The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

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

 

Happy 20th to Blur’s 13 — March 7, 2019

Happy 20th to Blur’s 13

In the late 90s, lead singer Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon both were struggling to exorcise their demons. Albarn was going through an awful breakup with girlfriend Justine Frischmann of Elastica fame meanwhile Coxon was battling alcoholism. Deeper down however, the relationship between Damon and Graham was also beginning to fall apart permanently. Both men would channel their primal screams into one of the best albums that Blur ever recorded and also one of the last great albums of that decade. Blur began to dismantle their BritPop sound on their previous self titled release in 1997. That album featured many lo-fi tracks, dirty guitar licks and a fascination with the Pavement sound circa Slanted & Enchanted. On 13, Blur went even deeper down into the rabbit hole of creation taking all of us loyal listeners for a wild ride.

This was the first Blur album to not have producer Stephen Street at the helm. Street had been the point man on the previous five albums. Instead the band elected to have renowned electronic producer/musician William Orbit handle the control desk to help push the group to even more cerebral palettes. The album opens with what might very well be the crowning achievement of Blur’s career, an acoustic driven gospel stomper called “Tender”. The song just keeps on building momentum until becoming a giant and joyous singalong with both Damon and Graham sharing vocal duties. I have long considered it the “Hey Jude” of the 90s. Blur have a real knack for starting their records with killer tunes (“For Tomorrow”, “Girls and Boys”, “Beetlebum”) and 13 is no exception.

Prior to 13, Graham Coxon had only sung lead vocals one time on the heart breaking “You’re So Great” from 1997’s blur. He delivers another one of Blur’s all-time knockout tracks “Coffee & TV”. Coxon sings of his mundane lifestyle while trying to beat alcoholism and find a peaceful balance in his life. It is truly one of the few bright sunny spots on the album musically. The track features one of Graham’s best distorted guitar solos reminding us all that he could slay with the best of them regardless of his physical or mental state of being.

Blur’s sixth album very much feels like a testing ground for Damon’s upcoming experimental adventures with Gorillaz the following year. Songs like “B.L.U.R.E.M.I.”, “Battle”, “Trailer Park” and “Trimm Trabb” drift in electronic directions previously unseen by the band. This was a band no longer content on being a modern day Kinks. They wanted something more, something different, something better even as inner band tensions remained high. Granted Blur didn’t completely abandon their guitar identity, Graham’s mighty thrashing is all over the record like on “Bugman”, “Swamp Song” and “1992”.

Blur were basically attempting what Radiohead would later accomplish in grand fashion one year later on Kid A, A complete tear down of everything that came prior. Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave were shapeshifting sonically but they were also destroying the BritPop image the group had become synonymous with ever since Parklife in 1994. We all know Damon was singing about Justine on “No Distance Left To Run” but he might as well been singing about the entire Blur mission statement up until that point. This was an album about letting go of the past, coping with the present and trying to find new ways to forge ahead both musically but also on a personal level between band members, friends and lovers.

I’ve recently tried to buy 13 on vinyl but was very surprised to learn that it is almost impossible to find! It’s out of stock on Blur’s official website. It isn’t available on Amazon and the prices on eBay hover in the $200-300 range. You can locate it on Discogs for $30 plus another $30 in shipping fees! Total madness. Every other Blur album is so easy to come by. I’m not sure why 13 is the difficult album to get a hold of. It was reissued in 2012 like all the other records. Perhaps it just has that big of a cult following 20 years later as people now realize what a masterpiece that album really is. For me this is where the Blur that I grew up with in high school during the 90s officially ended despite releasing Think Tank in 2003 minus Graham and eventually reuniting a decade after that. The great Blur swan song is actually 13 and a damn fine way to cap off an amazing artistic run. Now if I could only just find a vinyl copy….

Why I Hate Bruce Springsteen…………fans. — March 2, 2019

Why I Hate Bruce Springsteen…………fans.

Allow me to go on a rant for a moment or two. I’ve reached the point of my adult life where other people’s Bruce Springsteen fandom has started to drive me up the wall. Be it co-workers, friends, family members or strangers in a coffee shop, his legion of die hard fanatics are imbedded throughout what seems like the fabric of America. I am not really sure why either. Springsteen has not released a proper studio album in over five years. It has probably been a solid two plus decades since he made anything truly relevant creatively or culturally. I blame a lot of this “in your face fandom” on his recent Broadway show run. I know a lot of people who have attended (for vast sums of money) and let you know over and over how magical the experience was. I’m sure it was a good time. I personally am not spending that type of money (upwards of $500+ a ticket) to hear songs from 30-40 years ago. An acoustic guitar, piano and some rehearsed storytelling won’t change my mind either on that front.

It is not just the Broadway residency. His fans are constantly promoting and telling you how extraordinary of an artist and performer he is. I’ve seen him live once back in 2012. It was a 3 hour plus show. He played a bunch of hits. I had a good time. Nothing more, nothing less. He ended the night with a cover of “Twist & Shout” which I thought was not necessary when he has a very deep catalogue of his own to pull from. Be that as it may, I wouldn’t go around fawning over a guy in his mid 60s playing to a stadium full of retiring baby boomers. Perhaps I am missing something? I do like a handful of his albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Born in the U.S.A. and my personal favorite of the bunch, Nebraska. Those are some damn fine albums. Sprinkle in some other standout tracks in his career like “Badlands”, “Hungry Heart” and “Born To Run” and you can see why people are so passionate about him. A lot of that ended in the 1980s though as Bruce has slowly drifted into legacy act status. Oh sure he’s pounded out a good tune here and there, songs like “Streets of Philadelphia”, “Missing”, “The Fuse” and “The Wrestler” spring to mind. I’d even say I like the poppy “Radio Nowhere”. Yet so many of his legions of fans think and believe his recent album output ranks up there with his late 70s to early 80s run. That simply isn’t the case, at least in my eyes. It has been very uneven and basically Dad Rock.

Springsteen fans remind me of that classic Onion article from 2001. The one with the teenage kid “discovering” Led Zeppelin and has to let everyone know how amazing and cool they are throughout every facet of his day to day life. That to me is the type of Bruce Springsteen fan I’ve been running into more and more over the last decade or so. Springsteen is a classic American rock God. No one would ever dispute that claim but do I need to hear it all the time as if he is still 28 years old pumping out legendary albums on a continuous basis? I think not. Maybe dial back the outward enthusiasm by 20 to 30 percent. I say this as a man who was born in Freehold, New Jersey, Bruce’s hometown. Hey, maybe that is the reason for this rant. I just run into too many of his disciples growing up in his backyard. Whatever the reason, enough is enough. It is almost Billy Joel fan annoying but that is another story all together….

Can we talk about how awesome a year 2002 was for indie music? — February 16, 2019

Can we talk about how awesome a year 2002 was for indie music?

By the time of my senior year of high school, class of 2000, I was desperately pinning away for a back to basics rock revival. By 1999 grunge and Brit Pop, my two biggest genre obsessions, were basically extinct. Hip Hop, Boy bands and a rap/metal hybrid were dominating the charts, the airwaves and the television. Basically my worst musical nightmare. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I finally began to see a beacon of hope. That hope was The Strokes. Seems cliche to write but they really were transcendent without really being overly revolutionary in September 2001. They helped kick the door down and were at the front of the march towards the rock revival over the next handful of years. Sure other bands might have been technically more advanced and ambitious but nobody looked cooler as they played good old fashioned rock n roll with killer melodies and lyrics. Finally, after many years waiting, the tides were beginning to turn. My prayers were about to be answered. 

When the calendar flipped to 2002 a whole new era of bands were emerging, getting tons of press, played across radio and television and most importantly inspiring people to pickup the guitar again as an instrument of art. Being a rocker was cool again it seemed. I knew a vast purple patch of great music was starting to take hold across the globe, I just didn’t realize fully at the time how tremendous the overall year of 2002 was. It really was an incredible time of new bands bubbling up (The Walkmen, Interpol, The Coral) and more established bands (Wilco, Flaming Lips, Bright Eyes) hitting their artistic apex all at the same moment. If anyone really wants to get a feel for the excitement of these times I highly suggest buying Lizzy Goodman’s book “Meet Me In The Bathroom” which focuses on the rock revival in New York City between 2001 and 2011. 

So in honor of the year 2002, I’ve decided to rank my Top 20 albums of that year and provide a killer playlist of outstanding tunes. Enjoy. 

Top 20 Albums of 2002

  1. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 
  2. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood To The Head
  3. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
  4. Sigur Ros – ( )
  5. Doves – The Last Broadcast
  6. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
  7. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi battles the pink robots part 1
  8. The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Behind The Music 
  9. The Walkmen – Everyone Who Pretended To Like Us Is Gone
  10. Bright Eyes – Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
  11. Beck – Sea Changes
  12. The Coral – The Coral
  13. Spoon – Kill The Moonlight
  14. Death In Vegas – Scorpio Rising
  15. The Notwist – Neon Golden
  16. Sonic Youth – Murray Street
  17. Iron & Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle
  18. Blackalicious – Blazing Arrow
  19. Trail of Dead – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
  20. DJ Shadow – The Private Press

 

The Playlist

The Walkmen – “Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone”

Wilco – “Heavy Metal Drummer”

Doves – “There Goes The Fear”

Coldplay – “The Scientist”

Pearl Jam – “Down”

Oasis – “Songbird”

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives – “Nevermore”

Iron & Wine – “Faded From Winter”

DJ Shadow – “You Can’t Go Home Again”

The Coral – “Dreaming of You”

Interpol – “PDA”

The Flaming Lips – “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1”

Broken Social Scene – “Cause = Time”

Bright Eyes – “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”

The Hives – “Hate To Say I Told You So”

Beck – “Lost Cause”

The Notwist – “Consequence”

British Sea Power – “Childhood Memories”

Moby – “We Are All Made of Stars”

Spoon – “The Way We Get By”

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – “Relative Ways”

U2 – “Electrical Storm” (William Orbit Mix)

Death In Vegas – “Scorpio Rising”

Damon Albarn – “Sunset Coming On”

Sigur Ros – “Untitled 4”

Ekkehard Ehlers – “Plays John Cassavetes 2”

Boards of Canada – “Dawn Chorus”

Blackalicious – “Blazing Arrow”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Bang”

Sonic Youth – “The Empty Page”

Badly Drawn Boy – “Silent Sigh”

LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge”

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Can’t Stop”

Bruce Springsteen – “The Fuse”

So This Was 2018…. — December 30, 2018

So This Was 2018….

I have to admit that with each passing year I find less and less albums that I truly love enough to listen to straight through on multiple occasions. I’m not sure if that is a reflection of the current state of the music industry or just my own personal listening habits. I still think there are tons and tons of fantastic tracks being made on a yearly basis. I’m just not finding a lot of them strung together on the same album release it seems. There are still rays of hope out there for the future of the album format. Rookie bands like Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever, Soccer Mommy and Foxwarren delivered the goods and have my complete attention moving forward.

Anyways, without further ado, here are 10 of my favorite albums of 2018 followed by 25 of my favorite songs from this calendar year. It is a pretty eclectic list that leans hard on indie rock but with a handful of hip hop jams sprinkled in. Also thank you to anyone who has read this site over the last few months. It is very much appreciated.

 

My Favorite 10 Albums

Kurt Vile – Bottle It In

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

Soccer Mommy – Clean

The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt

KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Bill Ryder-Jones – Yawn

Low – Double Negative

 

My Favorite 25 Songs

Kurt Vile – “Loading Zones”

Spiritualized – “A Perfect Miracle”

Arctic Monkeys – “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”

Bill Ryder-Jones – “Don’t Be Scared, I Love You”

Bradley Cooper – “Maybe It’s Time”

Young Fathers – “In My View”

Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

Soccer Mommy – “Your Dog”

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Kite”

J Mascis – “See You At The Movies”

Interpol – “If You Really Love Nothing” (Reimagined by Petr Aleksander)

Thom Yorke – “Unmade”

Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever – “Talking Straight”

KIDS SEE GHOSTS – “Reborn”

Low – “Disarray”

Kanye West – “Ghost Town”

Conor Oberst – “No One Changes”

Foxwarren – “Lost On You”

The Coral – “Reaching Out For A Friend”

The 1975 – “Love It If We Made It”

Rostam – “In A River”

Parquet Courts – “Tenderness”

Iceage – “Pain Killer” featuring Sky Ferreira

Jonny Greenwood – Tree Synthesisers

Jeff Tweedy – “From Far Away”

 

 

 

I’d Love It If The 1975 Made It — December 8, 2018

I’d Love It If The 1975 Made It

I walked into A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships having never listened to a note of music from The 1975 prior. Sure I’ve seen the name over the years on various music sites and concert posters in New York City but I never engaged the music until now. I only really took notice when comparisons with Radiohead’s Ok Computer started popping up online. Led by lead singer Matty Healy making the very first allusion to it over a year before its release. Those are big time claims and being a massive Radiohead fan, I decided to jump in and investigate those bold proclamations. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Will The 1975 answer it’s call?

To be honest, the album sounds nothing like Ok Computer sonically. The production is way too pristine and upbeat for Radiohead despite some really dark lyrical content from Healy. The only true hallmarks of Radiohead’s musical footprint can be found on “How to Draw / Petrichor” which sounds like Kid A noodling meets Aphex Twins’ “Girl/Boy Song”, “Be My Mistake” and “Surrounded by Heads and Bodies” that share different elements of “True Love Waits”. The former borrows ideas from the “True Love Tape Loop” and the latter from the acclaimed acoustic rendition found on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. The homage gathering the most attention is “The Man Who Married a Robot / Love Theme” with its robot/Siri/Alexa like voice over narration. I’m not too keen on the robot’s commentary but the background music is beautiful and again harks back to the “True Love Tape Loop” as mentioned previous. 

What A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships does contain in its 58 minutes is harsh critiquing of today’s modern society and the way millennials behave within it. The album is short on solutions to these life headaches but has no problem declaring a list of grievances in grand fashion. Another underlying theme on this record is Healy’s heroin addiction and recovery. Every song you think is about love is actually an ode to heroin. It’s just cleverly disguised. The LP contains three huge bangers, “Love It If We Made It”, “Give Yourself a Try” and “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You)” which serve as the tent poles for this release. I find great merit in a guitar based band that can still crank out a catchy tune that can currently be heard on what is left of modern radio and rack up huge Spotify streams. I’m curious to see where The 1975 take this newly found universal acclaim and hype. Matty Healy seems like the type of guy who wants to be a huge star, in a huge band and has no problem letting you know that. What makes that even more impactful is he has the music to back up those claims. The band promises their next album will be out by next summer’s festival season that is currently titled Notes on a Conditional Form. We shall see if Matty Healy can find any real emotional connection in society he so desperately is searching for on A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships.

Grade: B+

Mark it….FAB! The Best of The White Album box set — November 24, 2018

Mark it….FAB! The Best of The White Album box set

The White Album turned the big 5-0 this week and much like last year’s 50th birthday celebration for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a grand rollout of goodies was included. Giles Martin, son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, remixed the entire album for today’s millennial ears with some good and some getting use to results. The remix will of course take some time to adjust to, the White Album has sounded only one way since 1968 and not many ever called for it to be cleaned up or fiddled with in the first place. It’s a masterpiece through and through. Warts and all.

The highlight of this extravaganza is of course the Esher demos that were done at George Harrison’s bungalow in May of 1968. It features almost every song on the proper album plus songs like “Not Guilty”, “Junk”, “Child of Nature”, “Sour Milk Sea” and “Circles”. It’s basically The Beatles Unplugged and it makes me wonder why something like this wasn’t mined decades ago because the material is a fantastic listen. If you love The Beatles go out and buy it. You won’t be disappointed. It’s worth the price of admission alone. 

The rest of the deluxe box set includes a wealth of studio demos and outtakes. I’ve listed below what I feel are the true gems of the batch and offer new perspective on The Beatles creative process.

Revolution 1 (Take 18) – A 10 minute slow honky tonk attempt with plenty of messing around and jamming. The Beatles still unsure what direction to take John’s new protest anthem.

A Beginning (Take 4) / Don’t Pass Me By (Take 7) – Ringo’s debut Beatles composition begins with a lovely George Martin conducted orchestral arrangement (previously heard on Anthology 3) before a country hoedown takes over.

Good Night (Take 10 with a Guitar Part from Take 5) – A complete 180 from the lush strings laden version that caps off the studio album. Ringo is joined by John, George and Paul who sing supporting harmonies with finger picking guitars. Truly a breath taking moment for this box set. Who knew material of this caliber lay in the vaults?

Cry Baby Cry (Unumbered Rehearsal) – A stark contrast to the final acoustic rendition, this attempt at the song is led by heavy organ playing that reminds me of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” which was a huge influence on John Lennon back in 1966.

Helter Skelter (First Version / Take 2) – A slow burning 13 minute bluesy rocker with loads of guitar jamming and minimal drumming. A far cry from Paul trying to make the loudest rock song ever made in retaliation to Pete Townshend writing The Who classic “I Can See For Miles”.

Hey Jude (Take 1) – Simply one of the coolest cuts found in the entire box set. Paul warming up his vocal cords moments before uttering the iconic opening “Hey Jude…” makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The last 3 minutes or so is Paul just going completely mental improvising his lyrics and losing himself in the process. Fabulous stuff.

Not Guilty (Take 102) – Without question one of the best songs The Beatles never released and I’m not sure why. George’s tune fits the overall vibe and ascetic of The White Album. This version of the song features a dirtier sounding guitar compared to the one found on Anthology 3 and an extended jam outro.

Let It Be (Unumbered Rehearsal) – Really more of a song fragment compared to the cherished version found on the album of the same name. This “Let It Be” is a bluesy psychedelic run through. Not really sure how else to describe it. I only wish we had a full 3 to 4 minute version. So fascinating to listen to after all these years.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Third Version / Take 27) – The previous outtakes of this future Beatles masterpiece were of an acoustic approach. Take 27 is heavy, grittier, with sharp guitar licks as George and Eric Clapton hone in on the final definitive version.

Happiness Is a Warm Gun (Take 19) – It has often been said that “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” is basically the entire White Album condensed into a 3 minute version. I’ve always agreed with that take. This is one of the best songs John Lennon ever sang. Superior vocals. Listening to take 19 you realize that it took a lot of work to make this song rise to the level of perfection we are so use to.

Honey Pie (Instrumental Backing Track) – When you take off Paul’s vocal track, you begin to realize that “Honey Pie” sounds like some lost Vaudeville classic from the 1920s. I have to imagine George Martin had his paws all over this one as the final product is beautifully crafted.

Long, Long, Long (Take 44) – Always one of my favorite White Album contributions, this outtake has the ghostly and eerie atmosphere dialed back several notches. Driven by George’s acoustic strumming, this song feels less about God as George once claimed and more about lost love rediscovered. The fade out ad libbing by George is also a fun little treat.

I’m So Tired (Take 7) – I’m a sucker for John Lennon studio banter and this outtake features some great stuff at the front and back ends. Not to mention John playing and singing superbly as the final version of “I’m So Tired” is eventually realized.

Julia (Two Rehearsals) – One of John’s most personal songs. You can feel his pain and longing for his mother who was taken too soon from him. Not far removed from the proper studio version. This raw outtake sounds like you are sitting right next to him in studio two in Abbey Road.

The next question is what will Apple Records and Giles Martin turn their attention to next? The smart money is on the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road but I wouldn’t be too keen on that by its self. Abbey Road already sounds like a modern day produced album and most of those songs were born out of the Let It Be sessions from earlier in 1969. I wouldn’t be against Apple Records combining the celebration of Abbey Road to also include the full sessions of Let It Be. We know a treasure trove of material was recorded during that time period. Endless hours of  outtakes, band arguments and studio jams. That is how I would personally handle potential 50th anniversary specials in 2019.