I’m still calculating how much I love Random Access Memories, but it’s somewhere along the lines of “Sweet Mercy Do I Dig the Fuck Out Of It” – the only thing that could get me more excited is learning that the Japanese version has a bonus track. It’s ironic that the day after I pissed off the Boards of Canada fanbase by declaring their music a touch too boring for my taste, this slow Daft Punk track surfaces that I’m completely in love with. It’s entitled “Horizon” and with a pedal steel pulling licks over an ever looping crescendo of a synthesizer line, this could have just as equally been a bonus track off of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album, Animals. It also feels like the epic closing cut of some huge 80′s sci-fi movie – something along the lines of Blade Runner or even Akira. I presume on the Japanese version it serves as the album closer, and that’s where I intend to digitally insert it into my own copy of the record. To hear a quality burn of the track go check it out at NO BPM LIMIT - he seems to have the clearest version on-line so far. I’ve posted the lower fidelity youtube version below. And just for shits and giggles I’m also posting the new BoC track, “Reach For the Dead” so you can compare who does 4 and a half minutes of delicate electronica better. Again, I’m not saying I hate Boards of Canada, it’s just that this new stuff seems like the soundtrack to an English school-film you’d watch in Social Studies in 1988. Obviously some people love it and it’s exactly what they’ve been waiting for, and thus more power to them.
Ok, let me start this off by saying 1998′s Music Has the Right To Children is a phenomenal record. I don’t dare to say it’s an essential piece of anyone’s catalog of quality music from the past 2 decades. In many ways it’s the pivot point that unites Brian Eno‘s Music For Airports with the modern electronic chill-wave movement – digitized ambiance at its finest, full of muffled break-beats that keep your heart pumping while emitting a stillness that makes you want to melt into a giant beanbag chair after trying some new research chemical. However, the Scottish duo released a couple more albums and a few EPs in the early 2000s that are far from memorable. Perhaps it’s because their sound had been embraced by a wider market at that point, and partly because they couldn’t quite match the magic of that first LP, but nothing else they’ve released has ever gotten a second spin from me. And again, don’t get me wrong, the newer stuff wasn’t bad; but it just didn’t have the same level of spooky self-contained story-lines that the first album did and subsequently fell more into the range of background music. I don’t care how much Pitchfork loved 2002′s Geogaddi, I just found it somewhat boring.
So when rumors began to spiral in the past couple months about a new Boards of Canada record, my reaction was “Oh cool, I’d be excited to hear what they’ve got to put out after 7 years of silence.” But my fellow music-nerds in the ionosphere seem to have this reaction of “Holy shit, it’s finally happening, the greatest band of all time is finally making new music.” Over the past few weeks, BoC have released 15 seconds snippets of songs via different music formats: a clip on Adult Swim, odd online clues, and a couple secret 12″ inch vinyls that were placed in different record stores around the world on Record Store Day that also contained about 15 seconds of music each – one of which you can purchase now on Ebay for $5,700 dollars. Yes, that’s right – you could either buy a sweet used car or buy 15 seconds of music that is already online. Last night, the band debuted a cut of some new music on a giant projector screen in downtown Tokyo. And again, as you can see from the video, it’s somewhat underwhelming. It’s not some revolutionary sound, it’s not some amazing new groove, it’s not some phenomenal new track to unify the world – it’s just the same old electronic ambient sounds of BoC. This whole secret advertising campaign feels like it’s reaching out to folks who are too cool for the mainstream world of music nerds that got stoked for the new Daft Punk record… “Yeah, seeing a killer new dance groove with Pharell display on a Coachella screen for 60 seconds is so played out. I’m way more into seeing static ridden ambiance played for 300 seconds in downtown Tokyo.” And sure, as BoC have always been quite reclusive and never given many interviews, it’s surely possible that they’re getting a good chuckle out of all this hype. But for me, this seems like we’ve gone one step over the line into an act of marketing absurdity in our new digitally united age. They’re either setting themselves up for massive vindication or massive disappointment. Either way it seems like they’re saying the music can’t speak for itself. Am I wrong?
Here’s 1998′s “Roygbiv” -
Here’s my trip with these guys – 5 years ago I was immediately intrigued the first time I heard “A-Punk.” I went out and bought the first album, really dug it, and contented myself with having Vampire Weekend in my life. Then I saw them play at Bonnaroo and was quite taken back at how lifeless their live performance was. It wasn’t bad per se, but it did feel like a rudimentary running of the motions. Now admittingly, their music doesn’t necessarily instill the notion of a bombastic show, but I was looking for a little bit more motion on the stage… or something. Regardless, the half-naked 16 year-old girls seemed to love it so you can’t really fault the band for that. That moment did ingrain this spot of disdain for the band in my brain though, and I somewhat unconsciously blew them off after that. I feel like I subtly succumbed to the VW hatred that many of my peers held, and I decided the band wasn’t worth paying attention to anymore. I never really gave Contra a shot, and in recent hindsight I’ve found myself to actually be pretty into it. Backburner admiration, but still a slight affinity nonetheless. Cut to recent times when the local radio station is playing the fuck out of the new single, “Diane Young.” It’s fun, I get it… I could do without the weird auto-tune part, but it’s still not drawing enough to make me want to go out and listen to the whole record. What I’m saying is that the band has somehow crafted this image of themselves that makes them seem unnecessary to my ears. And that’s odd – because I listen to everything. I check out every new album that anybody considers worth half a damn, but I just feel like I really don’t need to hear Modern Vampires of the City. Then I see that Pitchfork, the greatest haters on the planet, gave the album a 9.3. That’s a huge number for Pitchfork. That’s .2 higher than what they gave the new My Bloody Valentine record which I presumed would be a shoe-in for their top album of 2013. And we haven’t yet seen how much they’ll spooge over the new Kanye, but the lingering question is whether Pitchfork can disband their hipness and give album of the year to a band that’s become so mainstream. How mainstream you ask? Well…
Yesterday while in the home of one of the kids I teach piano to, I was slightly distracted when the 16 year old babysitter stopped by to discuss her schedule with the child’s Mom.
Babysitter: “Yeah, I can’t do it that night because I’m going to see Vampire Weekend.”
Mom: “Oh really? That’s where I’m going to!”
Babysitter: “No way! I can’t wait – I’m going with my Mom, my Grandmother, and my little sister.”
Wow, that’s a three generational, babysitter/parent mesh there. It’s pretty impressive and a conquering moment for Vampire Weekend’s stretch into the family market. The only place to go from there is playing under Garfield on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I wonder if when the play “Oxford Comma” these days if they just say “F” instead of “fuck”. Either way, that moment yesterday has spiked my interest again and I’m ready to give them another shot. But please be careful if you’re going to rip a joint at one of their gigs – there’s definitely children around.
In a bid to stay relevant, David Bowie released his newest video last week – a blood soaked hodgepodge of religious imagery for the song “The Next Day.” The song, like the majority of Bowie’s new album is strikingly unremarkable. That is to say it’s not bad, it’s just rather complacent. It’s the modern pop-rock equivalent of the color beige. The folks at Youtube initially thought it was a bit too racy for their site and took it down for a day, which was probably the greatest publicity boost the video could have received. It’s basically just a few scantily clad women and some over-anxious priests, and even though it stars Gary Oldman, he lost his flawless street-cred in my book when he starred in that horrendous The Unborn movie a few years back. In just under a week’s time, the video has garnered around 900,000 views, which is a mere fraction of what videos of cats riding Roombas get in the same amount of time.
In far more significant news for both the world of music and the world of the internet, some guy just published a cover of “Space Oddity” on Youtube that has over 1.5 million hits in less than 24 hours time. Of course, he’s not just some guy – he’s Chris Hadfield, a Commander on the International Space Station, and probably the coolest guy on the planet right now – or off the planet actually. Not only is this the first music video filmed in space, (which is kind of cool but I’m still waiting for the weightless sex studies to take place,) but this video conveys more actual emotion than Bowie has been able to emit in decades. Hadfield actually has a killer voice. He displays some brilliant range for a dude in space, and the look in his eyes conveys more sincerity in the lyrics than Bowie could have ever imagined. It’s really a remarkably beautiful thing and surely a video that many of us will still remember and want to throw on a year from now. Which coincidentally will be the exact same time that the world and the internet completely forget that David Bowie released a new album in 2013. Sorry D-Bo, but you just got out Bowied. You can’t fuck with cool shit in space. Watch both videos below.
When it was announced a couple months back that Jim James would be playing the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on May 14th, I immediately bought a set of tickets, presuming that the gig would sell out in a heartbeat. But here we are now, less than two weeks away, and it seems that there’s still plenty of tickets available. Sure it’s on a Tuesday night, but after seeing My Morning Jacket play to 5,000 people last year at Edgefield, I figured there would be a huge draw for the show. I suppose that when it comes down to it, MMJ is simply another one of those bands that the collective outfit far outweighs any popularity that a solo member of the band may hold. It’s the same reason that Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman is playing shows for 200 people these days. Honestly, I’m not gonna gripe about being able to see Jimmy James in a room with apt breathing space, but it’s a drag for both him and fans of the Jacket – because his solo album is fucking fantastic. Here’s a quick rundown if you’ve missed it…
Quite frankly, Regions of Light and Sound of God is a far better album than either of the last two MMJ records. There’s a looser, pressure-free vibe to it and it hopefully serves as a beacon for what direction the bigger band should be taking with their music. The single, “Know Til Now,” gives a fairly accurate preview of the whole – a sort of electronic leaning soul groove. But the lean is far more towards the soul than towards the electronic. In fact, the majority of these tunes would feel completely natural coming off a MMJ stage if it weren’t for the stark lack of guitar riffery. “A New Life” starts off with the slow, acoustic nature that has found its way onto several of the band’s newer tracks, but the hook on the chorus is ten times catchier and more gut-wrenching than anything you’d hear in similar sonic tracks like “Librarian” or “Wonderful.” If you found yourself bored or discouraged with what MMJ has done after trying to follow up on Z, then this solo record will renew your confidence in James’ songwriting capabilities. And in actuality, “Of the Mother Again” has one of the dreamier guitar hooks I’ve heard in quite some time. Don’t think of this as being connected to that Yim Yames’ George Harrison tribute, or even anything near what The Monsters of Folk tried to do – this is stripped down MMJ in a beautiful, raw form. Just as James ends his solo gigs with MMj songs, I would definitely expect upcoming MMJ shows to include a few tracks off this solo record. Don’t let it pass you by.
The most wholeheartedly bumming music news for me so far this year was the recent announcement that Daniel Blumberg has quit Yuck. Their 2011 self-titled debut album is one that I would easily put into my Top 20 post-2000 records list. It reminded me of Pavement, it gave me confidence in the slacker-rock resurgence, and I played the living shit out of it for a solid year and a half. In fact, I played it so much that when I listen to it now it makes me fondly reminisce about a time in my life which was only a year ago, and to fondly reminisce about such recent times is an odd sensation to have. Here’s the thing though: as much as Yuck is cohesively a fuckin’ amazing band, they’re very much led by the English drawl of Blumberg. Sure, he collaborated with fellow guitarist Max Bloom on several of the tracks, and Bloom even sang lead on one cut, but Blumberg, the reclusive fellow clad in denim was quite blatantly the focal point of the band. The band has just announced that it has started recording its sophomore album sans Daniel, and the question arises within me of whether I really will care what it sounds like. The nature of a frontman leaving is such an odd thing to deal with when it comes to a young band.
When Zach De La Roca was done with Rage Against the Machine, I was thoroughly intrigued (but disappointed) with Audioslave because I had crafted such a deep subjective relationship with the members of that band. It’s the same reason I waited and waited to hear Zach’s solo work, One Day as a Lion, which I was much more pleased with. And then there comes the situation of Stone Temple Pilots, who recently announced they have officially fired Scott Weiland. Sure STP was always fun – but do I really care about hearing that band with a new frontman? To be honest, when I just looked up the names of the other band members I realized that I had never heard them ever before in the past 20 years. Likewise, would I have any desire to hear whatever project Weiland forms next? Not really… more so than whatever his ex-bandmates put out, but I don’t really care what that junkie tries to create with somebody else. They were collectively that band, and I don’t think they can have any success without each other. So in other words, despite how cordial or crappy the split may be, it’s really fucking tough to continue without your main guy. Sure AC/DC were able to pull it off, and Van Halen kind of pulled it off, but what about these young cats in Yuck?
I think the main essence of the situation is that it’s hard for any band to really break onto the scene these days. So I’m sure that while the remaining members of Yuck would probably like to continue with a different band name, they can’t attempt to start from scratch after all the recognition they’ve gained with their name. On the other hand, Blumberg has had his individual name put out there enough that he can potentially survive with a new endeavor, which this morning we learned he is about to try. His new solo project is going to be released in July, and he’s calling the new group Hebronix. The album is called Unreal. You can stream the title track below and it’s fuckin’ fantastic. In fact, it’s so great, and such a positive extension of the Yuck sound, that it’s making me wonder what Yuck is going to be able to manifest without him. I’ll give their new record a chance when it comes out, but if nothing grabs me right off the bat then I’m definitely sticking with team-Hebronix. Sure I hope that both albums will be great, but I’m having doubts by hearing how much I love this new track from Blumberg. It’s interesting to hear how he talks about the future of Yuck in the interview I did with him last year… Read the full thing HERE and give the new track a listen below…
The first weekend of Coachella just happened, and it’s really a massive blessing that there’s 3 different Youtube channels streaming video from the fest all weekend long. It’s really a testament to the physical of-the-moment power of live music that it gives you such a different sensation when you’re watching it live. I don’t really have any desire to watch recorded footage of any new Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, but I had a blast watching it stream live from the comfort of my home last night. Likewise, anybody who watched the live stream of Phoenix‘s set Saturday night felt the same holy-shit rush that the crowd there did when R. Kelly came out for the mash-up encore of “1901″ and “Ignition Remix.” Unfortunately Coachella has removed the video footage so you can’t watch the awesome smirk on lead singer Thomas Mars‘ face when he’s getting ready to sing along the chorus to “Ignition.” Shit was pretty flippin’ dope though, and you can listen to a great clear version HERE.
Regardless of all the great performances over the weekend though, the biggest new of the weekend was the 90 second video preview of the new Daft Punk single that aired on the jumbo-trons before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ set. This morning fan-shot video of the clip is nearing a combined 2 million views, with one shot nearly at a million all by itself. Yep, that’s right… a low quality iPhone recording of a video screen playing a 90 second snippet, and people have watched it nearly 2 million times. You think people are excited about the new record coming out or what? But here’s the thing I’m not afraid to admit – that 90 second clip is probably the freshest shit I’ve heard in a year. The French robots have made a record composed of all their own instrumentation, highlighted by Nile Rodgers from Chic on guitar and a range of guest vocalists including Panda Bear and Pharrell. What’s ironic is that there is this whole massive EDM craze happening right now, where pilled-up kids sweat their asses off to fairly soulless and incredibly redundant beats, and many people consider Daft Punk the fathers of this new craze. But this new track sounds about as far away from Deadmau5 as Beethoven does from N.W.A. This is a return to the power of the groove, and it portends to be a phenomenal blessing to the world of current music. The life-force of the their new record, Random Access Memories, due out in a month, has the potential to completely flip the game. Even Pretty Lights is about to release an album composed of new in-studio instrumentation, and it feels like we’re on the tip of people demanding more humanity from their dance-beats. And of course that demand should be spear-headed by two dudes who play in robot masks. These motherfuckers just raised the bar with a 90 second video, and that is some tuned-to-the-beat power that possibly no other artist could produce right now. I predict the record to be so breathtaking that it makes James Murphy reunite LCD Soundsystem by the end of the year. Watch the clip below, and go HERE to listen to what could potentially be the full track – either that or somebody made an amazingly tight home-mix of the song. It does seem like it only contains parts from the 90 seconds, but it’s hard to tell – either way, get ready to hear this groove coming from everywhere throughout 2013.
I’ve always been a casual fan of Yo La Tengo. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the hell out of them, but I haven’t yet fully absorbed their 30-year catalog. I did play the hell out of I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass when it came out in 2006, but I’ve been slow at diving into their other 12 albums past that. And admittedly, while I love the vast diversity of tunes they put out on each album, I always find myself skipping to the softer, more delicate tunes. That’s why I’ve been loving the fuck out of their newest, Fade. Their new record does something none of their others ever have – it nestles into a specific pocket and stays there. There’s no flip of the game from stretched out punk rockers to ethereal drifters. Rather, the whole record stays in that whispering stillness that is known to frequently permeate their sound. This is the kind of mellow music that Grizzly Bear tries with all their might to create, but has never really pulled off. While the kids in Grizzly make incredibly boring albums with no direction, and then bitch about not getting nominated for a Grammy, the brilliant hearts of Yo La Tengo make amazingly melodic songs that draw you in, wrap their arms around you, and squeeze out your darkest fears and comforts – and I can guarantee they couldn’t give two shits about winning any awards. And mind you, this is a simple indie-rock band fronted by Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley – two brilliant and gentle folks who have been married for 3 solid decades and who seem to have no other desire than to make music and be joyous with one another. And with the recent bummering divorce of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Ira and Georgia have become the go-to couple for the definition of true indie love. But what’s really amazing is how they write songs, especially on Fade, that touch so perfectly on the emotions of fear and uncertainty when it comes to love and life itself. In other words, these people keep it more real than the cracks in your driveway. As its title suggests, this is a record that could seemingly fade out at any point, but instead it lingers, and it multiplies, and it echoes back into itself thematically and emotionally. It’s one of those albums that when you listen to in solitude late at night, you let out those big sighs where you admit to yourself how great it is to be human – one of those albums where you reminisce on lost love and feel blessed for the lessons you have learned. And in many ways, Fade is the definitive realization of what 2013 sounds like… the world didn’t blow up, we’re still here, shit’s pretty fucked up all over, there’s a lot of shit we need to fix, but we can all accept ourselves for ourselves. There’s no need anymore to hide or even to put on a show – this is the time to be. Just to be. So despite how epic people may tell you 1993′s Painful is, or how brilliant 1997′s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is, Fade is the first truly essential Yo La Tengo album of their career. You don’t’ want to not have this record in your heart. Don’t let it pass you by.
Here’s the video for “I’ll Be Around” from Fade - one of the most beautiful music videos I’ve ever seen.
For years, songwriters have created a multitude of beautiful tunes discussing the wonders of making love. Let’s see… there’s Bad Company‘s “Feel Like Making Love” and then there’s… hmm I know there’s a couple more. Anyway, the art of writing a song about fucking is a whole other enterprise, and to successfully do it without sounding like a total douche is a truly arduous task. In 2001, when Tenacious D released “Fuck Her Gently,” most artists threw in the towel. The song is a masterpiece, and encapsulates both the beauty and mystery of fucking in a sensitive and timeless melody. Any attempts at revisiting the topic have only resulted in failure, and most people (myself included) presumed that with Sonny Bono’s death on the hills of Lake Tahoe in 1998, the only potential candidate to create a worthy competitor in the category of Greatest Fucking Song of all time had long since passed. But some great things have happened in the free market of open expression over the past few years. Most notably there was Sarah Silverman‘s great tune about fucking Matt Damon, and of course Jimmy Kimmel’s follow-up about fucking Ben Affleck. But those were both so person-specific – they really lacked the universal fucking message that we could all unite with. Thus enter the incomparable Reggie Watts. Watts first showed the potential for championing the task a few years ago with the release of “Fuck Shit Stack” – a great tune about fuck, but not about fucking. But everything changed today, when Watts uploaded a new video to the awesome Youtube Channel, JASH. Entitled “If You’re Fucking, You’re Fucking,” Watts’ tune brings the topic to its only logical conclusion. By answering the mystery of sensual passion in such a direct form, he has uncrowned the D after their solid 12 year run atop the fucking song master’s throne. Love it and embrace it, for it will surely be at least another dozen years until we see such lyrical brilliance again.
Record store day is coming up in a couple weeks – an amazing day where artists put out release singles and other albums that folks won’t ever have the opportunity to hear elsewhere. That is, unless you’re Dan Deacon and you decide to put up the track from your limited 7″ two weeks early on SoundCloud. Well, I’m not complaining. What’s become really amazing about Deacon though is that fact that that while all his songs have a self-contained absurdity, there is an unmistakeable cohesion of that absurdity. Perhaps it’s the approach to assaulting rhythm he takes, but there’s no denying that any song of his is anybody but himself. That goes for “Konono Ripoff No. 1″ as well, which even though is a total ripoff of the “Congolese Konono No.1,” still is unmistakeably Deacon. It’s not as cinematic as things he’s been making the past few years, and thus rings almost like a lost cut off of Spiderman of the Rings. But it’s still fresh as all hell, and it’s the kind of colossally upbeat thing that serves as great launchpad for a Friday afternoon.