OH, YOUNG LIONS

notes from Corey Beasley. find more of my writing at PopMatters and Cokemachineglow.
OYL
Zola Jesus

—Hikikomori

When I think of Zola Jesus, I can’t help but think of Lady Gaga. The two have a fair amount in common, beyond having wonderfully interesting bone structure: they are singers, rather than vocalists, possessing (or possessed by) truly killer pipes; they came to pop music through the unusual conduit of classical forms (Gaga is a classically trained pianist, Zola Jesus a former opera singer); they both enjoy covering themselves in unusual substances. But only one of these women really pushes pop music into strange, often uncomfortable places.

The accepted line on Gaga has become one of Stefanie Germanotta’s role as provocateur, an experimentalist who somehow managed to upset conventions and become a true pop sensation. And I suppose I could accept that as true, if I only paid attention to Gaga’s media presence, the photographic evidence of her predilections toward angular hats on the runway, her appealingly surreal set pieces (she once wrote a thesis on Damien Hirst, after all). But, and the secret’s not really a secret, Gaga’s avant-garde spirit presents itself in her music—where? I suppose the wordless chorus of “Bad Romance” might, unbeknownst to me, have its roots in a little-studied Esperanto dialect, but I doubt it.

And I’m a fan of Mother Monster. In fact, I like her most when she’s at her least contrived. “Just Dance,” her breakout track and one indistinguishable from its brethren in the Euro-pop trend muscling its way across the airwaves these last several years, is still my favorite of her songs. I couldn’t say whether Nika Danilova, when she’s writing as Zola Jesus, thinks of Lady Gaga. If I were her, I’d at least feel a twinge of resentment, mixed with love, like a sister jealous of another sister's greater success. Gaga, for mainstream audiences, occupies the rightful place of Zola Jesus, the latter a songwriter who actually makes something challenging—but still vital—out of her acquaintance with industrial music and new wave. Pop music doesn't need to have anything of the avant-garde in it at all, but when it does, it's pretty damned interesting.

I didn’t feel quite as strongly about this comparison until I finally saw Zola Jesus live this week, at Washington, DC’s wonderfully forward-thinking, electro-minded U Street Music Hall. Onstage, Zola Jesus sounds more human than she does on record, her voice still just as technically impressive but less chilly, less remote. And, you know, she can work the dance floor. This latter talent, something I wasn’t necessarily expecting from Danilova as a live performer, made me finally think of her more as a pop star than some sort of indie chanteuse, recording in her bedroom for a acceptably limited audience. Zola Jesus seems born for a stage as big as they come. Whether or not a mainstream audience will accept angularity in their pop singers when it comes in the form of music rather than headwear is another question, entirely.

would you look at that!

would you look at that!

sashafrerejones:

25 years of Kylie Minogue in 17 minutes.” (Via Fette & Rohin Guha.)

You know the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is useless because it has inducted neither Chic nor Kraftwerk, both of whom are have been eligible for years and both of whom are relevant right now to acts throughout the Billboard 200 albums chart and the Hot 100 singles chart. These two bands are also — fuck you, Darth Geffen — empirically great and contextually better than eighty perecent of the sadsack bluez Xeroxers™ in the Hall. The RRHOF has inducted the hair metal studio rats known as Thee Red Hot Chili Peppers, who will get out of hell only when God sees footage of Flea playing with Patti at BAM, but even then, she won’t believe that these Post-Its ever had an idea of their own or the balls to steal an idea and juice it rather than flatten it. 

But Kylie? Will she get into the Hall? No, because Americans apparently can’t understand popular music sung in English. Or style. Or hooks. No—wait, they can. So. 

ETERNAL PAUSE OF DOOM.

(via sashafrerejones-deactivated2013)

Writing about a fictional Le Corbusier retrospective in my novel. Is there any other writer MORE attuned to what the people want?

Writing about a fictional Le Corbusier retrospective in my novel. Is there any other writer MORE attuned to what the people want?

Writing is lonely. At the end of the day, it’s just you and your inexorable desire to make somehow concrete the ineffable and inexpressible. Everyone with a creative mind knows what I mean. These guys, for instance. Such pain, such poise.

these guys

cool picture or COOLEST picture?

cool picture or COOLEST picture?

Los Campesinos!

—Hello Sadness

Hello Sadness had the misfortune of a release date right in the middle of the internet’s cyclonic Best-of-2011 maelstrom. (At PopMatters, we’d already submitted our ballots by the time the album dropped — the same day, by the way, that Drake’s Take Care saw physical release. So, neither record made the year-end list, which I think is as embarrassing as spraying milk out of your nostrils at the lunch table in 5th grade.) In a backward sort of way, though, that omission makes sense for Los Campesinos!. Not because the band doesn’t deserve the recognition — they’re one of the most consistent acts of the last five years, and Hello Sadness is their best work yet — but because they’re a group of outsiders in the indie scene, anyway.

Other writers have already noted LC!’s guitar-driven, hyper-emotive pop isn’t exactly fashionable in 2012, and I suppose that’s true. I’d be embarrassed to be caught singing a line like, “I christen all the ships that sail / On your little kisses’ saliva trails,” in front of certain friends of mine. But Hello Sadness the record, and its strongest moment, “Hello Sadness” the song, give me the kind of rush that has been increasingly hard to chase down since I was 16. And it doesn’t do so in the kind of purely guilty pleasure, ironic way all those Vagrant Records bands on my iPod do. It’s Gareth Campesinos!’s famously sharp self-deprecation that saves his band from becoming the self-serious, adolescent dreck of the Jared Leto variety. Somebody photoshop Gareth into Fight Club, instead. (No, he doesn’t deserve that. Fight Club is the worst, you guys.)

My list of the Best Indie Rock Albums of 2011 is up on PopMatters! It has arbitrary limitations and is probably not even the only list like this on the internet! What a perfect opportunity for you to tell me I am a total blowhard! Check it out!

My list of the Best Indie Rock Albums of 2011 is up on PopMatters! It has arbitrary limitations and is probably not even the only list like this on the internet! What a perfect opportunity for you to tell me I am a total blowhard! Check it out!

I made a list for PopMatters of the Ten Best Fugazi Songs. AS USUAL, the New York Times PIGGYBACKED ON ME and posted this awesome article today about Fugazi’s live documentation series. Are you a Guy or an Ian?? Take my quiz to find out! (There is no quiz.)

I made a list for PopMatters of the Ten Best Fugazi Songs. AS USUAL, the New York Times PIGGYBACKED ON ME and posted this awesome article today about Fugazi’s live documentation series. Are you a Guy or an Ian?? Take my quiz to find out! (There is no quiz.)

I am an ordained minister in the Church of Future Islands. At services, conducted during the band’s unparalleled live shows, I can be seen dropping to the floor to speak in tongues, handling snakes, baptizing attractive women in sweat, and generally helping to save the souls of all those who have not yet dedicated themselves to the Church. The band’s new album, On the Water, is the best record of 2011. Before it was released, I had Bon Iver in the top slot, but rudeness trumps politeness in my book, nine times out of ten. (That’s why I am a great date, ladies — look it up.) On the Water scales back the bombast of In Evening Air, and I miss Sam Herring’s freakouts, but understatement suits Future Islands just as well. A record to break your heart and put it back together again. My review.

I am an ordained minister in the Church of Future Islands. At services, conducted during the band’s unparalleled live shows, I can be seen dropping to the floor to speak in tongues, handling snakes, baptizing attractive women in sweat, and generally helping to save the souls of all those who have not yet dedicated themselves to the Church. The band’s new album, On the Water, is the best record of 2011. Before it was released, I had Bon Iver in the top slot, but rudeness trumps politeness in my book, nine times out of ten. (That’s why I am a great date, ladies — look it up.) On the Water scales back the bombast of In Evening Air, and I miss Sam Herring’s freakouts, but understatement suits Future Islands just as well. A record to break your heart and put it back together again. My review.