THE ACCIDENTAL POP STAR
What can you do with nothing?
SHAKING THE HABITUAL
THE RAVEONETTES: OBSERVATOR TEGAN AND SARA’S HEARTTHROB EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
NEW ALBUM RELEASE
snug #1 - Feb - 2013
THE KNIFE’S BIG RETURN
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INTERVIEWs // SNUG01
iamamiwhoami: What can you do with nothing?
Words: Doron Davidson-Vidavski // Photos by: John Strandh and iamamiwhoami As iamamiwhoami’s first London show draws near, SNUG brings you our full, unabridged, interview with the project’s navigator, Jonna Lee, alongside exclusive images from our photo-shoot for Issue 1 03
IAMAMIWHOAMI: What can you do with nothing?
hat lies at the heart of the iamamiwhoami phenomenon, and its notable ability to keep its audience so continuously beguiled by its output, can be summarised as ‘reciprocal thirst’: on the one hand, the thirst of the enterprise’s dramatis personae to do something creatively fulfilling, loyally mirrored by the unquenchable thirst of the audio-visu al saga’s followers for more music and more magical cinematography. From the very outset, iamamiwhoami positioned itself in a realm where mystery was the watchword, operating as a titillating, never-ending treasure hunt. Sure, there have been other experimental online viral campaigns before and this is not the first time that an artist has chosen to anonymise his or her real identity in favour of an alter-ego. Still, never before has a new act devised such a rich, wellrounded project, backed by an ongoing story arc that instantly engaged its audience and simultaneously tapped into their pop sensibilities. For Swedish singer-songwriter, Jonna Lee, who was only officially confirmed by her management as iamamiwhoami’s driving force in June this year, the – perhaps subconscious – inception of this extraordinary project can be traced back to 2007. That October, around the time of re-
lease of her debut solo album, “10 Pieces, 10 Bruises”, she was interviewed by Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, revealing that her favourite novel was Val McDermid’s “The Grave Tattoo”. In Sweden, the book was translated as “Bounty” and this word ended up becoming one of the central mysteries in iamamiwhoami’s first series of works and, eventually, its title. “The shape and details of the project weren’t developed then so it was more thoughts of wanting to do music that tickled something inside me and leave things that I wasn’t happy with at the time”, Lee recalls, as we settle into an hour-long interview at her hotel in West London. Moments earlier she apologises for her Eng-
lish, which she fears not to be as good as it used to be when she lived in London years ago. But her command of the language is much better than she suspects and her Scandinavian pronunciation mellifluous. “The evolution of iamamiwhoami has been a slow one”, she continues. “Right now I can touch it but back then it was just an idea. In terms of real thoughts, thoughts that give some kind of conclusion, I would say that it started during the first part of 2009”. In early 2009 Lee was readying the release of her second solo album, “This Is Jonna Lee”. Working with the record’s producer (and now confirmed iamamiwhoami deputy), Claes Björklund, she
Photo: John Strandh
INTERVIEWs // SNUG01 was also experimenting with two different cover versions of Nitzer Ebb’s “Violent Playground”, one of which saw the pair opting for a more electro-oriented sound than her usual folky guitar-pop. “I discovered a longing for something new in my life”, she says. “I also wanted to find a counterpart for my music, visually, and do something where there was no creative limitation, so that even if there were only little means or no means at all, there would still be a freedom to do whatever kept us interested. This was just something I needed to do without knowing why I needed it at the time”. The public’s first encounter with iamamiwhoami came in December 2009, with the fortnightly emergence of a perplexing and increasingly graphic series of YouTube videos sent out to music websites and bloggers from the e-mail address iamamiwhoami@ gmail.com. As cryptic teasers for a project no one had previously heard of, they proved to be an instant hook. Going viral, the videos immediately got people speculating as to what their imagery symbolised and, more importantly, the identity of the artist behind them. Christina Aguilera, whose ‘Bionic’ long-player was due in the ensuing months, was the firm favourite. From the very first video, iamamiwhoami set out its stall to intrigue. The music was instrumental, of an electro-pop ilk, and the visuals were set in a forest whose trees had pulsating human limbs. Occasionally, the arboricultural footage was interspersed with shots of a mud-covered female and, towards the end, the video briefly cut to a film showing the birth of a goat (later replaced by a drawing of a goat due to a copyright infringement claim). The post-hyphen numbers in the title were subsequently deciphered by erudite fans as an alphanumeric spelling of the word ‘educational’. With Christmas around the corner, Lee was still doing promo for her album with the release of its third single, “Something So Quiet”. Unbeknown to her label, Razzia Records, however, she was also working on more music and filming for what was, then, her undefined new side-project. “Everything created by us has been done in real time”, Lee says. “So each piece has literally been done weeks before its release”. Rolling into 2010, the subsequent virals saw the first video’s goat being joined by drawn depictions of an owl, a whale, a bee, a llama and a monkey. By the time the word ‘mandragora’ was identified in the alphanumeric title of the fourth film (also known as the “Papachoo” video), it was becoming abundantly clear that the plot behind the visuals centred around a mandrake – or, a plant which blossoms in human form. To the uninitiated, mandragorian mythology concerns the semen of a hanged man, which, upon hitting the ground (typically under gallows) sparks the growth of a mandrake root. If you try to pull the root out of the soil, it emits a lethal scream. To avoid their own death, humans would obtain the root by sending dogs to do their dirty work for them . Granted, you end up with a dead pooch but the root is believed to bring its possessor special powers and good fortune, so it’s a fair trade-off all but in the eyes of the rspca. Sure enough, as iamamiwhoami’s series of six teaser videos came to an end, we were left with a mandrake growing out of a wooden shed, a long haired anthropomorphic singing blonde and 6 dogs in receipt of burial in the snow.
Photo: John Strandh 05
Months later, th e goat and its fellow animals would transpire to have played a phonetic role in the teasers, with their collective indigenous sounds spelling out the word ‘bounty’. From March 2010 onwards, every few weeks saw the release of a full ‘single’ with an accompanying film, the title of each being an alphabetic letter, again building up to – yep, you guessed it – ‘bounty’. The mostly instrumental musical backdrop of the prelude videos now graduated to fully vocal-led songs of such well-crafted brilliance that ‘o’, ‘t’ and ‘y’ can proudly call themselves three of the very best singles of that year. I ask her what came first with ‘bounty’: the mandrake plot or the music. She resolutely confirms that it was the latter. “The music is at the core of this project and that is how it’s been built. Once there was a song then there would come a collaboration between me and the visual director and that’s how the merging of the two would happen, giving it a sync. The stories come after, based on the lyrics as scripts for the visuals. The actual production, of course, wasn’t just a fluke. It wasn’t a coincidence that everything spelt out words and stuff like that but exactly what shape it would come out as was not always clear”. I want to ask her whether inspiration perhaps came from any of the films based on the novel but she seems deep in thought. After a further pause she shakes her head and continues: “But speaking too much of the process, I think, removes a bit of the magic, you know? I need to leave something for everyone to imagine for themselves. I have my vision. I think it is quite clear sometimes what my vision is. And sometimes it’s less clear and I like that. So I’m not going to answer that too much ”. What further threw people off the scent, in terms of correctly identifying the elusive singing blonde, were rumours of a Sia-penned song called “I Am” on Aguilera’s then forthcoming album. The song indeed later materialised but its title was purely coincidental. It was the investigative work of fans, who had diligently sleuthed their way through every last detail of the iamamiwhoami videos, which eventually helped in deducing that the heavily-disguised Scandinavian-looking figure who appeared in the visuals was Jonna Lee. This discovery happened to ex06
Photo: John Strandh plode online just 4 days before Lee was to make an appearance at SXSW in Austin, to promote “This Is Jonna Lee”. Was it a surprise to be rumbled at that point? “Really, we didn’t try to hide it”, she shakes her head. “From ‘b’ and on it’s quite clear, you know? I was surprised, of course, because it [and by ‘it’, I presume she means the disguise of her identity] is not something that was planned, it was something that happened from randomness. One thing
happens and leads to another and that’s what has shaped this project into what it is today. It’s interesting![here she smiles collusively]. But I don’t know… I was just thinking, when the idle talk has settled and the work we have done remains, then that is the essential part”. Lee’s use of one of her song titles, ‘idle talk’, in this context adds a further dimension to her explanation. She has handed the ‘idle talk’ line to other interviewers as well, it later transpires.
INTERVIEWs // SNUG01
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lana del rey I’ve been out on that open road You can be my full time, daddy white and gold Singing blues has been getting old You can be my full time, baby Hot or cold Don’t break me down I’ve been travelin’ too long I’ve been trying too hard With one pretty song I hear the birds on the summer breeze, I drive fast I am alone in the night Been tryin’ hard not to get into trouble, but I I’ve got a war in my mind So, I just ride Just ride, I just ride, I just ride Dying young and I’m playing hard That’s the way my father made his life an art Drink all day and we talk ‘til dark That’s the way the road doves do it, ride ‘til dark. Don’t leave me now Don’t say good bye Don’t turn around Leave me high and dry I hear the birds on the summer breeze, I drive fast I am alone in the night Been tryin’ hard not to get in trouble, but I I’ve got a war in my mind I just ride Just ride, I just ride, I just ride I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy I’m tired of driving ‘till I see stars in my eyes I look up to hear myself saying, baby Too much I strive, I just ride I hear the birds on the summer breeze, I drive fast I am alone in the night Been tryin’ hard not to get in trouble, but I I’ve got a war in my mind I just ride
BEST NEW MUSIC
Beach House - 2012 This revelation set the stage for a glittering return, and in many ways ‘Bloom’ doesn’t disappoint. Alex Scully’s guitar flickers like sad confetti on opener ‘Myth’, which retains the hi-def sparkle of the last record without especially adding anything new. Victoria Legrand’s exquisite vocal, meanwhile, slices through the poignant air like a knife through a wedding cake, flagging up death as a looming presence on the album: “You can’t keep hanging on/To all that’s dead and gone”. ‘Wild’ serves up flashes of dream-like imagery, while ‘Lazuli’’s effortless glide sounds a touch too much like ‘Norway’ off the last one, but still puts the screws on your heart with a gloriously twisty coda. That’s something of a ’House speciality, in fact. The band are increasingly clever at turning a melody inside out to evoke those moments of dizzymaking clarity.
Grimes - 2012
n her first albums, Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, Grimes buried pop impulses within textured muck and gloomy tones. But Visions finds Boucher mining not just the clean brightness of Aphex Twin-like atmospherics but also the immediacy of straight-up mall-pop. Some of Grimes’ reference points call to mind the experimental pop of Nite Jewel or some of the artists on the 100% Silk roster. But that music seems interested in obscuring pop’s immediacy or keeping a distance from the pleasure center, while Visions is an unabashed embrace of its source material, whether it’s K-pop, new age, or bubblegum. But there’s still that tension: Song titles such as “Be a Body”, “Visiting Statue”, and “Skin” are all testaments to Visions’ interest in the corporeal. When she sings the titular lyric on “Be a Body”, it sounds like a nagging request to come back down to earth, while “Skin” (which has a sputtering sensuality, like a robot programmed to write a slow jam) feels even more revealing: “Soft skin/ You touch me with it and so I know I can be human once again.” Still, don’t confuse these moments with any kind of new-agey, back-tonature longing. One spin of “Genesis” is enough prove it: Post-humanism sounds like a blast.
Purity Ring- 2012 It doesn’t take long for the full gravity of ‘Shrines’ to take effect. A few lines into ‘Fineshrine,’ the second track on Purity Ring’s debut, the Canadians’ many qualities collide in staggering fashion. A stuttering intro gives way to Megan James singing “Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you”. The imagery is bold enough to make a poet weep, snap their favourite quill in half and resign themselves to working at the local car wash for the rest of their days. And it’s not just the words that make an impact; Corin Roddick’s layers of sound create a collage of fleeting emotions. It’s crisp and precise, but dense with feeling, filling a gulf between clinical sheen and lung-collapse heartbreak.
The Silicone Veil Susanne Sundfør - 2012
Since the release of The Brothel in 2010, Susanne Sundfør’s evolution as a singer, songwriter and performer has been little short of astounding. Her initial releases barely hinted at what was to come, and the progression of boldness continues at pace in The Silicone Veil. The Norwegian’s ability as a vocalist has never been in doubt, but here it is at its most obvious, as she makes her range clear whilst demonstrating an unsettling propensity for holding in the high registers. White Foxes, perhaps the album’s most invasively electronic track, is where Sundfør is found at her most versatile. These vocals soar, moving at one with the waxing and waning of the accompaniment, which is often comprised of meaty synthesisers and heavy electronics.
REVIEWS // SNUG01
BEST OF 2012
Born to Die (Paradise edition)
Lana del Rey - 2012
Paradise is definitely a more explicit portrait of the tracks featured on the original release, lengthening the entire album to a whopping 23 tracks. It’s head spinning at times, and will most likely leave listeners incapable of getting through the entire record from beginning to end in one sitting. The sheer magnitude of Born to Die (The Paradise Edition) is it’s main detractor—23 songs is simply far too long. And while Del Rey definitely does her best to keep your attention, it’s trying for even the most diehard fans to sit through. Ultimately, Paradise is best enjoyed as a follow-up EP of b-sides and bonus material, but a separate project altogether.
Kin iamamiwhoami To whom it may concern. It takes a little calibration to listen to Kin as a proper album, but it’s doable. The distribution might have been unconventional, but the division of labor is familiar enough: Lee’s voice, distorted and processed like Dreijer and her now-countless acolytes, and Björklund’s production, lush and nuanced. Lee sings, more languid than necessary, “but I can dance tonight... and to your rhythm I will shout my love for play”-at which point her voice twirls off into wordless Liz Fraser curlicues, meter by the wayside. It’s not hopeful, exactly the lyrics are too self-negating for that but it’s among the most purely joyful moments of the year.
Love This Giant David Byrne & St. Vincent 4AD You could argue that David Byrne and Annie Clark collaborating on an album in 2012 is better framed by the question immediately asked of any such high-profile pairing: “Why?” On the surface, the two have quite a few commonalities. Both Byrne and Clark are equally fascinated by the theatricality of everyday life: the scripts and performances that drive our days and raise the stakes of our mundane interactions to the level of high drama or (for this duo) dark comedy. Both performers are known for their thousand-yard stares (compare the covers of Byrne’s Feelings with St. Vincent’s Actor) that suggest a quiet intensity merged with a playful approach to selfpresentation.
Music history is written by privileged white men 010
the knife's big return
S H A K I N G
he Knife’s Olof Dreijer has just uttered a word that strikes fear into the heart of every right-thinking pop fan. Explaining how he and his bandmate and sister Karin Dreijer Andersson rebooted the Knife after six years of doing other things, he reveals that they started to “just meet up and jam”. Jamming? Isn’t that what burnt-out old rockers do when contractual obligations force them back into the studio and they realise that they don’t have any songs? But the Knife’s were no ordinary jam sessions. Instead of noodling away on vintage Strats, the primary instruments at their disposal were a zither and a bedspring in a box, played with a bow, processed through a modular synthesizer to distort the sound. “After a year, we had some material that was pretty different from the Knife,” says Olof, with calm understatement.
“At first we talked about releasing this under another name. Then we thought it’s actually more funny to call it The Knife.” He doesn’t laugh when he says this – Olof and Karin are endearingly earnest interviewees – but the Knife have always got a kick out of confounding their audience. Easily their best-known song is 2002’s Heartbearts, a joyous electropop hymn that propelled them on to the worldwide stage thanks to an early outbreak of blog buzz. Heartbeats also made the career of their countryman José
T H E
H A B I T U A L
González, who covered it in an advertfriendly acoustic style. Conversely, their recent single full of fire was electropop only in its most primitive, punkish sense, having more in common with Throbbing Gristle than Yazoo. Its brash, buffeting beats seemed designed for rioting rather than dancing, an impression matched by the lyrics’ valiant sloganeering: “All the guys, and the signori/ Telling another false story”, raged Karin, before declaring, brilliantly, that “liberals giving me a nerve itch”. The accompanying video, by queer feminist porn director Marit Ostberg, featured cross-dressing cleaners, lesbian bikers and a woman urinating in the street. Suffice to say, José González would have his work cut out covering that one. Although they haven’t released a proper album since 2006’s bewitching Silent Shout, the Knife’s stock has continued to rise in the intervening years. This is partly the result of some impressive side-projects – the gothic domestic pop of Karin’s acclaimed Fever Ray album; Olof ’s lucid techno excursions as Oni Ayhun; the ambitious, elemental and unexpectedly romantic score the pair wrote for tomorrow in a year, an opera about Charles Darwin – but also because the Knife’s MO has been mimicked so frequently. There are now so many female-fronted electropop acts emerging from Scandinavia that it’s becoming hard to keep track. Helpfully, the Knife’s startling new album shaking the habitual puts plenty of water between them and the pretenders to their throne. It proves that they can still write bizarre, inventive, oddly
The Knife Shaking The Habitual [Single CD Version] Brille 2013
“Sometimes I think I should get another job, and do this only for its own purpose. It’s important to separate creative expression from making money’” moving pop songs, but these are interspersed with passages of ominous drone lasting up to 20 minutes. Lyrically, the album takes aim at imperialist governments, phoney cultural constructs and families both royal and nuclear. It’s never didactic, always poetic. But in a world where irony has superseded outrage and Carly Rae Jepsen tops critics’ polls, you worry that such an explicitly political record – the inside sleeve features a satirical cartoon about extreme wealth – risks coming across as a little gauche. “But I wonder, who are these people who think like that about music?” demands Karin. “We’ve done 14 or 15 interviews so far for this new album and only one of the journalists has been a woman – and that was for a feminist magazine. I think that speaks a bit for itself.” Surely, though, it’s not just a few jaded male music hacks who think pop and politics shouldn’t mix? Ask the vast majority of people why they listen to music and they’ll say it’s for escapism. It sometimes feels as if the Knife’s feminist theory has an answer for everything. Don’t like their new tune-free tracks? That’s because you’ve been culturally conditioned to enjoy the decadent concept of melody. Yet it’s also inspiring to hear a band talk with such intelligence about the ideas underpinning the consumption of music, rather than going with the flow in order to build a career. “I don’t think you have the right to make a living out of your music-making,” asserts Karin. “Sometimes I think I should get another job, and do this only for its own purpose. It’s important to 012
separate creative expression from making money.” Most bands don’t make much money these days anyway, but Karin sees fresh dangers. “Bands are getting even more commercial because they are selling their music to advertisements and going on tours with big alcohol brands,” she says. “That’s really scary because it’s hard to see how music and art can continue to develop or challenge itself within these new, very commercial frames.” Rest assured that the Knife’s forthcoming tour – only their second ever – won’t be sponsored by Absolut. Instead, true to the band’s principles, their new stage show has been devised in collaboration with an all-female collective of choreographers and set designers. “It’s important to show that it is possible to work feminist in the way you organise yourself,” says Karin. It remains to be seen whether the live show will be as eerie and fantastical as the one Andreas Nilsson designed for the silent shout tour in 2006, with the balaclavaed duo wielding fluorescent drumsticks. “That depends on what you find fantastic,” says Karin. “I have a friend’s friend who works on making live shows for big artists, and their idea of fantastic is having helicopters flying in onstage and so on.” That doesn’t give us much of an idea of what to expect. Will there be dancers? Lasers? Lesbian bikers and women urinating on the stage? Olof refuses to take the bait. “It will,” he deadpans, “feature at least 10 helicopters..
Photos by: theknife.net
INTERVIEWs // SNUG01
The Cure April, 21 Foro Sol
Spiritualized April, 17 Teatro de la ciudad
Jamie Videll May, 23 Auditorio Blackberry
Hello Seahorse Two Door Cinema Club April, 17 and 18 Auditorio Blackberry
May, 16 Teatro Metrop贸litan
Kate Nash May El Plaza 013
GRIMES Montreal electro-pop prodigy
Claire Boucher on her quest for pure aesthetics Photos by: Iris Van Herpen
Photos by: Iris Van Herpen
ven by the loosest of downtown New York standards, Claire Boucher looks pretty out-there standing atop the Standard East Village hotel late on a Friday afternoon in January. The 23-year-old electro-pop singer/ producer who goes by Grimes flew down from Montreal for just a few hours to pose for a spread in V magazine, and a section of her hair has been molded into a neon-green spike that runs down the side of her face. The rest of her ensemble consists of an oversized leopard-print dress, black tights, and too-small sandals; think day-glo punk elf. The shoot features two other musicians,
Iggy Azalea-- the Australian rapper of YouTube-viral “P.U.$.$.Y.” notoriety- and Cody Critcheloe of New York neo-disco act Ssion, and everyone looks appropriately bored milling around the hotel penthouse. Everyone but Boucher, who is fidgeting inside her puffy winter coat and flashing me a loaded grin that says: “I’m getting a big kick out of this,” and “sorry it’s taking so long,” and “I’m fucking freezing.” Boucher, who has been approached to appear in Vogue, too, has grown accustomed to high-end photo shoots in recent months. “I don’t care about looking good in the magazine,” she tells
me later. “In fact, I look like an OompaLoompa. But I like the idea of a culture of pure aesthetics. It feels like a video game.” Listening to her new album, visions-- out via 4AD-- this approach becomes even more apparent. The record is an expert execution of hyper-digital sound that takes glitchy and glossy to the extreme: Using a couple of vocal pedals, a sampler, a Juno-G keyboard, and GarageBand, Boucher pumps 1980s bubblegum-pop vibes through a series of futuristic filters, topping everything with extraterrestrial vocals. Video games would be lucky to have her.
snug: I feel like there’s something patently feminine about the way visions sounds. Do you want to push back against that at all? Obviously people like the way you look. But how do you feel about the idea of being sexualized? CB: If that happened, it wouldn’t be because I was wearing sexy clothes, because I look like a baby. But music is an inherently sexual thing. If something sexual is going to be expressed, it’s going to be in my music. You should be able to be in your underwear if you want, but it’s going to change the way people perceive you. I think a lot of music that’s really innovative is not even considered because it was made by people who had a sexual image. And people assume that it’s a commodified thing, so it can’t be indie. Though I can’t say that I respect the gender politics of some of the female artists I like the most. When Regis [Philbin] grabbed Nicki Minaj’s ass on TV, she just giggled. I was like, “What the fuck! Come on! Punch him in the face!” Up until that point I’d thought, “Wow, Nicki Minaj is a bad bitch. Sick.” snug: Your voice covers so many different styles, tones, and forms throughout Visions. How do you see its role within your music? CB: I definitely see the voice as an instrument: It makes great drums, great synth pads, great everything. Vocals can be so many things, like, “Hey, I’m Michael Jackson, and this is my iconic voice,” or a choir of people sounding like Mozart’s Requiem. Mariah Carey is my favorite singer because her voice sounds utterly groundless. It’s not even a human voice; it almost sounds mechanical. snug: How did you first get into Mariah? CB: In 2007 or 2008, I started listening to R&B on this road trip with my dad because we couldn’t agree on anything else. I smoked weed and listened to Fantasy and felt something I’d never felt before [laughs]-- yeah, that makes me sound so ignorant. But then I slowly started gravitating more toward female singers, because I was able to relate. In medieval Christian thought, it was assumed that the better you were as a singer, the purer your heart was. I don’t necessarily think that’s true, but Mariah Carey has the voice of someone who has never done evil. Just because something might not have a deep philosophical meaning doesn’t mean it’s not important or relevant. snug: It can be tough to make out the lyrics in your songs. How do you write them? CB: I usually produce loops and then try to create lyrics that have meaning to me, but I also work in terms of enunciation. “Ah” and “ooh” are very different, and I need it to be the right way. I want to say my life inspires my lyrics, but I also try to abstract them as much as possible because I don’t want to refer to my life explicitly. I’m definitely really embarrassed by my lyrics. I give myself shit: What are you doing? What is all this random babble? Is music anything besides something that feels good? If that’s all it is, that’s great, but now I’m a musician and I want it to be more than just random babble. A lot of this record is about the fact that I’ve given up everything else-- all the relationships in my life, my home-- to do this.
The song vowels = space and time was actually me angrily writing about the fact that people were always getting on me for not writing songs about things. It’s based on a theory from Russian Zaum philosophy, which is this weird, obscure pre-Dada early-1900s surrealist group that believed language was false because vocal expression had inherent emotional meanings or qualities. I was like, This justifies my other records! [laughs] snug: I like when I can make out specifics in your lyrics. There’s one bit on skin that stands out: I know you’re faced with something that could consume you completely/ Soft skin/ You touch me once again and somehow it stings/ Because I know it is the end. CB: That’s about being in love with someone who’s ultimately too caught up in their own shit. I wrote “Skin” for one person and one person only. It’s one thing to make a song that you feel really good about, but sometimes you don’t actually want anyone to hear it. I can’t listen to my own music when someone else is in the room. snug: The internet makes it pretty easy to discover cool things and curate them as influences. Are you worried about coming across as merely topical? CB: My great fear is that I’m the ultimate shallow person. I think about this kind of thing a lot, and about this phenomenon in our culture where people identify themselves with their interests. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much. It used to really upset me when people called me witch house. And then one day I thought, But I did make a witch house record, whether I like it or not. Boo-hoo.
Instead of thinking about whether or not I’m credited with really liking K-pop first or following a trend or whatever-fuck it. Let it go. It’s not important. I feel like all of these people are always competing to be the first person who knows the most about the most obscure things, but it’s all great stuff that everyone should take part in. I love going through people’s Tumblrs. It’s people just reveling in all the beauty that the internet is bringing forth for everyone to see. Just because something might not have a deep philosophical meaning doesn’t mean it’s not important or relevant. 17
This is the kid who couldn’t stand high school, was never in the in crowd didn’t fit in, and thought school was hell. “It gets better, Look. This can happen to anybody, to all those kids. Believe in yourself and keep at it. 18
Photos by: Iris Van Herpen 19
the raveonettes // SNUG01
Photos by: Sean Karp 20
THE RAVEONETTES W
e didn’t sell millions of albums, and we didn’t become an arena-packing band. I could have predicted that, Sune Rose Wagner wrote in anticipation of In and Out of Control, his fourth proper album with coRaveonette Sharin Foo. Yeah, we could have predicted that, too. In fact, we expected a lot less from the Raveonettes: After two great records (the debut EP Whip It On, followed by the markedly better full-length Chain Gang of Love), it became fairly clear that these Danes were destined to remain faithful to a singular trick (the overblown Jesus and Mary Chain/ Phil Spector fanaticism; eyeliner), always well-rehearsed and respectfully researched. But by the time their make-or-break mainstream offering Pretty in Black showed up, most interest in their reverb-addled, shooby-doo-wop indulgences had waned. It made waiting a few years for Crystal Stilts pretty easy. But with their return-to-loud third album Lust Lust Lust, we found a band embracing their failure to launch, reconnecting with (and latching more tightly to) a sound they so lovingly cultured. So you could almost call In and Out of Control a sophomore effort of sorts: “Now I tremble in New York City, the times we had were the best, yeah baby,” sings Wagner on “Gone Forever”, a fantastically dispiriting, too-old-for-thisshit sequel to Chain Gang’s “New York Was Great”. Less gorgeously noisy than Lust, Control makes up for all that grand recklessness in its sure-footing and execution.
A glance at the track listing might persuade one to think that this affair will prove assuredly more “out of control” than “in” (Suicide, D.R.U.G.S., Breaking Into Cars), but most of these songs invert the anticipated and adopt a playfulness that’s both disquietingly funny and humbly self-referential. Single Last Dance, a resplendent dose of dreambeat prom-pop, perfectly exemplifies the morbid tongue-in-cheek formula that the best tracks on Control subscribe to. Here, we find a character asking an eventual overdose victim to save the titular last dance for them, though it’s apparent the inevitable death of the dancer is far less important than the fulfillment of the traditional Spring Fling date contract (or more pointedly, simply an ode to teenage narcissism). Whether laying a lover to rest on the interlude Oh, I Buried You Today (It’s so hard for me to say sweet words about you, Foo muses adorably) or frankly embracing their outward influences on Suicide (assuming that this runaway tale’s motto of lick your lips and fuck suicide is less about deciding not to off yourself and more about literally giving yourself to no wave), Control’s unsettling sense of humor helps categorize the Raveonettes as a weather-tested act that has the good sense to play with the motifs and textures they used to take all too seriously. This of course brings us to the big water-cooler centerpiece Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed), an unnervingly direct and plainly stated song
the raveonettes // SNUG01
about the frighteningly real effects of sexual assault, made all the more shiver-worthy in its saccharine-laced delivery. Those fuckers stay in your head, Foo chimes, uncomfortably pitched like an innocent line from a long-lost Ronettes tune about being stood-up. It’s a debilitatingly chilling, calculatingly emasculating idea that shouldn’t work but does, and only provides further insight into how clever and accomplished the Raveonettes can sound when they feel this confident in their own skin. When things do begin to feel a little too familiar (the dead-eyed twist of Heart of Stone and the peppery opener Bang! 22
feel dredged from sessions that could very well date back to the very beginning of the band’s existence), Control manages to pull clever punches that keep interests piqued. The dramatic disco-pulse of highlight D.R.U.G.S. or the barefaced sex metaphors that build Breaking Into Cars are artful in their ability to circumvent convention just enough to please familiar listeners and still satisfy the songwriters’ needier impulses. [Control is about] not giving a shit what other people think of you and most importantly being mad and angelic, Wagner stated in that same press release. He’s dead-on; for that we can certainly be appreciative.
ON THE NEXT ISSUE With second album 'Nocturnes', Little Boots takes us on a smooth journey to the end of the night. Featherlight house and faded glitter disco combine to formone of the surprise best recorda of the year. 23
TEGAN AND SARA
loser the first single from Tegan and Sara’s new album Heartthrob, pulses with an urgency that’s propelled by the synthesizer keyboards of one of the album’s producers, Greg Kurstin. The sisters’ voices entwine to sing the catchy chorus with a soaring quality that would be airy and light were the words not so earthy and carnal. closer is indeed a song about getting closer, emotionally and physically. It celebrates a oneon-one intimacy that extends to the way this duo is reaching out to what it hopes will be a larger audience. As openly gay women who’ve never made their sexuality or their sexual
politics the subject of their material, Tegan and Sara have always created romantic music about falling in love and living through relationships both good and bad. In the past, it was frequently possible to distinguish between the songs each wrote — Tegan’s were often tempestuous and fulsome, Sara’s more poppy. But the material on Heartthrob is very much a collaboration of sounds and sensibilities, and these women are united in expressing the joys and the agony — the often luxurious, languid agony — that anyone who has been in love can identify with. I’m glad we live in a time when the idea of putting a glossy pop sheen on one’s singer-
songwriter pensées doesn’t lead to accusations of selling out. Don’t let your ears slip-slide over the surface of these tunes, because this is music that is often loaded with a carefully articulated sense of doubt or hopelessness that Tegan and Sara suggest needs to be shaken off, through a triumph of the pop-music will. If Tegan and Sara wanted to expand their audience with a pop album, they certainly seem to have succeeded. Initial sales have been larger than those of any previous Tegan and Sara album, and they’re touring in larger arenas as an opening act for the Grammy-winning band fun.. But beyond commercial outreach, Heartthrob
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is the work of musicians interested in explaining, with lyrical precision arriving in billowing choruses, the small moments that make affairs of the heart both so specific and so universal. When you can convey both of those elements in a single song, you’re really doing the good work of popular music. While it’s impossible for any Tegan and Sara song to not feel distinctly Tegan and Sara-ish, they had veered into some new territory with their previous two studio albums, from the storytelling experimentation of The
Con in 2007 to the fast-paced tracks of Sainthood in 2009. Tegan and Sara are currently jetting to Europe to celebrate Heartthrob’s release there on February 11, returning to North America for a string of tour dates in Canada and the US throughout the spring, including a performance at Coachella in April. Next Sunday, we’ll also find out if they win their first ever Grammy for Get Along, their combo live DVD/CD released in 2011, which is nominated for Best Long Form Music Video.
Photos by: Interscope Records 25
TEGAN AND SARA
HEARTTHROB -OUT NOW26