I was pretty sure I’d had enough Band Of Horses a decade ago, after the group’s second album, Cease To Begin. It wasn’t that they’d gotten worse or anything. It just felt like their chill, occasionally twangy indie rock wasn’t going anywhere new. So I slept on Why Are You OK, the band’s fifth album, when it came out about a year ago. But somehow it ended up on my phone (I must’ve put it there; it wasn’t some U2-inspired stunt), and it’s slowly ingratiated itself over the past 11 months. There’s nothing particularly new about it, and there aren’t many tracks that wouldn’t fit on the other BOH albums, but this pack of songs is insinuatingly tuneful, from the album-opening ballad “Dull Times / The Moon” to the more raucous “In A Drawer,” which features a weird little vocal cameo from J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff by any stretch—it’s not even groundbreaking for a Band Of Horses album—but it’s comfortingly tuneful at worst and comfortingly ecstatic at best.
As far as modernist music is concerned, I’ve always considered myself indifferent to Iannis Xenakis, the theory-centric French-Greek architect turned composer (he had the unique background of being mentored by Le Corbusier and Olivier Messiaen at the same time) who wrote music the way a mathematician might write theorems. I’m still cold on his compositions for piano and orchestra—with the exception of the awe-inspiring “Metastasis,” his first major work—but in the last month, I’ve become dangerously enamored with the percussion music Xenakis wrote in the 1970s and ’80s. It started with “Rebonds,” a two-part solo piece written in the late 1980s for tom-toms, bongos, bass drums, tumba, and woodblocks. (I prefer it to Xenakis’ other solo percussion piece, “Psappha,” written in 1975.) From there, I moved on to “Pléïades,” a 1978 chamber composition in four movements—specifically the recording by Les Percussions De Strasbourg, for whom it was written. Less well-known is the 1989 percussion trio “Okho,” originally composed for bass drums and West African djembes. For whatever reason, Xenakis’ compositional method seems unalluring to me when it’s applied to orchestral instrumentation—but when simplified to pitched percussion, it becomes thrilling and strangely beautiful.
Several years ago I went on a bit of a potato-chip tear, and it was during this descent into carb darkness that I encountered these crunchy beauties from a company in St. Louis. The Billy Goat Chip Company makes a rippled spicy variant called Kicker, and it’s one of the finest chips ever to have passed these lips (and I literally tasted 200 bags during said potato-chip tear). Coated with onion and garlic powder, some spicy flavoring mojo, and the barest hint of sugar, these chips generate a crunch so audible it will surely alarm your work neighbors (at which point you offer them a few and all is forgiven). The flavors are clean, buttery, with that subterranean undertow of russet potatoes. Of course, $10 for a one-pound bag is pricey for potato chips, but these make Lay’s taste like packing peanuts.