Rhye

BEST OF 2013: Madelyn's Picks

BEST OF 2013: Madelyn's Picks

10. Rhye - Woman

Here's hoping Rhye's Woman is what everyone buys their significant other for Valentine's Day next year because, man, does it hit you right in the feels. Milosh releasing a solo album in the latter half of this year could unfortunately signal that Rhye has already come and gone. If that is the case, at least the enigmatic duo left the music world with an instantly classic album of heartfelt, honest love songs.


Best Of 2013 (So Far): Kevin's Picks

10. Kanye West – Yeezus

Dark. Aggressive. Complex. Offensive. Kanye West’s 5th album is all of these things, but most of all it’s his most creatively risky effort to date. Sonically, Yeezus is operating on a completely  other level then anything released this year — in fact it makes most records sound lazy in comparison. But a funny thing happened on the way Yeezus becoming the stuff of legend: Kanye got in the way. What could have been a juggernaut of an album is sidetracked by West’s overly misogynistic lyrics, and his continuing lack of self awareness. Social commentary is a hard trick to pull off in any arena, but when you present yourself as the American dream — because you pretty much ARE the American dream — and then attempt to attack that in any measure, the results are at best trite, and at worst laughable.

To be clear, this is an ongoing issue that West suffers, and he is at his best operation as the fairly unchallenged master of pop that he has made himself into. But for now (and this opinion is constantly shifting) Yeezus remains more Zooropa* and less Achtung Baby. It’s clear that there is a masterful artist at work here who is willing to sacrifice the end result for the sake of experimenting with his art, but the attempt is only half of the secret recipe: You’ve gotta stick the landing.

*For the record, I freaking LOVE Zooropa. LOVE. IT.

9. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer, Different Park  / Ashley Monroe – Like A Rose

Why two albums? Because both perfectly represent the struggle that “modern country music” faces in 2013. Deservedly maligned by the discerning music fan since the days when the thunder rolled, there’s been a shift over the last few years away from the assembly line nature of what hits the airwaves, back to the more personal, less manufactured music that is the bedrock of a large portion of the American songbook. Musgraves “Merry-Go-Round” and Monroe’s “Like A Rose” are at once eloquent and utilitarian in their assessment of small town living, and rivalJason Isbell’s acumen for commentary of the human experience.

Unlike Isbell though, both artists go slightly off the rails by the end of their song cycles, giving in to the machine’s need for a “hit.” And in doing so they both keep what might have been a duo of timeless, universal records tied to a genre that both artists very clearly can, and should, rise above. That having been said, if you can push past the autotune and the straight-from-the-80’s “redneck” power chorus singing that ultimately takes control of these records, you’ll be rewarded by the work of two of the finest songwriters working in popular music today.

8. Kingsley Flood – Battles

The holy grail for most bands is to be able to match massive performances with equally massive songwriting chops. On Battles, Kingsley Flood took that idea and injected their already successful formula of bar brawl Americana with a double shot of adrenaline to produce one of the most satisfying records of the year to date. Grounded in singer Naseem Khuri’s explorations of what it takes to get by in today’s America, this mostly Boston based five piece (Khuri resides right here in the District) walks the razor’s edge of serious and seriously entertaining, and they do it all with an ease normally reserved for bands twice their age. Successfully bridging the gulf between folk, power pop and punk, Battles finds its power in its unflinching honesty and sincerity, regardless of the delivery method. This is a new Americana, and one that, if this release is any indication, is very quickly going to take over the world.


Best Of 2013 So Far: Madelyn's Picks

10. Cayucas - Bigfoot

Still searching for the best soundtrack to your summer? Bigfoot is it. From happy-go-lucky opening track “Cayucos” to eponymous album closer “Bigfoot,” Cayucas present eight catchy, summery tunes sure to make your next vacation playlist. And hey, they might put you in such a good mood that you’ll forget about the sweltering heat!

9. Rhye - Woman

Three months after its release, Woman's sensual, eargasm-inducing first track "Open" still blows me away upon each listen. "Open," along with about four other tracks, including "The Fall" and "3 Days," serve as the album's highlights while the remainder are forgettable. Yet, Woman is such a short album that it is easy to listen to on repeat before realizing you have been doing so for hours. With the seductiveness of Woman and their mysteriousness, Rhye have made an impression on the music world, but only time will tell if they stick around long enough to do it again with a second release.

8. Savages - Silence Yourself

This is not yet an album to which I can sing along word-for-word (as tends to be the case with my favorites), but Savages’ debut is almost too in-your-face and harsh for that. Savages are more about the statement they are making through their music and live performances. Between writing manifestos and mandating no phone usage at shows, the ladies of Savages are sure to calculate the band’s each and every move. One thing’s for certain – their abrasiveness has taken the music world by storm and provided a necessary, refreshing realness.


TRACKING: Rhye - "Open"

SOUNDS LIKE: Baby makin' music.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Who says it's too early to begin a Valentine's Day 2014 playlist?

Ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your undergarments. “Open,” the first track on Rhye’s debut album Woman, is a doozy. Side effects of hearing the song may include eargasms, shortness of breath, hot flashes, and utterances of “holy moley.”

As Woman's beginning track, "Open" turns up the heat, sets the mood for the remainder of the album, and introduces listeners to the enigmatic, L.A.-based duo's sentimentality. “Open” begins with a heavenly string arrangement, soon after accompanied by subtle horns, airy harp-playing, and angelic “ooohs” and “aahs.” Sensuous bass and rhythmic snaps then kick in as Milosh, the Canadian vocalist who makes up one half of Rhye, begins his romantic delivery. “I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs / I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs / I’m a fool for your belly / I’m a fool for you love,” Milosh sings in a cool, suave timbre that has led listeners to mistake him for a woman. As he continues on, providing glimpses into beautifully intimate moments with a lover, the various instrumental elements introduced early on recur subtly, leaving room for Milosh’s sweetly delivered lyrics to capture the listener’s full attention. That’s not to say that the instrumental layer beneath is forgettable; it’s just easy to get caught up in his smooth voice, wishing you were the person to whom his sweet nothings were addressed. (Milosh is taken, for the record.) The introductory strings from before return to send the song off into its finishing bars, leaving the listener wanting to know if Milosh's lover did indeed stick around as a result of his pleading, "I wanna make this plain / Oh, I know you're faded / Hmmm, but stay, don't close your hands." 

Rhye play D.C. on Thursday, April 18 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Stay tuned for our full review of Woman in our next podcast!   


LIVE: 2013 SXSW

Another South by Southwest (SXSW) has come and gone, leaving a wake of fuzzy memories, ringing ears and a few triumphant “finds” to keep us listening for another year.

Even as music festivals are growing in popularity across the country, SXSW, which is in fact a conference not a festival, holds a special place in the musical landscape, providing a forum for acts and bands of all sizes and degrees of notoriety to perform their latest creations in the hopes of drawing the attention of someone, or everyone. Prince played. Justin Timberlake played. And, thousands of other bands played, too, in over a hundred clubs in and around Austin, TX for five days in March.

Clearly, it’s impossible to see every band, so a strategy is required.  My focus was to see bands I’ve never seen before over acts or bands I’ve seen, or would see soon in DC. To prepare, I listened to as many SXSW bands in advance as I could, which was about 175. That resultant list, augmented by other sources, guided my decision making over the course of the festival. But serendipity and attachment to some of my favorites played a role, too. All in all, I saw 60 bands over 5 days.

Still, despite best-laid plans, for some line-ups, you simply have to change your strategy. Thursday night’ Belmont Warner Sound Nikon showcase was one such night, and as a whole, accounts for my favorite overall night.  The lineup? Guards, Surfer Blood, Atlas Genius, Frightened Rabbit, The Joy Formidable and The Flaming Lips. A strong bill that was the perfect mix of beloved bands and new contenders. The Belmont isn’t a large club and the line wrapped around the block, preventing many people from getting in that night, but fortune (in the form of a badge and some kind Austin friends who let me in the line) helped me find my way to the front of the stage.