This list, as it stands now, is both a great one and an unfortunate one. I had sincerely tried to add a few bands that weren’t super well known to this list, in the hopes of letting people know what awesome up and coming acts would be featured, but as you’ll see, most of these are bands that are not only excellent but also pretty well known. That’s unfortunately what you get when you pack so many solidly well known acts at one three day fest. Either way, it’s going to a great festival, and I can’t wait to see most of them, conflicts be damned!
10.Wilco, Saturday, Ponce De Leon, 7:45
Over twenty plus years and eight very solid albums, Wilco has remained one of the coolest and more down to earth bands in the Alternative Rock N’ Roll scene. Having the chance to see them a number of times previously, you know what to expect, but you’re never let down. They’re as solid as any band on this list, and with incredible songs like “I Am Trying to Break your Heart,” the crowd will surely be singing and dancing along to these Chicago natives. The only confusing thing to me is how they play before the Avett Brothers, who are substantially less cool than both Wilco and Social Distortion(who play earlier in the day). Either way, Wilco is great, and will be great.
9.Black Lips, Saturday, Ponce De Leon, 3:45
I got to see this band a few months ago, and it was a great punk rock show by most standards. The band is tight and unhinged at the same time, which isn’t a simple thing to do, but I remember dancing, getting sweaty and rowdy in a packed club. It was really fun, and while I’m sure it won’t be exactly like that show, I expect this homecoming show to be even crazier and more high energy than the previous show. It’s the middle of the day also, which always needs a little edge to it to separate the men who are capable of rocking out in the scorching sun and the boys who simply need to stand there and save their energy.
8.The Strokes, Friday, Peachtree, 9:30
At this point, everyone knows the NYC based The Strokes, and you can’t really blame them. They’ve made more than a couple great records, and while their behavior is slightly unpredictable, people still flock to see them. Reviews of the last tours were very keen to mention the band showing up fifteen minutes late and ending fifteen minutes early, which to me is totally unacceptable, so hopefully they’ve gotten their shit straight and treat us to 90 minutes of old school garage rock, but in the end, I guess it’s still cool to see these guys. I mean, at the very least hopefully they play “Modern Age,” which is probably their best song.
7.TV on the Radio, Friday, Piedmont, 6:15
One of worst decisions of any festival is choosing who to see. My first major conflict comes on Friday, and unfortunately it seems as though TV on the Radio will be on the losing end, but just in case you aren’t down with DFA 1979, I highly suggest you see this alternative New York band, who are as incredible and thoughtful onstage as they are on record. It’s a fun show, and without a doubt will have the crowd swaying and dancing in the gorgeous park where the festival will be held.
6.Mastodon, Friday, Peachtree, 7:15
Easily one of biggest heavy hitters of the festival will unleash its fury on the opening night of the festival. Mastodon is a band so uncompromisingly good that even bystanders get pulled into their brand of super heavy, but introspective prog rock. This band I’ve loved for years and years, but even though I’ve seen them probably three times before, this is the first is about five years, and I can’t wait to expel all my energy and throw my fists to the sky and and ecjoy this special homecoming show with one of the best metal bands of the last fifteen years.
5.Pixies, Friday, Piedmont, 8:15
What can you say about the Pixies that hasn’t been said before? Legends, cultivators of the “Indie” sound, sure, but they also have some of the best songs any band has in their catalog. They influenced Radiohead to be a band, and since 1986 they’ve explored what it means to be an underground favorite. Multiple albums are beyond excellent, and while they’ve had plenty of bumpy detours, the Pixies are still a big draw and a solid live band. It’ll be great to experience them in all their power and focus as they show scores of new bands how you appropriately rock.
4.Interpol, Saturday, Piedmont, 5:45
Part two of the horrible conflicts takes place Saturday afternoon as dismally dark NYC rockers Interpol play at the exact same time as adopted hometown heroes Neutral Milk Hotel. I can’t even understand why they would do this, but both bands are excellent. I’m still unsure of what to do, but both shows will be great. Interpol will bring their best known tracks, old and new to a hopefully energetic crowd, and I’m also hoping the timing doesn't doom them. Day time for Interpol seems silly, but the band is a great band nonetheless, so it’s sure to a good show, for whoever ends up there.
3.Death From Above 1979, Friday, Ponce De Leon, 6:15
Having seen this band twice before, but unsure of when they’ll be around again will keep me rocking to the savage but lovely sounds of the conquering DFA 1979. They’ll pummel a crowd for an hour like only they can, while making their hardcore fans salivate for more. This band is one of the most precisely dominant acts I’ve ever seen, and this is a show not to miss if you want to thrash about and chant to your hearts content. They may only have two albums, but both are killers and will lead to an epic opening day set.
2.Tame Impala, Sunday, Peachtree, 9:00
Sunday’s headliners, and the only act from this day to make the list, Tame Impala will finally be witnessed by my eyes, and honestly I can’t wait. With the new album coming out soon, I’m sure we’ll be treated to at least two songs, but they have two albums worth besides that of awesome, retro danceable prog rock that brings the house down with great hooks, and even greater melodies. The day might be light on must see acts, but I have no doubt that these Aussie rockers will be everything we want in a closing act.
1.Neutral Milk Hotel, Saturday, Ponce De Leon, 5:45
Yes, I’ve seen them before, but you only get to see a unicorn so many times, so you have to seize the moment when it presents itself. If you don’t see any other act on this list, see this band. One of the last dates the band will play for the foreseeable future, and having been a staple among the Athens Georgia based Elephant six collective, this show will be not only a powerful moment for the band, but also a magical one for the fans lucky enough to share it will them. See this band. I promise you won’t regret it. Thanks for reading, See you Friday
During the early 2000’s, I was on a mission to discover and know bands outside of my comfort zones. I had heard about this seminal band obviously before this point, but seeing their name on the 2006 Coachella lineup finally compelled me to get some albums. Initially I purchased 1998’s “Mezzanine,” but the one that stuck out the most to me is that records younger sibling, “100th Window.” Another addition to the “Albums of my Life” series, Massive Attack’s “100th Window”
Until this point, the band’s material had had undertones of free jazz, and including various samples. Upon hearing the opening track, “Future Proof” though, you can tell this is a different type of album. One major difference is the lack of two of the core trio of the group. One member refused(Grant Marshall), and another quit the group before recording began(Andrew Vowles). This left Robert Del Naja as the sole original member, and his force and ideas are all over “100th Window.”
One of the more lush, slow winding tracks on the album is the Sinead O’Connor sung track “What Your Soul Sings.” The mixtures and layers that drive the song are some of the most beat oriented, yet beautifully worked textures on the whole album.
While tracks like “What your Soul Sings” are quite lovely, the band can just as easily delve into darker terrains. The first segment of this darkness comes with “Special Cases.” It’s a thumper of a track, and provides the perfect soundtrack for a night wandering a vast urban landscape, curious of what you might come upon. It’s a wonderful song, in and of itself, and for better, it sets the album on a darker path for a certain length of time.
One of the best parts of this album has to be the caliber of guests that fill up the recording. O’Connor is obviously a huge plus, and keeps the tradition of female singers in tact, but also not so obvious choices like Damon Albarn performing as his Gorillaz alter ego 2D really the album into something singular and distant from the band's previous efforts.
Another thing that sticks in my head regarding the record is how well it would play to various other forms of entertainment. For instance a song like “Butterfly Caught,” fills me with the weariness and dread that you might sense during an episode of “Hannibal,” while other tracks perfectly compliment “Blade Runner,” and other futuristic science fiction films.
By this point in the record, we’re steering ourselves once again into a sound that more similar to the earlier albums, but it’s still has tinges of where the band is currently at. This isn’t a bad thing like you might be assuming.Recognition of your past is important when deciding what path to take in the future, and on tracks like “Smalltime Shot Away” Robert bridges the gap almost effortlessly. The song is a quieter selection from the album, but what is does it does well. It’s also one of the longer, more meandering tracks featured on “100th Window.” This is an important distinction, mostly because it speaks to the overall approach of the album when it comes to the lengths of the songs. Previous albums like “Mezzanine” and “Protection” only have four songs at the most that pass the six minute mark. On “Window” though, six of the nine tracks are over six minutes.
One could argue that the song length could have to do with Robert being unsure of how to tie up the ends without the help of the two other members, but partially I think it has to do with him wanting to purposely get lost in the music, and see where and down what holes it takes him.
As the album comes to a conclusion though, we’re treated to a devilishly sly track, once again featuring Albarn on vocals. “Antistar: jingles in the night, and is sure of it’s purpose through and through. It’s once again a track that lends itself well to the overall darkness of a big city, but it also ends the album on a high, albeit downbeat note.
Over the course of two decades and more, Massive Attack have been a leader of the future of electronic bands, and while this record is often pushed aside in favor of justifiable gems, it’s really a solid record, and one that still can pack everything you love about the band while also bringing you something new. Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday!
As we continue our week of Dan Deacon posts, today we discuss his top ten best songs. Over the course of four full length releases, he’s excelled at making music that is thoughtful, radiant, and a stark contrast to overwhelmingly simplistic ideas of other electronic musicians. He’s Daft Punk level good, except currently you wouldn’t know that unless you actively sought it out. Anyway, I present to you the Top Ten Best Dan Deacon songs. Enjoy!
10. Feel the Lightning, Gliss Riffer
Everyone keeps saying this is a return to form. In some ways it most certainly is, but in other ways it’s a natural progression. The opening beat quickly gives way to a more elaborate, and densely structured sound, but it’s all in service to the music. Dan also has a way of layering his vocals to both sound like someone from a Crystal Castles track, but also himself. These sections weave in and out, but it always works great. The video is also really fun and imaginative, and finds the basis for it in the theory that our household objects coming to life, ala Toy Story. It’s a solid track, and it kicks off our list of the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs.
9. Get Older, Bromst
Like a computer short circuiting, this track bends and folds into a mass of energy that quickly reaches it’s comfort level. The amount of things going on in the intermediate section before the big explosion is exciting, but it’s that explosion that really sends the song to where it needs to go. It’s dance worthy in almost every way, and it perfectly exemplifies how thoughtfully insane and brightly lit Deacon’s music is. The underlying symbol beats are a nice touch too, and although it’s impossible to follow the complexity of everything going on here, you get the impression the song would be radically different and not as amazing if even one thing was changed.
8. Red F, Bromst
“Bromst,” released in 2009, is probably his most well rounded album at this time, and it’s a track like “Red F” that helps to give the listener a unique experience. It’s a high intensity track, and the movement is constantly propelled by an ever growing change in dynamics. The track goes from robust and full, to quick and manic, and everything in between. Things really get interesting around the three minute mark where all the mad experiments explode upon each other and Dan is heard in the background keeping everything in order. It’s probably one of his most intense songs, but it’s worth every section of enjoyment, especially in the capacity of a concert, which is where he thrives.
7. Lots, America
Another one that has a tiny bit of intro but descends into a dance fueled meltdown that is impossible to resist. It’s one of the stand out tracks from “America,” and it’s not hard to see why. Quite simply, there are entire bands that could learn from Dan Deacon on how to make exciting music. He gives it his all consistently, and it really shows. One of my favorite parts of this track are the little chants prevalent in the background of the song. It’s almost joyous and holy in the way it’s presented, and while I think organized religion is a detriment to society, if it’s all about the experience and the dancing, I’d likely join Dan’s religion, if he had one. Although I guess in a musical way he already does..
6. the Crystal Cat, Spiderman of the Rings
One of his earliest hits, if you'd call it that, finds us at number six on the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs. “The Crystal Cat,” is a highly explosive, frenzied song that barely slows down, even initially. It’s frenetic in ways many artists couldn't even compare with. The uptempo track is a staple at his live shows, and transforms even the tamest of audiences into a full fledged dance machine numbering in the hundreds. It’s also one of his most verbose tracks, but the lyrics only add to the fun, and as you can imagine,they inspire fantastic chants at live shows. An early sign of greatness.
5. Snookered, Bromst
Maybe the track that broke him in a bigger way? I’m not so sure of that, but plenty of people have been moved by this gradually great track. I’m easily one of them. It always reminded me of “With or Without You” by U2 in the way it’s able to slowly build layer on layer until it’s so involved and thoughtful you just can’t even imagine something better. The bells, and slow beats that open the song eventually give way to a solemn, but glorious reflection of what life is, struggles and achievements alike. For me this was the moment where Deacon become not only someone who deserves a bigger audience, but also one of the most emotionally talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
4. When I was Done Dying, Gliss Riffer
A newer track sure, but one the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs, “When I was Dying,” stands out as a sign of both where he came from as a musician, but also how he;s grown over the years. The lyrics are eye opening to say the least, but the message is one that remains hopeful, at least to me. The composition of the music is also brilliantly balanced and layered, which gives added weight to the central theme of the song, which to me is the greatness of living a life for all it’s worth, and never being guided by anger or hostility. Musically it’s not the most in your face upbeat track he has in his arsenal, but you don't have to always go that route to make an impact.
3. Paddling Ghost, Bromst
Even as the song starts, you can sense this is going to end up being a dance anthem, and within
thirty seconds it ends up being true. It’s a chaotic song that makes the listener think of a world filled with brightly lit rooms, laughter, and never ending happiness. It’s probably one of his most sonically heavy tracks, and the chants, breakneck beats, and everything in between only help to make a song that is truly fit for moments where all baggage from your everyday life needs to be pushed aside, even if for a moment.
2. Wham City, Spiderman of the Rings
This track, off his first official release is a epic journey full of blasting electro beats, tales of mots, bridges, and wonderful images. It’s a slow build up of knobs and experimental beats, but it’s all in preparation for the dance party that takes over at around the three minute mark. The lyrics are great and mythological, but if you are familiar with Dan you know it’s all in service to the overall foundation of the song. I’ve seen this song performed a few times, and it’s amazing how much dancing you can get through in twelve fun filled minutes. For me, there’s little else in his discography that reaches this soaring and awesome song. On the Top ten Dan Deacon songs, “Wham City,”(which is what Baltimore is often known as in this circle) finds us at number two.
1. Build Voice, Bromst
This insanely brilliant, eye opening song slowly grows over cold, distant beats, like a astronaut looking for life on alien worlds. “Build Voice,” our number one Dan Deacon song, finds the strength build and build as Dan’s voice and normal mythical lyrics reach places few others are capable of. It’s lyrically not a super long track, but what is said is masterfully done and perfectly sets the stage for the explosion of power that finds the listener shortly after the three minute mark. Since being exposed to this song, it’s remained not only one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, but it’s also his best song, at least in my opinion. Even the piano keys towards the end before the last little upbeat section work in a way you might not expect them to. The only bad thing is the fact this it’s maybe only been played two times at most in it’s existence. Hopefully someday that will change and the world will get to experience this truly marvelous track in a live setting.
See you Friday, Thanks for reading!
In the world of modern electronic music, one artist is doing things in a completely original way, which in turn makes him stand out from what you might consider EDM. While he’s unlikely to embrace that tag, Baltimore’s Dan Deacon has been making fun filled, yet compelling music for over a decade now, and with his newest record, “Gliss Riffer,” he’s going back to the more free spirited roots of his earlier records, such as 2007’s “Spiderman of the Rings.” In short he’s one of the most important artists out right now, and he’s a composer of electronic beats that you don’t want to miss.
His live shows are a ton of fun, and they see Dan incorporating games into his set to bring the crowd closer together. Dance contests, dance circles and even human tunnels are just some of the tricks he’s been known to pull off, and if you want a good time and an incredible production, he’s your man. He’s in New Orleans, tomorrow April 21st at Republic. I suggest going.
Your music makes me want to celebrate life. Was that a conscious decision, or are you just letting things naturally flow?
DD:Its a natural flow for sure. when I write music its a really meditative process of getting lost in a loop or listening to a single part until it sounds totally differently from when i began making it. Its a good way for me to get out of my own mind and not only escape reality but to work through things and come out feeling much more at peace.
To follow up the previous question, before you sit down to write a song or record, how many ideas do you already have going in?
DD: Sometimes the whole song is formed and I'm trying to get it out of my head and into the air but other times its totally empty, just like stretching on a sketchpad and I'm just improvising and experimenting blindly.
What’s your frame of mind when you begin any new project? What mood for you makes the best finished songs, if there is one.
DD: I think the best mood one can be in is always relaxed but its also the rarest of moods for me. My projects tend to have a lot of overlap and never really isolated dedicated time so that also colors my mood and the direction of the work flow.
If your music had to exist in a fantasized world, such as an already existing book, movie, or television show, what would it be and why?
DD: Total recall (1990). I'd love to tour mars.
Do you try to stay connected to the world of music around you, or do you prefer to perfect your own brand?
DD: Its always important to stay connected to the world around me. There is endless influence in everything, even in music I dislike there might be an interesting production technique or an odd turn of phrase that will stick in my head. I mainly discover new music by seeing live but as I get more into soundcloud i'm finding these whole other worlds of amazing sounds that have me really excited.
Baltimore at this point is becoming known for quite a few different but equally great bands. Beach House, Animal Collective and Future Islands are all doing pretty well. What do you think happens in Baltimore that makes it so awesome for up and coming bands? Is it in fact the water?
DD: Its just a great city to be an artist. its a rad community of people thats large enough to be very diverse but small enough to still feel like an actual community.
You come home late one night and you’re a bit drunk. What kind of sandwich do you make?
DD: Hamburger with hash brown patties instead of buns or cheese fries with a burger on top cut up with ketchup and mayo and eaten with a knife and fork. I know this from experience to be the best thing for a drunk person
You could play with any living band or bands, who would they be and why?
DD: I'd play with the early humans that discovered the concept of rhythm. It would be amazing to see people who have never heard pulse before be introduced to it. I often wonder what was the first music concept, rhythm or harmony. My money is on rhythm, but I often wonder if pitch came before works as a form of communication but I don't know anything about this stuff and I love speculating.
I own the “Bromst” vinyl record, which contains a type of art project in the form of attempting to build the tent from the album cover, and I know the “Gliss Riffer” record comes with a blowup extra in it. What makes you want to do little things like that?
DD: So much of the act of buying a record is obtaining a physical object so we might as well make it as special as possible.
Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday! Go to the show tomorrow!!
Every now and then a band comes along and changes your life. That’s what happened with myself and the wonderful, perfect Arcade Fire. The year was 2005, and even then Coachella was kind of a big deal. I mention it only because that was the year an unassuming group of musicians from Montreal took the festival by storm and captured the energy and pure essence of what Coachella is with one mesmerizing performance that since has become the beginnings of modern music legends.
That band obviously was Arcade Fire. With the core of the band Led by by the brothers Butler, and Win’s wife Regine Chassagne, they proved to make a lasting impression on unassuming festival goers. As soon as I heard about it and watch a little of bit of the “Rebellion(Lies)” video, I had to have the album.
What you get when you put that disc in your player though, is a thing that very rarely comes around. The debut album by the Arcade Fire, “Funeral,” is full of tormented honesty about the becoming of life, and the struggle of every person to stay relevant and to still allow ourselves the gift of love. Song after song represent this, and the sincerity of the music only helps to add to the pure nature of the sound.
Of all the tracks presented on “Funeral,” one of the best is without the doubt the power driven anthematic power of “Wake Up.” It’s since become the band's best known song, and signature closer, but the magic of the song stands in it’s delivery. If you've ever seen it performed live, you know what I’m talking about. The opening chant is something to behold, and being in a crowd of thousands chanting along can do wonders for your heart and soul.
I think in part the first album works so well because of the nature of the band instrumentally and the unorthodox sound of Win’s voice. In terms of his voice, there’s a genuine honesty that adds weight and meaning to the tracks. It works in the same way Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk hotel’s voice works, but that’s not to say that Win’s voice is the sole redeeming quality in the band. All the members have an excellent skill set , and even as they’ve grown over records, the quality of this first record, this “Funeral,” is still quite high.
Songs like “Wake Up” kill, but others do the part to make the album excellent also. “Haiti” is a love song for the home country of Regine’s, while all of the “Neighborhood” tracks, especially #1 rock with childlike wonder at the world beyond them. One of the shining stars though, is the epic closer which is “In the Back Seat.” Regine’s vocals wearily pass over late night roads, and witness the world from this unique perspective. It’s always reminded me of Death Cab’s “Passenger Seat,” and it’s pretty easy to see why. This one is a little more pronounced, in musicality terms, but you could easily picture them in the same world. From here though, Arcade Fire was a band changed, and they’d continue making solid album after solid album.
But, it’s easier said than done, especially after such a career defining album like “Funeral.” If you're this band though, you purchase an old run down church, and create an often overlooked album that solidified the band as an indie rock powerhouse.
Released in the spring of 2007, the second album, “Neon Bible,” is both a step forward and a reminder of what makes the band so good. They as a whole have this ability to make albums that perfectly reflect the theme and title of every album. That concept is alive and well on “Neon.”
The record has sadness to it of course, but it’s a different kind of darkness than what’s represented on the first record. To me it all sounds like the epiphany that mother, father, and the house of god isn’t going to save you, and you’re on your own. This is probably most clearly seen on “Intervention.” The vocals are solemn, and the lyrics are real world depth and despair. It’s a sobering call to arms, and unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be a winning battle. The organ throughout also helps to raise the hopelessness rampant throughout the track.
I’ve never been a religious person by much stretch of the imagination, but this record, this music, truly captured the feelings I had while I was an early child being shown the shape of things in the way or religion. Take that as you want, but on that level I can relate to the themes of the album. The album, while a critical hit overall, generally isn’t mentioned as the best record to date for the band. I wouldn’t call it a sophomore slump even slightly, but among the various other adventures the band has taken us one, it’s hardly monumental and life changing.
That isn’t to say, however, that certain songs presented on this record aren’t among their best. The song I’m most referencing, quite simply, is “My Body is a Cage.” This track is so captivating and powerful you might as well say it carries the album to new heights. I’d agree with you if you said that.
It plays brilliantly among the various tracks, and it rounds out the experience in a precise manner. I don’t often veer towards these types of areas in these pieces, but this song fits well in many ways, one of which you’re likely to have seen if you’re a big fan. What I’m talking about is the pairing between this song and the Sergio Leone film “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Set to images from the superb film, it’s one of the most innovative and interesting things I’ve ever seen paired between the worlds of sound and visuals on the internet. It’s also a testament to the fervor and enthusiasm people have for this band. If you’ve not yet seen this, I highly recommend you visit the internet. It’s wonderful and poignant.
There are a few albums in your life that transform you as a person, and you never know when those records are going to hit you, but in the summer of 2010, Arcade Fire took us on a trip that not only bought the band to an even higher level of artistry, but made them known to a vastly larger number of people than the two previous records did. This trip, to “The Suburbs,” is yet another masterstroke in a short period of time.
If “Funeral” was about the death of innocence and naivety, and “Neon bible,” was about struggling with your own place in life and mortality, “The Suburbs” is without a doubt about the struggles of growing out of the urban sprawl, and how the monotony of everyday life can breed not only random excitement, but also a very real sense of being ordinary.
It’s still easily my favorite record the band ever did, and there’s a few reason for that. First, the songwriting quality and themes presented on the record are next level amazing. How the band manages to weave similar ideas(in the form of the same lyrics being used in a few key spots), makes you feel like you’re back in that suburban high school life.
The second, which more or less lines up with my previous point. As a kid, a teenager, there are many emotions running through us. Life is a vast, unsure terrain, and the concepts and consequences we have as adults aren’t as clear at the early age. That’s the wonder and majesty of “The Suburbs.” Song after song presents these ideas in vividly powerful moments in time we all likely have experienced growing up while trying to figure out this wild world. Tracks like “Rococo” slam the cliche hipsters in the mall trying to act original but having little to no idea that they’re simply a different breed of sheep, while “Empty Room,” is the perfect song for a struggling kid who’s only solitude is their bedroom because “When I'm by myself I can be myself.” I relate to that feeling, because I was that kid. We all were at some points, and it’s ok, because eventually your true self comes out and the world is a thing worth discovering.
By this point in their career, they were larger than most bands could dream of. To celebrate of course, they played Coachella for a third time, and even if the first two appearances had been simply enjoyable, the third time was the moment where they became the kings of the California festival. Known for epic sing a longs when ‘Wake Up” is performed, the band, I guess, wanted to give the crowd something special for their first time headlining. As the song is performed, giant plastic balls fall from the stage above and bounce enthusiastically all over the stage. It would have been amazing if they left it at that, but they didn’t. Coming back for the encore, the opening chords of “Suburbs” track “Ready to Start” begin pumping through the stage, and these ordinary balls start glowing and blinking with the beats of the music. Even on video, it’s one of the most badass things I’ve ever seen, and if you are uninitiated, please google it. It’s worth it.
Even beyond that gesture though, one song that stands out as a classic among the band is the timeless, thoughtful track that begins to wind this album to a close. That song, of course, is “Sprawls II(Mountains Beyond Mountains).” The track, one of a few to feature Regine on vocals, isn’t just the best track on the record, it’s a reminder of the turbulence of life, and her voice helps to move it to a vulnerable, but ultimately powerful place where creativity, beauty, and all the happiness you want in life is allowed to be shared and treasured. There aren’t many bands that can take darkness and uncertainty and make you grateful for your life and experiences, but Arcade Fire is one of them, at least for me.
Of course after that, the Grammy’s were won, and the band went from being Indie Alternative darlings to the biggest answer to “Who is That?” that the Grammy’s have ever given an award to. On the heels of a brilliant third album, this “unknown” band had “Arrived.” It honestly quite laughable because at this point my group of friend had been discussing their importance for going on five years, but oh well it happens sometimes.
So how do you follow up what many people call your “Kid A.” If you’re this band, at this point in their creative journey, you move to Jamaica, and also New Orleans to make a record that is totally more dance oriented and open ended than their previous records. You also convince the god that is Bowie to appear briefly on the title and opening track.
Many of the songs are able to capture the themes and elements that made the bad prominent, while veering into literal uncharted territory. All over the record you get random instruments you’d never had heard of on previous albums,and like I said, you find yourself getting lost in grooves and hooks that the band weren’t exactly known for.
Among the highlights of “Reflektor,” are of course, the long winded and potent title track, but other songs make their presence known also. “Normal Person,” hits with the emotion you’d expect from earlier albums, and it probably is the track most in line with previous efforts, but that’s not to say it’s step backwards. It’s more than likely one of my favorite tracks on the album, and it jams in a vintage type of way that most of their other songs don’t. At the very least, the bridge and build up at the end is masterfully done, and get’s me rocking in a way that I wasn’t even aware this band could do to me.
The album really hits on several big discoveries about the band, at least to me. For one, they are capable of making moving music that also makes you want to move your hips to, and they’re just as good as imposing the things we loved about the Arcade Fire beforehand on a very different wavelength. The lyrics and ultimate message can be heartfelt and meaningful, even though the tracks are noticeably more upbeat and drum oriented. Maybe the most unlike Arcade Fire Arcade Fire song on “Reflektor” though, is the underrated, and subversive “Porno.” It’s a total heartbreaker of a song, and sets the band perfectly up to play this track in a seedy, late night bar glowing with red lights. I imagine a few different bars in New Orleans being fitted perfectly for this track, and if you’ve spent much time in this city, you may have a few bars in mind also. The song just works, and it’s highly suggestive, but maybe not in the way you think at first glance. When Butler bellows “You Say Love is real, like a disease,” you feel the hollowness fill up the backspace of the track, and it’s this heartbroken emptiness that fills the song, and makes you wonder what you’re doing wrong. It’s a solemn, dance track that’s unlike any other song I’ve heard.
The album, not surprisingly, did well, and the band was mentioned on various year end lists. At this point, you shouldn’t be surprised that this happens every time this group releases a new record. Like I said way back when, bands like this rarely come around, fortunately for us, they seem to be just getting started. From the pains of growing up, hopelessness and trying to matter, to gathering around to celebrate various cultures and new ways of doing things, this band has evolved into one of the best, most intriguing acts of the millennium, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Thanks for reading. See you next week, when we’ll dedicating a whole week of posts to the amazing electronic composer, Dan Deacon.
Back in the day, MC Hammer was a powerhouse of rap… I think? I was insanely young, and thus didn’t have the access to music I currently do, but man, this video. It’s goddamn terrible
The first thing you might notice is that “the Belush,” aka Jim Belushi is the news man, and you know from here it’s gonna be a shitshow. The concept of this video is basic, Hammer Quits, and the world mourns. First let those words sink into your subconscious: Hammer quits, and the world mourns. We get tons of non- celebrities in the video expressing concern that such a clear cut talent would abandon his fans. Danny Glover, Henry Winkler, and Tony Danza are all freaking out.
This goes on for way too long. Like, seven minutes of this is too much. Honestly this might be one of the worst video’s I’ve ever seen. It seriously might be the Showgirls of music videos.
I’m only five minutes in, and oh wait, what the hell is James Brown doing here? This aint his shit.
Getting back to it. So all these fans are sitting in a theatre, which is perplexing since they don’t even know if Hammer is showing up. This strikes me as odd for a number of reasons. First off, shouldn’t Hammer have signed a contract to perform there, so he could get sued the fuck out of for reneging on his contractual obligations. Also, wouldn’t the venue have known if the show was going down and refused to let thousands of people in? Maybe this is why Hammer got sued and lost all that money(I watched the Behind the Music about him)?
Then, out of nowhere…. Hammer is boxing in a dark room. He’s also walking up a staircase, which also happens to be clouded in darkness Oh god it’s so bad I can’t even try to write something to explain how god awful this is. So like, you ever have a bad day, and then one thing happens at the end of the day, and it tops all else, and you have to laugh? This video of art is worse than that. It’s “The Room” of shitty music videos. Oh hai Hammer. Let me just remind everyone willing to watch this: I’ve only described the first third of the video...
Then, some Space Jam effects come out when James Brown shoots a damn fireball into Hammer, and he hits the floor. I realize this is a horribly written mess, but so is this video… Time for a break.
So after the fireball thing, it somehow doesn’t kill him, which I guess you can chalk up to him being Hammer? Also, not only does it not kill him, but like twenty more dancers show up behind him, already dressed. How the hell do you even get fitted for suits that fast? It’s mindboggling. Then they’re an army that, if you ask The Godfather of Soul James Brown( Seriously how’d they manage to get him?) is simply too legit to quit.
A bit of disclosure here now. My mom took me to see MC Hammer when I was like ten, and i remember it being cool, but I was ten, so there’s that… The stage is full of dancers, and the, uh, the dances and shit are all dancing as a giant earth globe falls from the sky. This video is like trying to describe a Monet to a blind person. Seriously. I’ll be right back….
I can’t even with this. Watch the fucking video and see for yourself.
See you Wednesday
Nick Zinner, Brian Chase and Karen O have always been a wild mix of chaos, tenderness, and unflinching passion as they evolve their sound as part of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. More than a decade ago, they landed with a explosive blast on the strength of their proper debut “Fever to Tell,” and from there they’ve become one of the most popular bands in the artsy alternative scene. Each album has delved deeper into uncharted territory,and the band continues to make music that many people can relate to, whether it be dancing, laughing, crying, or anything in between. Today I give you the Top Ten Songs by New York Art Punk dynamo’s, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Enjoy
10. Heads will Roll, It’s Blitz
This album was the first where the band took on an addition of new sounds, and it worked well to say the least. The disco tinged keyboards of “Heads will Roll,” only make the song that much easier to shake your body to, and overall it’s a fun song. Karen’s voice is able spit fire intermittently with a soft purr that makes the choruses that much more light and fun to dance to.
Overall the song reminds me of a futuristic themed dance party where people have just rediscovered the lost days of disco and everyone is searching for a good time.
9. Under the Earth, Mosquito
So many of their tracks are able to capture a feeling that perfectly fits the theme and title of the earth, and our number nine song on the top ten Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs falls into that category perfectly. When I hear “Under Earth,” I imagine diggers plunging their way through the core of the earth, and witnessing all the beauty and sublime darkness that must be prevalent throughout this rich world. he worldwind effects are also a plus here, and the textures used by Zinner only add to the ambient nature of the track. This album may have been slightly less stellar than their previous efforts, but occasionally the record shines. This is one of those shining moments.
8. Art Star, Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP
The buildup is brief, but the explosions on our number eight track are enormous and violent. It’s a reminder of where the band came from, and you instantly get the rough nature of the track. Karen’s voice is screaming bloody murder for a large section of the track, which obviously goes well with the wild drumming and dissonant guitar playing. The song, at a blunt two minutes and one second is a rock pounding into your enemies head, but it also offers a view into a new and promising sound.
7. Phenomena, Show Your Bones
The drumming here is what sets the pace perfectly, and you see the trio swagger into the track with pose so calm and collected that it almost makes you envious. The whole track oozes this rocking yet subdued nature to it, and that’s what draws you in. The lyrics on the number seven Best Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs are also mind bending and mysterious. “Don’t fall asleep in the moonlight, She’ll make you sleep in the water,” makes me picture the victim being captured by a long lost witch who is bloodthirsty, and by the time you realize what’s happening, it’s too late.
6. Rockers to Swallow, Is Is EP
I never hear this track mentioned, or the EP for that matter, and it’s an untimely shame because all five tracks presented on the project are great, and really capture the spirit of the band in one brief moment. This album was reportedly played in complete darkness during this period of the band, and it fits the album, and this song perfectly. Allowing the music to breathe new life into the stillness of a dark night only adds to the unconforming nature of the band, and I can’t imagine what it must of been like to experience that. I actually wish they’d do more smaller projects like this, not only because of overall power of the songs, but also because it adds a new dimension to the band overall.
5. 10 X 10, Is Is EP
Zinner’s guitar playing has always had this translucent effect to me, and on our number five track of the Best Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs it’s even more audible than normal. The guitar shine, while Chase’s drums remind you of playing in a dingy club in the middle of the night. Like I mentioned before, this record was performed in total darkness, and this track feeds off of that energy of searching for something when you’re not sure it’s even there. As the end rolls into fruition, Karen O voice is subtle and guarded, and it adds a lovely effect to the raucous yet downbeat track.
4. Maps, Fever to Tell
Like many people, this was my first exposure to this band I now love immensely. The video, which takes place at a type of dance, is still one of the prettiest and most entrancing I’ve ever seen, but a video is only as good as the song it’s helping to portray, and this one is a killer. The softness and beauty in Karen’s voice is more noticeable here than in any other YYY’s track, and all of the elements are used to magnificent measure, and it’s not a shock that the band used this as their calling card. I’d say it worked, and since the massive success the band has been able to give us even more awesome music.
3. Dull Life, It’s Blitz
Sometimes a song has such a good buildup you get lost in it way too quickly. That was the case for me with our the third greatest song on the Best Yeah Yeah Yeahs list. The tracks whirls and jumps in and out, and the attitude and quickness is very clear. The whole song has this sort of ability to make you move, but it’s also a great sing a long. Those things don’t happen too often, but when they do, it’s wonderful. Zinner’s guitar once again adds a layer of uncertainty, and towards the conclusion it’s O’s voice that perfectly helps the buildup and explosive ending to the song.
2. Cheated Hearts, Show Your Bones
This song came to me during a turbulent time in my life, and in all honesty, it probably helped me more than most songs of that time. It’s for that reason the song lands at number two on our list. The opening of the guitar sets the tone, but quickly enough we’re treated to the wonderfully clear voice of O, and that’s when, with the addition of Brian Chase’s drums, it all comes together. For me the song has always been about walking away and starting over, even if it’s not at all. This album is full of various effects and tones, but it’s “Cheated Hearts” that has always stood out to me as the best, most passionate track on the record.
1. Y Control, Fever to Tell
This song always makes me think of a early sunshine fire in the sky, and with the brilliance of Nick’s guitar, it’s easy to witness the start to a day that might see the world engulfed in flames. That’s not to say this is an overly aggressive track, but the imagery of dawn and the pinks and purples that come to our sky has always gone hand in hand with me when thinking about the number one. The lyrics are determined and on a clear path of knowledge, but the song is only so great because of the ability of all three parts of the band to marry themselves perfectly to the others. Off the magnificent “Fever To Tell,” the number one track by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Y Control.”
See you Monday
Hey everyone, welcome to part two! Let's go!!
10.Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape, 1997
The sophomore album from these legends starts the second half of our countdown at number ten. It's one of their most accessible albums, and among most fans I know it's considered the best. They've made plenty of amazing songs since then, but this one just has something to do it. Everything from massive hits “Monkey Wrench” to “Everlong” still ring with clarity, and the other gems on the album dig deep to hit you. “Hey Johnny Park!” soars, while “My Hero” is a perfect example of what fathers aspire to be. This was the record they reached the first step of domination in rock music, and they've been steadily climbing ever since.
9.Tool, Aenima, 1996
People had been noticing California prog rock sensations Tool for little while before this, but “Aenima” was the record that took on an entirely different type of feeling. It's heavier, more sophistaced and a more non linear type of record. Certain tracks are extremely heavier and rooted in the collapse of the world around us(“Hooker with a Penis,” “Aenima), while other songs are as in your face and unforgiving as anything they've ever done. The song that stands out the most though is the perfect album closer in the shape of the epic winding road that is “Third Eye.” It's an amazing track, and set the stage for what the band would become.
8.Nine Inch Nails, the Downward Spiral, 1994
If there's an album on this list that made the world nearly instantly notice a band that were on the underground, it is without the doubt the pivotal move of Reznor's career, The Downward Spiral.” This music had never been experienced by a large audience, but the brilliance of TR and the tact he used to create a world in which everything is burned and erased stands as a stroke of genius. You'd NEVER hear this record get big radio play if it came out today, but it doesn't matter, because from here on out he could bring his specialized brand of industrial rock to the masses. The record cuts and bites where it needs to, and also can bring heartfelt pain and emotion in places you wouldn't expect it. We've discussed the brilliance of “The Fragile” before, but I leave it off today because of the enormous impact this album had on the shape of the band.
7. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless, 1994
The album which changed shoegaze forever, also stands as one of the most important albums ever. What Kevin shields brought to the table with the help of Colm,Debbie and Milinda, not only showed people that a thickly layered wall of noise could work, but the craft of songwriting and effortlessly textured beats stands atop every other album of the genre's heyday. It's still one of the best albums for pure music fans in the way that you can absorb it's heart and soul quite easily while being shown things you may have had no idea existed in the world of music before. The production on the album also has a way on mingling the thick with thr glossy in a way few others can, and that's why the album remains a highlight of the decade.
6.Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine, 1992
Maybe the beginning of a movement? More than likely this triumphant, rebellious album gave us the scope and hope for something better. Behind of the strength of Zack, Tom, Brad and Tim, Rage Against the Machine brought politicized rock music to an era that very much was in need of it. Beyond that though, the execution is pitch perfect, and brings the frustrations of the masses to a single rallying cry that many can live by. Song after song attack the bullshit foundations this country has become, while pointing out the hypocrisy of the privileged few and how it managed to keep down the salt of the earth. It's still a perfect album for a man or woman with a purpose, and brings power to those who need it most. “Know Your Enemy.”
5.Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness, 1995
While “Siamese Dreams” stands as the breakout album for the Chicago natives, “Mellon Collie” sees the band rocketing to the brilliance plateau they were destined for. Over the course of nearly two hours, they crush us with heavy riffs, abrasive lyrics, but also can hold with love and patience on other essential tracks. This was voted Time magazine's album of the year in 1995, and even after twenty years it's still the prime example of how good this band actually was. It's sprawling, deep, and executed in a way that only the Pumpkins are capable of. Corgan may have been the driving force and inspiration for the band, but they wouldn't be the Smashing Pumpkins without the other three core members.
An album so distancing and haunting, full of heart and soul only comes around so often, and to this day I've never heard a record so perfectly in tune with mortal sadness and blissful beats. Beth;s voice fills you with a cold sorrow that beautifully painful to witness, but at it's core “Dummy” stands as an album full of openness and balance in a world that is often anything but. Barrows and Gibbons are able to elicit full performances from each other and bring the world of Trip Hop to the masses. It's still one of the most awesome albums I've ever experienced, and it's a gift to music fans everywhere. “Roads” is poignantly full, while other songs emit various feelings perfectly through pain and tolerance.
3.Weezer, the Blue Album, 1994
With this first record, Weezer was able to bring pop sensibilities to rock audiences, and thus deliver one of the best records of the decade. The Blue Album as it's called is nearly everything a nerdy teenage boy could want from a band, even to this day. It has nods to amazing X-Men characters, frustrating moments with female counterparts, and it's also bitterly full of anger and resentment on songs like the forever classic “Say It Ain't So,” while the fun and buoyant “Buddy Holly” brings us back to the good old days of being Happy. Even album opener “My Name is Jonas” is a rocking song even after two decades. The album is immaculate, and always will be. Never forget how important a piece of art is, even if the band hasn't delivered something this amazing in years.
2.Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
This might be a stretch for some, but this record is one of the best of the decade, and because of that, it lands the number two spot on the best records of the 1990’s. Loosely based on the tortuous story of Anne Frank, we see Jeff Mangum and his fellow Louisiana natives dive into a world of horns, folk legends, and indie rock all at once. It all works in a wonderful conglomeration of verse, and his unique voice gives a sense of honesty and depth you don’t get all the time. At this point the whole album is a classic, and most hardcore fans know all of the words and nuances, but songs like the fast paced “Holland,1945” give strength while a song like “Oh Comely” and the “Two-Headed Boy”saga are so enraptured with tentative feelings of need and hopefulness that it’s difficult to properly understand how important these concepts must of been to the band, but that’s why this album is a landmark achievement and worthy of everyone’s time, even if it’s only for one listen.
1. Radiohead, OK Computer, 1997
While it might not seem like it at the time, this album took the world by shock and awe, and catapulted the band to the upper echelon of rock music. To this day, there’s no band more adventurous, and painfully perfect as the brothers Greenwood, Phil Selway, Thom Yorke and Ed O’Brien, more commonly known as Radiohead. During the early 90’s though, it was nothing like that at all. Initially thought of as one hit wonders, it’s this magnum opus that secured the future of the band for the rest of their careers. Since then it’s been a string of brilliantly popular albums, and they’ve shaped modern alternative indie music in a way no other single band is even capable of. From the creepy warnings of health in intermission track “Fitter Happier,” to the potency of “Paranoid Android,” and harbinger of doom that is “Electioneering,” this record has it all. As it approaches its twentieth birthday, the band is still going strong making thought provoking music for the masses, and it doesn’t seem like it’s even close to stopping. This doesn't happen often in this world, but these five souls should be doing exactly what they’re doing, and nothing else. They were meant to gift us with transcendent music, and I for one will be listening as long as they appear willing to grace us with it.
Thanks for reading, see you Friday
What was it that was so special about the 90’s? For me, perhaps it was that this decade was when new, exciting and different forms of music entered my life. I could decide what I liked, what I didn’t and go crazy exploring all the various sounds I never knew were out there just a few years earlier. Today’s first half of the list consists of all around excellent albums, and you’ve likely heard of most of them. I tried to give a varied list of albums that cover multiple terrains, and all found unique audiences. Enjoy!
20. Massive Attack, Mezzanine, 1998
By now most ambient electronic music fans are very much aware of these Trip Hop legends, and if truth be told, its mostly because of this record. “Mezzanine” came to us during the Nu Metal years, and somehow found an audience that was more open than the typical Korn fan. The songs, and effects, blend into each other to build a slow, melty sound that radiates groove after groove. Tracks like album opener “Angel,” stubbornly find their way with slow precise beats, while “Teardrop” is a song loved far and wide, even if the band isn’t.
19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, F#A#, 1998
Not for a casual music listener, but this debut album is one of the most striking and monstrously strong records of the decade. With only three songs making up the duration, you’d think it might be hard to get sucked in, but you’d be dead wrong. It’s full of dark energy, visions of dusty roads after the sun has left us, and more orchestral instrumentation than nearly all of this list combined. There’s a reason this band has been able to do what they want for years, and it’s brilliant, soul moving records like this that continue to make it possible.
18. Jeff Buckley, Grace, 1994
Such a true gift lost. That’s all I can ever think about when I listen to this record. It’s compelling, haunting, and beautiful. It’s also a fleeting moment, although there was no way to know this at the time. The guitar quietly whispering under the sweet serenade of Buckley’s voice, it’s hard not get emotional just listening to a few songs. That’s the power of this album. It had everything you could want from an sullen debut album, but sadly it’s his only one. There’s a testament to the fact that this album is still mentioned among the greatest folk rock albums ever, and every time you experience it, you get to share in a spceial moment.
17. Beastie Boys, Ill Communication, 1994
By this point, the Boys were well known, but this record throws down in a way that the other ones don’t. I always imagined this as their victory lap after the brilliance of “Check Yo Head” and “Paul’s Boutique,” and i guess in some ways you can say that, but this album brought them to gigantic audiences, and showed them tearing up stages far and wide. Let’s also not forget the juggernaut that is “Sabotage.” Song after song delivers everything from straight forward hip hop, to groove rock, to punk, and everything in between.
16. Daft Punk, Homework, 1996
How is an album nearing its twentieth birthday still light years ahead of the genre it helped to invent and popularize? Well that’s easy: It’s Daft Punk. They’ve long been gods in many many eyes, and it’s easy to see why. If you don’t, then god bless your soul. The beats are rhythmically perfect, and effects cascade from one brilliant exit to the next, and constantly there’s new arrangements to go crazy over. The two French powerhouse may have not invented electronic music, but this album, and subsequent releases have kept them miles ahead of their “contemporaries,” and I don’t expect it to stop. They just need to tour. //////△\\\\\\
15. Michael Jackson, Dangerous, 1991
At that moment in time, the “King of Pop” was without a doubt the biggest entertainer in the world. He had it all. Amazing sensibilities, a great voice that could’ve come from the heavens, and more skill than any other well known star. This album, of course, was a huge hit, and the lead single “Black or White,” was a marvel for video at the time. The music is where it’s really focused on. Many of the songs convey his brilliance and understanding of various genre’s, and if you’re a fan of MJ, you’re more than likely familiar with this massively popular record.
14. Mr. Bungle, California,1999
This is probably the least well known album on the list of twenty, but it’s a rare gem found in deserted valley. It’s alternative music for the truly alternatively inclined music listener. It has everything that makes up weird music, but Mike Patton and company are able to compound it into one wondrous train of sound. Records like this aren’t really a thing anymore, and there’s a reason for it. These types of albums have so much going on in them that many people can’t handle the back and forth and variations between tracks though.
13. Nirvana, In Utero, 1993
After a life changing album like “Nevermind,” where do you go? If you're the three members of seminal grunge band Nirvana, you make an album even heavier and in your face then your previous efforts. Cobains difficulty during this time is obviously well documented, but for me this is easily the band's best record. It showcases slower, heart felt songs, while piercing through the bullshit that they seemed to want nothing to do with. It’s an angry, fear inducing record, and to this day, it remains a severe case of what comes next. We’ll never know.
12. Beck, Odelay, 1996
Before “Odelay,” he was that one hit wonder who sang that “Loser” song, but after this miraculous record threw itself into the hemisphere, he was “Beck.” This record still blows me away with ease, and he’s still at the game of reinventing himself with each subsequent release. “Devil’s Haircut,” still swirls with sinister disco beats, while “Where It’s At” comes slowly onto you in 60’s soul then turns itself into a one man beat boxing machine. This is where the world took notice of the brilliant Mr. Hansen, and thankfully he still wants to give his gift to us.
11. Bjork, Homogenic, 1997
“Homogenic,” the 1997 album from Iceland crown jewel Bjork, wasn’t just a great album, it’s her greatest album,and the bounty of love and effects bestowed upon the listener are are wide ranging and heartfelt as her voice. “Bachelorette” is a mountain of power, while “Hunter” slowly winds its way through our subconscious This album is largely electronic, but it’s not the typical type that was prevalent during this time, but that’s maybe why it works so well. It’s like seeing a painting with familiar themes for the first time.
We’ll have part two for you Wednesday of the next week, with a different post on Monday. See you then!
There are certain albums by certain bands that are great, but they, for whatever reason, don’t rank in top albums by that band. That’s the case here. “Songs for the Deaf,” the third album by the criminally overlooked seminal desert rock band Queens of the Stone Age, falls under that category. It’s brash, quick tempered, and showcases every different facet of what this band is capable of. It’s also the first record by the band that I gave a fair shake to, and as you may have caught on by its inclusion on this list, is an album that changed my life. The next record in the “Albums of My Life” series, Queens of the Stone Age’s breakout hit, “Songs for the Deaf.”
In 2002, no one expected this band to barge into mainstream rock and roll with a severely heavy rock record, but they did. Even from the opening of the record, you are put right smack into a pretty straightforward concept album. If the album has a concept, it’s driving that is the inspiration. Even to this day it’s an immaculate road record, and leads the listener through various parts of the California desert. I’ve driven to this record probably a hundred times over the last thirteen years, but it never ceases to be a good pick me up, especially for a long country trip.
The swagger presented throughout is nothing if not cocky and unapologetic. From the intense opening of “You Think I Ain't worth a Dollar but I feel like a Millionaire,” you get the mission statement of the record, and the statement is that they need to rock. From there though, we drop right into the massive hit that is “No One Knows.” The drumming here is as exceptional as you’d expect, given the fact that Dave Grohl was the one behind the kit. To say this was a big coup for the band would be an understatement. Even at the time, Grohl’s name alone was noteworthy, and it certainly helped to take the band to the next level. But that’s not to say the band is worthless without him. Joshua Homme is a god of rock music, and his crooner’s voice, insanely talented fingers, and his overall carefree swagger make the band worth watching, while the revolving door policy of the band helps to keep the sounds fresh and ever evolving. Some of the best sections of the album are the interludes and peeks into the different radio stations throughout this real but imagined world. Those usually are just interludes though, and we quickly get back to the music. So many of the songs are so timeless that it gets difficult to think about them in terms of being songs, but as a package they really do convey an amazingly high level of artistry. Now though, that’s not to say that certain songs don’t stick out.
That brings me to the monstrously heavy track “Songs for the Dead.” From the opening guitar chords, to the rush of the drums, to the all out brawl like breakdown, it murders everything in its path, and makes the metal head in me totally happy. Part time vocalist Mark Lanegan manages to give grimy, rough sounding vocals the song needs to be perfect, and at kicking ass, there's no better song on this album, or in the bands whole canon. There are just some songs that make you headbang without a care in the world, and this is without a doubt at the top of my list.
I try not to discuss every single song on a record, but when the album is this solid is exceedingly difficult. Take a track like “The Sky is Fallin,’” which is a heavy mid tempo track that has some of the most clearly heard and pure vocals the band has ever done. Homme’s vocals and lyrics sort of float above the guitars and well purposed racket under him, and that element really nails down the overall theme of the song. I’ve always imagined this as a music video which would see a man competing in a swimming race,and he’s giving his all, and he wins, but he is so focused on the trophy and end goal that he never realizes he’s racing nobody, and the arena he thought was full of spectators is empty. The race is over before it even began.
That’s the real, hidden strength of “Songs for the Deaf:” The album is able to gracefully move through track after track and keep you entertained,even though we’re driving closer and closer to our destination. “Hangin’ Tree” is hip shaking rock and roll, and is downplayed by Lanegan’s signature throaty growl, while “Do It Again” has a sort of cheerleader anthem quality to it. Seeing that song live, to say the least, is as fun as you might expect it to. The crowd supplementing the chants heard throughout the song, and the band killing it in precise perfect.
But, the real monster, the big hit of the album, comes to us at track number eight. “Go with the Flow” is a speedway driver outpacing the officers of the law who seek to ruin his fun. From the immediate drum beats, and Homme’s crooning about how “They’re just photos after all,” really dig into you and put you on a course you can’t exit, even if you wanted to. One of the best things in the song though, is the under exposed subtlety of the piano notes quietly working their magic on the already cool song. The video also ties into the track perfectly, and it’s very cool imagery really helped the band to get even bigger than the success of “No One Knows” did
The last twenty minutes though, I find, are the most off the wall and varied you get during the whole record. “God is in Radio” beams like the sun on a cloudy day, while the musicianship is purposely muddy and thick. This is where I believe Homme and company get the best results. Queens is a romantic band at heart, but also a band that likes to have a good time and deal with it in the morning. They’re also unforgiving in their need to thrive through sometimes intense music, but ultimately, they exist as a band that is largely untouchable in mainstream rock music. Maybe three bands come to mind when I think of music as well orchestrated in the genre as QOTSA are.
One of the best, most classic sounding songs on the record though, comes to us at the tail end. “Another Love Song,” feels straight out of the 50’s, but with a modern day sentiment and rationale. Next up, the title track finds us in dire straights, and the ominous overtones you hear sound like something that at first reminds you more of a Nine Inch Nails track, but by the time the guitar and drums come swooping in, all of that is forgotten. The song is a slow winded, thick journey, and could be cast perfectly to a person running through the desert trying to escape any number of things. Homme’s voice only adds to the sense of dread though, and it’s all that darkness that makes the song the perfect penultimate song for this wide ranging record.
With that power at the end though, all we’re left with as listeners is a purposely slow song called “Mosquito Song.” It’s a beautifully layered track that sees the vocals go in a direction that the band doesn’t often gravitate towards. The sweetness in Homme’s voice, as well as the acoustic guitar, really add weight and a sincerity that only a “ballad” can. But it’s not really a ballad, mostly because it’s not a sweet and tender song, but it is a perfect conclusion to the record, and leaves us wanting more “Lullabies to Paralyze.”
This record came along at a lonesome time for me, but it brought me closer to myself than many other albums of that time frame, and it’s still a damn fine record after all these years. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Thanks for reading. See you Friday.
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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