For those of us who jump on any excuse to wear a jacket, this week of cloudiness and occasional drizzle has been such a blessing. And just like our fashion tastes, this pause in SoCal sunshine gives us a chance to explore and experience different music. There’s something about 65-degree weather that stops people from wearing flip-flops and blasting Chainsmokers. (For obvious reasons, CMC doesn’t count.)
Bummer pop provides all the gloom and synth-heavy sensibilities your college-aged soul aches for, as orange and yellow leaves crackle on your way to class. More of a style than a genre, bummer pop is, as Musically Proper puts it, “a way to describe odd songs that have pop appeal with a strange touch of sadness or mystery.” It’s the musical equivalent of driving down a rainy Indian Hill Boulevard and being mesmerized by the other cars’ red brake lights as they shine off the gravel.
Ruby Haunt, a duo made up of Victor Pakpour and Wyatt Ininns, has four releases under their belt–three EPs and one full-length album, Sugar, released earlier this month. The duo finds inspiration in the melodic sadness of Joy Division, Suicide, and New Order. A good place to start is with their debut, Hurt, released in April of last year. “Desire,” the first track off the EP, sets the mood right off the bat. Backed only by a somber synth melody and minimal bass and guitar, Wyatt crones: “True desire is a mystery / To find her is a hopeless dream / I will wait here for a love that’s real / I will wait here for someone that feels / Mystery, will you find me? (x4).”
On Sugar, Ruby Haunt add drums and some more pronounced guitar parts to the songs, giving them a bit more pop appeal, but still hold on tight to their repetitive self-loathing. The album’s third track, “Strangers,” best demonstrates this with its monotonous but eerily catchy chorus: “We are strangers to ourselves (x4).” The music and the repetitive lyrics can get tiring, but it pairs well with looking out at a half-cloud-covered Mt. Baldy as you try and forget that finals are only a month away.
Ruby Haunt isn’t doing anything groundbreaking; they could easily play in the background of any Urban Outfitters or high-end thrift store and induce the classic shopping nod as you consider getting that overpriced pair of washed out Levi’s. But if you can get past the hipster pretentiousness—which bleeds through their album covers—you’re in for a gloomy treat. Catch them either tonight at Space Camp in downtown L.A. or at the Viper Room on Nov. 1.
But there’s more to fall weather than just loneliness. We’re still college kids, after all, and we need to hang out and party, even if it’s kind of chilly outside. Helado Negro (a.k.a Roberto Carlos Lange), a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, is the right man for the job. The son of Ecuadorean immigrants, Lange was born in South Florida in 1980.
According to his Facebook, Lange’s childhood “was suffused with tropical heat, humidity, hurricanes, all refracted with the rich sounds and colors of the various Latin American culture of southern Florida.” Lange’s music, which typically veers into the experimental, contains a base level of rhythmic drum beats that make you shuffle in your seat. These beats are grounded, however, in an intimate setting, with stringy guitars going off into the distance as Lange morphs his voice into another instrument.
Lange has released music as Helado Negro since 2010, describing his first extended play, Pasajero, as an “empanada,” bookended by two original songs (“2º Dia” and “Paz a Ti”) with six cover songs in between. His tropical sounds have stayed with him throughout his career, culminating in his breakout record, Private Energy, released last week to critical acclaim.
As described by Pitchfork’s Matthew Ismael Ruiz, it is Lange’s “most accessible album yet; half of the lyrics are in English and the abstract sound sculptures that dotted his earlier work are carefully arranged into an orderly sequence as instrumental interludes.” The album is also replete with odes to Lange’s pride in his Latinadad, with songs like “Young, Latin and Proud” and “It’s My Brown Skin,” in which Lange sings: “It’s the color that holds me tight/My brown me is the shade that’s just for me/I love you/You’re stuck on me/And all this time I’m inside you.”
These two acts have made my morning coffee and cigarette taste that much better this October. I hope they provide equal form of low-key pleasure for all of you, too.