Sunday, February 27, 2011

The New Division play Retro

It's always weird when you hear new bands with influences that you would have if you played music. Basically, there is a fine line between being influenced by someone and copying them. Riverside, CA THE NEW DIVISION are certainly influenced by the electro pop of DEPECHE MODE, NEW ORDER and the romantic angst of PSYCHEDELIC FURS but without aping the sound too much.

Now the songs off the ep"The ROOKIE"certainly have a John Hughes film quality to them. You can almost see Ducky looking down the hall as the plaintive sounds of "Devotion" beep in the background. But there is enough originality to truly get behind here. "No Health" updates the old Mode sound with a clippy synth line and ethereal vocals. "Nocturnal" adds a crunchy, shoegazer guitar line to the mix with positive results. "Festival" is that late night club feel to it that remixed correctly would be a club thumping hit. "Bucharest" is probably the most nostalgic in feel but they are forgiven a little hero worship (especially since they throw in a hidden track at the end that is more bluesy then pop).

A fun ep from a band that has some real promise.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Radiohead King of Limbs Track by Track Review

Okay so now that we have all calmed down a bit on the whole surprise RADIOHEAD release thing, its time to deconstruct the record and see what we have here. As is the case with most of their work, a first listen is usually not a good time to review it. These records take time to digest and figure out. Thom Yorke and Company make music that is the electronic age equivalent of jazz in that it's structures and tempos are often at odds with the listening ear. So here we go a track by track take on "King of Limbs":

1. Bloom
The early rumour on this record was that it might have been an orchestral album and "Bloom" certainly has those thoughts. Using syncopated drumbeats that clash with the piano lines makes for an unsettling open. Not as starkly beautiful as "Everything In It's Right Place" but a nice introduction to what turns out to be the overall tempo of the album

2. Morning Mr. Magpie
The pace quickens a bit here with a nice little guitar/bass line. Usually the second song on a Radiohead record is the big rock song so it certainly is telling that this is a soft as it is. One almost imagines this as a lost Beatles song that has been remixed by the band. In many ways Yorke has always been a kindred spirit of Lennon in his ability to take risks lyrically and musically. I especially like how the song folds onto itself into a quiet coda.

3. Little By Little
One of my other observations about "King of Limbs" is how it sounds more like Yorke's solo album then the most recent Radiohead stuff. "Little By Little" is a perfect example of this as it could have been an "Eraser" outtake. This of course if not a bad thing.

4. Feral
Owing much to the work on "Amnesiac" this is a disjointed, vocally subdued track that almost feels hyper in its execution. I have no idea what Yorke is singing about but it feels as if he is using his voice more as an instrument than to be anything decipherable.

5. Lotus Flower
Every Radiohead record has a song or two that seem to put the whole package together and remind you why they may be one of the best bands going. "Lotus Flower" is that song on this album; namely a rather traditional pop song. It also answers the age old question of whether you can dance to their music...yes, but badly it seems.

6. Codex
The piano makes it's presence felt here with this eerie and plaintive number. It is also one of the only tracks on the record that doesn't have any sort of drum machine manipulation. This is the kind of song Chris Martin aims for when he makes his music...and often comes up a bit short.

7. Give Up The Ghost
This appears to be Yorke's take on Neil Young (which he has name checked on more than one interview as a influence). A simple song that becomes more haunting as it progresses as the vocals are looped onto each other to chilling effect. "Give Up The Ghost" may end up being the lyrical centerpiece of the album with it's narrator welcoming death as a friend and relief. If they had tried to manipulate this further it would have lost power and I imagine stripped down live it will be truly memorable.

8. Separator
Much like "Lotus Flower", "Separator' benefits from a nice drum/bass track to drive the song. I is here that we see that the band is really the inspiration for a generation of laptop pop artists. It almost sounds like a lost POSTAL SERVICE song. I might have switched to end with "Ghost" but "Separator" does end the cycle with a sense of hope that whatever the author has been through might have been worth it.

Is this a great Radiohead record? Probably not. Do "Lotus Flower" and "Separator" make it worth your time alone? Yes. Is it one of the best records of the year...perhaps. But it will continue to spark debate about the band and their place in not only today's industry but their place in music history.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Twelve)

I absolutely loved MIDNIGHT OIL when I was in college. I loved that their music said something profound and fought for the rights of the underepresented. I loved that I felt smarter for listening to their music and reading what the band had to say. I wish more bands would use their celebrity for good and not glorify themselves so much. I aso think it's pretty cool that lead singer Peter Garrett was also a member of the Australian government for a while. All that and they made pretty catchy tunes too...

Midnight Oil Beds are burning from jaime on Vimeo.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Return of Richard Melville Hall

Or as he is more commonly known, MOBY. Always an interesting cat, everyones favorite Vegan techno artist is returning with a new record in May and has dropped a teaser ep for free download. "Destroyed", the album, by all accounts is a return to his more electronic roots after dabbling in mood music and ambient soundscapes over the past couple of records. The three song "Be Th One" ep appears to represent the overall feel of the record. "Be The One" as a single is a bit underwhelming with kind of a LAURIE ANDERSON sing speak approach to the lyrics. Moby is usually best when is not the one singing and here is uses female vocals to develop the sense of longing and despair. "Sevastopol" hearkens back to some of his earlier work with a nice groove and driving beat. "Victoria Lucas" has a nice piano line and some nifty atmospheric touches.

As a sampler of the full album I am certainly intrigued. It seems he has abandoned the blues sample formula of "Play" and "18" that made him famous and retreated to some mutated version of his earlier work. I don't think it will be the hard hitting, club energy level of his first but a more aged, mature approach to his signature sound. Add this to what is shaping up to be a banner year in music...

Download the "Be The One" ep for free here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Say Hi!!

I have a soft spot for SAY HI. Eric Elbogen's bedroom production and songs about doing laundry and spaceships as distractions to real life have been a constant presence on my iPod for the last couple of years. Now comes the return of Say Hi with "Um, Uh Oh" (in fairness it's been out for awhile but I just got to writing about it). These are songs that usually take time to digest. The hooks and lyrical notions don't hit you right away, but over time they sneak into your brain and make you tap your feet.

Elbogen has a slight resemblance in voice to Win Butler of ARCADE FIRE. This is especially true in the opener "Dots on Maps" and the bluesy shuffle of "Devils". The musical similarities to Canada's favorite sons/daughters is not lost on me. Had this record been released before "The Suburbs" you could almost accuse Butler of ripping Elbogen off. The record is certainly more varied than previous efforts but the joy of the mundane and minute is still alive and well. "Posture, ect." is a mere accounting of chores that need to be done and how it causes us to lose ourselves in the day to day. "My, How It Comes" with it's use of an organ and bass tandem, has a macabre feel to it that is a new twist. There are also shades of BECK's trippier work evident here as well.

Elbogen has carved out a nice niche for himself as a basement troubadour who revels in small things that make larger statements. It's a really good record and I'm sure will be on my play lists for a long time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

RADIOHEAD 'King of Limbs" Tracklist

I will have a proper review of the record when I am done listening to it seven or eight times, but since even the tracklisting is a secret I thought I would share this. Here are the 8 songs on the record

1. Bloom (5:15)
2. Morning Mr. Magpie (4:41)
3. Little By Little (4:27)
4. Feral (3:13)
5. Lotus Flower (5:00)
6. Codex (4:47)
7. Give Up The Ghost (4:50)
8. Seperator (5:20)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Eleven)

I love that BLUR's "Song 2" is an arena staple during sporting events alongside Queen, Gary Glitter and Europe. I also love that no one knows the words and yet everyone still sings along. Never understimate the power of a good "WOOOHOOO"!!

Blur - Song 2 from pabliko on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Wife

My wife has a great blog. You should read it. the link is here. In the meantime here are some songs that either remind me of her or are her favorites.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Phil Selway makes a pretty Sunday record

I always enjoy finding something unexpected. Solo works by ancillary band members in established groups usually yield this feeling. I don't know what I expected from PHIL SELWAY's solo record but I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. Selway is of course the drummer for RADIOHEAD and although it won't lead him to quit his day job, it certainly shows that the band is not just THOM YORKE and a cast of others.

Selway dips his toes into some Radiohead sounds (albeit from earlier catalogue era work) on "Beyond Reason" but mostly he skews toward hushed vocals and acoustic guitars. Drums are almost non-existent on the record and Selway's vocal style is reminiscent of Luke Haynes of THE AUTEURS slightly British lilt. Lisa Germano's backing vocals waft over several tracks notably in the "The Ties That Bind"and her gentle coos on the singe "By Some Miracle". Lyrically Selway tells tales of overcoming life's maladies by connecting with others. This is most evident on the penultimate track "Don't Look Down" and it's uplifting message of facing fears and taking the challenge of life head on.

As I sit here on a Sunday morning I find that this is the type of record that is perfect for beginning your day. Quiet, musically interesting enough to keep your attention and lyrically imaginative. I look forward to this playing as I read the paper and drink a cup of coffee...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Ten)

I don't know why more bands don't do this. Here is a video for a remixed version of Depeche Mode's "People are People." As the first real song I heard from these guys I found the remix and even better take than the original, which is a recurring theme I have had with a lot of their stuff.

Depeche Mode-People Are People from Mar G on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Miike Snow asks is crossover appeal a Bad Thing?

About 8 years or so ago there was a band out of Australia by the name of DIRTY VEGAS. By all accounts they were a respectable little band with a nice mix of pop music and dashes of electronica in their early work. Not terribly groundbreaking but entertaining in it's own way. Then through some luck and effective product placement the band hit it big with the single "Days Go By". Now this was just at the dawn of the electronic as RnB movement so the sound was still fresh and auto tune had not killed singing entirely.

Why am I recounting a tale of a one hit wonder band to you now? Because as I was cruising through my various music collections I came across MIIKE SNOW. This Swedish three piece makes highly disposable pop music that has enough sneaky hooks to be something that is a good soundtrack to doing mundane work. Here's where the question about crossover appeal gets asked. The band has also, under another moniker, worked for the likes of BRITNEY SPEARS and other pop luminaries trying to dirty up their sound. Do we punish these lads for their association. Is their own music tempered by their collaborations and brushes with the mainstream. Can we even separate the two things and more importantly, should we?

While watching a recent episode of the wonderful TV show "Chuck", I was struck by the song playing in the background. I knew it sounded familiar so I went on-line and found the name of the particular Miike Snow song. "Silvia" has a catchy piano line and builds tension very nicely over the course of the six minutes it's around. Will I remember it in a month when I have moved on to other things. I doubt it. Just like it took me about 15 minutes to remember Dirty Vegas, I'm sure the same will happen when another sugar coated, pop infection comes along to remind me of Miike Snow. But even a little bit of their original thoughts influence the greater pop collective then I think we are all better off...

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Philistines Jr. make an oddball, wonderful sound

You can often tell a lot about a band by the producers they choose to help them craft their sound. U2 was elevated to a whole new level when it teamed up with Brian Eno. Nirvana built their sound largely in collaboration with Butch Vig only to deconstruct it with Steve Albini. Rick Rubin is maybe more famous then some of the artists he has produced. What is kind of interesting is when these producer's make their own records. Eno dives into orchestral electronica, Vig created GARBAGE, Albini has SHELLAC. Which brings me to Peter Katis and THE PHILISTINES JR.

Who is Peter Katis? Well, he has had a hand in recent efforts by the likes of FRIGHTENED RABBIT, THE NATIONAL, and TOKYO POLICE CLUB (all three of which were on my top 20 of last year). So when I found out he had his own band with his brother it begged checking out. What the brothers Katis have created is an odd, engaging and gorgeous piece of music.

In many ways, The Philistines Jr. remind me of POLARIS (who served as the house band for a great show called the "The Adventures of Pete and Pete") in that they find lyrical inspiration in the mundane aspects of life. Songs given as advice to the youth in the world and ruminations about bus stop etiquette mix with deeper thoughts about war and politics in an unusual symmetry. Musically, their are baroque pop moments melded with indie rock staples. Glockenspiels and drums and theramins flitter in and out. Everything seems to have a purpose and yet the elements are so disparate. The highlight of the record, "My Brother Tom, The Green Beret" is a sublime piece of heaven sliced as a perfect pop song. The whole exercise if alive with new sounds and thoughts after each listen. "If A Band Played in the Woods..." is a remarkable record and one that should remove these brothers from the shadows of music producer anonymity.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Nine)

It has been a long held belief of mine the INXS is one of the criminally overlooked bands of the 80's. Sure they had commercial success, but they were often dismissed when it came to critical praise. Two things worked against the band, Micheal Hutchence's suicide robbed the band of their voice at a time when they were ready to graduate to their more experimental phase . Second, the band went and made that ridiculous reality show to find a new singer. Had these two things not happened, I think we migth view them differently. Here they are in their heyday:

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Oh Me Oh My...Bright Eyes!!

For a long time it was hip to like BRIGHT EYES in that hipper than thou, kids with thick rimmed glasses sort of way. People praised Conor Oberst for his obtuse lyrics (in some circles going so far as tabbing him the next Dylan). Then they sort of disappeared. The austentaciousness of releasing separate albums at the same time smacked of Prince/Ryan Adams level narcissism. (Note to bands: one good record is always better than two mediocre ones. We as listeners don't have time or the energy to sift through the rubble to find the hidden gems.) I admit that I never really gave "Cassadaga" much attention since at that point I had kind of removed myself from the alt-folk universe.

Oberst has gone on to record with other monikers, in fact this latest release is said to be the last under the Bright Eyes handle, and has explored some new directions but I imagine most people expected him to eventually to return to his roots, so to speak. Well, "The People's Key" is his take on the eventual resting place for this incarnation. Using snippets of spoken word lectures about life in alternate universes and a larger synth presence, "Key" is the final combination of the dueling versions of the band. "Shell Games" is a straight up pop song not unlike BEN LEE's finer work. "Approximate Sunlight" is that navel gazing, slow folk we have come to expect, but that is suddenly jettisoned for the political ramble of "Hallie Selassie". "A Machine Spiritual" has that kind of off key minor style that has developed over time to be copied by a ton of other lesser artists. "Triple Spiral" returns to the poppier sound, as if a blatant attempt to garner airplay (if such a thing even exists anymore). The closer, the elegiac "One For You, One For Me" is what U2 was aiming for on it's last record with a fine mixture of synth, R and B, and spiritual seeking of acceptance.

If this in fact the end this musical thought for Oberst, it's a nice coda. Not as adventurous as his earlier work, but a mature re imagination of his style that will lead him into new ventures invigorated by the possibilities of what may come...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Funeral Party is buzzing

I can say with a fair amount of honesty that my first blush with FUNERAL PARTY was a little dismissive. Usually, when I stumble across a new band I size them up and make some level of determination. There are those I fall in love with right away, those that I have luke-warm feelings toward and those that I simply do not find interesting. Columns A and B have hope, but it is rare when a column C band makes their way into any real airplay on the ole iPod. Funeral Party are the exception.

As part of the art-punk movement that seems akin to what FOALS and THE KLAXONS have been doing for awhile, Funeral Party are set to take on people's perceptions with their debut full length, "The Golden Age of Knowhere". Combining dance rhythms with a heavy dose of raging guitars and screaming vocals, this collective takes the best of the RAMONES and amps up the fist pumping. Opening with the cacophony of clashing guitars and drums, "New York City Moves to the Sound of LA" is a warning shot across the bow of the other coast. "Car Wars" and Finale" are more radio friendly with their choruses that are meant to be sung and hooks to spare. The middle portion of the record owes more to the post punk revival (ala BLOC PARTY) with a wash of keyboards taking center stage in "Postcards of Persuasion" and "Giant Song". The title track serves as the closing salvo of adrenaline that I'm sure serves as the closer to their live shows.

I can't tell you if I enjoy this record because the exuberance of the band is obvious or if repeated plays just wore me down. Either way, it's a great debut from a really cool new band.

(mp3) Funeral Party -- Finale (LINK REMOVED BY REQUEST)