Song of the Day: Du Blonde - Black Flag

Song of the Day
07/13/2015
Jacob Webb

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Morning Show with John Richards, is “Black Flag” by Du Blonde from the 2015 album Welcome Back To Milk on Mute.

Du Blonde - Black Flag (MP3)

Feeling stuck while trying to craft a followup to her 2012 debut, Beth Jeans Houghton found creative renewal by eschewing her arty, pop-based style for a more direct take on rock music and rechristened herself Du Blonde. Houghton's debut under her own name, 2012's Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, had been well-received upon release, and along with her backing band The Hooves of Destiny, Houghton went to Los Angeles to record its followup. However, the Newcastle-born singer was unsatisfied with the results, and split with her band before embarking on nine months of travel. While visiting the "David Bowie Is..." exhibit, Houghton decided that her next musical direction would be a dramatic shift in style in persona not unlike that of The Thin White Duke or Ziggy Stardust. Settling on a rock-based direction and a producer in Bad Seeds drummer Jim Scluvanos, Houghton released her debut as Du Blonde, Welcome Back To Milk, in early 2015. Sonically speaking, "Black Flag" has no relation to the the hardcore punk band of the same name, but the way Houghton reworks a plethora of traditional rock elements on the song recalls that band's fearless willingness to rework and reinvent. Aside from the rumbling drum pattern that carries the song, instruments and vocal tracks weave in and out of the song in unexpected patterns, resulting in a song that sounds like a classic rock song, but is constructed with a distinctly nonconventional edge. On top of the song's unique structure, Houghton's voice soars, sounding significantly more natural and confident in its lower register than the high-pitched warble that dominated her first album. Although "Black Flag" is thematically about interpersonal fighting, it feels more triumphant than discordant because of Houghton's revitalized and roaring performance.

Du Blonde has a series of UK shows planned throughout the rest of the year but nothing yet for the U.S., so keep an eye on her website and Facebook for any updates on new shows or music. For now, watch the video for "Black Flag":

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