Monday, November 30, 2009

Great New Band: Screaming Lights

I was put on to this band a few weeks ago. Apparently they're gaining steam in the UK, and honestly I can see why. They have a psychedelic feel to them that's kind of like Depeche Mode, Joy Division, and early U2 all rolled into one. I'm a fan and their first album is actually really good. I'm surprised they haven't gotten any airplay here in the States. There's a great track called "Exit Wound" that I can't find on youtube to post, and this is all I could find. It's on their myspace page though which you can go to by clicking here. I'm sure a lot of people are going to be labeling them as copycats of Editors or Joy Division wannabes, but I guess I just think they're a band that might have something more than that in them after a few listens. Perhaps even becoming the band that Bloc Party should have become. The first song posted below is their first single. Enjoy.

The Five Best Bands from the 2000's: #1 - TV on the Radio

I don't even remember the first time I listened to them anymore. I do however, remember buying Dear Science the day it was released and not listening to anything else for the next 4-5 weeks. TV on the Radio's formula is fairly simple, it's somewhat of a transitive formula for bringing several genres of rock from the 60's and 70's into the new era; we love David Bowie and Bob Dylan, but we also love modern production techniques, so we're going to make music as Bowie and Dylan would using modern production techniques. Their setup is fairly simple; dual frontmen with Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, a loose feeling of anything goes with their songwriting, and a free-flowing, somewhat unstable timeline of musical progression that you just can't put your finger on. I had a friend once who told me that she felt they were becoming more soulful over the course of their albums, and I guess there's some truth to that, but it's hard not to listen to some of their earlier work and not get sucked in to Adebimpe's voice like you would any classic soul singer.

I think what makes TV on the Radio the best is simply the fact that they're so easy to love. Beautiful, thrilling, complicated, dense; you could go on forever using adjectives to describe the type of music that they make. They're the anti-Animal Collective; they're not hard to love. They're one of those bands that after a few minutes of hearing them for the first time, one says to themselves, "yeah, I'm going to be following these guys for a while." They're the type of band that makes other people want to learn how to play instruments and start writing songs. They make albums that people put on as background music for studying, working out, driving, cleaning up around the house; you name it. They're universal for anyone who is a fan of any genre of not just rock but music all together. And that's why I think they're the best artists of this decade. They blend the wit of Elvis Costello's style of social commentary, the vocal techniques of singers ranging from John Lennon to Al Green with rhythms that knock your fucking socks off. They're an alpha=male band in a beta-male era of society. What more can a fan ask for?

My favorite track from them

On Letterman last year, this performance was just awesome.

Ahem, that's Bowie on the background vocals

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Five Best Bands from the 2000's: #2 - Animal Collective

When it comes to Animal Collective, people tend to fall generally into one of two camps. You either think they're geniuses, trailblazers of an entirely new style of not only rock but music all together; or you think that they're a complete joke and their music is the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard. There's really no in-between. The former is usually composed of critics and fans who listen to such an inordinate amount of music that the mind eventually thirsts for something, ANYTHING that upsets the norm. They want music that they sometimes may not even love upon the first listen, because they want the music to earn their affection. And so they listen and listen to the layering and the samples and the hooks and the loops until they can make some sort of sense of the jumbled mess coming out of their speakers. Melody and instruments become an afterthought in the quest to find music that confuses them. This is the type of music that Animal Collective makes, it's the type of music that tends to turn critics on their heads, and it's also the type of music that their fans want. I happen to fall into that group when it comes to these two camps. I love music that confuses the hell out of me, I think that's what it's there for.

It's not so much the originality of their sound for me, it's their sheer mastery of it. Listening to Animal Collective is like watching Synedoche, New York. Either you get it or you don't. You can marvel at the dexterity of it all, or you're bored to death by it. It's really that simple. Avey Tare and Panda Bear always seem to pick the exact right spots to insert their distinguishing vocals, and their use of African drum beats mixed in with any sort of sample and hook you can imagine wind up amounting to the Beach Boys on a bad acid trip. Though listenability is certainly subjective in the eyes of many, one thing that isn't up for debate is originality. And, for me, it's not so much the inventiveness that's at the forefront of everything they do, it's their recognition that the freedoms they take in each album are best served to the listener if they're carefully controlled. Animal Collective makes music that you can only decipher with a good pair of headphones, and perhaps that's why I love them so much.

In what wound up being a hilarious performance due to his reaction, David Letterman was dumbfounded when they played Summertime Clothes on his show earlier in the year, and not in a good way. But that's the entire point I'm trying to make here. Either you love them for upsetting the status quo or you point and laugh at them for it. Me? I think they're fantastic. I think that they remind us all that sometimes you need to just shut up and explore things with a purely open heart and ear without precondition, and I hope they never get tired of working together.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Five Best Bands from the 2000's: #3 - Grizzly Bear

Precision. That's really the only way to describe Grizzly Bear. Every beat of every song, every note on every instrument, sounds carefully planned and mulled over for long periods of time before any of it is incorporated into any song. It's a wonderful thing, to see a group of musicians put this much effort into perfecting their craft. Veckatimest, in my personal opinion, is the best album of 2009. Yellow House, its predecessor, put them at the forefront of up and comers and gave them a spot opening up for Radiohead. And I guess that makes sense, because Radiohead seems content in letting its members pursue their side projects while they find the strength to get back in the studio and endure the creative process that entails making an actual album. This process, the art of the album, is becoming a lost one. It's not dead, but it does seem to be something that musicians don't seem to be as focused on due to the single track selection that fans are afforded now.

And, with that, it has come to be that Grizzly Bear established themselves as the torchbearers for that very art. Their first album, Horn of Plenty, was more or less a solo album. It's not fair to consider it with their more recent works. Yellow House was an exploration in melody, an album that seemed like the band testing its songwriting chops for some future purpose. And Veckatimest seems to have been that very purpose, as the ebb and flow of the album draws from what seems to be every single genre of music ever with the melodies and harmonies from Yellow House expanded into something more meaningful. Veckatimest is why people love rock albums so much. The anticipation of it, its dissection, how it sounds after that third or fourth listen as compared to the first, trying to estimate where the band's next album will take them, and then watching the years go by as one band after another borrows from its legacy. Getting to discover bands like Grizzly Bear is why I love listening to music so much. It's that simple.

Love this user putting Foreground to the ending of King Kong.

The Five Best Bands from the 2000's: #4 - Arcade Fire

It would be an absolute crime not to include Arcade Fire on this list. If you made a list of the top-five albums of this decade (ahem, based on craftsmanship rather than personal preference), and didn't include Funeral on it, then I'm sorry but your list is incorrect. The Canadian sensations can definitely be accused of a lot of things, and rightfully so on them. Influencing the hipster culture to a d-bag level-degree, becoming highly self-involved and overrating their own importance, acting like toolboxes towards other bands...etc. But the one thing they can't be accused of is not earning at least the right to do all that crap. Hell, both Springsteen and Grohl have covered them live at their own shows. They're loved by everyone ranging from the indie basement-dweller to the arena die-hard.

I loved both Funeral and Neon Bible, and there's really no doubt in anyone's mind that absent a breakup, this band is going to put out several all-time greats in the years to come. Anyone who isn't anticipating the hell out of their new LP coming out next year is simply trying to act cool, and needs to be trying harder.

This was my personal favorite off Funeral, I love the buildup into that gorgeous last minute where they pick the beat up.

Love this track. Kudos to the youtube user for this video, goes perfect with the song.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Five Best Bands from the 2000's: #5 - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Every decade produces its share of incredible new talent that never go out of style long after their debut. They produce the kind of music that transcends generations and genres. Future artists wind up claiming them as the reason they began making music, and albums of the decades to come wind up being held up to the standards that they set. The 80's gave us Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Prince...etc. The 90's gave us Nirvana, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse...etc. You get the point.

So, which bands will people be looking at as the quintessential influences ten years down the line? Hindsight surely changes a lot of things, and many bands and albums tend to warm up to people over time, but the best of the best tend to make their impact felt immediately. Here are my top five. The Rules? Only one. No music before the year 2000. That's it. Hence, no White Stripes, Spoon or Wilco. Sorry, but I have to cut it off somewhere.

#5 - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I still remember the first time I ever heard Date With the Night on the radio while I was driving. It was one of those "holy fuck" moments that as a true appreciator of awesome rock you only experience once every few years. And that's what Karen O and company are, simply awesome. Maps is hands down the best love song to be written this decade, and all three of their albums have delivered on and exceeded expectations. Whether it's on a track or on stage, there's nothing that this trio can't kick total ass doing. My only problem here is limiting the amount of songs I post from them because I don't know if they've ever recorded a song that I didn't like.

Oh, and Karen O is hot. If you don't agree then you haven't seen her live. Watch this chick on stage for five minutes and try to act like you don't want to father her children.

This is my favorite YYY's track ever below.

This song has always struck me as Maps Part Deux. Still beautiful though.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Movie Soundtracks of the 2000's

(Remember when Liv Tyler was this awesome?)

So I'm going to start doing a few lists and collections over the next few weeks to bring in 2010, and I thought with the tremendously annoying new Twilight movie being released, we can at least all take a step back and appreciate the solid soundtrack they put out in accordance with the movie. And while I'm at it, I figured we can also reflect back on the better soundtracks of the decade.

Just a heads up, I'm only doing original soundtracks. Not collections. Thus, no Almost Famous and no High Fidelity. And I'm sorry but I hate Garden State.

I think for this decade, any discussion of soundtracks has to begin with the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. This entire album is pure bliss and so is the movie. It's remarkable, but O Brother has become somewhat of a forgotten movie when people talk about the Coens these days. Which is weird considering how much acclaim it received not too long ago. If you like bluegrass, George Clooney, or George Clooney lip-syncing bluegrass, this is the album for you.

I'm a huge Charlie Kaufman fan and I loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This song was recorded by Beck for the introduction and it really worked with the setup for the story to come. There's a few songs on the soundtrack that weren't recorded solely for the album, but the majority of them are, so I threw it in here. Also because I'm biased and this is my blog, so I can do whatever I want.

Also on that note, Iron and Wine recorded a few good tracks for In Good Company, so I'm throwing my favorite of those on here too.

So this is my favorite track from the New Moon Soundtrack. It's recent phenoms Bon Iver and St Vincent teaming up for a pretty beautiful acoustic track. I have to hand it to them, Twilight is absurdly femme but the roster of artists they put together for this soundtrack was damn impressive.

I loved everything about Little Miss Sunshine. From Alan Arkin's hilarious grandfather character to Greg Kinnear's psychotic revelation when he saw the pageant in action, and of course the beautiful soundtrack composed mostly by Devotchka.

I think Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood deserves a mention here for his original score to There Will Be Blood. No, it's not exactly alt. rock, but the guy's one of the best musical minds of the past 20 years and this entire score was outstanding. If you loved There Will Be Blood as much as I did, you'll have to agree that the soundtrack helped make the film as good as it was.

Another 2009 soundtrack. Karen O did a great job with the soundtrack for Where the Wild Things Are. Her punk edge translated well into the light-heartedness that was needed for the songs here. Just a great pick by the minds behind this movie for a musical accompaniment.

I thought that The Virgin Suicides was an OK-enough movie, but it's hard to deny that the soundtrack was pretty fucking good. This is probably the biggest song from it. Never underestimate the power of a good saxophone solo.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How Fucking Cool is Elvis Costello?

Two Elvis Costello posts in one week? Go figure. I don't know if there's anyone else out there in the history of music who I'd rather go out drinking with for a night. The guy's hilarious and you know that he's probably entertaining as hell when he's out on the town.

Anyways, here's the clip of him on Colbert and the duet they did together. Cheap Reward is a song that's on the bonus disc version of My Aim is True, it's also only a demo version that was never recorded properly in a studio. Thus, it's not a song that a lot of people know by heart, so it's pretty obvious that between this and his past work with Costello that Colbert is a pretty diehard fan, which kind of makes sense given Colbert's personality. Costello perfected the art of the light-hearted, cynical jab at politicians in his music, and Colbert's done the same over the years with his show. Have to say, he does a pretty good job with the tune as well. I'm also going to post a few of my favorite Elvis songs with it, as he's one of my favorite songwriters of all time and I never get tired of listening to him.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Elvis Costello
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Really, Really Fantastic Unreleased Track From Girls Posted on Pitchfork

So if you remember, a few weeks back I posted about how much I love Girls and their debut album. Well, Pitchfork recently posted an unreleased, live version of a track called Substance and it's as good as you'd expect. The time signature and lyrics fit in with the context of their previous work, and it's got a great early 60's feel to it, much like their LP does. Yet another great song from a great band.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Jersey Shore Serves As a Great Soundtrack to Something Other Than Guidos and Fistpumping

So the big news this week, aside from Them Crooked Vultures being released and John Mayer's latest attempt to prove himself a blues genius (an utter failure by the way), is a band from the Jersey Shore called Real Estate and their self-titled debut. I remember hearing one or two of these tracks over the summer and really liking them, and now they've been given a proper release.

This band strikes a particular cord with me because I myself am from Jersey and spent countless summer nights at the Jersey Shore; relaxing on the beach during the day, heading over to a friend's house at night to pregame before heading out to the bars, maybe even grabbing a few slices of 3 Brothers at some point in the day. This entire album reflects those days and is kind of like a soundtrack to them. The only thing that sucks is that it wasn't released before the summer so I'd be able to enjoy it during the warm weather. But maybe that's what Real Estate wants, as this album is kind of reflective and its overall theme seems to be that the temporary breaks of relaxed life are there to be enjoyed upon the realization that they're never permanent. It's music for days meant for laziness when you're too busy for it.

Regardless, the entire LP is very creative and I'm really looking forward to what these guys put together for their next LP. This year, a few bands have merged that nu-folk sound that's emerged over the past decade along with the hipster-vibe that's been popularized by bands like Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, and Deerhunter. Girls, Beach House, and now Real Estate are perfect examples of this and I'm a huge fan of the genre, and I absolutely love the music they've put out. It's creative, genuine, and refreshing. One can only hope that current and emerging artists take a page from it and make it their own as well. So bravo Jersey boys, thanks for representing us well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Elvis Costello Sabotages The Beastie Boys

Got sent this video this week. Just a classic. I love how they immediately start rocking out to Radio Radio.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spoon Kickstarts the Week

In honor of the news this past week that they're coming out with a new album next January, here's some of my favorite Spoon tracks. Seriously, is there a more under-appreciated band of the past 20 years or so? Probably not. And don't you dare say Wilco, they most certainly get their due. I also love that Stranger Than Fiction was soundtracked completely using Spoon songs from several of their albums, they worked so well with that entire story.

(By far my favorite Spoon track ever. Great song, great song).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Oldies but Goodies: Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

I don't know if there's ever been an album in rock history that's been released to a degree of recognition that's gained this much steam in the decade following its release. For those that aren't familiar with this album, Aeroplane is almost universally recognized as one of the top alternative albums of all-time (at least from an indie standpoint) and it's also one of the most beautiful as well. The album is heavily based on lead singer Jeff Mangum's interpretations of Anne Frank's (yes, Anne Frank) life, spanish musical prodigy Pepito Arriola, and things from Mangum's life as well. Truth be told, from a lyrical standpoint, it stands up against anything that's ever been released in the history of music. This is songwriting at its best, and to make it come across even more poignantly, Mangum sings his heart out over the course of the entire album. Personally I hadn't gotten into this album until just a few years back, and I'm so glad that I did. Not a year goes by that I don't dedicate an hour or two several times per year to dissecting it all over again. (Personal favorites for me are Ghost and the title track).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No Good Albums Have Been Released in Several Weeks

I don't know what the hell is going on, but Embryonic from The Flaming Lips was the last remotely good alt album to drop and that was ages ago. Alright, fine, technically it's been like 3-4 weeks since it officially came out, but it leaked weeks before that, so let's not split hairs. I guess 2009 busted its entire nut in the first half of the year? By my count there's only been 2-3 rock albums released since July that can be classified as anything great (The Lips and XX, and there's probably another that I'm forgetting off the top of my head).

Anyways, what the fuck indie world? Throw daddy a bone over the coming weeks, would ya? Forget about blogging, I need new shit to listen to. Aside from Them Crooked Vultures and Animal Collective's EP dropping in December, I don't possibly see what there is to be excited about for the rest of '09...I guess one can hope that Vampire Weekend's new one leaks soon also.

So with that, here's some tracks from some of the better albums of the first half of a year that started off so well.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Vampire Weekend

This was released early last month, but for some reason I didn't post it and figured I would in case any of you hadn't heard it yet. I really liked Vampire Weekend's debut album last year, and if this track is any indication of what's to come on their upcoming release named Contra, it's looking like they're expanding their sound and are using some new instruments and production techniques. There's no reason this shouldn't be an enjoyable album.

And a few tracks from their self-titled debut:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures

There hasn't been a band I've looked forward to hearing this much in a long time. In case you don't live on Earth, Them Crooked Vultures is the supergroup of Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and John Paul Jones. Their album comes out this month and they've been posting videos and snippets of songs since summer. From the reviews of their shows and what they've released, they sound pretty much like you'd expect, tight and kick-ass. They posted a new video yesterday for Halloween and it's yet another track that sounds like it's going to be awesome.

Yesterday's video.

New Fang. The first full track released last week.