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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Not One Artist’s Album Has Gone Platinum In 2014

We are now nine and a half months into 2014, and the sales numbers for the music industry are looking particularly grim. While the fourth quarter is typically when the most sales occur, things have never been quite so bad.

In 2014, not a single artist’s album has gone platinum. Not one has managed to cross that million sales mark.

One album has managed to sell over a million copies so far this year, but it’s a soundtrack. The ever-popular Frozen soundtrack may slowly be working its way down the charts, but it is by far the best selling collection this year. Though it doesn’t have any marquee names on it—those that are usually expected to sell the best—the soundtrack has managed to move 3.2 million copies so far, and with winter coming, that number is sure to rise.

By this time last year, five different CDs had hit one million units sold or more, with Justin Timberlake’s comeback LP The 20/20 Experience in front. By the beginning of Q4 in 2013, that album had moved 2.3 million copies, which is still far behind the success of Frozen.

In fact, album sales this year are so bad, you have to look all the way down to number four on the list of best-sellers to even find something that was released in 2014. The number two and three sellers are Beyonce’s surprise self-titled album and newcomer Lorde’s Pure Heroine, respectively. Both of those have moved in the area of 750,000 so far this year. Both albums were released in 2013 and moved the bulk of their numbers then, but have continued to enjoy commercial success.

Number four on the list is country star Eric Church and his album Outsiders, which is only 20-something thousand behind Lorde. Immediately behind him is Coldplay, whose Ghost Stories isn’t trailing by much.

Comparatively, 60 songs have sold one million (or more) copies, something not unusual in a world where loving a single no longer means having to purchase an entire album. While 60 is surely better than…one…when it comes to million-plus sellers, it’s not all good news. Last year, 83 songs went platinum, so digital single sales are sliding as well, but not as quickly.

We are now in Q4, and the time for record sales to spike is upon us. As more and more shoppers look for the perfect gift for loved ones, the record industry is hoping that they turn to albums, as so many have in the past. Sadly, the rest of 2014 doesn’t have many huge chart toppers left. We are not expecting albums from Adele, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars or the handful of others who still have the power to move millions of albums. While anything is possible—especially in a post-Beyonce, drop-an-album-at-anytime kind of world—it is unlikely that anyone is coming to save 2014’s lackluster record sales.

Mark Lanegan Band: Phantom Radio (Album Review)

The Screaming Trees’ former vocalist has by now fairly firmly established himself as a kind of post-grunge/Americana Johnny Cash, with moody songs awash with tales of drug abuse, redemption and dark humour. There’s plenty of that here. “Black is my name,” he says, by way of introduction. However, where 2012’s Blues Funeral allowed a hint of yer actual goth to creep into Lanegan’s American gothic, here he indulges the post-punk and electronics he grew up with. His gravelly voice is accompanied by purring, New Orderish synthesisers; the superb Floor of the Ocean could be the Sisters of Mercy covering Joy Division’s New Dawn Fades. The subject matter (death, sin, the occasional hanging) is hardly any cheerier, but Torn Red Heart might be the most beautiful love song Lanegan has ever recorded. “I am the wolf without a pack,” he growls at one point, but this career highlight shouldn’t leave him short of followers.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

“South Park” Releases Lorde Parody Song “Push (Feeling Good on a Wednesday)”, Sung by Sia

Recent episodes of “South Park” have been fixated with Lorde, whom they’ve asserted is not actually a New Zealand teen but a middle-aged man in drag. (Lorde was cool with it, though.) Now, the show has shared the full version of “Push (Feeling Good on a Wednesday)”, the Lorde parody song that appeared on the show. It’s actually sung by—gasp!—Sia. You can listen to it below

Parquet Courts Announce New Album Content Nausea as Parkay Quarts, Share “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth”

Earlier this year, Parquet Courts released their great album Sunbathing Animal. Today, they’ve announced that they’re releasing another long-player this year, and it’s coming out under the name Parkay Quarts. It’s called Content Nausea, it’s out November 11 via What’s Your Rupture?, and it features the above track, “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth”.

The album was mostly made by Andrew Savage and Austin Brown with help from Jackie-O Motherfucker’s Jef Brown (saxophone) and Eaters’ Bob Jones (fiddle). It was recorded, mixed, and mastered in two weeks on a four-track tape machine. It features a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking”.

The band’s Tally All the Things That You Broke EP from last year was also credited to Parkay Quarts.

Next week, the band will embark on a tour featuring dates billed as Parquet Courts, Parkay Quarts, and PCPC—their supergroup with PC Worship.

Content Nausea:
01 Everyday It Starts
02 Content Nausea
03 Urban Ease
04 Slide Machine
05 Kevlar Walls
06 Pretty Machines
07 Psycho Structures
08 The Map
09 These Boots
10 Insufferable
11 No Concept
12 Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth

Parquet Courts:
10-21 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus *^
10-22 Boston MA – The Sinclair *^
10-24 Providence, RI – The Met *^
10-25 Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle *^
10-26 Brooklyn, NY – Rough Trade NYC *^
11-06 Washington, DC – DC9 #
11-08 Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA #
11-13 Lille, France – Le Grand Mix #
11-14 Paris, France – La Cigale #
11-15 Nantes, France – Stereolux #
11-17 Toulouse, France – Bikini #
11-19 Oostende, Belgium – De Zwerver *
11-20 Brussels, Belgium – Botanique #
11-21 Utrecht, Holland – Le Guess Who #
11-22 Amsterdam, Holland – The Vrankrijk *
11-23 Utrecht, Holland – Le Guess Who *
11-24 Ramsgate, England – Ramsgate Music Hall *
11-25 London, England – Electroworkz *
11-26 Leeds, England – Wardrobe #
11-27 London, England – The Laundry #
11-29 Koln, Germany – Stadthalle Köln Mülheim #
11-30 Zurich, Switzerland – Rote Frabrik #
12-11 New York, NY – Webster Hall

* as PCPC
^ with Thurston Moore
# as Parkay Quarts

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thurston Moore: The Best Day (Album Review)

Thurston Moore’s last two albums served, as so many solo efforts for rock frontmen do, as outlets for him to explore his quieter side. But aside from a couple of 12-string acoustic drone meditations, The Best Day, his first outing since Sonic Youth went on indefinite hiatus in 2011, finds him playing energized, accessible guitar rock that retains many elements of SY’s inimitable sprawl. His crack backup band—composed of SY drummer Steve Shelley, My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe on bass, and second guitarist James Sedwards—is too hard-driving to tolerate Moore’s tiresome experimental drone tendencies for very long, so even on the long songs, of which there are, characteristically, several, the proceedings rarely grow ponderous. Even the 11-minute “Forevermore” aims more for “hard-hitting” than “hypnotic”; the guitar licks are meaty, propulsive, never aimless. The title track is particularly punchy, booking along on sharp-edged riffs, with Moore coming out from under his bangs to sing about “the man with the lust for life.” He takes his newfound swagger a little too far on the all-attitude, no-melody “Detonation,” but overall The Best Day is just the right amount of confident.

As is typical with Moore, the vocal melodies on The Best Day are mostly afterthoughts that usually just blithely follow the guitar parts. Fortunately, this weakness is minimized by the fact that most of the riffs, rendered via a pristinely engineered dual-guitar attack, are excellent. Sedwards is a superb sparring partner for Moore, pushing him toward some of his more classic rock-oriented playing in recent memory on “The Best Day” and “Germs Burn.” But Sedwards and Moore have more than one trick up their collective sleeve, as evidenced by the opening tour de force, “Speak to the Wild,” what with its thudding guitar interspersed with synchronized harmonics, and especially the instrumental “Grace Lake,” which runs through an array of riffage, from sun-splashed, quick-note plucking that sounds like it could have been on the Meat Puppets’ second album to heavy power chording. It’s clear from these invigorating workouts that a midlife crisis and the breakup of both his marriage and band did nothing to rob Moore of his way with the fretboard.

Foo Fighters preview two new songs from Sonic Highways — listen

In a new five-minute extended preview for their HBO series Sonic Highways, Foo Fighters have teased two new tracks from their forthcoming album of the same name. The band previously revealed a pair of eight-second snippets (intense eight-second snippets) and an extended clip in the show’s trailer, but the new samples give us the clearest listen yet at some of the lyrics.

The first bit is from “Something From Nothing”, a toned-down jam that seems to cut away right before a big breakout (which we know is coming from that previously released trailer). Here, Dave Grohl sings, “Here lies a city on fire/ Singing along/ The arsonist choir/ And I here I go.” Later we get a taste of the high-powered rocker “Feast and the Famine”, with Grohl screaming out the song’s title after a hearty “Amen!” There are also various instrumentals played under the entire discussion, though it’s impossible to put a name to those tracks.

You can now stream it below.

During the discussion, the band also mentions some of the musicians you can expect to see on the Sonic Highways program and album, including Heart, Dolly Parton, Chuck D, Willie Nelson, Mike D, LL Cool J, Joan Jett, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Gary Clark Jr., and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. You’ll be able to hear how all these artists influenced the record when it drops November 10th from Roswell Records, and see how it all came together when the HBO series premieres on October 17th. (That’s this Friday!!)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Melvins: Hold It In (Album Review)

After 30-odd years, dozens of lineup changes and 96 billion releases, the Melvins don’t even seem like a band. It’s like the Melvins are more a lab for trying stuff (any kind of stuff) out, a weirdo alt-metal Xanadu.

So, no surprise that ex-Butthole Surfers Paul Leary and JD Pinkus would find safe haven there. Hold It In has Pinkus’s bass holding down the rhythm section with drummer Dale Crover, while Leary adds wailing sonic texture to King Buzzo’s chug-a-lug riffs. On paper, the team-up promises a kind of abrasive, gross, brown metal mashup, a suspicion seemingly confirmed by jokey song titles like Bride Of Crankenstein and Piss Pisstofferson.

But somehow, it’s their most accessible release in ages. The Melvins hit the riff-heavy heights of their foundational 90s records while freewheeling into plenty of experimentation (like chimes and accordions on The Bunk Up) and straight-up curiosities. And Eyes On You is probably the best surveillance-state banger of the year.

Watch Radiohead’s Philip Selway Play The Tonight Show With The Dap-Kings

Along with the Beatles and Genesis and the Eagles, Radiohead are the rare band where the drummer can make a respectable go of it as a solo singer-songwriter. Radiohead skin-basher Philip Selway just released Weatherhouse, his second album of lovely, softhearted solo songs. And last night, he was the musical guest on The Tonight Show, where he neglected his drum set for a piano. Performing “It Will End In Tears,” Selway had an unlikely backing band: ’60s-soul revivalists the Dap-Kings, better known for backing up Sharon Jones and Amy Winehouse. They sounded awesome behind him, especially as the song hit its climax. Watch it below.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Smiths, Lou Reed, Kraftwerk, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day, N.W.A. Nominated For Rock Hall of Fame Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Bill Withers, more also make the 2015 nominee list

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced nominees for the 2015 induction, including Green Day, Kraftwerk, N.W.A., Nine Inch Nails, Lou Reed, The Smiths, and others. (Lou Reed is already a Rock Hall member as part of the Velvet Underground.) Check out the list below.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2015 Nominees:

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Green Day
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
The Marvellettes
Nine Inch Nails
Lou Reed
The Smiths
The Spinners
Stevie Ray Vaughan

In order to be eligible for induction, artists need to have released their first single or album 25 years ago (no later than 1989). Fans can cast their vote over at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s website, or via RollingStone or USA Today. The top five artists selected by the public will make up a “fans’ ballot” that will be tallied with other votes from an international voting body. Inductees will be announced in December.

Last year, Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Kiss, Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band were inducted.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

TV On The Radio – “Careful You” (New Single)

TV On The Radio return next month with Seeds, their first album in a few years. And after sharing the stormy first single “Happy Idiot,” they’ve now given us “Careful You,” another album track, and one that sounds just as huge. “Careful You” is built from a synthetic bassline that might be more indebted to electronic music than anything this band has ever done. But the song still has that classically huge TVOTR structure, and it still builds up to a world-swallowing chorus. It should kill when they do it live. Listen below.

Monday, October 6, 2014

David Lynch Resurrects “Twin Peaks”

“Twin Peaks”, the influential TV show from David Lynch and Mark Frost that lasted two season in the early 90s, will return for a new season in 2016. Variety confirmed news of the revival today. Watch a short trailer below, via David Lynch’s Twitter.

The new season, set in the present day, will span nine episodes airing on Showtime. They’ll also mark the shows 25th anniversary. Lynch will direct each episode, and he and Frost are currently writing scripts. It will “not be a remake or reboot,” Frost told Variety, which noted that “the passage of 25 years will be an important element in the plot.” The original plot centered on the mystery of a beautiful dead girl, Laura Palmer, in a small, imagined Washington town.

The aesthetic of “Twin Peaks”, and its soundtrack (by Angelo Badalamenti with Julee Cruise) has left an indelible mark on pop music—in recent years, it has helped cultivate an eerie, dreamlike sound mixing surrealism with classic pop tropes. It has inspired artists ranging from Beach House and Cults to Dirty Beaches and Zola Jesus (who was remixed by Lynch) to, perhaps most prominently, Lana Del Rey. (Not to mention the young Chicago band that goes, simply, by Twin Peaks.)

Speaking with Variety, Frost said, “I always felt that in ‘Twin Peaks’ we were more or less filming a novel—drilling down to a level of detail you weren’t used to seeing in network storytelling.” He also called the show’s audience “one of the coolest, most intelligent, most inquisitive groups of people.”

Showtime will play “Twin Peaks” reruns leading up to the new season, and there could be further seasons, according to Frost.

David Lynch’s Eraserhead soundtrack was reissued in 2012 by Brooklyn label Sacred Bones, which also released his recent solo album, The Big Dream. This year, Sacred Bones also released The Air Is On Fire, music Lynch made for a 2007 art exhibition.

Below, revisit the “Twin Peaks” theme song, Julee Cruise’s “Falling”.

The Vaselines: V for Vaselines (Album Review)

We can be honest here. Unless you’re somewhat unbelievably hip, we can agree the main reason we know about The Vaselines is Kurt Cobain. Nirvana covered three songs by the Scottish group in their time and Vaselines member Eugene Kelly even admits he owes a mortgage to royalties from the Seattle superband’s covers of his songs. But even a quick once-over of their new record, V for Vaselines, or any of their original work from the late ’80s, reveals them to be about as different from Nirvana as Enya is from Bruce Springsteen.

This is a band who already exist on their own plane, doing their own thing, despite the fact plenty of people probably think someone else wrote some of their songs. Considering the fact the band was on hiatus from 1990 to 2006, it’s nothing short of magical to hear Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee’s songwriting partnership still yielding twee-rock rewards now. It’s good they named this record V for Vaselines because it’s definitive. They’ve never sounded more confident and constructed in their songwriting.

Even the most aggressive moments on this record (“Crazy Lady,” “One Lost Year”) are more in step with Tigermilk than In Utero. If you’ve always wondered what Belle and Sebastian would sound like if they put a little more “oomph!” in their sound, look no further. V for Vaselines may not make many year-end best-of lists but it’s the final word that these people can rock on their own

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Electric Wizard – Time To Die (Album Review)

Dorset doom legends Electric Wizard don’t mess about. They know what they’re good at, and what they like to do, and stick to it without compromise. Their sound (think Black Sabbath playing Sleep or Kyuss at half-speed), though hardly unique, is far fuller and more accomplished than that of many of their contemporaries and imitators. On Time To Die, their first album since 2010’s Black Masses, they predictably deliver more of the same – and that’s a good thing.

10-minute opening behemoth, “Incense for the Damned”, starts the record off in typical style, all crushing riffs and militaristic drums. The guitars sound fantastic, coated gratuitously in exactly the right kind of fuzz. Jus Oborne’s vocals are as impassioned as ever, throaty and clenched-jawed. As the song peaks and troughs its way through a labyrinthine structure, it’s difficult not to get swept away by the crashing waves of distortion and cymbals. The title track follows suit, condensing the feel of the previous song into a more accessible (but still nearly 8-minute) 12/8 monster. Oborn’s wonderfully hammy chorus of “Wake up, children/It’s time to die!” is delivered almost gleefully by a man who knows very well how to drape a hook over such dense music without it getting lost.

Although it never strays too far from the standard Electric Wizard template, Time to Die is not entirely without nuance or change. “Funeral of Your Mind” is an almost catchy mid-tempo number, with drums that bounce rather than topple and seethe as they do on much of the rest of the album. “Sadiowitch” lifts its central riff wholesale from Focus’ silly classic “Hocus Pocus”, but replaces its daftness with yet more doom by virtue of more fuzz and more sneery howling from Oborn. Penultimate track “Lucifer’s Slaves” grooves pleasingly, the rhythm section really coming into its own, before disarmingly short instrumental “Saturn Dethroned” closes the album in a smoky haze of funereal organs and swirly guitars.

Admittedly, these are all pretty minor changes of pace, but it’s actually quite refreshing to see a band so resolutely stick to their guns. The only other slight variations the band offer on this album are the brief samples that fill the gaps in between songs – of running water and stern, Cold War-period American broadcasters explaining the dangers of Satanism – and, frankly, they’re just a little cheesy and unnecessary. Happily, the quality of the rest of the record’s undiluted sludge far outweighs the flabbiness of these brief deviations. Electric Wizard are arguably the most revered band of the doom metal genre since Black Sabbath themselves, and on Time To Die, they remind us why.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mogwai Announce Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1. EP, Share “Teenage Exorcists”

Mogwai have announced an EP containing new songs and remixes from the sessions of their most recent album, Rave Tapes. It’s called Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1., and it’s a six-track set containing three new cuts, plus remixes of older songs by Blanck Mass, Pye Corner Audio and Nils Frahm. The new EP arrives December 1 via Mogwai’s Rock Action label (which will also release a limited number of 12″ pressings). Additionally, the Scottish post-rock outfit have shared the opening track on Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1.; check out “Teenage Exorcists” above.

Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1. was recorded alongside producer (and Delgados drummer) Paul Savage, at the band’s Castle Of Doom studio in Glasgow, Scotland.
Mogwai are headed on the road soon for a brief tour of the UK and Europe. Check out the full list of dates following the tracklisting.

Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1.:

01 Teenage Exorcists
02 History Day
03 HMP Shaun William Ryder
04 Re-Remurdered (Blanck Mass Remix)
05 No Medicine For Regret (Pye Corner Audio Mix)
06 The Lord is Out of Control (Nils Frahm Remix)


10-10 Düsseldorf, Germany – New Fall Festival
10-21 Aberdeen, Scotland – Aberdeen Music Hall
10-23 Rotherham, England – Magna
10-24 Liverpool, England – Camp and Furnace
10-25 Bristol, England – Simple Things Festival
10-26 Brighton, England – Dome
10-28 Ghent, Belgium – Vooruit
10-29 Utrecht, the Netherlands – Tivoliredenburg
10-30 Paris, France – Pitchfork Festival Paris
10-31 Toulouse, France – Le Bikini
11-01 Barakaldo, Spain – Bime Live
11-22 Santiago, Chile – Movistar Primavera Fauna
11-24 Buenos Aires, Argentina – Music Wins Festival

Thom Yorke – ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ (Album Review)

It’s been three years since the last one, but you all remember the drill, right? The blog post/press release/i n t r i g u i n g l y-formatted tweet goes live, announcing that Thom Yorke will be releasing a new album approximately 20 minutes from now, using some revolutionary delivery method intended to serve as the mile-wide asteroid to an unsuspecting music industry. Social media promptly goes into meltdown as the opinion pieces proliferate, while critics race against time and each other to deliver the first – usually fawning – verdict. You have to hand it to him: the man knows how to launch an album to maximum chatter, but sometimes you long for him to do something genuinely unexpected, like, say, float a 30ft statue of himself down the Thames.

Increasingly, that sentiment applies to the music, too. Gone are the days of Yorke – or Radiohead, for that matter – surprising you with anything other than his choice of business model. Give or take a few degrees of melody and immediacy, you know what you’re getting before the files have even finished downloading: spare, minimalist synths, scattershot lyrics and brittle, skittering beats which converge into loosely-defined songs that make ‘Kid A’ sound like ‘Slippery When Wet’ by comparison. It’s not necessarily a criticism – ‘Interference’ is a fine example of how he’s able to marry austere electronica with beguiling, often beautiful melodies – but it does serve to remind you that ‘progressiveness’ is a relative term. Not so long ago, musicians like Yorke strived to push the artistic envelope; now it seems the focus has shifted towards finding the most ethical and efficient way to mail it.

The pros and cons of selling an ‘album’ (his inverted commas, not mine) through BitTorrent are for someone else to get into, however. The hullaballoo over these guerrilla releases can often detract from the music itself, making it appear secondary to the circumstances of its release. The lacklustre ‘King of Limbs’ might have deserved that fate but ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’, thankfully, does not.

That said, it’s hardly love at first listen. ‘A Brain In A Bottle’ is a claustrophobic opener, boxing you in with oscillations of wobbly bass and the unsettling caw of what sounds like an electronic seagull. “Why hast thou forsaken us?” asks Yorke, and you can imagine the perennially-disappointed ‘OK Computer’ crowd throwing their hands up in exasperation and replying “You tell us.” Yet across repeat plays, the album’s charms begin to unfurl: ‘Guess Again!’ is built around a looping piano line that recalls ‘Pyramid Song’ and gives the listener the feeling of tumbling in slow-motion down the Penrose steps, amid ominous warnings that “as one door shuts, another opens”. On ‘Truth Ray’, meanwhile, the cold, inhuman aloofness of the music is offset by Yorke’s quietly-horrified murmurs of “Oh my god, oh my god,” and a melody which lingers like a restless spirit.

‘The Mother Lode’ is the unquestionable centrepiece: six superlative minutes of light and shade whose clubby piano chords evoke an end-of-night chemical rush, albeit one filtered through the thought-process of a man for whom euphoria has often seemed anathema. By way of penitence, we get ‘There Is No Ice (For My Drink)’, an overlong techno workout that feels like a homework assignment and whose title must surely be self-parodic. Still, that’s Thom Yorke’s modern box for you. We all know what’s in it, and no-one would argue that it isn’t worth opening. But for the time being, he’s quite happy thinking inside it, thank you very much.