The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

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. 

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”

Liam Gallagher Strikes Back With Why Me? Why Not. — September 22, 2019

Liam Gallagher Strikes Back With Why Me? Why Not.

Liam Gallagher has been on one hell of a roll since officially announcing his solo career in the summer of 2017. Out of the devastating breakup of Oasis in 2009 and later the ashes of Beady Eye in 2014, Liam has not only resurrected his good name and public perception but also delivered not one, but two well rounded solo albums. As You Were set the table in October 2017 proving that Liam could successfully navigate a post Oasis world without his big brother Noel guiding the way both lyrically and sonically. That album would go on to be a #1 record in the UK, become one of the biggest sellers in England that year and his concert venue sizes would continue to bloom with each passing month. Liam jokes that soon he could play his own Knebworth. Maybe that is a bit tongue-in-cheek but he might have a solid point. Things are escalating rather quickly for Gallagher who only 4-5 years ago was down on his luck, basically out of the music business and slowly piecing his personal life back together after a bitter divorce sparked by an affair with an American journalist. 

Now in 2019 Liam has unleashed his newest solo record titled Why Me? Why Not. It’s not a grand departure from his debut which was a lot of straight forward rockers and power ballads built to be sung by legions of adoring fans. The album was previously teased with lead single “Shockwave” that feels like it was destined to be in a Guy Ritchie crime caper, followed by the swamp rock of “The River”, then the self reflective ballad “Once” which many see as an olive branch to his brother Noel and lastly “One Of Us” with its military like stomp. Four different slices of the Liam Gallagher pie that should fill the appetite of any former Oasis fan. As with As You Were, Liam reunites with uber producers Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt (fresh off an Oscar win for “Shallow”) to help craft the sounds he envisions in his head. So get ready for a steady diet of 1967 Beatles, All Things Must Pass slide guitar action and some Between To Button era Rolling Stones. 

Highlights from the album include the catchy singalong “Now That I Found You”, the driving piano rocker “Halo”, the Magic Mystery Tour drenched “Meadow” and spaghetti western tinged closer “Gone”. There is a lot more musical diversity on this album compared to As You Were and it makes for a very enjoyable listen. It must have been difficult for Liam and his management to select what songs to make singles. Pretty much all 11 tracks could be commercial enough to promote the record. It wouldn’t feel out of place to have songs like “Halo”, “Alright Now” or the title track “Why Me? Why Not” set the table for what is to come on Liam’s newest LP. When it comes to musical accessibility look no further than the men behind the controls, Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt, who really understand how to not only get the most out of a song but also the artist performing them. Liam’s good fortune of linking up with these two Hollywood hitmakers could not be better timed as both helped to solidify his solo career with some serious musical thump and prestige behind it. We can only hope that Liam’s third album isn’t too far down the road. Now about that Knebworth gig….

Grade: B+

Checkout:   “Halo”, “Why Me? Why Not.”, “Meadow”, “Gone”

The Music of Quentin Tarantino — August 6, 2019

The Music of Quentin Tarantino

And away we go….

Every Quentin Tarantino movie is a grand adventure and spectacle. Few directors command the respect, attention and globally admiration that Tarantino does. When he releases a film it’s appointment viewing. I can’t really say that about too many other current directors. Maybe Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan or Paul Thomas Anderson. Needless to say it is a short list of prime movie directors. This is no different than Tarantino’s 9th feature film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a fading tv star named Rick Dalton. Best Pitt plays his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth. Together they toy around 1969 Hollywood trying to resurrect Rick’s struggling movie career while the Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski and Manson Family looms large in the periphery. It’s a new tone for a Tarantino movie and often very melancholy. It’s more Jackie Brown than say Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. This is very much a love letter to Los Angeles and the Hollywood Tarantino fell head over heels with as a young boy growing up in the city of Angeles. It’s also an excellent film worth repeated viewings for all the snappy dialogue, subtle LA references and Tarantino Easter eggs. 

With each new Tarantino film comes an eclectic soundtrack packed full with killer songs from yesteryear. Tarantino doesn’t just rescue fading Hollywood stars like John Travolta or Pam Grier or even David Carradine. He also exhumes lost musical nuggets that the hands of time have forgotten about. He’s done this over and over beginning with his very first film Reservoir Dogs going straight through to Hateful Eight. Songs like the George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag”, Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You”, Urge Overkill’s cover of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”, Dick Dale’s cover of “Miserlou”, The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time”, Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” and The 5.6.7.8’s cover of “Woo-Hoo”. Each one of these songs re-entered the pop lexicon to tremendous success and lasting impact. Whenever you hear these songs they automatically transport you right back to his films in which they appear. Often times creating a perfect marriage of sound and cinema. That is part of the gift that is Quentin. 

The soundtrack to Once Upon A Time In Hollywood continues this time honored tradition. As the story goes Tarantino had two rules for the soundtrack. First, no songs could be included past the year 1969 and second the songs needed to be played on Los Angeles’ KHJ radio (AKA Boss Radio) in the summer of 1969.  He accomplished the latter by contacting tape trader communities who made it a hobby of recording popular DJs on KHJ throughout the 60s. He ended up with over 14 hours of material to comb through. Anything he heard on those tapes were in play to appear in the film. Tarantino zeroed in Paul Revere & the Raiders who in their own time were quite popular in the late 60s but have since been lost in the infinite shuffle of popular culture. Three of their songs feature in the movie including the extremely catchy “Good Thing” with its sunny day Beach Boys vibes. Also unearthed were Neil Diamonds’s gospel preacher anthem “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” and Los Bravos absolutely rollicking “Bring a Little Lovin’”. Those three tracks in essence make up the backbone of the film musically. I don’t think I have ever heard any of them prior to this film being released. Now I’m happy to have them living and breathing on my iPhone at all times. As an encore, Tarantino deploys Vanilla Fudges’ psychedelic freakout “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” during the film’s dramatic conclusion on Cielo Drive. Few do it better than Tarantino on a continual basis and this article doesn’t even touch on all the brilliant movie scores he’s borrowed and mixed in over the last two decades from old spaghetti westerns, vintage war films, defunct tv shows and forgotten Ennio Morricone compositions. That is a story for another time. For now enjoy Tarantino’s new film effort and the music he painstakingly selected for your listening pleasure.

 

All songs that appear in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood….

  1. Treat Her Right – Roy Head & The Traits (1965)
  2. The Green Door – Jim Lowe (1956), performed by Leonardo DiCaprio
  3. I’ll Never Say Never To Always – Charles Manson (1970)
  4. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel (1968)
  5. The Letter – Joe Cocker (1970)
  6. Summertime – Billy Stewart (1966)
  7. Funky Fanfare – Keith Manfield (1969)
  8. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – The Bob Seger System (1968)
  9. The House That Jack Built – Aretha Franklin (1968)
  10. MacArthur Park – Robert Goulet (1970)
  11. Paxton Quigley’s Had the Course – Chad & Jeremy (1968)
  12. Hush – Deep Purple (1968)
  13. Son of a Lovin’ Man – Buchanan Brothers (1969)
  14. Choo Choo Train – The Box Tops (1968)
  15. Kentucky Woman – Deep Purple (1968)
  16. Good Thing – Paul Revere & The Raiders (1966)
  17. Time for Livin’ – The Association (1968)
  18. Hungry – Paul Revere & the Raiders (1966)
  19. The Circle Game – Buffy Sainte-Marie (1967)
  20. Jenny Take a Ride – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (1965)
  21. Can’t Turn You Lose – Otis Redding (1967)
  22. Soul Serenade – Willie Mitchell (1968)
  23. Bring a Little Lovin’ – Los Bravos (1966)
  24. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond (1969)
  25. Hey Little Girl – Dee Clark (1959)
  26. Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon – Paul Revere & the Raiders feat. Mark Lindsay (1969)
  27. Don’t Chase Me Around – Robert Corff (1970)
  28. California Dreamin’ – Jose Feliciano (1968)
  29. Dinamite Jim (English Version) – I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni (1966)
  30. Out of Time – The Rolling Stones (1966)
  31. Straight Shooter – The Mamas & The Papas (1966)
  32. Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon) – The Mamas & The Papas (1968)
  33. Snoopy vs. The Red Baron – The Royal Guardsman (1966)
  34. You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Vanilla Fudge (1967)
  35. Miss Lily Langtry – Maurice Jarre (1972)
  36. Judge Roy Bean’s Theme – Maurice Jarre (1972)
  37. Batman Theme – Neal Hefti (1966)
Strange Ranger – Remembering The Rockets Review — July 28, 2019

Strange Ranger – Remembering The Rockets Review

Every once in awhile an album comes along that catches you completely off guard. That happened this very week with Strange Ranger’s fantastic new LP Remembering The Rockets. I first came into contact with this hot new young band by listening to Princeton University’s college radio station 103.3 on a drive home over the Christmas holiday in 2017. The tune played was “Most Perfect Gold of the Century” from their album Daymoon. It’s a sprawling, guitar shredding, indie gem that is equal parts Modest Mouse, Built To Spill and Crazy Horse Neil Young. A great introduction to the band. Later I’d find Daymoon on vinyl at the Princeton Record Exchange brand new for $5. A huge score for a random spring evening. Also purchased that night on vinyl was the Burial/Four Tet/ Thom Yorke collaboration from 2011 for $24. Anyways, I digressed, Remembering The Rockets is an album perfectly paired with the warm sunny summer. 

The album was teased over the last few months with the addictive bubble gum indie pop of “Leona”, the synth drenched “Living Free” and “Message To You” which channels the likes of Massive Attack crossed with Yves Tumor. It’s a total flex move having the ability to have keyboard player Fiona Woodman take over to write and sing a tune on an album that already features the pipes of lead singer/guitarist Isaac Eiger. Toss in the fact that bass player Free Nixon can also rock the mic with the best of them. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. Isaac recently told Fader.com that The Cure’s Disintegration was a huge influence on Remembering The Rockets, not lyrically but sonically. This is clearly evident on “Sunday”, “Nothing Else To Think About” and “Living Free”. All three lean heavy on The Cure. The first two sound like the best parts of Wish, “Sunday” has hades of “Friday I’m In Love” with R.E.M. guitar jangle, and the latter of the trio is pure Disintegration bliss. 

Elsewhere on Rockets, another silky smooth indie anthem is found with “Planes In Front of the Sun”. A clear cut highlight from this album that rivals the addictive qualities of “Leona”. Also sprinkled throughout the album are three short ambient pieces of music that lend added sonic textures to an already rich palette. The best of the batch being “‘02”. The album closes with a beautiful yet melancholy ballad called “Cold Hands Warm Heart” which evokes memories of Wayne Coyne’s vocals on The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips. This is a proper album send off for one of 2019’s strongest efforts to date. I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more from this Montana/Portland/Philadelphia band over the coming years.

Grade: A-

Thom Yorke’s ANIMA: A Track By Track Breakdown — June 30, 2019

Thom Yorke’s ANIMA: A Track By Track Breakdown

This album was a solid four years in the making with a handful of mini tours previewing future material. Once again Thom teams up with producer Nigel Godrich as bandmate and creative partner. I feel fortunate that we are now in a phase when so many Radiohead projects are seeing the light of day. Between Thom’s new solo record ANIMA, last year’s film soundtrack to Suspiria, Jonny Greenwood’s film scores to Phantom Thread and You Were Never Really Here, to Phil Selway’s solo albums/movie soundtrack and Ed O’Brien’s upcoming solo debut due this fall. That is not to mention the Ok Computer mini disc leaks of early June and a heavily teased 20th anniversary Kid A/Amnesiac boxset reissue for October 2020. These are very happy times. Before you know it Radiohead will be gearing up for LP10. 

Traffic – ANIMA picks up where Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes seemingly left off. Very similar DNA on this track to many of those tunes and is also featured as the middle section of the ANIMA one reeler by Paul Thomas Anderson on Netflix. 

Last I Heard (…He was circling the drain) – Sonically feels like another version of “Interference” from Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. A good thing in my opinion as that was a stand out song. Thom describes a dystopia of human sized rats and swimming through the gutters. 

Twist – One of the crown jewels of this record. A long time live favorite which exceeded all expectations on the record. There is even a call back to “15 Step” with children shouting “YAY!”. The real treat of this song is the three minute coda which was previously known as “Saturdays”. Definitively one of the best passages of music Thom has cooked up as a solo artist.

Dawn Chorus – A long time rumored Radiohead song with a mixed bag of fact and fiction surrounding it. Believed to be many other songs (“Open The Flood Gates”, “Wake Me Before They Come”) Thom performed live over the last decade but it ended up being none of those. A devastating beautiful spoken word track that looks back on a life worth living twice despite any hardships. One of the best keyboard melodies the man has ever committed to tape. Sounds like the older brother to “Glass Eyes”. Looking forward to this one live. “Dawn Chorus” is also the final song in the ANIMA one reeler which ends in a surprisingly romantic way for a Radiohead related project. A visually stunning finale to Paul Thomas Anderson’s 15 minute short. 

I Am A Very Rude Person – The most Radiohead like sounding song on ANIMA. Could easily have been on A Moon Shaped Pool. The first guitar notes of the album are heard here. Very heavy on the bass which translates into some fantastic grooves. The ending choir effects are a nice touch. “I have to destroy to create”. 

Not The News – A song that just makes you want to dance and give way to whatever impulses you might have. I consider this the lead single for the record despite not officially having one. An IDM banger. The orchestra swell mid song is truly hair raising stuff and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Jonny Greenwood was a part of that moment. This is also the opening montage to the ANIMA film project. 

The Axe – If the Black Mirror TV show had a theme song this would be it. Humanity vs. technology. Thom wanting to take an axe to our over reliance on technology reminds me of Pink Floyd’s warnings that “one of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces”. A real album highlight for sure. Nigel Godrich with some of his best production work.

Impossible Knots – On first listen this track sounds like Thom’s other side project Atoms For Peace. Great pulsating bass lines and cameo drumming by Phil Selway. Likely to be a favorite of many who listen to this record. 

Runwayaway – Beginning with guitar noodling that sounds like an outtake of Radiohead’s “These Are My Twisted Words” before morphing into its own unique creation. Thom even revisits his Quasimoto style vocals not heard since the Amnesiac days. The final moments of our journey through Thom’s dreamscape subconscious. Time to wake up….

Grade: A    (Thom’s best solo work by a wide margin)

The National Are Easy To Find — May 20, 2019

The National Are Easy To Find

As the story goes The National Had no intentions of a quick follow up to 2017’s Sleep Well Beast. Instead the band planned to take a year long break to rest up, spend time with their families and explore outside endeavors. That all changed with an innocent email from director Mike Mills shortly before the release of Sleep Well Beast. The email was an inquiry to see if The National would be open to work together on “something”. Be it a film soundtrack or more likely a music video. As fortune would have it the band was intrigued with the idea and loved the previous film work done by Mike Mills, specifically “20th Century Woman” from 2016. It wasn’t long before lead singer Matt Berninger sent Mills a Dropbox folder containing a dozen “in progress” National songs to get his feedback on any future potential between the director and the band’s unused material. Mills was moved and inspired by what he had heard. 

Out of this was born I Am Easy To Find in two very different mediums. One being a short 24-minute film of the same name directed by Matt Mills, staring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and backed by new music of The National. The second was a full fledged National album, their 8th overall, which was an emotional response to the film that Mills had created. Mills described the project as a “symbiotic relationship” where neither art form would exist without the other. Mills was even invited by the band to join them in the studio and serve as the album’s producer which terrified but also excited the film director as he had never been involved with music production prior. Mill’s biggest contribution to the sound of the new record was his ability to successfully mediate inner band politics on certain tracks, offering alternate arrangements and removing key guitar parts that might have seemed preposterous a decade before. However, the biggest changes and surprises were still yet to come.

The album opens with “You Had Your Soul With You” which immediately feels like a call back to the Sleep Well Beast until the 2 minute mark when something extraordinary occurs within The National universe. Gail Ann Dorsey of David Bowie fame enters the picture as a guest vocalist, sharing verses with Matt until the song’s rousing conclusion. Dorsey is the first of many guest female singers on I Am Easy To Find. She is further joined by Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten, Mina Tindle, Eve Owen (Actor Clive Owen’s daughter), Kate Stables, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus throughout the course of this 16 track Odyssey. In an almost unthinkable fashion, Matt Berninger and his powerful baritone vocals, take a backseat letting the beauty of his female collaborators voices take over and help transform the band into an almost unrecognizable state of existence. The results are positively breathtaking in scope as Matt never sings any songs completely on his own and many times he is merely harmonizing. In addition there are two instrumental pieces, a choir led track and even a free form spoken word passage called “Not In Kansas”. These are uncharted waters for a 20 year old band to fool around in but at the same time it is an exhilarating listening experience proving it was well worth the swim in the first place. 

Deep down all the National’s hallmarks still remain. The brutally honest lyrics by Matt Berninger and wife Carin Besser, the identical twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner on dueling guitars, the steady bass lines of Scott Devendorf and the brilliant percussion work by his brother Bryan Devendorf. All of it coming together to create some of the best material the band has cooked up yet: “Quiet Life”, “Oblivions”, “I Am Easy To Find”, “Where Is Her Head”, “Lights Years” and the beloved live classic “Rylan” are all stellar. For years National fans clamored for its release dating back to the High Violet days but with each subsequent album and passing year it did not appear. It is pretty safe to say this song had become The National’s own version of Radiohead’s “True Love Waits” which also began its life as a live favorite in 1995 before finally appearing on A Moon Shaped Pool in 2016. It merely took the right project, at the right time, with the right person (Mike Mills) pushing for it to become a reality. 

Where The National go from here is anyone’s guess? We do know that the band now consider themselves a collective hive of different artists coming together, from family to friends to even Hollywood directors, to create beautiful pieces of music that aim to transcend just musical boundaries. The National have said they are not done with Mike Mills and Mike Mills said he is not done with the band. They even consider him a 6th member of the group at the moment. It is invigorating to see the band inject this much life into its system after almost 20 years together and that has resulted in a very rewarding ride for its fans. If you are new to the band go and buy I Am Easy To Find. You won’t regret it.

Get to know Wand — April 24, 2019

Get to know Wand

Truth be told 5 days ago I hadn’t heard a single note played by this band. Seen the name written many many times over the last 4-5 years but never took the time to click play on any of their music. That all changed with Laughing Matter. It’s been said that Laughing Matter is nothing like the roads previously walked by Wand. They have slowly evolved out of their psyche folk rock skin into meatier guitar licks and a new found art rock direction. I will still go back and check out their earlier material because like this album, they’ve all gotten pretty solid thumbs ups across the board but I’ll save that for another time. This album has been compared to mid 90s Radiohead so often in the last week that it now feels extremely cliche to write about that angle. Let’s just get it out of the way. Wand are not Radiohead. Not even close. Are they inspired and influenced by them? Sure. I think that is a safe bet. Does anything actually sound like The Bends or Ok Computer? No. Not really and that is ok. Wand are making smart, dark sophisticated rock music (hence the Radiohead allusions) in a world that is seemingly losing that kind of magic on a daily basis. Does anyone remember guitar solos anymore?

To my ears the only track that remotely sounds like Radiohead is the arpeggio guitars running throughout “Thin Air”. Outside of that I think many listens are reaching and looking to fill that Radiohead void as the band is in the middle of a lengthy hiatus. Laughing Matter is a double LP that is all over the map in the best ways possible. You have the harder hitting rockers in “Scarecrow”, “XOXO”, “Walkie Talkie”, “Wonder”, “Lucky’s Sight” that are supported by a handful of gentle and lush compositions in “High Planes Drifter”, “Rio Grande”, “Wonder (II)” and the sprawling 9 minute epic “Airplane” that features one of the best guitar ending meltdowns of the last few years. Reminds me of some of the guitar work done by Jeff Tweedy on Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born. Mixed in throughout this record are some relaxing instrumental passages called “Bubble”, “Hare” and “Tortoise” giving the listener a bit of a reprieve before lead singer Cory Hanson and company continue with their onslaught of “music from the ashes of a world that can no longer suffer its human abusers, to inspire us to hold the spirit close and do what’s next” as their record label describes this LP’s mission statement. 

Interestingly the album comes to a close with a song titled “Jennifer’s Gone” that completely pays homage to the spirit of Lou Reed in his Velvet Underground days. Definitely not the type of song I would have been expected to pop up on this record after an hour of solid alt rock offerings. Not that it is bad in anyway, its actually very excellent. This song feels like it could have easily been on last year’s album I’m Bad Now by Nap Eyes. I guess the band wanted to give some sort of tribute to the late great Lou Reed. All in all Laughing Matter is offering up a lot of well written material that covers a ton of ground and makes you really appreciate the lost art of the album format. In a musical landscape that is constantly embracing and pushing solo artists, Wand make it cool to be in a band again. Go pickup, download or stream Wand’s Laughing Matter. You won’t be disappointed. You’ll probably even tell your friends about them. 

Noel Gallagher Flying High on Record Store Day — April 19, 2019

Noel Gallagher Flying High on Record Store Day

Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds have long been friends of Record Store Day by releasing a steady stream of titles since April 2012. This year was no different as Noel brought in electronic producers Nicolas Laugier (The Reflex) and Richard Norris to rework three tracks from Gallagher’s outstanding album from 2017 Who Built The Moon? The Reflex tackled two songs for this EP release titled Wait and Return. The first being “She Taught Me How To Fly” which doesn’t at all sound like a remix. This track always reminded me of Oasis meets Technique era New Order. The Reflex plays off those ideas to extraordinary results. I’m willing to bet that many Noel Gallagher fans would have had no problem if this was the version of the song found on Who Built The Moon? It really is that good of work. Hats off to all of those involved in this remix. If you can’t tell it is a remix then mission well accomplished.

The Reflex’s second effort on the EP was “Keep On Reaching” which originally sounded more traditional with guitar, drums, bass and a little brass section with a touch of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels swagger mixed in. Under Laugier’s direction the song gets a modern face lift and fits more in line with the direction David Holmes was trying to accomplish while producing the full blown version of Who Built The Moon? I’m sure you all remember Noel’s promise to work with an electronic producer (Holmes), write material only in the studio and expand upon his sonic palette that was only ever hinted at while doing one-off side projects over the years while in Oasis. Think Goldie, Chemical Brothers and UNKLE. These two interesting pieces by The Reflex really make you wonder that maybe Noel should hire this man to produce his future albums. I don’t think it would be a bad idea at all based upon the results of this collaboration. 

Richard Norris gets a crack at the final song on this EP “Black & White Sunshine”.  The album version of this track was one of the more straight forward and safe rockers found on Who Built The Moon? I don’t mean that as huge negative but it is the one song from Moon that could have easily been on Noel’s 2011 debut album or 2015’s Chasing Yesterday. Norris strips away a lot of the introductory guitar lines and drums fills, replacing them pulsating electronic thrills. The song is stretched out to an atmospheric 7 minutes that really lifts the song to a more interesting level than its official studio brother. Noel has a real talent for selecting electronic producers who really know how to re-imagine his work. Be it Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve, David Holmes, Andrew Weatherall or Mike Pickering/Graeme Park. The results are always the same. Outstanding work and contributions I’m proud to have in my record collection. Keep it coming Noel.

Wait and Return EP (2,500 copies)

A1. She Taught Me How To Fly (The Reflex Revision)  

A2. Keep On Reaching (The Reflex Revision)  

B1. Black & White Sunshine (Richard Norris Remix)  

Getting Warmer with Jeff Tweedy — April 18, 2019

Getting Warmer with Jeff Tweedy

Jeff Tweedy’s WARMER was one of my top targets for this year’s Record Store Day along with releases by Bob Dylan and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. I arrived at my local record shop (Tunes in Hoboken, NJ) by 6:45 am. Doors would open at 9 am. I was 8th in line. About 30 minutes before opening the owner came out and informed the line of about 100 strong that due to a shipping mistake by Warner/Elektra/Atlantic records, no titles from these labels would be present at the store this morning. A ton of groaning and signs were unleashed. The first guy in the line wanted Weezer’s Teal album and he was rather dejected by arriving so early only to not get the item he wanted. However, the awesome shop owner (Chip) made a list of everyone in line and their intended want list. When the shipment would eventually arrive early next week he would call and contact those who wanted said albums in first come first serve manner. Unfortunately for me, Jeff Tweedy was also in this shipping debacle. 

Well I am happy to say that the shop owner did call on Wednesday and my copy of WARMER was waiting for my open arms. It’s not often an artist releases an album full of brand new material for a first time release on Record Store Day. Usually it’s remixes, b-sides or the now trendy and cliche alternate track versions of classic albums. I personally loved the thrill of getting an album that didn’t leak and that no one had heard prior. Reminds me of how this all use to play out back in the 90s when I first got into music on a serious level. Back when album release dates meant something. They were almost like mini holidays of the bands you cherished and loved. Now we celebrate leak days which technically is the same as a release date drop but with far less camaraderie. 

WARMER was born out of the same sessions as Tweedy’s excellent debut solo album WARM which dropped last winter. The songs are not to be viewed as outtakes, b-sides or leftovers but as a fully functional and independent album from WARM. Jeff has been going through a purple patch of songwriting lately and us fans are benefiting tremendously from it. Tweedy even mentions this is his autobiography Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) that as he is getting older, with time running out on his life, he feels even more compelled to create a larger volume of musical output. Either via Wilco, his solo records or the band he has with his son Spencer, aptly titled Tweedy. 

On WARMER Jeff is somber and reflective, touching on topics such as deceased parents (“Orphan”), right wing Americana (“Family Ghost”), leaving your loved ones behind to tour (“Sick Server”) and the tribulations of marriage (“Guaranteed”). The album is very laid back and moves briskly in its 31 minutes. This is a record tailor made for any Wilco fan and if you are reading this article right now or listening to WARMER, then you are exactly the type of person Jeff is singing for. So I wish all of you happy hunting when searching out this sharp and enjoyable LP. Currently it is limited to 5,000 vinyl copies. No word yet on future streaming, CD or digital releases but you know it is eventually coming. For now enjoy this album the way it was intended. The way it use to be done all over the musical world. A physical and vinyl experience.

 

For those curious, I also picked up the following items on Record Store Day….

Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks test pressing 

Broken Social Scene – Let’s Try the After Vol. 1 & Vol. 2

Frank Black – Teenager of the Year

John Lennon – Imagine (Raw Studio Mixes)

Noel’s Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Wait and Return EP

Pearl Jam – Live at Easy Street

Soccer Mommy – For Young Hearts

U2 – Europa EP