Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer: First Thoughts

I have now gotten through AMZ three full times, and I can tell you, I am very pleased with this record. Let's start with the production. Drummer Arlen Thompson, who produced and engineered AMZ, did an absolutely fantastic job. I'll admit, I had my doubts about Wolf Parade switching from Issac Brock as producer, but the switch was definitely worth it. Thompson gives the music room to breathe, allowing the little things, like relatively unknown fourth member Hadji Bakara's synth loops, to come through. It makes for a distinctly different experience than, say, listening to one of the first Wolf Parade EP's. These guys have come a long way. The production is very reminiscent of Spoon's more recent works, if you want a comparison point. I can't say enough about how great this album sounds, even through a poor quality rip.

The songs, well, there isn't a lackluster song in the bunch. The songs are split evenly among Spencer and Dan, like last time, except where the two share vocals on epic closer "Kissing the Beehive." The album gets off to a rocking start with "Soldier's Grin," a fine Dan song. It works really well as an opening song, with it's catchy guitar lick and well placed keyboard loops. Next we go to Spencer, with his "Call It A Ritual," the first new song that was released to the public. One of the best Spencer songs on the record. A little on the short side, but it has a very interesting rhythm and feel, which should be able to hold your attention for at least a couple listens. Now we go back to Dan, and we get "Language City," which quite frankly, is Dan's best song on the record, and maybe the best song that he has ever done. The lyrics are nothing new, stuff about running away from the city and leaving his old life behind, which is basically what every one of his songs are about. However, the whole band really comes together on this song; every member has a distinct part, even the aforementioned Hadji, giving this song a sense of purpose. And it just rocks, really. Song 4 is Spencer's "Bang Your Drum." This is easily the weakest song on this record. Not bad, it would certainly be a fine Sunset Rubdown tune, but I can't see how the song, built around a dark keyboard riff, fits in on a Wolf Parade album. Of course, after this song we get Spencer's best song on AMZ, California Dreamer. A tale of a girl who runs away from the narrator to pursue dreams of fame in Los Angeles, it not only has some of Spencer's best non-artsy lyrics to date, but it also just flat out rocks. You'll see that I have been saying that a lot, but I really mean it, this album packs a lot more punch than ATTQM did.

On to side two! The Grey Estates, a Dan song, immediately put a smile on my face when I heard the opening synths come in. It's really the most 80s thing Wolf Parade have ever done, in fact, it reminds me of 80s Bruce Springsteen. That might just be because it is another Dan song of urban paranoia and isolation, similar to what the Boss always writes about, but it also seems to have the same sort of sound. The keyboard riff in the outro is also really cool. Sounds like a bad Mario synth. I guess I would have to call it the weakest song Dan does here, however, based upon the strength of his other songs. Like the next song, Fine Young Cannibals. Oh my god does this song sound like a Spoon song! Take out Dan, put Britt in, and you would have Spoon. But don't let that trick you into thinking this song is derivative or anything. It sounds distinctly like Wolf Parade, but it is a lot tighter and more solid than usual. The lyrics are also amazing, and much different than most Spoon lyrics. We go back to Spencer for the 8th track, "An Animal In Your Care." This song is...well, it starts off rather weak. Compared to the live versions of this song, many fans are bound to be disappointed at how low-key it has become. Good thing the song picks up around the two minute mark. Here we get a great outro, with some great Spencer howling. Still, this has to be one of the weaker songs on the album. Finally we have reached the epic closer, "Kissing the Beehive." This song...words cannot describe how ridiculous this song is. It is a full ten and a half minutes of Dan and Spencer sharing vocals, or basically, as some might call it, pure ecstasy. "As if you didn't know it would sting; kissing the beehive" says Spencer as the music slows down, which is the key lyric in this song. An epic climax which builds to a terrific outro in 9/4 time. It seems to abruptly end, however, I can't say if this is intentional or if this is due to a poor quality rip.

Okay, so concluding thoughts. Well, I think for one, I can say that this is my favorite album of the year so far, hands down. I also need to make it very clear that, despite my love for Spencer, Dan is the real hero of this album. Everything he does on this record is gold, really, and I truly believe that he has here come into his own as a songwriter. Overall, this sounds a lot more like the work of a band than Apologies did. Some will complain of the relatively short length, but I disagree, I think it is the mark of a great band to be able to release a self contained work under 50 minutes. Plus it will fit well onto one LP. Seriously, after listening to this record, well, four times now, I'm contemplating saying it is better than Apologies. Which in my world is downright blasphemous.

Video: Radiohead - "All I Need"

I normally wince at the mention of MTV, but as it turns out, their EXIT (End eXploitation and Trafficking) campaign with Radiohead addresses a cause certainly worth paying attention to: forced child labor. As part of the campaign, Radiohead's video for In Rainbows standout "All I Need" tells a straightforward yet truly saddening, unsettling tale, one that has little to do with the subject matter of the song yet fits well with the track's vibe. This stand against the exploitation of Third World children for corporate profits is hardly a surprise for a band that has performed songs inspired by the writings of Noam Chomsky and considered naming one of its albums after Naomi Klein's No Logo, but Radiohead's anti-capitalist stand is no less compelling (or morally right) now than before. "Some things cost more than you realize." Well said.

Video: Radiohead - "All I Need" (via Pitchfork)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Coldplay: "Violet Hill" Download

While waiting for my history final to start I decided to take advantage of Coldplay releasing their first single from Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. You can go to and click on the 'songs' tab to receive your free copy of the song from the website. Just be advised that the site has been getting backed up so you might want to go to another source.

My first reaction to "Violet Hill" was that Phil Collins and/or Genesis were playing backup for Chris. If you know me you'll realize this is a compliment to Coldplay. The rhythmic verse uses a surprisingly authoritative guitar and builds into a very catchy chorus. The last 40 seconds gives us the familiar piano solo where Chris pours his heart out to us.

Overall I'm a little disappointed after all the hype, but I can guarantee you I'll be singing "If you love me, won't you let me know" for the rest of the week.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Music: The Twilight Sad

"Are your hands cold?...cuz your fingers feel like snow!" screams James Graham on the new MySpace-posted Twilight Sad track, "Here, It Never Snowed, Afterward It Did." Graham's performance is as energetic, emotional, and, well, Scottish as anything off the Sad's consistently good, occasionally brilliant debut LP. However, no colossal wall of guitar or monstrously awesome crescendos here...actually the track (save for the vocals) is kind of subdued. It's still pretty good, though, and hopefully is an indicator of the band's sophomore LP. And to answer the question, my hands are quite warm, though they were cold during my days in the birdhouse.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sad Day for America

Why? Actor/vampire killer/tax-evading criminal Wesley Snipes has been sentenced to three years in prison for, yeah, tax evasion, a testament to the utter stupidity the criminal justice system. It used to be that being rich and a celebrity got you off no matter what the crime, that stars could hire top legal teams and produce some non-fitting gloves and walk out of the courtroom. Let's hope when the R. Kelly trial actually starts (if ever) prosecutors and jurors will show some well-deserved understanding for the celebs among us just trying to have a little fun.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Big Lineup Announcements: All Tomorrow's Parties, Rock the Bells

Wow. I can only warn you that some pretty big...well, rather, earth-shattering names are about to be dropped, so small children and pregnant women might wanna step outside. First and foremost, of course, we must discuss My Bloody Valentine headlining the All Tomorrow's Parties fest in New York in September. It will be their first US show since, like, a long time ago, and almost certainly they'll come equipped with the songs that will comprise the history-of-mankind-defining Loveless follow-up. Of course, by that time I will already drilled the live bootlegs of their overseas shows into my brain, so you know how it is.

I hope you didn't think that was it. Oh, no no no no no. Built to Spill performing Perfect From Now On (an all-time favorite of mine), Tortoise performing Millions Now Living Will Never Die (an awesome record, though I'm more of a TNT guy), Meat Puppets unleashing Meat Puppets II (never been all that crazy about, but the Nirvana covers were fantastic), and Thurston Moore playing back his Psychic Hearts LP (which, believe it or not, I have never heard all the way through, despite my ownership of like 10 Sonic Youth albums). And oh yeah, Fuck Buttons, Mogwai, and some other bands I don't care as much about.

Yeah, so as mind-meltingly epic as that show is gonna be, the more hip-hop inclined among us will be enjoying the 2008 Rock the Bells tour, which has quite possibly the most potent and not-to-be-fucked-with roster of hip-hop acts assembled since, well, last year's uber-cool Rock the Bells tour. Who, you say, is playing? A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Mos Def, De La Soul, Ghostface, Raekwon, Method Man, Immortal Technique, The Cool Kids, and a bunch of other exceptional artists. I heard Biggie might play Ready to Die in its entirety. Just a rumor.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Record Review: Tokyo Police Club: Elephant Shell

The much-hyped Ontario-based indie rock band issues its debut full-length.

Rating: 3.5/5

They’re from Canada, they released a promising, blog-approved EP, and their sound instantly recalls some of the most loved indie rock bands of recent years. So yeah, the bar is set quite high for the Ontario-based four piece’s full-length debut. Do they clear it? Well, Elephant Shell is like when a good hurdler keeps nailing his trail leg against the hurdles but pushes through the race anyway: his time isn’t necessary as fast as it could be, but the hurdler finished the race, and the results are, ultimately, respectable ones. That is, Tokyo Police Club’s debut is decent collection of two-minute indie rock ditties, respectable despite the sense that the clearly talented band isn’t quite running at top speed.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be slightly disappointed if the Lesson in Crime EP hadn’t shown what the band can really do. Though only 16 some minutes long, the EP packed an arresting, raucous punch, and suggested that Tokyo Police Club could be the latest top-notch Pixies-derived band to run laps around the competition. “Nature of the Experiment” alone kicked more ass than 90% of the albums I heard last year.

Something got lost in the transfer. For one thing, the production here is cleaner than that of A Lesson in Crime, with singer Dave Monks’ nasally vocals brought to the front of the mix and the band’s jerkier, rougher impulses smoothed out. The more polished sound doesn’t come as a shock, but nonetheless compromises the material in some ways, removing some of the unhinged fervor and urgency that characterized the EP. Elephant Shell still finds the band with energy and ideas, but we never get the “Operator, get me the President of the world!”-style gravitas of Crime, and the music here feels somewhat hesitant and confined in comparison.

Nonetheless, the production is only part of the problem. Rather, the songs and overall sonic approach are indeed where the record both succeeds and fails. Musically, while Dave Monks sounds more like Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington than The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, Tokyo Police Club will likely draw comparisons to both the hyper emo of the former and choppy garage rock riffs of the latter (and the million other bands of both molds). However, Elephant Shell lacks the unpredictability and unstoppable momentum of LSF’s best work and the truly memorable hooks of the Strokes’ best.

Which is to say, if you tread in familiar musical waters, you better either bring consistently exceptional songwriting to the table, or offer a fresh stylistic twist. This year’s two best indie rock debuts, Los Campesinos!’s Hold On Now, Youngster and Vampire Weekend’s self-titled LP, provide a case for each point, with the former album built on nearly every well-worn convention of modern indie rock, yet succeeding on a non-stop stream of infectious, ecstatic pop songs, and the latter mixing African flavor into the typical formula to create something familiar-sounding and approachable yet novel. While the debut EP showcased TPC’s flair for confident, dynamic jamming and songwriting, Elephant Shell lacks both the songs and the style necessary to elevate the band to the level of their top contemporaries.

At the same time, the album is a very solid, listenable, unoffensive garage rock album that will likely draw decent to high praise from the typical indie listener. And yes, Shell’s best songs deserve such praise: single “In a Cave” offers a catchy lead guitar line and even catchier bridge, “The Harrowing Adventures Of…” switches up the album’s blueprint effectively with a pretty strings/acoustic guitar/bells interplay, and “Your English is Good” finds the band launching a powerful and focused two-chord attack.

Still, at the end of the album, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve just the heard same song over and over. Even while clocking in at under 30 minutes, Shell plays too statically and redundantly, and even begins to drag toward the end despite its brevity. Everything melody and chord progression blends together, and while it’s relatively enjoyable more often than not, it isn’t an album that really demands you return to it. The first listen won’t really blow you away, and repeated listens only reveal that Elephant Shell has little to offer beneath the surface.

Still, the album isn’t as much a setback for Tokyo Police Club as it is an indication that they need some time to grow and find their identity. The band needs to find the midway point between the bursting might of A Lesson in Crime and the more refined approach taken here. Do I think they’ll get it right? You bet your ass. Just hasn’t happened yet.

Tokyo Police Club - In a Cave

Buy: Amazon Insound MySpace

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ahh, what would I do without The Onion...

"Vacationing Teen Introduces Wilco to West Indies"

The part where the guy talks about the "cross-pollination" of Jeff Tweedy's style and West Indies' musical traditions is hilarious.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Music: Wolf Parade - California Dreamer

Looks like we have obtained another new Wolf Parade track, doesn't it? This one, "California Dreamer," originally called "Stevie" when played live, sounds like a poppy Sunset Rubdown cut. It doesn't seem too changed from the live version, although I can't be sure, I haven't listened to that one in a while. Blah blah Wolf Parade Krug, you know the drill, just listen to the song.

PS: I think it skips in the middle...but who the hell cares?

(track removed upon request)

New Music: Lily Allen

The newly blonde and continously sexy British pop singer posted two new songs on her MySpace earlier today, entitled "I Don't Know" and "I Could Say." The former is a sarcastic, materialism-mocking dance-pop anthem (or anti-anthem, I suppose, given the song's theme), while the latter is a post-breakup reflective piece, despite sporting a similar sonic approach. "I Don't Know" is the better of the two, offering a catchier hook and the type of sharp-tongued lyrics that Allen pens so effectively, including satirically labeling herself a "weapon of mass consumption." Check, and, mate! I feel like Ms. Allen and I share a lot in common, except for the fact that one of us is much better looking than the other. I am, of course, referring to me ;)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This Just In: Noel Gallagher's a Douchebag

In short, Mr. Gallagher blamed weak ticket sales for Britain's Glastonbury fest on the fact that rapper/CEO/coolest-man-alive Jay-Z is headlining, saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you break it, people ain't gonna go. I'm sorry, but Jay-Z? ... No chance." He later added, "I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. No way. No. It's wrong." Festival organizer Emily Eavis defended the choice, and noted the "interesting undercurrent in the suggestion that a black, U.S. hip-hop artist shouldn't be playing in front of what many perceive to be a white, middle-class audience."

There may very well be racial aspect to the discussion (I would say so, though it would be naive to limit it to an issue of race), but beyond race, on a purely musical level, who the fuck does Noel Gallagher think he is? Oasis released two decent but overrated albums and then a series of shitty ones, while Jay-Z released one of the elite rap albums of the 1990s with Reasonable Doubt and then proceeded to establish himself as arguably the greatest rapper of all time, particularly with the still unstoppable The Blueprint, one of the century's best records. The rock world (critics, fans, and musicians alike) needs to come to terms with the fact that a rapper can be one of the top musicians on the planet. I mean, outside of the next Radiohead or (hopefully) My Bloody Valentine record, is there any album more anticipated than whatever Kanye West is cooking up in the studio? I think some critics have reached a just level of objectivity over the last couple years, with records like Late Registration and Hell Hath No Fury topping (or coming damn close) many year-end lists. Still, the average music fan, casual or serious, will laugh at someone like Rick Ross (which is, of course, deserved) but not realize the utter brilliance behind Ready to Die or Enter the Wu-Tang.

Had to get that off my chest. I feel better.

Bill Cosby to Release Hip-Hop Album

Well, kinda. He's not actually rapping (thank God), but the album is of Cosby's conceptual design, with guest rappers providing rhymes and themes focusing on, according to Cosby, "the value of an education. [and] the value of respecting one's self." Basically, the album, entitled Cosby Narratives Vol. 1: State of Emergency is an answer to the profanity/violence/misogyny-driven hip-hop that has become quite popular. While this album may be ignored or ridiculed by many, I've always appreciated Cosby's outspokeness on social issues and I think it could be legitimately interesting if not outright entertaining. For me personally, listening to rap music can be somewhat of a tug-of-war between conscious and musical objectivity, with albums like, let's say, Cam'ron's Purple Haze showcasing jaw-dropping rhyme schemes and vibrant soul samples while also offering lyrics like, "The game and the chick/Like Kobe ima rape the bitch." Not to mention the criminal background of nearly every meaningful rapper on the planet...but anyway, Cosby's got a rap album...well, a Cosby-curated rap album, to my understanding, so we'll see what happens.

Wait...I'm Not Talking About Krug?

I will now take a break from my usual Wolf Parade ranting to post some news on the new Weezer album. That's right, Rivers and company are releasing a new record June 24, which is apparently called the Red Album (clever, right?). I don't know why I am hopeful for this album. In my opinion, Weezer have not released anything attention-worthy in 12 years. And I know for a fact there is no way this new album could return to the old glory days of Pinkerton and the Blue Album. But in the time since the craptastic adventure that was Make Believe, Rivers has grown an obnoxious mustache, and he also somehow broke up the band and then got them back together randomly to release this new album that I am posting about here. This ridiculousness on Rivers' part is basically what gives me hope for this new record. Maybe it will mean a big, much needed change for these guys. And the ridiculousness continues on the newly leaked single, Pork and Beans.

Pork and Beans starts out slow, sounding like a Blue Album B-side. Again, that would still be better than anything the four have done since Pinkerton (I exaggerate a bit, but you see my point, I hope). Then comes the chorus, and boy, does Weezer sound young again. The song as a whole is reminiscent of El Scorcho to me, likely due to the self-mockery and humor found throughout the song. When Rivers sings things like "Timbaland knows the way to reach the top of the charts/Maybe if I work with him I can perfect the art," I can't help but laugh. So overall, I can see a lot of nostalgia in this song; maybe Rivers finally figured out that he needs to stop writing songs about his best friend and start rocking again. I am looking forward to the new album after hearing this song. More posts to follow.

Weezer - Pork and Beans

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Music: Wolf Parade

The first (non-live) taste of Wolf Parade's forthcoming sophomore effort (due out June 17, though still without a title) has arrived. Built around Spencer Krug's marching piano chords, left-field poetry, and distinct croon, the song finds the band wholly in its comfort zone. Clocking in at under 3 minutes, "Call It a Ritual" doesn't build to the anthemic heights of Apologies' best tracks, nor does it showcase the electrifying energy and pure catchiness of which the band is capable. Nonetheless, "Ritual" acts as a much-needed snack for fans hungry for new Wolf Parade material, and should help everyone keep a calm head while waiting for the eventual and inevitable album leak.

(title TBD, due out 6/17)

Record Review: M83: Saturdays=Youth

French electronic maestro Anthony Gonzalez releases his fifth album, a collection of dense, dramatic new wave anthems.

Rating: 4/5

One of the most unsettling and shudder-worthy commercials on television may be that Taco Bell advertisement (for the cheesy melt or whatever it is) with Modern English’s “Melt With You” playing in the background. The commercial is, well, just kinda gross, which is a shame, because the song playing behind this rather disconcerting scene is a pop treasure. New wave classics like “Melt With You” aren’t just nice little amusing-because-they’re-cheesy artifacts from the Reagan years, but rather timeless and endlessly enjoyable gems, even if the fashion fads of the same era haven’t aged quite so well.

M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez apparently agrees, stating in a recent interview, “[F]or my part I consider the 80s in a really serious way, and there is no irony at all in my musical relation to the 80s. So yeah, I really can cry when I listen to a Kate Bush song or Simple Minds." I can’t say I ever cried listening to Simple Minds, but I feel like Mr. Gonzalez and I are basically on the same page here. Fortunately for the music-listening public, one of us went into the studio and channeled his affection for the decade of excess into Saturdays=Youth, a gigantic-sounding album packed with layered, skyscraping synthesizers, soaring, rapturous choruses, and arena-sized drums. That is, for M83 in 2008, Saturdays = new wave.

The album does, though, recall M83’s previous work to some extent. S=Y certainly features the same sort of dense, vast arrangements as Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts and Before the Dawn Heals Us. However, between the absence of the MBV guitars that characterized these two albums and a much more structured and restricted approach, Youth marks a clear shift for M83. Neither of M83’s last two proper records featured songs so packed with vocals or ones so centered upon hooks, bridges, and the confines of the orthodox pop song.

This confinement could have easily been the make-or-break point for many fans, but as it turns out, it's the record's solidity and drama that will test the listener's patience. M83 thrived on both Dead Cities and Before the Dawn by balancing texture and atmosphere with structured songcraft, creating songs that act as both lush, aesthetically appealing electronic soundscapes and precisely arranged pop songs. Both with and without one-time collaborator Nicolas Fromageau, Gonzalez gave his compositions room to breathe and glide while simultaneously building toward the next inevitable climax. Particularly on Dead Cities, M83 masterfully balanced density and spaciousness, offering an abundance of jam-packed crescendos but taking the foot off the gas pedal when needed to avoid reaching the saturation point.

Saturdays=Youth, on the other hand, at times nearly collapses beneath the weight of its relentless maximalism. While Before the Dawn found M83 moving toward the more structured, vocal-driven approach found on Youth, that record featured valuable transitional pieces like “I Guess I’m Floating” and “Slight Night Shiver.” On Youth, the nonstop drama of the string of tracks from “Kim and Jessie” through “Highway of Endless Dreams” is nearly suffocating. Eventually, Gonzalez reels things back a little, but he would have been well-advised to intersperse the earlier more loaded moments with some quieter pit stops, mix in material along the lines of the low-key ambient pieces that comprised last year’s underrated Digital Shades, Volume 1, rather than attempt to mold every track into the greatest new wave anthem ever written.

Why is this album so good nonetheless? As claustrophobically dramatic as the record may be, more often than not, M83 comes damn near close to reaching the fantastic heights for which he strives. S=Y offers a multitude of memorable melodies, several sung (beautifully) by guest vocalist Morgan Kibby, and, to put it plainly, fully showcases Gonzalez’s impeccable ability to write wonderful new wave tunes. Youth’s more traditionally structured songs lack some of the unpredictability of M83’s previous work, yet “Kim and Jessie,” “Skin of the Night,” and “Up!” are hardly less euphoric, infectious, or thrilling for the verse-chorus-verse configuration, and though hard to swallow all in one bite, are irresistible when singled out. Essentially, Youth succeeds because, in the world of new wave, a collection of strong “Rio” disciples will always excuse questionable sequencing.

Furthermore, Gonzalez does occasionally unleash himself from the confines of the more restrictive song designs, particularly on lead single and album centerpiece “Couleurs.” On the eight-and-a-half-minute marathon, Gonzalez begins with a simple chord progression but constantly adds new components to the mix, seamlessly tossing the right ingredient in the pot at just the right time. He pulls in the reins briefly during the song’s third quarter, but this only sweetens the subsequent symphonic rush. The unstoppably momentous epic stands alongside “Unrecorded” and “Don’t Save Us From the Flames” as M83’s best, and more than anything else on Saturdays=Youth testifies to Gonzalez’s compositional genius.

This will likely be a hit-or-miss affair for most fans (M83 or otherwise), and you’ll likely realize your love or hatred toward the album after a mere listen or two. M83’s previous albums were already over-the-top, and Saturdays=Youth only ups the ante. Even as a fan of the album, I can barely listen to the spoken word goth poetry in the middle of “Graveyard Girl.” Still, M83 asks you to suspend your disbelief for a little while, to lose yourself in the album’s glorious ‘80s nostalgia, to face the Taco Bell-type cheesiness and melodrama with seriousness and willingness, to throw your fist in the air while “Don’t You Forget About Me” plays behind you, and, for good reason, love every minute of it.

M83 - Couleurs

Buy: Amazon Insound MySpace

Friday, April 11, 2008

Finally, the Damn Coldplay Tracklist

So, yeah, um, it's ten tracks, and from what Billboard and Rolling Stone tell us, it's a bold shift for the band. While the more "experimental" nature of the record is old news at this point, the fact that we finally have a tracklist, an official title (Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends), and a release date (June 17) is refreshing. So sit tight, we have a little while to wait to actually hear the thing, though we'll probably get a lead single in about a month, give or take. Hopefully it's "Yes," described by Billboard as a song that "shifts from a string- and tabla-driven rocker into a shoegazer-y breakdown." LOL
Death and all his songs:
01 Life in Technicolor
02 Cemeteries of London
03 Lost!
04 42
05 Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love
06 Yes
07 Viva la Vida
08 Violet Hill
09 Strawberry Swing
10 Death and All His Friends

Radiohead Hits the Charts

Radiohead's latest single "Nude" was this week's "hot-shot debut" (highest charting new entry) on the Billboard Hot 100. This is based entirely on the song's infectious, radio-ready hook, a hot new MTV-ready video, and a guest verse from Rick Ross. Or, perhaps, the fact that the band joined with iTunes for the "Nude" remix contest, in which fans buy the song's stems (bass, drums, vocals, guitar, strings) and put together their own remixes. All the stems count together as one song, so "Nude" was downloaded a shitload of times and debuted at number 37 on the charts, right ahead of Lifehouse, Linkin Park, and a song featuring T-Pain. I knew that when I first heard In Rainbows, there was something special about "Nude," that it had the pop gravitas to ride the charts and rank alongside "Creep" as the biggest hits of the band's career.

But seriously, this stem-sell approach (OK, that is officially the wittiest, most clever play on words of all time, and you're bitter you didn't think of it) could be a deadly marketing strategy. "4 Minutes" remix contest, anyone?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Wolf Parade News ZOMG

Subpop's most recent bulletin has released a tracklist for the new, untitled Wolf Parade album. To be released on June 17th, the tracks are as follows:

Soldier’s Grin
Call It a Ritual
Language City
Bang Your Drum
California Dreamer
The Grey Estates
Fine Young Cannibals
An Animal in Your Care
Kissing the Beehive

Now, I don't know about all of you, but this makes me even more excited than I was before. I don't really feel like matching fake live titles to real titles at this point, but I'll do it anyway. Soldier's Grin is Soldiers, Call It A Ritual is Billy J, Language City stays the same, not really sure what Bang Your Drum is, California Dreamer is Stevie, I don't know what the Grey Estates is, Fine Young Cannibals stays the same, An Animal in Your Care is Chinese Way, and Kissing the Beehive is Crazy Horse.

Sorry for that long-winded explanation there, but I can't help but be overzealous about this news.

It gets even better, actually! Press copies have been released, it is official. A leak will come soon!!! This week's All Songs Considered on NPR has a one minute snippet of Call It a Ritual. It is all Sub Pop will let them post. I am listening to it right now. Wow. Has a sort of cabaret feel to it. Very, very catchy. I'm going to be upset when this minute ends. It's over. Krug's vocals are very low in the mix, but they are effected in such a way that it isn't a bad thing. And the instrumentation is stellar. I'm very happy about where this album seems to be going.

Mr. Weber?!

The day has come. I have gotten my hands on a William Weber demo. For those of you not in the know, Weber is a high school English teacher who taught many of the contributors to this site back when they were juniors. His classes were a fun and wild time...although I never actually had him for English class, I had class in the room next door, so I could hear everything through the wall. Sometimes I would even leave my class to go sit in on Weber's class. Eventually, we met and bonded.

Weber is known as an avid bird-watcher, once ranking 6th in the nation in birds seen. In his spare time, aside from driving 18 hours to see rare birds, he writes songs and performs at coffeehouses. This demo was recorded back in January, using nothing but GarageBand, various additional instruments and Weber's voice. It is a really incredible demo. Maybe it is just because I know the man personally, but I have a feeling that songs like "Running In A Skirt" and "The Sticker" should appeal to nearly everyone. The songs all have a different flavor to them, but Weber's songwriting really holds the whole package together, making it quite an exciting listen.

William Weber - Untitled Demo

NOTE: The demo is a bit unpolished, and at times the low frequencies get too loud and make the songs sound a bit distorted. But I have made it very clear that this is a demo, not an album, so don't complain to me about the quality. You probably won't even notice anyway, since the songs are so great.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Record Review: Tapes 'n Tapes: Walk it Off

The Minneapolis-based, blog-beloved indie rock band releases the follow-up to their strong debut.

Rating: 3.5/5

Listening to Walk It Off is an akin experience to realizing that girl you had a summer crush on a few years back is suddenly in your life again, and your relationship with her may wind up being deeper than you originally thought.

Before I start gushing, here’s the main problem with Tapes ‘n Tapes, and it’s an admittedly troubling one. They virtually have no identity; the songs they make could honestly come from any indie band in the world. It’s fortunate, then, that they make such good songs, because they are basically every indie rock band out today compiled into one convenient unit.

Yet Walk It Off finds the band trying to demand a voice of its own. The album has two truly high points, the anthemic peaks they build on songs like “Hang Them All” and “Headshock” being the stronger of the two. If I’m ever in a position to see them live, I absolutely can’t wait to see the fist-pumping madness of the final refrain of the former, a legitimately powerful echo of “Hang them alllll, hang them a-la-lalll!”

Elsewhere, they’ve expanded on the emotional gravitas of Loon standout “Omaha.” “Time for Songs” puts Josh Grier’s ambiguous lyrics behind a tender guitar line and harmonious backing vocals, making you perfectly vulnerable before “Hang Them All” arrives to kick your ass. “Say Back Something” was the first point where I looked at Grier as a legitimate front man- the guy’s got pipes- while also showcasing the band as a whole at its best. Here, Grier is completely free of the vocal effects that occasionally plague the album, and the result is fantastic.

Song for song, the first half of Walk It Off matches up against the best things I’ve heard this year. Unfortunately, the second half sags a bit. Slightly maligned producer Dave Fridmann, mastermind of the critically-lukewarm albums Some Loud Thunder and At War With The Mystics, won’t be winning any awards here either. His most grievous offense is probably “Blunt”, a head-bopping pop-rock song hidden behind layers of unnecessary distortion. “Demon Apple” goes absolutely nowhere, and “Lines” would have made a much more suitable closer than the messy messy “The Dirty Dirty.” Oh, and there’s a song called “George Michael.” It’s decent enough, but… it’s called “George Michael.”

But kudos to Tapes for defying the blogosphere backlash (these guys were heroes upon The Loon’s arrival, only to be disowned months later by some of the same kids who initially embraced them.) I loved The Loon, and although Walk It Off contains a bit too many missteps for me to feel the same way, I’m more satisfied than not regarding the result.

So long live the Tapes, for they are here to stay. Everybody!
“Hang them alllll! Hang them a-la-lalll!”

-Andrew Stone

Tapes 'n Tapes - Hang Them All

Buy: Amazon Insound MySpace

Monday, April 7, 2008

New Electioneers Developments/Track Review

No, not the kind that we are likely to see in the upcoming election. I am referring to the Bethlehem, PA 5-piece, from whom I have an advance copy of the single from their new EP, Forbidding Mourning. The song is entitled "Skeleton Stairs," and it is apparent from the first listen that Electioneers have come a long way since their Breaker In Cruise Control days. Matt Gasda's vocals are haunting, and they build up to a howling chorus that is likely his best vocal performance yet. The whole song is drenched in various nifty effects; I'm not going to pretend like I know what I'm talking about with those, just know that they work well to enhance the song's character.
Overall, this is a solid performance. While I would love to hear the lost Flood EP, I think I could settle for an EP of all new recordings, such as this one. Especially if they are all up to this standard. If you are in the Lehigh Valley area on May 24th, be sure to stop by the Ice House on Sand Island in Bethlehem, as Electioneers will be playing a show there. More details to come on that last note.

Electioneers-Skeleton Stairs


This Coldplay fun fact has nothing to do with the upcoming album so if you were anticipating news of another name change for the album prepare to be disappointed. I just think that the How's the Pie readers along with the staff (especially) will think this is funny.

According to a survey done by Travelodge Coldplay's music is the most likely to put you to sleep. Coldplay beat out James Blunt, Snow Patrol, Take That, and Norah Jones as the most likely to cure your (Radiohead induced) insomnia.

So if you're having a rough night, just put Sparks or The Scientist on repeat and drift off to dreamland. Playing Spies is not advised however because it can lead to increased paranoia, lack of peace of mind, feeling like you live as a fugitive, and less sleep.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Record Review: Neon Neon: Stainless Style

Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys and underground hip-hop producer Boom Bip team up under the moniker Neon Neon for their excellent debut collaboration.

Rating: 4.5/5

Gruff Rhys has been on a roll lately. And by lately I mean since about 1996. Someone needs to please, please wake up and acknowledge this man as one of the key songwriters of this generation.

After eight stellar Super Furry Animals albums and two solo affairs, the next step for Rhys was obvious- a collaboration with American hip-hop producer Boom Bip on a retro-electronic concept album about the life of John DeLorean. Okay, so maybe not so obvious, but Rhys has emerged with his best album since 2001’s Rings Around The World and perhaps the most effortlessly fun dance album this side of Midnight Vultures.

The concept is a loose one at best (but what isn’t in these days of faux concept albums?), but the songs themselves certainly hit the mark. “I Told Her On Alderaan” is a pitch-perfect homage to The Cars with Rhys trying to defend his faithfulness to Princess Leia (no joke.) “Raquel” would make current electronic maestro LCD Soundsystem jealous (although those backup vocals sound really ripped from The Flaming Lips), and “I Lust U” is my favorite song of the year, hands down, a synthed-up version of Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.”

Even odd detours into hip-hop, though somewhat out of sync with the rest of the album, carry enough intrigue to keep your finger off the skip button. The album features several versatile cameos that pop up throughout the album, including everyone from rapper Yo Majesty to Strokes drummer Fab Moretti to Spank Rock, the last of whom appears on the indescribably cool “Trick for Treat.”

Now the first quarter of 2008 is officially behind us, and we’ve been treated to some quality musical moments, from Vampire Weekend’s fame-inducing debut, to Beach House’s beautifully dreamy sophomore LP, to R.E.M.’s electrifying return to form. But thus far, no record has demanded as many as repeated listens as Stainless Style. Neon Neon has ridden the new wave, and it will keep us dancing throughout the long year ahead.
-Andrew Stone

Thursday, April 3, 2008

False Alarm!...maybe?

According to a source close to Wolf Parade guitarist Dan Boeckner, the new album is not actually going to be titled "Kissing the Beehive." Boeckner claims that he fed Pitchfork this title "to fuck with them," and that the record doesn't actually have a title as of yet. Further, the "old" new Wolf Parade songs (eg. "Things I Don't Know") will be released eventually via EPs or something of the sort. The release date for the is still June 17th though, so hopefully we will see a press release from Sub-Pop very soon.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Music: Islands

So...I totally got no response on the fake MBV story. Inevitable I suppose, but funny would it be if MBV scored the forthcoming sequel to The Fast and the Furious? Anyway....

Let's abruptly change subject to discuss the second pre-release track from Islands' forthcoming Arm's Way LP, "Creeper." The track's programmed drums, twisting lead guitar line, synthesized strings, and metaphorically violent lyrics create an edgier and more aggressive tone than that of Return to the Sea standouts like "Rough Gem" and "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby." Still, the song is a brief, straightforward pop number and not at all a betrayal to the sound of Islands' first record. Arm's Way may be more "progressive" than Sea, according to Islands frontman Nick Thorburn, but if "Creeper" is any indication, we've got a lot to be looking forward to come May.

(Arm's Way LP, due out May 20)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Fast and the Curious: MBV To Score New Vin Diesel Movie?!?

According to online buzz, in a move that defies all of the logic the earth has worked so hard to build up in its last ten billion years, news emerged today that once they are done with their newest album, My Bloody Valentine is going to begin work on scoring the newest entry in Vin Diesel’s The Fast and the Furious franchise. Although the prospect of not one but two possible MBV releases in one year is surreal, the image of Kevin Shields’ guitar jump-starting a nitrous oxide burst in a shitty street racing movie is frightening. The only saving grace I can think of is if the movie takes place at night, and it’s subtitled TFATF: When You Sleep.

How bizarre. Shields has contributed to two soundtracks before (Loveless’ “Sometimes” to Lost in Translation and “Fools Rush In (Kevin Shields Remix)” to Marie Antoinette), but this latest seems like a mismatch. Of course, My Bloody Valentine is My Bloody Valentine, and maybe Shields’ fuzzy, layered guitar and Belinda Butler’s angelic, drifting vocals can drown out Vin Diesel’s one-liners and Ja Rule or Ludacris or whichever rapper they get to join the cast this time around. Neither My Bloody Valentine nor TFATF developers Universal Studios have responded to the rumor.

The (now much-anticipated) movie is due out 2009.

Coldplay Update!

Someone (It's not really clear who) got an interview with Chris Martin in the studio where he talks about possible tour stops and dates for a U.S. tour starting later this year. He also talks about the first single off of Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends while some unrecognizable song is playing in the background. It's possibly a sneak preview of something from the new album. This is worth checking out.