Hearing Françoise Hardy’s magnificent “Voilà” in Netflix’s The End Of The Fucking World got me thinking about Dirty Beaches, the former moniker of Alex Zhang Hungtai, who sampled the song in “Lord Knows Best,” a highlight of his breakout album Badlands. It’s an LP I was obsessed with back in the day, and while its sample-centric shtick feels a little more shallow when revisiting it these days, I have to admit that I’m still enthralled by Hungtai’s aesthetic of smoky, degraded ’60s pop. For my money, the track that nails it as neatly as the album’s artwork—a profile shot of Hungtai, engulfed in shadow with slicked-back hair and cigarette smoke pouring out of his mouth—is still “True Blue,” an elegiac, jangling slow burn built around a sample of The Ronettes’ “Keep On Dancing.” While his voice is present across the whole album, this is the closest Hungtai comes to actual era-appropriate pop star panache, borrowing liberally from “Be My Baby” and boldly dropping in some well-placed falsetto. It’s no wonder the guy managed to work his way into a Roadhouse performance on Twin Peaks, playing sax with David Lynch’s son, no less. [Matt Gerardi]
I got an out-of-the-blue recommendation from a co-worker a few weeks ago to check out the new album by Typhoon, that recommendation based on a mutual love of Scottish sad sacks Frightened Rabbit. He was spot-on: Typhoon’s epic new Offerings is right up my melancholy-music alley. A concept album about losing your memory, it’s not exactly light listening, but it’s both well considered and rendered. Dense with both guitars and words, it’s not background listening: On “Rorschach,” singer-mastermind Kyle Morton combines ’90s indie crunch—think darker Death Cab or even Seam—with harrowing lines like, “And I’m trying to stay sane / Meanwhile, the river of forgetfulness starts spilling the banks.” It also turns out that Typhoon has been around for a while—under my radar completely—so there’s a back catalog of several albums that I can now dive into. [Josh Modell]
There’s this tone that certain songs hit, a frantic, nocturnal energy. “The Rat” by the Walkmen has it; “Lust For Life” has it, as does “Born Slippy” and “Sympathy For The Devil.” A lot of times it’s “rock” music, but not always—it can pop up anywhere, this strange frayed-wire intensity that’s almost filmic in its energy. Critics used to talk about “night bus” a few years back as a way to describe the broad variety of quiet music built around interstitial places—headphones music for a long ride home. The stuff I’m talking about is its opposite, or its dark twin, paranoid and totally alive.
Anyway, whatever this weird sub-sub-genre I’m describing is, it’s “Blue Train Lines,” off last year’s excellent Mount Kimbie record Love What Survives. The record’s rangy and hard to pin down, but here, driven by King Krule’s inimitable bleeding-throated rap, things coalesce into a shaky-cam breakdown, all nervous drums and blinding highway-light synthesizers. Recommended as background music next time you’re chasing someone down a train track. [Clayton Purdom]