Week In Review (3/13/15)

Album Of The Week: Will Butler – Policy

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All throughout Will Butler’s solo debut is that sense of looseness and fun that reminds me of Funeral, but take away any association with Arcade Fire and Policy still stands strong as an engaging and lean listening experience that combines Chuck Berry, gospel, and Talking Heads in all the right ways. My favorite song might be “Son Of God”.

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Leapling – “Crooked”

Don’t mind the creepy puppets.

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Shura – “2Shy”

Someone has been listening to No Jacket Required.

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Tom Misch – “Oh Baby”

Oh yeah

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Downtown Boys – “Monstro”

Why aren’t there more saxophones in punk songs? Why don’t more political punk songs sound this good? These are the important questions.

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I’m kinda late to the Tobias Jesso Jr. party, but I’m glad I’m here now.

Reminds me of John Lennon with his direct writing and simple arrangements. Well done.

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Christine and the Queens – “Tilted”

Tilted as in the new social app? Probably not, but I still dig the song.

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The Amazing – “Circles”

Dreamy guitars make me happy.

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Wait, I thought it was Snoop Lion now? Meh who cares, this song is groovy

And that’s Charlie Wilson on the track aka the guy from “Bound 2”. Pharrell is also the producer here, so that explains why it sounds like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”.

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Madeon – “Home”

Is that you Sigur Rós? Actually no, but it’s a worthy comparison.

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Well I never thought I’d ever say this, but I really like the new Wiz Khalifa song off the Furious 7 soundtrack.

Probably has more to do with Charlie Puth’s great vocal accompaniment. Song starts at 16 second mark.

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New Sufjan Stevens song yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

Though I prefer the more ambitious Illinois, Stevens’s return to his purist folk roots sounds fantastic.

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A Grave With No Name – “I Will Ride A Horse”

https://soundcloud.com/lefse-records/i-will-ride-a-horse/s-2cwMB

The perfect name for someone who writes beautiful and sad country rock songs via Gram Parsons and Ryan Adams.

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Bakermat – “Another Man”

These are the kind of remixes that I can dig.

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G.L.O.S.S. – “G.L.O.S.S. (We’re From The Future)”

For fans of Pussy Riot (which honestly should be everyone, since no one is making this good of political punk on this side of the world). This album is so good, and you can download it for whatever price you want via bandcamp!

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Ellie Goulding’s cover of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” is surprisingly understated, but still good

When are we going to hear any new original music from her? Hopefully soon.

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Kisses to the Sky, the new album by Raleigh, NC band Oulipo, is worth your time

If you’re patient with the album, it grows on you in unexpected ways.

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It’s nice to see a metal band with a sense of humor

Bad Guys’ new album Bad Guynaecology (yep, seriously) is a fun metal album that doesn’t take itself seriously while also sounding good. Make sure to check it out.

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Young Fathers – “Shame”

https://soundcloud.com/youngfathers/shame-yf

Uh, what genre is this? Whatever it is, I need more of it in my life.

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HONNE – “Coastal Love”

Spring Break here I come. I’ll be away for my break, so no posting all next week. See y’all later!

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Week In Review (12/19/14)

So Some Guy Named D’Angelo Released An Album?

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And apparently it’s a big deal.

And The Award For The Most Hyped Producer For 2015 Goes To ZHU

And for good reason.

James Murphy Is Making An Album Made Out Of Tennis Sounds.

No, seriously.

Max Frost – “Let Me Down Easy”

So good.

 Will Nothing But Thieves Be The Next Big London Band That’ll Be Featured On Some NBC Drama Commercial?

https://soundcloud.com/nothingbutthieves/graveyard-whistling-2

It sure sounds like it, and in the best way possible.

This Group Of Recent High School Graduates Makes Me Feel Real Old

https://soundcloud.com/thehalocline/04-suicide-saturday

Expect great things from Minneapolis-bred Hippo Campus.

 And Your Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Class Of 2015 Is…

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Lou Reed, Green Day, Joan Jett, Bill Withers, and some other famous people. But the real story is who didn’t get inducted.

Is This The Sexist Christmas Song You’ll Hear In 2014?

Or at least the one that sounds the most like the Human League?

Watch Bob Long III Play Inside An Indianapolis Brewery

Thank you Sun King, and thank you My Old Kentucky Blog.

Can’t It Just Be Summer Already?

https://soundcloud.com/forgenevieve/genevieve-colors

I guess I’ll stay in and listen to Genevieve to feel like there’s some sun left.

Anytime An Artist Calls Themselves ‘Indiana’ I Have To Talk About Them

It’s a bonus that this artist actually sounds great.

Male Bonding – “Falling”

Be on the lookout for a new album from these guys in 2015.

Kathleen Hanna aka The Punk Singer Is Back!

This is also the same girl who introduced Kurt Cobain to Teen Spirit.

This Will Be The Last ‘Week In Review’ For The Year!

I’ll be on vacation with the family from Christmas till New Years and I will not be near any sort of Internet. See you in 2015!

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Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt [In 3 Words]

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I just turned 21 three weeks ago and I’m one year younger than Ten, so it’s genuinely strange for me to think that people used to be afraid of Pearl Jam.

Ok maybe not afraid, but there was once a time when guitar-driven rock music made parents nervous, and Peal Jam was one of the more visible leaders of the grunge bands that briefly ruled the world in the early 1990s with their big guitars and bigger hair. Eddie Vedder and the rest of his Seattle crew called out Ticketmaster for being evil and wrote songs about student suicides and bugs while selling a trillion records (there’s also this). But twenty years later Pearl Jam is soundtracking the World Series and Vedder is releasing ukulele albums. What happened? Maturity? Boredom?

None of this is said in spite but rather to show the evolution and current state of a band that nobody expected to last for over twenty years. They became the most popular (i.e. the most selling) band of grunge, a movement that was never made to last commercially, and with the suicide of Kurt Cobain Pearl Jam reluctantly carried more of the weight and pride of their beloved genre. But when the world moved on from grunge to Radiohead and alternative rock, Pearl Jam soldiered on without the world’s attention.

But when you consider how un-grunge Ten actually sounds, it really isn’t shocking to see why Pearl Jam was content to continued on with being Pearl Jam. They were never about being associated with any particular movement (their notorious rejection of their fame clearly shows that) but they were always about their music and fans. It’s those kinds of bands that last for over twenty years for better or worse, though only seriously jaded haters would consider it to be a bad thing that in 2013 some people still really care about Pearl Jam. To the band’s benefit, it helps being one of the greatest live bands of all time and consistently releasing good albums to a crazy-devoted fan base.

So the story of Pearl Jam in the time between No Code and Lightning Bolt is a story of a famous band carrying on through the indifference of the majority and the devotion of the minority. This is also where my story with Pearl Jam begins.

My first real exposure to Pearl Jam was Yield, one of those few albums that my dad always kept in the car when I was young. We would listen to it whenever we were together, and I remember being attracted to Yield simply because there was nothing on the album that sounded like “Even Flow” or “Alive”. Instead there were songs like “Brain Of J”, “Given To Fly”, “Wishlist”, and “Do The Evolution”. All these songs mastered the soft-to-loud-then-soft-then-maybe-loud-again formula of the middle years of Led Zeppelin, and, as a young kid who was only listening to Led Zeppelin at the time, I fell in love with this album and with Pearl Jam. From Yield I worked backwards and forwards, finding personal favorites in every album but gravitating more towards No Code and their self-titled avocado album.

So my love of Pearl Jam is born right when they began their journey into adulthood, and it is with this bias that I write my review for Lightning Bolt, which can be seen as the band finally establishing their maturity for anyone who was still wondering. However, with this maturity comes the question of relevance — do we need to talk about Pearl Jam retiring anytime soon? Lightning Bolt is good enough to suggest that Vedder and the gang still have a few tricks up their sleeves, but once again we’re hearing Pearl Jam getting stuck sounding like Pearl Jam. But for most of Lightning Bolt, that’s not a bad thing.

Backspacer-2.0

The songs off Pearl Jam’s previous album Backspacer were quicker and more accessible (i.e. “The Fixer”) and there was plenty of 70s class rock inspiration to finally confirm Pearl Jam’s place into their golden years. But accessibility was never what Pearl Jam was about, which makes Backspacer a lesser album in the eyes of devoted fans. Lightning Bolt follows the same style of songwriting as Backspacer, which is both good and bad, but is noticeably improvement. The fast songs are faster and more fun and (fortunately) more memorable. The production is again super clean, and Vedder’s voice hasn’t sound so good both in sound and in lyrics.

Gems

Pearl Jam has remained relevant not because their albums are amazing but because none of their albums are bad. Each album has a few Greatest-Hits-worthy tracks, so fans still care about a new Pearl Jam album because they know there will be at least two new classic songs that they’ll play right before “Black” during another sold out show.

And yes, there are two new Pearl Jam classics on Lightning Bolt: “Mind Your Manners” and “Sirens”. With “Mind Your Manners” being the first single, and being one of Pearl Jam’s fastest songs ever, I was hopeful for Lightning Bolt to be an older and wiser avocado album. Unfortunately, the album enjoys its 70s classic rock influences too much to bother with the 80s punk influences that makes “Mind Your Manners” such a great song. “Sirens”, with its acoustic strumming, is a worthy Zeppelin power ballad for this Zeppelin power ballad sucker. The song, like the album, is the sound of Pearl Jam sounding content with being a veteran band rather than trying to recapture the angst of their younger years.

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I cannot stress how great the first half of Lighting Bolt is. “Getaway” is one of the better Pearl Jam album openers, and “My Father’s Son” has the same muscle as “Mind Your Manners”. The title track and “Infallible” are both middle-paced songs that have strong enough melodies to keep your attention. It’s side two that gets a little more experimental and shakier. “Pendulum” can be seen as a No Code inspired experiment to create as much atmosphere as possible with as little effort as possible, but the song goes on for a while without really going anywhere. “Swallowed Whole”, “Sleeping By Myself” and “Yellow Moon” all sound like really great Backspacer B-sides, and “Let The Records Play” ‘s swampy blues thinks that it’s cooler than it actually is.

But you gotta give Pearl Jam credit for trying something new and longtime fans will appreciate the effort after twenty years, but there’s a lot to dismiss on side two. Fortunately the album closer “Future Days” is a more effective acoustic ballad than “Just Breathe”, and it’s a good way to close Lightning Bolt.

Overall: The ever-devoted Pearl Jam camp will call this one another winner, but Lightning Bolt has enough great songs to keep everyone else satisfied, even if those great songs are hidden in a relatively tame album.

Rating: 3/5

Essential Tracks: “Getaway”, “Mind Your Manners”, “Sirens”

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Watch Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill) Explain How Kurt Cobain Got The Inspiration For “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

 

I know I just posted about Nirvana and the one song Kurt Cobain hated the most, but this video is too good.

Kathleen Hanna tells a story of when she was with Kurt Cobain (the two were close friends at the time) in 1990 when they were hanging out and getting drunk, vandalizing fake abortion clinics, and creating the inspiration for the title of one of the most popular songs of the 90s.

The video is a bit long, but make sure to watch the whole thing.

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Music History 101: Nirvana Trolls A Live TV Audience With That One Song You Know

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“Smells Like Teen Spirit” might be Nirvana’s most popular song, but it was also the song that Kurt Cobain hated the most. Cobain didn’t like that the song had reached such a crazy level of popularity and that it became, for many people, the only Nirvana song they knew. Soon the band stopped playing the song all together live, and if they did play it live the band would deliberately play various versions of the song.

One of their most famous “alternate” performances of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was in 1991 on BBC’s Top of the Pops TV show. The producers had requested that the band play the backing track of the song with Cobain singing live. The request made Cobain furious, but instead of refusing the produers’ request the band agreed to play the show with the backing track.

The video below might be one of the greatest trolls of the MTV era.

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R.I.P. Kurt Cobain

Yesterday marked the unofficial anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide seventeen years ago.  The video below – follow the link to youtube – is from their unplugged show just months before Cobain’s death.  It’s my favorite Nirvana song and it always reminds me how great Cobain was as a songwriter and even as a singer.  It’s also proof that he was bigger and more talented than the grunge music he helped popularized in the early 90s.

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