Newspaper article International New York Times

New Music for the Internet Age

Newspaper article International New York Times

New Music for the Internet Age

Article excerpt

Albums from Grouper, Willow Smith, 2.54 and Ashley Paul.

A 14-year-old changes by the month, week, day. Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada, is no different. "Whip My Hair," her hit single from 2010, got a lot right for the moment and her place in it: a giddy be-yourself dance record, fourth grade in spirit, radio- chiseled in sound. She made a few tracks in the interim that didn't land with the same force, and then started her apostasy from mainstream culture. Recently, she and her brother Jaden have been posting their experiments on SoundCloud, sometimes made in tandem, and sometimes with an English fascination: incorporating bits of Pink Floyd and the xx, covering King Krule. Her most significant work since "Whip My Hair" came out last week -- a three-song EP called "3," available at this writing only as a free download on the Google Play site. It's slow, floaty, futuristic soul, inspired by Jhene Aiko and SZA, teacherly and mystical but dotted with references to loneliness and smoothies. She is said to be interested these days in numerology and sacred geometry, but she still has some 14-ness to spread around. Last week, she also posted a new song, "Cares," on her SoundCloud page. If "3" sounds poised and self- conscious, "Cares" is more like the ultra-raw sequel to "Whip My Hair" -- a hookless, nonrhyming anthem of teen autonomy, for voice and one-handed percussion. ("I played the drums" is Ms. Smith's only comment alongside the track.) "I do not care what people say," it begins. "I'll play this game the way I play." It ends with a non sequitur or a statement of intent: "Dreads in the back, I hope that they grow/you can say yes, or you can say no."

"I often picture releasing an album as trying to secretly sink a heavy object in a lake," the Oregon musician Liz Harris, a.k.a. Grouper, said in an interview last year. "Find a quiet corner, gently slip it under the surface, watch the ripples for a moment and steal away." "Ruins" (Kranky), her new album, was submerged into musical culture on Halloween; recorded three years ago in Portugal, it's her most direct, sustained, least blurry record yet, suggesting underwater relationships with Brian Eno and Judee Sill. …

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