The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

Pearl Jam: Gigaton Track-By-Track Review — March 27, 2020

Pearl Jam: Gigaton Track-By-Track Review

What crazy days we have all been living over the last two weeks or so. The COVID-19 pandemic has seemed to put a damper on so many fun aspects we take for granted in life. The first signs that struck Pearl Jam fans was the postponement of the North American leg of the Gigaton tour slated to begin in mid March. Pearl Jam was one of the first bands to see the devastation happening in their very own state of Washington and decided to put the breaks on everything tour wise for the health of all parties involved. It was the right move. There is no doubt in my mind that when this world crisis subsides Pearl  Jam will be back and rock us even harder than before. 

Until that day arrives we can all enjoy their 11th studio album Gigaton that dropped today (3/27/20). It’s been a long seven years since the band dropped Lightening Bolt in 2013 which divided fans and critics alike. It certainly wasn’t my favorite Pearl Jam but it did contain some fantastic material like “Pendulum”. It’s cliche to say that Gigaton is a “back-to-basics” type album but it kinda plays out that way. The group is certainly more focused and the songs hit in a more direct way than anything the band has released since the Avocado days. It’s always a great sign when every member of the band is contributing on the songwriting front and new producer Josh Evans has Pearl Jam sounding as modern as possible in 2020. So go ahead, pop in the CD, spin that black circle or stream it as you please while struck in quarantine. There will be brighter days on the five horizons….

Who Ever Said – A fast charging rocker with a soaring chorus that properly kicks off Gigaton in style. Always a fan when Pearl Jam lets it rip straight from the gate. This is going to be a nice addition to the setlists whenever the Gigaton world tour can launch. 

Superblood Wolfmoon – Pearl Jam keeps the high intensity swagger flowing on Gigaton’s surf rock inspired second single. The song features a pretty bad ass howling guitar solo from Mike McCready. It’s going to be a great addition to the live sets. 

Dance of the Clairvoyants – The very first tasting from the Gigaton era. The sounds of The Talking Heads meets Devo. One of the freshest sounds the band has cooked up in well over a decade. I must have listened to it over a dozen times while attempting to buy tickets to see the band at Madison Squads Garden during the fan pre-sale in January. It was a lucky charm because I did score tickets (behind the stage). Very much looking forward to this Garden Party whenever the COVID-19 crisis is over. 

Quick Escape – Heavy Led Zeppelin guitar riffs open this tune with Eddie singing into a slightly distorted mic. A real throwback cut composed musically by Jeff Ament. Again more fantastic guitar soloing taking place as the song draws to a conclusion. The band has really upped their game with some meaty guitar work on this go around. Pearl Jam also suggest that mankind’s future might rest on another planet like Mars. “And here we are, the Red Planet/ Craters across the skyline/ A sleep sack in a bivouac/ And a Kerouac sense of time.”

Alright – Jeff Ament supplies the music and lyrics to this spacey keyboard led track that eerily describes the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s alright, to shut it down, Disappear in thin air, it’s your home, it’s alright, to be alone.”

Seven O’Clock – The best way of describing this 6 minute slow burn anthem (the longest on Gigaton) is Bruce Springsteen meets mid 80s Pink Floyd synthesizers. One of the strongest tracks from this LP hands down. 

Never Destination – Another chugging rocker returns for the album’s mid point junction to liven things up again. The tune even name checks Sean Penn’s debut novel “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff”. It’s a breath of fresh air that all the rockers found on Gigaton avoid the cliche traps they were previously seen on Pearl Jam songs like “Ole” and “Can’t Deny Me”. Nobody wants this group on auto pilot. 

Take The Long Way – The guitar thrashing continues on this Matt Cameron composed track. Not only does Matt supply the steady drum fury but he also sings backup vocals along with Meagan Grandall (aka Lemolo) which I believe is the first time a female has appeared vocally on a Pearl Jam record. 

Buckle Up – Leave it to Stone Gossard to supply Gigaton with its most unique and gentle sounding offering despite extremely dark lyrics. I absolutely love this acoustic chord progression. It’s dreamy, it’s melancholy and feels like a tragic lullaby. This tune reminds me of Pearl Jam’s attempt at a sequel for Radiohead b-side “Killer Cars”.

Comes Then Goes – This one could almost be a track from Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack album to the film Into The Wild. To my ears it sounds like only Eddie and his trusty acoustic guitar. The subject matter is rumored to be about the passing of longtime friend Chris Cornell. Only time will tell if that is the case or not. Either way it’s an ode to friends long since gone. “We could all use a savior from human behavior.”

Retrograde – Mike McCready wrote the music for Gigaton’s spacey penultimate track that features former veteran producer Brendan O’Brien on supporting keyboards. This is another track that could have easily been on the Into The Wild soundtrack. Eddie’s lyrics allude to the destruction of Mother Earth by mankind. Will this be the final verse contributed by humanity before its downfall? We shall see. 

River Cross – The fingerprints of Neil Young are all over this rousing finale to Pearl Jam’s 11th studio album. Think “Like A Hurricane” from MTV Unplugged meets “Organ Solo” from the Dead Man film soundtrack. You have the classic pump organ swirling and Eddie longing for a dream that seems unattainable. “I want this dream to last forever, A wish denied to lengthen our time, I wish this moment was never ending, Let it be a lie that all future’s die….”

 

Welcome To Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony — March 13, 2020

Welcome To Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony

Well, it only took 13 long years for Jay Electronica to emerge with his debut album A Written Testimony. Electronica first came to musical prominence during the summer of 2007 with his stunningly excellent mixtape Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge) which featured Jay rapping over select cuts from Jon Brion’s film soundtrack for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. From there he would release “Exhibit A (Transformations)” and “Exhibit C” in 2009 to much fanfare creating a bidding war for his services by major hip-hop labels. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation would eventually be the lucky winner for Jay Electronica’s musical prowess. What came next were whispers of a proper album, endless production work and over a dozen collaborations sprinkled throughout the last decade. That all ended Thursday night when Electronica finally dropped his very first album, A Written Testimony, backed strongly with uncredited vocal support from Jay-Z himself. Was it worth the wait? It sure the fuck was.

The Overwhelming Event – The album opens with a stirring string section sampled from French composer Éric Demarsan and then is followed by a speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan who Jay is a disciple of. “I ask the question, ‘Who are the real Children of Isreal?’ And I’d like to answer it right away…….That the black people of America are the real Children of Israel And they, we, are the choice of God And that unto us, he will deliver his promise.”

Ghost of Soulja Slim – After a second brief Louis Farrakhan intro speech, Jay Electronica benefactor, Jay-Z, fires the opening volley on A Written Testimony. This seems fitting given the personal bond between the two men over the last decade and the steadfast loyalty Hova has showed towards Jay Elec since the day he signed with Roc Nation. The dynamic duo trade verses over a pretty obscure sample of composer John Williams’ song “Jennifer’s French Movie” from the 1967 film Valley of The Dolls. The track is an ode to the memory of James Adarryl Tapp Jr (Soulja Slim). Best known for his Billboard Hot 100 #1 single “Slow Motion”. Sadly, Tapp was gunned down and murdered on November 26, 2003.

The Blinding – Electronica joins forces with Travis Scott for another star-studded cameo on A Written Testimony. Scott isn’t the only high profile rapper on “The Blinding”. Swizz Beatz and Jay-Z both lend their helping hands to shape the track into its final form. “Extra, extra, it’s Mr. Headlines, who signed every contract and missed the deadlines, 40 days, 40 nights, tryna live up to the hype.”

The Neverending Story – This song might as well be the theme for Electronica’s decade long struggle to complete his much ballyhooed debut album. Set over a vintage Argentine rock sample by Litto Nebbia, Jay Elec trades verses once again with Hova (Notice a trend yet?) about artistic perseverance. “What a time we livin’ in, just like the scripture says Earthquakes, fires, and plagues, the resurrection of the dead.” Electronica’s timing with current events is impeccable. The Alchemist handles production work for this one.

Shiny Suit Theory – Well hello there! A blast from the past pops up mid way through the record. “Shiny Suit Theory” is literally the first project Electronica released once he signed to Roc Nation a decade ago. This version sounds pretty much unchanged from when it dropped in November 2010. The killer verses by Jay-Z still remain as does a sample of The Ambassadors’ song “Ain’t Got The Love (Of One Girl On My Mind)” but this time around award winning producer, songwriter and singer The-Dream plays a role in its final form.

Universal Soldier – Opening with the sounds of a WWII Pacific Theater newsreel from 1945, the song then morphs into Electronica reciting Arabic phrases before launching into Electronica’s pledge to remain a faithful servant to the Nation of Islam over a fantastic hypnotic beat. “My poetry’s livin’ like the God that I fall back on And all praises due to Allah for such a illustrious platform The teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s my backbone, When I spit, the children on the mothership bow on a platform.” British singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer James Blake joins the party to sing on the outro.

Flux Capacitor – Pretty sweet “Back To The Future” reference in the title. A whirlwind of influences and references are found all over this track ranging from “Get The Gat” by Lil Elt, Rihanna’s “Higher“, “Wheel ‘N’ Deal” by DJ Gunshot and even “Juicy” by Biggie Smalls.  Overall it sounds like a wild parking lot party and the most overt Jay-Z appearance.

Fruits Of The Spirit – No I.D. handles production duties on this baby. This is the lone song on A Written Testimony (excluding “The Overwhelming Event”) where Jay-Z does not appear. It’s simply Electronica doing his thing over a running loop of The Imaginations’ song “Because I Love You“. It is also the shortest track on the album at 1 minute and 35 seconds.

Ezekiel’s Wheel – The three headed monster that is Electronica, Hova and The-Dream are in peak form in this almost 7 minute tour de force performance that integrates portions of “Evensong” by Robert Fripp & Brian Eno. Again the idea that Electronica is a prophet like figure sent by Allah is explored. Some of the best verses on A Written Testimony are found all over this track. “I started on Tatooine but now I’m way out in Dagobah, Mastered the force, made my saber, I’m in the light now….”. Later Electronica references Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, “Sometimes, like Santiago, at crucial points of my novel, My only logical option was to transform into the wind.”. A verse that perhaps is a meta statement on his own struggles to finally complete this much hyped debut album. 

A.P.I.D.T.A. – The real treasure of the album but also an extremely somber song to close out Electronica’s debut. Written following the sudden news that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died tragically in a helicopter accident earlier that day. Using the Khruangbin’s song “A Hymn” as a backing guide, Jay-Z and Jay Elec trade mournful verses of loved ones they can no longer reach in the grave. “I got numbers on my phone that’ll never ring again, ‘Cause Allah done called them home……….I got texts in my phone that’ll never ping again, I screenshot ’em so I got ’em, I don’t want this thing to…..”. Easily an album highlight and one of the best tracks to emerge thus far 2020. 

Wading Through Radiohead’s Public Library — March 11, 2020

Wading Through Radiohead’s Public Library

The start of January brought Radiohead fans a tremendous late holiday surprise, an extensive online resource containing videos, music, artwork, websites, full concerts, playlists, old merchandise, webcasts and other assorted ephemera. The band has named it the “Radiohead Public Library” (https://www.radiohead.com/library/) and you can even create your very own printable library card if you fancy it. No longer do you have to hunt down old videos on YouTube or buy rare items on eBay. The Radiohead Public Library is now the go to destination for all your Radiohead needs. The collection naturally begins in 1993 with debut album Pablo Honey and travels all the way up to 2016’s magnificent LP A Moon Shaped Pool. Everything in between is an odyssey like voyage with countless jumping off points to get lost in for hours upon hours. Not everyone has the time to explore everything the band has just gifted us. That could take weeks, maybe even months to properly unpack. If you are looking for some of the very best bits from this massive archive, I’ve constructed a list of library highlights. Sadly there is no MTV Beach House from 1993. I suspect this list will need to be updated as time passes and future discoveries are made. The band themselves have even added to the library two different times since its launch. I suspect this will remain the case, especially with the looming announcement of a 20th Anniversary boxset for Kid A this coming October. That day can’t come soon enough. The Kid A section is surprisingly………….skimpy. Wink wink. A treasure trove awaits folks.

Live at the Astoria
27 May 1994

https://www.radiohead.com/library/#bends/1994-05-27-live-at-the-astoria

A setlist featuring many throwback cuts that have been missing in action for decades at this point: “Bones”, “Ripcord”, “Blackstar”, “Maquiladora”, “Vegetable” and “Pop Is Dead”. The evening ends with a killer version of “Blow Out” with an absolute guitar shredding hurricane of fury by Thom, Jonny and Ed. A real highlight.

MTV’s Most Wanted
05 October 1994

https://www.radiohead.com/library/#ph/1994-10-05-mtv-s-most-wanted

Thom and Jonny performed stripped back versions of Pablo Honey’s “You” and the newly written “My Iron Lung” which would later appear on The Bends in 1995.

MTV’s Most Wanted
18 August 1995
Radiohead cover Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” which was the James Bond theme from the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me. Thom once proclaimed the Bond theme to be “Sexiest song that was ever written”. Also performed on the night was “Just”.
W.A.S.T.E. Newsletters Volumes 1-16

https://www.radiohead.com/library/#bends

A collection of hilarious band newsletters between 1993 and early 1997 with interesting antidotes from the road including a trip to Thailand’s red light district, Jonny DJing on Mexican FM radio, Ed and Colin appearing on KROQ’s radio show Lovelines, learning that Thom’s favorite film is My Cousin Vinny, Phil’s sugar addiction and music they were consuming while on tour: R.E.M., Black Grape, Tricky, Ennio Morricone, Beck and Teenage Fanclub.

Tibetan Freedom Concert

Radiohead take to the stage to play an 8 song setlist that would feature R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe joining the band to perform lead vocals during “Lucky”. It is also pretty clear the band were really into parachute pants during the summer of 1998. Strange days indeed.
Amateur Night II
One of Radiohead’s earliest innovative webcast streams. This one taking place during the recording of the band’s upcoming album Kid A. The real treat of this web show was an early demo of “There There” which features different lyrics from the version found on Hail To The Thief and rocks much much harder at almost 7 minutes in length. Hopefully more stuff like this appears on the pending Kid A boxset due out this October.
Radiohead would initially promote their newest album Kid A by performing a series of concerts with a carnival like atmosphere housed in a traveling Big Top tent complete with Victorian era ticketing. A very cool and unique idea. I also wish Radiohead would resurrect “Motion Picture Soundtrack” for future tours.
EMI & CANAL + present Kid A : Amnesiac In Paris
28 April 2001
A mashup TV appearance of tracks from both Kid A and Amnesiac. The night would conclude with a thrashing cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl”. Definitely a performance worth checking out. Despite taking a deep plunge into electronic music Radiohead still prove they are the mightiest guitar band in all the land when they want to be.
Later Presents… Radiohead
The calling card for this Jools Holland appearance is New Orleans jazz funeral tune “Life In A Glasshouse” which to my knowledge is the only time the band performed the track in a live setting. Radiohead are even backed by the Humphrey Lyttelton Band who performed the track on Amnesiac.
The Gorge, Washington
About 35 minutes into this Kid A/Amnesiac tour stop in the state of Washington fans are treated to a new unreleased song called “Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses”. This would later be known as the first incarnation of future In Rainbows track “Reckoner”.
Beacon Theatre, NYC
05 June 2003
Part of the now defunct MTV $2 Bill Concert Series, Radiohead would take to the stage to preview material from their new album Hail To The Thief. Best of the bunch would be the acoustic rendition of “True Love Waits” to end the show. It would still be another 13 years before an official studio version was released. I think I love every single version of this song.
A legendary concert performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.  I think this gig still holds the title for longest ever Radiohead concert at nearly 2 and a half hours and 28 songs. Radiohead spent most of that early summer road testing new material across North America that would eventually materialize on their 7th LP In Rainbows in October 2007. The band would play 6 unreleased songs on the night: “15 Step”, “Weird Fishes”, “Videotape”, “Nude”, “Bodysnatchers” and “House of Cards”. For my money the best ever version of “Videotape” (35 min mark) was performed at this show. The band would later strip back the tune to its most basic elements but prior to that it was a proper rock-rave up. Hopefully a future anniversary edition of In Rainbows will gift us a studio version of this incarnation of “Videotape”.
Another famous Radiohead webcast. The best part of this evening’s broadcast were the three awesome cover songs. The first being The Smiths’ “The Headmaster Ritual”, the second New Order’s “Ceremony” and lastly Bjork’s “Unravel”. Also played were “Bodysnatchers”, “Faust Arp”, “Reckoner” and “I Might Be Wrong”.
Radiohead would delight 200 fans at a small intimate club show that saw the band play their new album In Rainbows from top to bottom plus an encore of old faithfuls and a solo acoustic version of “Up On A Ladder”. This might be the smallest show the band has performed in over 20 years. Wish they would do more of this type of stuff. Granted scoring tickets would be next to impossible.
Possibly my favorite track from In Rainbows. This performance of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” is outstanding. Not just from the band who is on point the entire time but also the way the director cut his cameras to show all the best aspects of the band at the right moments.
Radiohead did very little promotion for their 8th album The King of Limbs in 2011. Just a handful of stops ranging from Glastonbury, Saturday Night Live, Roseland Ballroom and The Colbert Report. This performance is an extended set from what was seen on the main broadcast that night (“Morning Mr. Magpie”). The band would also play “The Daily Mail”, “Bloom”, “Little By Little” and “The National Anthem”. As the From The Basement session from December 2011 would also prove, the material found on The King of Limbs really transcends to another level of excellence when performed live compared to the final studio versions.
This is the closest Radiohead came to giving the fans a From The Basement type release from A Moon Shaped Pool. It would be just Thom, Jonny and a drum machine sitting around a campfire in the Hollywood Hills while being directed by filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. I kind of wish they did a third tune for this series with Paul Thomas Anderson like a “Desert Island Disk” or even “True Love Waits”. There are so many beautiful tracks off A Moon Shaped Pool. I want to see them all shine in different presentations.
Noel Gallagher’s Three E.P.’s — March 2, 2020

Noel Gallagher’s Three E.P.’s

Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds tried something new over the last 10 months as he attempted to spice up his artistic release patterns. He didn’t release a proper album to follow up 2017’s brilliant Who Built The Moon? but he did treat fans with three distinct sounding EPs that were dropped in June 2019 (Black Star Dancing), September 2019 (This Is The Place) and the last one in March 2020 (Blue Moon Rising). All together the three EPs featured 9 brand new tracks that covered a wide range of genres from acoustic based tunes to acid house infused guitar rock. Noel has said that these EPs were designed to flush out his back catalog of unused material, release more experimental tinged tracks and tide over fans until he begins work on his 4th solo album later this year once his new home studio is completed. No word yet on who will produce or what sonic direction he might go outside of Noel telling Zane Lowe in November “it could be a double album….with lots of eclectic stuff on it”. We shall see what comes to pass over the next year or so. Overall this EP campaign has been a rewarding experience for all Oasis and Noel Gallagher fans alike. 

Black Star Dancing EP

Black Star Dancing – The first single out of the gate keeps the vibes of Who Built The Moon? alive and well. A thumping bass Line and a ZZ Top style guitar solo keep this tune buzzing with fresh surprises. Noel has said this song was heavily influenced by his David Bowie obsession. Guitarist Nile Rodgers who dropped by the studio during recording sessions called the track “dope”. Good enough for me!

Rattling Rose – A more traditional sounding Noel effort that could have easily been on his debut album or Chasing Yesterday. Led by a bouncing acoustic strum and a shuffling beat, the most interesting aspect of this track is the The Left Banke style horn breakdown featured in the finale. In classic Noel fashion he described the song as “It manages to combine the influences of Chris Rea, Chris De Burgh, Mike and the Mechanics and Slipknot FFS!!! I may have eaten too many gummy bears recently.”

Sail On – A stunningly beautiful acoustic/banjo ballad about lost love and finding your place in the world. “Sail On” feels like a lost cousin of previous B-side “I’d Pick You Every Time” from 2011. Noel has said this track dates back to the Chasing Yesterday era and was only included at the persistence of the girls who work at his record label who adored it. Hats off to them!

This Is The Place EP

This Is The Place – For my ears this is the crown jewel of the EP project. A proper acid house banger with heavy echoes of New Order. Noel’s very own ode to Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub. I hope Noel cooks up more babies like this moving forward.  It is also fantastic to hear live. 

A Dream Is All I Need To Get By – A gentle floating acoustic number that Noel has described as “To my ears it sounds like one of those iconic B-sides by The Smiths, only obviously not as good.”. This is the safest sounding song released from any of the EPs and is sure to please any fans of Noel’s previous work while in Oasis. 

Evil Flower – A dark hypnotic driving tune that sounds equal parts “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” and “Soldier On” from Oasis’ Dig Out Your Soul. Heavy electronic Spaghetti Western vibes are drenched all over this composition. In terms of being “experimental” this is the most challenging offering from Noel out of anything found on the three EPs. 

Blue Moon Rising EP

Blue Moon Rising – Each of Noel’s previous EPs started off with a heavy dance influenced rocker and this current offering is no different. You can really feel early 1980s New Order rubbing off on Noel immensely. I am very much looking forward to Noel traveling down this road further as I’ve been extremely pleased with the results of the tracks “Black Star Dancing”, “This Is The Place” and “Blue Moon Rising”. I suspect that if Noel continues to work with producer David Holmes I just might get my wish. Both fingers crossed! 

Wandering Star – A much anticipated release by the fan base all summer long with the belief it had the potential to be a “huge” throwback hit. What Noel ended up giving us was an unofficial Christmas holiday jingle packed to the brim with sleigh bells, church bells and cheerful horns. Noel even hired actor Stephen Graham to star in the music video as a shoplifting but good hearted Santa Claus. Terrific casting. Just put Stephen Graham in everything already!

Come On Outside – It took over 12 years for this legendary unfinished Oasis track to see the light of day. The origin of this song began during studio sessions for Oasis’ 7th album Dig Out Your Soul in the winter of 2007. At one point it was going to be the lead single off Dig Out Your Soul until Noel said the band “ran out of time” to record vocals for it as a result of his brother Liam abandoning the sessions to fly back to England unannounced to marry his girlfriend at the time Nicole Appleton. Oasis had been in Los Angeles with producer Dave Sardy mixing the album in early 2008 when this alleged incident went down. The song would not see the light of day (outside a demo leak in 2013) until last week. The end result is a bombastic groove filled rocker with supporting keyboards and a female backing choir. It’s very easy to imagine Liam singing this song. In an alternate timeline it was a smash single off Dig Out Your Soul. Instead it’s the last track in a series of EPs intended to bridge the gap between Noel Gallagher solo albums. Either way the song is ours now.

Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush: Song-By-Song Breakdown — March 1, 2020

Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush: Song-By-Song Breakdown

It has been a long 5 years but Kevin Parker has finally delivered his follow up album to the cross over smash hit Currents. Originally The Slow Rush was planned to be released to coincide with Tame Impala headlining the Coachella Music Festival last April. Tame Impala first dropped the song “Patience” followed by “Borderline” a week later to wet the appetite for the forthcoming LP that spring. Eventually Parker, being the perfectionist that he is, believed the album needed more time to bake in the creative oven. Thus another calendar year would pass us all by. If you were expecting an album closer to Innerspeaker or Lonerism, well you have come to the wrong place. Those days are a thing of the past. Tame Impala’s 4th album is really an extension of the electro-pop that was found on Currents from 2015. Think less of a heavy guitar workload and more big beats/drum patterns. It has been a fun transition witnessing Tame Impala being a guitar driven outfit, to one leaning on heavy synthesizers to finally being an act that features looping drum beats. If I had to summarize this album in one sentence thematically it would be this: Kevin Parker is drunk on nostalgia. 

One More Year – A shimmering wave of distorted vocals opens The Slow Rush as Kevin Parker sets the stage for everything to come on this album. The concept of time has become a major theme in Kevin’s life since we last met him. “We’re on a rollercoaster stuck on its loop de loop”. Tame Impala records always have killer opening songs and this one is no different. 

Instant Destiny – I can only interpret this song as a marriage proposal to his wife Sophie Lawrence and a lifetime of future bliss. Lyrics of moving to Miami, getting name tattoos and drinking potions made of devotion. Kevin has never been so on point lyrically. “I’m about to do something crazy, no more delayin’”.

Borderline – This is the second incarnation of the song. It was first debuted on Saturday Night Live in March 2019 along with another new song called “Patience”. Later it was released in April 2019 as duel promotion for a headlining Coachella appearance and upcoming album. As we know the album was shelved and Kevin went back to the drawing board on “Borderline” feeling that the song was lacking his intended sonic vision. Kevin beefed up the basslines and made the drums more hard hitting in the mix. Also 30 seconds were shaved off when comparing the 2019 single version to the one found on The Slow Rush. I still wish that “Patience” made the album. That song is just too good to sit without calling an album home. 

Posthumous Forgiveness – On the third single from The Slow Rush Kevin wrestles with unresolved issues with his father who passed away back in 2009 from skin cancer. The 6 minute track is really a tale of two cities. On the first half Kevin shares resentment and anger towards his father who died before they could potentially take back any regretful words or actions. “And while you still had time, you had a chance, but you decided to take all your sorrys to the grave.” The second half sees a sonic turn in Kevin embracing the tender moments they did share prior to his parents divorce and how he wishes his father could see the man he has become today. “Wanna tell you ’bout my life, Wanna play you all my songs and hear your voice sing along….”.

Breathe Deeper – One of the album’s biggest bangers. Full of groove filled synthesizers and piano playing that has echoes of last year’s standalone single “Patience”. This track serves as a mantra for Kevin to relax, take it easy and most importantly to breathe deeper. A sure fire highlight off The Slow Rush. 

Tomorrow’s Dust – So many of us were enamored with this song the moment we first heard it in The Slow Rush album trailer. The track begins proper with guitar fingerpicking that reminds me of “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” by Radiohead. The concept of time begins to creep back into Kevin’s mind throughout the tune. “There’s no use trying to relate to that older soul, and no use biding your time if the bell is tolled.”. Time keeps marching forward and so does Kevin Parker. At the end of the day, no matter what we do or what we say, everyone is going to end up tomorrow’s dust. No exceptions. Pretty grim when you think about it. Nevertheless it is one of best tracks featured on The Slow Rush. 

On Track – This is best described as a Tame Impala power ballad. Despite a long hiatus between Currents and The Slow Rush, KP is letting us know he is exactly on pace for his own life’s timeline. For me this is the “Eventually” of this album. 

Lost In Yesterday – A song deeply rooted in thoughts of nostalgia and regret over the outcome of certain life choices. “And you’re gonna have to let it go someday, You’ve been diggin’ it up like Groundhog Day, ‘Cause it might’ve been somethin’, don’t say, Cause it has to be lost in yesterday”. Led by a driving bassline and keyboards, “Lost In Yesterday” is easily one the clearest callbacks from the Currents era. 

Is It True – Has the potential to be the biggest banger on the album long term. It checks all the boxes that Kevin loves. Toe tapping drums. Groovy bass. Psychedelic keyboards. Kevin said he spent less than 8 hours composing the song proving that maybe he can deliver products in a shorter timespan than his usual endless studio tinkering. Lyrically Kevin is at war mentally with the thoughts that true love might not last forever and it may be only transient in nature. I wonder how the new Mrs. Parker feels about this one?

It Might Be Time– Heavy on bombastic drums, keyboards and a swirling siren that recalls the Quincy Jones song “Ironside”. Best remembered for being used in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films. Officially the albums 2nd single after “Borderline”. This track wouldn’t feel out of place on a Supertramp record. 

Glimmer – The sounds of the historic The Haçienda in Manchester. I wish this song was in the 5-6 minute range because it potentially has so much more to give. The opening keyboard shutter reminds me of the intro to Underworlds’ “Born Slippy .NUXX”. When in doubt…….CRANK THE BASS UP. 

One More Hour – Well time is almost up on The Slow Rush. The mission statement Kevin provided in “One More Year” about having one more year, 52 weeks, 7 days each, 4 seasons, is down to its very last hour. Better make it count. “I’m with you and I can roll into another year”. This is the most traditional sounding rock song on the album with huge crashing crescendos during the choruses. I can almost picture this song being played in arenas during the late 70s.

Sloan Bring Their Navy Blues to Bowery Ballroom — February 21, 2020

Sloan Bring Their Navy Blues to Bowery Ballroom

Sloan’s 20th Anniversary tour for their incredibly underrated album Navy Blues finally rolled into New York City Thursday night at A sold out Bowery Ballroom. I attended the show with my buddy Dave who first introduced me to the band our junior year of high school back in 1998. Knowing I was a huge Beatles and Oasis super fan, Dave highly suggested I give Sloan’s Navy Blues a shot. Now I never got any true Beatle vibes from Navy Blues (One Chord To Another is the record for that) but I did love all the 70s arena rock swagger that is featured all over the LP. Navy Blues is an album I look back on with very fond memories and have equally been looking forward to this concert since the moment it was announced. I also could not have picked a better venue to see Sloan than Bowery Ballroom. My favorite New York City area venue by far, especially since Maxwell’s in Hoboken bit the dust a decade ago. 

Sloan attacked the evening by splitting their concert into two sets plus an encore. No opening band. The first hour featured the band running through Navy Blues from front to back with amazing proficiency. Fan favorites like “She Says What She Means”, “C’Mon C’Mon”, “Iggy and Angus”, “Money City Maniacs” and “Stand By Me, Yeah” shined brightly. This being the first time I’ve seen the group live I was unaware of the versatility of the band members. Lead guitar, bass player, drummer and lead vocal responsibilities were traded off in liberal fashion all night long. I was highly impressed with how cohesive the band were. Guess that is to be expected after a 30 year career. Bass player Chris Murphy as one point joked that the band only got “good around 2006” and eventually peaked in 2011. A tall tale but an amusing one nevertheless. 

The second set saw the band playing the “hits” so to speak. Fan favorites such as “Who Taught You To Live Like That”, “Coax Me”, “Sensory Deprivation” and “Underwhelmed” drove the crowd into a fever pitch. The night would draw to a close with an encore of Twice Removed’s “Deeper Than Beauty” plus a one-two punch of “The Lines You Amend” and “The Good In Everyone” from the album One Chord to Another. Overall it was a robust 27 song setlist that touched all corners of Sloan fandom. I’m sure no band rocked harder than Sloan Thursday night in Manhattan. If you were at the show tonight tremendous job by you. If you weren’t or are unsure where to start with this terrific Canadian band please check out Twice Removed, One Chord To Another, Navy Blues or Between the Bridges. You won’t be disappointed. 

Set 1: Navy Blues

She Says What She Means

C’Mon C’Mon (We’re Gonna Get It Started)

Iggy and Angus

Sinking Ships

Keep On Thinkin’

Money City Maniacs

Seems So Heavy

Chester The Molester

Stand By Me, Yeah

Suppose They Close The Door

On The Horizon

I Wanna Thank You

I’m Not Through With You Yet

Set 2: The Hits

Flying High Again

Who Taught You To Live Like That?

Shadow of Love

Unkind

Three Sisters

Coax Me

Ill Placed Trust

Sensory Deprivation

Live On

I Hate My Generation

Underwhelmed

Encore

Deeper Than Beauty

The Lines You Amend

The Good In Everyone

Ed O’Brien Soars in New York City Debut — February 11, 2020

Ed O’Brien Soars in New York City Debut

Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien took to the stage Monday night in New York City for just the 3rd time as a solo artist at the sold out Le Poisson Rouge. Last week Ed officially announced his upcoming debut album Earth which is due out on April 17th and has already been supported by the singles “Shangri-La” and the folky rave up banger “Brasil”. The album was inspired by Ed moving to Brazil with his family for most of 2012-2013 and forming a spiritual connection with nature. Outside of that not much is known on how Earth will sound overall. It was previously announced that Earth is co-produced by the legendary Flood and Catherine Marks, mixed by Alan Moulder and featuring a bevy of supporting musicians: Omar Hakim, Nathan East, Dave Okumu, Laura Marling, Adrian Utley, Glenn Kotche and Radiohead bandmate Colin Greenwood. For many in the crowd our first taste of solo Ed was about to begin. 

O’Brien is using the moniker EOB for his upcoming solo ventures and touring act which will see Hinako Omori on keyboards, Ross Chapman on rhythm guitar, Dishan Abrahams handling the bass and Alvin Ford, Jr. on the sticks. It’s a much smaller operation compared to his other day job in Radiohead but do not let that fool you. EOB pack one mighty punch! Ed was in tremendous spirits all evening and thanked the crowd profusely for coming out in a rainy Monday in the city. He seemed generally touched by all the positive outpour the fans were giving his music and told a wonderful story about a woman he had met at Whole Foods earlier in the day that instilled a huge confidence boost inside him.

The show opened with a brief instrumental called “Love Story” before EOB launched into new Achtung Baby inspired single “Shangri-La” which promptly fired up all those in attendance. From there the band worked their way through another new song called “Banksters” that carried a strong A Rush of Blood To The Head vibe. Specifically “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face”. Ed recently told TheFace.com that “Banksters” is one of the oldest songs he had written and dates back from 2009. Next came a tune named “Mass” which was a slower acoustic based number that to my ears sounded like early 00s Sigur Ros. Very euphoric with a cinematic atmosphere.

As a result of only having one future album featuring 45 minutes of music, Ed let everyone know that some covers and extended jamming would be taking place. First up was a cover of a Krautrock song called “On My Own” by Ulrich Schnauss. It was an excellent choice that slid in well within the context of EOB’s playing style and the music drawn from the upcoming Earth album. This was followed by another new song “Sail On” that floated in a spacey manner with echoes of 80s Pink Floyd. A no doubt highlight of the setlist was the 8 minute sprawling rave up “Brasil”. It begins with Ed singing gently over acoustic guitar plucking before evolving into a world class banger that incorporated all the best aspects of his band. I can’t help but be reminded of Daft Punk and Random Access Memories on this tune. A proper way to close out the main set of the night.

Just when you thought EOB can not possibly top the heights heard on “Brasil”, Ed and company throw down the gauntlet with another chugging anthem called “Olympik”. It was a tremendous start to the encore and most likely one of the best songs from Earth. The guitar work reminded me of U2’s Edge and the overall tune bounced around like a modern day “A Sort of Homecoming” from The Unforgettable Fire. A good thing in my book! The night would come to an end with a surprising cover of Labi Siffre’s “I Got The” which is most famous for being sampled by Eminem in the mega smash hit “My Name Is” from 1999. Naturally EOB crushed the Siffre cover and the crowd reacted strongly to the funky breakdowns of “I Got The”.

Before departing the stage Ed promised he would return to the city in the summer with heavy touring all over the globe for 2020. Things are only starting to heat up for EOB and we are the ones who are going to benefit from it. Anyone in the audience tonight was treated to a wonderful performance from a man who is opening his heart and tender soul for the first time. I am anxiously counting down the days until April 17th when debut LP Earth will be released.

Pre-order Earth here.

https://www.eobmusic.com

Main

Love Story (Layo and Bushwacka cover)

Shangri-La

Banksters

Mass

Long Time Coming

Deep Days

On My Own (Ulrich Schnauss cover)

Sail On

Brasil

Encore

Olympik

I Got The (Labi Siffre cover)

19 Songs For 2019 — December 29, 2019

19 Songs For 2019

Another year has come and gone. It seems like time is passing more quickly as we get older in life. Funny how that works. Luckily for us the music being made keeps getting better and better. I know it sounds awful to say but I find myself listening to more and more individual tracks than full fledge albums. Perhaps I am part of the problem feeding into the Spotify user ethos, any song at any time. It is almost too tempting to pass up. Sure there were plenty of albums I loved, Thom Yorke’s Anima, both Big Thief records and Strange Ranger’s Remembering The Rockets but not enough to merit a Top 10 or 20 rankings. At least by me anyways. Having that been said, this year was a particularly strong one for individual singles and album tracks. Here are 19 of my favorite songs of 2019. With some good fortune 2020 will grant us a similar listening experience.

Big Thief – Not

 

Thom Yorke – Dawn Chorus

 

Bon Iver – Naeem

 

Spoon – No Bullets Spent

 

Clairo – Bags

 

Wilco – Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

 

Better Oblivion Community Center – Dylan Thomas

 

The National – Where Is Her Head

 

Tame Impala – Patience

 

Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall

 

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – This Is The Place

 

Thom Yorke & Flea – Daily Battles

 

Mannequin Pussy – Drunk II

 

Coldplay – Arabesque

 

Haim – Summer Girl

 

Sharon Van Etten – Seventeen

 

EOB – Brasil

 

Liam Gallagher – Gone

 

Billie Eilish – When The Party’s Over

Coldplay’s “Everyday Life” Track-By-Track Preview — November 16, 2019

Coldplay’s “Everyday Life” Track-By-Track Preview

Coldplay’s latest album, Everyday Life, stuck up on pretty much everyone. Sure it has been four years since the overtly pop centric and saccharine filled A Head Full of Dreams was released but Chris Martin and the gang kept things relatively low key this time around. The ball got rolling with some vague twitter rumors followed by strange appearances of album ads in smaller newspapers around the globe and finally the band actually dropping snail mail to random fans announcing a double album due on November 22nd, one half called “Sunrise”, the other “Sunset”.  The band have said it’s an album of ruminations on how “we feel about things” going on right now in…….everyday life.

Sunrise 

Sunrise – The album opens with an unlikely violin filled instrumental piece that would not feel out of place in a World War I era film. The track was first teased in an instagram post by the band back in October.

Church – A fine mix of the production style found on Viva La Vida and Mylo Exloto. This wouldn’t be Coldplay if Chris Martin isn’t trying to chase down love by any means necessary somewhere on the album. A potential single for sure.

Trouble In Town – Dare I say this is the first time Coldplay have been openly political during a song? Lyrics critique racial profiling in America and the impact it has on so many lives of innocent people just trying to get by in 2019. To add on top of that is the audio of an infamous police exchange that went viral on YouTube several years prior. Coldplay holding nothing back on their message here. Dynamic second half musically with a killer guitar solo by Jonny Buckland. 

BrokEn – Move over Kanye, you aren’t the only one doing gospel in 2019. Coldplay’s very own version of “This Little Light of Mine”. Fitting it follows the racially charged “Trouble In Town”. 

Daddy – This album’s “O”. It has the atmosphere of a lullaby in reverse. Not for a child but for a missed parent. Tender and beautiful. It is hard to tell but is some of that piano melody borrowed from the unreleased “Famous Lost Painters”?

WOTW/POTP – A short acoustic sketch of a song which passes by in barely a minute. Has a very White Album feel to it. Loose and raw. The most under cooked studio track by Coldplay in decades. Maybe since the song “Parachutes”. 

Arabesque – Sonically this is the crown jewel of Everyday Life. Coldplay have not sounded this bold and brave since the Viva La Vida days. Led by chugging percussion, heavy bass lines and loads of saxophones! Sax crimes all over the place on this tune and it all works to great satisfaction. Great freak out towards the end as everything comes crashing down. Reminds me of “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac or the ending of “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” by Paul McCartney.

When I Need A Friend – It seems like Coldplay have been spending a lot of time hanging out in old churches between the songs “Church”, “BrokEn” and now “When I Need A Friend”. This track in particular sounds like an old fashioned Christmas carol you’ve been singing at the holidays each passing year. Coldplay’s “O Holy Night”.  Another album curveball. 

Sunset 

Guns – Shades of both “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face” and “Major Minus” running throughout this acoustic based stomper. Again Coldplay are tackling real world issues this time with gun violence in America. Satirical in nature, Chris holds nothing back as he torches government policy and big business for allowing weapons of mass killings to be so easily obtained. 

Orphans – Every Coldplay album needs its stadium banger and “Orphans” does that job fantastically well on Everyday Life. Chris Martin might have unlocked the cheat code of life by just wanting to “get drunk with my friends”.  Don’t we all Chris? Don’t we all….

Eko – The acoustic guitar finger picking evokes imagery of figure skaters dancing effortlessly on ice. I am also reminded of the song “Graceland” by Paul Simon whenever I listen to this song. Warms the heart. 

Cry Cry Cry – One of the most unique sounding songs not only on Everyday Life but also in the Coldplay discography. Feels like a song from alternative history 1950s America.  Total doo-wop action. Enchantment Under The Sea dance.

Old Friends – Very similar in vibe to “Eko” but this time the subject matter drifts to a long lost friend and the bond of that friendship over time. 

Bani Adam – Another instrumental but with two distinctive halves. The first begins on piano with shades of “Postcards From Far Away” running through it. About two minutes in an unexpected transition occurs as Coldplay drift into U2 territory. Think Zooropa meets Passenger.

Champion of The World – A true album highlight. A soaring anthem of personal perseverance supported with wonder Echo and The Bunnymen guitar effects.  Nice to see Coldplay embrace their previous musical influences even for just one song. Will be a killer track when performed live. 

Everyday Life – First debuted on SNL two weeks ago. It’s a simple yet direct piano ballad that cuts straight to the point. You can see why the band selected it to be played on national television along with “Orphans”. My favorite part of the song are the beautiful sonic textures behind the piano and the accompanying violins. 

Coldplay have said they will not tour this album proper and will be donating all proceeds to reforestation which is an extraordinary act of kindness for a band to do. There have been many rumors of a quick follow up album to Everyday Life due in 2020 at some point with a huge supporting world tour. We shall see if that comes to pass or not. Until then we can enjoy this unique entry into the Coldplay canon. 

Wilco Bring The Poetry and Magic To “Ode To Joy” — October 13, 2019

Wilco Bring The Poetry and Magic To “Ode To Joy”

Wilco returned last week with their 11th album after a three year hiatus as a group. It wasn’t a complete break for band leader Jeff Tweedy however. He was hard at work penning his well received and outstanding autobiography Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). On top of that Tweedy released not one but two solo albums cheekily titled Warm (2018) and Warmer (2019). Both were acoustic driven and extremely self reflective on his life once he reached the ripe old age of 50. These themes and style would carry over to Wilco’s newest effort Ode To Joy. A lot of this album feels like it could have been Jeff’s third solo album except now it’s been beefed up by his Wilco buddies and ready to sit firmly in the band’s pantheon. 

Jeff Tweedy and drummer Glenn Kotche made a concentrated effort to record drums for this record in a unique and organic manner. No better example of this then on the opener “Bright Leaves” where such pronounced drum skin pounding is heard. Elsewhere Wilco produce one of their more poppier tunes in years with the bouncy “Everyone Hides”. Lead guitarist Nels Cline makes his presence known on the beautifully understated “We Were Lucky”. His restrained guitar solo sounds like a downed power cable sparking with electricity just ready to roast whoever comes in contact with it. Echoes of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse work easily spring to mind. The best is yet to come with the calvary charge guitar playing of lead single “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”. You have to hand it to Wilco. They’ve been a band for almost 30 years and can still cook up ideas that impress your ears. This tune is a real pleasure to listen to. 

One could say the overall thesis of Ode To Joy is found in the song “Hold Me Anyway” where Tweedy attempts to make sense of the randomness of life and the hope of a cosmic connection between us all. “Are we all in love just because? No, I think it’s poetry and magic, Something too big to have a name…”. What’s next? Wilco has already embarked on a North American tour this month that will take the band across the states and into Mexico for 2020. I highly recommend catching a gig. Always a great time.  Also be on the look out for a Jeff Tweedy cameo in Curb Your Enthusiasm which is due to return to HBO in 2020. 

Grade: B

Checkout: “Everyone Hides”, “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”, “We Were Lucky”, “Hold Me Anyway”