During his extremely varied career, Beck Hansen has been many things. He’s covered punk rock, latin music, ballads, ambient soundscapes, booty shaking music for the sunshine, and multiple other genres. Over the course of his twelve records he’s redefined himself, never once repeating the sounds he’d previously explored, all the while growing and showing us more layers than a musician these days should be comfortable showing. His chameleon like nature has helped shepherd a loyal fanbase willing to go to unknown areas and learn to grow alongside his music. If you want a true musician’s musician, Beck is the man for you. Today we discuss his Top Ten Best tracks. Seven albums span this list, so enjoy and dig in!
10. E-Pro, Guero
One of the best things about this song is how surprising it was when it came out. It was Beck in a more in your face style than we had been accustomed to. Coming after the elegance and loneliness of Sea Change, it altered yet again the perception of what he was capable of as an entertainer. The “Na na na” throughout the track is a jolly sing along, while the bass and drum heavy beats escalate the song into a full on dance fest you and your friends are able to lose yourself in.
9. Modern Guilt, Modern Guilt
When you sit down and look at the numbers, it becomes apparent that Hansen is a freak of nature in terms of how many songs are instantly recognizable. At number nine we have the title track from his 2008 album “Modern Guilt.” Lyrically the song is desperate and in need of help, while the instrumental aspects of the track are reminiscent of a futuristic dust bin where cowboys wander the world along with their state of the art farms where they can contemplate their experiences and thoughts.
8. Morning, Morning Phase
After a long hiatus, it’s natural to be unsure of what may come next, but with 2014’s “Morning Phase,” Beck brought us back to the style he perfected on Sea Change. While not a straight sequel, it very much continues the layered work he began on SC. Morning, the second song on the record, has everything you want from a relaxed Beck song. Hansen’s voice is pure and all encompassing, while the weary guitar and soundscapes enable the listener to easily picture a world where all the wrongs are put right, and you can wake up and begin anew with a beautiful new “Morning.”
7. Gamma Ray, Modern Guilt
Like a scene from a 60’s spy movie, Gamma Ray explodes with energy as the spy survey’s his target. Really though this is just how I interpreted the song. It’s a wild mix of elements throughout. The vocals are multifaceted, the jingle throughout the track is consistently engaging, and the overall base of the song is as catchy as anything Beck has done before or since. It’s not as straightforward as some of his other tracks, but it’s sure to make you want to move your hips and enjoy the nostalgic feelings it releases in you.
6. Loser, Mellow Gold
Without this track, there’s a pretty good chance we wouldn’t have ever even heard of Beck. Released in 1994 and quickly becoming his staple and signature song, “Loser” is a breathe of fresh hair that entangles itself in a brilliant stream of consciousness in terms of lyrics that, while being completely non-linear and nonsensical, are easy as hell to sing and play around with. This was the moment when Beck become Beck and his music entered the musical atmosphere and left an indelible imprint on alternative music that still stands to this day.
5. Wave, Morning Phase
Perhaps not a song you expected to be part of this list, but it’s one of his strangest, sincerely dark tracks. “Wave” starts with ominous orchestral backing, like you’re walking into a literal wave to cleanse yourself of all the wrong committed. It’s a slow and eerily haunting track, which is why it makes the list at number five. The vocals are gorgeously apprehensive, not knowing what the right direction to head is. The minimal lyrics also do an exceptional job of putting the music first, during a track that’s mostly elevated through instrumentals. As the song nears its climax though, you realize that while you were listening, Beck was wrapping you up in his own little tumble of waves and that you’d never be fully whole again.
Truth be told, i didn’t know this was Beck for months, until that is, I saw him perform the track live and was completely dumbfounded. You see, I heard the opening and thought it was lame, so i never got past the first vocal entry. What you get when you listen though, is a song firmly entrenched in something Beck had never done before, Gold standard pop music, done better than nearly anyone who actually provides pop music. The song puts you on a beach during a beautiful day, more than likely with some fancy bright drink with fruit in it. It’s a fun song that shows yet again what Beck is capable of, while also reminding you that Beck can beat you with attacks you never expected to be deployed by this particular artist.
3. Sexx Laws, Midnight Vultures
One of the strangest, more upbeats songs to come out of his discography, “Sexx Laws” hits us at number three on the top ten Beck songs. The song lyrically bounces back and forth between the absurd and sincere, all the while still maintaining the complex nature of who Beck is as an artist. One of the things Hansen does best is his ability to pair words that don’t fully form a narrative, yet allow for an easy to follow way that fans can gladly sing along to. It’s a weird song from a weird artist, but it’s one of his best.
2. Waking Light, Morning PhasePerhaps the most open and honest track on the list, the closing moments of “Morning Phase” find us at number two. Much like the rest of the record, “Waking Light” is a more heartfelt track that wears it’s sadness and regret in equal measure. To me the whole album is gesture in humility, and the way “Light” manages to shine through and finish up the record is a poignant moment most artists will never be able to pull off. If the album as a whole is meant to inspire change and to undo the wrongs that have transpired, “Waking Light” is the reminder that everything comes and goes, and when the “Morning comes to meet you,” all will be forgiven and you can start off on a brand new journey that will bring you redemption, and ultimately peace of mind.
1. Devils Haircut, Odelay
And finally we have number one. This whole list was a tough thing to put together, not only because of how genuinely talented Hansen is, but also because of the sheer amount of popular songs he’s been able to put on display for the better part of three decades. “The Devils Haircut,” from the masterfully complex Odelay, not only is one of his biggest hits, but it’s his best track, at least in my opinion. It has a beat boxing exit during the closing moments, but that’s not what draws you in initially. The opening moments are like a siren going off in your bedroom, and once again Hansen’s ability to relay lyrics that transcend normal songwriting techniques, while still establishing a drastic departure in sound that stood in stark contrast to the alternative music that was coming out around that time. It’s a testament to the brilliance of who Hansen is, and it’s the number one song of his wildly eclectic career. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
What can you say about Radiohead that is as original as they are? For as long as I can remember they’ve been heralded as one of the best bands of all time, and it’s not hard to see why. Some people aren’t super impressed by that, and I know everyone has their own opinions, but people who don’t enjoy them have wrong opinions. It’s just the way it is. Anyway, today we’re going to run through the band's best songs. Some of these might be expected, others not so much, but I tried to not only pick my top ten but also some of their most varied tracks. Hopefully I succeeded in both. Enjoy!
10. There There(The Boney King of Nowhere), Hail to the Thief
This album usually ends up on the bottom end of fans’ favorite albums, but while it’s not a masterstroke like some of the others, “Hail to the Thief” still has plenty of solid moments. One of these is first single “There There.” The multiple drums that encapsulate the song are important to the track, not only because of how cool they sound, but of how seamlessly they bring everything else full circle. Yorke’s voice, and the playing by the Greenwoods also make the song valuable and worth listening to. The tail end of the Top Ten Radiohead songs, “There There” starts us off at number ten.
9. True Love Waits, A Moon Shaped Pool
At number nine, we have what very well might be the saddest song created by Yorke and company thus far in their career. A long coveted B side that finally made it to an official album, “True Love Waits” is indeed a heartbreaker of a track. Finishing up a emotionally brutal and messy album, it lingers in your bones as Yorke recalls “I’m Not living, I’m just killing time.” The song can mean many things for many people, but the extent to which the band conveys general sadness with just a voice and a solemn piano layered background is testament to the energy of the group. It’s heartbreaking to think about, but the message is an overwhelming positive one, you just have to get through the pain of losing your true love, in whatever way you can.
8. Burn the Witch, A Moon Shaped Pool
Before the official drop of the album, this was our first taste. Somewhat immediate in it’s delivery, “Burn the Witch” stands as another solid reason why this band is so revered. The drumming by Selway, the murmurings of Yorke, and the various other things introduced by the Greenwood’s and O’Brien really help to start the record off on a good, solid foot. It’s thumpy and ethereal at the same time, and Yorke’s meandering vocals surrounded by both beats and strings only add to the undermining doom bubbling up from the surface of the mix.
7. Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi, In Rainbows
The drum sets the groove, sexy tone right away, but this song isn't sexy at all. Perhaps the feel and vibe of the song are, but the lyrics are pretty fucking sad and thought provoking. Thom Yorke is one of those singers who can make you feel anything he wants when he wants. The background vocals as the music picks up get to me everytime. These dudes know how to perfectly mix a song. " Everybody leaves if they get the chance," is a punch to the stomach that struggles with the realization that life isn't always going to be good, but somehow you have to keep going, keep trying to figure out the puzzle.
6. How to Disappear Completely, Kid A
The opening line "That there, that's not me," has always struck me as a pretty funny line, but the underlying tone of the song is anything but humorous. This person appears as though he's thrilled that no one notices him, but is that the case? He could potentially be faking it. Maybe the years of isolation have turned him into a person who loves not being recognized, or even acknowledged. Who could live this way though? That's why the song is so upsetting to me. In the end though, the instruments do as much for the overall dreadful, upsetting vibe as the lyrics do. It just seems like this person has no hold over his own life, and that might be the saddest thing of all. A haunting song that sees Radiohead at their most somber, and their best.
5. Paranoid Android, OK Computer
This could very easily be their best known song, and if you’ve been living under a rock for nearly twenty years, please do yourself a favor and seek out the animated video. I had of course heard of the band before, but this was when they knocked the wind out me. The craziness of the song and the places it goes, as well as the sheer genius of the musicianship set it apart from every other band out there at that moment, and for the most part, it still does. When the song takes a cray turn, you the listener are right there prepared to hold on for dear life, and for me, that's where the realness and amazing qualities of the song truly burst out.
4. Idioteque, Kid A
This song, but the whole album especially was the first time I think most people realized that not only could electronic music make it in the mainstream, but it could also be intelligent and thought provoking. Sure, people have always loved electronic music, but obviously Aphex Twin and the Chemical Brothers weren't selling out stadiums left and right, at least not in the States. This song also proved that as a band, Radiohead could do anything and pull it off. If “OK Computer” is the best album of the 1990's, then surely this album, which is better, and probably the best they've done, is the best album of the 2000's.
3. Nude, In Rainbows
One of the prettiest songs ever heard from the band, until of course you start to listen to the lyrics. That’s one of the many things Radiohead does as a band. The music, while often sublime, and even uplifting, is always able to get the listener to open their eyes to the whole truth surrounding any particular songs. “Nude” does this brilliantly. It’s a song that seems confident and strong, but the underlying gloom of the song makes it more palpable in terms of fear and desperation. Among all of that though, it still somehow manages to come across and a sultry and provocative song that is as much about anger and it is passion. When Yorke sings the words “You’ll go to hell for what You’re dirty mind is thinking,” you can sense the frustration and unhappiness surrounding whatever issue is happening in the narrative of the song.
2. Fake Plastic Trees, the Bends
Always a favorite of mine. Its tenderness and compassion always had a lasting effect on me. Everything for me changed though when I saw them at Lollapalooza. The end of the set was nearing, and the song started. Behind them however, very light, soft fireworks built up (We found out later the fireworks were from a Cubs game). As the song progressed, the explosions got more intense and by the time the big ending hit, we were singing, and marveling at the unprepared perfection of the situation. There's not a lot in the world that beats crying in a field, singing a song you've loved for years and being surrounded by 100,00 people who feel the same.
1. Pyramid Song, Amnesiac
Never have I been so captivated by a music video before, or since. It's calming, majestic and haunting. Everything the song ultimately is. It’s a rare thing for something in space and time to sync up so vividly and ambiently wonderful, but this song does so with ease. I mean, when you watch this clip, and you see the lone diver visiting subterranean worlds enveloped by liquid, you can’t take your eyes off it. But, let’s also mention this otherworldly track. When the album first came out, this song instantly struck a chord with me. For years upbeat was the name of the game for me, but this song did, and still does fill me with joy, and a sense of knowledge that human beings are capable of amazing things. The textural components work well with Selway’s casually precise drumming, and Yorke’s wandering, unsure voice provide even more depth to this new world. It’s eye catching, in every sort of way, and that’s why I love it.
Welcome to Radiohead Week. Next week, the band comes to New Orleans for their third date on the Moon Shaped Pool tour, and since they’re one of the most exciting bands of our generation, i thought a few posts regarding their greatness deserved to be shared. Here’s a review of my favorite album of all time, Kid A. Enjoy!
I remember the day well. I quietly and humbly asked my mom for money to go and purchase this album. Years earlier I had been captivated with brilliant new ideas about what music could be by “OK Computer,” and since hearing the first “single” “Optimistic,” I knew this was going to be an album I needed to have. I say “single” in speaking of “Optimistic” because this was around the time that the band started doing exclusively what they wanted. Instead of going the traditional route and putting an advance song out, Radiohead simply allowed radio stations(or radio head's I guess if you think about it) to pick which song they wanted to showcase. I've heard of a few tracks being used, but “Optimistic” was the one most gravitated to. And that's not a bad thing at all. “Optimistic” has a sort of immediate chanty thing going on. While it isn't instantly recognizable as the band's song, it doesn't take long.
By now we all know Thom Yorke's familiar vocal pattern, but back than modern radio was still getting to know and love it. The beat is pretty intact most of the time, and the guitar parts and Selway's drumming tie the song together in a seamless way. The lyrics, bringing thoughts of the “three little piggies” are also in line with Yorke's all over the place style. Some songs are exacting and linear, but others, like “Optimistic” are all over the place. Having said that, this was for many the first taste of what would end up becoming not only my favorite album, but among many others, the best album of the aughts.
Back to that early October fall day of 2000, I purchased the compact disc and immediately sat in my car and listened to it. Driving around for hours, the album soaked into my bones. The somber, piano driven tone of “Everything in it's Right Place” starts the album in an unusual quiet manner. For years I didn't really enjoy it as an opening song, if I'm being honest. For me at the time, and maybe even now, i'm a firm believer of things having to start strong and powerful, and while I LOVED the song, it didn't seem like an opening number. Seeing the song live though, was an eye opener. It's quite beautiful, and you'll never in your life imagine a site like watching eighty thousand people sing along to a song about “sucking on lemons.”
The whole album is an experiment about not doing the same thing twice. So many of this band's efforts come across as being done by a completely different band, but “Kid A,” both album and track were big deviations at the time. The title track doesn't sound even remotely close to anything on the band's previous albums. It's a big departure, but this is a band known for big departures and drastically changing sounds. “Kid A” the song has this weird fuzz, loop effect happening that weaves all over the place. Yorke's vocals are clearly heard, but good luck putting together everything he's saying. By track three, the more upbeat rhythmic “The National Anthem,” we start to hear a little bit of what we're used to from Radiohead. Not much, but a little. The funky dropping bassline from Colin Greenwood instantly forces your hips to move, and the sound effects are used to excellent accompaniment. Now it's time for me to put my headphones on and get full sound. You can hear the murmurings of a madman in the background, but the drum beat and bass lines are all you're interested in. The addition of the horns halfway through are a real happy surprise, and the song spirals out in a haze of dancing and late night activity. When promoting the album the band played many smaller places, and seeing some videos of this song being played in little jazz clubs, complete with full horn sections, really helped to bring the song to life in a different way. Just seeing the song live period was a cool as fuck moment, but I would've given a lot to see the club shows. Oh well though.
From one of the most upbeat songs on the album we transition to one of the saddest songs the band has ever released. “How to Disappear Completely” is a whirlwind of emotions, and the somber tone is heightened by the pain in Thom's voice, as well as the gorgeous acoustic guitar being strung right behind him. When I hear this song, I imagine a man so downtrodden with the world that his physical self is literally disappearing. Hands are vanishing as door knobs are turned, and greetings to loved ones are evaporating in the air after exiting his mouth. The orchestral sections of this song are equally powerful. This song just does all the right things to convey a state of desperation, loneliness, and solitude. Although it's quite sad, the majestic nature of the track is what makes it so valuable, important, and puts it as one of the band's best songs, period. This leads straight to the ambient background that sort of breaks apart the album and gives the listener not only a breather, but also paints a picture of a nice, clear day full of love and want. That song is the extremely overlooked song “Treefingers.”
After the powerful and previously mentioned “Optimistic,” we move right along to the glowing dream like visuals of “In Limbo.” Now if there's a better name for this song, I'd love to hear it. This is one of the times where a song's name goes excellently with the visuals being painted by the song. Losing your way, being “Lost at Sea,” and being told “You're living in a Fantasy” are all subject matters here, but somehow it's going to be alright. The instrumentation is dense and vibrant, and you can't really make out on instrument in particular. Sure you can hear bits and pieces, but they use the sound textures and waves much in the same way My Bloody Valentine had previously done in their music. It's a lush arrangement for sure, but it also points to yet another thing this band of modern artists are amazing at.
From there we're treated to the ever growing perfectness that is the modern masterpiece known as “Idioteque.” Now this song is so impossibly badass that it's difficult to pinpoint one thing in particular that is better than another thing, but quite simply, I just love it, and even after 14 years of hearing it, I still can't get enough. The opening treats us to a heavy electronic dance thump, and breaks out in waves of sound and color. Yorke's voice is also more crisp here than on most of the other songs. Never in your life have you ever been so happy to sing and dance to songs about “Ice Age coming” and “woman and children first.” It's a frantic song lyrically, but the beat and atmosphere set here are hard to pull yourself away from. Among many fans favorite tracks, it might be the most oddly well known song in the band's canon, but I guess when discussing Radiohead, there's no normal. That's a good thing though!
“Morning Bell” is next, and it's another well placed song and the tempo is very even. During the recording of this album, the band found itself with too much good material, and because of this, a sort of companion album, titled “Amnesiac(which is also brilliant if I may say so) came out about a year later. I only mention this because there's sibling to “Morning Bell” on the album. It's called “Amnesiac/Morning Bell” and it's well worth a listen if you haven't before. Getting back though, the song is both tinged darkly and hopeful at the same time. The guitar and drums become brighter throughout, until the sun forces its way through and until suddenly, we're back to even more depressing, sadistic things while we talk about how to “Cut the kids in Half.” Charming stuff don't ya think?
I considered talking about both “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” in one full review, but seeing as the band thought it best to release them separately and not as a double album it seemed silly. Having said that though, don't miss a chance to check out “Amnesiac.” It's brilliant in the same ways this album can be, and when listening to it you can clearly seeing how the albums are kindred spirits.
The finale to this powerful life changing album comes to us in the form of “ Motion Picture Soundtrack.” The organs used here are immaculate, and the stubborn vocals are an added touch. The chimes and background effects are used to an almost god like level here, and it sets the album off to sail in the vast ocean of songs in a way that few songs are capable of doing. “Motion Picture Soundtrack” is the supreme icing on the cake of the best listening cake you've ever heard.
In happy times, “Motion Picture Soundtrack” is used for hopefulness and gratitude to the people you love and cherish, and in times of sadness it can be used to remind us that everything has a way to it, and that overcoming obstacles is a part of life. This band is a perfect example. They were dismissed as a one hit wonder, and shoved aside, but they chose to keep going, and given the right state the mind, they eventually became a band that is not only regarded as one of the most influential bands of all time, but also as a band who hold, at least in my eyes, the distinction of making not only the best album of the 90's(OK Computer), but also the best album of the 2000's(Kid A). This is band that will keep improving not only their sound, but also the lives of everyone who is lucky enough to come into contact with their music. Thank for you reading, and I hope you continue on this awesome path with me. Have a good night.
Rarely in music does a band contribute as much as this band has, while still maintaining a high level of secrecy in terms of how they conduct themselves. That’s just one of the things that makes Daft Punk, the French musicians who have redefined electronic music for millions of fans, so important. Seeing them three times during the groundbreaking “Alive’ tours of 2006 and 2007 are some of the best memories of my entire life, musical or not. Their contribution to modern music is incalculable, and most every electronic artist or band likely owes them a debt they can’t hope to pay off. Today’s Top ten list, Daft Punk.
10. Technologic, Human After All
The simplicity of the opening might fool some, but it’s this subtle thing that they do so well. They build, slowly but surely layer upon layers, embedding snaps, claps, and bleeps that would be lame if done incorrectly. “Buy it, Get it” and various other instructions fill the vocal range of the song, but it just continues to grow at a stubborn pace. The video in itself is super creepy. The images seen are of a de-skinned animatronic doll(rumored to be the Chucky doll from “Child’s Play) and all it has to do it sing the words to the song to unnerve even the most hardened of EDM kids. The song at it’s base might be minimal, but combined into one track, the effects are breathtaking and make you want to dance, much like the rest of this list.
9. Doin’ It Right, Random Access Memories
While the record was rumored, everyone was stoked, but news came out slowly. We all expected a traditional dance record. What we got was a completely different album, and although many of the songs had a disco feel to it, this one was in the vain of a progressive band. Having Panda Bear from the wildly eclectic Animal Collective sing vocals added a human element the band was attempting to bring into the album, and it made the song much, much stronger. It’s a mostly chill song, but the light drops of beats over the track make it a easy song to enjoy. It’s one of the better songs on the record, and hopefully people who hadn’t checked out Panda or A.C. were motivated to seek them out after hearing this great track.
8. Human After All, Human After All
A bass thumper for sure, the title track from their least critically acclaimed album finds us at number eight. Saying it was panned doesn’t mean the same to everyone, but to me, it’s almost irrelevant. The band tries new things all the time, so it’s natural that some things might be seen as missteps. While it’s not the strongest effort they ever produced, it’s by no means a bad record, much less a bad song. The beat is intense, and non stop throughout, and the vocals decrying their living status are the perfect expression in a non-complicated way. This is a track that even with little going on, makes it a funky track to dance the night away to.
7. Aerodynamic, Discovery
The hells bells, reminiscent of the AC-DC track, open the song, but it doesn’t take long before the whirlwind of the modern disco flavor fill your ears and you get lost in the track. One of the best songs used on the Alive tour, the track incorporates sickeningly fast beats, and guitar effects you simply don’t hear often in dance music. Few songs are as perfect for late night, strobe induced dance parties as this one, but you could easily fit this into any fun time. It’s also a great example of a band known for robot voices killing it instrumentally with no type of vocals whatsoever. The dip at the end leaves you in a cold shockwave of a system, but it doesn’t really matter, because you had fun getting there.
6. Around the World, Homework
More than likely one of the first exposures to huge pop culture that the band had, and even after all this time the song still holds up. Much of their music sounds alien and not of this world, but maybe that’s what people were drawn to. There simply isn’t a band quite like Daft Punk, and from their first album “Homework,” it was clear. The repetition of the song itself seems also forced, and implies that they are indeed going “Around the World” in a way they can’t control. It’s also one of the longer songs the band has released, but there are worse seven minute songs to be stuck listening to for sure.
5. Get Lucky, Random Access Memories
More than likely their most well known song(We’ll get to the other one in a bit), “Get Lucky” was and is a classic song. Almost from the first listen you’re hooked. using Pharrell on this song in particular was vital to the songs success, and he kills it. It has all the soul of a Gloria Gaynor track, but the modern sophistication not to seem played out. The elements they bring in here are impeccably used. Everything from the vocals, to the guitar and bass form a seamless, happy flow that brings the track to a very high level. Was there a better song the year it came out? I’m not sure, but it’s a great song, and the disco flavored vibe sprinkled throughout is testament that this band can do anything it chooses, and do it well.
4. Robot Rock, Human After All
The drums crashing to introduce the song, and before long we’re bouncing to the one and only theme song of the band, “Robot Rock.” This song opened the now legendary Coachella show, and having been there in person, it won’t ever leave my memory. The song is fucking killer, and it’s the best track on this highly underrated album. This is a song that doesn’t need much to succeed, and kills it at every opportunity. I could listen to this all day long, and have been known to repeat it more than once. Also the usage of this in Iron Man 2 was hilarious, and perfect. Probably their heaviest song, Robot Rock is not a force you want to come into contact with if you're not prepared to rock, uh, like a robot.
3. Da Funk, Homework
Hearing the traffic and street songs initially make me think of the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” video in the way that you imagine a person walking down the street on a normal day. Except it’s not a normal day, because the crowd slowly is forming into a giant dance troupe to bring the song to the masses. Not that I don’t like the very bizarre proper video(I do very much), but the song to me is the beat of a dance oriented people who aren’t content unless dance is happening. Another example of a great instrumental song, “Da Funk” brings you from the street to the dancefloor using precise beats and arrangements, adding thumps, hammers and power as they see fit.
2. One More Time, Discovery
Although not the number one selection, this song has done more for the band than any other track. It’s been sampled repeatedly by lesser dj’s, and used in a variety of ways. All of these ways only help to cement DP’s legacy not only as an important band in any genre, but as purveyors of the perfect electronic beat. Even if you don’t know who Daft Punk is, you’ve heard this song. The vocals bring a level of positivity to the table in ways you can’t measure, and overall the song is a celebration of the process of life, and taking every day as it comes, and making the most of all of it, good or bad. The jingles throughout, coupled with the soft tones and energetic horns make the song one of the best dance tracks ever, and it will still be being played for years after we’re all dead and gone. We’re gonna celebrate!
1. Digital Love, Discovery
The feeling of warmth and love flutter all over the song, and the lovely and cute lyrics only make it better. The band hardly has any songs that are this straightforward and wordy, but that’s what sets the song apart from the others. While other songs have minimal lyrics, “Digital Love” has plenty, and it only helps the song reach deeper. This song will be part of my life forever, and I’ll never hear it without thinking of enjoying it with my friends and loved ones. The explosion of sound at the climax brings the track to a height it hadn’t reached, and propels it to the gorgeous ending it deserves. “Digital Love” remains the bands’ best track, and for anyone who is in love with someone, an example of why “Music Sounds better with You.” Thanks for reading!
And as another year draws to a close, it’s time to announce the Top Twenty albums of 2016. This list varies wildly from synthpop, hip hop, emotional pop ballads, and even a strain of good old country. The order was difficult to pin down since there’s tons of great albums, but i’m very happy with this list and hope you enjoy it and can at least maybe pick up a few new records you may have not heard before. Enjoy guys!
GONE IS GONE, SELF TITLED
KRISTIN KONTROL, X COMMUNICATE
DAVID BOWIE, BLACK STAR
20.SOLANGE, A SEAT AT THE TABLE
For a long time, Solange stood in the shadows of her much more famous sibling. Truth is, she still does, but the strength among this record makes it obvious that she’s no second fiddle. Sure the sister in question is a giant star, but Solange Knowles makes it look easy through every track on “A Seat at the Table.” It’s cohesive, and even better, every song is written by her, which is something Queen B never does.
19. MIIKE SNOW, iii
These guys were a huge breakout success with their first record, but even though they might not be blowing up stadiums worldwide, this record is fucking good. It’s a conscious synth-pop rock album with savory vocals and beats throughout, and it shows the true and growing potential of this band. You may have forgotten about these boys, but you shouldn’t have, because they put out their best record this year.
18. MITSKI, PUBERTY 2
A late comer to the countdown finds us at number 18. I had only heard of Mitski in the last few months, but after hearing what she actually brought to the table i was more than impressed. With vocals reminiscent of Annie Clark of St. vincent, Mitksi is able to intermingle a sullen soft desperate voice that winds over a multitude of impressive sounds, which makes her all the more appealing. A nice chill record with a twist, all in all.
17. PREOCCUPATIONS, PREOCCUPATIONS
I would have preferred they hadn’t changed their name from Viet Cong, but I guess you have to do what you have to do. Regardless of title though, Preoccupations keep their feet grounded in the style of music they always have. It’s heavy, dense, long winded at times, but thoroughly enjoyable throughout. It’s one of the better rock records of the year, and if you liked them before, you’re still gonna like them after you explore this album.
16. FRANK OCEAN, BLONDE
After years of waiting, Ocean deciding to make everyone go crazy with two album releases in a matter of days. The other honestly was mostly a waste of time for me, but this record, “Blonde” is a natural step for the best member of OFWGKTA. It’s sexy beyond belief, and although none of the songs are even close to up tempo, the patience that exudes from every song makes this record a solid addition to his growing arsenal of thoughtful, relaxed and layered music.
15. SAVAGES, ADORE LIFE
From the pummeling opening notes of “The Answer,” you know that Savages, the female foursome juggernaut, isn’t fucking around. Singer (INSERT Name), wails her voice chaotically but poised in a way I’ve never heard before. The musicianship that accompanies the record is also incredibly tight for a band still somewhat fresh in the giant world of growing bands. It’s crunchy in the best way possible, and I personally challenge all these macho tough guy bands to see if they can match the strength of Savages, because they might get fucked up.
14. EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, THE WILDERNESS
EITS have been doing this for so long now that they basically have a framework for awesome albums pretty consistently. “The Wilderness,” the band's seventh album and first in five years, is more of the same that we’ve loved since 2000. It’s methodical and patient, never reaching out too much before the time is right. All the members of the band, from Chris Hrasky on drums to Michael and Munaf on varied instruments show their individual power and pull all of it together to give us a record that’s poignant and beautiful, and yet another solid record from a band that seems to be able to do no wrong.
13. DEFTONES, GORE
After all these years, the Sacto boys are still making metal with a twist, but also metal that can perch itself atop all the best of the genre. Tracks like “Doomed User” take advantage of the one two punch that is Carpenters racing guitar parts as they accompany Chino high pitch scream in a beautifully dangerous way. I might be biased in my love for this band, but that bias comes from the fact that I’ve never been let down by the sheer power and energy of this band. They’ve not only emerged as the most notably talented band from the Nu Metal era, but they refuse to give up, and can still drop the hammer when it comes to making a solidly heavy record.
12. MONO, REQUIEM FOR HELL
Japan’s noisy, post rock masters Mono have steadily been releasing quality albums for the last sixteen years, and while their personal growth has been obvious, not all of their records can match the darkness in density and tone that they reach on “Requiem for Hell.” Over the course of forty-six minutes, the slow burn is evident, but it’s also somewhat beautiful, which might seem odd given the title of the record. If you’re into instrumentally based challenging bands who give you the gift of imagining whatever world you brain can conjure up while listening, I’d highly suggest this tried and true act.
11. CHANCE THE RAPPER, COLORING BOOK
Over the last few years, Chance has been gradually becoming more and more of a big deal in the music world, and while I was late to warm to his unique brand of hip hop, I’m glad I did. His latest “mixtape,” “Coloring Book” is the best signal yet that he will be headlining festivals if his upward trajectory keeps going in a similar direction. It rips and roars enthusiastically, and has enough all star guests to put other rappers to shame. With his trademark voice rapping over a brilliant mix of traditional beats and horns and drums, “Coloring Book” adds to the testament that not only is Chance the next talented rapper set to blow up, but he’s done it entirely on his own, which isn’t easy when you consider how rough the music business is.
10. STURGILL SIMPSON, A SAILORS GUIDE TO EARTH
Now you could probably look at me and see that I don’t get into too much country, but from my angle, Simpson has easily transcended that notion. Sure he’s not Tim McGraw or other mediocre musician under the vast country umbrella, but what works so well for him is how ancient, full hearted, and sincere he comes off. This is country done in the ways of Cash and Nelson. Sturgill’s voice is warm, compassionate, and full of spirit in the halls that the country legends of the past left for him to discover. This record had a great impact on me, and hopefully it will do the same for you.
9. BAT FOR LASHES, THE BRIDE
Natasha Khan has grown so much from the early beginnings of her work as Bat for Lashes, but the more things change the more they stay the same. That’s not to discount her work on this record at all, far from it. This concept album about a wedding doomed before it even began has all the workings of her past records, but it’s decidedly darker and slower in pace. Many songs feature her deep and painful voice over low ambient beats, and it works in a way that it shouldn’t. Khan keeps somehow managing to stay under the radar, but in those shadows in the dark recesses of her own brand of melancholy atmosphere, she shines bright enough for you to find your way back to her.
8. DANNY BROWN, ATROCITY EXHIBITION
On his fourth full length proper record, Brown explores more territory unknown to him than on his previous efforts, and well it makes for a compelling listening experience. The low tempo beats on opener “Downward Spiral” make for an interesting entry into his “Atrocity Exhibition,” but the wonder doesn’t stop there. “Rolling Stone” is a chill track that’s energized by Brown's trademark high pitched vocals. His voice should never work in the context of what he’s trying to do, but maybe that’s what makes him such a standout talent. He continually grows in his art and finds ways to make things stick that shouldn’t
7. ANGEL OLSEN, MY WOMAN
Olsen has been on my radar for quite some time, but with “My Woman” she’s expounded her talent with an album full of mismatched songs in various styles, narratives and soundscapes. Some songs are slower and brooding, some are more clear rock oriented tracks, but all of them are hypnotizing and wonderful to listen to. “Shut up and Kiss Me,” the best song on the album and one of the best tracks of the year is a declaration to get out of your own head and be grateful for whatever happiness you can find. That type of mindset is sprinkled all over the album, and it plays to perfect effect as Olsen becomes the woman that indie rock needs right now.
6. NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS, SKELETON TREE
For more than thirty years, Cae and his Bad Seeds have been steadily building a catalog that’s as different record to record as it is consistently amazing and unparalleled. On “Skeleton Tree,” the band's sixteenth record, the pain and dread is palpable throughout. Built on the background of the death of Cave’s son in an untimely freak accident, this record is dark enough to make you want to run. In that darkness though, you see the soul of a man who’s broken and left to wonder what it all means. This album isn’t an easy listening by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one that radiates beauty in the way Cave’s voice and the musicianship of the band come full circle and make for a thoroughly thought-provoking example of loss explored in musical form. A tour de Force record.
5. THE AVALANCHES, WILDFLOWER
And holy shit look at this, they finally released their second album. I won’t lie, i was very much in the corner of this record isn’t going to be worth the long wait we’ve endured since their first record came out in 2000. But in fact, I was wrong, and I can also see what took so long. The album moves forward much in the same way that “Since I Left You” did, but the added help from musicians outside of the confines of the band really adds a fresh layer to their sampling techniques. Danny Brown adds to the infectious ‘Frankie Sinatra,” while many others including Ariel Pink add their unique flare to this whirlwind that’s described as taking a cross country trip while experiencing the world through drug hazed eyes.
4. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, WE GOT IT FROM HERE.. THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE
After so many years it’s easy to forget just how important this hip hop group is. For their first release in many many years, ATCQ manages to come off stronger and more potent than they ever did. The album resonates with the same like minded attitudes that made the group such a powerhouse decades early, and that’s where the strength comes from. Guest spots from the long forgotten but sorely missed Busta Rhymes makes it all the better, with each song exacting revenge and bringing banging beat after banging beat. With the tremendous loss of Phife Dawg earlier this year this makes it harder for the album to remain a full embodied ATCQ record, but i have a feeling Phife would love that his comrades came together one last time with a proper goodbye that fans everywhere can eat up.
3. LADY GAGA, JOANNE
For all intents and purposes, my main complaint from Gaga up until this point was that she seemingly relied on theatrics and palor tricks rather than her proven voice. That all changed however with “Joanne,” her sixth record. The record is bare of most of her usual elements, but that’s what makes it such a profoundly good record. Her voice soars throughout the album, and songs like “Perfect Illusion” brings the good from the past into a new more mature light. It’s a rocking song that can pass as a radio hit while still staying true to what she’s trying to accomplish. Backed by Kevin Parker in the producer chair along with Mark Ronson, the album also features great guests like Florence Welch and Joshua Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. It’s a remarkably good record that everyone can get into it, even if you haven’t been hugely in love with her up until this part. I’m sold on this, and you might be too.
2. RADIOHEAD, A MOON SHAPED POOL
After five years, the enigmatic kings of alternative rock finally returned this year. Plenty of people didn’t fall in love with the previous “King of Limbs,” but “A Moon Shaped Pool,” brings it back to the layered, thoughtful, solemn sound that made the band so interesting in the last decade or so. Song after song finds it grove in ways only Yorke, the Greenwoods and company can. Many of these songs are familiar to hardcore RH fans, but it’s the new ways the band can change styles among the same song that make it sound so fresh. “True Love Waits,” the longtime fan favorite b- side finally shows up on a proper record, but it’s not what we were used to hearing. It’s wonderful all the same, but it’s in those ways that the band is able to spread their experimental tendencies and produce something that sounds way ahead of the curve in areas that would see other bands fall to the ground in defeat.
1. CHILDISH GAMBINO, AWAKEN! MY LOVEDonald Glover has gradually been veering away from his indie sampled beats since his early records, but what he does on “Awaken! My Love” is truly remarkable. Glover as Gambino manages to make a record that keeps the spirit of Prince and Outkast in the forefront while still making an album that very much sounds like a Gambino record. Up until last week no one had heard this record, but it wasn’t until the record came across my path did I fully understand who should take the number one slot on the Top 20 albums of 2016. Glover sings and croons with the best of them, while injecting this soulful record with the attitude and gloss of a powerful avant garde funk record from the heydays of funk jams. Song after song on “Awaken!” makes me miss the old days where it was just Gambino and his beats, but that’s not the whole story. Sure the old shit is great, but on this record he breaks out in big ways and conquers everything he touches. It’s joyous, uplifting and a drastic about face that makes me excited for what he may have in store for us in the years and albums to come. My number one record of the year, “Awaken! My Love” by the incomparable Childish Gambino. Thanks for reading!
And on the second installment of the Year End editions, we cover the Top Ten songs of the past year. included among these tracks are deep thoughtful songs, upbeat party anthems, and perhaps tracks you've never even heard. i hope you enjoy!
10. RADIOHEAD, TRUE LOVE WAITS, A MOON SHAPED POOL
For years this song was among the best b-sides from the band, until one day it shows up on a new record. Reworked from the liver version, this version is a more somber track that features Yorke’s haunting vocals dangling over an even more melancholy piano piece with distant soundtracks further in the mix. It’s a brilliantly haunting song about lost love that yet again proves that Radiohead is a band of many flavors, nearly all of them delicious and moving.
9. FLUME, NEVER BE LIKE YOU, SKIN
I never got into producer Flume before last year, but this poppy, atmospheric song quickly became one of his best tracks. Accompanied by Kai is a more slow building electro track that takes the best parts of the current EDM craze but rightfully abandons most other properties of the doomed genre. It’s a song you can dance to with a special someone, while singing to the precisely layered vocals that offer a new insight into how good electronic music can be.
8. NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS, JESUS ALONE, SKELETON TREE
Easily the most haunting song on this list, Cae and his bad seeds yet again manage to sound distinct not only among their contemporaries but also compared to the other records the band has produced in their long storied career. It’s a eerily slow song with minimal production backing it, but it’s in those moments that Cave shines. Perfect for a person lost in the wilderness surrounded by fog, “Jesus Alone” starts the record on a super somber note filled with death, and those feeling persist through the rest of the album.
7. BANKS & STEELZ, GIANT, ANYTHING BUT WORDS
I only just recently heard this song, but clearly it had an impact on me. At first glance a pairing of Interpol and Wu Tang members sounds downright awful, but the strength and intensity in this lead track is enough of a reason to give this band a chance. The beats are great and immediate, and once the song actually gets going it doesn’t stop. Featuring Rza and Paul Banks, the two worm and snake their way in out of verses and choruses to deliver a song that fans of either band could dig on.
6. ANGEL OLSEN, SHUT UP KISS ME, MY WOMAN
What a year this lady has had. In my opinion a big part of her success this year has to do with this down and out love song. Olsen’s vocals are atmospheric without trying to be, and the upbeat nature of the guitar and drums give the song the oomph it needs to be memorable. It’s just a fantastic rock song that carries its message to a rousing successful point. If she keeps up with quality like this, expect to be seeing much more of her as time flows.
5. CHANCE THE RAPPER w/ LIL’ WAYNE, NO PROBLEM, COLORING BOOK
Among the many great songs on this album, “No Problem” is easily the best. Hip-Hop at it’s finest, Chance the Rapper has exploded in the last year in an undeniable way. From the early moments, “No Problem” bounces proudly and joyously in it’s attempts to entertain, which it does in spades. Chance for me took time to appreciate, but with this track as the centerpiece of his excellent new album, it’s hard for me to understand just what exactly took me so long to understand how awesome and jubilant he is.
4. THE AVALANCHES, FRANKIE SINATRA, WILDFLOWER
Welcome back boys! For years news of a potential Avalanches album floated around, and then out of nowhere, we get a first, actual single from the long in gestation sample wizards. And thankfully our first introduction to the new record was a great sneak peek at what lay ahead. Nestled in a realm where Danny Brown raps over South American music while various beats and other samples cascade over the speakers. Independently the song works well but it also fits into the overall free flow of ideas and inspirations that the band is able to pull from. One of the best of the year.
3. MIIKE SNOW, GENGHIS KHAN, iii
First things first: Watch this great video, which offers a genuine twist on the evil men tormenting his enemies until he realizes all is not what it seems. Getting to the song though, it’s more of the same of what we’ve come to expect over the course of the band’s previous efforts. Also though, it genuinely showcases that the band can make an upbeat rock song that Pop lovers can also get behind and support. The drum synthesizer beats are solid, but it’s Andrew Wyatt is more than able to do even more wondrous things with the use of his smooth, sultry man vocals.
2. BECK, WOW
For over a month i heard only snippets of this song, and honestly didn’t think much of it. I also had no idea that this was a Beck song. In fact it wasn’t until I saw Beck live that i found out that not only was that Beck Hansen himself, but the song was dope as hell. Fixed firmly outside of the rock world but firmly planted in the weird, all over the place eclectic nature of who Beck is as a person, “Wow” is a gentle day swimming and cavorting while drinking fancy colored mix drinks with silly names. The song is another testament to the chameleon nature of Hansen as a person, but I mean it’s Beck. You never quite know what to expect.
1. DJ SHADOW w/ RUN THE JEWELS, NOBODY SPEAK, THE MOUNTAIN WILL FALL
There was simply no other song this year that insisted on forcing you to experience the force of the song. To hear shadow say it there was no other person or group of people better to provide vocals over this track, and well, he was absolutely correct. Hearing El & Mike rap over this song makes it impossible to imagine anyone doing anything even half as good as what they brought to the table. From the jangle of the opening beats to the powerful, confrontational styling from Run the Jewels, “Don’t Speak” is a giant fuck you to all the naysayers and also to the people who would have you think you must abide by their set of rules. Also referencing our next President in such a deliberate and insulting way is a treasure I wish most artists had the balls to present to the world. Easily the best song of the year, “Don’t Speak” is the song that many others in the rap world will be compared to for some time.
Come back next week for the TOP TWENTY ALBUMS OF THE YEAR! Thanks for reading!
Much the same every year, we kick off the Year end editions with he Top Ten shows of 2017. After many shows, multiple festivals, thrills and smiles, I’m pleased to announce the shows that were a cut above the rest. Without further adieu, here they are. Enjoy!
10. THE WEEKEND, VOODOO FEST
While I’ve been a moderate fan of Abel’s for quite some time, I had never seen the act commonly known as the Weeknd as he closed the opening night at Voodoo in tremendous fashion. With an otherworldly stage truss hoisted and moving above the stage, the Weekend dropped plenty of hits and slow games in a show that drew in both old fans and newer fans.
9. MARIAN HILL, BONNAROO
Oozing seductive qualities on the Thursday at Bonnaroo, the trio known as Marian Hill captivated the audience for her hour long set. I had listened and loved the music beforehand, but seeing the up and coming band serenade the crowd during the set made it clear to everyone in the crowd that this was an act that we should plan on hearing more of in the coming years.
8. CHVRCHES, BONNAROO
Since first falling in love with Lauren, Iain and Mike on a clear blue day at Roo truly brought my love to the next logical height. The band engaged the large main stage crowd for the duration of their set, dropping all the best known songs with a similar electronic bounce that cultivates their sound. One of the great acts of the whole festival, and our number 8 on the top shows of 2017.
7. TAME IMPALA, BONNAROO
Much like the times before when I’d seen them, Kevin Parker and company rocked the late night set in true fashion. Sure they didn’t play their entire scheduled time, but no one in attendance seemed to mind during moments where tame clearly had control of the massive crowd at the Which stage. Hearing songs like “elephant” and “Feels Like We’re Going Backwards,” made the crowd rock and swoon in ways few psychedelic rock bands can manage to entertain a crowd.
6. TOOL, VOODOO
Having seen them over twenty times by this point, You mostly know what to expect fromthe Prog rock gods from California. This show, much like all the other shows I’ve seen, didn’t disappoint. Their strength lies in the way the band can go from heavy clunkers and bass heavy beats, while also showcasing Keenan’s voice. They’re a band I’ve loved forever, and they still know how to deliver a show that leaves everyone in awe and excited at what they’re witnessing.
5. THE CURE, U.N.O. LAKEFRONT ARENA
Meant to be the first show of the tour until a date the previous day was added, The Cure killed the audience for well over three hours. They way they can manage to play for ages and not lose a step is both admirable and intimidating, even to fans like me. Sure I love love the cure, but damn, three hours is a long ass time to watch a band. That being said, the song selection, vastly different from the previous night's show, is a testament to not only how much this band loves to play shows, but also just how many songs they have in their moody, dark environment
4. REFUSED, FREE PRESS FEST
Literally the only band I was super excited to see at this middle of the road fest. Like many I had fallen in love with their seminal release “The Shape of Punk to Come,” but once you see the band present those songs live, a whole new element emerges. Infused with the spirit of punk, the Swedish group delivering a shockingly tight show despite the less than enormous crowd. Truly one of the last unicorns in the world of music, and boy am I happy to have seen them.
3. BECK, SAENGER THEATER
For years and years I had tried to see Beck Hansen to no avail. One show sold out instantly, and the next chance at Jazz Fest was rained out to do a hardcore storm. Finally though, the time came to see Beck deliver his eclectic brand of alternative rock. To say it was great show would be an understatement. The gentle nature Hansen brings to his art shone bright, and hit after hit had the capacity crowd dancing and singing alone.
2. KRAFTWERK, ORPHEUM THEATER
Wow, what a show. Not only in the sense that this was the German electronic foursomes first ever New Orleans show, but it was in 3d too! The show was mind-altering in many ways, and firmly cemented their status as a band who can deliver in the live format in spades. Trippy visuals accompanied every song, and while the band barely said a word to the crowd, they really didn’t have to. The music was more than enough and drops on the countdown at number 2. I don’t know how many more years this band will be active, but do yourself a favor and check it out if you get the chance.
1. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, BONNAROO
Having never gotten the chance to see the New york ensemble, the trip to Roo was done out of necessity in order to finally see on my favorite all time bands. Many people were less than thrilled at the band headlining, but anyone who saw that show quickly found out they were a clear choice for headliner. In my opinion not only was it the best show of the festival, but one of the top ten shows I’ve ever seen. Every song fed off the crowd's energy, and it doesn’t hurt when the band closes their 90 minute set with the one- two punch of “Dance Yrself Clean,” and the beyond legendary “All My friends.” Dancing and singing along with friends new and old truly made for a once in a lifetime set from this absurdly talented band. Thanks for reading!
“Good evening we are Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles California.” If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience this band live, you’ve heard those words as the opening for every show they’ve ever performed. One of the truest quotes I’ve ever heard that perfectly describes the feelings of the band came from Coachella founder Paul Tollett,who described the band as “a voice for people who are fed up.” Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, Tom Morello, and Zack De La Rocha have now, for nearly 30 years, been explaining to the world how power, corruption, greed, and complacency have fueled the refuse of our slowly crumbling world, and how if we ever wish to get out lives back from the vicious cycle of bullshit extolled on us, we have to take the power back. Enjoy!
10. Born of a Broken Man, Battle of Los Angeles
I first heard this song on pay per view when it was debuted at Woodstock 99. The opening chords, thick and full of purpose, draw the line in the dirt where the battle is about to happen. One of the amazing things about this band is the ability to tell a story that just about everyone will get. We’re all pissed off about something. Maybe it’s out of our control, maybe it’s not though. Maybe we can change it. This band is all about change. The vocals and guitar propel the song the most here, but the urgency and underlining tenseness of the drums also help to keep the song going. You can almost picture de La Rocha sitting in the desert, watching a fire burn into the night sky, telling the story again to whoever might be around him, and educating them on the trials one will face during their time on earth.
9. Bulls on Parade, Evil Empire
When this song first hit the airwaves, it was like a bomb blast into the world. Looking back, this was the song that let everyone know they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and they still had a lot to get off their chest. Morello and Wilk especially make the song what is it. The grooves throughout are killer, plain and simply. So many themes within this band has been unearthed and learned through the important lyrical content, but somehow even after more than a decade, the song and the sound still seem fresh and relevant. Morello is still in a world his own when it comes to the style of guitar playing, which ultimately makes the song everything it needs to be.
8. Vietnow, Evil Empire
The percussion: Damn man, damn. This song is so funky. But the star of the song is Zack. The lyrics are just sobering, but it’s supposed to be that way. I like to think the name “Vietnow,” is meant to suggest how that pain and humiliation we felt as a nation during that horrible war is still alive and well. Our government didn’t win the Vietnam war, but we learned how to properly lay waste to things that get in our way. For me, this is a Rage song that is closest not only to the protest song of the 60’s but also a pure hip hop song. For a band that has only dark songs, the negativity and pain presented here stands among the groups darkest. Fear is your only God.
7. Sleep Now in the Fire, Battle of Los Angeles
Without a doubt one of the best singles the band ever decided to release. It has the same awareness of other songs by the band, but it manages to be a more rocking, positive song. The contrast among the idea’s in the song are inherently interesting also. One minute we’re discussing the greed of politicians to always stay on top, while other areas showcase the strength of the common man, and how people who are deceptive deserve to pay up. Will the world ever rebel against the powers that force us to stay weak? I’m not sure, but if it does happen, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this song became an anthem for the army of the frustrated and tired.
6. Down Rodeo, Evil Empire
A song of unabashed violence. The visuals painted not only in the song title, but also in the lyrics. The undertones of racism are still very fresh, and the idea of hardships among minorities are central themed here. Everyone, whether they’re black, white, yellow, brown can relate to doing their best but still being held down by the powers that they have no luxury of using. The song also, is one of their funkier, groovy songs. The bass line’s here are just perfect for the image of a brown-skinned person strolling down an upper class street full of people who are worried about designer clothes more than people suffering below them. The screams for “Just a quiet peaceful death” at the end song perfectly exemplify the state of mind of the main character in the song and bring the song to a powerful, albeit depressing ending.
5. Testify, Battle of Los Angeles
Maybe the most epic build up in their whole catalogue. You can cut the pressure and tension with a knife, and when the song explodes with a flurry of guitar that resemble the howling of sirens, and drums and bass, you can barely contain yourself. It almost sounds to me like a sermon meant to bring about an uprising, but that’s just my opinion. The band has always been about engaging and bringing about the secrets people want to hide, but this song seems more to me like they want everyone to join together under common goals and figure out a way to positively bring about change. It’s an amazing, powerful song, and the perfect way to start what would end up being their last original studio album.
4. Know Your Enemy, Rage Against the Machine
When making a list of a band’s best songs, often difficult choices are made. One of them being the choice to only include two songs from the first album. This song is full of spit and venom, and presents a message about the misguided nature of our police system. A man in a room, and people trying to get him out. The song is a giant fuck you to the corrupters of our whole military and judicial system. The song is only made better by the vocals of Maynard from Tool as he provides a little frustration to the mix. Yet again the guitar shines bright. Morello is simply a god among men, and the instrumentation here brings it all to a head. The theme of keeping people dumb, and putting into their heads at an early age to not ask questions as a form of acceptable ignorance only makes the message that you shouldn’t trust anyone in power and you should always walk through life with your surroundings in mind all the more important.
3. the Ghost of Tom Joad, Renegades
While this song isn’t an original song, I’d say it’s one of the few covers to take a song and make it their own. The atmosphere they all set is of a glowing, post apocalyptic world where man has been left to his own devices, and the fallout is one of an incredible desperate feeling. I have no idea who Tom Joad is, but I assume he’s a symbol for the every man who’s forced to deal with the aftermath of a giant world that decimated whole countries, where everyone is left acting how they left it get so bad?” Brilliantly done here in a way that makes it its own while still paying homage to Springsteen’s classic, “Tom joad” stands as a song worth knowing if you don’t already love it.
2. Revolver, Evil Empire
I’ve loved this song since the very first time I heard it, and when I heard about their reunion at Coachella 2007, this was the first song I went for. It’s so jamming and rocking it’s impossible not to get into. The vocals are quiet at first, but it serves the purpose of the backing music. It perfectly builds stress in the right spots, until it’s time for a release. The release comes in the form of the amped up chorus, with chanting taking over slowly. The song gradually gets more intense as it goes from verse to chorus, and back again. The image of fields without fences has to be one of the most beautiful and tranquil things ever in a song by this band, but before you know it, that tranquility is gone again and replaced by immediate urgency and anger.
1. Wake Up, Rage Against the Machine
Not only the perfect Rage song, but also the perfect song for someone who’s frustrated in their life. It’s just so fucking good. It just makes me wanna bounce and rock out every time I hear it. It has everything you could want in a song by this band. It’s strength, it’s power and it’s an example of going after what you believe is right. It’s also a lesson to everyone living in their own world that what we need is unity. Rocha is literally begging us to explain to him what he has to do to Wake us up from our self-imposed ignorance when it comes to dealing with the world. Also it’s refreshing to see that there was once upon a time where big corporate record labels saw the value in bringing bands to the main stream that weren’t just there taking up space, but also in taking on projects that were as thought-provoking and meaningful as the message brought forward by this group of like-minded individuals who were sick of sitting idly by. Just ask yourself: “How long? Not long, because what you reap is what you sow.”
For a long time, stoner rock, or just the concept of stoner rock was dismissed by more mainstream types looking for their next quick fix. During this period though, and with the help of multiple friends and amazing musicians, Joshua Homme and his Queens of the Stone Age managed to not only propel quote unquote “Stoner Rock” to the next level,but become one of the finest rock bands currently active. Queens isn't full blown stoner though, and with each subsequent record they’ve becoming not only more sonically heavy, but also have managed to bring Desert, Palm Springs inspired rock to a level that most of the bands California natives haven’t managed to.
It all started with the eruption of the seminal desert rock band Kyuss. After the dissolution, Homme and fellow band member Nick Oliveri embarked on a new view of the world. The first album, which is self titled, dove into a little of what made Kyuss so special, but there was something else there. For one, people who loved Kyuss and who had never seen Homme as anything more than a drummer quickly realized that not only was Joshua a really good guitar player, but boy, did he have a voice. Not a traditional voice for the style of music, but I venture to guess that that's part of why the band stood out. Homme’s silky, elegant yet smoky voiced throat was able to give a new light to the genre, and with Oliveri on bass they were able to conceptualize a style that no one has been able to recreate.
One of the best things about the first album are the deep, embedded hooks throughout key tracks. “Avon” kicks like shotgun in a violent encounter, while “Mexicola” and “Give the Mule what he wants” both possess a funky opening that manages to get the job done with little urgency until the guitars come full strength and dominate the song. Hommes voice is also key here.
Even at this early stage the band was getting recognition, but it wouldn't be until a few key things happened off their second album that would truly set them on the road being a very well-known band. First, the video for “ the Lost Art of Keeping a Secret,” started getting minimal airplay on music video channels (Those still existed way back when) and the band was asked to join that summer's Ozzfest tour. While the video was great and got the record into important hands of initiated fans, the Ozzfest thing never really seemed like a good fit. Pushed in alongside bands like Pantera, Deftones and Soulfly, it just clearly didn't mesh as well as it should have. Then, something really big happened..
With the release of their third album,”Songs for the Deaf,” everything started going right for them, at least commercially. For one, their live performances became the stuff of legends, especially with bassist Nick Oliveri giving his all, mentally and physically to unsuspecting crowds. This included, but wasn't limited to getting wasted and throwing bottles into the audience, and also just generally playing his ass off.
The record also included the first contributions from Dave Grohl. To say that his drumming helped the record along is an understatement. It took the bands craft and their notoriety to another level. It also didn’t hurt that the singles ended up being giant successes. “No one Knows” and the arguably better “Go with the Flow” became mainstays on rock radio, and it catapulted the album to big sales. They had officially arrived, and were finding bigger and bigger crowds every day who wanted to spread the love of QOTSA. So much of the positivity and success from that album comes from the material which was released. All of the songs are brilliant, and capture immediately the vibe of the best road record ever released. Even the non singles are killer tracks with explicit hooks that captivate you. “First it Giveth” hits the ground running, while the title track of the record is among the band's heaviest tracks ever. For me this album is a stark reminder of just how gnarly, but also nuanced the band can be. Sure, they’re in your face, but that’s not all they are. Future albums capture this vibe better than “Songs,” but over the course of this excellent, groundbreaking album, in my eyes at least, Queens of the Stone Age took one step closer to being the best rock and roll band of our day and age, which is a title i still believe they possess. With Dave Grohl, Mark Lanegan, Jesse Hughes and various other contributing to the album, there’s almost no way it wouldn’t help the band.
Between the next albums though, much changed. Grohl was out, as was Oliveri, and although he never rejoined the band, Homme and he still remain friends. But anyway, next comes “Lullabies to Paralyze,” whose title is actually taken from the closing song of the previous album.
Paralyze is not only an appropriate album to follow up the smash of “Deaf,” but it’s also more balanced, less in your face, and gives the band new life. Joined by Alain Johannes, Joey Castillo, and even that ZZ Top guy Billy Gibbons, “Paralyze “ has guttural songs, but also some spooky tracks laid out that build and grow in ways previous tracks haven’t.
“Burn the Witch,” is an all time favorite, with its synced up drumming, ho hum vocal melody, and of course Homme’s signature croon laid deep in the mix. Many of the tracks here are also longer and more meandering at times than previous efforts. This album wasn’t the giant success that the previous album was, but it’s arguably better as a whole, while it certainly has moments that are better than any of their other records. One of my favorite things about the album as a whole though, is the slow, somber closing provided from the “Hidden Finale,” that comes after “Long Slow Goodbye.” It’s always reminded me of a funeral procession, as showcased in a black and white movie of the thirties. Even beyond that terrifying slow burn of the track, “traditional”rock anthems like lead single “Little Sister” also delivers scorching musical moments. I mean, seriously, the first time I heard “Sister” i was absolutely captivated at the proficiency in which Homme plays guitar.
This tour also highlights one of the single best concerts I’ve ever been to. Two of my favorite all time bands, Queens and Nine Inch Nails were going on tour together. Holy-fucking-shit. To say that that show was amazing is nearly pointless. Joined by fellow amazing artists’ Death From Above 1979, the tour was one for the ages, and was also the first in a long collaboration between Queens and Reznor(we’ll get to that later though).Following a long tour full of seminal quotes and wonderful moments, the band took some time off to do other things, to varying degrees of success. The time wasn’t super long though, and by 2007 the band was back with a new record.
Now, among hardcore fans, “Era Vulgaris” is among the weaker of the albums released by the group, but in no way is that me saying it’s a shit record. It’s actually really good compared to other things that came out that year. It’s just not life changing for me in the way other records released by Queens had been. There’s still plenty to love about it though. “Turning on the Screw,” which opens the album is a perfect example of a band not being afraid to do what they want. The song isn’t in your face in the ways other opening tracks are, but the difference intone is obvious very early in the listening process of “Era.” Reznor appears again on the title track, while the hidden b side of “The Fun Machine Took a Shit and Died” remains one of the best tracks never officially included on a record.Other songs rock too though. “Misfit Love” is a wild ride, while “3’s & 7’s” is a song full of bravado and build up until implosion, but what’s significant here is the usage of a song from what could loosely be called a side project.
For years, Homme and whoever else he can find had been releasing what they called “Desert Sessions,” which basically means whoever was available went down to the Joshua Tree studio Rancho de Luna and recorded weird, atypical music for the fun of it. Tons of people came through those sessions, including one Polly Jean Harvey, but anyway, a song from that showed up on a Queens record, and everyone loved it. The song “Make it Wit Chu” is a slow love filled romp in the hey, and finds the band scaling back the urgency for a pretty sweet overall song.
Over the next few years though, little happened with the band, unless you count a quick tour presenting the first album being played in its entirety. Apparently by the end of the tour the band was over it, and yeah, seems totally understandable. Anyway, a long time passed, which for a band riding high can be a deal breaker. It wasn’t without merit though. Homme, during a knee surgery, was technically dead for several minutes, and the long road back was marred by depression, injury and a lack of focus. It wasn’t until 6 years after the previous record that the next QOTSA record would be released. And thankfully, it didn't suck.
Not only didn’t it suck, but it was one of the best returns to music I’ve ever seen. In my years there’s no better album by the band than 2013’s “...Like Clockwork.” It's a masterpiece, and in many ways, would serve as a fitting parting gift, if the band decided to hang it up. Over the course of forty-six minutes, Homme not only manages to bring people into the world he’s been living in for a while, but he opens himself up to some of the more honest songwriting and pain acknowledgement he ever showed us.
Songs like the haunting ballad “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” is still and frightening in a Polanski film short of way, while the song “My God is the Sun” is a mesmerizing example of brute force in the California desert. There’s not a bad song on the album, and that’s ultimately where strength comes from. Also great about the record is Homme’s ability to squeeze more guests into meaningful roles than most Rap stars can ever get to be on their records. Over the course of the ten songs we get guests spots from returning champions such as Grohl and Reznor, oliveri, Lanegan, and Alex Turner, but it doesn’t end there. New drummer Jon Theodore tears it up in much the same way he did with the Mars Volta, but we also get the epically awesome Elton John, who chimes in on piano and vocals on the record's best track “Fairweather Friends,” which is insane. The track also features the full band and Grohl and Reznor. It’s an epic song that everyone should already know, if you’re indeed a fan of the band.
“...Like Clockwork,” which also was my album of year in 2013, is a strong reminder that not everything that goes away does so and then loses strength, but rather that a true return to form is possible, especially when you have a great group of people who are all focused on the same goal. I look forward to the day where the world is graced with another album by the best living rock band in the world, Queens of the Stone Age, or at least a new Them Crooked Vultures record. Any of those will do! Thanks for reading, sorry this took so damn long!
For the last ten plus years, Baltimore's Beach House has been making slow burning music that haunts and thrills in various terms. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have managed to have a more fulfilled and full sound with just two members than many full bands. Album after album has grown in texture and artistry and in turn it’s help them to become one of the better known indie bands of the last several years. Today we discuss the Top Ten Beach House songs. Enjoy!
10. Sparks, Depression Cherry
“Sparks” begins with an ethereal backing track, yet manages to just as easily enter into a translucent guitar arrangement that sounds like Beach House with the guitar prowess of Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The song never gets too busy and fast paced, like most of the band’s other tracks, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring or even vague. On the newish album, “Depression Cherry,” this track helps to bring in new ideas, while also reminding you of what type of music Beach House is capable and comfortable doing.
9. Wedding Bell, Devotion
This was the first track I’d ever heard from Victoria and Alex, but from the first moments I was both entranced and curious where the next song would take me. It’s winding and reclusive at the same time, with Legrand’s voice creeping through darkness. Looking back, you can see that the band always needed better production to fulfill their ultimate perfect song, but for a band so heavy on lavish, complex beats, Beach House does exceedingly well in bringing the ideas to the front, even though the music isn’t as full as efforts that followed it.
8. On the Sea, Bloom
Sometimes, just sometimes, a song can perfectly capture the spirit and essence of the track’s title, while also managing to put you right into the world the band creates. That’s true of our number eight pick for the Top Ten Beach House songs. “On the Sea” burns with regrets, big and small, and the pain and hurt in knowing you can’t go back all the time. Victoria LeGrand’s voice luminates feelings I didn’t know I even had, and it’s that kind of strength and emotional capability that makes Beach House a perfect band for longing days and mythological nights under the solar system of our vast galaxy.
7. Lover of Mine, Teen Dream
Another track filled with beats and vocals that are both mysterious and positive, “Lover of Mine” is one of the better songs on the band's 2010 majestic “Teen Dream,” and it seems effortless in the way it perfectly blends the semi-electronic elements in the band and the how those same beats further elevate Victoria’s vocals to the distant yet warm qualities of her voice. It’s slightly more upbeat than other tracks, but in its dim glow it provides the light for us to vanish and worship the night.
6. Space Song, Depression Cherry
On the Baltimore duo’s fifth album, the sounds are fuller and darker while at the same time drawing you in like the other records do, but there’s something more. It’s more distant and longing, and the enhanced production quality helps to bring these notions to perfect culmination. The beat is as dark as it is whimsical, like something you might hear in Ridley Scott’s “Legend.” Victoria’s voice continues to graze the surface of a dying planet, while the cold beats pulse rhythmically to create a world where everything just “Falls back into place.”
5. Zebra, Teen Dream
“Teen Dream’s” opening of “Zebra” not only shows us where the band was at musically during the recording of this album, but how much they manage to grow with every release, even at a pace that hardly lends any helping hands in staying afloat and original. Most bands that average a release every two years or so have difficulty growing, but for the Baltimore twosome it seems easy and second nature in their ability to continue to grow under the difficult light of releasing and touring so consistently
4. Walk in the Park, Teen Dream
At number four on the Top Ten Beach House songs, comes around a track that very much lies directly in sync with the songs title. I picture the dark surrounding of a forest, roaming with sidewalks tucked under blooming trees, and the joy of being at peace and understanding with something fading away and being replaced with something else. The beat is mid tempo and invigorating in a strange short of way, but it’s more than enough to bring the element of surprise to a song that can be both uplifting musically and downtrodden lyrically and vocally. It’s one of the best things Beach House does as a band, and they continue to excel at this quality.
3. Gila, Devotion
One of the darker, more David Lynch-esque tracks the band has to offer, it shows you Beach House from early in their time as a band, but also fits nicely in the direction they’ve continued to head towards later in their career. The track is somewhat basic, but for a band full of ideas and ways to get to their desired goals, it shows how much they’ve added in their more recent years. The song flows like a solemn heartbeat, never slowing or speeding, but rather beating continuously in a mysterious manner, uncertain of where the destination is.
2. Norway, Teen Dream
A song that’s perfect for a night under white christmas lights, dancing and smiling into the coming dawn with someone who understands you, “Norway,” shines brighter, quite a bit more than a vast majority of the band’s recordings. It’s still not an easy going song though, but it’s somewhat optimistic, compared to other songs. It’s also easy to get lost in the world painted here, which ultimately makes the song better and more meaningful to the listener. I’m not saying i’m completely obsessed still with this song, but i wouldn’t mind a full album of material like this.
From the opening of the bells to the hazy beats surrounding the track, “Myth” stands as not only the best opening song in the band’s catalog, but also as the Number One song in Beach House’s arsenal. It winds down a lonely road as the stars fill the atmosphere amid a dying blue sky. Alex provides perfect ambiance for Legrand’s haunting voice, while at the same time making sure that everything is tightly arranged and perfectly contrasting in the way the hopefulness of the music intertwines with the uncertainty of Victoria’s voice. Thanks for reading!
ALSO A QUICK PSA: As you can see, my posts have become somewhat infrequent, and all the trying in the world isn’t making it any easier. I’m writing at this point not only for this space, but when I can for another excellent website, Xs Noize, as well as a local magazine here in New Orleans, “Where Y'at!”
I’ve been trying and failing to keep up the usual three post a week traffic flow, but I think from here on out I’m gonna start focusing on longer, more thought out pieces here, instead of what I’ve been doing. Look for these posts more in the time frame of every week, at least once, as well as more original pieces less focused on individual bands or albums, and more in depth pieces. Basically expect more album reviews, more show reviews, less top tens, and more large pieces about the history of certain bands. Thanks again for reading, see you soon!
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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