Basement Dwelling: “Emotional Mugger” by Ty Segall

On the cover of Ty Segall’s 11th record, underneath the image of a grainy black-and-white photo of a disturbing looking doll, is a caption that says, “No man is good three times.” Maybe this is true, but in the case of Mr. Segall, with his new record Emotional Mugger, he proves that you can be great three times. As a matter of fact, he’s been amazing all eleven times that he’s put out a record.

Segall has been making waves in the garage rock/psychedelic scene for about eight years now. It all started with Lemons (2008) and the fantastic lo-fi 2009 masterpiece that put him on many musical maps, Melted. Through the course of these eight years and eleven LPs, Segall has managed to change up his style and yet consistently remain himself with each new addition to his catalog. From the fuzzy, acoustic-led ballads on the album Goodbye Bread, to the pure garage rock freak-out that is Slaughterhouse, no two records of his sound the same and that is certainly still the case for Emotional Mugger.

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Basement Dwelling: “Moth” by Chairlift

Viewing the career trajectory of Chairlift through a public lens can be quite confounding. How can a band who started off as a project formed with the intent to provide background music for haunted houses, then go on to be a feared possible one-hit wonder of music’s digital age with their track “Bruises”  being featured in an Apple iPod commercial? It’s a career path that can definitely cause eyebrows to raise. Not to mention how they recently went on to help pop mega-star Beyoncé co-write a track off her last album. Through all of this, Chairlift has been one of synth-pop and indie electronica’s most exciting voices.

All of these are factors that could harm a band’s career in a myriad of ways, but that’s not the case with Chairlift. Through all of these publicly imposed identity crises, musically they’ve always been themselves and Moth is a definite example of Chairlift’s true guise.

What is Chairlift’s true form? It’s a songwriting duo that is making some of the freshest sounding and most impressively produced songs in pop music today. This was already proven on the band’s stellar album Something, but it is made even clearer here. Akin to Grimes’ recent record Art AngelsMoth is a record full of catchy-as-hell hooks, and memorable songs that prove to be another advancement in just how intelligent pop music can be.

All the while, this album feels very of its time without running the risk of sounding dated. This is what pop music’s present sounds like, and most likely will continue to sound like in the future. It’s a concept that is most prevalent on the album’s first four tracks. From the get go, Moth is an ear worm-heavy monster, especially on tracks “Romeo” and “Ch-Ching.” I know we’re only one month into the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the end of December, I still consider these two of my favorite tracks of 2016.

Basement Dwelling: “Blackstar” by David Bowie

Hello and welcome to Basement Dwelling, a column written by me, Daniel R. Fiorio, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to, but a record was purchased (even if I didn’t like it). Don’t think of me as a critic but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released. Let’s head down to the basement and listen to…

Atmosphere, intensity, a skittering drum beat, distorted vocals, a sonic pallet that sounds all at once past, present, and future. These are all elements that greet you, the listener, on the opening of this record and title track, “Blackstar.” When you look at the source of its creation, these are all things that you would expect from living music icon David Bowie, although at the same time, maybe you wouldn’t. David Bowie is an artist who is known for covering new sonic territories and changing his musical shape with almost every release he puts out. He’s covered so many territories over the course of his lengthy career and he’s managed to cover a new one with Blackstar. Bowie has proven wrong the often-thought notion that just because you’re a veteran artist, your music will be dull or a shameless retread of the past. Blackstar completely spits in the face of that notion and offers a work that is just as bold and exciting as some of the records that have made David Bowie such an icon.

What sets Blackstar apart from other works in Bowie’s catalog is its deep sense of urgency throughout the entirety of the record.

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