Silent Shout: Noise To Distract You From All The Noise In Pop This Week

Carl Williott | February 5, 2016 9:00 am

Silent Shout is our recurring roundup of the latest in alt-pop. It might not be music for the masses, but — to paraphrase *NSYNC — this might be pop.

The past week or so has been one of the most entertaining short stretches in recent pop music memory. We had the Kanye-Wiz flameout and truce, the merciless dragging of Rihanna‘s ANTI rollout/salesRita Ora being Rita Ora and I’m sure some Miley Cyrus thing I’m forgetting. The fanfare is part of the appeal, just like with sports or politics. Rivalries and  BTS soap operas and stats have always been just as integral to pop as the art, because the art is a product, and salaciousness sells. But it’s more pronounced when you factor in the pull of SEO traffic and tweet-able headlines, so that when you follow this stuff day in and day out in the modern age, you’re subjected to a diarrhea stream of trumped-up drama and hot takes about the trumped-up drama. Think about this aspect too hard, and it’s really demoralizing, because it frequently feels like the music, the thing we’re supposedly talking about, is hardly ever the thing we’re talking about.

But maybe we need those sideshows. Because without the inflated distractions, we’d have to actually grapple with the fact that, say, Panic! At The Disco are hugely popular a decade after they even mattered, while Carly Rae Jepsen is relegated to making street busker jokes that hit way too close to home. We’d have to come to terms with Pitbull and Robin Thicke uniting in cheesedickery at the Grammys. Of course we’re trying to distract ourselves from that type of bleak shit.

But there are places you can scurry to when you need a break from the oppressive weight of the clicky content grind without completely extricating yourself from the pop conversation. For me, the realm of fringe pop is one such place. I can naively think that here, music supersedes the drama, that the storylines only concern decoding the weirdo influences at play or wondering whether something will infiltrate mass culture. For me, this space and this type of alt-pop is noise to briefly drown out the all the other noise.

So take a moment to step out of the big top and get some fresh air. The pop circus isn’t leaving town any time soon. The freak show will still be going on when you return.


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NJOMZA — “Move To Your Beat” & “Pretty Bye Bye” The newest member of Mac Miller‘s REMember imprint sprints out of the gate with two killer tracks in a matter of days. “Move To Your Beat” traverses house, trap, R&B and future bass thanks to a multifaceted beat from FKi‘s 1st, and NJOMZA keeps apace with all the changeups and speed boosts. Her feature on Skrillex‘s intricate “Pretty Bye Bye” likewise serves as a soulful anchor for a flurry of motion and syncopation.

Cellars — “Nighttime Girl” This is synth-pop as reflected in a smudged-up funhouse mirror, so it makes sense that kitsch king Ariel Pink produced the track. Its mix of fuzzy guitars and bendy synths brings to mind Neon Indian, and it’s another strong piece of evidence in the Chillwave Will Never And Should Never Die case file.

Operators — “Cold Light” Dan Boeckner‘s latest, synth-focused project debuted with EP1 in 2014. It was a burst of anthemic analog electro that would’ve fit right in with the dance-punk rise in the aughts. But “Cold Light,” the first taste of their forthcoming debut LP, is more new wave-indebted. There’s a focus on texture rather than sequencing, and it suggests they’ve expanded their sound a bit for Blue Wave (which drops April 1, smack in the midst of the return of Wolf Parade, Boeckner’s beloved indie band with Spencer Krug).

Taffy Trouble — “Backseat Driver” Brits seem to do quick-talking insult-pop better than anyone else (see: M.I.A., Lily Allen, fellow Silent Shout-er GIRLI), and now UK duo Taffy Trouble have joined the conversation. Their debut single is like if Icona Pop survived 2013 and came out on the other end broke and bitter.

Kill J — “Trickle Trickle” Like Purity Ring‘s Megan James, this Danish singer/producer has a tendency to deliver visceral, unsettling lyrics over enchanting electronic canvases. Here, the title phrase suggests something creepy like blood, as opposed to something benign or nourishing like water. Mixing the hyper-feminine coos of Grimes with the uncanny mutations of FKA twigs, she lands on something that’s as ghostly as it is organic.