What Do Haim, Sky Ferreira & Vampire Weekend Have in Common?

Ariel Rechtshaid. Photo via the New York Times.

Last year, my first confrontation with Haim came when I saw their set at the Treasure Island Music Festival in the Bay Area.

Afterward, on my way home, I streamed Haim’s Days Are Gone. At the time, I thought the group’s live set blew away the album. But with time I’ve come to dig the album.

Flash forward to the day I listened to Sky Ferreira for the first time. It was a track off her previous album and I didn’t get it. But when her latest album, Night Time, My Time came out I gave it a listen and I liked it a lot. I heard a modern day version of Phil Spector’s Wall-of-Sound.

Both albums made my best-of-2013 list.

The link between those albums, as well as Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City turns out to be 34-year-old producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who has also worked with Usher, Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg and Cass McCombs.

Crazy, right?

The latest issue of the New Yorker and today’s New York Times have stories about Ariel Rechtshaid.

Writes Ben Ratliff in the New York Times today:

Many eminent producers say they don’t have a signature sound, and they may be telling the truth, but they do have signature associations, or ideals. They want to make records for the radio, or records that are expansive, organic or precise, or they favor certain mixes and combinations of sounds, or they tend to work with artists in one particular stratum of the pop industry. Most producers — including this year’s other nominees — have a trackable version of what is often called “production values.” Mr. Rechtshaid (pronounced RECK-shide) avers that he doesn’t have a signature sound, and it’s hard to say what his production values are. In general, it has been unclear exactly what he’s up to. I suggested a listening session with him on his own turf, so I could try to crack the code.

And later in the article:

In his studio, I suggested that we listen to some pop music that he found particularly meaningful. For a while, he talked about context: the desensitizing experience of hearing a song too many times, even a great one by Michael Jackson or Chaka Khan or Fleetwood Mac; the stigmas that attach to certain songs or sounds or styles when certain opinion makers deem them uncool; the importance of helping musicians make music that sounds like no other well-known reference point.

As an example, Mr. Rechtshaid came up with the Clash’s 1982 song “Rock the Casbah,” then started looking up other songs on YouTube, pushing toward an interesting idea. He loved the first Clash album and the first Sex Pistols album, both released in 1977, and other punk records from the movement’s beginnings. They were “honest,” he said, “in that they reflect what’s going on around them.”

But by the time of its fifth album, “Combat Rock” — which included “Rock the Casbah” — the Clash had moved toward disco, reggae and rockabilly. And in the shift away from naïve impulses toward a bigger sound and more expensive production values — in a possible move away from some of their original impulses — something important happened. “The best bands kept making records and had this evolution, where by the end, by their commercial phase or sellout phase, the records are from outer space. No one else could have made that record. You don’t know what era it’s from.”

For all of this story, head to the New York Times.

Haim:

Sky Ferreira:

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael recently completed his first novel, Days of the Crazy-Wild, and is currently writing a second novel.

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