Silent Shout: Obligatory Presidential Campaign Analogy
Silent Shout is our recurring dispatch from pop’s fringes. It might not be music for the masses, but — to paraphrase *NSYNC — this might be pop.
Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe recently Instagrammed a shot of the results of the Democrats Abroad presidential primary, which Bernie Sanders won with 69% of the expat vote compared to Hillary Clinton’s 31%. Superimposed text read, “This is what happens when you’re not constantly bombarded by corporate media propaganda.”
I bring up this thought-provoking oversimplification because it’s easy to make a similar, and similarly oversimplified, point about pop music in America. Take Jessie J. Without the onslaught of corporate pop-aganda, she would not be a constant force in the culture, repeatedly foisted upon you by a pop music machine that seems to have decided certain entities like her or Charlie Puth will fucking happen.
You feel these same nameless, nefarious forces when should-be-obvious Album of the Year wins for Beyoncé and To Pimp A Butterfly turn out to be fantasies. Or when ANTI gets a bogus platinum certification. Moments like these make you feel powerless against the system — a system that you are probably more tapped into and in touch with than most people, and yet all it does is constantly betray you.
As with elections, we like to say social media holds the power now. But we know huge corporations still run the show, we know they hold the key to cultivating or killing careers of the political and pop persuasion. They are the lifeblood of festivals. They are funding the music sites you’re reading. We like to think we’re free from corporate gatekeepers now, unlike in the days when a few big magazines and radio stations and MTV decided who got to listen to what when. You surely have more choice now, but it’s probably harder today to insulate yourself from corporate influences when you’re engaging with pop music.
Of course, it’s possible to operate outside of that apparatus, out of reach of these dastardly forces brainwashing everyone that 1989 is better than E•MO•TION. There are undiscovered “scenes,” but now the life cycle from “underground” to “co-opted/killed by the machine” is mercilessly swift. Remember sea punk? Remember Chief Keef?
Which is all to say, below we have some music that’s at least operating at the periphery of the industry’s Sauron gaze. For now. Enjoy it in the shadows before the spotlight hits.
TALK ABOUT POP MUZIKCassius feat. Mike D & Cat Power — “Action” Cassius’ Philippe Zdar mixed the Beastie Boys‘ under-appreciated final album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, as well as Cat Power’s 2012 LP Sun, and so Mike D and Chan Marshall return the favor by appearing on the French electronic duo’s first single in over five years. The disco-tinged track gets a tiki-bar-on-acid video, and it proves weird pop spans generations.
Confident Hitmakers — “Vegas Big Shot”With a name and setup that echoes skewed, DIY music collectives like Awful Records and PC Music, California-based Confident Hitmakers offer up swirling copy-and-paste pop that brings to mind Ariel Pink and first-wave chillwave. Head Hitmaker Logan Wells handled their latest track, and its melted digital runoff and muttered vocals are optimized for anyone who is chill with the idea of that mini-genre remaining forever deathless.
CELLARS — “Still In Love” Speaking of Ariel Pink, he’s the producer behind the forthcoming album from Cellars, but her latest is closer to something Ariel Rechtshaid might put together with Carly Rae Jepsen. The last time we featured the L.A. singer she was doing warped synth nostalgia on “Nighttime Girl,” and she’s back with a goopy ballad of slo-mo tears fit for a Delilah call-in request. It’s off her LP Phases, out April 15.
CRUELS feat. PrXmise — “Milk & Honey” It’s like Caracal never happened! San Francisco producer Giovanni Giusti, formerly of The Limousines, enlists PrXmise for a hyperactive house beast that somehow still finds room for a couple singalong hooks.
PAIDEIA — “Restless Child” On the other end of the dance-pop spectrum you have this agitated effort from Brooklyn-based producer PAIDEIA. It sounds like the sort of thing that was made with a cheap MIDI and found sounds and subway bucket drumming, and it all coalesces into a loopy, squiggly hum of energy centered by his grunge-adjacent vocals. It’s off his self-titled debut EP, out May 20.