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.
Over the past 15 years, I probably contemplate the potentiality of a Talking Heads reunion about every 4 months or so. And I’m not saying I have one of those What If/Wouldn’t That Be Cool moments, I’m saying I literally imagine myself at such an event and try to visualize what exactly is happening. I’m in one of those 4 month moments right now, spurred on by watching disastrous footage of recent Rolling Stones gigs, contemplating the cycle of events that could lead to a Ween show in 2013, and by reading a recent quote from Robert Plant where he actually hints about wanting to do a 2014 Led Zeppelin tour. So here’s my really shitty vision of being at a T-Heads reunion show: I’m in Madison Square Garden and I’ve somehow landed tickets at face value even though face is like $135… half the crowd is over 50, and 2 songs in I realize that 25% of the crowd knows nothing except for “Burning Down the House” and “Once in a Lifetime.” The band is essentially just running through the motions, and David Byrne has a look on his face like he just traded his soul for a ham sandwich. The guy sitting behind me then taps me on the shoulder and asks me both to sit down and if I can stop smoking that joint. I’m bummed – I feel hollow – I think back to when I wrote a blog about imagining this moment and realize I should have accepted fate as it was… Am I right? Can’t we all see that situation? So here’s my really awesome vision:
I’m in NYC’s Roseland Ballroom. The Heads have announced a 23 night run there dubbed All or Nothing. Tickets were hard, but I managed to land some $70 ones at face for 2 consecutive nights in the middle of the run. The stage set-up is minimal – very little lighting – and the full lineup is there. Alex Weir and Adrian Belew are both on guitar – Belew in amazing form after his stint in the Nine Inch Nails reunion. Tina Weymouth is thumping the bass with all the pent-up passion she’s been waiting to unleash for the past 30 years. It feels like it’s not even the same woman I’ve seen play with Tom Tom Club. It’s hot in there. It’s smoky. It’s sweaty. Each show of the run has followed a fairly similar setlist, but there have been divine moments that make each night stand out. This is a Tuesday, and currently the band is 8 minutes deep into “The Great Curve.” I am getting down harder than I ever have in my life, but still not as hard as the 70 year old woman sweating bullets to my left. To my right, a 21 year old EDM kid stands still staring at the stage with his mouth on the floor and a slight tear coming down his face. During “Houses in Motion” I glance to my left and notice James Murphy dancing anonymously amongst a circle of friends. At several times during the gig I check my pulse to make sure I’m still on planet Earth… And am I right on this one too? Couldn’t we all see this?
Sigh… dreams and fantasies can really mess with your head sometimes, but that’s what makes our weird human brains so amazing. God bless you David Byrne, and God bless whatever decision you ever make to reconstruct my reality. A few months back a friend of mine turned me onto the Bonus Tracks that were released on a Remain in Light reissue. I had never heard them. They crushed me. I cried when I first heard this jam called “Right Start” – it’s kind of like a mash-up of “Lifetime” and “Electric Guitar.” I imagine it as the soundtrack that the great creator had playing in his head when he was manufacturing the universe, and I kind of imagine the after-life as a world where this thing is just playing on loop for eternity. Dig in…
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.
A lot has changed on the musical landscape in the past 10 years, and a good deal of that evolution stemmed from The Postal Service’s album Give Up in 2003. If Kid A had taught skeptical folks like myself that the oncoming digital wonder-age of music was something that even true rock-loyalists could embrace, then Give Up was the next step in finding beauty in the modern era’s potential. Taking the emo lyricism of Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard and mixing it with glitchy electronica sounded like a total nightmare on paper, but it meshed in a way that none of us were really expecting. Hell, I can’t even remember or imagine what being sad on a plane felt like before I had “Recycled Air” to play on repeat. But seriously, if all you know of the band is the intro to “Such Great Heights” from the UPS commercials, then do yourself a favor and get on the tip before people figure out how lame you are.
Anyway, aside from announcing a few tour dates, Gibbard and co-collaborator Jimmy Tamborello have announced that they’ll be reissuing Give Up with a whole lot of bonus shit the first week of April. If, like me, you obsessively bought every EP they ever put out just so you could get the one or two bonus songs on each disc, then this reissue will be fairly old hat to you. There are two new tracks – “A Tattered Line of String” and “Turn Around,” but everything else has been released before. So of everything that’s been there before, here are my Top 3 must-hear tracks from all the B-side and EP albums.
“There’s Never Enough Time” – This is one of my favorite tracks of theirs, and I fucking love it when Gibbard’s guitar kicks in halfway through.
“Such Great Heights” – Iron and Wine cover – I’ve never been a big fan of Samuel Beam, but I think I love his take on the hit even more than the original.
“We Will Become Silhouettes’ – The Shins cover – James Mercer totally reworked the song and made it his own here. Dope, fun shit.
After my recent rant on the failed solo endeavors of one of my favorite modern artists, I thought I’d express my appreciation for another who is actually doing shit the right way. Last week, My Morning Jacket‘s front-man announced his solo debut Regions of Light and Sound of God will be coming out on February 5th. And even though he’s released solo projects before under the Yim Yames moniker with Monsters of Folk and his George Harrison tribute, this one gets the official debut of his real name. I presume that’s because it’s on MMJ’s same label, ATO Records, and they presumably have some contract with James where he can’t use his own real name on other labels. Either way, the first cut “Know Til Now” is already out, so take a listen:
So unless you’re breaking up your main band, let’s learn some key lessons here from James on how to make appropriate solo music. First off, highlight your greatest attribute, which in James’ case is his instantly recognized distant-space quasi-falsetto voice. Second, make the surrounding instrumentation sound well apart from your actual band. On this track, James uses a muted drum pattern that sounds far away from anything MMJ’s Patrick Hallahan would ever play, and the main riff is obviously looping like a sample of itself – almost like you expectHova to drop a verse any second. In other words, this song sounds instantly like Jim James, and equally as instantly not like My Morning Jacket. Oh, and it’s good too! I forgot about that, part three of the solo equation is to make sure your solo music is good, or else people will just think you’re a pretentious dick-fuck who’s wanking around in a studio and thinks he can make a couple extra nickels off of it.
I’d describe how I think the tune sounds but I think James says it best: “I wanted the album to sound like it came from a different place in time. Perhaps sounding as if it were the past of the future, if that makes any sense—like a hazy dream that a fully-realized android or humanoid capable of thought might have when it reminisces about the good old days of just being a simple robot.” I dig it, and I also like that he’s continuing the same theme of future projection that he brought in on my favorite cut off of the last MMJ Circuital album, “Slow Song.” It’s good stuff, and I’m looking forward to the full release which you can order now at www.jimjames.com.
Photo courtesy of dannyclinch.com.
Grimes – she’s so hot right now. There’s always been more than that Will Ferrel reference that’s made me somehow associate Grimes with Hansel from Zoolander though. It has something to do with the fact of how blurry her boundary lines are – with Visions playing in the background, your fat uncle drinking a Budweiser in his tighty-whiteys could sit side-by-side with twin Korean siblings performing S+M on one another. Everything goes, and her latest self-directed video for “Genesis” only furthers the vision of that absurd universe. There’s no way I’m gonna watch this video as much as I did the one for “Oblivion”, despite this being my favorite cut on the album. Maybe it has to do with the weird lazy-eye of the pink-haired space ninja at 5:09. Who knows? Either way, home-girl is staying on top of the game.
I first heard of St. Vincent a few years ago when she was opening for Death Cab For Cutie. At the time, the pairing seemed ideal as Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) was embracing a fairly mellow vibe, all be it strikingly off-kilter. I totally flaked on the girl until last Fall’s Strange Mercy dropped though , and now it’s become one of my go-to albums of 2012. The girl is sexy, writes amazingly modern and freshly progressive rock and roll, has a killer voice, great legs, and she fucking shreds a fuzzed out guitar in one of those “Holy Sweet Fuck” kind of ways. Here’s a live taping of “Cruel” from a couple months back – my favorite track on the album as well as the most technically impressive. Dig it -
So when word began to circulate that David “T-Head” Byrne was working on a new album with her, my initial reaction was rather skeptical. I envisioned Byrne turning up her freak flag a little and letting her rock creds droop to the side – I mean the guy’s always looking for somebody new to just be a complete weirdo with. Luckily, rather than the dusted remains of an art-house chop-shop, their album Love This Giant seems to be leaning in the direction of completely bad-ass poppish rock. The album’s not due to be released for another 2 months, but they have released the first track “Who.” Supposedly in the same vein throughout the album, the track centers along a brass-driven pop-funk train. I was reminded of Byrne’s 1997 solo release Feelings, which has remained his funkiest work since the Talking Heads disbanded – that is up until now. “Who” is like watching a NOLA marching band go by in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Tangents of obsure pop melodies grab the hands of deep-trench soul-crank – easily some of the weirdest shit that you want to dance your ass off too. Get into it below. And download it free HERE.
Portland, Oregon – shitty 80′s long-sleeves – funky Beck falsettos… So I’m not sure when all 3 of these things began to coexist as the hip new trend, but I have realized that I’ve begun to harness a preparatory disdain for the formula. And the thing is I really like shitty clothes from the 80′s and music that sounds like mid-90′s Beck – I really do. Perhaps that’s why I’m overly critical – I just want the best. Anyway, I’m not sure what level of sarcastic angst I was carrying the first time I heard Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but I do know I was a jackass that day. Luckily, since I’m 8 months late to the game, their self-titled debut is my new jam of the summer.
Basically you take 3 cats who have an obvious love for the Flaming Lips and modernized back-beats, throw them into the technicolor explosion of London circa 1966, light up a monster spliff, and wham – you are now pulsing in the heart of UMO. This album has also made me realize that making shit sound intentionally low-fi will never go out of style. 50 years from now, when we’re just shooting lasers into our heads to hear tunes, there’s still gonna be new kids on the scene who will figure out how to connect a busted 4-track to their cerebellum.
It’s about an hour’s drive to the beach from Portland, and these guys have made the perfect album to listen to on that drive with the windows down. It’s the kind of album that makes you want to eat mushrooms, swim in the ocean, then lie on the beach and listen to it all over again. Dig it.
I have become completely enraptured by the new video for “Oblivion” by Grimes. I had never heard Claire Boucher’s earlier work from the past couple years, so this video was my direct stimuli overload intro of everything she represents. The tune starts off with an electronic beat similar to Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” while Claire stand in a men’s locker room full of towel-clad muscle-junkies. Upon first viewing, I stopped 20 seconds in – just as her voice starts. The beat, the visuals, and her soft-spoken voice just didn’t instinctually feel like a place I wanted to go. I felt uncomfortable, but then I remembered my vow to escape my comfort zones more often, so I reapplied myself to Grimes and now that shit is directly up my alley.
Her gentle lisp-ridden vocals bring to mind a few other acts, but she emits a quiet confidence that immediately rises her up and away from reference points. The video itself is a masterful vision of irony. Grimes rocks headphones and a boom-box so she can sing along to her tune in the midst of a high-school football game and a dirt-bike rally. The raging testosterone circling around her is a direct contrast to the music she’s making, but her comfort in the setting brings an eerie acceptance to the whole situation. I instantly realized where I had seen this trick used before, back in the 90′s on Pavement‘s video for “Major Leagues.”
Pavement actually made two videos for this song – perhaps because they thought the headphone concept wouldn’t work for everybody, they made a more straight forward, cliche 90′s video too. Personally though, this headphone one has always been one of my all-time favorite music videos. Filmed inside an amateur wrestling arena of some sort, the main character sings along while the rest of the crowd is completely oblivious to the fact that even a video is being filmed. For this song’s case, it highlighted the tune’s own pleading emotions of an outsider contemplating stepping up to another level of society. For the Grimes video, there is more of a focus on the periphery interactions of other people – highlighting her notion of being slightly outcast while yet not so isolated.
Anwyay, I think it’s a killer move for a music video, and frankly I think the whole concept should be considered as a regular alternative to the standard video. Couldn’t you picture a new video for Sleigh Bells coming out with Alexis Krauss singing by herself inside of a 100,000 person Nascar race? I could – it’d be fresh. They should do it. I’m telling them to right now… Do it. If anybody says you stole that idea from Grimes, you say fuck it – she stole that shit from Pavement.
Here’s Grimes in “Oblivion”
And here’s “Major Leagues”
And yeah – this kid’s got the right idea!
Time to once again readjust you collaboration flow-charts people. What happens when you take 3 of the most prolific musicians of the past few decades and throw em’ in a room together? Well, you get a shit load of new music, that’s what. So Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Blur had another supergroup a few years back called The Good, The Bad, and The Queen – composed of Paul Simonon from The Clash on bass, the guitarist from The Verve, and the legendary Tony Allen on drums of Fela Kuti fame. That band only lasted one album and did little to utilize the power of Allen. It did lead to Simonon becoming an actual member of Gorillaz though, and left Albarn probably thinking, “Fuck, now what cool shit can I do with Tony Allen?” Well the answer to what cool shit you can do with anybody can always be answered by, “Throw Flea on bass.” And thus was created Rocket Juice and the Moon, a name apparently taken after a Nigerian artist did the album artwork and labeled it as such.
To briefly tangent, I do still believe that Damon Albarn is completely haunted every day by the fact that he will never have the dark admiration of his fellow Brits in the same way that Thom Yorke does, and thus is constantly trying to do something to impress or at least match him. Thus, after Yorke formed his side project Atoms for Peace with Flea on bass, Albarn probably felt a need to steal the thunder and make his own British side-act with the same L.A. bassist.
Anyway, Tony Allen and Flea play like they have been waiting for each other their whole lives. I’m sure the two of them could close their eyes and play a funky afro-beat groove for a solid week and a half straight. The group has only played live once, which was last October at the Cork Jazz Festival in Ireland – I didn’t know the Emerald Isle was such a bustling beacon for the world of modern funk frontiers, but I’m just a stupid Yank. You can stream most of the cuts from that set at their site www.rocketjuiceandthemoon.com. Like most Albarn works, the music has both its’ gentler sides and raw attack-funk moments – but all pre-listens point to the March 27th official album release as being a must-hear beast for 2012. Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble provide the quasi-Sun-Ra psychedelic power lines, and listening to a few cuts, one can only imagine what a dance party this could and should be. The first album leak streaming above “Hey, Shooter” features Erykah Badu and is a friggin’ banger. Below is live video for “Poison” – the other end of the spectrum of what this band is – a delicate, drifting Gorillaz-esque tune. It’s great, and so are a lot of these other tunes featuring guest MC’s, but I’m hoping the album focuses on the afro-funk thunder. Unfortunately, Red hot Chili Peppers have just set a 17-month long tour or something, so it’s highly unlikely that anybody will be seeing this band anytime soon. But rest assured, if you get the chance – jump on it.