Friday, 30 June 2017

Br ... Second Quarter Review of 2017

The past three months have seen music released at a torrid pace with big names, new bands, some surprises, and a whole host of great albums.  Here are my picks.  (side note: NPR's All Songs Considered hosted a great podcast discussion on the best new artists of 2017 so far - listen here)

Best Album: I have a feeling that this selection will be as difficult now as it will be at the end of the year in that at some point, I am going to have to decide which album is better - 'Pure Comedy' by Father John Misty (released April 2017) or 'Relaxer' by Alt-j (released June 2017).  The two albums are wildly different in approach, intention, and sound; while Father John (aka Josh Tillman) has written and album filled with acerbic, witty, and deeply thoughtful songs about the current human predicament, Alt-j have gone back to the experimental blackboard again, fearlessly continuing to re-invent themselves with stunning results.  So I guess I just won't pick one over the other at all ... they're both exceptional.


Best Song: a host of great albums means even more great songs; not only do both of the best albums of the past three months have a substantial list of great tracks, there were also releases from Arcade Fire (3), The National (2), and Radiohead (3).  Add to that the previously unknown (Big Thief's, "Mary" or Figure Walking's "Summer Haze") and the unexpected ("Gina's World" by Marika Hackman or "Carolina" by Harry Styles...yes, you read that correctly) and it makes for a pretty touch choice.  In the end, I will call it a split decision (sense a theme here?) between "Pleader" by Alt-j and "People Will Always Need Coal" by Public Service Broadcasting.  Again, here are two songs with a very different feel to them; while the former positively exults in the power of the human voice, the latter builds slowly using both music and samples to create tension and ultimately crescendo.

New Artist: I have no idea why, but I can't get enough of the album 'Brutalism' by the punk band IDLES.  Here's the band's own description of themselves: "IDLES met as a quintet at the death of the indie scene in Bristol and began making visceral and sometimes unlistenable post-punk to a growing crowd...they have now completed their first album and are savaged in hunger to play their music. They want to give themselves and their art to the audience in a concise and violent way unrivalled by their peers. They have no qualms in terrifying and entertaining in the same breath. They celebrate their influences in a vitriolic and belligerent sound that is both familiar and new. They are a nose-bleed on the ears and they're here to show you they care." Awesome.

What's Next: Arcade Fire and The National both release albums in the third quarter of 2017.  Same with Haim (meh), Public Service Broadcasting, Broken Social Scene, The Dears, Neil Young, This Is The Kit (hype!), Lana del Rey (meh), Cage the Elephant, Grizzly Bear (meh), Queens of the Stone Age (ugh), The War on Drugs, Mogwai, LCD Soundsystem, Tori Amos, Emily Haines, Foo Fighters (ugh), Chelsea Wolfe, and Wolf Alice.  And Shania Twain.  Boom.


Monday, 26 June 2017

Br's Review ... Royal Blood, "How Did We Get So Dark?"

I don't know what this says about the band or their sophomore album, but the most interesting thing to me about both is how vocalist and bass-player Mike Kerr manipulates both technology and gear to create the band's trademark heaviness.  So sure was I of the fact that there had to be guitars as well as bass on some of these tracks, I did some digging; what I was left with is a gearhead's dream.  Essentially, Kerr takes one signal (from his bass) and splits it between two amps - one a bass amp, the other a guitar amp - and then manipulates the sound and the use of both using pedals.  In one song, Kerr can make his bass sound like a guitar or a bass or layer both on top of each other with differing effects all because of his 'trial and error approach' to pedals and guitar tech.  So very cool.  Oh, right, there is an album to review in here somewhere...

Joel's Review... Royal Blood, "How Did We Get So Dark?"

Royal Blood's second effort "How Did We Get So Dark" is a heavy album with some killer riffs, that ultimately comes off as a bore.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Interesting ...

Turns out that Robert del Naja, one half of the ingenious duo that is Massive Attack may also be Banksy, the very secretive British street artist.  Read more at 'Fact':

Thursday, 22 June 2017


Man of War was my choice for Radiohead's best b-side.  The band finally finished it and gave it an official release today, after 20+ years.  Check it out....

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Late Review #3: Br. and Joel Discuss the Best Single Year of the 1990s...

Every year since 2006, I have been making a list of my favourite albums of the year and sending them out to my friends and family who (may or may not) read them and sometimes offer counter-points. Here, we are going to take that idea a big step further and give you what we think is the greatest single year for music of an entire decade.  This sounds like a ridiculously difficult task but in reality, it was surprisingly easy when you look at the albums on our list.  The best single year of the 1990s was ...

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

"Let the Song Protest"

Chris Cornell's posthumously released "The Promise", released today on World Refugee Day.  Peace,

Monday, 19 June 2017

Late Review #3... the parlance of much younger and cooler kids (ahem), late review #3 drops on Wednesday yo.  Get ready.  Peace,

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Interesting ... ?

Is this the most pathetic music news headline of all-time?  There are so many reasons this reeks of desperation ... please, talk amongst yourselves.  Peace,

Read the full article (if, for some odd reason, the headline alone doesn't repel you) at:

Friday, 16 June 2017

Joel's Ultimate Tracklist: Radiohead

Here's my crack at the ultimate Radiohead tracklist, keeping in mind that these aren't the best or my favourite Radiohead songs overall.  These are the songs that I judge to be the best at their respective track number.

Br put up his list this morning, and I think you'll find that it's quite different than mine. That's the great thing about this band; there are just so many great songs on each album that it's hard to choose. I know my list will be different if I revisit it in another year. Here are my picks as they stand today:

Br's Ultimate Tracklist: Radiohead

Easily one of the most talented, inventive, influential, and polarizing bands on the planet, Radiohead today celebrate the 20th anniversary of their seminal work, their 1997 album, 'OK Computer'.  Seems like a great time to get them on here for the second version of 'Ultimate Tracklist' then.  As a side note, JG and I like this band seemingly for very different reasons and it would be so interesting to see his picks, as he tends to favour down-tempo Radiohead songs like "Pyramid Song" or "True Love Waits" while my list heads in a different direction, as you will soon see...

1) "Airbag"
- there is no harder song to pick than the one that will lead off this tracklist as Radiohead have obviously made a habit of reserving some of their best work for album openers ... hence the reason I have not one or two but four runners-up
- runners up: "15 Step", "2+2=5", "Packt Like Sardines...", and "Burn the Witch"

2) "Bodysnatchers"
- as famous as "Paranoid Android" may be (especially its bonkers video), "Bodysnatchers" has me from the very first flurry of distorted guitar notes and keeps ahold of me until the very last
- runners up: "Paranoid Android" and "Morning Mr Magpie"

3) "The National Anthem"
- I am one of those weirdos who thinks 'Amnesiac' is actually the better album compared to 'Kid A', but "The National Anthem" may be the track from the latter album that has stayed with me the longest in that I was totally unprepared for it on my first listen and am equally de-stabilized still
- runners up: "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and "Decks Dark"

4) "Exit Music (for a film)"
- as with song #1, it's incredibly hard to pick the best song for this spot, especially as all three of these could be in my top ten favourite Radiohead songs of all-time; ultimately, it comes down to the slow-build glory of the fourth track on 'OK Computer'
- runners up: "Backdrifts" and "You and Whose Army"

- bass-line, bass-line, bass-line...
- runner up: "Let Down" and "All I Need"

6) "Optimistic"
- I don't know that any band is quite so dynamic at up-tempo rock songs, and this one, which has long been one of my favourites, may be the most straightforward from an otherwise very experimental album
- runners up: "Karma Police" and "Knives Out"

7) "In Limbo"
- I chose this track over a classic like "Just" because it is such a clear example of the sound that the band is now famous for as opposed to their more straightforward rock roots; it was a song that shook the listener and pointed them in a new direction
- runner up: "Just" and "Morning Bell (Amnesiac)"

8) "The Numbers"
- I heard this track first when Thom played it in Paris at a climate change conference and it was still called "Silent Spring"; I remember being impressed at how complete it sounded just on acoustic so needless to say the inclusion of strings and that drop at 3:32 made it even more mesmerizing
- runners up: "Dollars and Cents" and "Electioneering"

- just a great song from an under-appreciated album
- runner up: "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"

10) "Videotape"
- a simple pairing of Thom and a piano without the insane layers of production that marred the release of "True Love Waits" and very simple percussion ... this is a song that shows better than many the ways in which Thom uses his voice as more of an instrument than most anyone I have heard (a point that JG originally brought to my attention)
- runners up: "Tinker Tailor..." and "No Surprises"

11) "Lucky"
- another song that easily would fit in my top ten list for this band and another reminder of just how exceptional 'OK Computer' continues to be, even twenty years on
- runners up: "Sulk" and "Drunken Punch-Up..."

- yes, the video is still pretty cool but this is also a song that to me has aged well and continues to haunt its listener
- runner up: "Down is the New Up"

12+) "4 Minute Warning"
- I am counting 'In Rainbows' as all one album for this countdown obviously, so all the best 12+ songs come from that album ... this is probably in my top 5 for favourite Radiohead songs (I really may have to make that list someday)
- runners up: "Up on the Ladder" and "Last Flowers"

- this song is so SO much better than anything that made the album for 'The King of Limbs' and has just about everything that I love about Radiohead all contained within its 3 minutes and 34 seconds
- runners up: "Polyethylene (Parts 1&2)", and "Gagging Order"


ps. for those keeping track, here's the breakdown...
  • Pablo Honey (0), The Bends (1), OK Computer (3), Kid A (3), Amnesiac (1), Hail to the Thief (1), In Rainbows (3), The King of Limbs (0), A Moon-Shaped Pool (1)

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Interesting ...

NME and the British music media as a whole are seemingly obsessed with asking 'alt-rock' bands of all shapes and sizes "if guitar rock is dead".  The motivation is a bit fuzzy, but it would seem that in their world, grime (apparently the most popular genre in Britain at present) and any other form of music cannot co-exist and so "guitar-rock" must be dead or dying.  Again, in a recent interview with the band Death From Above, the question was asked ... and finally, a solid answer, sans bravado (see Kasabian) was served up:

“I think it’s multiple factors and dynamic situations, but the biggest factor is that with computer music, when you get to produce on computers, you don’t need a guitar or drums. That’s kinda punk rock these days. Everyone has a computer. And if they don’t have one at their house, then there’s one at school. Everyone has access to software, people can even make music on their phones. The barrier to creating something is a lot smaller in the computer world. If you have to buy a guitar, then you have to buy an amp. It’s very prohibited, even financially.

“Even playing the drums is a bourgeois pursuit. You need a lot of money to buy them, you need a lot of space to play them so people won’t fucking knock your door down. It’s a prohibited medium. You also have to learn how to play the fucking thing. So if people can just can just plug away at Ableton or use whatever programmes they’re in to, it’s a more direct medium that speaks to the times. I think it starts from there, that’s the nucleus of it. A producer sitting in their bedrooms or on the bus with their phones or whatever, they can just make whatever they want wherever they want. Plus it sounds good, you have to go out of your way to make something sound fucked up.”

There is so much to love about this answer, not least the fact that there should never be such a thing as a simple answer to a complex question.  Food for thought.  Peace,

Monday, 12 June 2017

"Let the Song Protest"

Frightened Rabbit are just one of many British bands unhappy with the recent UK election results.  Here is their response via the song "Fields of Wheat":


Monday, 5 June 2017

Interesting ...

Thanks again to Alan Cross' blog 'A Journal of Musical Things' for pointing me in the direction of this article, which focuses on the myriad ways in which music is being studied and used as a therapeutic tool.  Interesting reading:

"Given music’s effect on the brain, it is natural to examine how music can best be used in health care settings. The inception of the music therapy field itself evolved from the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder in veterans returning from World War II, but the field has been growing ever since. Music therapy is now used to improve health outcomes in pediatric cancer, autism, Alzheimer disease, chronic pain, and Parkinson disease, to name a few applications."

Check out the link for further reading:


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Joel's Review... Kasabian, "For Crying Out Loud"

Kasabian are just embarrassing themselves at this point.  They suck.  This album sucks.  This review will suck because I can barely bring myself to listen to this shit all the way through.  They've been on a steady decline since their debut album and now they've hit rock-bottom.  Screw it, I'm done.

My Rating: (The one star is only because they at least had the guts to release this dreck)

"Let the Song Protest"

Remember about a month ago (here) when we posted another blogpost in this series about Radiohead being asked not to play in Israel by a whole host of artists?  We left off wondering how Radiohead would respond.  Well, they have and they've pulled not a single punch:

Seems Thom, along with a host of other artists, also has some thoughts about the President of the USA's decision to abandon the Paris Accords:


Thursday, 1 June 2017

2017! What?!

Confirmed albums still to come this year, the anticipation of which is causing my heart to race as I type this:
  • Alt-J (June 2017)
  • London Grammar (June 2017)
  • Fleet Foxes (June 2017)
  • Royal Blood (June 2017)
  • Radiohead (June 2017 - re-issue of 'OK Computer')
  • Broken Social Scene (July 2017)
  • Public Service Broadcasting (July 2017)
  • Arcade Fire (July 2017)
  • Wolf Alice (summer 2017?)
  • LCD Soundsystem (summer 2017?)
  • The National (September 2017)
  • Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds (November 2017)
Plus there are a couple unconfirmed albums from Beck and Vampire Weekend, a whole host of purveyors of disposable music (aka pop music) also releasing albums this year including Katy Perry, Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Calvin Harris, and Lana del Rey AND albums from other legitimate musicians and bands that will excite longtime fans like Ani DiFranco, Foo Fighters, Phoenix, Haim, The Dears, Liam Gallagher, Coldplay, Grizzly Bear, Mogwai, Tori Amos, MGMT, Foster the People, Jack Johnson, Kanye, St. Vincent, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Killers.

The most exciting part of all of that, beyond the fact that three of my very favourite bands are releasing albums in the same year (Alt-J, The National, Arcade Fire) are the yet-to-be-discovered albums and artists that will inevitably find their way to my headphones over the course of the next seven months.  The socio-political landscape in 2017 may be terrifying but the arts are responding in force.  Peace,

Arcade Fire just released this and confirmed July for the new album.  - Joel