Week In Review (2/6/15)

My Midnight Heart – “Drown”

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This should hold you over while you wait for the next Disclosure album

Cheers to 19-year-old Zak Abel, who is already making a splash in the UK.

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Bouquet – “Stacks On Stacks”

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Jeff Tweedy continues finishing songs for awesome deceased musicians

Actually this time it’s Mavis Staples’s project finishing the many demos of her late father, the great Pops Staples. Tweedy is just helping out on this track. That’s also his son Spencer Tweedy on drums!

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I know you’ve already seen the Super Bowl halftime show, but I also know that you want to see those dancing sharks again!

Oh yeah, Missy Elliott, Lenny Kravitz, and Katy Perry were there too.

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Matthew E. White wrote a song for Philip Seymour Hoffman

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In honor of the one year anniversary of the late actor’s death. Listen here via Stereogum.

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The new Jay Z movie got lots of accolades at this year’s Sundance Film Festival

Some are calling it the next Boyhood.

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Bob Dylan continues to be the greatest with his Frank Sinatra covers album

And his voice actually sounds good here!

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Pink Gloves – “80’s Girls”

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Pharrell Williams is still going strong in 2015 with this Major Lazer collaboration

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Girlpool – “Chinatown”

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Watch out Bruno Mars, here comes Taylor Locke

https://soundcloud.com/taylor-locke/running-away-from-love

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Body Language – “Really Love”

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St. Tropez – “Cut Me Loose”

Garage rock never gets old.

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Mesita – “Hostiles”

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My weekly reminder that there’s a lot of great WTF songs out there, like Mochipet’s “Psilocybin Samurai”

The new Pokémon?

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Tica Douglas – “I Didn’t”

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Skizzy Mars – Time (Ft. G-Easy & Olivver)

Reminds me of Chance The Rapper with a different voice. Good stuff.

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Four Things I Didn’t Expect To Happen In 2014 (From Someone Who Missed It All)

Five months is a long time to be away. Without a working cellphone or laptop, I was blissfully out of touch with the world of music save the few english music magazines I managed to find. Our reliance on the Internet for most of our news is bittersweet; it’s bitter because it feels like at times you either have too much information or none of it at all, but it’s sweet because I can google all the news and music that I missed.

Last year was great for music because it seemed that every popular artist in the world decided to release music all at once (My Bloody Valentine released an album for goodness sakes). Most albums in 2013 were a lot of fun to talk about (how many arguments have you heard or partaken in for or against Yeezus?), but a lot of those albums I rarely go back to and listen for pure enjoyment.

It seems that, for me at least, 2014 has been more about quality than quantity. The War On Drugs made their best album, The Hold Steady are still alive, a few of my other favorites released music (Sharon Van Etten, Cloud Nothings, Beck, The Men) and I’ve become acquainted with Real Estate, Parquet Courts, How To Dress Well, St. Vincent, and other musicians I knew about before but whom all have converted me into true fans this year. This year has been the year of rookies, redemptions, and breakthroughs, and I think this year, more than other years, we’ve all discovered a few new favorite bands.

Of course this could also mean that 2014 is, if nothing else, just more in tune with my personal taste, the taste of a 21-year-old Midwest music lover who has to rely on the Internet for most of his music. The following are just a few particular things that I’ve noticed about the music that I missed in 2014. Many of these things won’t seem like a big deal to you. Maybe because you’ve seen this year slowly unfold and none of this seems sudden, or maybe you just disagree with me. But it’s fun to write about the halfway point of 2014 with a different perspective. Plus, I need to do a “halfway through 2014” post anyways, so here we go!

 

1. Guitar Rock Music Is Alive And Well

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Just to clarify — great guitar music, in all of its wonderful and diverse forms, has never died. There will always be great music made with Fender guitars plugged into Marshall amps with the occasional tremolo and delay pedals. But in 2014, more than most recent years, it seems that guitar music is not only getting by but actually thriving among popular music.

Whether it’s 90’s nostalgia (Cloud Nothings), Alex Chilton approved classic rock (The Men), Paul Westerberg approved melodic punk (Against Me!), 70’s New York City cool punk (Parquet Courts and Thee Oh Sees), or metal that Foo Fighters fans would like (Mastodon), every type of guitar player had an album to like in 2014.

 

And I don’t know if I can categorize the excellent new The War On Drugs album Lost In The Dream. The band’s previous album, the also excellent Slave Ambient, was a unique marriage of Tom Petty Americana with hints of dreamy guitars that aren’t quite shoegazing but just as pretty, and Lost In The Dream is just an overall improvement of that sound.

 

As of now, my favorite album of 2014 is Real Estate’s Atlas. In addition to having some of the best lyrics of the year, it’s also a great guitar album in the sense that any person just learning guitar can learn all these songs fairly easily, which makes the point that you don’t have to be a virtuoso to make excellent music.

 

All of a sudden, a guitar band doesn’t feel retro, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Also, because I love The Hold Steady, I really think the new album got a lot of undeserved panning.  Teeth Dreams, for all its flaws, is worth another listen.

 

2. No One Seems To Like Jack White Anymore

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Speaking of guitars, I was excited to come home and check out Lazaretto, the newest album from one of rock music’s most dependable crusaders, until I began reading all the mixed reviews on the album which then led to a widespread analysis on White’s legacy (Steven Hyden’s Grantland article is especially good concerning this).

The mixed reviews, along with some interesting interviews in which White attacked The Black Keys and other nice people, made me less thrilled to call myself a Jack White fan. I’ve always liked the idea of Jack White — a musician who takes inspiration from the past and tries to make it new in a way that tributes to the old ways while moving forward. But when I went back to all my White Stripes albums, I realized that most of these albums are, well, just ok. Yes, I know Elephant is a classic album and “Seven Nation Army” is an anthem of a generation and “Ball And Biscuit” is the sound of a guitar having sex, but the rest of the album? This is one of the few times where I 100% agree with a Pitchfork review. As for White’s many side projects — The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, etc — each band has, at the very most, a handful of great songs that’ll remind you how much you miss The White Stripes.

I’ve listened to Lazaretto a couple of times and I agree with many of the reviews that I’ve read — it’s a more high-maintenance Blunderbuss with a few truly great songs hidden among mostly ok to good songs, much like every album Jack White has made after White Blood Cells.

But with all that said, Jack White is still, and will probably always be, the go to guitar champion for much of our generation. I still say that I’m a fan (De Stijl and White Blood Cells still sound great). Plus, in the end, White might have the last laugh.

 

3. 2014 Pop Music — The Ultimate Hangover Year

2013 was one of the greatest years for music in terms of how many popular and established bands released new music. 2014 didn’t have a chance from the start, and halfway through the year that still stands to be true.

The only major bands I know that everyone knows and loves (or at lest loves to hate) that released music this year was Coldplay and The Black Keys, and those albums are less than stellar. Lana Del Rey and Jack White are also more established names in popular music (for very different reasons), but I wouldn’t consider them in the realm of David Bowie, Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West popular, all of whom released new music last year. EDM and electronic pop still seems to be the dominate genre of throwaway hits on the radio, but it feels like the genre is losing momentum, especially after this and this.

There’s still plenty of time for pop music to figure something out, but until then it seems that the only man putting pop music on his back is…

 

4. Pharrell Williams Is Still Ruling The World

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When I left the states, everyone was still listening to “Get Lucky” every single day. Now it’s “Happy”, another product from the man who pretty much had the best year in 2013. Yes, most of you passionately hate this song by now, but this was the only universal hit that I seemed to missed. Also, G I R L is not a bad album, and I say that because I assume no one else has listened to the album after hearing “Happy” so much.

 

So so far so good for 2014. With the recent news of a new Ryan Adams album later this year, I’m already giddy to think of what my end-of-year best lists will consist of. Below you’ll find a Spotify playlist of my favorite songs of 2014 so far. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot more great music in 2014, so let me know if there’s anything else I need to hear!

 

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories [In 3 Words]

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If you have any access to the Internet, then you know who Daft Punk is. You also probably know that these French EDM kings are responsible for “One More Time”, an irresistibly fun classic that has made hundreds of EDM haters say, “Ok, some EDM is good.” Only Skrillex is the other internationally recognizable face of EDM, and Daft Punk has been around since EDM was actually “Electronic Dance Music” rather than Dubstep, which only the latter is famous for. You probably also know that Daft Punk has a new album out. Random Access Memories to be specific, and it has become one of the most talked about releases in a year full of big releases (Vampire Weekend, My Bloody Valentine, and now Kanye West just to name a few).

So Random Access Memories is another EDM party album that’s full of songs that are as fun as “One More Time” right? Wrong. Random Access Memories is a 70s and 80s dance influenced record made with minimal electronics and all living musicians. Depending on your perspective, Random Access Memories could be seen as a rejection of the current EDM scene, which both Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (those are the robots by the way) have openly criticized. But what is probably happening here is that the album isn’t so much a rejection of modern EDM as it is an educational or tribute album to the origins of EDM; on Random Access Memories the robots don’t want to make you dance so much as they want you to know who Giorgio Moroder is.

Is the latest by the legendary French duo a well-marketed gimmick, or do they still know what they’re doing, and is there anything on here as timeless as “One More Time”? Read on.

Giorgio – The big elephant in the room is “Giorgio By Moroder”, the nine minute talking bit by legendary Italian dance producer Giorgio Moroder (he collaborated on classics such as Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby” and Blondie’s “Call Me”). Throughout the track Giorgio discusses his beginnings of his career and his success with dance music, and the track evolves to include more styles of music to accompany Giorgio’s evolution of his career. If anything, Daft Punk has reintroduced the legendary producer to a new generation and has nicely showcased the evolution of dance music from the 70s and 80s. It’s a good history lesson, but it’s an awkward bit that goes a little too long too early in the album. It also doesn’t help that “Giorgio By Moroder” is followed by the album’s weakest track “Within”.

Collaboration – Including Giorgio, Random Access Memories may possibly have the great collaboration team of any album of any genre in recent memory. The list includes Panda Bear (“Doin’ It Right”), Pharrell Williams (“Get Lucky”, “Lose Yourself To Dance”), and Julian Casablancas (Who absolutely kills it on “Instant Crush”, my favorite track off the album). If Random Access Memories is one of the best sounding albums of 2013, it’s because they had some of the best help available.

Uneven – There are some fantastic songs on Random Access Memories, but they are all spread out and seperated by songs that either go on too long (“Within”) or are unforgettable (“Touch”, “Beyond”). Every song sounds great, but not all of them are memorable. The songs work together to form a coherent album, but because this feels like an educational album there is a lack of urgency to make you want to dance, which is what these guys are known for.

Overall: Daft Punk’s overall goal for Random Access Memories could be summarized by Giorgio on “Giorgio by Moroder”: “I wanted to do an album with the sound of the 50s, the sound of the 60s, of the 70s and then have a sound of the future”. Random Access Memories is a well crafted tribute to the origins of EDM music that sounds modern, created by the most recognizable faces of EDM. In the end this actually makes sense, because you can’t spell “Electronic Dance Music” without “Dance”.

Essential Tracks: “Give Life Back To Music”, “Instant Crush”, “Get Lucky”