2013 has been a year of marvelous releases. A few personal favorites have been Kanye’s Yeezus, James Blake’s Overgrown, Streetlight Manifesto’s The Hands That Thieve, and Daft Punk’s triumphant return with Random Access Memories, but these don’t even begin to comprise a complete highlight list. Coming up with my list of Top Albums for the year is going to be an intensive process and I’m looking forward to it; in between debating the merits of different albums, I get to listen to all of them again. It’s going to be something truly magical. A much easier list to make, though, is my favorite albums of the semester. While a lot of the heavy hitters for the year were released outside of that time period, there’s a great amount of quality for just these ~3 months. In my opinion, these were the cream of the crop (presented in alphabetical order by artist). [Read more...]
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.
Halloween is only a week away. Many people would say that it is a haunting time of year. Haunting is defined as “poignant and evocative; difficult to ignore or forget.” In that spirit, here are eight songs that are haunting in some or many aspects, but at the same time leave you in awe of their beauty; a different kind of Halloween song. [Read more...]
With his album Shangri La coming out November 18, Jake Bugg has released the second official single titled Slumville Sunrise. His new album will feature artists such as Jason Lader, Pete Thomas, and Pete Thomas.
This is covert stuff. I’ve been waiting in line for 45 minutes to attend a show for which their are no real tickets — it’s all electronic, so as to prevent reselling and scalping. Now, the throng of diehards here to see a band that died 15 years ago, is herded into single-file lines. Women’s bags are checked. Men are given full-body pat downs. We’re all warned several times: no cameras, no video recorders, no audio recorders, no cell phone videos or pictures. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to file for Level 3 Security Clearance. People talk in hushed tones. What is inside Track 29, in Chattanooga, isn’t meant to get out. Inside is an experience, ephemeral, to be stored in one’s mind and not one’s computer. It’s like the nineties. Entering this venue is entering a time machine. This is not surprising, considering that the band we’re all here to see famously sang “I wish’d I could save her in some sort of time machine.” Everyone thought Neutral Milk Hotel was dead; perhaps they were saved in that very same time machine.
Now let me say singer-songwriter Jake Bugg is hands down my all time favourite artist in the whole world, so when he released his newest single around two weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised by the harsher, tougher, sound of What Doesn’t Kill You, marking a huge shift from the indie folk/rock sound of his debut album Jake Bugg. For his fans who prefer the tracks with just Bugg’s voice and his acoustic guitar (Simple as This, Country Song, Note to Self, Someone Told Me), it may take some time for the new single to grow on them, but Bugg’s charismatic voice and intimately personal lyrics only get better with each listen.
A few weeks ago the National played at the Ryman, and fellow staff writer Nick Kline and I happened to meet up there. We talked about music, favorite bands, past concerts, and then we hit upon The Decemberists — we’d both seen them live, on their 2009 A Short Fazed Hovel tour, where they played the entirety of their recent album The Hazards of Love. Nick mentioned as an aside that HoL his least favorite Decemberists album, and conversation moved on.
Perhaps this (and, admittedly, a bad case of writer’s block) is what motivated me to write this. While I don’t necessarily know why it’s Nick’s least favorite, nor do I even know if he likes or dislikes it, the general opinion developed since The Hazards of Love‘s release is that’s it’s overwrought, weird, has too many guest vocals, is too repetitive, and too metal. By the time of the release of The Decemberists’ next effort, the superb The King is Dead in 2011, frontman Colin Meloy admitted “Even I’m starting to believe it, like, ‘I guess The Hazards of Love did kind of suck, didn’t it?’”. By 2013, it’s largely been swept under the rug, left hiding under the skirt of the bigger and strong releases in their six-album catalog. Yet, I can’t help but love this album. [Read more...]
Coming off of last year’s monster single “The Mother We Share,” many (including yours truly) have been hotly anticipating more from Scottish synthpop band CHVRCHES. Could they sustain the rush of that song over a whole album? Would they be able to bring enough variety in their sugary-yet-melancholic sound to last an album’s length? Thankfully the answer to both of those questions on debut The Bones of What You Believe is “mostly yes.” With the sonic layers to please synth-heads and the songwriting prowess to please everyone else, CHVRCHES has delivered one of the year’s most fully realized debuts and one of the best pop records I’ve heard in ages.