out July 7th
With the recent passing of Michael Jackson, every blog I read had some kind of eulogy to the king of pop – by the same writers who, a post earlier, had extolled the music of Dirty Projectors or Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective, or by musicians whose work seems worlds apart from Jackson’s. We might see indie music and pop music as worlds apart, but the trick is not to think of indie music as a reactionary measure, but as a division of pop music that is just less well-known. I feel like sometimes in our day and age people have a genre allegiance that thoroughly blinds them – a weird pretentious image, “too good for pop music.” “Too hip for pop music.” When you think about this, I’m sure you can realize how useless it is. Where would any of us be without pop music? There would be nothing without pop music. None of us is too good for the music we grew up with, and the music that inspired every musician we know.
In short, pop music is not a crime, and what I’ve been getting at this whole time is that Discovery’s LP is not a crime and it is perfect summer pop music. What’s wrong with that?
If you read this blog you know that Discovery is one-quarter of Vampire Weekend and one-sixth of Ra Ra Riot. These are two men whose main projects write songs with lyrics like “spilled kefir on your keffiyeh” and layer them with string crescendos and afro-pop guitar. Discovery is all about having hopeless crushes and dancing in clubs (sometimes in the same song!) and doing laundry and googling yourself. Discovery is about simple things, all fuzz and electronics and autotune and harmonizing, snapping fingers and handclaps. Some are simple and sad truths – “I try to fight this feeling but I can’t” – over unabashed dance music, and some have this happy urgency, upbeat clean keys and two voices trading off, broken and looped over synth and bass.
If you ask me what the best song on LP is I couldn’t tell you because I like them all. They are all voices wound up in hip-hop electronic buzz, keyboard waterfalls, tempo shifts, hand clapping. Wes Miles sings much like he does in Ra Ra Riot – lovelorn and confessional, swapping lyrics like RRR’s “When I arrive will you wake if I open the door” for (similar in sentiment, different in delivery) Discovery’s “When I saw you at the discotheque / send my vibe out to you.” Rostam Batmanglij backs him up with an equally unique voice and the same production skills he showcases in Vampire Weekend – pitch shifts, tempo shifts, a great diversity of sound. But you can make very different music with the same instruments. Discovery is not Ra Ra Riot, and not Vampire Weekend, and not some mélange of both. Something almost as great, but very separate. Discovery doesn’t bend genres or create them, it just fits where you wouldn’t expect it to. Might not be as impressive as creating a subdivision of music for yourself, but it certainly takes balls.
LP is ten songs – cute summery romantic pop. It is not perfect, but there are certainly moments of genius – the layering and shifting of Dirty Projector Angel Deradoorian’s voice in “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (which is a jam if there ever was one); the xylophone that mirrors Ezra Koenig’s guest vocals in “Carby;” in “So Insane” the down-shift of Wes’s voice into an off-tuned abyss – “now that you’re / now that you’re / now, now, now, now.” “Swing Tree” (I think this might be my favorite) is nostalgic, reminiscent of a simpler time: “I would lay down on my back / looking up the stars at night,” with a kind of clean, positive keyboard line that reminds me of Vampire Weekend minus guitar. “Orange Shirt,” “So Insane,” “Osaka Loop Line” – all three are crush jams of the highest order, something you would surreptitiously turn up on the radio when your tenth-grade sweetheart was in the backseat of your mom’s car. For the most part, they are all bright and youthful and summery – and this works on certain tracks better than others. I still like Ra Ra Riot’s “Can You Tell” better than its predecessor, Discovery’s “Can You Discover,” maybe just because its delicate lyrics sound better with emotional strings. For the most part though, LP is lovely, simple, and ecstatic. Nothing seems like filler – everything is weirdly necessary (which is fitting, because with ten tracks LP clocks in at a little less than a half hour).
What Discovery have made is an album that is pop music of the highest caliber – bright and electronic and romantic, danceable, full of effects and production tricks, all these adorable lyrics like “I did your laundry while you slept.” I’ve asked this question before and I’ll ask it again: What’s wrong with that?
To enter to win a copy of Discovery’s LP on vinyl or CD formats (a total of two winners)., leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, Discovery, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until July 15th