Even with my never-ending obsession with music from the early ’80s, it’s a pretty rare opportunity when I get the chance to write anything about my favorites from that era. Last week, one of those rare opportunities popped up. I called Jim Kerr, the frontman of the Simple Minds — i.e., the man who sang a handful of my favorite songs, ever — while he was in Glasgow to talk about the band’s first new record in five years, Big Music. It’s a title so appropriate for the Simple Minds’ music that it’s surprising it’s taken them more than three decades to apply it. Whether it was the massive choruses of pop-era Simple Minds, like “Don’t You Forget About Me” or “Alive And Kicking,” or whether it was the twistier, artier stuff from Empires And Dance or New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84), there’s always been an expansiveness to their music. At its core, Simple Minds’ music has always sounded to me like the product of city rhythms, but also possessing a hunger to see and consume and understand all the permutations of our world and the people in it. Movement’s always been a major theme, and accordingly my conversation with Kerr touched on little bits and pieces from the whole of this 35-year arc he’s been on with the Simple Minds — from the new, big music to the old, big music, to his love for his adopted home in Italy.
Yesterday Luna announced a run of dates in Spain next spring, their first shows in 10 years, and insinuated that North American dates would follow. Today, in a Rolling Stone interview, Dean Wareham offered further information on the reunion. It seems the band “had a jam” over the summer when guitarist Sean Eden flew to Los Angeles to join ex-bandmates Wareham, Britta Phillips, and Lee Wall for a barbecue. That sparked conversations about playing some shows, so when a promoter from Spain called with an offer, Luna were primed for it. Wareham said the band will probably play US shows in “fun places” such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. “We’re going to wait and see what offers come in,” he told RS. “The news just got out. My inbox is blowing up a little bit, yeah.”
Magnetic Fields songs often hinge on witty, erudite turns of phrase, so it’s not that surprising that band mastermind Stephin Merritt plays a lot of Scrabble. It’s a bit surprising, though, that he’s devoted an entire book to the two-letter words that can often affect the outcomes of Scrabble games. Merritt just published 101 Two-Letter Words, a book of 101 poems for each of the game-beaters. And now he’s given Billboard a few of his tips, most of which are fairly common-sense. Here’s what he offers to Billboard:
There’s one song on Chumped’s upcoming debut, Teenage Retirement, that’s built around the following refrain: “We get old/ Time moves faster/ You stay the same.” The song is called “Pains Of Being…” and it serves as something of a thesis statement for the album as a whole. Teenage Retirement attempts to navigates the messy transition from adolescence into adulthood; it’s a treatise on both the perils of growing up too fast and not growing up at all. The band views “teenage retirement” as a state of being — “moving out of your mom’s basement but not losing what was awesome about living in your mom’s basement,” as one of the band members put it. Each song on the album explores that theme in some way.
Mykki Blanco can rap. Last year, I walked into a Swedish hotel ballroom during the Way Out West festival and saw him, shirtless and sweaty, barking bars while standing on the bar in the middle of the room, Scandinavian kids freaking out all around him. He tends to keep that same focused intensity on-record, too; it’s there, for instance, in “Unclassified,” the collaboration with the producer Etnik that Etnik released last month. On a track like that, he’s like the living embodiment of mixtape-era Lil Wayne’s freakiest impulses, dialed way up and rewired for a confrontational club-rap context. When he’s in attack mode, he’s something to behold. So it’s fascinating that Blanco is basically not remotely interested in rapping on Gay Dog Food, his new mixtape. Instead, Gay Dog Food is a work of fiery noise-punk catharsis, a sneer-scream pointed in every direction. It’s closer to being a Cabaret Voltaire album than it is to being a rap mixtape — which, paradoxically, makes it a really good rap mixtape.
Between his work behind the scenes at Fool’s Gold, his world-conquering DJ sets with Duck Sauce and as a solo act, his recent hip-hop crushers with Lex Luger as Low Pros, and his stints as a live DJ for rappers including Kanye West, A-Trak has accrued one of the most impressive careers of any DJ/producer in the game. That continues with “Push,” a new solo single he dropped today exclusively on Spotify, which is part of his upcoming Full EP. “Push” puts A-Trak’s own spin on today’s dominant electro-house sound, resulting in something like a Calvin Harris song with more class. Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow handles the delicate yet commanding vocal. Listen below.
The Dead Weather are releasing two new songs next week, “Buzzkill(er)” and “It’s Just Too Bad.” The former is streaming today after being teased on SoundCloud back in July. Lest you think these tunes would be released exclusively in a digital format — as if Jack White would stand for such a thing! — they were originally distributed on a limited edition 7″ to subscribers of Third Man’s VAULT series. “Buzzkill(er)” is a ball-busting riff-rock stomper the likes of which we’ve come to expect from this band, and you can hear it below.
Julio Bashmore, the British dance producer and frequent Jessie Ware collaborator, has been working on an as-yet-untitled album for a while now. Last month, we posted “Simple Love,” a sparkling and upbeat track that showcased the singer J’Danna. Now Bashmore and J’Danna have hooked up again for “Rhythm Of Auld,” a track that sounds like a lush, symphonic ’70s disco anthem that’s been taken apart and reassembled by curious aliens. Listen to it below.