By Daniel Johanson
Who: Courtney Barnett
What: “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas”
The indie folk genre has had an interesting ride of new artists and outgoing experimental works that really no longer fit into the genre. One of the most promisingly simple acts is that of Courtney Barnett and “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas.”
The Australian guitarist/singer/songwriter found international recognition when she released this project, originally two separate EPs on her own label, Milk! Records. The album is fun, the sounds are familiar yet fresh, but what stands out is Barnett’s lyricism. She has a rambling nature, which may seem like a setback but defines her style. Each track on the album has its own witty moments.
The most frequently quoted line comes from her single, “Avant Gardener,” saying, “The paramedic thinks I’m clever ‘cause I play guitar/ I think she’s clever ‘cause she stops people from dying,” and is a prime example of the lyricism that Barnett brings to the table. It’s self-critical almost, critiquing her own strengths.
With novelties like an entire track about masturbation for the sake of itself, Barnett really has the capability to stand out as a voice for a generation that isn’t necessarily interested in music writing following the same paradigm from a lyrical standpoint.
Who: Danny Brown
One of the most unique acts in the hip hop scene right now is Danny Brown. The Detroit-based rapper has been turning heads the last couple of years, and his full-length release a couple months ago followed suit.
The artist is known for his ability to stand out, including his trademark smile with its missing teeth from an accident in a KFC parking lot. He is exemplary of a movement going on in the hip hop industry where thug and gang life isn’t glorified as strongly. Some voices even call it “hipster rap,” but the influences of the Midwest and its heavy jazz styles are apparent.
Recognized as one of the strongest emcees in the game right now, he was constantly known for his ability to rhyme, even as a young child. He has a strong command of verbiage, with a flow that connects rhymes that are not easily achieved.
The album’s production shows strong trap influences, possibly due to his connection with tour partner Baauer, who has a big presence in that field.
What: “Days Gone By”
Cruising the indie scene right now is the band Haim, pronounced like the word “time.” The group is an outfit of three sisters putting out music that is refreshingly classic.
The sound has a ’90s pop vibe, a very common comparison being made by most critics is that of the sound of Fleetwood Mac. Formed in Los Angeles, the band consists of Este Arielle, Danielle Sari, and Alana Mychal Haim, their surname being the name of the band.
The album has a lot of gems musically, and moments that really define the band’s unique style. It serves as a breakthrough for the band, and their newfound popularity surely reflects that.
The biggest track, “The Wire,” is straight out of a radio station from 20 years ago. It’s nostalgic; it’s what our parents were listening to when we were younger. Guitar, drums, and synth play equal parts behind the vocal line to create a bubblegum sound that is surprisingly unique. The vocalism is strong. Some of the gestures used by the lead singer are nothing short of impressive.
The lyrics are catchy, simple, and easily understandable. The most emotionally gripping track is towards the end, “Let Me Go,” in which a somber strings intro brings in a rhythmically driving track that emphasizes the mood of the piece. The percussion, specifically, has a color of being played by hand, playing on the raw emotional nature of the piece, and the metallic feel of the electric guitar serves to cut through the texture to portray the pain and anger in the emotional palette. It’s this listener’s most emotionally satisfying track.