Blonde Redhead, Youth Lagoon

Blonde Redhead

BLONDE REDHEAD
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blonde redhead

Blonde Redhead’s noisy, dissonant guitars, alternate tunings, and quiet, stilted lyrics have often been compared to early Sonic Youth. After randomly meeting at an Italian restaurant in New York, Japanese art students Kazu Makino and Maki Takahashi and Italian twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace formed the band in 1993. The name was taken from a song by the ’80s no wave band DNA. With Makino and Amedeo on guitars and vocals, Simone on drums, and Takahashi on bass, the band’s chaotic, artistic rock caught the attention of Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, who produced and released the band’s debut album, Blonde Redhead, on his Smells Like Records label. Shortly after the album’s release, Takahashi left the band. The remaining members continued as a trio, releasing a second album, La Mia Vita Violenta, on Shelley’s label in 1995.

For their 1997 release Fake Can Be Just as Good, recorded for Touch & Go, the trio was joined by guest bass player Vern Rumsey from Unwound. By 1998, the band eliminated bass and scaled back to guitars, drums, and vocals for In an Expression of the Inexpressible. Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons and the Melodie Citronique EP followed two years later. The band’s first for 4AD, Misery Is a Butterfly, was released in spring 2004. For 2007′s 23, the group opted for a mix of dream pop and delicate electronic textures. Three years later, Blonde Redhead returned with Penny Sparkle, a more stripped-down, even more electronic-leaning set of songs the band recorded in New York and Stockholm with Alan Moulder, Van Rivers and the Subliminal Kid.

Trevor Powers, whose stage name is Youth Lagoon, began writing his debut album "The Year of Hibernation" in 2010. Based around the idea of psychological dysphoria, Powers tried to document the trails of his mind through songs of minimalism and hypnotic ambience. Powers later described his writing process as "my mind communicating with me, not the other way around... it can take me to scary places but I've realized those bizarre thoughts I have don't define me." After signing with Mississippi-based label Fat Possum Records in 2011, he toured much of the following year before going back into solitude to write.

"Wondrous Bughouse," Powers' sophomore album, was spawned from what he describes as "becoming more fascinated with the human psyche and where the spiritual meets the physical world." During the time he wrote, Powers became intrigued with the metaphysical universe and blending those ideas with pop music. "Youth Lagoon is something so personal to me because writing music is how I sort my thoughts, as well as where I transfer my fears," explains Powers. "My mental state is usually pretty sporadic... a lot of this record was influenced by a fear of mortality but embracing it at the same time. Realizing that human life is only great because it is temporary. Experimenting with ideas about dimensions. I'm not a gifted speaker, so explaining things is difficult for me. But music always makes sense."

Jamaican Queens

It's tempting to roll your eyes when a band bursts out of the gate boasting their own invented genre label. On their weirdly intoxicating debut album, Wormfood, Detroit duo Jamaican Queens have branded their particular style "Detroit trap pop," but it's a note-perfect description—over nine familiar-yet-strangely-foreign tunes, vocalist/producer Ryan Spencer and producer/instrumentalist Adam Pressley dole out warbled, snot-nosed indie-pop melodies over hip-hop beats (booming 808 snares, whizzing synths), with a gritty, street-level lyrical approach focused on urban violence, drug parties, and social decay.

Crawling Up The Stairs is the second LP from Austin, Texas' Pure X. Made up of principal members Nate Grace, Jesse Jenkins and Austin Youngblood, they stay true to the dense sound they explored on their last album, Pleasure, but add twinkling atmospherics and a new clarity to their carefully cultivated, emotionally heavy songs.

Where Pleasure was built on syrup-slow hooks and a weighty, sexy haze, Crawling Up The Stairs is the sound of Pure X emerging from that humid
cocoon to stare all the screwed up parts of life directly in the face and embrace them. When Grace's voice, cracked and worn, breaks through a fog of downtempo drums and misty guitar on "Someone Else," the pain that used to be visible in his face when he was on stage is pushed to the forefront of their sound, his voice growling and moaning with barely contained anger and apocalyptic worry in anguished falsetto. Crawling isn't a record about escape, it's about

what you do after you've realized that escaping isn't an option and you just have to face the world you live in head on.

Crawling Up The Stairs is an album born from emotional turmoil. For much of 2012, Grace was laid up with a serious leg injury. During the recording period, he had no insurance, no money, and if he ever was going to walk again, he needed to have surgery. Grace had no idea if he'd get the money together, and was consumed with doubt, unable to sleep. After a cathartic but torturous night of insomnia, heavy with world-worry and intermittent nightmares, Grace emerged feeling exhausted and different. Not better or worse, but different. Ready to
heal. Crawling is the result of that. Track by track, Grace, Youngblood and Jenkins—who shares vocal and songwriting duties—drag themselves through a bad year.

As Grace was wrestling with his own demons, Jenkins' was figuring things out as well. On the gorgeous "Thousand Year Old Child," his falsetto hangs over unusually upbeat drum work from Youngblood and perfectly placed synth wines. It's a tricky song—relaxed and happy on the surface, but lyrically, Jenkins is wrestling with getting older and being uncertain about his future, singing, "there is no reason/ to think about time/ sometimes I feel/ I feel like a thousand year old child." A little later, the kicker comes: "up in the morning/ sleep at night/ there is a question/ what am I doing with my life?" It's a universal feeling rendered personal by Jenkins' heartbreakingly spare lyrics.

But Crawling isn't entirely dark. Album closer "All of the Future (All of the Past)" is the record's most optimistic song. As if Grace, Jenkins and Youngblood have

finally emerged from an endless parade of bummer moments with newly optimistic perspectives on life. Grace's guitar glistens and glides across Jenkins' thick bass work and Youngblood's expertly controlled drums, but it's Grace's lyrics that end up laying everything out, making clear that there's a redemptive narrative in this record worth coming back to: "I can see the light/just got to stay alive," Grace sings. It might read as desperate, but Grace, for the first time, sounds confident that they'll make it no matter what.

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Blonde Redhead, Youth Lagoon with Jamaican Queens, Pure X

Sunday, September 22 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Buster's