Quick Hits Volume 4: Bahamas, White Laces, Benjamin Booker, Flying Lotus
Quick Hits is a column where I share my occasionally coherent thoughts on (relatively) new releases.
Bahamas – “All the Time”
“All the Time” starts off unassuming enough. Gentle acoustic guitar picking, a steady rhythm with fluttering hi-hats, backed by coos and aahs. And, for some reason, a squelching two note bass line. It’s the last thing you’d expect here, but it takes what could have easily been a trifling breeze of a song and gives it an unusual edge. Something is clearly not right with this picture. “I’ve got all the time in the world/Don’t you want some of that?” The call and response vocals take on the demented quirkiness that modern indie rock loves to affect when stealing from R&B and hip-hop. Then the lead guitar screams in and the picture is set. At first a simple slide line stating the melody, layers are carefully poured on, precision-placed muted clucks next to frantic spirals of distortion, weaving together to form a lattice around the squelching bass grid. Bahamas’ previous album showed an artist content to bask in lilting amiability, but here we have contentedness laced with nervous energy and a foreboding but hopeful darkness. Unfortunately the rest of the album reverts to Jack Johnson-esque beach-side-front-porch pickin’ (fellow single “Stronger Than That” being the notable exception), but it’s hard to take exception when an artist can hit at least one song this far out of the park.
White Laces – “Nothing Clicks”
Richmond’s White Laces make the kind of new wave-y shoegaze I typically approach with some kind of combination of shrug, eye-roll, and a half-hearted attempt at an open minded listen. These guys are different though. Their first album was a strong debut showing a knack for making insidiously sticky hooks out of piercing guitar lines, elongated choruses, and reverb applied in heaping spoonfuls. “Nothing Clicks” is one of our first looks at their much anticipated sophomore effort, Trance, and like the first single “Skate Or Die” it’s probably the best song they’ve put out yet. The building blocks are more of the same, swirling synths are laid down as a canvas before a trebly guitar melody gets bowled over by a sure-footed drum beat barreling down as frontman Landis Wine languidly pours out reverbed vocals. Meanwhile the bass line alternates between self churning propulsion system and loping counter melody to top off the concoction. The sound is familiar, but it’s executed so well and fucked with in just the right places to sound fresh and suggest that the band is ready to take a big step forward with their next record.
Benjamin Booker – “Have You Seen My Son?”
Punk and blues have always felt like kindred spirits to me. Bare bones frameworks that allow raw expression to trump technical proficiency. In lesser hands it degrades to aggressiveness or traditionalism trumping songcraft. There’s no shortage of bands in their garages and bedrooms trying to wrangle these inspirations into something that resembles what came before, but if you haven’t put in the work to develop your voice (as in songwriting, not vocals), if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, the whole purpose is lost. Simple frameworks like these exist and are effective artistically because they offer the shortest path from idea to passionate delivery. Benjamin Booker’s debut album is breathtaking because unlike so many others making music in this vein, he has a story that he desperately needs to tell, and “Have You Seen My Son” does it in an exhilarating, frantic rush. Opened with the gale force winds of drummer Max Norton and capped off with coda that moves from noise-rock annihilation to headbanging blues-stomp, the record’s highlight is the perfect summation of everything Booker does so damn well on his debut.
Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me”
I already wrote about this one at reasonable length for Antiquiet, but to sum up: Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar are unquestionably at the top of their respective fields, and this track might be one of the best things either one has done. CHECK IT OUT.