With the potentiality of it being the end of the world and all this year, I am very not anxiously awaiting the stream of dub-step heavy dumb-ass dance-ballads about dancing til the end of the world that are surely right around the corner. Britney got a huge jump-start on it last year but I know there’s gonna be more of those dumb techno-jams coming, as well as a string of shitty neo-emo bands thinking they’re writing the song to make everything all right, like they’re the goddamn Wyld Stallyns or something. But then Butch Walker and the Black Widows drop this killer video for “Synthesizers,” and I’m thinking that just a couple weeks into the year, they’ve made the number one theme song of 2012. Released last summer on his album The Spade, I think Butch made the right move in waiting til January to release this video – now folks are definitely going to listen to it all year long.
Walker is usually more well known for his production work, and writing hits for Weezer and Fall Out Boy and the such. I’m sure River Cuomos would have loved to have this song on the last Weezer album, but I’m glad Walker saved it for himself. Check it out, and yeah that’s Wooderson in the video, because in some weird twist of fate, no matter how old Matthew McConaughey gets, the characters he plays in movies stay the same age.
Ok, let’s jump right back into this shit. So I’m still in the process of a formal review, but I have to mention how I keep turning back again and again to the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. album, It’s a Corporate World. First thing you need to do it to get past the name – I guess legally it’s OK, kinda like how Dinosaur Jr. got their name, and word is the guys actually sent the real Dale Jr. some songs and a letter saying they weren’t making fun of hm – of which he totally approved and dug the songs as well. And somehow when you dig deep into the album, the name makes sense. It’s kinda like taking a twisted take of a modern pop acceptance, and adding to it and altering it thusly into an ironic embrace of the power and strength of a name with notoriety. The album isn’t exactly pop-radio-friendly, but it’s composed of things that by themselves would be. Follow me? It doesn’t matter.
The band is composed of Joshua Epstein, and Daniel Zott – two younger fellas from Detroit who made the album last year in Zott’s basement, and within 6 months found themselves selling out 1,000 person venues. The vibe is an organic, and harmonious stab at traditionally solid, good, songwriting and adding to it a funky backbeat and some weird electronic instruments. It’s very reminiscent of the last Dirty Projectors album from a couple years back, and anyone who loved Bitte Orca should immediately make themselves familiar with these guys. Younger ears will associate it more with the slower side of MGMT, but there’s really a much different game-plan here. Much more touching on a timeless organic rock vibe, then an of-the-moment weirdness embrace. The lyrics are a touch of self-degradation, that most often expresses an acceptance of their personal normality. In other words, really good words about how they don’t think they have anything to say. Honestly though, the best music comes from two friends who are open enough to only want to play the songs that they both like and make each other happy. Even if this first album is the best thing they ever do, the rest of their sub-par career will still be worth getting into. But my instincts tell me these guys are somehow only going to get cooler and better.
Here’s a clip of them closing out their set at this year’s Austin City Limits. First off, the bow-ties are fucking awesome, and a universal tangent to the latest Dr. Who (get into it!) Secondly, they not only play their tunes tightly live, but they mess around with him, keep them interesting, and fun for themselves. Third, thank God they were smart enough to bring in a drummer, and not just rely on a beat machine. It rounds out their sound so easily, and it would have been a shame to have gone any rawer. And with a solid beat, they can play a whole song with no guitar and make it still sound huge, like a full band. Here they are aboslutely crushing “Nothing But Our Love” – stay til the end, when they really start raging.
I was gently perked yesterday when I opened my email to find a letter from the quite dormant Clap Your Hands Say Yeah website. Quite frankly, once I got over their seemingly overly pretentious name that just has way too many words in it as was thus the norm for post millenium indie-rock bands, I really came to love this band. If you never got past their title, then you’ve missed out. They always reminded me of The Talking Heads in a completely different way than LCD Soundsystem reminds me of the Talking Heads. They have a coexsitng joyful yet gritty feel to their music, and frankly I like the way that the dude’s voice sounds alot like the familiar high tones of the dude from The Violent Femmes. I saw them on their last tour in support of 2007′s Some Loud Thunder, of which there has been little word of them since. But I thought they were great that night, and have been dissapointed that they’ve been in hibernation for so long. A couple appearances here and there, one new track, but that was it for 4 years. Until yesterday, when they announced that they’ll be releasing a new album on September 20th entitled Hysterical. They posted a preview video which you can see below, that I think is rather hopeful for what the new album will be. I’m on board.
Here’s a clip of the end of one of my faves; “Tidal Wave of Young Blood” – yeah again lots of words, but this one’s from Dublin and the crowd is on fire. There were probably libations involved.
…But actually one hell of a killer band. So I don’t know how much network television you watch at 3 in the morning, but essentially Carson Daly is the only non-infomercial on at that point. And I’m not sure if I really have any sympathy for the man, but it must kinda suck when you keep getting passed over for other talkshow gigs and then they completely change the format of your show. But it does work out for the insomniac audiophiles of our nation, as his show has essentially become a nightly pre-taped, audience-free, showcase of unknown bands. Long story short, the other night the band was these new cats out of L.A., Grouplove.
Yeah, I know…really bad band-name, but they do seem pretty collectively into each other so maybe it’s valid. Either way, I think they’re my new faves when it comes to collective pop-rock outfits of explosive celebration. If you’re like me, and you feel like you want to like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros but they’re just a little too corny for you, then you might appreciate the somewhat more forceful edge of Grouplove. Lead guy, Chris’s voice sounds alot like Wayne Cohen or Jeff Mangum from Neutral Milk Hotel. He fucking goes for it big time though, and their live shows have been getting bumping accolades. They’ve opened up for Cold War Kids and Florence and the Machine but their biggest gig so far is probably gonna be at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Fest in August. Killer lineup, and they’re definitely worth hittin up a small stage for. They’ve got some insanely awesome, simple, big songs and I highly recommend their debut EP which just came out in January. You can stream most of it at their website: www.grouplovemusic.com Get into em now, before they become the next hip thing and face-painted freshman girls buy up all the tix. Here’s the heavy video for “Colours.” And another fresh track, “Naked Kids” too. Check em both if you got 10 minutes.
So like most audiophiles of the new millennium, the Pavement reunion tour last year brought tears of joy to my eyes on many occasions. And while band-member Bob Nastonovich is bummed to hear it, I personally think it’s great that Stephen Malkmus has stated he won’t be making any new Pavement albums or songs. When you retired on a good note, it’s best to just come back and play the hits and not tarnish your fans’ love with new crap – I’m looking at you Jane’s Addiction. That being said, I can’t fucking wait for a new Malkmus album. And no, it’s not some sort of weird fanboy hypocrisy to be craving his solo stuff while loathing the idea of new stuff with his old band – that’s just how it is. I am. You are. Whatever. Eat it.
Anywho, last Spring there were rumors circulating that Beck was gonna be producing the new album. I wasn’t sure whether to believe it at the time and mostly forgot about it til a friend mentioned it the other day. Which led me back to the Malkmus and the Jicks website where I noticed this post from October:
0ur future wise–we started recording with beck hansen in the late winter, and plan on getting back into it before the year is over… I dont know when the record will come out or what it will sound like. It is in a protools state of non reality right now.
So yeah, I guess it’s real, and I am for sure elated. The idea of two of my favorite independent producers working with each other, let alone that they both provide a significant soundtrack to my life already – well it’s enough to make me go skipping in the sleet. Easily my most anticipated album of the year, or next two years even. Here’s one of the greatest youtube videos of all time:
So despite my new love for Destroyer, I can’t deny that Dan Bejar‘s more popular band, The New Pornographers have been steadily releasing solid albums steadily for the past 15 years. My affinity for the New Pornos’ fairly straightforward but subverted pop-rock waxes and wanes at different times, but they’re best tracks are usually the simpler ones with big back-beats. When Bejar teams up with his fellow Canuck Carl Newman, the two have the capability of making their indie-collective sound like biggest band on the planet – at least for a verse-chorus or two.
The latest video for “Moves” has the band pretending to be just such superstars, and has some great b-level comedians and musicians making cameos. My boy Horatios Sand pops up as John Collins and you gotta love the Rudd/Hader into. Killer vid for a killer tune off of last year’s rock solid Together album.
Obtrusive geek alert warning – I now speak of my acclaim for the sadly under-esteemed Robert Schneider. Perhaps one of the smartest men in rock music today, Schneider is a pop-perfectionist when it comes to his band Apples in Stereo. And while I could drive my rant towards comparisons to a level-headed Brian Wilson and my adoration for nearly the entire span of the band’s 10+ years of work, I instead highlight an awesome new segment that’s popped up on the band’s site as of late.
While many genius artists have involved mathematics in their music before – from Mozart to Phoenix, the Apples may be the first band I can recall using a new non-Pythagorean music scale. Now if you go to the band’s page: http://www.applesinstereo.com/pythagorean.php, you can get the full rundown. It is fairly complicated though, so in short:
Essentially, the twelve-tone music scale that we associate with all of Western music, is based on a scale that while sounding good to our ears, actually doesn’t fall into a natural mathematical formula. If we were to make a new 12 tone scale as based upon the natural logarithms of successive whole numbers, we would get a whole new system of instinctively irrational numbers and tones. The new scale begins with large spacings between the notes, and ends with smaller spacings between the notes. It’s easier heard than explained, so let Professor Schneider make it clearer below.
Magically what he has done though, is written new songs using this brand new scale. And while odd at first, after a few tries the new patterns begin to sound and make sense. It’s almost as though the patterns within tones are so deep, that we could have actually evolved into a humanity that pulses within an entirely different set of wave structures. A crazy way to think about the realms of potential destiny we all spiral within, know what I’m saying?
And some Apples:
If you’re worried that every new amp-driven indie-rock band has to play neo-surf-punk, then Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings could be playing your redemption songs. Sure to make half of Brooklyn rip their jeggings, up until now Dylan Baldi has recorded all his low-fi recordings in his parents’ basement. With the recent release of his self-title full length debut on Carpark records, (home of my beloved Dan Deacon) Baldi has again proven that in our modern age of over-saturated crap-flop, obsessive production, and heartless electronics, a fly 18 year-old can still make the dopest shit out there in his rents’ mud-room.
Playing all the instruments himself on the recording, Cloud Nothings is fuzz-friendly grit-pop composed by a kid who’s not afraid to repeat himself. Baldi seems to brilliantly reach beyond his age, and intelligently realizes that if a line or a pocket sounds good enough, then it’s probably best to hang around it for a while. Unforeseen loopings of grooves move this music past simple garage rock, and make it lean more towards the music Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) would be making if he wasn’t so sure the whole world was paying attention. And he’s sure got somebody on his team who knows how to make a hell of a video or two.