Some bands you listen to and enjoy but they never seem to latch on to you in a personal way. Tame Impala is not one those bands. Since arriving on the scene in 2009 with “Innerspeaker,” the band, which is to say Parker himself, have gradually changed our perceptions of psyche rock and lovelorn melodies that can be at times infectious and daunting in terms of musical I.Q. Today we deliver the ten best tracks from the first three impeccable Tame Impala albums.
10. YES I’M CHANGING, CURRENTS
This track here is the dozy of the whole album. It’s so emotionally open and vulnerable it’s hard not to relate to it merit and depth. For someone going through a devastating end of a relationship (like I was at the time), “Yes I’m Changing” meant the world to me, and was a source of deep comfort, hoping that it would be alright in the end. The story of the song is a familiar one, which helps with relatability. It’s brutally cold and sober, depicting various frames of mind, encompassing the myriad of feelings you go through during a difficult emotional time. The best song off the new album, and the fourth spot on our Best Tame Impala Songs,”Yes I’m Changing.”
9. CAUSE I’M A MAN, CURRENTS
On “Currents” Parker is able to make what’s essentially a psych R&B record, and this is no more obvious than on “Cause I’m a Man.” It’s a slow, tense song about shortcomings, but it’s also one of the more pretty sounding tracks on the entire album. Parker’s voice is raspy yet open and clear, and his production skills on the instrumentation side are at peak conditioning here. It’s a song where his troubles are laid out in clear and concise patterns, and while he mostly takes his actions and consequences seriously, he also has the ability to not let himself take anymore of the blame than he feels responsible for.
8. IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE, INNERSPEAKER
Many songs depict the beach, but few do so in the way Tame Impala manages to convey it in the mind blowing spectrum of noises Parker is able to conjure. Chosen as the first song on the first album, “It’s Not Meant to Be,” feels like you’re on a beach, but not a beautiful beach with the one you love. Rather, this is a song about disagreements. Such disagreements about the pros and cons of sand on your feet, or smoking pot all day. The song, clocking in at nearly five and a half minutes, wilds through lush guitar work, and the drumming is elegant and low key, never willing to overtake the song, but rather nudging the song slightly to perfection.
7. APOCALYPSE DREAMS, LONERISM
Like a sun suddenly appearing in the sky at full strength, “Apocalypse Dreams,” roars into ears and explores the mind of Kevin Parker, and what he’s capable of. The track has this frollicking aspect to it that also renders the song in the best way possible. The lyrics, as well as the vocal harmony Kevin engages evoke some of the best moments of the record, but the real prize doesn’t hit until second half of the song. After the slow strung guitars comes and goes, the track is propelled by the drums, all leading to a bright explosion of energy as the song heads quickly into a sundrenched, mind altering field of sound.
6. ALTER EGO, INNERSPEAKER On early records Parker had to do more with less in terms of production quality, however, that doesn’t stop him from executing a song that can still draw you in. The song itself relies more on the vast musical labyrinth of styles and less of the lyrical aspects, but this is still something Tame can do very well. The lyrics are important, but by the time Parker’s voice comes in you’re already hooked in by the majestic nature of the dense, all surrounding instrumentation. It’s an early sign of what he’s capable of, and thankfully for us he hasn’t lost a single step on subsequent releases.
5. LET IT HAPPEN, CURRENTS
When I first heard this song, honestly, I was not a fan. The music didn’t remind of what had come before, and more dancey, electronic vibe turned me off. Not that it was bad, but it wasn't the Tame I had fallen in love with on the previous two albums. But, after multiple listens, and hearing the album presented in full, it suddenly made sense. This album, and this track especially was Tame Impala opening themselves up and rising in the world of thought provoking music. The success of the albums rides on the popularity of the first track, and “Let it Happen,” with all of its meandering and chasing of holes, comes through in a big way, and shows the band is capable of so much more.
4. MIND MISCHIEF, LONERISM
One of the most polarizing moments for my upon the first listens of this landmark creatively full record was this song, found in the early moments of the album. The music is winding and carefree, but it’s very obvious how much thought went into the process. The lyrics are also cognisant of past loves and the trials of feeling attached to a person who might not even know you exist. It’s my suspicion that Parker is a deep romantic who has struggled with this before and since. It’s a wonderful mid tempo song, and for that reason, it’s included on this countdown.
3. ELEPHANT, LONERISM
There’s so so so much amazing happening in this song it’s hard to figure out a starting point. Obviously, a big part of the song is the fact that it very much lives up to its title. As a track,”Elephant” hurdles through the wild, violently and strongly pushing limits, with full sets of lumbering giants pummeling through whatever gets in its way. The live version also has a wicked cool instrumental section that only elevates the energy of the song. The drum roll through the verses is also brilliantly laid out, while Kevin’s vocals sound as pure and fun as they ever get. The best lines though come toward the end of the bridge, making its way to the song conclusion. The word pay during the segment about pulling off the mirrors of his Cadillac (YEAH!), are some of the best lines in any song I’ve ever heard.
2. FEELS LIKE WE ONLY GO BACKWARDS, LONERISM
For many people, this was the song where they suddenly became aware of the majestic mode of storytelling that Impala lays out. The dinging opening, the lush overlaid guitars and bass, and the minimal but effectiveness of the drumming all make the song one of the best by the band. When Parker bellows the chorus, and various other sections you can grasp and understand the weariness permanent in the song structure. So many of their songs go hand in hand with raw emotion, of guilt, second thoughts, and other feelings that it eventually becomes your song too. It’s amazing, and it’s a song that still gets all the love it deserves.
1. THE LESS I KNOW THE BETTER, CURRENTS
The argument could be made that without this song this record wouldn’t have been nearly the juggernaut it was, and while that may be slightly true, “Current is full to the brim with incredible songs.” However, this song has so much working for it that it’s nearly impossible to ignore. Let’s start with the 70’s stylings on guitar as the depth of the song opens up into a strange disco vibe, but it’s the lyrics that pull you in and embrace you. It’s a sad song that we all can relate to, the moment when your brain syncs in with your heart and you’re aware that the end of whatever you had with a person is over. It’s important to stress that anxiety but also to embrace it in hopes of getting better. Parker’s voice is top notch 100% here, and with this gorgeous balance among his word play and juxtaposition between trying to be free of the pain but also to learn from it, the song is able to transcend all modern music and make a song that you can feel as part of your soul. Thanks for reading!
Among modern rock bands, the Killers, hailing from Las vegas, have been able to stand at the top of the heap since early in their career. With the guiding voice that is Brandon Flowers at the helm, they’ve established themselves as a band that is able to elicit grand visions, even grander vocal range, and the ability to move stadiums of people with their added power behind the drums, guitar and bass powers of Ronnie Vannucci Jr, David Keuning, Mark Stoermer .Enjoy!
10. RUN FOR COVER, WONDERFUL WONDERFUL
The guitars are fast and to the point basically out of the front gate, and with that, another great high energy track by this band is given to the world. Flower’s and his lyrics tinge on political elements that the band isn’t normally known for, but in this desperate current political climate, you find more and more artists standing up and taking note. The cadence he uses and the drums at his back provide even more speed to an exhilarating song. It’s a bright moment on their new album, but there’s plenty more where that came from.
9. WONDERFUL WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL WONDERFUL
Like many artists The Killers haven’t always hit it our the park with every single album, but with the latest record, in my opinion at least they’ve rediscovered their importance. This song, the title and opening track, is something very different than we’re used to hearing. The horns, the tribal drum beats, and of course the smoky vocals of Flowers, slithering through the waves of music surrounding him are all very well timed and placed. It’s a sign that this band is still worth watching and engaging with. It’s one of the best, most unlike themselves songs they’ve ever made, and that's why it makes the list at number nine.
8. FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, SAM’S TOWN
Much of Sam’s Town was wrongly pushed aside, but as the years go on, it’s staggering to see just how good this entire record is. “For Reasons Unknown” is classic Killers in its preparation and delivery, but it also has a sullen, heartbreaking element to it. The music is more uptempo, but the contrast to the lyrics is what stands out the most. The listener can feel the sadness and vulnerability bleeding through the speakers, and it makes you wonder and imagine what choices were wrong, but more importantly, it shows you to keep going and strive for something better.
7. READ MY MIND, SAM’S TOWN
To me “Sam’s Town” was a move done to exemplify their desire to grow beyond how they were perceived during the first album cycle, but there’s way more to it. “Read My Mind” represents the Killers successfully going the route of Springsteen. A track like this has so much to offer. Everything from the Americana aspect prevalent through the song, to the nervous energy of a person going on a date. It’s also a song about regrets, and how little you actually know about what lurks in the brains of the people closest to you. It’s a song that exemplifies middle america without even trying. With this ability to put themselves in a vulnerable mind frame, the song is made that much stronger.
6. TYSON VS DOUGLAS, WONDERFUL WONDERFUL
Some songs just jump out at you from the first listen, and for me “Tyson vs Douglas” represents one of those moments. After one hundred or so listens I still can’t decide if the context of the fight in question is the main factor in the song, or if it's all just metaphor and nuance. Perhaps it's both, but either way it works really well. One of the things this band has never had a problem excelling at is soaring chorus, and here they present one of the best ones they’ve ever written. It’s also a damn fine driving song, and the little guitar part that shines through during the second verse is absolutely great.
5. MY LIST, SAM’S TOWN
This is a tough one for me to write about honesty. For my ex and I, this was one of the first songs we ever experienced together, and it stayed a favorite of ours for the years that followed. “My List” fills a more sorrowful void then nearly any other song in the Killers catalogue, but that’s why it’s such an impressive song. Flowers crooning in regards to his love, his regret, and his optimism of the potential future make this song something truly special. The overarching elements of the song are blatantly clear. This is a man desperate for the ability to do the right thing for his partner, while still staying true to himself. The chorus and crescendo at the end set it even higher up in terms of emotion, and it’s a tool the band uses to amazing effect on our number eight pick, “My List.”
4. RUNAWAYS, BATTLE BORN
Basically this whole list is an after effect of me jamming out incessantly to this song for the last week. As an album, “Battle Born” is easily their least accomplished record, but that says very little about the song in general. Brandon’s vocals are sparingly visible and can easily fill a giant open field with thousands singing his words back to him. Also, I know drumming isn’t a thing the band is mentioned often in regards to, but Vannucci’s skills on “Runaways” nearly steals the show from the vocalist, though they don’t quite get there. Lastly, “Runaways” might be regarded as their best song on their worst album, but it’s an unbelievably strong track, and it ends up at number four on the Top Ten Killers songs.
3. JENNY WAS A FRIEND OF MINE, HOT FUSS
For years I sung these lyrics innocently enough. I don’t know why, but it always seemed to me like a lovelorn song about the end of a relationship,and in many ways that remains true. That is, until you realize the song is more than likely about taking someone’s life. The musical aspects are whirling, bright and darkly optimistic, but the under belly of the song hints at a much darker band than fans bargained for with some of the more pop friendly tracks. It’s an early reminder of how well the quartet can blur lines to convince you a song is about one thing when it’s not even remotely about that, and while “Jenny” in the song met her demise by someone she trusted, we are gifted a wonderful, bombastic song that opened up an album that brought the band to places they never thought possible.
2. WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG, SAM’S TOWN
One of the band’s biggest hits finds us at Number two on the countdown. “When You were Young” details the lessons you learn through hard and good times alike. The music is immediate in a way but balanced enough to still leave room for vocalist Flowers to work his magic. What will tomorrow bring, and how will we handle it is also a topic discussed on the song, but it’s the presentation by the band, who all co-wrote this song, that makes it all the more important. The song always has a great juxtaposition regarding growing up. When we’re young we believe all these things, and we’re able to trust more people, but as we grow older, our bodies and souls are forced to confront the tough facts. There’s not always going to be a wonderful man to sweep you off your feet. It’s actually a really somber track in the way it takes our innocent childhood thoughts and forces those thoughts to come to terms with all the loss, sadness and humility a person learns as they get older and navigate this often cruel, misunderstood world.
1. ALL THESE THINGS THAT I’VE DONE, HOT FUSS
Years ago, during a torrentially bad time for me, “All These Things that I’ve Done” was a liftboat for me. There’s no other way to say this. Talk shit all you want, but this song saved me and reminded me that we all need assistance from time to time. The song opens with a soft piano, ambient background noise, and of course, the trademark voice of swooner Brandon Flowers. During this dark period for myself, I was stubborn, resistant, and in way over my head in terms of how I was dealing with depression, fucked up decisions, and various other things I’ve managed to forget over the course of years. When you’re at that point in your life, and you hear this song, you feel as though the band is speaking to you. It was a perfectly sobering experience to be able to relate to the line “You know you gotta help me out,” and feel as though the song itself was actually playing a part in the betterment of my mental health. For that reason, as well as all the others i’ve named. “All These Things that I’ve Done,” tops the list of the Top Ten Killers songs. Thanks for reading!
Annie Clark as St Vincent has steadily built up quite a name for herself over the course of six albums. She’s gone from indie rock shredding sensation to her current tenure as an electronically driven superstar, capable of filling venues all by her lonesome. She really doesn’t need any backing band at this point, as her recent, brilliant tour proved time and time again. Today I’ll be presenting her top ten songs. I hope you enjoy
10. Champagne Year, Strange Mercy
On Strange Mercy, Clark’s third album, she gets more subdued in terms of energy in spots, but when she wants to turn it down a notch and create a song that's as ethereal and hazy, it’s well worth the listen. “Champagne Year,” nestled in the middle of the record, showcases the atmospheric qualities of St. Vincent, but it’s also slightly melancholy and honest in a way that lures you in. It’s like a memory filled with distant recollections, and in the end, the listener is unsure of whether they were even on hand for the events going through their minds.
9. Masseduction, MASSEDUCTION
On “MASSEDUCTION,” both the album and this title track, Clark abandons her more alternative rock vibes in favor of a more synth, electronically heavy concept, to rousing success. Her voice here is ferocious and wanting, not in the mood for the listener to casually sway their hips. She’s thirsty for power, and it’s a testament to the female prowess that sets this record and it’s stylings apart from the glossy, candy wrapped modern pop. Except, it is modern pop, but done in a way that puts it well above the curve in terms of what is popular or carefully packaged idols in the mainstream.
8. Save Me From What I Want, Actor
Many of the tracks delivered on her records are both sublime and billowy in terms of depth and soundscapes. It’s like day drinking, feeling slightly faded, as the sun blasts your sunglassed face. It’s romantic but also not a pushover. On “Save Me,” from her second record “Actor” St. Vincent interchanges her sultry, cautious vocals with a forceful yet not in your face drum beat. It’s that cautiousness that makes the track all the more appealing, and while it could be described as a call begging for help, it’s more of inner cry for help, as Annie struggles to overcome the tense atmosphere of a cruel world.
7. Actor out of Work, Actor
One of the few intensely upbeat tracks from her whole discography, “Actor Out of Work” is a giant middle finger to her enemies who strive to shut her ideals down, but it’s also an intensely empowering song. The beats and energy here are impeccable and can virtually stand on their own, but it’s the vocals and chaos surrounded by the drums that guitar that make the song the fist pumping anthem it was meant to be. The ending breakdown is something to behold, especially when experienced in a live setting, and it’s for this reason the track finds itself at number seven on the countdown.
6. Chloe in the Afternoon, Strange Mercy
With “Chloe in the Afternoon,” the album’s beginning truly finds its starting point in a way that’s expressly Clark’s doing, The roughness of the guitar bleeding through and making a puddle under your feet, on top of the jingly qualities that keep it entrenched in a place not completely dark, ultimately makes the song a strong companion and lead in for the rest fo the album. Her vocals are able to be lovely and smooth, while also projecting a dark undertone that whispers the next unsure movements of an artist that is ready to excel, even if she’s not sure what the end result will be.
5. Birth in Reverse, St. Vincent
As i’ve mentioned before, this album was truly the first step towards what St. Vincent became with “MASSEDUCTION,” but it still stands on it’s own to feet with full competence and potency. “Birth in Reverse” speaks of the struggle of knowledge in terms of our country’s backward thinking logic, but it also stands as warning shot for all the naysayers who want to believe this type of music can outlast anything in terms of quality. It’s true though. Everything from the murmurings of the synthesizer to the immediacy provided by Clark’s vocals, not to mention her signature guitar breakdown towards the climax, put this song as a turning point for when Clark truly became reckless, dangerous, and truly empowering for fans of bands who truly risk it all for a new, career defining sound.
4. Cheerleader, Strange Mercy
The opening plucks of the guitar on “Cheerleader” only briefly dip into the darkness that's provided by the ominous vocals, but by the time the chorus kicks in, you get the full scope of pain and torment behind the classic song. It’s an anthem for “stupid” girls everywhere who think brains are something that us men simply don’t want. Many females believe this is the way, but in this ultimate fuck you to that construct, Clark smashes that notion and paves her own way to a beautiful, self relying notion that she simply “Doesn’t want to be a cheerleader no more.” It’s a beautiful sentiment about saying to hell with what a different gender thinks you should be, and making yourself the string individual that you want to be.
3. Los Ageless, MASSEDUCTION
Everything about this sonically heavy song, which finds its place at number two in the Top Ten St. Vincent tracks, screams tearing down the walls that hold our culture back. It’s about fighting back, but it’s chorus also touches on that insane type of fixation where a person truly believes they couldn’t be happy if they weren’t with one particular person. It sorta comes off as stalkery, but those moments aren’t force fed through the entire track. It’s almost Dystopian in themes, such as depicting guitar playing ladies forced into cages, but it’s such an aggressive song that it’s easy to not dwell on the lyrics being presented. It’s easily the best exposition on the record, and everything from the vocals, the echoes, the blast beats at the forefront,and the minimal beats you hear faintly, all drive the song to excellence.
2. Digital Witness, St. Vincent
The trumpets, alongside the buoyancy of the opening moments tell you a lot of what you can expect from this fun filled track, but there’s much under the surface that only shows itself upon multiple listens. It’s one of the best tracks on the self titled album, but it also showed that Clark has nearly no problem balancing different style in the same track. It has a very danceable quality to it, but it’s also pushes the bounds of what alternative rock could be, if you can even call it that. This song has been a popular stand out among myself and the people i know, but in the end it deserves it’s number two spot because it’s just a great fucking song. It’s energetic in tone, upfront in attitude, and dishonest in no way shape or form. At the end of the day, it’s an artist trying something outside of her comfort zone, and truly coming into her own as an artist worth watching, and loving.
1. Year of the Tiger , Strange Mercy
This is likely to raise some eyebrows for it’s placement, but since early upon in working on this year, this was the clear cut number one. It’s qualities include, but aren’t limited to it’s subtlety in terms of vocal range, it’s subject matter, but also the dreamlike regret that permeates through it’s length. Her voice never gets immediate, instead opting for a patient walk towards its goal. The musical nature of the song weaves in and out from soothing background in the opening moments to a more dense sounding production as the song veers to it’s closing finale. It works all the better as it’s placed as the very last song of this sublime, transformative record. It’s a song that’s not an obvious choice, but when all the moving parts work so well together, it’s hard to ignore it’s strengths and it power, especially when you’re left contemplating the silence that follows its brilliance. Thanks for reading!
For many music festival lovers, the start of a new year is one of excitement. In other words, the collective world gets to look finally at the lineups hundreds of festivals have been working on for months. Today we’re going to gloss over some of the most interesting bills, the good or bad, the issues facing modern fests, and where to go from here.
First up we have what is widely considered the best of the American Fests (We’ll be mostly covering those today), Coachella. For years the Indio, CA juggernaut has been known for awe-inspiring bands and unmatched moments. For christ-sakes, Daft Punk’s revolutionary set haphazardly led to the EDM craze full of insane productions but nearly nothing in terms of substance (Skrillex, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris and various others we’re trying to forget still come to mind), but lately the lineups have been veering further and further away from what made them so interesting to begin with. Some of this is sure to be caused by the varying degrees in which people are choosing more hip hop influenced and dance acts over rock music, but it’s almost as if Goldenvoice, who produces Coachella, purposely went out of their way to avoid rock bands mostly as a whole. Over the vast lineup of artists, there’s some solid rock bands, but in no way is there an even mix of demographics. More puzzling than anything though is the dramatic order of the billing among the three days and their choices for headliners.
Sure Beyonce is currently the Queen of Pop music, but at a festival known for hosting amazing songwriters, it’s an odd choice. Solange, who writes all her own songs and isn’t able to afford a team of writers would have been better, but she’d in no way move the number of tickets her sister will. Beyonce will shine, and likely make history, but whether that will go down as the beginning of the end for an alternative music festival remains to be seen. The other two headliners though, aren’t nearly as exciting as they would have been a year ago and 10 years ago, respectively. The Weeknd is still touring off his tamest and uninteresting album, while Enimen hasn’t had a great album since I was 23, which feels so much longer ago than it was. His new albums have all been regarded as being far short of the greatness he touched during his first four albums, and he’s headlining multiple other festivals that have already been announced, which doesn’t do anything in terms of making it a special moment.
One of the biggest issues, as I mentioned earlier, is the billing order. Now that isn’t to demean or put down the talents of any of the bands I’m about to mention, just specifically ordering in terms of visibility. Sza and Kygo on day one over St. Vincent, with Jamiroquai in between is leaving me vexed for one. Like, “Virtual Insanity” is a solid gold track, but who’s really excited about this? And who can name literally any other song by that band? Maybe it’s just me. The bigger issue for me though comes on Saturday, which sees the barely one hit wonder of the Haim sisters second billed over the perennial alternative star and creator of the Talking Heads, also known as David Byrne. By my account these girls are known for decent albums, being sisters, friends with Taylor Swift, and little else. After seeing them a few years ago at Bonnaroo, I swore never again, but maybe it’s just me once again. I’m clearly out of touch with the kids these days, but with choices like that I can’t say I feel bad about it.
One lineup so far has been excellent though. That festival, Atlanta’s Shaky Knees has, over the course of five previous years, been steadily becoming a can't miss for music fans. The lineups have consistently bordered on brilliant and imaginative. In terms of festivals, they’ve taken the less is more approach of sticking to mostly rock oriented bands who mixed many different genres into one singular bill full of amazing bands. 2018 is no different. Starting at the top with Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age and the National is exceptional, but there’s much more beyond the stacked top three. Once again Byrne shows up, but so do Tenacious D, as does Courtney Barnett, whose sure to deliver her signature rock mixed with nonsensical lyrics, and many others, among them Japandroids, the Black Angels and countless others.
I have a rule when deciding on festivals. If I can find 30 bands I’m interesting in seeing, I try to do it. Among the Coachella lineup there’s certainly more than at Shaky (39 and 32 respectively) but the cost of festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo tend to outweigh the thrills of going.
Which brings us to what was once a landmark when it came to eastern seaboard festivals. When I first went to ‘Roo I felt enveloped by the happiness and joy among my peers. Honestly I imagined this becoming my yearly getaway from the world. It was that amazing. But as the years went on, the lineups became more and more predictive and well, uninspiring. Lineups including Tool, Sigur Ros, the final Beastie Boys show, Paul McCartney, and a multitude of others dwindled away to where we are now, with a lineup whose top three consists of Eminem, Muse and The Killers. Two of those are subjectively great bands, but in a year where Eminem is playing more fests than anyone would have thought possible, and The Killers sharing the bill with him at at least four of these, it begs the question, where’s the originality? Again this leads to a natural conversation about the bursting of the festival scene. All of these fests started out as mostly independent, but with success brings corporate greed and a homogenized state of affairs. Coachella has gone the way of a pop fest where it’s more about being seen than seeing bands, and Roo is being smooshed among all the others in a desperate bid to stay relevant, which leads to easy bookings. My point though, is that it should be the opposite. LiveNation, C3, and others are partially to blame. Big corps tend to think in broad terms, but when it comes to music and festivals that’s never worked, or been a good idea. You go to these events for the special nature, to see bands you can’t just see on any random day, but that seems to be getting lost.
That’s why Shaky Knees is doing as well as they are. Sure they have repeats from the others, but the devil lies in the details. There’s a ton of bands in the shaky lineup that aren’t appearing at the other majors, and ultimately that’s what draws people like to me to that fest in particular. If you look at some of the Europeans festivals, the game is always changing and it’s always diverse. Take Mad Cool for example. With a staggering lineup of Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Queens, Tame Impala, and Massive Attack it demonstrates how massive and diverse fests across the pond are compared to homeland festivals. My point is, why aren’t these bands showing up at any of the U.S. events. Of course you could factor in availability or a reluctance, but when you look at Mad Cool compared to the others mentioned, you get bummed when comparing the quality.
In closing, yes the festival market of our great United States is dying, perhaps it needs to. Fest after fest with vastly similar bills is killing the uniqueness of our festivals and if this isn’t the moment where the bubble explodes, I’m afraid to see what comes after. To stay relevant you have to be better at booking, and getting stale acts like Eminem and various others isn’t the way to go. maybe I’m just so far out of the loop that I’ve lost sight of what’s relevant, but when you have bands like Sza, Migos and Bassnectar filling up spots that used to held by a reunion like the Pixies and Portishead, clearly something is amiss. Thanks for reading!
In the last few years, there's been a rumbling from Australia, by way of future Prog Rock pioneers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. This band is interesting, and early albums such “Quarters,” and “Nonagon Infinity” helped set the stage for what would be a hard task to pull off. Sure, it’s not as difficult to keep up with the pace they set early on (eight albums in five years), but when they announced early last year that they planned to unveil five albums in one calendar year, many people were skeptical. As one myself, it not only seemed highly unlikely, but it also brought into my thinking the notion of how much the quality of each album wouldn’t be up to snuff. Even Future, whose released multiple albums in a year more than once, can’t quite keep up the quality on various releases.
That brings us to the start of 2017. For those wondering, this won’t be an in depth critique of all of the albums, but more of a general glossing over of the features and sounds King Gizzard demonstrated on these releases. In February, the seven piece featuring Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny Smith, Joey Walker, Cook Craig, Lucas Skinner, Michael Cavanagh, and Eric Moore unveiled the first of five, titled “Flying Microtonal Banana,” and well, it sounded like previous releases, but one song in particular stuck out, helped in no short way to the utterly weird and fun video. The track, simply called “Rattlesnake,” explored the more psych prog rock fans had become accustomed to. To note, this music isn’t for everyone, and often times takes a more challenged music fan to fully appreciate the weirdness transparent in everything King Gizzard does. My girlfriend for one, is not a fan, but you can’t win them all. This was followed up a few months later in June by what’s essentially one long jam session strewn through 21 tracks.That record, “Murder of the Universe” is as fun of a record to listen to as the name indicates. It’s a wild ride for sure, but the cohesiveness of the entire album makes it easy to not only listen all the way through, but the length of the tracks help tremendously. It’s a dense album to be exposed to, but clocking in at under fifty minutes it’s able to not overwhelm you like a traditional 21 song album, like many rappers and producers have become accustomed to. For the record, this type of album, where the septet has one solid idea that mushrooms into various areas, sees the band at the height of chaotic brilliance. I find the albums that have individual songs not as easy listening, but when there’s no break in the action, they’re a much more enjoyable band as a whole.
Many themes are presented throughout “Murder,” having featured everything from a storyline about a robot in a new digital world as his conscience comes full circle in his ability to control, to a story about discovering a monstrous “Altered Beast.” It’s weird as fuck, but challenging and thoughtful art sometimes is. Then in August of last year, the band once again changed course drastically with their third record titled “Sketches of Brunswick,” which heavily features a much slower, free jazz fusion sound permeating the album. It’s a gorgeously textured album that makes it hard to imagine it being the same band, but even in this role, they showcase another layer of what they’re capable of. Recorded and written alongside the “Mild High Club,” this album is perfect for sunny days near the ocean, with not a care in the world. It’s certainly their least intense album, but it’s beautiful and relaxed, unforced in every possible way. People may not enjoy this band, but you simply can't say that they’re one dimensional. King Gizzard seems pushed to defy the notions that the public has set for them, and as a music lover, you can’t ask anything more of a band willing to test and evolve with relative ease.
Forth coming down the line finds King Gizzard going back to the idea of a long track in the forms of a jam of sorts with “Polygondawanaland,” The shortest of the five, running at 43 minutes covering ten tracks, this record finds the band finding a mellow center in between the sounds of “Murder” and “Sketches.” The opening song “Crumbling Castle,” is a mythological heightened song is the visions portrayed, but from their the band expounds on their technique. Featuring meandering time signatures and ancient notions, it’s another solid listen for anyone who’s a fan of the band. Finally though, we come to the bands fifth and final album of the year. Released only right before the end of the year, “”Gumboot Soup,” is way more accessible in sections, but it’s also more in tune with pretty sounding folk rock with an element of strange mixed into the contents on others. Now I must say, only two songs show up on Spotify for some reason, but they bring everything back into what falls under the wide influence of capabilities the band has shown to possess. That being said, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, even if you’re not a fan, accomplished something astonishing and successful on their five album year. Nearly all of the releases are solid and thoughtful, and while they all sound like the same band, you’re never bored and unfazed when you check them out. They literally have a different mood on each album, and when a band can grow that much and still not sound like complete shit in the process, I believe their experiment was a success. What 2018 holds for the band is unclear, but these releases certainly make for a much deserved break, or at the very least, super interesting shows that could be focused on one particular album or a wild diverse mix of sounds. Well done King Gizzard, you’ve just shown yourself to be one of, if not the hardest working band in music right now. Congrats to the band, and thank you for reading!
As we get to the last of our end of year countdowns, it’s time to present the Top Twenty albums of 2017. Among this list you’ll find rock, metal, hip hop and many other configurations of genres. All these records were awesome and while many worthy records didn’t make the cut, these twenty five do a great job of showcasing the best sounds of the year. Enjoy!
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: HUG OF THUNDER
PORTUGAL. THE MAN: WOODSTOCK
MOSES SUMNEY: AROMANTICISM
THE XX: I SEE YOU
20. WOLF PARADE: CRY CRY CRY
After a lengthy hiatus, the foursome of Krug, Boeckner, DeCaro, and Thompson, released a record that’s just as good, if not better than what they delivered before taking time away from the industry. The album is at moments sinister, upbeat and eclectic, and further elevates their craft to a very interesting level. Hopefully they’ll stick around for more, because “Cry Cry Cry” is a record old and new fans alike can get behind.
19. PHOEBE BRIDGES: STRANGER IN THE ALPS
One of the loneliest sounding albums on the list finds us out the gate at number nineteen. Bridges sulks hazardously and openly about her struggles with depression and anxiety for our future using nothing more than her soft voice and eloquent guitar. It’s a tough album to get into and it forces you to examine your life in a different rear view. A remarkable record great for just you and your thoughts.
18. THE NATIONAL: SLEEP WELL BEAST
After so long, a total of seven albums now under their belt, the National are changing. However, some things stay the same. Matt Berninger in the vocal role maintains his sullen depression and agony while the brothers Dessner still maintain a tight sync with each other. New elements such a more synth heavy sound, and more speedy songs like “Day I Died” alongside the velocity of “Turtleneck” all add this new exciting energy to the band. The last record wasn’t anything remarkable, but I think on this one the National are back to the core and have accelerated into entirely new terrain.
17. JAPANESE BREAKFAST: SOFT SOUNDS FROM ANOTHER PLANET
Michelle Zauner as Japanese Breakfast is able to get sensual, and sexual with minimal effort, and it never seems like it’s being forced. From early on during her second album in two years, you can sense her lyrics and instrumentation are open to new routes of exploration. I haven’t heard the first record yet, but that’s mostly because of the aroma “Soft Sounds” gives off. It’s great for a lazy day at the house, or for a easy bike ride through the park, with only you and the energy of the day. If you haven’t dove in, you should, it’s some good stuff.
16. THE WAR ON DRUGS: A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING.
While the Adam Granduciel led War on Drugs has been gradually getting more and more traction with each release, on “A Deeper Understanding” the band ventures beyond their comfort zone. The result? A strong fourth album that is sure to lead to bigger pay days and more acclaim and acknowledgement. Listened to in a single listen, the ten songs join to make a cohesive album that’s filled with intricate musical arrangements and honest, personal lyrics that shine a light even more on the depth of the band.
15. GRIZZLY BEAR: PAINTED RUINS
It seems like every few years, another chapter in the vastly organic Grizzly Bear albums comes out, and Ed Droste, along with Dan Rossen, Chris Taylor, and Christopher Bear have somehow refined their sound even more than in the past. Songs like “Morning Sound,” perfectly paint a picture of the depth that the foursome are capable of. There’s not a bad song on the record, which helps to clear the way in a more cohesive style. They keep doing it, and I’m sure in a few years, they will have grown even more. For now, the Bear is hibernating, and touring.
14. NINE INCH NAILS: ADD VIOLENCE
This time last year, Reznor and Ross as nine inch nails released part one of a trilogy of Ep’s. This year we got this excellent new breath of fresh air with “Add Violence.” From the opening moments of “Less Than,” Reznor delves into experimentation after experimentation. “This isn’t the Place” is a unique beauty of eeriness, but the complex, descending nature of “The Background World” showcases Reznor’s rang as a vocalist, but also some of the craziest beats and noise he’s ever concocted.
13. SPOON: HOT THOUGHTS
I first heard this band over a decade ago, when they appeared on the Conan O’Brien show, and honestly I wasn’t impressed at all. However, the moment finally came for my understanding during the exciting, and varied sounds of “Hot Thoughts.” I’ve heard from longtime fans that they didn’t enjoy the album, so maybe everything got flipped on its head in terms of how far they pushed themselves. Lead single and title track has, for good reason been all over the radio for the last months, and other songs like “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” are minimally gothically inspired, with a dark undertone trying to get through the more beats driven sections of the song. This is repeated multiple times on the record and ultimately adds to the individuality of the Austin Texas based band.
12. FEIST: PLEASURE
When Leslie Feist releases an album you’re never quite sure which Feist will be showing herself to the world. Her first solo album “The Reminder” was an elegant, emotionally vulnerable but upbeat album, while “Metals’ fell flat with hard edges and a certain incoherent nature. However, with her amazing “Pleasure,” it seems as though she’s going back to her softly sung variance of folk rock. Even a song like “Any Party” has a down home ho-hum to it that makes it exciting, like something you’d hear in a western drama in the 60’s. “Century” featuring Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker is rustic in all the best ways a Feist song can be, joining another great track in the form of “Pleasure,” which for my money steals the entire album, which lands at number twelve on the Top Twenty Albums of 2017.
11.CONVERGE: THE DUSK IN US
It’s reassuring when a band of twenty plus years is still capable of making some of the best aggressive music around. Massachusetts natives Converge seem delighted and exposed as they venture through their ninth record. Openers like”A Single Tear,” tear open your awareness, while slow burning, cathartic tracks like the title track show just how much thought and emotion Bannon and Ballou and company have in their engine, ready to spew forth. Bannon’s voice is the driving force, but the storm enveloping everything else only adds to his deliberate moment of truth.
10. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: AMERICAN DREAM
When a band comes back from a breakup, or whatever it was that LCD did a few years ago, you never quite know what the end result will be. In this case, we got a record that easily matches the eclectic wave that James Murphy and company found early in their career. All of the songs featured on “American Dream” weave and wind like before, but there’s a far amount of experimentation happening for the NYC Electro Punk pioneers. “I used to” rolls through a jungle cautiously yet focused on its end point, while “how do you sleep?” shines bright like a fire in a far off country, isolated by darkness and joy. After each album I wonder where this band can go, and each time they surprise but never disappoint. Let the second phase of LCD Soundsystem continue, and get excited for whatever result we’re treated with.
9. SAMPHA: PROCESS
This has been quite the year for the silky smooth voice and piano murmurings of Sampha Sisay, or just Sampha for short. From the early moments of his excellent “Process,” Sampha narrates a beautifully downtrodden song, but it doesn’t end with opener “Plastic 100* C.” in fact the emotional intensity only gets harder to work through, but it’s in those moments where his beauty soars through turmoil. The record to me harkens back to the distinct sounds of Joanna Newsom, Bjork or other musicians who have embraced the harp in recent years. It’s wonderfully pretty, and makes you want to share your emotional energy with the world after you get through a listen of the entirety of the record. If this is his high note, then later albums might suffer, but if this is Sampha just getting started, heart flutters and excitement be damned, because this could get very interesting.
8. FLEET FOXES: CRACK UP
I’ve been a fan since the early days, the “Sun Giant Ep” days, and it’s remarkable how much Robin Pecknold and company have grown into a beautiful, majestic creature that only shows it’s face for small amounts of time. “Crack Up” is no exception. From the early moments of the unisonally song “I am All That I Need…” you’re welcomed into the arms of a soothing voice and harmonic hymns that it’s impossible not to get swept up in the mess of things. Over the course of the eleven song record, you watch in awe as Pecknold and the rest of his Fleet Foxes spread their wings and build a world of music jumbled into something tangible and gorgeously layered. At this point, I’m happy with the amount of output these guys have, because every album has been immaculate, and i expect that trend to continue.
7. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE: VILLAINS
Can this band make a bad album? The short answer, no. The long answer has to do with the gestation, growing period. Once again joining forces with Van Leuvan and welcoming John Theodore on his first record playing drums with the band, Queens take a chance and succeeds with producer Mark Ronson, and with this fresh air coming through, Homme and the other Queens are able to make it lighter to handle in some areas, while turning up the aggression and volume, sometimes during the same song, like what they accomplish on “The Evil has Landed.” It’s another reminder of how truly wonderful this band is, and why they’re still very much at the top of the rock n roll heap. If you think I’m wrong, just listen to “Head Like a Haunted House,” and tell me this isn’t classic QOTSA mixed with a little something extra.
6. FEVER RAY: PLUNGE
After nearly nine years, Karin Dreijer Andersson has returned to her Knife alter ego Fever Ray. This album, simply, is astounding and astonishing, much different form the first, but still pushing the boundaries of overt sexually that she so vehemently defends. This is a Pro- Woman Pro-Sex type albums, and Karin eats the narrative up, all sensual like. It’s refreshing that in this day and age, with all the sexual turmoil happening over and over again in various sections of the world that a woman can make a record as unapologetically overt in it’s sexuality. Upbeat tracks like “IDK About You” only add to the casual vibe prevalent through the record. It’s fun, sexy, graphic, and it only adds to the allure of one half of the Knife, Karin.
5. KENDRICK LAMAR: DAMN
Simply put, this shit is fire. Raised in the house of Dre and Snoop and gradually elevating himself to form a beast of his own creation, Kendrick Lamar is the without a doubt the most important solo rapper currently releasing music. If the also excellent “To Pimp a Butterfly” was Lamar’s presenting his ideas in a powerful, anti-authority warning shot, then “Damn” is the back up to that which sees Lamar signaling how far he’s willing to push his ideas to get what he wants, while opening the eyes of naysayers who simply dismiss rap as bullshit music not worthy of the bright lights of the best musicians unafraid to display their beliefs. It’s both booty bouncing music and protest music in a singular “fuck you” to all the enemies who are trying to destroy everything they see as unfit. With Kanye still doing something somewhere, and Jay Z having drifted even further from authentic rapper to “Look at how awesome it is to be Mr. Beyonce,” Lamar is the truth teller we all need.
4. LORDE: MELODRAMA
It’s rare for a major breakout star to have two albums as authentic and awesome as Lorde’s first two records have been. From the dimly light but gradually brightening opening of “Green Light,” you accept that not only has she grown as person, but her art has turned a corner to an intersection of brave honesty and smarts, and someone with a good enough x-factor that she somehow is big in circles ranging from indie to electronic fans to teenie boppers. A song like “Writer in the Dark” has all the brutal honesty to tackle a subject that we’ve all struggled with. It’s a song about life’s challenges and the difficulty of family. But it’s in that song that her true potential is burning to come out even more. Dave Grohl is right I think, when he mentioned Lorde as the future of alternative music. “Melodrama” has everything you’ll love, and more you'll grow to love with repeated listens.
3. RUN THE JEWELS: RTJ3
Ok so first things first. RTJ3 was suddenly released on everyone the day after Christmas last year, but it makes it onto this list mostly because of how close it was to 2017, but also because of the physical release, which was actually this year. Anyway onto the music, and well it’s another home run for the supergroup featuring Killer Mike and El-P, and they spare no expense to give us another near perfect record. It tackles quite a few tough lingering issues, including corruption of the highest order, the propensity of white police officers killing black people of various shapes and sizes, and the loss of friends and complacency in this hazardous world and country we’re currently living in. After all that though, this is still a record that allows you to have fun some of the time and dance your conflicted brain away. “Talk to Me,” is a siren for awareness, while “Panther like a Panther” is a filthy song with dirty, highly sexual lyrics(after all it’s still hip hop.) It’s a perfect record all around, and as the album closes with the one two punch of guests like Kamasi Washington Zack de la Rocha, it’s hard to brush this collection aside. All hail RTJ, they are the future storm of the rap world. My prediction: we haven’t seen anything yet.
2. BLACK ANGELS: DEATH SONG
This one for me is a long time coming in terms of getting around to. I’ve seen them three times, but never got into their studio albums. Until this year, when my roommate had them on and i was transfixed. “Death Song” is their fifth albums, and it’s as slow, doomladen and methodical as all the other ones, judging by what i’ve heard live. “Currency” brings the album to a heavy stepped opening, but from there they have many songs that captivate you. Songs like “I’d Kill for her,” “Estimate,” and the album closing explosion that is “Life Song” all tie into one messy but calm record that is sure to make you think about your past, present and future. It’s just one of those albums that can be enjoyed with one or two people around, but you all need to listen closely, or all the most interesting parts will blend into the background.
1. ST. VINCENT: MASSEDUCTION
From the early moments of this years number one, you get the distinct impression that Annie Clark is defying space and time. Her rock hard guitar has melted into a electro-rock aroma that is now fully filling her cup. It’s seductive in a “I won’t be ignored” way, but it’s very provocative in its delivery, which only helps to put even more ideas and music and concept in the brain of the listener. It’s a difficult listen at first, mostly due to how different it is compared to previous albums, but on listen after lister it installs itself as a powerful, evocative listen. Once you get to “Masseduction” the song, you’re already well aware of how different and energizing this neo-pop renaissance is. It’s a dangerous record for a world that needs to have different experiences shoved in faces, but it never worries you that it might go off the rail. With each album Clark is able to create a different scenario than anything else in alternative music. She’s a guitar god with a beautifully willful voice. She periodically changes her persona and adds another shimmering example of what a challenging artist pushing different views of morality, secuality, power, and the hunger to succeed. Think of her a Madonna type, able to contort and show different sides of herself with each new interpretation, except here Clark is actually writing the lyrics and music, which is something I doubt Madonna has done in a very long time. The Best album of 2017, “MASSEDUCTION,” by St. Vincent. Thanks for reading!
As we begin our second installment for the end of the year, we delve into the top ten songs that made life a little easier to enjoy. Some of these artist will show up again for our Top Twenty albums, but all of these songs are memorable for their own reasons. This list is filled with anthems, ballads about walking through darkness and various other emotions that all help to provoke the listener in a positive way. Without adding anything further, here we go with the ten best tracks of the year. Enjoy!
10. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THE EVIL HAS LANDED, VILLIANS
Homme and company has always been known as a thinking man's rock band, intent with pushing the limits of their sound, but on “The Evil has Landed,” we get a little mix of the funky new Queens, intertwined with the chunky, thumpy guitar elements of their early tracks. The delivery is spot on and full of gusto, and only sees that raw attitude and swagger grow and exceed it’s space by the end of the song. It’s a slow, guitar filled ride, but as the song concludes it implodes in a flurry of drums, guitar, and pure swagger that only QOTSA is capable of delivering.
9. ST. VINCENT, SUGARBOY, MASSEDUCTION
Like a dangerous synth and knife party, Annie Clark, aka St. vincent, delivers a in your face, frantic track called “Sugarboy” in the early moments of her excellent new album, “Masseduction.” Many of the songs are top notch, but this track stands out so much because of how different it is compared to anything else she’s produced on her previous records. It’s scary and intimidating, and reaffirms the belief that Clarke is without a doubt one of the most exciting acts of recent years, and if she keeps releasing challenging albums and tracks like this, there’s no limit to how important and popular she can become.
8. NINE INCH NAILS, THIS ISN’T THE PLACE, ADD VIOLENCE
Over the last thirteen months as Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have slowly delivered two EPs, each similar in theme but different in musical attributes, they’ce delivered one of the best tracks not only of the year, but one of the most consistently good songs they’ve released. “This isn’t the Place” is a dark road, ominous with overhead lights and fog during the evening hours. Reznor’s voice creeps in, and in that moments he’s apprehensive, but sure of himself in a way only he can deliver. It’s really shiver inducing in that way. Both EPs (“Not the Actual Events,” and “Add Violence”) are solid and enjoying, but this track shines over all the other parts.
7. THE KILLERS, TYSON VS DOUGLAS, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL
A song you may have missed on this album, but a song that also happens to elicit an amazing response once it envelops you. It’s fast paced, eye opening, and soaring in a way that only the Killers from Las Vegas are capable of doing with very little issue. The chorus is in your face, and sees Brandon Flowers letting his voice reach even the darkest corners. It all revolves around the faithful night “Iron” Mike was dethroned, but beyond that you get a song full of energy and regret. It’s one of the band’s best songs in years, and for it lands on the top half of the countdown.
6. PORTUGAL.THE MAN, FEEL IT STILL, WOODSTOCK
For the longest time I didn’t get these guys. Finally at Shaky Knees, upon realizing that this song was them?!, I was hooked. This track is a more hip hop infused track than they’ve been known for, but it’s awesome so it doesn’t really matter. It’s fun, and it’s varied appeal across multiple types of radio stations has shown that people still love a track with a good beat and high energy vocals. It still gets played in my car or house pretty often, which always helps to brighten a mood. It’s a great one if you haven’t heard.
5. KESHA, PRAYING, RAINBOW
Not that I was ever a fan of her before this record and song, but you simply can’t ignore a track this important, especially at a time like this. I won’t go into details that we likely all know at this point, but for the first time Kesha is actually using her voice for powerful, inciteful comments on her struggles to prove she had more to showcase than the typical dumb pop music she was known for before this song rightfully flooded the airwaves. For her anguish, and her treatment, and her resentment at how she’s been treated, she deserves this one.
4. KENDRICK LAMAR, HUMBLE, DAMN
Has any solo rapper had as much success in terms of brilliant song writing in the last five years as Lamar has? I’m not sure of that, but if Kendrick keeps making blistering tracks like “Humble,” then he’s already cemented his place in modern rap history. The rhymes elicited are fire to your ears, and the beat it grimey and gangster enough to make people of various colors join in while the enjoy top level rap music. Every track on the album is killer, but for the purposes of this countdown, “Humble” is here to represent the continued brilliance and excitement that Lamar delivers routinely.
3. LORDE,WRITER IN THE DARK, MELODRAMA
One of the most sorrowful songs of the year finds the list at number three. In “Writer in the Dark,” Lorde give a narrative that’s not only tragic song in terms of its theme, but it also seems to be Lorde’s lament about how insane this current climate is. It’s more poignant and introspective than nearly any other song on her still excellent “Melodrama,” but it sit nestled nicely along with the other highs she reaches. When she bellows “I find a way to be without you babe,” you feel her pain and anger over everything that’s happened in her life, while still not going into graphic personal detail. That metaphorical passion is one that pushes the song to excellence.
2. THE BLACK ANGELS, I'D KILL FOR HER, DEATH SONG
I‘m not sure what about this song drew me in, but I’m happy it did. It’s spooky from the opening drums beats, and as soon and the vocals of Christian Bland meld into the atmosphere, this song takes off in a haze of nighttime glory. The guitars glisten and portray dark intentions throughout the duration, but the real treasures are the lyrics. Being seduced by a witch of sorts, or maybe just an evil person, is always a great basis for a song, but the way the angels do it, your excitement is standing right near to your fear about what awaits you. It’s a big moment early in the album, and it finds its spot as the second best song of the year. Great for an evening bike riding.
1. RUN THE JEWELS, A REPORT TO THE SHAREHOLDERS/ KILL YOUR MASTERS, RUN THE JEWELS 3
Honestly, take your pick at your favorite track from this album and it would still stand a chance at landing on this year’s list. For me though, the finale of their nearly perfect “RTJ3” stands as the best song of the year. It’s eye opening in a way that makes your resent that fact that songs like this have to be created in the first place. It’s a track full of resentment in regards to our lopsided thought process, our issues with the little guy still fighting for his increasingly small cut. At its heart though, it’s a call to arms for everyone to stand up and be heard. The song is essentially two independent pieces out together to make one lengthy, sobering track, but they sync together in a way that makes it fluid and invigorating. The lyrics delivered from Mike, El, and special guest Zack De la Rocha all make “A Report to the Shareholders/ Kill Your Masters” my top rated song of the year. Listen, learn, and most importantly enjoy. These guys are hopefully just getting started.
Welcome back! Sorry it’s been so long since a post, but a lot has been going on. Anyway today we start the year end pieces. First up are the ten best shows I’ve witnessed in the last calendar year. These ten picks cover the bases from experimental to good ole' rock n roll, to giant productions and hip hop. in other words, there's something here for everyone. Hope you enjoy.
10. Japandroids, Republic Nola
From the moment the band emerged from the backstage area, they presented the crowd with a chaotically jubilant sixty minutes show with fan favorites and new hits all together. “Younger Us,” “Night of Wine and Roses” and various others brought the crowd into the game as their voices bellowed into one. The band manages to stay ahead of the curb in terms of emotional, heartfelt anthem based on the trials and joys of youthfulness, and its in that essence that the twosome thrives.
9. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, One Eyed Jacks, Nola
As far as longevity goes, it remains uncertain just how prolific this band will be, but this year has been unreal for King Gizzard and company. Releasing five albums since January, the 7 piece mostly stuck to one of their recent sets,”Murder of the Universe,” but every note hit harder than the last, complete with psychedelic images and loud, chunky vibrations through the packed and sold out club. Those are some of the best shows at OEJ, and it helps to make the crowd feel as one as the band pummels on.
8. Zola Jesus, Gasa Gasa, Nola
About 18 months ago I saw Jesus midday at Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest. While the FPSF show was solid, this night at a tiny dive in New Orleans truly showcased Zola Jesus and her enigmatic, ominous endeavors in an intimate enough venue that enabled her to literally be among the crowd, face to face. In a moment where the crowd watched her get personal and mention her recent cold, she came off as brilliant and open, hoping for a precious moment. She delivered well and strong, and judging by the emotions of the crowd, most left satisfied. For that reason, Zola Jesus pops in at number eight on the best shows of 2017.
7. Sigur Ros, Saenger, Nola
Having seen Jonsi and company three times prior, I knew what to expect, but somehow this was as different and as mesmerizing compared to the other times. Playing two unique sets full of memorable tracks such as “Saegloupur,” “Festival,” and many others from their extensive catalogue, the attendees on this night sat in profound beauty as they went on a visceral, awe inspiring ride with the Icelandic trio. Note after note provoked joy, and the haunting lights and stage show only added to the opulents of the evening.
6. Grizzly Bear, Civic Theater, Nola
On a dreary night a few weeks ago, the Civic hosted one of the most reliable alternative bands of the last decade, and unsurprisingly the show was as top notch as their discography. Picking from songs from their recent “Painted Ruins,” all the way back to classics like “Two Weeks,” the Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen and company perfectly complimented the intimacy of the venue with a haunting, light on theatrics and stage visuals show that showcased their intricately wound rhythms. Highlights included new song “Morning Sound,” and the insane build up and winding road nature of what’s maybe the band’s best song, “Sun In Your Eyes.”
5. LCD Soundsystem, Orpheum Theater, Nola
A performance by NYC punk disco stalwarts LCD Soundsystem might not be as special as it was when they announced their reunion, but that in no way means they’ve lost their eagerness to perform. Each show still delivers with the type of energy that the band has been known for, for as long as they’ve been delivering classic albums. On this night, as part of the Voodoo Fest after show series, the band sold out the Orpheum in under two weeks, and played well past two a.m. on a busy saturday night in Nola. All their best tracks were presented to a capacity crowd. Showcasing tracks like the frantic “Movement” alongside others like the gradual swell of “Us V Them,” and the classic “Dance Yrself Clean,” meant that everyone got to shout, dance, and rock out to the stellar band, which includes James Murphy, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney and others.
4. Run the Jewels, Joy Theater, Nola
El-P and Killer Mike have, in just a few short years, skyrocketed from a club band to an act that is prepared to start filling up high profile spots on major festivals lineups, and it’s with good reason. Just ask any person who’s seen them, especially if it happened on the current tour. When you successfully have produced three albums that are all better than the previous one, you have a ton of room to make every show hit as hard as possible, and RTJ doesn’t miss that moments. Crowd interaction and excitement was high, and from the moment Uncle El and Mike launched into “Legend Has It,” we all knew this would be a fun, thrilling show. It’s likely that they don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, so be sure to jump in for your chance to see the single best rap group of the last ten years.
3. Phoenix, Shaky Knees Festival, Atlanta
During the final night of this amazing festival, something happened that has never happened during my two years of attending: a band was late. The sad part was that it was Phoenix, who were scheduled to close out the three day festival. While this was lame and an unhappy conclusion to a well organized festival, once the foursome from Paris presented themselves on stage, all of that frustration was quickly forgotten. They delivered exactly what you’d expect, on all fronts. A huge mirror positioned behind the band was able to make lights seem as though they had multiplied, and songs like “1901,” the eye opening transition of “Love like a Sunset,” and the powerful in your face energy of “Entertainment” all crushed the tired yet excited crowd in the middle of downtown Atlanta. It was the best show of the entire three day weekend, and for that, it shows up at number three on the year end best shows list.
2. Radiohead, Smoothie King Center, Nola
A Radiohead show is always an insanely special thing, but on this night, seeing the band for the fourth time was made even more excited by the woman, and other people I shared it with. Every note hits perfectly and precisely, just like it does on every album the band has constructed in their history. From the emotional release of “Fake Plastic Trees,” to the upbeat, more dancey rendition of “Burn the Witch,” it was clear that Thom, Ed, Johnny, Colin and Phil hadn’t lost any of their proficiency when it comes to staging concerts that will inspire you to look deep in your own body and soul, and to be just close enough to five geniuses that even if it’s only for two hours, all is right and everything's in its right place.
1. Roger Waters, American Airlines Center, Dallas
For years I’d been trying to see Waters. Afterall, his work with the other members of seminal prog rock, experimental band Pink Floyd still stand as some of the best overall music of well, forever. Finally on a hot ass night in Dallas in July, I got my chance, and what the sold out crowd was exposed to easily (in my opinion at least) stands as what is likely the best show I’ve ever seen in my life, even surpassing McCartney and Daft Punk. While many of the songs you’d expect to hear were presented, and enjoyed, for me it honestly didn’t matter. This was a unicorn that I was finally able to set my eyes on for well over two hours. Each note poured perfection out into the arena, and the massive stage show (complete with a set of screens that divided the audience in two for a brief portion of the show) only added to the theatricality of the evening. No opening act, minimal chatter with the crowd, and a very clear anti-Trump section of the show only reinforced the idea that art of any kind can be an act of resistance, and that Waters still has a lot to say about how he views the world at large. A once in a lifetime experience, and one that I’ll be remembering for as long as I’ll remember his rendition “Time,” “Wish you Were Here,” and countless other perfect songs that Waters helped to create. Thanks for reading!
Two things seem obvious when it comes to Vegas born Killers. One: They’ve made fun, thoughtful, rock and roll with minimal electronic aspects mostly brilliantly over the course of their fifteen plus year career. The second thing, at least upon my observations, is that a ton, and i mean a lot of people, hate this band. There seems to be little in between, but from my point of view, the Killers represent a band that produced a debut album that everyone loved, and from, there continued to make worthwhile music consistently( though not perfectly continuous), and have managed to become one of the few bands that has been able to say that they went from being one of the lower billed bands at festivals, to headlining them with ease. Here’s what I consider the Top Ten songs by the Brandon Flowers led Killers. Some are super obvious, but there’s more than one non-hit in this grouping, so there’s something here for casual fans and people that soak up all things The Killers. Enjoy!
10. Spaceman, Day & Age
Day & Age is probably the first album where people thought the band took a misstep, but there’s still a good amount of enjoyable music found on the record. On “Spaceman” the band veers more towards the pop side that they brought us on their debut, while managing to have better results on the mixing side of things then the band had in their early days. The song itself though, is a upbeat, classic Killers soundscape, with a glossy chorus that features Flowers quickly touching on “dream makers” and other fantastical elements. Not their crowning achievement for sure, but it’s quality enough to crack the top ten as we begin our countdown.
9. Andy, You’re a Star, Hot Fuss
The crunchy, yet rusty sounding guitar by David Keuning start the track on a lonely, moonlit road as the song unfolds. It’s a slow burn of a number, and it’s something I honestly wish they did more often. When Flower’s wonderfully melodic voice beckons to Andy, to inform his he’s a star, the song has reached further than most of the band's catalogue since. Musically the song isn’t the boisterous stadium killer the band has come to trademark, but on an album as brightly orchestrated and executed as “Hot Fuss,” “Andy, You’re a star” shines in stark contrast to the rest of the album, which is why it works so well in the first place.
8. My List, Sam’s Town
This is a tough one for me to write about honestly. For my ex and i, this was one of the first songs we ever experienced together, and it stayed a favorite of ours for the years that followed. “My List” fills a more sorrowful void then nearly any other song in the Killers catalogue, but that’s why it’s such an impressive song. Flowers crooning in regards to his love, his regret, and his optimism of the potential future make this song something truly special. The over reaching elements of the song are blatantly clear. This is a man desperate for the ability to do the right thing for his partner, while still staying true to himself. The chorus and crescendo at the end set it even higher up in terms of emotion, and it’s a tool the band uses to amazing effect on our number eight pick, “My List.”
7. On Top, Hot Fuss
Number seven on our list, “On Top,” always feels to me like it should be used in a montage in some 80’s driven action movie, but that’s neither here nor there. The keyboard beats on the song are laid down in a powerful but subtle way, in order to give the band, and Flowers especially, the room to really make the song an impactful one. It’s a song that feels just as comfortable in a dark bar dancing as it does at a mid day cook out as the sun begins to set. It’s relatively upbeat until the doors fly open more immediately as the track concludes, but there’s no denying this song, along with the majority of the songs on “Hot Fuss,” are reasons that the Killers have come as far as they have in the last decade.
6. This River is Wild, Sam’s Town
One thing this band will always do well is managing to write songs that leave the opportunity for huge sing alongs and even bigger vocal choruses. To me “Sam’s Town” will remain their best work, and it’s a selection like “This River is Wild” that serves as an example of why it’s aged so well. Flowers vocalizes how hard it is to stay on the straight and narrow,but he’s also able to explain his own faults in a way that seem both blunt and timid. He’s not happy about the choices he’s made, but he understands that on the road “trying to do what’s right,” there will be twists and turns. After all, the song is called “This River is Wild,” so yeah it shouldn’t be surprising how much the song is able to portray in terms of uncertainty.
5. Runaways, Battleborn
Basically this whole list is an after effect of me jamming out incessantly to this song for the last week. As an album, “Battle Born” is easily their least accomplished album, but that says very little about the song in general. Brandon’s vocals are soaringly visible and can easily fill a giant open field with thousands singing his words back to him. Also, I know drumming isn’t a thing the band is mentioned often in regards to, but Vannucci’s skills on “Runaways” nearly steals the show from the vocalist, though they don’t quite get there. Lastly, “Runaways” might be regarded as their best song on their worst album, but it’s an unbelievably strong track, and it ends up at number five on the Top Ten Killers songs.
4.Read My Mind, Sam’s Town
To me “Sam’s Town” was a move done to exemplify their desire to grow beyond how they were perceived during the first album cycle, but there’s way more to it. “Read My Mind” represents the Killers successfully going the route of Springsteen. A track like this has so much to offer. Everything from the Americana aspect prevalent through the song, to the nervous energy of a person going on a date. It’s also a song about regrets, and how little you actually know about what lurks in the brains of the people closest to you. It’s a song that exemplies middle america without even trying, and with this ability to put themselves in a vulnerable mind frame, the song is made that much stronger.
3. Jenny was a Friend of Mine, Hot Fuss
For years I sung these lyrics innocently enough. I don’t know why, but it always seemed to me like a lovelorn song about the end of a relationship,and in many ways that remains true. That is, until you realize the song is more than likely about taking someone’s life. The musical aspects are whirling, bright and darkly optimistic, but the under belly of the song hints at a much darker band than fans bargained for with some of the more pop friendly tracks. It’s an early reminder of how well the band can blur lines to convince you a song is about one thing when it’s not even remotely about that, and while “Jenny” in the song met her demise by someone she trusted, we are gifted a wonderful, bombastic song that opened up an album that brought the band to places they never thought possible.
2. When You Were Young. Sam’s Town
One of the band’s biggest hits finds us at Number two on the countdown. “When You were Young” details the lessons you learn through hard and good times alike. The music is immediate in a way but balanced enough to still leave room for vocalist Flowers to work his magic. What will tomorrow bring, and how will we handle it is also a topic discussed on the song, but it’s the presentation by the band, who all co-wrote this song, that makes it all the more important. The song always has a great juxtaposition regarding growing up. When we’re young we believe all these things, and we’re able to trust more people, but as we grow older, our bodies and souls are forced to confront the tough facts. There’s not always going to be a wonderful man to swoop you off your feet. It’s actually a really somber track in the way it takes our innocent childhood thoughts and forces those thoughts to come to terms with all the loss, sadness and humility a person learns as they get older and navigate this often cruel, misunderstood world.
1. All These Things that I’ve Done, Hot Fuss
Years ago, during a torrentially bad time for me, “All These Things that I’ve Done” was a liftboat for me. There’s no other way to say this. Talk shit all you want, but this song saved me and reminded me that we all need assistance from time to time. The song opens with a soft piano, ambient background noise, and of course, the trademark voice of swooner Brandon Flowers. During this dark period for myself, I was stubborn, resistant, and in way over my head in terms of how I was dealing with depression, fucked up decisions, and various other things I’ve managed to forget over the course of years. When you’re at that point in your life, and you hear this song, you feel as though the band is speaking to you. It was a perfectly sobering experience to be able to relate to the line “You know you gotta help me out,” and feel as though the song itself was actually playing a part in the betterment of my mental health. For that reason, as well as all the others i’ve named. “All These Things that I’ve Done,” tops the list of the Top Ten Killers songs. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
Songs about relationships, good and bad, are nothing new to music fans all over. They bring up moments of doubt, uncertainty of the future, and perhaps, memories of a past life. They can be detailed in personal experiences, or even pre-conceived notions of what should or should not happen in a relationship. This is where Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala comes into play.
Over the course of of three excellent records, Parker has managed to not only bring us some of the best alternative music of the last decade, but he’s also been able to find a niche in his creativity that doesn’t hobble him based on subject matter. While no official word has ever been given on how much Parker pulls from his personal life and past relationships in order to reach his fullest potential, many of his songs appear deeply experiential. Today we’ll be talking about Impala’s music, the way it helped me to overcome difficult breakups, and what this says about music as a whole. I hope you enjoy.
Even from the first track of Tame Impala’s debut album “Innerspeaker,” (which very well could be a metaphor for pouring out the turmoil and regrets that fill all of us from time to time) Parker is able to paint a vivid picture of a lovelorn man meandering contently “sitting around smoking weed.” The she in question on this song, titled “It is Not Meant to Be,” doesn’t appreciate Parker’s approach to life, and the song is a construct of the many things that could go wrong once you realize that the shoes of a particular relationship no longer are able to fit the feet of the participants. Mutterings of this nature are abound on many of these songs, but it is this first track that let’s us know that Tame Impala, and really Parker solely, are able to go there and bring this type of music to a place where few ever dared to stray. Part of why this works so well for Parker is that it comes off as genuine. Songs work best for mass audiences when you’re able to connect to experiences that the listener has also been through, and throughout many of his songs, Parker is able to do that with ease.
As you go further into his works though, influences and romantic nuances are trickled through many of the songs. This helped to make those first two albums so powerful in terms of emotions stemming from previous experiences. On Parker’s sophomore release, “Lonerism,” the themes of lost loves and regrettable moments sneak a little bit more into the forefront. On a track like “Why Don’t You Make Up Your Mind” from the first record “Innerspeaker,” the message is more narrow in terms of a typical person incapable of being decisive in regards to what they want, but Parker expands on that greatly on “Lonerism.”
Tame as an entity continually straddles the line between normally routine things in psych rock (i.e. visions of the future or of the end of the world), but what they add in grandiose imagery is only as good as the lyrics being presented, and this is where Parker kills it. Even a song like “Apocalypse Dreams,” seems like a letter from a person struggling to understand what is happening in his sphere of existence. The song is more about the monotonous nature of life and how nothing ever truly changes. Whether or not this is in regards to a former partner or not, it’s plays to the idea of the ability to romanticize anything, from a breakup that was always supposed to happen, or to the eventual death of our world. For every song whose meaning is indeterminate and abstract though, there’s a song like number four on “Lonerism,” “Mind Mischief.” The song and video alike are both built to perfect effect and fully burrow into the concept of unrequited love. When Parker belts out “She remembers my name,” you know the thrill of someone you feel connected to actually knowing who you are. This might seem strange for some, but as a person who’s had feelings for someone I barely knew, or who I was convinced had no idea I even existed, this concept is enthralling and exciting at the same time.
Above all else though, the song that most clearly speaks to heartbreak on the second album is without question “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” Many people have felt this way (I know I certainly have), but the pain involved in any long term relationship can have a crippling effect on the participants. This song works so well because it’s relatable, human, and the listener can quickly find themselves in the headspace of the musician sending out his signals of heartbreak, uncertainty and misdirection. I know the pain, specifically because I’ve lived through it. I’ve been at those points where I can recall a time where I heard a former partner's voice calling out to me, and I’ve felt stagnant in a position where there was no easy way out. The song’s brilliance and triumph are ones made from the blood, sweat and tears of it’s composer. On the third record though, all nodes or nuanced statements are essentially blown away for something much more literal, and in your face with the pain and openness exhibited.
The first obvious sign of this direction on the album comes to us during the song “Yes I’m Changing.” The record all in all is a mix between a typical psych-rock record with sweeping beats that pulsate, but there’s a very clear indication that this is a R&B classic breakup record simply done in the way that Parker had refined on the first two albums. Now while Parker has gone on record and said this is not a breakup album, it’s hard to see his logic when discussing it’s most personally profound tracks. That’s why “I’m Changing” is such a stark contrast to what had come before. I know the pain behind the song because, while I was still getting to know this record, a detachment from my ex-wife was taking place and enveloping every fiber of my being. This song became my pick me up and make me understand song, even though all the keys I needed to make sense of this terrible event were already in my head, waiting to be worked out.
In that track, you don’t get the impression of a good guy or a bad guy. Breakups are incredibly hard, and the more time you spend trying to make it work, the worse you feel when it ultimately ends. No one comes out the victor, just two more people with a little less trust and hope in their hearts. Over and over again on “Currents” you are thrust into that breakup mentality. Songs like “Eventually” drill the notion home that mistakes happen and that everyone will “Eventually” make their way through the downsides of failed love. When Parker croons “But I know that I'll be happier and I know you will too,” you feel the relief of knowing that even though it sucks at this moment, it does eventually become better. I, for one, can fully understand the concept of moving on is easier if I never knew a person, but with all that hard work, you’re able to grow and set out on a new path with your remade self to attempt to make something work in this toxic, never good enough world. Halfway through “Currents” we meet a song filled with classical romantic moments of regret, and of witnessing the person you want giving their attention to someone that isn’t you. That song “The Less I know the Better,” isn’t only the best track on the album, it seems to be the most rational and realistic. We’ve all felt how Parker feels when he explains how he “was doing fine without ya, ‘til I saw your face, now I can’t erase.” This section is a huge bomb of truth dropped, simply because we all know what the feelings and emotions running through you are like when these moments come up, usually as a relationship deteriorates and all sense of what is supposed to work and not work suddenly become a thing you can’t separate.
Songs like the one’s mentioned, as well as tracks further down the tracklist of the album (“Cause I’m a Man,” or album closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”) further build the notion that while “Currents” may not be an autobiography of a breakup in Parker’s life, at the very least it has an overarching theme of heartbreak, suffering and the resolve of a person trying to learn from their fuck ups and unfortunate circumstances, and how that pain can truly be a catalyst for change.
What lies next for Parker under the Tame Impala moniker remains to be seen, but if the fourth album is as big of a step in an unknown direction like “Currents” was, we could hopefully be in for more giant, experimental rock beats with introspective lyrics that are able to help ease the pain of creator and listener alike. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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