Tag: The Shins
It was announced today that Trent Reznor has decided to get Nine Inch Nails back together and play a whole mess of show later this year. However, “back together” is a fairly relative term when it comes to NIN. As of yesterday, there had been 21 different fellas who’ve played in the band with Reznor over the years, and today we’re getting the inclusion of 3 more. This has always been the design of the band, and for a sound that is essentially an industrialized military attack formulated in Reznor’s mind, it’s always worked quite well. I had never been the biggest fan of the band, but after seeing one of their last gigs at Bonnaroo in 2009 I was blown the fuck away. I can only imagine what the band will sound like now – bringing in the incomparable Adrian Belew from King Crismon on guitar? That’s just fucking nuts. Not only can the dude shred your living face off, but if you’ve ever seen videos of him playing with the Talking Heads then you know he’s also a brute force of a living rhythm machine. And then he’s also added Eric Avery, the bass player from Jane’s Addiction? Well, hot damn – this just became the top must-see band of 2013. But what’s interesting about all this, is that Reznor has this aura that’s akin to a jazz master – where you praise the main artist so much that you know that any incarnation of a band he’s going to hit the road with will be fucking amazing. There’s only 3 other current rock artists who also have the gall to do this, each with different levels of audience acceptance and success.
1) Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses - Appetite for Destruction is arguably one of the greatest rock albums ever made, but not once did somebody ever hear it and say, “Ahh this backing band really doesn’t click with the singer.” I mean, c’mon, everybody has air-guitarred a Slash solo at some point. GNR was a fucking band above all bands – Izzy, Duff – even that junkie on drums – Axl’s dumbass move to think that he’s the only that anybody cares about in that band has severely hurt his street-cred over the years. If the original lineup got back together, they could playing arenas. Literally, they could see upwards of 100,000 tickets a show in various locales across the nation… and whole world. One of the worst lineup changes in the history of music.
2) James Mercer and The Shins - I really like the Shins, and their sound has been an enormous influence on the indie-world over the past decade. And while Mercer’s songs can at times be surprisingly complex, it’s never really been a band that you go see for a crazy guitar solo or even for any of the instrumental talent of the band. That being said, the band has always been great, and Mercer’s decision to constantly change the lineup over the years seems to be solely based on him making it clear that it’s his band and his band alone. Thus, in this lineup change situation, the moves have never really effected the quality of the music, but they have made even the most avid fan wonder the askew dimensions of Mercer’s introverted ego.
3) Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins - In the early 90′s, the Pumpkins seemed like such a definitive picture of a full band. Sure, Corgan was the frontman, but the Eastern smile of James Iha on guitar and the dark, sultriness of D’arcy Elizabeth Wretzky on bass seemed like equally defining pieces of the puzzle. When inter-band bickering brought them to a split in 2000, it was a bummer, but it seemed to acknowledge that the band couldn’t continue without one another. Billy went on to do Zwan and some other solo shit, and things seemed cool. That is until 2005, when Corgan took out those huge ads in the Chicago newspapers saying he wanted to reunite the band. Sure the drummer came back, but Iha and Wretzky were no-shows. In my mind, that’s not a reunion, but the move of a guy who’s failing in his solo endeavors and in need of using his past notoriety to sell some albums. I had waning respect for Corgan already, but that seemed to make me lose it all. They’ve released 3 albums since then, one of which people say is actually pretty good – but I decided a while ago to not give a fuck.
Oh well – fame, music, and money always have a great way of fucking each other over.
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.
30) Yeasayer – Fragrant World
If you still haven’t become familiar with the obscure, dance-worthy psychedelia that is Yeasayer, then this latest album is a fantastic place to start. Every song’s turn is unexpected yet comfortable, and I wholeheartedly believe they’re one of the most important bands on the planet right now. They should be opening for Radiohead.
29) Benny Yurco – This is a Future
For any of us familiar with Benny’s dominating axe-slashing prowess, it’s hard to believe there’s not one guitar solo on this, his debut record. But then you realize how great these Kingston via Brooklyn tunes are, and it all makes sense.
28) Actress – R.I.P.
The ambient electronic magic of this album falls somewhere between the subtle wonder of Caribou and the genius production of Flying Lotus. If you’re worried that every producer is being subdued by the womp of dub-step, then this album is a huge sigh of relief.
27) Heems – Wild Water Kingdom
Heems released two mix-tapes this year that made you realize that maybe Das Racist breaking up isn’t as big of a bummer as first instincts project. Things clicked perfectly on WWK, where laid-back, spun-out beats created the perfect backdrop for his hilarious and furious attacks.
26) Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Modern soul music needed a good kick in the head, and thank God Ocean showed up to do it. Like anybody who’s heard it, I think the record is killer, but I feel it lacks the amazing hooks found in previous singles like “Novocaine” and “Swim Good.”
25) The Black Keys – El Camino
Shit, who would have thought a few years back that the Akron duo would become the biggest band in America? Bringing back Danger Mouse was a huge move, even though this album comes in a solid third to their previous 2 efforts. And yeah I know, this album actually came out in December of 2011, but it was fucking everywhere this year so deserves its spot on the list.
24) Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet on Sky
Ahhh, the 3rd album since Dino Jr.’s reunion 5 years ago is once again consistently amazing, and finds Mascis and crew truly at the top of their game. If you ever loved this band and haven’t given the new stuff a try, be prepared to love them even more than ever before.
23) Swans – The Seer
The legends of post-punk made the greatest album of the career this year, 30 years after this debut. Centered around the half-hour long title track, drone and darkness have never coexisted in such a land of triumphant light.
22) Dr. Dog – Wild Race E.P.
The tunes just keep fucking keep coming from the Dog gang, and like always, they’re undeniably amazing. I have no clue why “Be the Void” wasn’t on this year’s album of the same name, other than the fact that they needed to prove how many amazing songs they had tucked away still.
21) The Shins – Port of Morrow
Sure, James Mercer may have once again hired an entirely new band for this album, but his consistent onslaught of amazing songs makes him allowed to do whatever the fuck he wants. Deceptively complex pop music at its apex – keep em’ coming James.
These formal sit-down shows really make for odd rock and roll experiences but James Mercer actually showed more enthusiasm than I ever knew he had at this hometown Portland gig. Read the full review at State of Mind HERE. And here’s a snippet:
The band itself was incredibly tight, and even for a fella who’s fired 8 members of his group already, there didn’t seem to be any reason why Mercer would be dropping any of these guys soon. New songs molded seamlessly with older cuts off Chutes Too Narrow, and there weren’t any moments where it felt like they hadn’t all been doing this together for a long time. When “New Slang” emerged towards the end of the set, it was easily the most accurately complicated sing-along I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. Despite the dark undertones of most of these tunes, there’s a thriving buoyancy to them when a few thousand people are hearing them outside of their iPods for the first time. Add to that the fact that James Mercer seemed consistently overjoyed throughout the entire concert, and you have yourself a pretty darn radical rock showcase. I suppose he could have been enamored with the thought that he would be sleeping in his own bed at the end of the night, but he did appear to be taking some actual pleasure in being a rock star this evening.
I’ve been flipping back and forth a lot about whether I should think James Mercer is a total dick for firing everyone who was once The Shins and just making a whole new band out of it. I mean I totally think Billy Corgan is an asshole for that same reason, so I feel like I should try to keep my band-morality ducks in a row, ya know? But then I realized that Mercer is just a wicked introverted cat – always kind of sad and lonesome – and that’s why he is able to write such amazing music. And after this new video for “It’s Only Life”, I’ve decided to hang up all my preconceptions of how the man lives his life and just fucking rock his tunes. Hell, I live in Portland just like he does and I’m well aware of how the drabness can enter your soul if you’re not on top of your game.
Port of Morrow initially seemed too simple for me, even by Mercer’s reductionist pop standards, but lately I’ve been finding myself emotionally owned by its simplicity. The lyrics to “It’s Only Life” make depressing circumstances sound beautiful, and like all of the album it’s draped in a calming tone of acceptance. He’s really able to reach back to that early 20th century vibe when sad songs were what you sang to feel better. He’s kinda like the 21st century’s version of Robert Hunter in the Pacific Northwest. The video itself takes place in a post-apocalyptic PDX, and basically combines the kid from Where the Wild Things Are with the monster-vibe from The Village and imagery directly stolen from this past January’s Cloud Nothings video for “No Future/No Past.” I mean there’s no possible way director Hiro Murai didn’t get at least a little inspired by it. Regardless of that slight artistic stealing though, this video for “It’s Only Life” has my vote for video of the year. It’s tough to make a complete, let alone inspiring story line in under 5 minutes with no dialogue but they totally pull it off. Suck it November Rain…
Get it? They don’t fuck with the kid because he put the antlers on him and his dog – smart thinking, and a killer way to add some past and extension to the story. Totally makes me a little teary-eyed. Yes, I am a pussy. But here, now watch the 5 month old Cloud Nothings video and tell me there isn’t a striking similarity. I do love this video too, and if you haven’t yet gotten into the magical world of Cleveland kid Dylan Baldi, then you’re missing out on the greatest collaboration ever of punk meets post-punk. The latest Cloud Nothings album, Attack on Memory, is at the top of my 2012 list.
It’s the day after St. Patrick’s day so… let’s watch videos. I still watch em’ -people still make em’ – in fact I feel there’s a new Renaissance of quality music videos being made again. Here’s 5 that have owned me this week. Let’s make a regular thing out of it, why not?
1. Gotye – “Easy Way Out”
This album has a unique magic to it that is hard to replicate these days, but it helps when you can quiver the upper ranges in eerie echos of Peter Gabriel. You’ve heard “Somebody I Used to Know” on 70% of all potential radio-dials in the past month, but this video for “Easy Way Out” displays more of his true sonic manipulation.
2. The Shins – “Simple Song”
James Mercer really gives off the impression of being a total square, but videos like this show that he’s got an absurdly dry sense of humor to him that makes you sigh in relief for him actually being human.
3. Bon Iver – “Towers”
A new video from Bon Iver featuring (surprise!) natural sepia tones with someone moving around real slowly. There is a pattern to Bon Iver, but if you dig the album, then videos like this perfectly match the tone.
4. Tool – “Reflection”
OK, those were 3 really mellow tunes so let’s ease out of it with this ridiculous video for this tune from 2001′s Lateralus album. I presume ayahuasca consumption has never been displayed in better detail. If you got 11 minutes to launch out, this video is pretty friggin’ ridiculous.
5. Stephen Malkmus – “Jenny and the Ess-Dog”
This video is horrible – one of Malkmus’ much more phoned in efforts, but still kinda what the cat has always been about. Either way, this is one of my favorite solo tunes of his, off his first solo album in 2001. Brothers in Arms and a dog named Trey – what else do you need?
2) Phantom Limb
3) It’s Only Life
4) Simple Song
5) New Slang
Ahh, the perks of being hip and unemployed in Portland, Oregon. Announced this afternoon only an hour before show time – the small confines of Mississippi Studio left little space for breathing room, but that didn’t stop half the PDX crowd from deciding that 2 in the afternoon on a Monday would be a great time for a beer or two. With a pile of ex-bandmates getting larger with every new album it’s safe to say these days that James Mercer is The Shins. Thus when seeing him play solo, it felt like the purest way to experience Shins’ tunes and surprisingly gave new depth to these songs.
The 5-song set opened with 2 tunes off the last album, 2007’s Wincing the Night Away. As essential as the reverb of an electric guitar seems to be to this music, the raw, acoustic guitar allowed them to open them up even more into their naturally intended environment. The lyrics made more sense, the space felt more necessary, and there was a simple way to lose oneself in the moment without focusing on a reclusive indie-star playing 10 blocks away from your home with the sun shining through the windows. Next were 2 tunes off the upcoming Port of Morrow. “It’s Only Life” came off as both a rather basic tune for Mercer to write, and as a somewhat dark window into the embraced loneliness he appears to project. I’m interested to hear how this one will sound with the full band, but I did have a moment here of noting my perceived pretentious meter for James Mercer fall a few notches into normal human being territory. The newest single, “Simple Song” followed and James himself seemed ironically amused at how simple the two-chord chorus came across in the solo format. After some charming commentary, he closed out the set with an awesomely beautiful take on “New Slang” from the Garden State soundtrack, then gracefully thanked the crowd. It wasn’t a mind-blowing half-hour of music, but it was great, and it was refreshing, and probably the best live set I’ve ever witnessed in-between loads of laundry.
Here’s a cut someone just posted of “It’s Only Life” from today, as well as “Simple Song” in its fully realized version off the upcoming new album.
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.