Show 348: Lydia Loveless, Reviews of Passion Pit & Mission of Burma
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1 Jim and Greg kick off the show by talking to Dr. Bob MacCallum, a bioinformaticist at Imperial College London (don’t worry – we don’t know what bioinformaticist means either). Dr. Bob studies mosquito DNA during the day, but by night, he’s the guru behind Darwin Tunes, a site that explores how music might evolve if exposed to the pressures of Darwinian natural selection. At darwintunes.org, users decide which randomly generated musical loops are melodious and “fit” enough to survive and mingle their musical DNA with other loops. “Musical sex” (Bob’s words – not ours) results in baby loops, which can be surprisingly catchy. No, chances are the next Skrillex record won’t be made this way, but as elevator music, it’s not bad.
2 Country and punk might seem like strange musical bedfellows, but don’t tell that to Lydia Loveless. On her new record Indestructible Machine, the rising alt-country star sings country songs about small town life, drinking too much, and cheating partners with a punk rock snarl. She performs a few of those tracks live in the studio this week. Lydia’s embrace of country and punk has a lot to do with her upbringing. She grew up in Coshocton, a small town in rural Ohio where her dad booked country bands. By the time she was thirteen she was playing new wave music in Columbus bars with her sisters. Lydia chafed at her parochial surroundings as a teen, and that angst continues to inform her songwriting. If nothing else, Coshocton provided Lydia with ample material. Just take a listen to her performance of “Steve Earle,” a tune about her hometown stalker.
3 Next up, Jim and Greg review Unsound, the new record from Boston post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma. Mission of Burma in its first incarnation was sadly short-lived. Guitarist Roger Miller’s tinnitus ended the band pre-maturely after just one album and one EP of avant-garde noise and pop melody. The reunited Burma has already produced four times as much material as the original, most of it – to fans’ delight – just as good as the old stuff. Does the trend continue on Unsound? Jim says absolutely. Four albums into their reunion, Burma has proved itself the equal of contemporaries Wire. The songs on Unsound are consistently good, and band members continue to experiment by switching up the instrumentation. Key for both Jim and Greg is that the members of Burma still seem to be having fun. Unsound gets a double Buy It.
4 Michael Angelakos, the laptop wizard behind electropop band Passion Pit, first made a splash on MySpace in 2008 with the hit “Sleepyhead.” He released his debut album, Manners, the next year. Since then we haven’t heard much from him. Passion Pit’s new sophomore effort, Gossamer, was in the works for some time, and Angelakos recently posted on the band’s website that he was calling off performances in July in order to deal with mental health problems. Mental health issues, the stresses of maintaining a marriage, and economic decline all make up the rather dark background of Gossamer, an album that masquerades as a lighthearted dance record. For Jim and Greg, that contrast of light and dark is all to the good. Jim says Angelakos’s lyrics wouldn’t be out of place on a soul album. He includes Passion Pit as part of a movement of weird soul geniuses (Frank Ocean and The Weeknd are also among them) making heart-felt epics in their bedrooms. Both Jim and Greg agree this is a deep record worth spending some time with. Another double Buy It.
Songs Featured in Show #348
Lydia Loveless, “More Like Them,” Indestructible Machine, Bloodshot, 2011
Fiona Apple, “Paper Bag,” When the Pawn…, Sony, 1999
Carson Drew, “Under the Table,” Under the Table, N/A, 2006
Lydia Loveless, “Chris Isaac (Live on Sound Opinions),” N/A, unreleased, 2012
Lydia Loveless, “How Many Women,” Indestructible Machine, Bloodshot, 2011
Lydia Loveless, “Crazy,” Indestructible Machine, Bloodshot, 2011
Lydia Loveless, “Things I Do,” The Only Man, Peloton, 2010
Lydia Loveless, “Learn to Say No (Live on Sound Opinions),” Indestructible Machine, Bloodshot, 2011
Lydia Loveless, “Steve Earle (Live on Sound Opinions),” Indestructible Machine, Bloodshot, 2011
Lydia Loveless, “Bad Way To Go,” Indestructible Machine, Bloodshot, 2011
Mission of Burma, “Semi-Pseudo-Sort-of Plan,” Unsound, Fire, 2012
Mission of Burma, “7’s,” Unsound, Fire, 2012
Passion Pit, “Take a Walk,” Gossamer, Columbia, 2012
Passion Pit, “Sleepyhead,” Manners, Frenchkiss, 2009
Passion Pit, “I’ll be Alright,” Gossamer, Columbia, 2012
Clams Casino, “Kissing on My Syrup,” B-Side Instrumentals and Remixes, self-released, 2011
Violent Femmes, “Telephone Book,” 3, Slash, 1989
Muse, “Knights of Cydonia,” Black Holes and Revelations, Warner, 2006
Peter, Paul and Mary, “Flora,” Moving, Warner Bros., 1963
Neneh Cherry and the Thing, “Cashback,” The Cherry Thing, Smalltown Superjazz, 2012