There are so many musical paths twisting, bifurcating and sometimes appearing seemingly out of nowhere on Twenty One Pilots’ new release Blurryface. The whole damn thing is almost difficult to listen to all the way through. Almost. Due to the high quality of the meanderings held within this recording, most listeners will just about make it. Much like Thom Yorke’s predictive lyric from Kid A, “Here, I’m allowed everything all of the time,” Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun take a maximalist approach to the future. In the good old days, genre-hopping was accomplished track by track or album by album, but now, nearly a fifth of the way through the 21st century, Twenty One Pilots piles it on as minutes pass; each tune juts and stutters and flies off in myriad directions that make the work of Daniel Johnston seem simple in comparison. Check out “Heavydirtysoul” and “Goner” for clues as to how that is accomplished.
I’m pretty sure the first time I heard Graham Parker & The Rumour was on the old KRST-FM in 1979. The band had been branded as New Wave by American AOR disc jockeys, and the folks at the local radio station that used the god Pan as part of their logo were no exception. Really, Parker and his ensemble came up through a very interesting and underrated British rocanrol subgenre known as pub rock. Their stripped down, blues-inflected, working-class affirmative version of rock and roll music came before punk and new wave. It was a reaction to the outrageous excesses of Brit rock culture in the mid ’70s and took itself fairly seriously. Parker and his gang continue aging with righteous indignation and an intensely accurate sense of what jams with Mystery Glue, the band’s second release since reforming in 2011. I liked opener “Transit of Venus” and number nine track “I’ve Done Bad Things” the best.
Platform by Holly Herndon is just one magnificent yet modest example of how the future will sound. Possessing an ability to craftily disguise itself as pop or electronica, this is actually a recording of high art, incorporating musical methodologies that declare the triumph of the human voice over its mechanical and digital successors. Featured vocalist Claire Tolan—an American, Berlin-based programmer and artist who explores human-computer interactions—does an amazing job of describing the complex sonic psychogeographies rendered by Herndon. On pieces such as “Interference” and “Lonely at the Top,” Herndon takes the tuition of likely predecessor Laurie Anderson to levels that might have seemed outrageously avant-garde in 1980, and are still deeply descriptive of things to come—as today becomes tomorrow. In Herndon’s vision of that place, the humans won, though the price they paid is manifested as dissonance and sonic tension.