Since I seem to have been stuck in an ’80s rut lately, I thought I’d highlight two tracks from releases that have actually come out this year.
Naturally, the first thing I can think to do is compare one of them to an act that some people think peaked in the ’80s. Je Suis France is many things (and many people: nine, in fact), but one thing they are is a band enamored of noisy, obnoxious repetition for its own sake (not unlike a certain rotating band of Mancunians, perhaps including your granny on bongos, led by one Mark E. Smith). They mix that with a bunch of other things: an indie-ish insouciance, a love of swirling electronics and piston-like beats derived from krautrock, and a willingness to improvise live that perhaps wins them converts amongst fans of j** b***s (warding off the baleful influence there). “Whalebone” is eight and a half minutes of all that. I like it – especially loud. You may not. (Je Suis France clearly comes from the gauntlet-throwing-down school of album sequencing: Afrikan Majik begins with a sixteen-minute song built on a single chord. Paging Sister Ray…)
A bit harder to pin down – moody, quiet sometimes, ever-so-slightly experimentally textural at others – Elk City will probably get a fair amount of press because one of its members is Sean Eden (formerly of Luna), but he isn’t the main songwriter, and if you didn’t read credits you probably wouldn’t know that he’s in the band. More notable is singer and songwriter Renee LoBue, whose smoothly frosty but expressive voice is the band’s most distinctive component. I think “Cherries in the Snow” is the most immediately appealing song here, but several others are beginning to work their way into my consciousness as well. (Bonus Milwaukee content: ex-Lovely Barb Endes plays bass and sings backing vocals.)