Beck – Morning Phase

“Can we start it all over again this morning?” Beck asks early on in the opening track of Morning Phase, his first album since 2008′s Modern Guilt. After a gorgeous 40 second instrumental opening, strings give way into the plaintive guitar strums of “Morning”, and it truly does feel like a something entirely new, a rebirth — which is odd, because Beck has specifically said this album is a spiritual successor to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change.

And sure, the beginning of “Morning” has an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of Sea Change opener “The Golden Age.” And sure, all of Morning Phase is ostensibly similar to its much-vaunted predecessor. It does feature the same musicians and the same California-folk influence. And yeah, even the cover art (Exhibits 1 and 2) looks strikingly similar, Beck’s steady gaze staring out behind smears of orange and blue.

But hear me out: the truth is that it’s only similar in the sense that all music by an artist sounds similar to previous music produced by that artist. No left turn is truly a total departure: even the cold, Kraftwerk heartbeat of Kid A‘s “Idioteque” had its roots in the laserbeam percussion loop of OK Computer’s “Airbag”.

The point of all this is to get you to look at Morning Phase in the ways it differs, rather than its similarities, because these differences are what make Morning Phase the best Beck album since 1998′s Mutations.

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St. Vincent Confidently Cuts To The Core of Her Sound

Album Cover courtesy of Pitchfork

Seemingly on the verge of a real popular breakout  for years after collaborations with David Byrne, Bon Iver, and Kid Cudi, it’s telling that Annie Clark decided to follow up her most successful (and best)  album yet with a self-titled affair. That it’s a fourth album is important as well: if third albums are about solidifying an artistic voice, a thing Strange Mercy did astoundingly well, fourth albums are about proving that you’re more. Some bands choose to build upon their sound like The National did with Boxer or Phoenix did with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, some choose to buck it entirely like Radiohead’s Kid A, or some bands depressingly regress like Metallica’s Black Album. No matter the quality, these albums frequently become a focal point in the discography: a tone setter for the rest of a career. Thankfully, St. Vincent offers a confident distillation of just what makes Clark’s project so fascinating without shedding her experimental roots.
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She’s Just Got That Soul Power

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If there’s one up-and-coming artist you should check out right this second, it’s Connor Zwetsch.  At the youthful age of 21, Connor has already managed to harness both the talent and the self-actualization required to help her rise into a promising career.  So rare is it that a musician successfully propagates such candor and humility that Connor’s work is invitingly reassuring.

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A New Take On J-Biebs

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Rumored picture of Justin Bieber being apprehended by the police.

It was just last week. I was in my room, minding my own business, trying to just become a better person by reading the news and being informed about the world around me. Instead, I had stories of Justin Bieber’s drunken escapades being forced down my throat. I understand some people love him, and some people love to hate him (and many turn around and listen to music that sounds just like his, but that discussion is for another day), but I try to just stay away from any dialogue concerning him.”Then why did you write a post about him?” is what you shrewd readers may ask, and to you all, I say “I can’t hear you, you are talking to a computer.” But seriously, I was able to take something positive from this recent flare of Bieber-mania, and you all may find a similar sort of consolation as well.

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More Than A Taco Bell Commercial

I know you’ve seen it. The boy running from his girlfriends parents house, taco gripped in one hand, jacket in the other, terrified look on his face as you see an angry dad chasing him down the street. There’s one thing you may have not noticed, besides the fact that the Grilled Stuft Nacho is not actually that big, and that is the song playing.  That song is “Evil Friends” by Portugal. The Man off of their latest album Evil Friends. 

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Jake Bugg’s ‘Shangri La’ Lives up to the Hype

Before the official release of Bugg’s sophomore album Shangri La, he released two singles from the album What Doesn’t Kill You and Slumville Sunrise, which featured a significant development in Bugg’s music from his first debut album Jake Bugg. The two singles were much heavier, rockier, and fast moving; that’s definitely not a bad thing by any means, but I fell in love with Jake Bugg’s music because it felt real, genuine, and I liked the folky acoustic sound in all of his songs. So while I was excited to listen to Shangri La, I was worried it would disappoint my expectations for Bugg. But, it’s amazing and everyone should listen to it.

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Little Known Classics: Marvin Gaye

I admit, we all know Marvin Gaye as one of the all time greats. But do most of us know Marvin Gaye beyond “Let’s Get it On”? I have 8 less appreciated tracks from the legendary soul singer’s more popular albums that you can appreciate whether you’re hip to crooner’s catalogue or just taking your first listen. [Read more...]

Arcade Fire’s Reflektor is Nothing Short of Astounding

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

It’s here.  After a beautifully executed marketing campaign highlighted by street art veve drawings and fictional bands, Arcade Fire’s fourth studio album, Reflektor, has arrived to bring music to our waiting ears.  At a personal level, this record has struck a vibrant chord with me.  The simplistic epic that was “Wake Up” from Arcade Fire’s debut, Funeral, was one of the first songs that opened up my musical horizons past classic rock, where I had always thought that the guitar solo was king.  I’m finding my tastes diverging now into more like that of a dance-maven, and so a danceable album from the band that was a real catalyst in getting me to originally expand my musical horizons might just be my favorite release of the year when it’s all said and done.

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