good partly in contrast to the lower-key rest of the song. I kind of hate using “sultry” as a descriptor of a song or performance, but here if I don’t I’d just be plugging it into a thesaurus and seeing what pops out. I don’t know a word of Telugu, but you kind of don’t need that to get the vibe.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: I’m just saying, if that tinny synth didn’t already convince you that you’re listening to a classic, the times it return during the chorus should.
[10]


Organ Tapes – Submission


[Video]
[6.17]

Michael Hong: Lately I keep coming back to two things: yeule’s “Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty” and drogas’ teardrop,saidmyname. — both artists’ personas deeply hate themselves and yet, there are inklings of something that shows they wish they didn’t. Not as viscerally, but I get a similar feeling from Organ Tapes’ Tim Zha when he sings, “I did and I didn’t” in reference to saying he would change. I understand it as deeply hating the parts unchanged and wanting to love the parts that did. Like yeule and drogas, Zha finds solace in being the robotic voice, in being Organ Tapes. He contrasts it with a humanly acoustic guitar line, somewhere between a country roads strum and a Midwest emo line. The three artists make their confession, then it’s off the bathroom floor, out of a stuffy bedroom, and away from empty fields. There has to be kindness in the bleakness, otherwise, for us to push on, well, that seems meaningless. Looking for kindness in “Submission” is harder than the other two who refract it in tangible figures, but it’s there. It has to be. That’s why yeule continues surviving; that’s why drogas stops himself from drowning. I’ve been coming back to “Submission” because I’m looking for the answer to whether kindness is in submitting to change or stability, looping it in search of an answer even though I know Zha can’t give me one.
[8]

Leah Isobel: “Falling into submission” — landing right on the tonic — is a graceful, delicate expression, one that the song wisely doesn’t over-embellish. I’m a little tired of this digital smearing effect, though.
[7]

Will Adams: I like to think of this as an inversion of a well-trod concept: what if instead of the vocals up-close and the guitars fuzzy, the vocals were processed to hell and the guitars so acoustic that the plucking really popped in the mix? It’s an intriguing idea, but with barely two minutes of song there’s not enough to really appreciate it.
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: The guitar is light. The vocoder is wilting. The additional acoustic guitar is bright and sharp, then becomes so sharp that it cuts out of the song. When it cuts back in, it drowns out the vocoder so much that its runs turn to wasps smushed against the windshield wipers of the guitar lick. There’s a lot in 118 seconds.
[5]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: On its own it’s perfunctory — nothing but a wispy bedroom emo ballad. But that’s OK, because the best way to hear Organ Tapes’ latest album is to do so on repeat while lying in bed and to let every vignette detail the prismatic nature of depression’s many shades.
[6]

Ian Mathers: Oddly enough, the drowsiness here doesn’t really work for me here with the vocal processing. I think I either need it cranked up into full robot, or pulled back into something with a little more naturalism. “I said I would change/and I did and I didn’t” is a great line though.
[6]


Storefront Church ft. Phoebe Bridgers – Words


[Video][Website]
[5.80]

Ian Mathers: In 2022 I turned 41 years old, and the Duluth trio-turned-duo (now…?) Low have been my favourite band for nearly half that time. That’s not the sort of thing you choose, it’s the sort of thing that happens to you. Low, a band that started at least partly because Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk weren’t sure what they wanted to do with their lives but knew that they wanted to do it together, have been active that entire time. And during that time I have been blessed (word deliberately and specifically chosen, despite being areligious my entire life) not only by the fact that they made maybe the best ever 12th and 13th albums by a band, but that the world seemed to actually notice it. And then. I had never even heard of Storefront Church or Lukas Frank (although I was already a Phoebe Bridgers fan) when Alan shared their cover of the first song on the first Low album on Twitter. Low songs are not, generally speaking, duets in the way we usually mean the term. And I seem to recall someone who knows more of the terminology than I do noting that they don’t usually sing harmony either, which fits with the kind of (w)hol(l)y unison I always felt in their voices. Frank and Bridgers succeed so totally here partly because they don’t try and replicate what was, after all, the product of a personal and creative partnership that lasted more than 30 years. Where the original has an aqueous shimmer and the crystalline austerity that characterized early Low, this “Words” has a kind of aching bombast that would have hit me hard even if it had been released last year. Building from a gently overlapping piano part to a swelling, aching mass — no matter how many times I listen to it, the bit where all the music just stops gets me every time. And the song? If I wasn’t already worried about length I could write you an essay about what this song has meant to me, for decades and right now. Too many words, too many words. There are no words.
[10]

Claire Biddles: After years of finding their discography too intimidating, I finally started listening to Low last year thanks to a thoughtful two-part playlist made by my sweet friend, TSJ colleague and Low megafan Ian. “Words” remains one of my most-played songs from the compilation — one of those drifting enigmas that I still can’t figure out, with two intertwined voices at its centre that feel at once inviting and isolating in their tight togetherness. It’s no secret that I cannot abide Phoebe Bridgers, and especially her need to be present on 1/10 indie releases in any given week, so I was irritated just hearing about this cover. I gave it a chance but as I suspected, the magic present in the original is flattened out into opportunism.
[3]

Leah Isobel: Pretty, but unsubtle — like an Ari Aster movie.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: The piano gets the song started, lilting slowly as it slinks below the soft, resonant voice of Lukas Frank, who croons so softly he fades away even before he beings singing alongside Phoebe, whose firm, velvet voice overpowers and tucks his away, as the piano clusters alongside the curled synthesizers and plucked strings. Phoebe herself slowly rises up to handle the second verse and swipes the song away from Lukas, then patiently tucks him in her pockets close to the mic, allowing them to curl away together as the string instruments swipe slowly across the bed of synthesizers, then cut it away for a moment, allowing both Phoebe and Lukas to rise together. They’re buoyant as the mix rises around them, closing into a globe, the drums pulsing far below, and finally they float away, the keys trailing off into silence.
[7]

Andrew Karpan: Euphoric in all the moments where the original broods, simmers and sinks under your skin, Phoebe’s wintry voice ultimately injects the drama of a Christmas hymn into a text that would be largely confused by this reading. Personally, I do get it, but it’s much too much, too much, too much.
[3]


Sudan Archives – Selfish Soul


[Video][Website]
[8.33]

Leah Isobel: “Hey there,” the text message from my aunt reads. “Your uncle and I were wondering if you’re available for a phone call to talk about a sensitive issue.” It’s the end of August; a hot day. I hope this isn’t about what I know it’s about. “I should be home in 25-30,” I text back. I get in my car, roasting. Sunlight glints on the window. My mom drinks; this is a fact. I turn the key. A month ago, on a family vacation, she drinks a bottle of wine while my dad is asleep and the rest of us complete a jigsaw puzzle. I take the bottle away. In the car, I turn on the air conditioning. When I’m 14, she goes out with her friend to a gay bar; her “tr*nny waitress” pours strong drinks, and she vomits at 8pm. I turn past the park, yuppies running with their dogs. I want it to rain. In 2020, just before the pandemic, I get a call from her. “Hi, I’m driving home and I’m a little bit drunk,” she says. “I’m talking to you so I can stay focused!” In 2022, I have a review code for Sudan Archives’ Natural Brown Prom Queen. Every song is good, but until release, the album is locked to a stupid proprietary app that requires a data connection; I can’t download it all to my phone, I can’t listen to the full record in my car. But “Selfish Soul,” an advance single, is on Apple Music. I blast that shit as loud as I possibly can. The bass rattles my spine; the handclaps leave my ears ringing. “If I grow it long,” Brittney Parks sings, “Am I good enough? Am I good enough?” Her voice is loose, carefree; her words are tight, loaded. I haven’t had a drink since the spring. It wasn’t a conscious decision until, suddenly, it was. When I drink, I feel out of control; loud, joyful, funny, difficult, close to the bone or something. My mom is a loud, joyful, funny, difficult person. She admires my hair, doesn’t know where it came from. I grew it out so that she — so that everyone — would start to recognize me. On “Selfish Soul,” Parks whispers, “When it’s gone, just don’t act surprised.” She repeats, “I don’t want no struggles/ I don’t want no fears.” She cheers herself on; her harmonies paint the horizon gold and lavender; her violin lines buzz and skitter and swoop. Handclaps detonate like landmines. If I say what I’m thinking, I draw a line between me and everyone else; so instead, I strategize and equivocate and give ground. I move carefully. I define myself when no one is looking. I melt in the sunshine of another’s gaze. My mom drinks; I do not challenge. Unless I do. Don’t act surprised.
[9]

Michael Hong: An entangling of Sudan Archives and culture that sees her as part of the culture, as culture, and as an individual outside of it. Consider the central question in the chorus of “Selfish Soul”: “am I good enough?” she quickly remarks. It sounds like a generalized feeling of inadequacy until you consider the context and take in the questions of the verses as she ponders what others see her hair as saying versus what she wants her hair to say. She meets it with bouncy bass that acts as a celebration of that culture, a parade, even if, or perhaps, because no real answer arises, then zips a violin melody through, landing specificity back on her voice and sound.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: When the churning bass and the crushed, smudged drums click together, Sudan Archives can step astride them and ride forward to the muddy, candy 808 kicks thrashing. She sighs and walks away, keeping her violin aloft, playing it to the muddy kicks, which slowly lurch out of their muddy snares and follow her over a cliff.
[8]

Rachel Saywitz: With the way she transmogrifies her violin playing into a new, reverberating, celestial sound, I’ve always felt that Sudan Archives’ music has a transporting quality to it — her debut studio album Athena (one of my favorite albums of 2019) was a mythical and other-worldly trip. “Selfish Soul,” and the album its off — Natural Brown Prom Queen — brings you closer to the ground, reliant on playground chants and a double-tapping rhythm that sounds like a game of hopscotch. Brittney Parks’ verses ramble like an ongoing thought, but with enough of a bounce that you can still follow along. And while most of “Selfish Soul” is grounded in reality both musically and lyrically, there are still moments where Parks’ violin does transcend in rippling, echoing glissandos, eager to offer even just a glimpse of what life could be like beyond the chalk-covered blacktop. 
[9]

Ian Mathers: Reverb like she found the abandoned grain silo My Morning Jacket used to use, a bass that keeps feeling like it’s about to crack the track open, little flourishes of violin, a clapping rhythm that makes me want to jump up… I’ve been meaning to check out the new Sudan Archives (an artist the jukebox introduced me to!) for literally months now, and clearly I have erred by not shuffling it to the top of the pile a lot earlier.
[8]

Andrew Karpan: While I imagine that the sharp bass riffs and insistent declarations of self-care were what gave the record its “breakthrough” quality for the XMU radio programmers and indie rock bloggers, respectively, who decided this year to elevate Sudan Archives a few notches up on the industry pike, it remains her gracefully perfect violin work that sticks with me. Performing the song on her first-ever TV appearance, she jams this out into a lost folk melody that elevates the message into an almost religious chant. What if these were indeed the answers, hidden deep within the archives?
[8]


Maelstrom and Louisahhh – If I Could Hold


[Video]
[7.60]

Katherine St Asaph: Maelstrom and Louisahhh’s label, RAAR, describes itself as “punk for techno heads, techno for punks“; to this, I’d add EBM and, especially, electroclash. These are not subtle genres, and “If I Could Hold” hits huge from the start. Then comes a hook carved intact, massive and perfect out of a cliff of self-destructive and self-propulsive lust: “If I could hold light in my hand, I’d give it to you, you’d outshine it; if I could hold your love in my mouth, I’d never think what I’m living without.” In a less healthy but more electric world, this would be immortal.
[9]

Frank Kogan: Like the sexy affected vocals and the electronic clank of reverberating loneliness.
[6]

Ian Mathers: For a song that feels mostly like stentorian declamation over strict machines, it’s intriguing that the things they consider holding are “light in my hands” and “your love in my mouth”; it’s a love song from someone who maybe doesn’t trust themselves, or you, or bodies. But if you can hear the “good, good ache” in the stomping, pulsing production and those vocals, you’re probably already on their wavelength.
[9]

Nortey Dowuona: I, for one, welcome our new white allies. If they all have drums this hard.
[10]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Unfortunately, if you make an EBM song and it isn’t cool or all-consuming or like piercing shrapnel, the veil is removed and you just sound like a bunch of dorks (derogatory).
[4]

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One Response to “Amnesty 2022, Part Three”

  1. these header images are incredible. god bless <3

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