The xx release their first song since 2012’s Coexist. “On Hold” is bold and beautiful, a song that shows off the trio’s growth as producers and musicians. The characteristic, soothing vocals are there, over a melancholy but endlessly dancey beat. This is tighter production than I’ve heard from The xx, and you can hear the influence of Jamie xx’s growing maturity and confidence.
This song is like a hug from an old friend, and I think we all could use a hug right now.
This is the first track on this week’s S2D2, but I wanted to post about it as well.
The U.S. is in a state of crisis, and every American I know is terrified of what is ahead of us. We are scared, and nervous, and heartbroken. And in times of crisis, I turn to music. Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” Music is more powerful than language, and it’s what I turn to when all else is lost.
And Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is an incredibly powerful piece of music. I remember after 9/11 the song got popular again, and I’d listen to it all the time, searching for reasons to be hopeful about our future. Feeling pain for black America (the song was written in response to police brutality), as they are demonized and persecuted. But, the song has always had a message of hope, of salvation in love for our fellow humans. That’s the message we have held onto, for all these years.
Andy Caldwell, underground house DJ and producer who has been quietly rocking dancefloors since like 2000 in San Francisco, takes the opportunity of our collective breakdown to re-insert Marvin Gaye’s message into our lives, dropping the vocals over a laid back four-to-the-floor beat. Thanks Andy. This is just what I needed.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Cut Copy. It was way back in 2009, and a classmate sent me a mix filled with electro-pop acts to introduce my ears to new music. The CD (you remember those things!) was filled with tracks from Miami Horror, MSTRKRFT and more, but one track reigned supreme above them all — Hearts on Fire. As a child of the 80’s the nostalgia hit me pretty hard, and everything from the synthesizers to the vocals reminded me of Depeche Mode — a way more upbeat and less emo version no less.
For the next 4 years I made it my mission to seek out each new Cut Copy release. I purchased 2011’s Zonoscope on vinyl and marveled at how they masterfully weaved political statements into insanely danceable tracks:
And though 2013’s Free Your Mind wasn’t high on my list of favorite albums from the group, I still enjoyed it for what it was: a great album of House tracks for late-night groovin’. But as with many of my favorite electronic acts from the early aughts, Cut Copy too disappeared. That said, you can imagine how I felt when I heard the group was working on a 44-minute cassette tape of instrumental ambient music. Of course I was even more thrilled when I saw the album pop-up on Spotify a few days ago, and after spending countless days listening to each track I can confidently say I’m loving their new direction.
If (like me) you enjoy the meditative pleasures of Aphex Twin, Brian Eno or Kraftwerk, you’ll instantly be entranced by January Tape. Over the course of 5 tracks (titled Parts 1 through 5), we’re introduced to a more subdued version of Cut Copy. Hushed, reverberated vocals give way to longer tracks filled with hazy, analog synthesizers that linger in-and-out of phase, never quite reaching release. And as subdued as the album begins, it slowly fades into the ether on the wings of some truly ethereal synth pads. In short, January Tape was well worth the wait, and if the switch from electro-pop to ambient is any indication of Cut Copy’s future, I welcome it with open arms.