With most of my favorite bands I reach a point where my level of dedication wanes to some degree. But there are still 2 bands out there that I want to hear every possible note and song I can from – Dr. Dog and Radiohead. And with Radiohead kicking off their U.S. tour the other night in Miami, I’ve been watching crappy video after crappy video trying to find some good footage of the two new tunes they debuted. But holy fucking shit, it is completely bonkers how much some of these people are talking at this show. These tickets sell out instantly and they’re kind of expensive – you obviously have to go through some degree of effort to get into the concert. So why the fuck are you gonna ramble on about complete bullshit while you’re there? Just so you can tell your friends you saw Radiohead? Well guess what, you didn’t see Radiohead – you stood in the same building while the band played and you acted like an obnoxious asshole. Sweet, make sure you save that ticket stub. Seriously, I’m going to see them play April 9th in Seattle, and I am very not afraid to tell people to shut up directly to their faces. Let alone if they’re cramping my space on the general admission floor. You’re not at some dive bar watching your cousin Joey play AC/DC covers – you’re at a friggin’ musical event. You ever watch The Song Remains the Same and whenever they show the crowd, they’re just standing in utter silence and amazement at what Led Zeppelin is doing before them? Well, if you’re not dancing, then you should be doing the same exact thing at Radiohead. This music is amazing, and complex, and memorizing. But so many people have been dumbed down by piles of shitty music, and are so oblivious to what the art and magic and power of music is all about, that they can’t distinguish one of the greatest bands of all time from Pauly D playing the new Britney cut off his iPod. Don’t be afraid to give in people! Don’t be afraid to lose yourself in music! Who gives a flying fuck if one of your friends takes a weird picture of you dancing and puts it on facebook? At least the world will be able to see you’re not a fucking android.
Anyway, here’s 3 videos from Sunday in Miami. The first is “Meeting in the Aisle” off the Airbag/How Am I Driving EP – they released the song in 1998, but have never played it live til now. It’s one of my favorite deep cuts from the band, and an epic part of this new rhythm-heavy setlist they’re rolling with.
Next we have “Identikit” – this new one drifts over a repeating drum fill and has the potential to be huge.The video is a little shaky at times, but at least you can’t hear anybody yapping.
Lastly is the other new one, “Cut a Hole.” It’s slow and has that dramatic movie soundtrack feel – definitely seems like a Johnny Greenwood tune. There’s some gabbers on this one, but not so bad.
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10) M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
- 22 tracks at an hour and a half long is a lot to process, and subsequently it took me 3 or 4 listens to even get to the second half of this album. Touches of Flaming Lips, touches of MGMT, touches of droney shoegaze, touches of epic beats, touches of Duran Duran – this album has already cemented itself in landmark status for the new millennium. If “Midnight City” doesn’t grab you right off the bat, then this probably isn’t your thing – but if it intrigues you at all, then dig in deep because this album can reshape your expectations for good music these days.
9) ATLAS SOUND – Parallax
- Bradford Cox has entered into a weird self-inspiring world from his steady releases with Deerhunter and solo as Atlas Sound. As a result, this album is a lot more song-oriented than I expected from a release as this moniker, but that’s a great thing. The driftouts are still prevalent in tracks like “Te Amo” and “Quark Parts 1 and 2,” but interspersed melody-based tunes bring a more expansive cohesion to Parallax than any of Cox’s prior releases, and hint that he has still yet to make his true masterpiece. Either way, he is the current ruler of the psychedelic, ambient, melody-based universe I frequently like to dwell within.
8. WASHED OUT – Within and Without
- Just when it seemed like the chill-wave dream-pop scene was ending before it reached its’ adolescence, Ernest Greene stepped up and made it clear he wants to grow old with this sound. I definitely play this album a lot more as resonant ambient music than as a direct listening focus, and yes it does make you want to have a projector screen in your house just showing waves moving in slow motion. There is a modest hugeness to this music that also makes me want to replace all the furniture in my home with oversized bean-bag chairs.
7) THURSTON MOORE – Demolished Thoughts
- Fuck, I really hope Sonic Youth isn’t dead, but Demolished Thoughts seems to at least state that Thurston knew his separation from Kim Gordon was forthcoming. Acoustic, dark, and beautiful – this album should be next to the word bittersweet in the dictionary. I honestly can’t imagine my life without having the first track “Benediction” in it – sometimes it makes me tear up, sometimes it stops me from tearing up, and all the time it makes me think what an amazing blessing Thurston Moore is to those open to his reality. I truly love this record.
6) CAGE THE ELEPHANT – Thank You, Happy Birthday
- I am so not afraid to say how killer I think this band is. With a thick mid-90’s-ish rock sound and an astonishing melodic-pop sensibility, the comparisons to Nirvana and Arctic Monkies are justified, but leave little credit to this band’s own voice. Jared Champion is a murderous backbone beast of a drummer, and the band’s syncopated rock riffs over top along with Matthew Shultz’s crushing vocals and lyrics make them one of the most powerful bands out there today. This whole record is classic with no less than 5 or 6 amazing songs on there
5) DUCKTAILS – Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics
- The pseudonym for the solo work of Real Estate’s Matthew Mondanile, Arcade Dynamics is familiar in the same way that a forgotten dream is. His idea of crafting fake nostalgia came to complete fruition on this album – it’s California drift-folk recorded in Northeast basements and it’s just exactly right. It’s raw and analog in the most perfect way, and with just enough reverb on the vocals to not sound like a completely pretentious asshole. It sounds like the soundtrack to old reel-to-reel footage of a 50’s family reunion where you see your grandparents smoking reefer.
4) RADIOHEAD – The King of Limbs/ TKOL Live From the Basement
- I’ve said if before, but I’m really sorry if you still don’t ‘get’ this band. I have to include the live set here as well, since it is fucking unbelievable, has double drummers, and includes the newer tracks “The Daily Mail” and “Staircase” which are both amazing. With each new album this band re-writes the notions of rhythm in rock music, and restructures how the human soul can physically connect with sound. Get some good headphones, and don’t be afraid of where these songs, this music, and this band can take you.
3) STEPHEN MALKMUS & The Jicks – Mirror Traffic
- I don’t think there will ever be another album made with his old band, but subsequently, and perhaps charged from the 2010 reunion tour, this album sounds more like a Pavement album than any of his 4 other solo releases. The only thing that makes it even better, is that some of these tunes could only come from the independent operation of Malkmus, and that he’s reached a level of melodic and lyrical understanding that he never could have grown into with the other band. The rockers here, like the opener “Tigers,” are brilliantly focused, and the slower, more delicate songs are simply astonishing – “No One Is” and “Share the Red” are epic warm-blanket wrappers. As my dear friend Ben Yurco said, “This is maybe the warmest album ever made.”
2) YUCK – Yuck
- The only band that sounded more like the most ideal echo of the 90’s than Malkmus this year was these lovely young cats from London. Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, slow Smashing Pumpkins – they all get touched upon here, but really this band just seems like one of their sonic peers you somehow missed out on 15 years ago. The rockers touch on the more melodic side of Dinosaur Jr., and the slow shoegazers just touch on your reverb-pedal-loving heart-strings. “Suck” and “Rubber” are HUGE. I never stopped listening to this album this year, and it holds just as big a place in my heart as some of its’ forefathering records. As my dear friend Wade Wilby said, “I wish I had this album when I broke up with my high-school girlfriend in 1996.”
1) DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR. – It’s a Corporate World
- This became one of my all time go-to albums this year. My iTunes claims I’ve listened to it 62 times since it came out. Two incredibly radical fellas from Detroit write amazing songs, and mix them with killer beats and transcendent drift. Melodically, there’s a pop-sense to it, but there’s more of a rock edge in the exploratory nature they let into the songs. Suppose you time-traveled back 50 years, and you meet someone who’s afraid that all music will suck in the 21st century. So you want to play them an album that’s warm and approachable, but still futuristic enough that it’s like nothing they’ll hear for decades. This is it.
All right, here we go. There were a wicked crap load of different albums I spent time with this year, and most of them never got around to reviewing. But as we go through upgrade mode here at ishitmusic, time for a run-down of the 50 albums that are really worth your time from last year. 10 a day all week long.
50) Daft Punk – Tron Legacy Reconfigured
- The original score for Tron Legacy seemed somewhat hollow for the legacy these guys have crafted for themselves. But I think the notion was to keep things rather unframed so that subsequent producers would have more room to make these songs their own, and that they did. There’s a killer Com Truise remix, and Glitch Mobb are in their finest form, but the go-to cut is the M83/Big Black Delta remix of “Fall.” It’s the tune that turned a ton of folks, (myself included) onto the power of M83.
49) Adele – 21
- There’s a reason home-girl has sold 7 million copies of her album – she’s really fucking good. Great melodies and some of the most painfully bittersweet lyrics to get thrown on Top 40 radio in quite some time. Don’t be turned away just because your 12-year old neighbor has been playing the album on repeat for a year.
48) Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
- On their 2009 debut, North Hills, Dawes placed their boot-print in the ongoing timeline of California Americana Rock. Despite having a huge year in 2011, including backing up Robbie Robertson on tour, Nothing is Wrong couldn’t quite live up to the haunting cycle of songs on their first album. The sound is still there, but the heart-tug isn’t nearly as deep. This might be the best background-music album of the year.
47) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical
- CLHSY made two of my favorite albums of the 2000’s before going on extended hiatus in 2008. Hysterical is still the same post-punk Byrne-esque fast-backbeat-driven rock band from before, but the initial spark of enthusiasm has somewhat dwindled. “Same Mistake” and “Hysterical,” the first two cuts, portend for more than the consecutively drabber rest of the album that follows, but they’re strong enough alone to put the whole record on this list.
46) Das Racist – Relax
- Listen, I fucking love Das Racist, but I’m really worried that they think they need to start getting serious. And sure, serious to them is still wicked loco to most mainstream hip-hop today, but their increasing focus on bollywood riffs and the lack of any Billy Joel references on this album has me a tad antsy. Either way, it’s still some of the only rap being released these days that everybody should at least give a shot to.
45) Phantogram – Nightlife
- This 6-song EP from the upstate New York duo is rather grandiose compared to their earlier self-described sound of “street-beat, psych-pop” and it’s totally a move the band should continue to embrace. Sarah Barthel’s voice is as eerily soothing as she is ridiculously attractive, and I think with the right producer these guys could step it up huge on their next release. Perfect music for a 3AM after party: calm enough for half the folks to melt into the couch, bumping enough for the party to still bounce around them.
44) The Antlers – Burst Apart
- I missed the boat 2 years ago when Pete Silberman got an actual band together and released the amazing Hospice. So Burst Apart was my first introduction to the driving drift of these Brooklynites, and the first tune “I Don’t Want Love” is the defining track of the band for me. There are plenty of folks who can sound really blue with tons of space-echo on their guitar, but The Antlers have a dark tongue-in-cheek edge that gives them a touch of necessary grit.
43) Radiohead – TKOL RMX 1234567
- Radiohead albums are like jet-planes: they weave through the airwaves, change the landscape, and leave an extensive trail of their residue behind them. When compiled together, the 19 different official remixes off The King of Limbs are like listening to the album through a kaleidoscope. 5 different takes on “Bloom” sound nothing alike, including the 2 stabs by the ever-expanding Jamie xx. Caribou’s version of “Little By Little” instills a comfortable paranoia like only the actual band usually does. Caution, subsequent late night listening sessions may temporarily jostle your frontal lobe and pineal gland… in a good way, of course.
42) Wild Flag – Wild Flag
- Sure, it’s worth mentioning that they’re an all-female four-piece of 90’s indie-rock superstars, but it’s more important to talk about how much this album rocks. Perhaps Portlandia has given Carrie Brownstein some rejuvenated inspiration, because some tracks like “Electric Band” are better than anything she wrote in Sleater-Kinney. The only downfall is that she stole my beloved drummer Janet Weiss back from Stephen Malkmus’ band, but as long as they keep the Wild Flag thing going for a little while, I completely understand.
41) Work Drugs – Summer Blood
- Admit it, it’s hard to be a smooth-ass low-fi gritty-dream-drift band these days without sounding like a pretentious dick, but Work Drugs kick ass. A fan has made a video for the title track featuring beach scenes from Point Break in slow motion, and that’s exactly what this album sounds like. It grows more on me each time, and isn’t gonna leave my rotation for a while. It’s actually far superior to its’ sonic peers and older brothers from the past couple years.
Quite simply put, Radiohead fucking owned it on The Colbert Report last night. Performing 4 songs over the course of the evening, Stephen Colbert seemed uncharacteristically out of character and noticeably floored after several of the performances. I was most psyched by “The Daily Mail” – a tune that first appeared on the Live From The Basement Session for King of Limbs. It’s a killer conglomerate of all things Radiohead: it starts off with the solo Yorke piano introspect segment – weaving simple allusions into a deep-rooting meld of one’s own universal placement. And then as the horns rise in over a very Amnesiac-ish ascending progression, the kick drum drops in and takes control. The double-drums are perfect enough on this one to make you lament them not rolling with the groove longer, but the song intelligently drops out fairly quickly. Killer cut. They also nailed “Bloom” – really magically with Thom rocking the high guitar lick while Johnny hits the heavy off-beat thing. There were lengthy interviews as well, a dope “Little by Little”, and the show ended with them ripping into “National Anthem”. So hot. They cut Anthem near the end, but you can see it on-line as well as the post-show “Codex” and “Magpie.” Hotness. I’d post the clips, but those Colbert ones get taken down quick, so your best move is to go to www.colbertnation.com and fend for yourself. Instead here’s the “Daily Mail” from The Basement Session, although the only way you can watch the HD version on youtube is to have it flipped, so just pretend you’re watching this performance in a mirror. Or watch your computer screen in a mirror, and pretend you’re watching it normal. Follow me? Or just close your eyes and listen.
Not a bad time to be a TV executive in New York City – the late night talk-shows are crushing this week, or actually I guess they’re literally crushing at around 5:30 – when these things are recorded, but either way. Things kicked off with Radiohead on Saturday Night Live 2 days ago – they played “Lotus Flower” and “Staircase”, although both seemed a little bit dusty. I think it’s more based upon the fact that a spaced out, 2-song performance is not the ideal slot for these guys to lock in their magic, but we’ll see when they appear on the Colbert Report this evening. And the 2 shows they’re playing at the Roseland Ballroom this weekend are gonna be fuckin’ historic, but I don’t want to remind myself that I won’t be there. The important thing to note is that, like at this summer’s Basement sessions, they have Portishead‘s Clive Deamer on a second drum kit. It really thickened up the beat in a way that says, “Fuck yeah, Radiohead should have 2 drummers” and I hope he plays the whole shows, because it’d be great to hear him fill out some of the older stuff. I put a clip of SNL’ s “Lotus Flower” below.
The 2nd NYC TV event of the week is Jimmy Fallon hosting Pink Floyd week. I guess there’s some huge Floyd reissue due out this week – I mean all the Floyd I got sounds amazing to me, I don’t need some weird 3D reissue bullshit – but I’m into having random bands come on each day to play a different song. The Shins re-emerge as a functioning band again – tonight they play “Breathe”. The highlight of the week has got to be tomorrow though, when the Foo Fighters play “In The Flesh” with Roger Waters on vocals. Sickness. This is a much better plan than when they did Rolling Stones week, and closed it out with Phish playing “Loving Cup” while Keith Richards just sat there on the plush couch. C’mon, Keith’s right fucking there – can we get a guitar in the man’s hands? Anyway, MGMT on Wednesday, that country-fuck Dierks Bentley on Thursday, and Pearl Jam on Friday. So tune into WNNNNNNNBC each night this week around 1:20 AM for a glimpse into what late-night television would be like if MTV hadn’t forgotten what the “M” stands for.
So on the way back from a friggin’ horrid gig in Saratoga last night, I came across the modern dilemma of what music on my iPod could both satisfy the needed subversive expansion for my currently half-withered soul and likewise entertain the 60 year-old Deadhead riding shotgun. The Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. album proved to be too much of a discussive workout, despite my need to listen to it daily (more to come on that soon). So I turned to the modern standard: Radiohead. I had just uploaded the new King of Limbs – From the Basement Sessions and I thought it would be perfect. You know, a good old rhythmic assault is fun for everyone, and he’d have to dig it since it’s live and thus a step-up automatically in any old Deadhead’s book. The response I got was at first obnoxious, and I contemplated just caving and putting on The Allman Brothers, but then it became so absurdly hilarious I had to continue. Here’s some highlights that both frustrated and amused me.
“So, there’s just some sort of loop machine going right?”
“This guy’s supposed to be so good at guitar, but there isn’t even any guitar on this song!”
“It sounds a lot like U2 – you know, drones with Bono scatting on top. Skee-bop, whiiiiiir, the suuuun, how’s that song go?”
“By listening to this, you know who would sound perfect to collaborate with Radiohead….Mickey Hart”
“Laaaaaah, laaaaaaah, (whistle of high harmony) laaaaah”
“I saw em on TV once, and the guitarists were on the ground twisting knobs all over the place – it was wild!”
“What, Radiohead released a new album this year? I can’t believe I didn’t know that.”
Bless you Mr. Charlie, your fragmented views of modern music are both refreshing and ignorant all at the same time. You are a treasure my friend. Look for “Part 2: All the Different Shit He Thinks My Morning Jacket’s Circuital sounds like”
Looks like July 1stish, Radiohead should be broadcasting their upcoming “In The Basement” session. The BBC program hosted by Radiohead wizard-producer Nigel Godrich usually makes it to the digi-matrix-verse pretty quick. If you never saw their performance for In Rainbows, then go find it now and realize why this King of Limbs session is gonna be so epic. It’s on official DVD or you can find the whole thing on youtube. www.fromthebasement.tv And oh yeah, they just released this cut from the taping of the new song “Staircase.” It’s warm, and dark, and pulsing in a way like an alien seed in your sternum. Portishead drummer, Clive Deamer is on double-drums…killer.
In a really cool “Why the fuck not?” moment, the boys in Weezer posted footage today of them absolutely nailing Radiohead‘s “Paranoid Android” in the studio. For 90′s music geeks, it’s probably a frightening wall breakdown moment of a band acknowledging one of its peers in a light that they normally would have strayed from – I can only presume what stupid shit people are gonna say about it, hell the youtube comments are already out of control. Yeah I know, ‘what’s his name’ is no Johnny Greenwood, that’s why he’s only what’s-his-name. But the truth is – it’s fucking awesome. They abosultely pin it off the chain, I presume there must have been a few run throughs – and Rivers Cuomo sings like it was his song in the first place. It’s almost like a Hot Tub Time Machine move of going back and releasing another band’s song before they wrote it. What’s great too is that at the end, you see them all laughing and talking about how fucking cool it is – just like you and your buddies did in high school when you really get somebody else’s shit down. But as a huuuuge Radiohead fan, and a fairly big-casual fan of Weezer, I just absolutely adore this shit. It’s totally cross-hatch psychedelia of good modern pop in the best way, check it out. And don’t analyze it – just dig it. Rivers’ voice sounds totally radical on the “rain down” breakdown part. Dope.
I had a grand epiphany recently when I realized there was a whole outlet of interpersonal music geekness that I was neglecting – the digital mailing list. Sure, a decade or so, writing your email address on some band’s list usually just meant you got a list of tour-dates every few months. But this is 2011 baby! Shit’s happening, and bands these days love to hook up their list folk with sweet things. I’ve gotten some dope downloads from Yeasayer and Akron Family among others as of late. But the biggest satisfaction came this morning when Radiohead sent everyone on their list copies of the two new tracks they only released in the UK last Saturday.
“The Butcher” is a glitched out, somewhat dark but steady charger. It was recorded during The King of Limbs, but it has even more of a stand-alone sound than other tracks on that album, and subsequently they couldn’t make it fit into the equation. Killer track though, and I would love to hear it grab full hold of its’ spookiness in a live setting.
“Supercollider” was started during the Limbs sessions but just finished up a few weeks back. They had been playing a rough take on this track for the past few years, but it was essentially just Yorke on the piano as I anticipated this cut to be. Rather, this is a much more lofty and synth driven track with a steady drum/fake-bass beat rolling throughout. It’s beautiful, very moon-landing kind of vibe. Definitely a must-have.
The most satisfying part? The fact that I went into my local record shop on Record Store Day, and the random bitchy chick working there looked at me like a complete ignorant asshole when I asked if they had the new Radiohead. Sure I had my release-date-countries mixed up, but still she thought I was an idiot, and seemed really pissed off when I told her that I obviously already had a copy of The King of Limbs and she needed to take that off my bill. I hope she loves Radiohead and subsequently can’t ever listen to these tracks without aching in the guilt of knowing that the asshole kid was right on Record Store Day. Eat it homegirl, I’m gonna listen to these songs 10 times each today.
So when Radiohead first announced that their latest album, The King of Limbs, would be the world’s first newspaper album – well, I admit I ignorantly followed the masses and was like “Oh yeah, totally. I completely understand what that means – neato, coolness.” Now I realize nobody else had a clue what the fuck they were talking about either. But it turns out that they actually made a companion physical newspaper to go along with the album – it’s getting put on newsstands round the world starting today and tomorrow, March 29. Well actually it only starts tomorrow, but technically in other parts of the world it is already tomorrow, thus it is today for them. Maybe that’s why Asia is always one step ahead of us in the technology department – we’re literally sleeping. Anyway, the paper known as The Universal Sigh, for some reason is only being released in odd spots in the NorthEast like Boston, and New York City, and some place called Montreal – what, Vermont means nothing? Oh well, I’m still hoping one will come with the special album package.
In other news, the band did just announce that they’ll release a new 12″ Vinyl for April 16th’s Record Store Day. The band’s website states it will have 2 new tracks entitled “The Butcher” and “SuperCollider” – perhaps leftovers form King Of Limbs? Maybe not, they’ve actually been playing “SuperCollider” live for several years now – it’s a slow piano-focused Yorke-soloish thing. It’s great. Here’s a live clip below.
The weird thing is that they rumor to be only releasing 2000 copies – so I guess just for the crazy person in each city who stands out front for 24 hours the night before record store day. Here in Burlington, Vermont- our own beloved Record Store, Pure Pop, thinks they’re only going to get about 5 copies of the live Phish record store day release – also limited to 2500 or so copies. And in the band’s once own hometown, you know there’s gonna be at least 5 cats there by 3 in the morning. Undercutting demand with limited supply is something that hasn’t happend in a while in our times of extreme over excess of everything. But to me, there’s something really cool about having that craving to own something physical so desperately again. But fuck me, I sleep late on Saturdays – always.