I’m noticing a lot of backwards-looking bands surfacing in the States right now, and the time-period they’re looking back to is the heyday of the earlier 120 Minutes years. It was a time with a bunch of amazing bands just bubbling under the surface of the mainstream. A few of them broke through (The Smiths, The Cure) and some were doomed to forever languish in the American cut-out bins, having just missed connecting with U.S. listeners (The Stone Roses, Suede … they should have been huge here). The nice thing is that the current crop of musicians isn’t just displaying fealty through mimicry, they’re making the whole thing their own (see: Airiel).
I just got this tune in from Soft, and if the rest of their album is even half this good, they definitely fall into the category of bands successfully mining the past for a sound that’s bracing and refreshing at the same time. Dreamy vocals, chiming guitars, a Madchester-ish lope; all the ingredients come together to craft a lovely slice of sunshine between your ears.
MP3: Soft “Higher”
I do enjoy the new Northern State album. I think it’s a nice step forward for the group, and returns them to their roots by avoiding the pitfalls I saw in their major label debut while still managing to move into new musical territory.
So I open up today’s Pitchfork review section (because I am super-special and the elves at Pitchfork actually print out a tabloid version of the site and deliver it to my doorstep alongside my other periodicals each morning) and see that they too have written about the band’s new disc. And they give it a 5.0. Fair enough, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I dig that, so I read through the review to see where they believe the band stumbled.
The first five lengthy paragraphs do a nice job summing up the group‘s career to this point and describing much of the content on the new album. And I’m surprised because it’s all so … positive. The whole review is basically saying the group deserves some respect and does a decent job of what they do, given their backgrounds. It reads like a critical review should, taking context and history into account.
So I’m flummoxed when, in paragraph number six, the reviewer suddenly turns around and shreds the band, and the disc, to pieces. It comes off almost as if the reviewer just couldn’t bring themselves to admit they enjoyed what they heard for fear that the “real” hip-hop underground would tease them and pull their hair. Which is ludicrous, since at no point is Northern State trying to gain themselves any sort of cred outside of the undestanding that their music is driven by a certain pop sensibility colored by a modest social conscience.
I have no problem with people slamming albums, but I think you need to make your case solidly when doing so, and don’t just rely on a knee-jerk reaction born out of the fear that you may not be taken seriously for enjoying something you, well, enjoy.
MP3: Northern State “Sucka Muthafucka”
MP3: Northern State “Better Already”
I’m sure every city is littered with great bands that just, for whatever reason, never took off. Sometimes it’s just bad timing, or lack of exposure, or the simple fact that the gods seem fond of cruel jokes and often raise up the unworthy while holding down the excellent.
Chicago’s Hushdrops are certainly well connected, leader John San Juan’s “Summer People” was covered by The Webb Brothers and became a minor hit overseas. San Juan and fellow Hushdrop Joe Camarillo are both unbelievably talented musicians that can have performed in an astounding number of other bands over the years, but Hushdrops was always their baby.
The band’s love of both The Beatles and the Who is evident in their songs, with both influences making their presence known without ever overtaking San Juan’s own personal tone. His sweetly melancholic verses often go hand in hand with sunny pop choruses, while clean keyboard tones embed themselves amid the fuzzed out guitar lines. The end result is modern pop with a classic pulse, and songs that would have been breakout hits in a bygone era, and could still be hits once the future catches up to them.
Take a listen to two of my own favorites from Hushdrops’ first (and only currently available) album, Volume One. if they pique your interest, and I’m sure they will, feel free to pick up your own copy and help a criminally overlooked band gain the recognition they so richly deserve.
MP3: Hushdrops “Emily”
MP3: Hushdrops “Doctor V”
Since when did the coolest indie comps not only start coming from a cartoon network, but also come free of charge? I mean, awesome. Adult Swim releases their latest comp, Warm & Scratchy, today. Get it while it’s hotter than Mims.
Warm & Scratchy Tracklisting:
01. Me-I – TV On The Radio
02. Dead Sound – The Ravenettes
03. The Equestrian – Les Savy Fav
04. Crimson Red – The Rapture
05. Justine – 120 Days
06. Canada Vs. America – Broken Social Scene
07. Color of the love You Have – SOUND Team
08. The Bunting Song (acoustic version) – The Good, The Bad and The Queen
09. Half Century – The Brother Kite
10. Silver (Original Beats) – Jesu
11. Back to Flash – Amusement Parks on Fire
12. Stay Awake – Asobi Seksu
13. Winter – Fennesz
14. Sunset Rodeo – Liars
We’ve got a copy of the Arctic Monkeys “Brainstorm” 12″ we’re just dying to give you. I don’t know about the rest of you, but this writer has been enjoying the hell out of the band’s new disc, as it neatly sidesteps the sophomore slump to deliver songs that are tighter and better written than the tracks on their record breaking debut.
Wow, that was a mouthful. Serial abuse of commas perhaps? Naw, I think it’s still all grammatically correct.
Here’s the tracklisting:
1. If You Found This It’s Probably Too Late
3. Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend
4. What If You Were Right The First Time?
If you want to enter to win, send your name and address to:
contest [at] donewaiting [dot] com
Contest ends this Friday, so step to it!
This is from Joel Reese’s profile of the band in this week’s issue of Time Out Chicago:
Given the stellar band Tweedy has assembled, it occasionally feels like he’s behind the wheel of a brand new Porsche but won’t take it above 25 miles per hour.
You can download a nifty Wilco family tree created by Time Out here.
1. B For My Name
2. 14th St. Break
3. Suco De Tangerina
4. The Gala Event
5. Electric Worm
6. Freaky Hijiki
7. Off The Grid
8. The Rat Cage
9. The Melee
10. Dramastically Different
11. The Cousin Of Death
12. The Kangaroo Rat
The Beastie Boys have released track info from their forthcoming disc The Mix Up. They also claim it’s going to be all instrumental. That would be kind of a bummer, but with The Beasties you never know when they’re kidding and when they’re not.
Finally, a court ruling about digital music that seems grounded in some semblance of reality! ASCAP attempts to double dip into royalty streams by claiming digital download count as public performances has been slapped down by a federal court. This confused me, since ASCAP sells itself as being super artist-friendly, and this tactic was sure to hurt artist’s audiences by making it more difficult to distribute their music. I tried tried to get some insight into this from the local Chicago ASCAP office when the story broke a few weeks ago, but they didn’t return my emails.
As an aside, I’d like to point out that all my interaction with representatives from ASCAP has always been positive, and in Chicago they do their damndest to get exposure for artists they sign with. So I view this whole legal action as a gross misstep grounded in the greed of ASCAPpers in corporate positions … which would probably explain why our local reps had nothing to say. Would you want to go o0n record disagreeing with the actions of the boys upstairs? Probably not.
We’ve all gotten the emails / bulletins / memes asking to throw the iPod — or whatever music media player you prefer — on shuffle and post the first ten songs. Or put those songs into some sort of fake narrative for hilarious (not) results. As I was scrolling through the ol’ tankPOD today, looking to do some housecleaning, I noticed certain bands took up an awful lot of screen time as I scrolled through.
So that got me to thinking, wouldn’t those bands be the best litmus test when it came to really pinpointing one’s musical tastes? I mean, sure, I’ve got loads of super-obscure, truly indier-than-thou bands, unheard masterpieces by regional acts, IDM prone to inducing seizures, and white label singles in the tankPOD / diPOD team, but when pressed what really informs my tastes?
So I did an experiment and decided to list all the bands who have four or more albums on my MP3 / M4A / OGG / WAV player in hopes that such information would be rather revealing (full list after the jump). You see, in this age of instant gratification I think it really says something about a band if you feel the need to carry that much of their material around with you at all times. Such a list might prove unintentionally revealing and betray one’s actual musical tastes, even if they are usually hidden under a patina of hipster aloofness.
Of course such a list is automatically going to skew towards older acts, since it takes a few years to push out 4+ albums’ worth of music, but that would make such a list an even better reference for divining one’s musical tastes, since it would probably skew towards artists that helped formulate a particular individual’s musical background. Right?
In my case the result pretty obviously favored artists that came to the fore in the ’80s and ’90s, no surprise there. And it is pretty light on electronic artists, but that makes sense when you consider that most electronic music lives in the world of the single, not the multi-album arc.
The interesting about my own results, actually, is that I almost NEVER actually listen to any of the 4+ album bands on my iPod anymore. It’s almost like they’re there as more of a security blanket. Truth be told, I have so much new stuff coming in every day I need to listen to, for various reasons, I rarely get the chance to peruse deep cuts from my personal catalog … but it’s interesting to note because I think these are the sorts of discs I may not listen to every day (or even once a year), but that I might like to take to a desert island to keep me going in tough times.
Anyway, if you’re interested, my list is after the jump. Feel free to post your own lists in the comments and let me see where your musical soul actually dwells when no one else is around to judge.
Hey, I’m all for digitally downloadable albums that are sent to me for review. It saves the labels / publicists / bands postage and all, and it gets the disc in my hands right away. But, and I’m looking at you RCA, home of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, I am NOT installing proprietary software onto my computer in order to hear the fucking files. C’mon, who is stupid enough to trust a label for that sort of thing again?
STOP TRYING TO PROTECT YOUR FUCKING SONGS LIKE THIS. It’s hopeless. They’re going to get out there. (While you’re alienating me, I know for a fact that this particular album is available (WIDELY available) via numerous P2P networks.)
Instead of trying to shackle the music, how about if you just get a fucking clue and redirect your business model to get in step with the times? NO ONE wants to install proprietary software on their computer in order to listen to a song or an album.
Get. A. Fucking. Clue.