Let’s just jump right into this, all of these shows were amazing!
10. WAR ON DRUGS, SHAKY KNEES
On day two at the Atl based Shaky Knees, a brief rain shower slowed the festival down for a little while. After it concluded, the opening of War On Drugs greeted the fresh aired, hazy aftermath of an afternoon shower. The colors in the sky were incredible, with blue and pink hues flowing through the air. The band sounded marvelous as the field opened up and the crowd truly gave themselves to the band for the duration of their hour long set.
9. THE NATIONAL, SHAKY KNEES
I’ve seen them four times now, and this was by far the best. The closing band of the fest, it was a departure from the bombast of the previous night, yet the members of the band truly showed that they can viably close and headline for a festival. The brothers Dessner, Devendorf and single Matt Berninger all delivered their best, and with humble moments like “Fake Empire” not to mention the closing beautiful two song combo of “Terrible Love” and the haunting “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” made for a truly moving end to a night, and a weekend.
8. SLEEP, CIVIC
When the chance came to be able to witness Matt Pike and his Sleep cohorts, it seemed like a no brainer. It turned out to be just the right choice. Minutes before the show, NASA messages were plugging away, but by the time the band opened with their magnum opus “Dopesmoker,” the crowd was fully exposed to the power of the trio. For nearly two hours they plugged away, and the let up never ceased. It was easily the heaviest show I saw I saw this year and it lands at number eight on the Ten Best shows of 2018.
7. MUMFORD AND SONS, VOODOO FEST
Mumford is a band that often gets a bad rap, but this hit after hit set that drove into a field of thousands on the opening night of Voodoo was stiff even cynics couldn’t deny. These guys know how to put on a rock show. Hits like “The Wolf” soared while newcomers “Guiding Light” only set the stage for the rock festival powerhouse that is “The Wolf.” Sure it’s somewhat cheesy at times, but they believe it wholeheartedly and that enjoyment from the band sells it like few can.
6. KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD, REPUBLIC
This being my second time seeing this fearsome prog rock titans, I knew some of what to expect, but it was still great. Choosing to focus most of the evening on their insane discography (Even if you just count last years 5 albums) the set delivered on the ridiculously heavy and trippy King Gizzard showed they’re ready for even bigger shows in the near future. I believe they can get there sooner rather than later. My lady might hate this band, but to see them play classic heavy prof rock like “Rattlesnake,” “Crumbling Castle” And “Vomit Coffin,” continues to be a joy.
5. ODESZA, VOODOO FEST
As the bubble of EDM continues to burst, we’ve not only found our way back to great electronic music, but also groups of artists that are able to cut into the mainstream and deliver something more than what we have been accustomed to. Odesza's Saturday night set at Voodoo was nothing short of spectacular, with high energy lasers, fire and guests vocalists showing up to energize the crowd. It was both refreshing and energetic, and comes in at number five on the list of the best shows of the year. It’s the type of music you might not always be down for, but in a festival setting they absolutely dominate.
4. NINE INCH NAILS, SAENGER THEATER NIGHTS
Having recently just spent two nights seeing Reznor and his cohorts, the shows are still fresh in my mind. Because both shows were so different and great though, I’ve combined them into one jumble. Both shows delivered plenty of tracks that aren’t in the normal rotation, but standouts like night 1’s “All the Love in the World,” “And All That Could Have Been” And the in your face “Last” from day #3 all helped to showcase that these middle age men can still blow away the younger bands in terms of sheer intensity. It’s not every day you get to see Reznor, Ross, Fink, Cortini and Rubin mix it up in an intimate venue, which makes it even more awesome and memorable.
3. ARCTIC MONKEYS, VOODOO FEST
Over the last ten years, Alex Turner has transformed himself and his band mates into an undeniable rock staple capable of pulling in big crowds. As the closing act on the final day of Voodoo, Turner and his Arctic Monkeys showcased their British tinted rock act, with plenty of smiles and rocking out to go around. Tracks like the blindingly fast paced “Brainstorm” mesmerized the crowd, with a shaven headed Turner eating it up throughout the over ninety minute set. It was my second time seeing them, but when you get virtually every song you were hoping for like “Crying Lightning,” “R U Mine?” And “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved the Chair,” it’s hard to walk away not being utterly blown away.
2. ST. VINCENT, CIVIC
The last year for Annie Clark has been nothing if not engaging and experimental. It’s a testament to how great this show was seeing as it happened in only the second month of 2018 and is still filling my brain with excitement. She captivated the crowd with older tracks like “Actor out of Work,” “Cheerleader” and the mammoth “Digital Witness” for the first half of the show, then set forth to spellbound the crowd with a full performance of “Masseduction,” which actually topped my year end albums list in 2017. So many songs were incredible it’s hard to pick one, but surrounded by friends dancing the night away proves to be a memory that is still filling my brain. High concept for sure but her conquering of the alternative music scene is nearly complete. It’s also rare to see a 90 minute one woman show captivate and deliver as well as this did, but she’s incredible so it’s to be expected.
1. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, SAENGER THEATER
Shows featuring my favorite bands are always a hard thing to judge, but when a band is this good, it’s hard to deny its enjoyment. Playing Nola about 8 days before their Shaky Knees show, Homme, Jon Theodore, Dean, Troy and Mikey proves why they continue to be one of the best rock bands on earth. Sticking around on stage for two and a half hours also ensured that the sold out crowd was left with nothing left to beg for. Taking tracks from all of their eight studio albums, the band poured through a magnetic set that you couldn’t turn away from. I’ve seen them several times now, but this was by far the best, deep cut heavy set I’ve ever seen the band play. When you get delivered rare tracks like “Lost Art of Keeping a Secret,” and the raucous newer track “Head like a Haunted House,” it’s hard to walk away unsatisfied. Simply put, it was the best show of the year, and because of that, they secure the number one spot on the “Top Ten Shows of 2018.” I hoped you’ve enjoyed this and I’ll be back with Best songs of the year, as well as the Top 20 Albums of the year in a few days time. Thanks for reading!
I was ten or eleven the year when what I imagined music could be changed. That was the year I discovered the band, or artist that would become not only my favorite all-time entertainer, but an artist and creator of a sound that would shape me as a person, and introduce me to a whole new world. That band is Nine Inch Nails.
In the late 80's, no one knew what “Industrial” Music was. At the time the biggest purveyors of the sound consisted of underground bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy. While both quite good, these bands were on the fringe, and weren't really trying to break out of their niche. That's where Trent Reznor comes in. Reznor, living at the time in one of the worst places I've ever visited, Cleveland, was trying to figure out a way to make music he felt wasn't being fairly represented. Like I mentioned earlier, Ministry is amazing, and has some very good records, but Reznor's approach was more in the form of mixing the world of Industrial as well as bringing more pop sensibilities to the environment.
The result was 1989's “Pretty Hate Machine.” At the time nothing like it had come out. It mixed cold electronic beats with a certain catchy aesthetic. The first track on the album, and one of the band's most popular songs even today, “Head Like a Hole,” found a interesting and wanting crowd of underground music fans who were willing enough to give the band a chance. Much of the album is subdued compared to what would be done later, but you can very much still hear the inspiration and how exacting Reznor was in creating this new sound. Songs like “Terrible Lie,” “Sin” and “Kinda I Want to” have beats unlike anything that were out at this time, and it's based on this foundation that the band would grow and become one of the most influential bands in rock music of the 90's.
The album also gives us a brief glimpse into how well rounded he is as a instrumentalist. The best example of this is the hauntingly dark “Something I Can Never Have.” Having been a piano player from a very early age, by this point Reznor was very proficient at the instrument. This is glaringly obvious here. He builds the tension quietly and deliberately at first with soft but ominous undertones, but the sound gradually progresses to a textural palette that is vibrant in ways that most dark music rarely reaches. One of the best uses of his voice is his ability to convey a certain pain, and even from early on he knew exactly how his voice needed to come across. This song is a early victory in that usage.
Like many musicians who are getting into the industry for the first time, Reznor felt unfulfilled by what his current label, TVT was willing to do to get the record out and heard. If you watched the amazing docuseries “The Defiant Ones,” Reznors recalls being told the debut record was “an abortion,” so you can see what he was dealing with. To get away from that awful aura, the band launched touring as part of the inaugural Lollapalooza tour, and alongside Jane's Addiction, the Rollins Band, and Living Colour, the band finally got to know a much deserved bigger audience.
During this period, feeling as though stuck and obviously pissed off, Reznor put togegher a short, violent EP called “Broken.” Recorded in secret and full of rage, it wasn’t until Jimmy Iovine of Interscope records fame was able to get nin, and by definition Reznor,out from under TVT that the existence of the record became known. It’s a simple and thorough fuck you to Reznors former Label and chief Steve Gottlieb. The album is insanely intense and very unlike PHM, but tracks like “Last,” “Gave Up” are stand out classics. “Broken” is also where the extremely violent content in videos started to appear. “Wish” essentially takes place in a chaotic, strobe lit, prison, and “Pinion” depicts a toilet being flushed into a man's mouth while he wears a lovely BDSM outfit. Even those don't top the list of intensity though. The two biggest examples of the change in tone are “Happiness in Slavery” and an underground video never officially released called “Broken.” “Happiness” sees a man who begins by getting pleasured by a machine, but quickly it turns sadistic as the man is tortured, killed, and eventually put through a meat grinder. You can imagine the curiosity of a 16 year old boy watching this.
The worst though, the “Broken” video is so insane it's only been known to circulate in unofficial states. What we see here is simple. A man convinces a younger man to come home with him, and various methods of torture ensue. The footage in intercut with the other proper music videos, but the damage is done slowly as you see the killer take his anger out on this poor, poor soul. It's so bad and realistic it was rumored to be investigated by the FBI. During this time the band decided to locate to Los Angeles and record in the house where the Manson family killed Sharon Tate. It's almost as if you can hear the effect it had on the music. This is when things start to change for the artist known as Nine Inch Nails. The underground success and reputation of the band had gained a noticeable following, and with their second full length album, the band exceeded all previous success and ended up making their best known album.
That album, “The Downward Spiral,” is not only a crowning achievement for forward thinking rock music, but also for Reznor himself. The instrumental aspects on this record are beyond anything you had ever heard from this genre before, not just in scope but in the array of sounds and textures conjured up in the studio. The album opens with a sample from “THX 1138,” and “Mr. Self Destruct” tears through in a vicious wave. To put it mildly, this album was a severe game changer for the band, and for Reznor himself. In a matter of months, and on the back of a legendary performance at Woodstock 94, Nin found themselves filling arena's instead of halls and theaters, and were the ire of concerned parents everywhere. They became the “edgy” bands lame television shows like the “Nanny” name dropped to make the kids seem rebellious.
The album itself, which tells the story of a man slowly descending into utter madness, is full of amazingly intricate beats, soundscapes and sheer madness for the duration. Unorthodox beats perfectly build the tension during songs like “Piggy” and “Ruiner,” while also managing to make beautiful and eye opening creations in a track like “A Warm Place.” Technically speaking, there really isn't a bad song on the album. “March of the Pigs” is still an brute force track, and one of the best to see in a live performance setting. Literally I remember seeing the band in Shreveport where the crowd got so intense during the track that I realized my feet were off the ground and I was just going with the flow of bodies for a good 15 seconds. When you hear Reznor scream “March!” there's this undeniable urge to be apart of a frenzy, and it's one of the best experiences during a concert I can ever recall. Like I said, intense.
If you had to pick out one song that played the biggest role in NIN’s transformation to giant band though, the song you mention more than likely is “Closer,” The chorus of “I wanna fuck you like an animal” is a little bit played out these days, but that's only because the song is so absurdly well known. In truth though, it's a fucking great song, and the overwhelming beat throughout is classic. Even the video itself is a masterpiece. The way the images are able to stay with you and haunt you is a great ploy by Mark Romanek to create a video creepy enough to compliment the song. If you live under a rock and haven't seen it, check it out. One of the classic video's from the decade. The song was at the right place at the right time, and for better and worse, it changed the whole trajectory of Reznor's career. By the time Downward Spiral's two year tour was over, Reznor was a mess. Slowly but surely, drugs and alcohol had taken over his life, and one top of that, people were greatly anticipating his return to the studio to create new music. Five years passed before we would hear anything new.
“The Fragile” years proved to be both amazing and horrible for Reznor. His grandmother, who had raised him, passed away, and on top of all that, his long time dog also passed away. Now I've dealt with my grandparents all dying, but I can't imagine the difficulty of losing both a grandparent and my animal in a small amount of time. As you can imagine, this didn't help the addiction situation much, and it just got worse.
Thankfully, after years of waiting, and years of Reznor working on the project, word slowly got out that the album was actually completed, and would be arriving very soon. While “The Downward Spiral” is the best known album, “The Fragile” remains the best record of his career. It's a monument to sadness, difficulties, and the emotional core of the record touches on things that still strike a chord. Most of the hardcore fans I know instantly recognize the album as a masterstroke, and it's been mentioned by Reznor more than once that it's his favorite album in the NIN cannon. To listen to it it isn't hard to understand why. At over twenty songs, and two hours of music, song after song delivers in ways that the previous song didn't. “The Day the World Went Away” bellows with an ethereal chamber quality, while others like the catchy “Into the Void” make you wonder what's coming next.
While not a direct sequel to “The Downward Spiral,” it has many of the same themes that are prevalent in “TDS.” It reeks of isolation, fear, contempt for the world, and most importantly, the continuation of exacting beats and thoughtfully concise movements that evolve at times over multiple songs. The album's diversity is pretty astounding, even today. During his career, Reznor had been known to toss in instrumental tracks on releases, and “The Fragile” is no exception. Some of these are among the best songs on the whole record. “Pilgrimage” hits you toward the end of the Left Disc, and the imagery painted makes you instantly think of a Nazi march. The best though, comes in the way of “Just Like You Imagined.” To put it bluntly, it's a killer intense song, and it's probably the best instrumental track ever made under the nin moniker. Now I use instrumental somewhat loosely. Some of the songs do contain voices, but often times it's impossible to make out if any words are used. I think it just helps with the overall tone he was trying to convey. Above all else, Reznor is an amazing producer and composer, and in the pursuit of his ultimate vision, he never missteps.
A big aspect of the album, obviously has to do with the loss of grandmother Clara. The song, “I'm Looking Forward to Joining you, Finally” always rang a chord within me, even long before the death of my own grandparents. This song is one of the most darkly honest on the whole album, and also gives a peek into the type of mindset he was in during that album. As you've likely read my earlier piece about my favorite albums of all time, I can talk and discuss this album for a long time, but yeah, it's my favorite NIN record, and it deserves to be hailed every chance it gets.
There are quite a few amazing things about “The Fragile,” to be more precise. For one, it's rare that a piece of music containing so much can at the same time be so effective and good, with little to no filler. Certain songs clearly aren't the strongest, but more or less the songs do an excellent job of showcasing various aspects of Reznor's unique sound. You have tracks like “The Wretched” or “Somewhat Damaged” that have the vibe from other records, filled with negativity, great beats, and some of the best usages of imagery on the entire album. As a composer, TR has always been able to make you feel part of the world, and on tracks like the two mentioned, you're instantly pulled into the world.
The next thing that stands out about this album is the thought process that went into it. By this point the man behind the Nine Inch Nails brand was heavily into assorted substances, and that's part of the reason the completion of the album took so long. Having said that though, to hear the finished product and to be aware of the giant mountain he was climbing during this makes “The Fragile” even more of a once in a lifetime, landmark album. The sounds emanating from the speakers when you press play are light years ahead of the previous albums, and the way it was produced by the great Alan Moulder really lays a underscored tension to the overall feel of the record.
In the end though, the album and the tour were big successes, although it nearly drove Reznor over the edge. He sank all of his money into the tour, and had been pushed to the edge of sanity. Much like the character he had portrayed for two albums, he had become a man who was on the verge of becoming “Ripe, With Decay.” In the end though, the album gave fans a goldmine if material, and years on, and with the subsequent release of the “Definitive Edition” vinyl, fans get to hear classics like “We’re in This Together,” “The Great Below,” and many others.
Again, a significant amount of time(five years), passed. What emerged was a completely different person. As news began to trickle out regarding the newly “reunited” and energized Nine Inch Nails, we found out a few things. One, he had been hiding the whole time, getting sober and getting his head right to make sure he still felt as though he had something to contribute to the world of music. Secondly, we found out that indeed, he did have something to give to us, and third, that album “With Teeth,” would be out soon. The album itself, while good, is often cited as one of their weaker records to date. Certain parts feel like NIN, but it's more rooted in rock then the industrial tinged, electronic effects of the past. Since the release of the album, Reznor has stated that the album was a little bit more forced, and also the result of him trying to make sure he could still write music.
Having said that, some of the songs are quintessential NIN. Our first introduction to the album, “The Hand that Feeds,” has a certain ability to be steeped in rock, but also embraces slight twinges of their beat driven past. Honestly, it's one of the better singles they've ever released, and one of the best songs on “With Teeth.”
Another among the other great tracks on the album, for my money, is “The Line Begins to Blur.” The thump driven quality of the beat works well, and the lyrics are utterly reminiscent of something you might have heard on earlier records. Again, this is a winner among some good but not great songs.
One thing that Reznor has always been great at, for lack of a better word, would be slower songs, or “Ballads.” The term itself makes me think of horrible 80's rock ballads from Poison, or Bon Jovi, but the types of slow pieces TR composes are in a league of themselves, and demonstrate his high ability to compose thought provoking music. Often times it's these songs that are the most honest, self aware, and poignant on the albums. This is very much true in the case of album closer “Right Where it Belongs.” It follows in the footsteps of awesome but slow album closers like “Hurt,” and “The Great Below,” and is haunting to both see and hear displayed in a live setting. The imagery he sets up with the line “You keep looking but you can't find the woods, While you're hiding in the trees” shows a world where the person is trying to fight for what he believes is right, but he's so engrossed in the bullshit that change is impossible. Major, major changes must be made, and with this record, Reznor took the first step in changing many of the things that troubled him over the years.
As a brief aside, one of the things that has always stood out about Reznor's output has been his multiple re-mix albums, soundtrack selections, and b sides. “Burn” off the Natural Born Killers soundtrack (which Reznor oversaw, and produced) is one of the best tracks in the whole canon, while the “Things Falling Apart” album is just as good as anything that he's released as a proper solo album. He's released four remix albums, contributed to at least three soundtracks, and even completed an album of slower versions of many previously released songs titled “Still.” And then there's the live albums, live concert DVD's, remixed albums where other bands take their shot at NIN tracks, and last but not least, various B Sides that have never been officially released. One of the best of those, “Non-Entity” was only released at part of the second disc of the live concert DVD “ Beside You in Time.” The song, along with the “With Teeth” b-side “Home” are two of the best tracks not easily available on proper albums or streaming services. After the success and tour of “With Teeth.” I was among the people that expected Reznor to take years to release a new album. Thankfully, I was very mistaken.
This part of the story begins with hidden portable hard-drives being discovered at various venues over the lands of Europe. A new world was being unraveled piece by piece, and this new world, this “Year Zero” was eventually announced. Among all the years I've been a fan of this band, this time period was easily the most refreshing, and exciting time to be a NIN fan. The websites, part of a brilliant and wide sweeping ARG campaign depicted a country ruled with an iron fist, where a mythological hand known at the “Presence” “came down from the sky” and horrified citizens of this country. Trying to find the sites was super fun too. Every time a new billboard, or website was unearthed, I'd run to it, finding new clues, and wondering what it all meant.
The resulting album, “Year Zero” is one of their best albums period. It tells the story from various viewpoints of the resistance and of the state of those in power. Songs like “Survivalism” are both oppressive and inventive, and have the trademark sound not entirely heard in quite a long time from the band. The opposing forces in this universe unveil themselves in many songs, across many lives and perspectives. Songs like “Capitol G” come from the perspective of a corrupt yet still hungry for power politician, while the uprising takes form in early track “The Beginning of the End.”
The album as a whole though, re-establishes Reznor's proclivity for stories and cohesiveness in albums,and it's one of the best, yet most unappreciated concept albums of the last fifteen years. Many of the songs here are simply amazing. There's a reason this album stayed, playing over and over again in my car for well over a year. It had been years since I had been so excited to be a fan and to be part of something that rarely happens in the music industry. The whole album is very much made to make to listener contemplate the world we're living in and what we're allowing our “leaders” to get away with. Sadly, seeing as what we’re currently dealing with in terms of our nation's politics, the lesson and darkness surrounding the albums seems to have been a message many of us missed. It’s sad but true that in our current landscape, where politicians run spirits into the ground, while factioning sides are debating the pros and cons of slights. In short, We simply care too much about the next iPhone launch, or what a reality TV star might be doing. The closing track of the album, the underscored and honest “Zero- Sum” finds us vulnerable, having been through a battle and having potentially lost it. The song is the defeated battle cry as both sides realized they were being made to fight against the other side by an enemy so intelligent, large and diligent, that we didn't find out if was for nothing until it was all too late. Like the track says, “All we ever were, just zero's and one's”
From there, it was a crazy time to be a fan. In the year following “Year Zero,” not one, but two albums came straight out of nowhere. The firsts “Ghost I-IV,” is by far the most interesting and left of center album(s) Reznor ever released under the Nine Inch Nails banner. Consisting of over thirty purely instrumental pieces, it's really impressive and eye-opening. Every song more or less, has elements that really hadn't been done by TR up until that point.
In all honesty, it's likely the album I go back to the least. I am though, extremely grateful for it. One of the reasons it's so well put together, for me, is because I think this was the stepping stone for Reznor starting to branch out into film. Seriously, those scores are probably better than anything on the “Ghosts” records, and they may have not been possible if he hadn't attempted it.
Following that, “The Slip” arrived with only a little bit more warning. More in line with the rest of his discography, “The Slip” has really amazing tracks. From the moment of the second track, “1,000,000” you feel right back inserted to world the band fans have grown to love. It's not the best regarded album per se, but the tour that came with it was one of the best productions I've ever seen. Multi-layered screens filled the “Lights in the Sky Tour,” along with two full hours of chaos, and tracks from every album. It encompassed all of what Reznor wanted the band to be on the road. Honestly, seeing it the three times I was fortunate to was something I'll never forget, and I'm willing to bet a lot of other people feel the same way about that stage production.
Following the tour, it was announced that the band would be putting up their touring boots, and a very brief final run was announced. Over a few weeks of shows the band hit New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The performances were among the longest, and most historical in the bands history. On two separate occasions, the band played the breakout album, “The Downward Spiral” in full.
Moving along, it would be another few years before Reznor showed his face as the creator of the band. Having done some great score work on a few David Fincher films, it had been four years since the world has witnessed Nine Inch Nails. Around that time, new music started to be recorded, under the pretense that would be part of a greatest hits collection, but eventually the songs morphed into a full length album. The result, “Hesitation Marks, would come out just in time for a round after summer festivals, and a full fall tour was planned.
The album itself is another exercise in TR pushing his limits and and the limitless potential of the band and the sound they helped to shape. Quite a few of the tracks are instant classics and among the bands best songs. “Copy of A” opens the album and is purely electronically driven, while “Came Back Haunted” and the subsequent David Lynch directed video is literally a sight for sore eyes.
The two best songs on the album though, are the full on funky and out of character “All Time Low,” which at once seems distant and familiar to fans of the previous works, and the slow, methodical “Various Methods of Escape.” “VMOE” especially is a stand out track, and upon hearing it was instantly thrust into the list of some of my favorite works ever created by Reznor.
The album's music, and even the artwork, were thought of largely as a companion piece to Spiral. In interviews, Reznor mentions that he came to view the album as a kind of witnessing what the character from that album might have been like if he went back to him. Long time fans were very much able to see the connections.
The band, of course, set out to tour for over a year, and saw many great stages and shared them with some awesome bands. Perhaps the best portion of the tour, was the Soundgarden tour from the summer of 2014. That was without a question one of the single best shows I've ever seen in my life. I wished more shows like that happened.
Again though, silence approached. This natural silence didn’t exclude any but official nin material though. In recent years, Reznor and now official band member Atticus Ross has begun to be known for the masterful score work. In the last few years alone, we’ve received blisteringly intricate scores for “ The Vietnam War” series, “ A Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and many others. But much like a sleeping beast, the time has come for new nine inch nails to enter the world.
and then of course the announcement comes. A new 6 song Ep titled “Not the Actual Events,” comes out on Christmas eve. its typical intense in chunks, but it finds Reznor and Ross stretching in ways they haven’t in awhile. “Branches/Bones” is a short rocket into the atmosphere, while other songs like. The foreboding nature of tracks like “She’s Gone,” paints a picture of a smoky forest, then the final song “Burning Bright (Fields on Fire)” sets the musical landscape ablaze with thick swatch’s of sound and thickness. No the question is, could the next installment be better? What exactly were they going for.”
With “Add Violence,” we got a very firm,”most of the time. “Less Than” is a political anthem that’s not completely meant to be, and one of the better of nins late stage career. Honestly the only not amazing song is “Not Anymore,” and still it’s pretty good. The record is nothing short of a brighter moment in Reznor and Ross’ career. “This Isn’t the Place,” is slow and deliberate, and nothing if not ominous. Then we glimpsed into “The Background World. This song is an instance classic to me, and it tors in much of what nin excelled at. The beat, vocals and finale are some of the best he’s cooked up recently.
Sadly, with all the fuss of the last section of the trilogy, it ended up not being quite on par with the other two, although it has its moments for sure. “Shit Mirror” is decent opener for the band, but the best part for me is the experimentation. The visibility of the saxophone usage is great in itself, because it shows then still going and trying new things, which more bands should do.
After that though, a unique styled theater tour was announced, and with it fame much excitement, and a little bit of confusion. These exclusive multi night stops in cities were the first if style of these nin had done in a tour format, but the added surprise of fans having to actually go to the venue to buy tickets in person was something that simply isn’t done these days. It proves to be a decent hit, with fans being able to mingle and share in the excitement of actually getting tickets. I myself got a pair for the first and third night stand in New Orleans, and with the first show happening tomorrow, I couldn’t be more pumped.
The setlists for this tour has been remarkable, to say the least. Many deep cuts and b sides have been appearing, starting with never before played songs like “The Perfect Drug,” and the somber build of “And All That Could Have Been.” Last but certainly not least, the band opened the tour with a full performance of the brutal Ep “Broken,” which has so far appeared a few times throughout. These shows are bound to hold special places for nin fans and the band themselves, and they still aren’t done. It’ll be interesting to see where they go after this, but I’d be being selfish if I said I didn’t think the band didn’t deserve a nice restful sleep after all of this. We’ll see I guess…
A few years ago I shared my list of the top ten Nine Inch Nails songs. Well, as it is bound to happen from time to time, it’s time to revisit the list. Some songs are off the list, others are added, and new entries are worked and squeezes in alongside modern classics. This list is short on obvious hits, so if you’re expecting it to be a countdown of their biggest hits, you’ll end up mistaken. Either way these songs are all just as relevant to a nin fan as some of the other more obvious ones. Today to celebrate the upcoming three night Saenger stand by Reznor and the boys, I give to you the Ten best nin songs. Enjoy!
10. BURN, NATURAL BORN KILLERS SOUNDTRACK
Easily in the top five moments of Reznor at his angriest. Originally meant as part of the “Downward Spiral,” and eventually included on the B – Sides, you can clearly understand it’s placement. The buildup is epic, and seeing it live for the first time was awesome. At the breakdown of “I’m gonna burn this whole world down,” you couldn’t even hear the band over the capacity crowd. It sent the crowd into an even crazier frenzy then we were already in. Speaking again of videos, this one is very, very strange. While Trent has maintained his place in music innovations, sometimes I wish he’d come out with a song like this again, if not just to remind people he still can fuck shit up.
9. WISH, BROKEN
Another angsty song, I see a pattern. This is always a sure fire killer at the concerts. I may be wrong, but for this song I believe they have consistently used similar lighting patterns at every show I’ve seen. It’s a whirlwind, and the video, set in a very dark, slavery like cage, is appropriate. Also, seeing them perform this song alongside Dillinger Escape Plan at Bonnaroo 2009 was the perfect amount of destruction. Dillinger clearly has learned well how to wreck instruments.
8. JUST LIKE YOU IMAGINED, THE FRAGILE
I’ve never seen song used better as an accompaniment to a film trailer until I saw it in the 300 trailer. It works perfectly, in terms of the trailer and in terms of the Spartan warriors themselves. Once it has its mind made up, it doesn’t stop, and it will never let up. It will keep coming until it gets what it deserves. In short terms, it’s just like you imagined. Over the running time of the song it launches you high speed into tense moments, and the song is better for it. Of all the shining moments represented on “The Fragile,” one of the most consistently entertaining is when we enter into a situation where everything is “Just Like You Imagined.”
7. SOMEWHAT DAMAGED, THE FRAGILE
Of all the great opening songs in the Nin catalogue, this certainly has to be among the best. The rising drums, accompanied by the ever evolving synth beats makes for a marvelous beginning track for the phenomenally deep “The Fragile.” The song signifies tragedy at the realization that the world isn’t what it’s supposed to be. That we can always try to posses the best qualities and be the best people we want to be, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. We’re all “Somewhat Damaged,” and because of that knowledge we have, the song is all the more powerful and regrettable in its content.
6. GAVE UP, BROKEN
Of all the songs on the violently fast paced “Broken,” “Gave Up” is likely the most powerful. Again using an ever aggressive beat as the backing track, the track is pushed forward by the early minimum usage of classic Reznor whispered spoken word. By the chorus though, the track is operating on all cylinders, using the drum machine in conjunction with the overall beat and Reznors “steady systematic decline” of anger to propel the song. On this list it comes in at number six, and proves an early indicator of the kind of layered, noisy brilliance Reznor is capable of. A true classic track.
5. LESS THAN, ADD VIOLENCE
Clearly a newer song on the list, and perhaps a surprise to those reading, but trust me the song deserves a spot on this list. It has everything a nin fan could want. The beats are as great as the production value, but the magic lies in the lyrics. Initially thought to be a rebuke of our current trump issues, the song instead revolves around the general attitude of right and left wingers, who thrive to push their agenda, whether good or bad on the mass population. I imagine the heat coming from the pot when listening to this song, and the dialogue throughout is genuine and also heartbreaking. I believe the moral of the song is not to force our wants on opposing viewpoints, but to instead try to be the best we can be, and to of course not be Fucking assholes to those if there’s another way around it.
4. MARCH OF THE PIGS, THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
March of the Pigs,” to this day, remains a rabid favorite among fans and it’s inclusion during shows has become the standard by which you measure the intensity of the crowd, and the band overall. It’s a shorter more intense song than many of their others, but in this immediacy the song is able to move like a beast, exacting it’s revenge on those who have spurned it. It’s wildly chaotic with no give, but it’s because of that quality and it’s placement in the tracklisting, it provides its best assets to use. You get crazy vocals, gut wrenching beats and drums, and the wild brutality that is nine inch nails in its most raw form.
3. RUINER, THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
I really don’t know what this song is about, but it reminds me again of dominance. TDS album as a whole is about a man slowly losing his sanity and seeking destruction, in many different forms. The great part about the album is that you’re never sure exactly at what point his mind betrays him, and if you’re even hearing the same person. As the album progresses (This song is right in the middle) you can clearly see the forces working against our main character, but he simply is no match for whatever he’s facing. Some albums slow down towards the middle. It helps to give listeners a rest. For this album, a rest is simply not an option. There’s a reason this album is still one of the best from the 1990’s. Reznor brought us, and showed us a place that was cold, and wretched, and we loved him for it.
2. IN THIS TWILIGHT, YEAR ZERO
One of my favorite time periods of being a nin fan was without doubt the YZ ARG campaign. Finding new clues all over the internet, looking at images in a post apocalyptic United States was the perfect way to get fans pumped. This song is more hopeful again, but in it hopefulness there's a certain amount of hesitance. The album is about a very close future that we could see ourselves involved in if we keep on with our current lack of priority and care for our system and care of our environment. It’s a grim fucking place. I always imagined this song as an amazing opener, but for people who saw the “ Lights in the Sky” tour, it also is an amazing closer.
1. WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER, THE FRAGILE
This album suffered from what I call the Pinkerton effect. It’s a brilliant album, but for the more casual fans wanting a Downward Spiral 2, it simply wasn’t enough. Having said that, the Fragile builds on the sounds and technologies of TDS and goes further. For one, this song is one the first time we hear anything even remotely positive and reassuring. It’s not a mellow song, but it accomplishes its tasks. I’ve probably heard this song two thousand or so times, and it still makes me smile and giddy like a child. It overshadows all of the other songs on the album, yet still it’s one of the least played songs in the NIN live catalogue. Years ago I remember an interview where TR said it was the best song he ever wrote, and he knew he couldn’t do it justice in concert, so he let it be. Maybe one of these days I can stop spending endless amounts of money seeing them live. But first, I must have my WITT live.
Since forming right before the heyday that was the so called “Nu Metal” movement, Chino, Abe, Stephen, Chi, and later Frank have never been comfortable with the bag they got lumped into. But as times often change, the Sacramento gang was able to find their own niche and create music that embraced briefs moment of hip hop, but also cautiously crafted soundscapes, wailing screams filled with terror, and experiences of gorgeous beauty that still hasn’t been touched among peers. They've maintained their high level of creativity, and after all these years, are still able to move fans in a way that their modern metal peers can only hope to get close to. Here’s the countdown of the five best, most important Deftones albums.
5.Saturday Night Wrist, 2006
While by this point the band has certainly found their footing in terms of what constitutes their own original sound, they still manage to get on the ledge of what was acceptable during their early years. Track four, “Beware” is a muddy, night sky filled trek into gradual darkness, that's only accentuated by Moreno’s trademark hollowing vocals during the chorus. It’s also probably known more as their least forceful, most textured album since the pinnacle of what ended up being “White Pony.” Sure they have heavily in your face tracks like the onslaught that is “Rats!Rats!Rats!,” but they also slow is down various times and bring you into a lush world with the instrumentation of a song such as “Xerces,” that for my money still stands as one of their best tracks, from any album. Towards the end of the session though, “Kimdracula” shines a light through the hazy, biting atmosphere as Moreno soars using his voice, all the while the backing band crashing down like a wave onto rock of jagged rock as the sun sets on another fruitful recording session.
4. Gore, 2016
At this juncture in their career, the ‘tones are able to both stay true to themselves as musicians while also pushing limits. As an album, “Gore,” was a show of strength but apparently quite a few older fans still long for the brutality of the “ATF” era. I get it, but as they’ve evolved over the course of twenty years, it’s been rewarding as a music fan in general to see what new things they can make stick. This album still has the upbeat angst you love about the band.“Doomed User,” with its distorted and thick guitar sound comes to mind, but it also exposes weakness in lyrical content, open to vulnerability from the mind of the person expounding the lyrics themselves. Shortly after that they nuzzle you into a layered, glum track called “Hearts/ Wires,” where the band turns down the notch while still delivering. Coming near the end of the record, the title track has a kind of scat musicianship happening, with Cunningham’s drumming making the listener uneasy as the explosive breakdown comes during the moments of the chorus. It’s an easy enough strategy but takes skill and craftsmanship to sell, which they do with ease. As the album closes with “Rubicon” it’s clear that the bands unique sound is still intact, and what would you know, they picked up a few new tricks to lure fans even deeper into admiration.
3.Koi No Yokan, 2012
The status of the band before the release of this album was difficult, heartbreaking one, to say the least. Following the untimely death of founding member Chi, and the ultimate scrapping of an album called “Eros” no one knew exactly what this band still had left to prove. In typical fashion, however, they came out swinging and ready to show their resolve to fans eager to know if they should, or could continue without Chi. The whole album is like a monument to the bass player, and it’s one of their most poignant albums. From the bounce qualities of “Swerve City,” to depressing but clear minded conclusion of “What Happened to You?” the five members are able to pour their energy into positivity when it’s needed the most. That’s not to say that all of the heavy, bombastic qualities are gone. “Leathers” has a quiet danger to it’s opening, but as the wielding blade that is Chino’s voice slashes into the forefront, you’re reminded that this band can turn the beautiful into the brutal in a blink of an eye. The radio hit “Tempest” struck a chord with audiences too, and once again they found the mainstream success that had had periodically since the days of that wonderful third album.
2. Around the Fur, 1997
I was still very much ingrained into the metal of that year, but much of it lacked the staying power that “Around the Fur” seemed to dwell on even more than twenty years after it’s touching down onto the musical landscape. Unabashedly the bands most violent, reckless album, it’s also one of its crowning achievement. I doubt the band could be as harsh these days as they were then, but artists always grow and evolve. From the low down rhythm section of the opener “My Own Summer,” the band takes you on a trip of veracious brutality and syncopated timed signatures that both disorient and engage the listener. Songs like the one two punch of “Mascare,” and “Around the Fur” come across as dynamic, but within seconds the intensity of a track like “Rickets,” with more than your share of full throated screaming washes away anything that was left standing. In short, this album doesn’t let up for much of it’s duration. It also has massive fan favorites like the brilliant “Be Quiet and Drive,” which propelled the band to a new level early on in their career, which helped them to gain even more attention when a certain ‘Pony” came prancing along...
1.White Pony, 2000
When this first came out, or should i say “leaked,” back when that kind of thing rarely ever happened, my group of friends were flabbergasted at the sound emanating from the record. It was futuristic, melodic, dreamy and energized all in one. It wasn’t like the music we were normally hooked on, and frankly it's a great thing we latched onto it in a way that made it part of ourselves. This WAS the record of that year to us, and it completely changed how I looked and accepted music. I found myself trying more and more new things that hadn’t interested me before, and at the core of all that was the superb nature of the songs themselves. “Teenager” still reminds me of song you’d hear on a rainy night in the world of “Blade Runner” while “Digital Bath” had this unease romanticism to it that swayed you to contentment. The band was going way out there in terms of what might or might work, but in the eighteen years since its release, it’s still hailed as their best, most beautifully open album. It also doesn't hurt when Keenan from a little band called Tool assists in what i always looked at as an unofficial sequel, or retelling of “BQAD” in the form of “Passenger.” Nearly every song still has the ability to touch a cord, from the female sounding wails on “Knife Prty,” to the band's biggest hit overall, “Change(in the House of Flies). Since trying something new and groundbreaking on this record, the band has managed to delve into certain elements form this epic effort in a more careful, thoughtful way, but without the breakthrough of this one album, who knows where the band would have ended up. It’s for these reasons that “White Pony” stands as the bands epic masterpiece.
Thanks for reading!
Hey guys so a few things have been added/ rearranged on the site and I wanted to make all of you reading aware. There's been some rebranding on the top of the page, and hopefully soon I'll be adding another link to the Reaching Out section to stay abreast of my other social media outlets. I already have the twitter feed and the The Death of the Mix Tape facebook page up, but once the instagram is up you'll be able to keep an eye out for all the show clips i post there. For the time being though my handle on instagram is @rickshawlando for anyone who wants to check it out.
Lastly, and this is the biggest new update: There's a new tab that's been up for a little over two weeks presenting a countdown of the Top 100 songs since 2000. I'm not posting that on the main page simply because it's too much to keep track of. It also just seemed redundant since I planned to create a seperate space for it in the end anyway. The list is being added 10 picks at a time, and as of today picks from number 100- 61 are available to read.
i sincerely hope whoever is reading this is enjoying the picks and opinions, and obviously I'd love any of you to comment, share on social media and whatever else. Thanks everyone!
Among hip hop fans, there’s always plenty of ever changing evolution when it comes to being a hit maker. Some play and safe and still do great, but others push the bounds of what is considered hip hop or rap. Among the best, or as he would say, “The Best,” is Kanye West. since breaking out in the early aughts, West has continually used his beat making and vast musical knowledge to make some of the most forward thinking hip hop of all time. Today we’ll be starting a series of top five lists from an array of artist covering music that has a certain sound, but also artists who naturally grow and extend themselves outside of their respective genres. Here’s my list of the top five Albums by Kanye West.Dig it!
5. The College Dropout, 2004
As soon as you heard the mouthshut vocal range West produced on the breakout track “Through the wire” you knew this was something special. It’s not often a man that committed to a vision sees the light out day, especially when his back is up against the wall and he feels like he has to break through. Multiple tracks have since become legendary among music fans. Standouts like the melody driven “All Falls Down,” or the in your face aggression of “Jesus Walks” converted naysayers into believers, but Jesus is a statement that finds West exploring topics that are rarely breached in hip hop culture. One of the best songs not heavily mentioned are the “New Workout Plan” which depicts various slouches following the training to make themselves new and improved. It’s a brilliant first album in a discography that unfolds in unexpected and rewarding ways.
4. Graduation, 2007
By this point in his still early career, West was sky high surrounded by the flashing lights of media everywhere. Yet on this blockbuster album he easily expelled rumors that he couldn’t keep the winning streak up, which is to say one of his biggest accomplishments. He’s always put himself in vulnerable places, but with each step he cements himself as an artist worth watching. A song like “Can’t tell me Nothing” is a perfect example of where his mind was, but it also doesn’t hurt when he can puncture that sense of attitude with a genuinely upbeat, fun track like “Good Life,” which has the ability to do a feel good rap song better than nearly anyone, even if he’s known for being a provocateur. Let’s also not forget the colossal hit that was the Daft Punk inspired “Stronger,” which led him to increase his fan base two fold at least, by bringing in the legendary robots to a new fan base but also getting electronic nerds into the mix for something they might not normally try.
3. Late Registration, 2005
“Diamonds from Sierra Leone” may have been the first introduction to Kanye’s second album, and while it’s a great song featuring another stellar collaboration with Jay Z, that was all but forgotten when the world first heard the words “She take my money, when I’m in need,” which of course is the opening to the year’s biggest hit “Golddigger.”to say the song is infectious is a vast understatement. I remember not being able to go anywhere and not hear this song and everyone seemingly enjoying it. The rhythms on the track are a blistering critique of lazy woman everywhere who expect something back, but at its core “Golddigger” is also an incredible song. It also doesn’t hurt that with an opening skit from Bernie Mac and songs that follow like “Heard Em Say” and “Touch the sky” all coming before “Gold” which is is the fourth track, it’s hard not to reel from the track list and the momentum. It’s likely one of the best three song movements every committed to a record, and that’s a huge reason why this album is so Fucking good all these years later. He captures your attention early and doesn’t release it until he’s said all he needs.
2. Yeezus, 2013
After “MBDTF” sent everyone into a tailspin, Yeezus was a complete flip of the script in how West compelled and produced an album. Rumors swirled for months that the production of the record was a mess, but after getting much needed guidance from the incomparable Rick Rubin and slimming the album down drastically to the ten songs that formed the album, it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth it. From the early moments of tracks like “Black Skinhead,” which finds West again working with Daft Punk and putting white people on notice for practices that we as a people might not even know is wrong. It’s a great mindset though when an artist is angry but also willing to not shy away from difficult issues. The whole album is easily the most aggressive and angry of his catalogue, but it’s also his most potent in terms of originality. “Yeezus” also shows that he can carry an album with minimal guests(unlike the other records, not to say it’s a bad thing) as he circumvents his critiques of culture with unrelenting songs like “New Slaves” and the eye opening sincerity and pain behind “Blood on the Leaves.” Personally I can’t wait for another record like this to explode from his brain. Angry Kanye is the best Kanye.
1. My Beautiful Dark twisted Fantasy, 2010
This album man is so strong from start to finish that is damn near impossible to truncate it into a post that’s not an in depth look at every song. I’ll try my best though. Let’s start with the multitude of guests on this record. It’s staggering and the various voices force West not only to bring his A game, but it also sets the tone of of unpredictably that finds the listener at every song. Guests like Jay, Rhianna, Raekwon from the 36 Chambers respectfully shows up, as do Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, and dark horses like Chris Rock(who’s monologue at the end Blame Game is hilarious and dirty) and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon all show up and give their best in function of West’s vision. An early cut like “All of the Lights” is a triumph of hip hop history, and while I rarely like solo Rhianna, this is another example of how great she is as a guest star. But then you have a song like “Runaway,” which is a nine minute monolith of artist is displays that blows away anything he’s done before or since. The way the track uses the minimal beats early on and grows and build from their is quite simply brilliant musicianship 10. Is recommended listening to this record all the way to fully immerse yourself in the darkness West has composed for us, because it works best as one singular piece as opposed to different tracks for different days. It runs the gamut of musical imagination, and it’s for that reason this stands as the best work of Mr. West's career, so far at least.
I'd also like to announce that starting next week I'll be posting my TOP 100 SONGS SINCE 2000. It will be massive ten part post. Hope you enjoy!
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!
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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