Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: antarctigo vespucci

#6 Album of 2014 – Antartigo Vespucci – Soulmate Stuff / I’m So Tethered


(feat. track – “I’m Giving Up On U2 [live at Shea Stadium]” [spotify link to studio recording])

I’ve been a fan of Chris Farren’s main gig, Fake Problems, for quite some time. Indeed, I would venture that most of the band’s fans are long-timers, due to the fact that they haven’t managed to release anything since 2010, when a nasty label situation basically buried that year’s Real Ghosts Caught On Tape long before its expiration date. But the ensuing years have clearly been productive ones; while Farren kept himself publicly busy doing whatever it is that a Punk Celebrity does (apparently making t-shirts and talking about Lost?), he was also writing a batch of seriously impressive songs. Farren re-emerged into the musical world this year with the surprise release of two EPs by Antarctigo Vespucci, a partnership with Jeff Rosenstock*, and it’s not a stretch to call them his best work to date.

Soulmate Stuff combines the the understated empathy of the Weakerthans, the raucous synth-party vibes of the Rentals and the sputtering brio of 90’s Alt Nation flameouts like Superdrag’s “Sucked Out,” Tripping Daisy’s “I Got A Girl” and Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” – awesomely copacetic source material that makes for a little marvel of a listen when splooshed together. Farren takes lead vocals through most of the EP; the ease in which he slides from nervous nebbish to Springsteenian font and back gives the album an emotional arc that never feels forced. Alternately, I’m So Tethered hones in on the band’s more upbeat side, four tracks that bounce from “go;” the differing approaches each feel wonderful in their own way.

The duo back up the exceptional batch of songs with near-perfect production and arrangement choices. The handclaps, squawking synths and fat, fuzzy single-string guitar leads that imbue Soulmate Stuff with verve all feel natural – almost inevitable – at the places they’re found; Tethered introduces saxophones to the sonic party, and closes with a jaunty number full of barely-disguised synth presets (“Come to Brazil”) that feels like kin with Vampire Weekend’s “Unbelievers.” The grand impression you’re left with is something akin to hearing Farren and Rosenstock flit away an afternoon in a sonic playground, having the time of their lives – the childlike joy and mischief aren’t just palpable, they’re the very essence of Antarctigo Vespucci.

I don’t know when we’ll get new Fake Problems material. Farren is promising that it will be soon, or at least as soon as the band finds a partner that makes sense. I won’t hold my breath on that prediction – mostly because I no longer feel like I have to. If Antarctigo Vespucci becomes priority #1, well, I would have no problem with that; frankly it’s hard to imagine Fake Problems doing anything better (and that’s no dis to them). Antarctigo Vespucci’s debut EPs are pretty much everything I want from music.

[The streaming clip up top is from the group’s first live performance, at Shea Stadium (the DIY Brooklyn venue, not the no-longer-extant edifice in Queens.) I had the privilege of being in attendance, and the show was as fun as it sounds.]

*I never really did get into Bomb The Music Industry!, the longtime project that Rosenstock packed in in 2013, but perhaps that’s something I need to go back and revisit now.

Makeup for the Silence – Best of 2014 Mixtape

Makeup for the Silence - Best of 2014 Mixtape

It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been doing this as long as I have, and yet here we are for the fifth year in a row* with the annual Makeup For The Silence Mixtape.

The 2014 edition of my yearly mixtape feels darker, tetchier and more ruminative than last year’s compilation. Partly that’s deceptive: this year’s picks are angrier in their loudest, brightest moments, and more quiet when soft and sweet. Indeed, 2014 was my most blissful in recent memory, full of both personal joy (getting married) and professional success (my first print features in a decade), But as they say, energy flows where attention goes, and the tracks here that demand the most attention rage loudly enough to nearly eclipse the more subtle sweetness in between.

Only nearly, though. Part of the challenge of making the yearly mixtape is in the curation – there were more than 200 songs that made my running Top Tracks Of 2014 longlist**, and paring them down is some combination of making a CD-length document that actually flows as a well-sequenced album would without excluding anything absolutely essential to the year. I spend far more time than any human should working toward hitting the sweet spot each time out; hopefully, I managed it here.

The “no big radio hits” rule wasn’t really an issue this year (sorry Taylor); while I felt like 2014 was much more of a singles year than an albums year for me personally (more on that soon), it wasn’t because of anything on pop radio, which had a seriously down year compared to 2013. I feel like we’re headed toward an interesting intersection – it’s clear to me that the pop-EDM bubble has burst, and there’s definitely renewed interest in music made with traditional instruments, but nobody seems to quite know what to do with them yet (other than sample saxophones, ubiquitously). In the past that’s led to tremendously interesting and diverse years for pop music (think 90-91), but for some reason this year’s casting-about turned up little in the way of interesting experiments – at least not in the Top 40.

And yet the 23 tracks here barely tap the surface; there was tremendous breadth, if not depth, just below. This year’s mix features a pair of refugees from collapsed bands, each digging out of the rubble and starting anew in their own way; two tracks from the best band in the world you’ve never heard of; four minutes of guts-searing #emorevival; and four more of glorious, gossamer #softshread. It’s all in there, Frankensteined together into one rather dapper monster, if I do say so myself.

Enough talk. Download***, listen, enjoy.

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2014

  1. Free – Brent Walsh
  2. Royals (Remix) – T-Pain ft. Young Cash
  3. Tongue Talk – The Holidays
  4. Canyon Moon – Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
  5. Coming Of Age – Foster the People
  6. Unconditional Love – Against Me!
  7. Queen of Hearts – Darlia
  8. Don’t Die in Yr Hometown – Antarctigo Vespucci
  9. American Beauty / American Psycho – Fall Out Boy
  10. Exclusive Coupe – MYRONE
  11. Long Night – Guster
  12. Nervous Kids – Tigers Jaw
  13. Brutal Truth – Foxy Shazam
  14. Your Deep Rest – The Hotelier
  15. Dear Diary – Darlia
  16. Giving Up – Allison Weiss
  17. I Told You So – Dazy (The Girl) ft. Derek Sanders
  18. Tear The House Up (Edit) – Herve & Zebra Katz
  19. Digital Witness – St. Vincent
  20. Eyeshadow – No Devotion
  21. Erosion – Cymbals
  22. Come Alive – Rachel Taylor
  23. XO – Roy English

click image to download

Stay tuned, The yearly Top Ten will begin in just a few days!

*you can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence, as well as all the playlists I’ve contributed to elsewhere, right over here.

**if you’d like to get a headstart on 2015, feel free to follow my running Top Tracks Of 2015 So Far playlist on Spotify. It’s barren right now but that won’t last long.

***just like the past two years, there’s a Spotify version of 2014’s mix available, but also like those years, there are a handful of tracks on the mix which aren’t currently available on the service. I love Spotify’s convenience, but I recommend downloading if you want the real deal – otherwise, you miss out on a few great songs, and also the sequencing. If you’re a Spotify user, it’s easy to import downloaded files into Spotify, I promise.

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