Industry News

Release Radar: “New York” by St. Vincent – Kelly Lee Owens Remix

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Things are still going slow for new releases but a few albums to check out include a new release from Ron Gallo “Really Nice Guys”, good buzz for the debut album from melodic hardcore trio Closer “All This Will Be”, post-punk band Shopping are releasing “The Official Body” and evidently The Go! Team are releasing their 5th album “SEMICIRCLE” – I remember their debut in ’04 was pretty interesting but I had forgotten about them since then.  Also, The Shins have re-recorded their last album “Heartworms” and made the fast songs slow and the slow songs fast and titled it “The Worms Heart”.  If you’re a Shins fan you may want to check that out.
 
I didn’t really have any time to write a full post this week so I’m featuring one new remixed track to check out, since it features two artists that I’ve featured recently.  St. Vincent had the song “New York” remixed by Kelly Lee Owens and you can check out that interesting combination right here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw1uuMxoZG0 (explicit).  Owens definitely clubs the song up, but keeps it all very chill.  She has a nice touch with the heavy bass sounds.

Release Radar: Kelly Lee Owens – New Album

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Happy New Year to everyone – here’s hoping 2018 brings as much good new music as last year!
 
First, check out the television debut of Julien Baker on Colbert this week.  I featured her several weeks back in an email.  Incredibly intimate and moving performance by her on a national stage – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbsXT_Bkl0Q
 
Second, I’m still listening to a ton of new releases from last year – some that would now make my best of 2017 list (including the artist featured this week).  There’s so much music and so little time…
 
It’s still slow for new releases but two notable albums out this week – indie/punk/pop artist Jeff Rosenstock did a surprise release on New Year’s with “POST-“ (I featured his previous album at the beginning of last year) and black metal rockers Watain have unleashed “TRIDENT WOLF ECLIPSE” to the masses today.
 
This week I’m featuring an album I just got around listening to last week that would have definitely been on my list of best electronic albums last year, if not at the top of the list.  Kelly Lee Owens released her S/T debut album back in March.  I saw her name popping up on some “best of 2017” lists and I eventually got around to listening to her album.  I would describe her music as intimate atmospheric techno electronic dream pop (I know that’s a mouthful).  Her vocals are very interesting – they fit very well with her music and sound great throughout.  Sometimes they are used almost more as another instrument, but there are also tracks that are more lyrically focused.  This is an album that must be listened to with good headphones or speakers – her sounds create a mood and atmosphere – some of the sounds are almost tactile in nature – so it’s imperative you can properly hear all the details.  I listened to this album on a small Bluetooth speaker at one point and it just doesn’t work at all that way.  But if you can plug into some good headphones or speakers you will be more than pleasantly surprised.  Another thing I love about this album is it works great in the background, as well as with more detailed listening.  It also doesn’t hurt that I’m currently reading “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami and this album is perfect background music for that book (on a different note, I’m heavily impressed by Murakami’s writing so if you haven’t read any of his books definitely check him out). 
 
Owens was born in Wales and currently resides in London.  She was an intern at XL Recordings, played bass in a band and worked at a number of record shops, allowing her to soak up many influences and meet some other musicians and industry contacts.  She met Daniel Avery working at one store, who used Owens’ vocals on an EP and on several tracks on his follow-up LP, co-writing one song with her.  Owens self-released her first single as a solo artist in 2015.  This led to several more singles, some work with Jenny Hval, and then an EP in 2016.  As mentioned previously, Owens released her debut S/T album in March 2017.  She has received plenty of critical acclaim, showing up on many “best of 2017” lists, mostly for electronic albums but also just in general Top 50 album lists.  Her music is a little difficult to describe, and even within the same song Owens will sometimes mix up tempos/styles.  What stands out for me is the mood, sound and atmosphere her music provides.  For a debut album, she has produced a very accomplished album.  I’m eager to see what Kelly Lee Owens is able to produce going forward, given how accomplished her starting point is.  Below are a few tracks to check out, but I suggest listening through her entire album (also linked below).
 
“Evolution”  This track starts out with some rumbly bouncy beats and then a faster metronome kicks in.  Owens repeats “evolution” alternating between a hard and soft “e”.  Then the bass drops in about 50 seconds in, taking the track to a new level.  Owens effectively uses “drop” moments with the heavy bass at several points during the song.  Her vocals change from spoken, to singing, to whispering – all with great effect.  She also does a masterful job mixing in all of the different rhythms on this track.  All of these nuances are lost though, if you’re listening to the music with a cheap speaker.  You need to feel the music.
 
“Bird”  “Evolution” precedes “Bird” on the album.  On this track, Owens doesn’t provide any vocals.  Instead she deftly mixes in a number of sounds and rhythms to create a cohesive whole.  The beginning is a mix of strings, a xylophone-esque sound and the beats which eventually morph into a big bass drone about 1:45 into the song.  At that point, Owens just mixes the different sound elements in and out of the song.  About 3 minutes in she changes up the beats and brings in some different sounds before bringing it all back around again for the final minute. 
 
“Keep Walking” – Here’s a track that features more lyrical vocals by Owens so you can get a better feel for her vocals.  This song almost pulsates with soundwaves as it swirls inside your head.  Owens ethereal vocals match perfectly with the music on this track.  Again, you must listen to this track with good headphones/speakers or you will not “hear” everything that is going on in this track. 
 

Release Radar: LEGEND – Midnight Champion

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I’m more excited about the announcement of Jack White’s upcoming album in March than any new releases that came out this week, but there are two new albums I’ll check out on Spotify.  I had never heard of Anderson East before I saw him on a late night show this week, where he demonstrated interesting vocals and played with an accomplished backing band.  His new album “Encore” seems to have a little Van Morrison mixed with a retro southern soul sound.  This is his second album and could be a breakthrough for him.  The other release is from southern sludge metal band Corrosion of Conformity and their 10th album “No Cross No Crown” brings former vocalist Pepper Keenan back into the fold.
If you ever wished Depeche Mode was tougher and more aggressive while still maintaining a melodic touch, LEGEND may be the band for you.  Hailing from Iceland and comprised of Krummi Bjorgvinsson and Dori Bjornsson, this dynamic duo recently released their second album “Midnight Champion”.  Resembling most strongly elements from Depeche Mode, LEGEND also has a little Rammstein (without the bombast and German) and older Ministry creeping into their sound.  They are on an Icelandic record label, Artoffact Records, and I don’t think they are getting much attention here in the U.S..  This is unfortunate because I’m sure there’s a decent market for their music if more people were aware of it.  Krummi’s vocals work very well with the atmosphere they create, and he definitely has a little Dave Gahan influence in some of his singing.  If you’re not familiar with the bands mentioned above, LEGEND’s music has an electronic-rock sound, heavy on the atmosphere and mood.  Most of their songs take their time to unfold, these guys are not trying to pump out three minute long radio singles (only 2/10 songs are under 5:00 and the shortest is 4:47).  There are slower and faster songs, and some that mix in both elements.  Most telling, is most of their fans appear to have different “favorite” songs from “Midnight Champion”.  So there’s many different tracks that are resonating strongly with their fan base.  Finally, this album sounds like it was recorded with a ton of confidence.  The band sounds very assured throughout the record, like they accomplished exactly what they were hoping to do.  As you might imagine, it’s not easy pulling YouTube singles to share for LEGEND.  They do have a few individual songs I can share, but not necessarily the best assortment of tracks from the album.  Fortunately, I’m providing a link to the entire album so you can hear it in its entirety.  You can also listen to the album on Spotify or bandcamp.  “Adrift” and “Scars” are two of my favorite tracks which aren’t highlighted below.
 
Captive”  You can really feel the DM vibe on this track – I can totally imagine Gahan singing this song.  I like how they start the track out slower and then ramp up the drums/guitar bombast about 90 seconds in – that’s where it separates from a DM song.  Thesofter chorus with its synth lines is totally DM though.  The verses stand out on this track.  With more exposure, this could be a hit. 
Midnight Champion – This is more of a slow burner, with some interesting bass sounds/heavy synths gurgling in the background.  Halfway through everything is ratcheted up a notch with the big drums and the gurgling evolving into a roar.  The video is a little intensebut highlights gun control issues we have in the U.S. (intentionally or not).
 
Frostbite – This track starts off louder from the getgo, with booming drums and some interesting synth sounds.  It’s a very dramatic sounding songperfect track to capture the attention of some “teen angst” that I already get plenty of at home these days. 
 
Full album stream – This is the best route to take, if you have the time…

2017 Year End Extravaganza

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2017 stands out in a few ways for me – 1) the insanity that surrounds the Oval Office and the resulting comedy goldmine that has greatly benefited Stephen Colbert and John Oliver (as well as Alec Baldwin) – hey, the alternative to laughing is much less desirable.  I never thought I’d be embarrassed to be an American, but the alleged leader of the free world has made that happen.  2) my first full year living on the East Coast – “California Dreamin’” has taken on much greater significance now.  3) the East Coast couldn’t give a &$*# about any teams that play on the West Coast.  Fortunately, there was a wide variety of great music that came out this past year across all genres.  I found myself listening to music on a much wider scope than I typically have in the past.  Given that, it’s difficult to put together a top 20 or top 10 list of best albums from the past year.  It really matters what type of music you’re in the mood to listen to, and it seems pointless to compare a country western album to a hardcore release.  They exist at vastly different locations on the music spectrum.  So I’ve included some of my favorite albums from different genres below, and I’ve undoubtedly left some music out (and there’s a lot I still haven’t gotten around to listening to).  Some of this music I’ve written about and some hasn’t made it into my emails.  Happy Holidays and I wish everyone a wonderful 2018!
 
Hard Rock/Metal  Mastodon’s “Emperor of Sand” takes the top spot here (plus they even released a nice EP “Cold Dark Place” last year).  Other notable albums include:
Queens of the Stone Age “Villains”
Foo Fighters “Concrete and Gold”
Death From Above “Outrage! Is Now”
Greta Van Fleet “From The Fires
Living Colour “Shade”
At The Drive-In “In.ter.a.li.a”
The Midnight Ghost Train “Cypress Ave.”
 
Hardcore/Extreme Metal – Converge “The Dusk In Us” is a brilliant album and easily tops this list.  Other notable albums include:
Obituary “S/T”
Mutoid Man “War Moans”
All Pigs Must Die “Hostage Animal”
Unsane “Sterilize”
EXPANDER “Endless Computer”
Trapped Under Ice “Heatwave”
 
Instrumental – Sanhett “So Numb” but right behind are:
Ex Eye “S/T”
Elder “Reflections of a Floating World”
Ufomammut “8”
 
Alternative/Rock/Pop (this is broad)  J. Roddy Walston & The Business “Destroyers of the Soft Life due more to my overall love for the band but the album is very good.  Other notable releases this year include:
Lorde “Melodrama”
Wolf Alice “Visions Of A Life”
Ryan Adams “Prisoner”
Rainer Maria “S/T”
Ron Gallo “HEAVY META”
Waxahatchee “Out in the Storm”
Spoon “Hot Thoughts”
St. Vincent “Masseduction”
Quicksand “Interiors”
Sleigh Bells “Kid Kruschev”
Julien Baker “Turn Out the Lights”
Afghan Whigs “In Spades
Priests “Nothing Feels Natural”
 
Rap/R&B – Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” stands head and shoulders above everything else. Other notable albums:
SZA “Ctrl” (I would write this album up but lyrics are so inappropriate)
Run The Jewels “RTJ3”
Jay-Z likely would have made the list but since he’s committed to Tidal, I haven’t heard his album at all…
 
Electronic – Fever Ray “Plunge” barely nudges to the top.  Other notable albums:
Jlin “Black Origami”
Ibeyi “Ash”
Sylvan Esso “What Now”
I’ll also include LCD Soundsystem’s “american dream” in this genre
 
Country  Chris Stapleton “From A Room: Volume 1 and 2” takes the top prize here.  Other notable albums:
Margo Price “All American Made”
Lee Ann Womack “The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone”
 
Best Soundtrack – Baby Driver
 
I Don’t Understand The Hype – King Krule “The OOZ”, Thundercat “Drunk“, Perfume Genius “No Shape”, Pallbearer “Heartless”, Moses Sumney “Aromanticism”
 
Concerts I saw in 2017 
Deafheaven (awesome waves of sound)
Red Hot Chili Peppers (finally – don’t know why it took this long!)
Pixies (first time seeing them live since I was in college)
Iron Maiden (another bucket list band, would have gotten into a fight if the other guy wasn’t so drunk)
Tool (another bucket list band)
Spoon (3rd time on a sweltering summer night front and center)
Hans Zimmer (my son is a huge fan of his soundtracks – this was actually a fun show)
Afghan Whigs (way underrated)
Queens of the Stone Age (Royal Blood was surprisingly good opening, new venue in D.C. on the river (Anthem) is very nice and luckily Homme didn’t kick me or anyone else)
J. Roddy Walston & The Business (since they’re local now, I will be seeing them play live whenever I can)
Converge (another bucket list band, and they brought it hard – probably best live drumming performance I’ve ever seen)
Fortunately these were all great shows.  And I already have tickets in 2018 for J. Roddy Walston & The Business, High on Fire, Spoon, St. Vincent and U2.
 
Finally, here’s a compilation of all the music that I shared in 2017 via these weekly emails (in chronological order).  Hopefully you were able to discover and enjoy some of it!
 
Steve Gunn – “Ancient Jules”, “Full Moon Tide”, “Night Wander”
Jeff Rosenstock – “Festival Song”, “Staring Out the Window at Your Old Apartment”, “We Begged 2 Explode”
Shamir – “Vegas”, “On The Regular”
Striker – “Phoenix Lights”, “Out For Blood”, “Too Late”
Pinegrove – “Old Friends”, “Cadmium”
Big Thief –  “Real Love”, “Masterpiece”, “Animals”
Ryan Adams – “Do You Still Love Me?”, “Haunted House”, “Breakdown”
Danny Brown – “Ain’t it Funny”, “Pneumonia”, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know”
Deafheaven – “Brought to the Water”, “Baby Blue”, “Gifts for the Earth”
Sleaford Mods – “B.H.S.”, “Moptop”, “Army Nights”
Spoon – “Hot Thoughts”, “Can I Sit Next to You”, “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”
Jesus & Mary Chain –   “All Things Pass”, “Presidici”, “Facing Up To The Facts”
Mastodon – “Show Yourself”, “Steambreather”, “Clandestiny”
Tennis – “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar”, “My Emotions Are Blinding”, “Baby Don’t Believe”
Sylvan Esso – “Radio”, “Die Young”, “Kick Jump Twist”
Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Dark Necessities”, “We Turn Red”, “The Getaway”
Afghan Whigs – “Oriole”, “Copernicus”, “The Spell”
Soundgarden – “Loud Love”, “Jesus Crist Pose”, “The Day I Tried To Live”, “Burden In My Hand”,  “I’m Going Hungry” by Temple of the Dog
Jlin – “Black Origami”, “Enigma”, “Kyanite”
Allah-Las – “No Voodoo”, “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind), “Ela Navega”
Waxahatchee – “Never Been Wrong”, “No Question”, “Hear You”
Greta Van Fleet – “Highway Tune”, “Safari Song”, “Black Smoke Rising”
Ron Gallo – “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me”, “Put the Kids to Bed”, “All the Punks are Domesticated”
Ranier Maria – “Suicides and Lazy Eyes”, “Lower Worlds”, “Possession”
Queens of the Stone Age –  “Feet Don’t Fail Me”, “The Way You Used To Do”, “Domesticated Animals”, “The Evil Has Landed”
Arcade Fire – “Everything Now”, “Signs of Life”, “Creature Comfort”
Sannhet – “So Numb”, “Sleep Well”, “Way Out”
Death From Above – “Never Swim Alone”, “Moonlight”, “Statues”
Miley Cyrus – “Love Someone”, “Younger Now”, “Thinkin”
Foo Fighters – “La Dee Da”, “Run”, “The Sky Is A Neighborhood”
Chris Stapleton – “Either Way”, “Second One To Know”, “Broken Halo”, “I Was Wrong”
J. Roddy Walston and The Business – “You Know Me Better”, “I Called You”, “Bleed Out”
St. Vincent – “Los Ageless”, “New York”, “Pills”, “Masseduction”
Julian Baker –  “Turn Out the Lights”, “Appointments”, “Sour Breath”, “Happy to Be Here”
Quicksand – “Illuminant”,  “Hyperion”, “Warm And Low”
Smithereens – “Blood And Roses”, “Only A Memory”, “A Girl Like You”, “Strangers When We Meet”

Remembering Pat DiNizio – The Smithereens

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Spotify compiles user stats at the end of the year, which is interesting to get a little insight into your listening habits.  Plus they also provide a custom playlist based on your favorite songs.  Anyway I mention this because I do listen to a lot of music and try to highlight some of the best material I come across in my weekly emails.  While Spotify is not the only source of music I listen to, it is a primary one.  According to Spotify this past year I listened to over 6K songs by over 1300 artists for almost 43K minutes.  I’ll save you on the math – that’s 716 hours or pretty much 30 full days.  So one entire month of the year was spent listening to music (thankfully I multitask).
 
Slow again with new releases as we sprint to the end of 2017.  Eminem has a new album with a lot of big names involved  Rick Rubin and Dr. Dre serving as executive producers and featuring appearances from Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Kehlani, X Ambassadors, P!nk and more – hopefully “Revival” is an entertaining listen.  N.E.R.D. have come out with a new S/T album after a seven year gap.  The trio of Pharrell, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley bring out guns that easily match or surpass Eminem’s cast – Rihanna, Future, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Andre 3000 and once again Ed Sheeran contributed to the album, among others.
 
Who is Pat DiNizio?  Well, if you’re asking that question that’s exactly why I’m writing this.  DiNizio was the front man for The Smithereens and he passed away this week at the age of 62.  The Smithereens, though they had some success, were a greatly underrated band who wrote some terrific songs.  Most of their success happened in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s before they got lost in the grunge wave.  DiNizio was inspired to start his own band by Buddy Holly, after playing in several cover bands (including prog and metal).  He placed an ad in a NY paper looking for musicians who were influenced by Holly, Elvis Costello, The Clash and Nick Lowe.  He eventually came across 3 high school students in NJ who had played together in school.  Dennis Diken on drums, Jim Babjak on guitar and Mike Mesaros on bass.  This was back in 1980.  They released an EP that year that had moderate local success.  They spent the next 3 years playing in the NY/NJ area and then released a second EP in ’83.  It got some play on college radio and a positive review in Rolling Stone magazine, but they were still having problems growing their audience.  They spent the next two years traveling and playing on the road, opening up for established artists.  Now it was 1985, 5 years together and they were frustrated by their lack of progress.  Their demos were being ignored by record labels.  They finally got signed by Enigma and worked with producer Don Dixon to release their first LP “Especially For You” in 1986.  Thanks to more college airplay and an MTV played video for “Blood And Roses” the album was a moderate hit, almost cracking the Billboard Top 50.  This earned them a contract with Capitol.  Over a 5 year period The Smithereens released four excellent albums.  Most popular was album #3 “11”, due to a top 40 charting by “A Girl Like You” and earning the album gold status.  After 3 albums with Capitol, they moved over to RCA in ’94.  By then grunge had taken over and the band was no longer growing their fan base.  However, they had a sizeable cult following and toured throughout the ‘90s, while releasing a few compilation albums and one more with original material.  Once the 21st century rolled around, the band was still together, releasing compilations, live albums and even a holiday album.  They released tribute albums to the Beatles and The Who (I have a great live recording of them covering “The Seeker”).  In 2011, they released their final studio album and the first one with original songs in 11 years titled “Smithereens 2011”.
 
Even this year, The Smithereens were planning some tours.  Unfortunately DiNizio had some injuries and they had to be canceled.  They had a tour planned in January ’18, but now they’ll have to cancel their upcoming shows with Pat DiNizio’s passing.  Since he was the main songwriter, lead singer and guitarist for the band, it’s safe to say The Smithereens have also been put to rest.  But they have a terrific legacy and the type of music they played is timeless.  Some of their career highlights beyond what I mentioned previously include gold and platinum records, appearances on The Tonight Show, MTV Unplugged and Saturday Night Live. They spent 37 years together as a band, a huge accomplishment by itself.  In addition to his work with The Smithereens, DiNizio also released four solo albums and worked as a program director for XM Radio’s “Unsigned Channel”.  He also ran the grants program for Jim Beam Brands’ “Benefitting Emerging Artists in Music”. If you’re not familiar with The Smithereens or haven’t listened to them in 20 years, I suggest you go pull up some of their music.  Their debut album “Especially For You” is as good a place as any to start.  Here are a few songs below you should check out.
 
Blood And Roses – Probably my favorite song by this band, this was how I first became aware of The Smithereens.  Of their debut album “Especially For You”, this song features a killer bass line and a whole lot of melancholy.   
 
Only A Memory – The lead track and hit song from their second album “Green Thoughts”.  You’ll start to notice a theme of melancholy now, but that’s one of the things that made The Smithereens stand out.  Very well-crafted songs that have a twist of darker themes.  The Beatles going off to the darkside.
 
A Girl Like You – Again, the hit song placed as track #1, this time on their 3rd album “11”.  The guitars were cranked up a bit more on this album, the drums sounded louder.  The band and label were going for greater commercial success.
 
“Strangers When We Meet” – This was the very 1st track on their first album “Especially For You”.  Wanted to highlight a slightly softer side of the band.  There are some greater instrumental sections near the end of the song.

Release Radar – Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold

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We have some pretty big artists dropping albums this week, mixed in with a few up and comers.  I queued up 6 albums on my Spotify playlists to listen to.  I’ll start with the very talented songwriter/guitarist/vocalist St. Vincent’s 5th album “Masseduction” which I’m eager to listen to.  King Krule, aka Archy Marshall has dropped “The OOZ” and it’s getting a ton of positive buzz.  This London artist has been compared to Joe Strummer and Billy Bragg and can count Beyonce and Kanye West among his admirers. A collaboration album between indie “superstars” Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett titled “Lotta Sea Lice” is sure to feature plenty of understated guitar and interesting lyrics.  William Patrick Corgan (brainchild of The Smashing Pumpkins) has released his first proper solo album, “Ogilala”, produced by Rick Rubin.  I previewed this on NPR and it’s an interesting stripped down effort from him and worth checking out.  The next two albums I will listen to but not too hyped about.  Beck has finally released “Colors” but it’s getting negative buzz so far which is disappointing, but I will still listen for myself.  And Wu-Tang has a new album “The Saga Continues” but it comes with caveats.  Mathematics, the MC-turned-DJ who learned everything about production from RZA, has produced and co-written all 18 tracks on the album.  His production efforts are allegedly admirable but the verses the MCs have brought to the album are more on the mediocre side.  You will find Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Killa Priest, Redman, RZA and Capadonna on the album but they are not inspired.
 
Finally, you may not have heard the latest regarding Marilyn Manson (who I don’t like in any way, shape or form but I find this amusing).  On his latest tour, he fell off the stage in Pittsburgh allegedly breaking his ankle.  Then the next night in NYC, he had a giant stage prop fall on him, breaking his fibula in two places and requiring a plate and 10 screws and also a screw in his ankle.  He has since pushed his tour dates out and hasn’t played a show since.  So that’s all good, but now Manson is hinting that “God, whatever it might be” is trying to put a stop to things on his tour.  So evidently God is to blame for his misfortune.  If that’s actually true – then way to go God!
 
Oh, and a big thanks to Eminem for sharing his current political beliefs on a national stage – let’s continue to protect the all-important 1st amendment since the outdated 2nd amendment is unfortunately not going away soon.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LunHybOKIjU
 Image result for concrete and gold
Dave Grohl is someone I admire in the music industry.  Loves to collaborate, seems to really enjoy being a musician, went from being the drummer in Nirvana to stepping out as the guitarist/vocalist in his band Foo Fighters, made an interesting movie about a recording studio “Sound City” – I’ve even read a book about his life.  I’m a major Nirvana fan, but the Foo Fighters I’ve always been more lukewarm about.  I have their first album, but no others.  I enjoy hearing a lot of their songs on the radio.  But at the end of the day, I never fully latched onto them.  Maybe it’s the uniformity of their sound, maybe Dave’s vocals, while certainly serviceable, are somewhat limited in their depth.  But for some reason, their latest album “Concrete and Gold” is resonating and sticking with me. 
Is it a great album?  No, the second half of the album has some tracks that while not bad, are merely ok.  But it’s a very enjoyable album to listen to all the way through.  The songs are sequenced well, and there’s enough variety in the music to keep you engaged.  Plus, it’s rare to find a solid straight rock album these days.  That type of music simply is not in vogue at the moment.  So what do I love about “Concrete and Gold”?  For starters, the first 5 songs are all very strong.  You can’t help but get pulled into the record when the first half is very stellar.  The opening short track “T-Shirt” starts very slow with Dave softly singing to a few guitar notes and then, bam, it immediately morphs into some seventies sounding huge rock recording – like a mix of Queen and REO Speedwagon – before fading out like the intro started.  Then the song “Run” (featured below) immediately follows.  Another soft opening before it slowly gains in intensity before guitars rain out and launch the song into another atmosphere.  Great track.  Then the next 3 songs are all outstanding (2 of them are featured below).  And they all have a very unique vibe/sound which why this album is fun to listen to.  And it’s not like the next six songs are bad, they just can’t keep up with the first half of the album. 
“Dirty Water” has an interesting very subdued initial 2:30 before it picks up into a pretty cool track for the last half.  “Arrows” is a mid-tempo rocker that has its moments but drags some in the first half.  “Happy Ever After” is a slower song that is serviceable but doesn’t stand out.  “Sunday Rain” goes on too long at over 6:00.  “The Line” sounds like your prototypical Foo Fighters song that could have appeared on any other album.  The album closes with the title track, which has some touches of Pink Floyd on it.  It’s an interesting experiment by the band and a cool way to close the album.  So that’s my summary – first half is incredible, second half is ok but altogether it’s a fun rock album to listen to, given the variation in the different tracks and the experimentation explored by the band.  Grohl has said that in order to begin writing the album, he sequestered himself in a cabin in Ojai, bought a case of wine and sat in his underwear with a microphone for five days just writing – inspired by what was going on in the country – politically, personally, as a father, American and a musician. 20+ years into the Foo Fighters, their 10th album is a solid addition to their discography.  Enough that I actually bought the cd, and wished I had bought tickets for their show in Richmond tomorrow night.  However tickets are now approaching $200 for not great seats so that will be a pass.  I was indifferent about seeing them before I listened to “Concrete and Gold”, which speaks to the impact of the new album.Image result for concrete and gold
 
La Dee Da – Probably my favorite song on the album right now, Grohl is fired up on this track.  I don’t know what he’s addressing, but I like to think it’s a message to Trump.  From the very beginning with that distorted bass, when the guitars kick in and Dave’s vocals – it’s a powerful combination.  Dave’s screaming vocals on the chorus add a lot to the song and make my throat hurt.  Background vocals added by Alison Mosshart (The Dead Weather & The Kills).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHbeZiky9rA – live version because why not?
 
Run – The first single from the album, which is a nice choice.  This song reminds me of what I’d like to do when I hear the latest about what’s going on in the White House.  But this song has it all, soft intro which deftly leads into a high tempo rocker.  There’s a nice contrast between the alternating harsh shouted vocals and Dave’s normal vocals.  The song jumps back and forth between high tempo and very high tempo which provides a bigger impact for both parts.
 
The Sky Is A Neighborhood – I picked this track over “Make It Right” since it showcases a slightly different tempo for the band.  This is a big epic song with a huge shout-a-long chorus. Grohl again tests the durability of his vocal chords during the verses.  Mosshart also provide backing vocals on this track.  The chorus may get stuck in your head for days.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9QH5mR0TwM  can’t not post the coincidence of live versions of “Run” and “The Sky Is A Neighborhood” performed back-to-back in Berlin

Release Radar – Arcade Fire: Everything Now

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What an outstanding and eclectic collection of new releases this week!  What should be considered a legendary band, the under-appreciated Living Colour release their 6th studio album “Shade” today (this is the music I went to first to hear)San Francisco indie-rockers Deerhoof are presenting their 15th album in 20 years“Mountain Moves”, laughing at Deerhoof’s longevity, L.A. experimental synth band Sparks celebrate the 46thanniversary of their first album release with the new LP “Hippopotamus”, speaking of longevity, Neil Younghas a collection of solo acoustic recordings from ’76 out today with “Hitchhiker” (sounds great btw), laid back singer/songwriter Jack Johnson’s 7th album is out today “All the Light Above It Too”, one of my favorite two person bands Death From Above (now minus the “1979”) unleash their 3rd album “Outrage! Is Now”,Canadian indie noise-pop band Alvvays have upped their game on their sophomore album “Antisocialites” and last but not least The National attempt to inject a few welcomed raucous sounds into their 7th album “Sleep Well Beast” to hopefully ensure they don’t become solely featured as background music at hipster dinner parties. 
Ok, I’m featuring the latest album from Arcade Fire this week, “Everything Now”.  I hesitated, thinking this band is popular enough that everyone is probably familiar with them.  But in actuality, I’m guessing many of you may not have listened to much of this band.  And if you have, their sound has been changing quite a lot over their last few albums.  First formed back in 2003 in Montreal, Arcade Fire has evolved from indie rock royalty into mainstream popularity over the course of their 5 studio albums.  And that journey is one that is bound to leave some fans behind, since indie darlings finding commercial success is a sure way to cause some divisiveness.  The band has an interesting beginning – Win Butler (bandleader/singer) spotted Regine Chassagne singing jazz at an art exhibit.  He was charmed, they started a songwriting partnership and then a personal partnership (and eventually marriage).

They then recruited other members for their new band, including Win’s younger brother William.  Since the band members had many eclectic tastes, these different influences were incorporated into their music.  So you had bossa nova, punk, French chanson and pop influencing their sound.  You can hear elements of U2, David Bowie, Talking Heads and other influences.  After cutting an EP, they signed with Merge Records. 
The band unfortunately had a run of deaths unfold prior to recording their first LP – four members had relatives pass.  These deaths sparked their first album aptly titled “Funeral”.  “Funeral” blew-up from a critical perspective which also led to some commercial success.  Arcade Fire played Lollapalooza, Coachella and everywhere in between.
They made the Canadian cover of Time magazine and received a Grammy nomination for best alternative album.  They toured with U2 and counted David Bowie as one of their fans.  For their follow-up, they camped in a church outside of Montreal and recorded “Neon Bible”, which featured a pipe organ, military choir and a full orchestra. 
This album peaked at #2 on the charts and they continued to tour relentlessly.  They put on a great live show, so all of their touring definitely continued to grow their fan base.  Record #3, “The Suburbs”, with its themes of suburban sprawl, childhood memories and middle-class dreams led to #1 charting positions in the U.S. and U.K.  The band also earned many rewards, including a Grammy for album of the year.  They were now selling out shows all around the globe.  For album #4 (a double album), “Reflektor”, they brought on James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) to produce.  This was more dance-oriented and brought in a lot of world music sounds.  After another ambitious world tour, that brings us to today and their most recent album “Everything Now”.
 
This album has been the least critically-received of any of their albums to date.  But I think that’s to be expected, given where the band is today.  Once you reach the level of popularity Arcade Fire is at, there are many people waiting to take you down.  Also, if you change your sound up, you always run the risk of people being disappointed because they liked your old sound better. 
Now the album isn’t getting completely panned, there are plenty of stellar reviews mixed in with the naysayers – there are just more naysayers than in the past.  Personally, I really enjoy this album. I understand what the band was trying to accomplish and I like the overlying themes of the album which are statements about today’s society. 
There are songs that reflect the demands for wanting everything right here, right now, wanting to be famous (or at least have a big social media presence) or life’s not worth living, not knowing what you want but wanting everything anyway, access to infinite content, and finding meaning in today’s world. 
The band brought in multiple producers including Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk), Geoff Barrow (Portishead), Steve Mackey (Pulp) and longtime collaborator Markus Dravs.  The album definitely has a solid groove and danceability that is continued from “Reflektor”.  There is less of a world music influence and more of a disco vibe going on.  Maybe this is an element that turned some off?  Maybe it’s the themes the band is tackling – too big in scope?  Any critique on modern-day society is going to have its naysayers. 
At the end of the day, I think many critics just wanted something to complain about regarding Arcade Fire, because the band is too big now to meet everyone’s objectives.  If they were a new band and they released “Everything Now”, it would have created an unbelievable positive buzz in the music world.  But we all know that is not the case, and the resulting critiques are what they are.
At any rate, Arcade Fire have their 3rd #1 album and a solid addition to their catalog.  I say just enjoy the album for what it is – a solid piece of pop music making a statement about some of the themes going on in today’s society that can also be fun to dance to.  Here are 3 of my favorite songs from “Everything Now” that all appear at the beginning of the album. 
 
Everything Now – The lead track and single from the album, this song has a joyful sound.  I think this is a good example of some past elements of the band’s music evolving into their current sound.  Produced by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, this song sounds great.  Listen to all of the different instruments that are incorporated throughout this track.
 
Signs of Life – You definitely hear the disco influence on this track.  Also produced by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter.  I like the chorus on this song – “looking for signs of life every night, there’s no signs of life, so we’ll do it again”.  This song has a little bit darker feel, with the prominent bass and slightly ominous synths.  They may have been influenced by previous producer James Murphy on this song.  Nice handclaps at the beginning. 
 
Creature Comfort – The track rounds out the first 3 on the album (not counting the intro at the very beginning).  Interesting note, the album was recorded so the ending rolls right into the beginning intro.  So if you listen on repeat, there will be no break in the flow.  My favorite lyric “God just make me famous and if you can’t, just make it painless”.  I’m hearing a big Talking Heads influence on this track.  Chassagne’s background vocals are a great contrast.  Geoff Barrow from Portishead produced this track.  Interestingly I don’t hear Portishead at all, but I do like the production on the song. 

Release Radar

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August has been redeemed this week by more noteworthy releases than you can shake a stick at!  Iron & Wine (Sam Beam) gives us his first new material in 4 years as Iron & Wine with “Beast Epic”, the debut album “Invitation” from supergroup Filthy Friends (Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), plus friends), Bay Area garage/psych rockers Thee Oh Sees (now just Oh Sees)give us maybe their 16th? Album with “Orc” and finally Australian rockers King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard drop their 3rd album of 2017 (goal is a total of 5!) with “Sketches of Brunswick East”. 

Notable and esteemed rockers Queens of the Stone Age unleash their 7th album with “Villains”, Philly rock traditionalists The War on Drugs drop album number 4 “A Deeper Understanding”, Long Island band Brand New who have evolved from punk/emo to more indie rock release their long-awaited 5th album “Science Fiction”, underrated EMA gives us her 3rd proper album which is a commentary on the current social plight in the Midwest “Exile in the Outer Ring”

Something new for just about anyone who enjoys music this week.

Release Radar

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This week has an overflowing handful of interesting new releases including the debut solo album from Amber Coffman (formerly of Dirty Projectors but when you break-up with your boyfriend and he’s the leader of the band a solo career suddenly seems like a really good idea) “City of No Reply”, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys is releasing his second? solo album “Waiting on a Song”, Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) is releasing his first solo album in quite some time “Is This The Life We Really Want?”, Alt-J are dropping “RELAXER” and on the harder side Mutoid Man featuring Stephen Brodsky (Cave In) and Ben Koller (Converge) share their second album “War Moans” and Philly-rockers Elder give us their 5th album “Reflections of a Floating World”

Chris Cornell’s toxicology report showed multiple prescription drugs in his system, including 4 Ativan, Narcan (from EMTs), Butalbital and Pseudoephedrine (decongestant). Clearly he wasn’t in his right mind and it resulted in a catastrophic impact.

For you Tool fans (or the curious) here’s a link to the show I was aa a couple weeks ago in Virginia. If you’re not familiar with them, go right to 1:38:36 and watch their final song. Another good part to check out is the 18:00 mark with “Schism”.

Remembering Prince

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R.I.P. Prince – truly one of the most original, talented and influential musicians during our lifetime. 2016 is turning into a crushingly hard year for the music world. Below are a couple of links that show just a glimpse of the talent Prince so easily harnessed throughout his career.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SFNW5F8K9Y – Prince decides to take over this all-star performance tribute of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for George Harrison at about the 3:30 mark of this video and proceeds to solo all the way through until the song ends – and he ends it with a flourish by tossing his guitar straight up in the air (which mysteriously never comes back down…)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NN3gsSf-Ys – Prince’s legendary Super Bowl halftime performance. A little bit of rain was never going to bring him down…