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Caroline Polachek takes listeners on a celestial voyage on "Billions"

Photo by Aidan Zamiri, styled by Tati Cotliar

The mesmerizingly winding road of Caroline Polachek’s musical trajectory had spanned far and wide—from writing haunted house music in Boulder, Colorado to co-founding the indie combo Chairlift and bestriding the Great-Early-21st-Century-Brooklyn-Psych-Pop-Rock Renaissance alongside the likes of MGMT, Yeasayer, and Grizzly Bear; from songwriting collabs with such obscure niche artists as Beyoncé, Solange, and Blood Orange to putting out solo albums under two separate alter egos (the Dario Argento-adjacent dark synthpop soundtracks of Ramona Lisa, and the electro-instrumental ambient drift of CEP); and finally, from her 2019 debut LP released under her own name called Pang to her two latest singles which together demonstrate that Ms. Polachek still has plenty of new musical highways and byways left to explore somehow. 

The first of these two singles (“Bunny Is A Rider”) is a song about being “liberated by disappearance, about non-responding, about being unbeholden to anyone” which accounts for the refrain of Bunny is a rider / satellite can’t find her which is a fitting theme for our current Surveillance Age where freedom’s just another word for somewhere left to get lost—a theme mirrored sonically by the stark bassline-led Spaghetti Western musical textures, and their implied wide-open spaces, complete with pitter-pattering rhythms and high lonesome whistling and autotuned trilling and sampled infant cooing plus plenty of tape hiss and chicken scratch and synth swelling all of which makes going off the digital grid sound like escaping to a glitchy Wild West.

The second single, “Billions,” released earlier this month, likewise takes the listener to a place outside of normal experience or social surveillance—the title and the cosmic vibes of “Billions” can’t help but put this listener in a very Carl Sagan-esque headspace—a space comprised of delicately lurching reversed rhythms and skittering tablas that like raindrops dancing off rooftops plus celestial choirs and sub-bass and string arpeggiations and dramatic recitations and a breakdown section with what may possibly be a dilruba solo (but hey I’m no ethnomusicologist) not to mention Caroline’s majestically malleable voice swooping across multiple octave registers and multiple emotional registers and multiple digital manipulations across the song’s nearly five-minute kaleidoscopic arrangement.

In sum it’s a virtuosic arrangement and production and performance overall—with both singles co-written and co-produced by British producer/remixer/songwriter Danny L Harle, best known for his work with the pioneering PC Music collective and for his impressive resume of collaborations, including making Pang and seriously the collaborative work of Polachek & Harle so far is the closest upgraded-equivalent of Bjork and Nellee Hooper’s sublime mid-90s sides that I know of with “Billions” being their “Venus As A Boy” (extolling the virtues of a lover who lies like a sailor but…loves like a painter). The duo have a knack for not only crossing musical boundaries but also for pretty much melting them away entirely, with synthetic sounds rendered vivid and visceral and lifelike, while organic sounds often come off as extraterrestrial, in other words, a near-total meshing of human/physical and machine/technological that’s like “sexting sonnets / under the tables / tangled in cables” to quote Caroline herself.

Oh and the video for “Billions” is cool too just like most of Ms. Polachek’s video (see top of this page, co-directed by Matt Copson and Caroline herself) and after viewing it you’ll probably wanna go grape-picking-and-stomping and then order some cool crazy-straw-style wine glasses and an ornamental blown-glass funnel for bath-taking purposes but sorry no Paul Giamatti. (Jason Lee)





Liz Cooper brings the hot sass on new live EP

On 2021’s Hot Sass, Brooklyn-via-Nashville-via-Baltimore-singer-songwriter-axe-wielder Liz Cooper conjures up a unique fusion/contusion of tight-as-a-tick's-ass-Music-City-worthy songcraft (e.g.,”Shoot the Moon”) crossed with a Brooklyn-worthy tendency to drive finely honed songcraft straight over the edge of a cliff (or better yet off the side of the Williamsburg Bridge, that is, if it wasn’t all caged in) in the process exploding/imploding traditional song structures with excursions into (for instance) nearly eight-minute epic Krautrock-style locked grooves infused with acid-fried-psych and a cappella inserts as on “Lucky Charm” or (for another instance) sexy glam rock stomp outfitted with fits of pummeling hardcore feral-freakout riffage alongside fragments of floaty musique concrète soundscapery as on the eponymous “Hot Sass” (a song which totally captures what it feel like to have a freakout episode in a Kroger parking lot and I grew up in Dallas so I oughta know).

The end product of all this musical assembly/disassembly was a compellingly schizoid album that felt highly apropos to last year and still feels it today—equal parts dreamy pop reverie and jittery anxiety dream—so that perhaps it makes sense Ms. Cooper made the move to Crooklyn when she did because some of the tracks on Hot Sass may be just a little bit too sassy for Nashville these days and it’s not a city that’s generally short on sass either even if there’s a growing sass supply shortage (RIP Katy K’s).

And now to our main attraction: the five-song live set posted yesterday on Audiotree Live (Chitown in the house!) by Liz Cooper and her current band—and lemme tell ya she’s assembled a crack band to help realize her post-Liz-Cooper-And-The-Stampede musical vision (the Stampede was also a crack band to be sure, tho’ one I hasten to add a band that was never known to take crack, a drug that doesn’t lend itself to mellifluous steel guitar infused alt-country).

Take set opener “Je T’aime” for instance (see the top of this page) which features a flinty/flirty shaker-assisted groove that brings to mind some of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s classic mid-to-late ‘60s sides (not to mention how Liz can shift her voice from coyly supine, to aggressively vulpine, on a dime, and back again, not unlike Frank’s favorite daughter) a parallel that’s further enhanced by the song’s pregnant pauses and these-boots-are-gonna-walk-all-over-you lyrical message if less so by its space-alien-summoning keyboard solo and final serrated guitar chord.

So check out the full live set in the video at the top of this page and/or in audio form at the streaming platform of your choice and don’t worry I won’t spoil the other four songs for ya cuz I ain’t sassy like that. (Jason Lee)





Alt Pop

Time: 
18:00
Band name: 
Brooke Josephson
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.facebook.com/brookejosephsonmusic
Venue name: 
Whisky A Go Go
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Time: 
19:30
Band name: 
Rachael Sage
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.facebook.com/rachaelsagepage
Venue name: 
Sony Hall
Band email: 
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Time: 
19:00
Band name: 
Strawberry Guy
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.instagram.com/strawberry_guy/?hl=en
Venue name: 
The Independent
Band email: 
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