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Archive for March, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Strokes: Comedown Machine (Album Review)

We’ve suspected, dreaded or flat out denied it for a while, but The Strokes have grown weary of being The Strokes. Their enthusiasm was at an all-time low on 2011’s begrudged Angles, like an actor on autopilot who’s still making films because he assumes he’s supposed to. They weren’t making garage tunes, and they weren’t making new wave or synthpop. They just made a mess and wanted full marks for showing up. The fire was more or less out.

While it may not float along with the same sense of continuous disconnect, Comedown Machine is in many ways The Strokes’ most anonymous release yet. There is, at present, no tour planned to promote it, the artwork is a grubby demo cover, and the music is barely recognizable as The Strokes. It is decisively, deliberately free of baggage or backstory. This is their attempt to fully escape their own event horizon, and crush any hope that purists have held out optimism for since Room on Fire.

Alas, this is the ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ path that The Strokes are now condemned to walk forever. To their credit, they don’t want to waste your time if you came for scruffy tunes on a shoestring budget. “Gotta get my hands on something new/You won’t wanna be without this,” begins Julian Casablancas on “Tap Out,” quickly establishing the arrogant aloofness that endeared us to him in the first place. While the silhouetted guitars and the sprinklerhead percussion recall “Machu Picchu.” It almost sounds like Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Fab Moretti and Nikolai Fraiture are having fun playing behind their frontman.

The best thing about Comedown Machine might be that it knows what it wants to be, even if it doesn’t quite succeed at being it. With ten 80s-inspired tunes in tow, “All the Time” now seems like an act of defiance. It stands alone sonically and, coincidence or not, it’s also the best song on the album. Conversely, the first cut we heard, “One Way Trigger,” is wholly unimaginative in its 80s apery. Given the yin/yang nature of these two previews, it would make sense that the rest of Comedown Machine falls somewhere in the middle. And it does, alternating between muscular glam rock, gaseous, percussionless experiments and even a pretty ballad or two. The Strokes have established a code this time around, and they stick to it.

While Comedown Machine drags itself through a number of dead zones (most notably the dud pair of the title track and “50 50”), there are moments where they recapture some of what made them a great band. Like “Automatic Stop” and “Taken for a Fool” before it, “Slow Animals” is another Casablancas chorus that proves just how capably he can capture melancholy. “Happy Ending” would be just that if it weren’t followed by “Call It Fate Call It Karma,” the most offputtingly bizarre and half-baked idea The Strokes have ever put their stamp on.

Other tracks sound like outtakes from Phrazes for the Young. Shockingly enough, that isn’t always a bad thing. You can practically see a disco ball when you close your eyes during “Partners in Crime”–coming soon to a middle school dance near you. The funniest part is that it wouldn’t work if it weren’t so disobligingly brazen; Casablancas’ falsetto is a love-it-or-hate-it vehicle, exchanging Lou Reed for a Beck/Prince hybrid. He uses his upper register more here than on every other Strokes album combined, and it’s often double-tracked with his more familiar doom-and-gloom croon. “Tap Out” and “Chances” almost sound like duets.

In addition to freeing them of their five-album commitment to RCA, Comedown Machine also represents the shortest turnaround between albums in The Strokes’ career. The ambiguity of their future is now as pronounced as ever. One hopes that this is a plea for a fresh start instead of their final statement. Either way, you should probably stick a few mothballs in that denim jacket hanging in your closet.
(T. Johnson)

Rolling Stones, Vampire Weekend, Portishead, Phoenix, Nick Cave, the xx, More Set for Glastonbury

England’s Glastonbury Festival has announced its initial 2013 lineup. The iconic festival, which took 2012 off, takes place this year from June 28-30.

The lineup features the Rolling Stones, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Vampire Weekend, Elvis Costello, Portishead, the xx, Foals, Smashing Pumpkins, PiL, Tame Impala, Alabama Shakes, Azealia Banks, Arctic Monkeys, Chic ft. Nile Rodgers, Public Enemy, The Weeknd, Major Lazer, Toro Y Moi, Cat Power, The Horrors, Dinosaur Jr., Devendra Banhart, Solange, King Krule, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Crystal Castles, Phoenix, James Blake, Johnny Marr, Jessie Ware, Tyler, the Creator, Local Natives, Savages, Nas, Disclosure, SBTRKT, AlunaGeorge, Simian Mobile Disco, Julio Bashmore, and tons more.

Check out the full lineup and flyer below:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wavves: Afraid Of Heights (Album Review)

The production credits on Wavves’ fourth album are misleading, to say the least. The only thing remotely hip-hop about Afraid Of Heights is a song called “Cop,” which, in the longstanding tradition of N.W.A and Ice-T, is about offing some officers of the law. But producer John Hill (whose credits include M.I.A., Santigold, Nas, and the Wu-Tang Clan) wraps “Cop” in a springy, cheery melody that’s pushed along by sunny-day whistling. And the weed-loving L.A. indie-pop duo is way too chill to strike any sort of self-righteous hip-hop poses.

Still, Afraid Of Heights sounds bigger and more ambitious than anything Nathan Williams’ former backyard solo project has ever recorded. The big-name producer and studio certainly help; so does the three-year break between Afraid Of Heights and 2010’s breakthrough King Of The Beach. But unlike Wavves’ previous records (including two simply titled Wavves), Afraid Of Heights doesn’t sound like it’s filled with first-take toss-offs. The lo-fi garage surf stomp feels worn in this time, like Williams and partner Stephen Pope actually stepped away from the bong long enough to give the mixes a second listen.

It starts with a killer one-two hit: “Sail To The Sun” and “Demon To Lean On” roll out crashing surf-punk and a guitar-powered midtempo love song, respectively, finding solid footing among the jagged edges that would have tripped Wavves in the past. There’s definitely more confidence in the songs, but there’s also a sense that Williams has grown up in the three years since King Of The Beach. Plus, “Demon To Lean On” would make a great Nirvana B-side if Williams were a more passionate singer.

Wavves doesn’t necessarily stray outside of its comfort zone on Afraid Of Heights. The best songs—the distortion-packed handclap-punk of “Mystic,” the cello-enhanced “Dog,” the hang-10 surf-pop of “Paranoid”—keep close to what they know. Everything just sounds fuller and more cleanly produced than the ragtag recordings that made King Of The Beach an indie hit. Hill brings out the artist in Williams, who no longer seems satisfied with just good enough.

The relative sameness becomes a bit stifling over 13 songs and 45 minutes, kind of like with Weezer records, an obvious influence. But least Williams is starting to find inspiration outside of his living room.

The Shins Announce North American Spring Tour

This spring, the Shins will continue touring in support of last year’s great Port of Morrow, as Consequence of Sound points out. They’ve announced a string of U.S. and Canadian dates throughout May surrounding spots at several festivals.

Watch the video for “It’s Only Life” after the dates.
05-10 Napa, CA – Bottle Rock Festival
05-11 Stateline, NV – Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa
05-12 Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
05-13 Park City, UT – Park City Live
05-17 Gulf Shores, AL – Hangout Music Fest
05-18 Memphis, TN – Minglewood Hall
05-19 Chicago, IL – Aragon Ballroom
05-22 Toronto, Ontario – Sound Academy
05-23 Montreal, Quebec – Metropolis
05-25 Boston, MA – Boston City Hall Plaza
05-27 Richmond, VA – The National
05-28 Norfolk, VA – The Norva

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dinosaur Jr. Cover Phoenix: Entertainment

Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars said of the band: “My brother David took me to see Dinosaur Jr live in Paris around the time when ‘Green Mind’ was released. I have been a fan since then.”

The original version of the song is opening number on Phoenix’s forthcoming ‘Bankrupt!’ album, set for release on April 22.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Sacrilege” (Music Video)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs have shared a video for the gospel choir-feauturing “Sacrilege”, off their upcoming record Mosquito out April 16 via Interscope. (They recently performed the song live at SXSW, too.) The video stars British model/philanthropist Lily Cole kissing a whole host of men (and a woman), and apparently getting her comeuppance. It was directed by Megaforce.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs have also confirmed several new U.S. and European tour dates, in addition to Coachella and their personally-curated edition of All Tomorrow’s Parties in London.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs:
04-07 New York, NY – Webster Hall
04-12 Indio, CA – Coachella
04-13 Las Vegas, NV – The Pool @ Cosmopolitan
04-16 Ventura, CA – Majestic Ventura Theater
04-19 Indio, CA – Coachella
05-01 Manchester, England – O2 Apollo
05-02 Leeds, England – O2 Academy
05-04 London, England – Alexandra Palace
05-06 Berlin, Germany – Columbiahalle
05-08 Paris, France – Olympia
05-11 Columbia, MD – Merriweather Post Pavillion
05-12 Boston, MA – House of Blues – Boston
05-19 Gulf Shores, AL – Hangout Festival
06-22 Dover, DE – Firefly Music Festival
06-24 Minneapolis, MN – First Ave
06-28 Kansas City, KS – Kanrocksas at Kansas Speedway
07-14 Balado/Kinross-shire, Scotland – T in the Park Festival
07-17 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
07-18 Dour, Belgium – Dour Music Festival
07-20 Suffolk, England – Henham Park (Latitude Festival)
07-21 Dublin, Ireland – Longitude Festival

Monday, March 25, 2013

Queens of the Stone Age Announce New Album, Preview New Music, Sign to Matador

It’s been nearly six years since Queens of the Stone Age released their last full-length, Era Vulgaris. As Antiquiet points out, they’ve announced that their new album will be out in June. Refresh the band’s website to hear a new snippet each time. According to Antiquiet, the album is called Like Clockwork. UPDATE: A representative from Matador has confirmed that the band has signed to the label. They’ve also confirmed the album’s title.

As mentioned, the band has undergone several lineup changes for this album. Along with confirmed guest spots from Trent Reznor, Elton John, and Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, word surfaced in November that Dave Grohl drums on the album (replacing Joey Castillo, who left the band).

And the record also features the return of two former QOTSA members: Mark Lanegan, who has kept busy with solo releases, and bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri, who was kicked out of the band in 2004 for allegedly abusing his girlfriend. In 2011, Oliveri again became entangled in serious legal issues when he was arrested for felony domestic violence, charged with four felonies, and ultimately sentenced to three years of probation.

As SPIN recently noted, the band has been sharing cryptic album details over the past several months, including a series of letters published in UK music magazines Kerrang, Uncut, and Mojo. (Check out the Kerrang note below.) They’ve described the music as “codeine cabaret” and accompanied their statements with images of clocks and a recurring theme of “nine.” Header text for each article, when pieced together, reads “A Stitch In Time Will Save You 9, But.. Some Things You Can’t Fix, So.. If You Find..”
After the note, watch QOTSA play “Avon” with Dave Grohl in 2002.



The most recent episode of 60 Minutes features a piece on those martyred Russian punks, Pussy Riot. Yekaterina Samutsevich, who was released in October following a successful appeal, was interviewed along with the group’s drummer, who called herself “Kot,” in addition to supporters of the group. Via Consequence of Sound:

The segment also featured interviews with Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, as well as chess champion Garry Kasparov, who’s a supporter of the group, and a Russian government spokesman. The segment closes with footage of Pussy Riot members performing in their practice space, confirming that the group does indeed remain active underground.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chelsea Light Moving- S/T (Album Review)

Sonic Youth mourners will welcome the debut from Chelsea Light Moving, the latest from Thurston Moore. Liberation and noisy calibration still drive the on-hiatus Youth. Flexing old-school muscle, the post-punk guitar god and underrated wordsmith name-checks junky beatnik William S. Burroughs and the late poet Frank O’Hara, but never resorts to recriminations against his ex-wife. “Be a warrior – love life,” he sings on the sugary opener “Heavenmental.” Bassist Samara Lubelski, guitarist Keith Wood, and drum pummeler John Moloney assist the Sandy-worthy squall of “Empires of Time,” while “Groovy and Linda” digs up heartbreak of another sort with the now-prophetic hymn, “Don’t shoot, we are your children.” Closing with the SST stomp of “Lips,” summery strumming “Frank O’Hara Hit,” and the smudged punk of “Communist Eyes,” CLM never amounts to a full state of the union. Settle instead for a New York state of mind.

Chelsea Light Moving Blog

METZ- Live at SXSW

Watch the noise-rock trio tear it up at the 2013 South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Recorded live at Bar 96 for Filter Magazine’s Dr. Martens Showcase, the band performs a heart-pounding version of “Wet Blanket” here.

Arcade Fire Currently Working on New Album at James Murphy’s DFA Studio in NYC

Earlier this year, the Arcade Fire gave up the church studio where they recorded Neon Bible and The Suburbs, putting it on the market for $325,000. Word also surfaced last year that they were working with James Murphy on their next LP. Now, as Arcade Fire Tube points out, Arcade Fire are currently at work on the album at James Murphy’s DFA Studio in NYC. The DFA Studio Twitter account wrote yesterday morning, “Arcade Fire STILL with us at DFA… This is going to be one great sounding album!”

A release date for the album is still unconfirmed.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Low: The Invisible Way (Album Review)

The passage of time seems to be on Alan Sparhawk’s mind. On “Plastic Cup”—which opens Low’s 10th album, The Invisible Way—the singer-guitarist imagines a far-flung future where archeologists are digging up the ruins of America. They unearth a plastic cup once used to take a piss test and wonder if it might have been the chalice of a king. As Sparhawk unspools his absurd yet haunting premise—one with some curious religious undertones that may or may not have to do with his Mormon faith—he makes his acoustic guitar rustle like a nest of insects. In the background, singer-drummer Mimi Parker takes the high harmony (while cooing the word “high”) and lays down a skeletal beat that marks off seconds as well as centuries.

This year, Sparhawk and Parker celebrate their 20th anniversary—not as a married couple, although they are, but as the core of Low. Since forming in 1993, the band has had its ups and downs, although it’s never stooped to making a bad record. In fact, Low’s been on a roll since 2005’s The Great Destroyer, in which the band rebirthed itself as a bona fide rock trio. Sparhawk and Parker have never lost their signature sense of spaciousness and melancholy, though, even after losing longtime bassist Zak Sally immediately following The Great Destroyer. But there’s a neat loop formed by The Invisible Way. While calling back to the group’s roots as a slowcore pioneer, the disc is mostly an unplugged affair. And where recent albums dabbled in distortion and synthesizers, Invisible is all about acoustic guitar and piano.

It’s also about that singular, heart-stopping Low hush. “Amethyst” converts piano chords into soft, wet snowfalls, even as it lets single notes poke out like naked twigs. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy produces Low for the first time here, and it can’t be a coincidence that there’s a marked, if stark, country-rock tint to Invisible. On “Holy Ghost,” Parker comes on like Emmylou Harris at her most wounded; “Clarence White” nostalgically pays homage to the late member of The Byrds (along with, weirdly, Charlton Heston). “Four Score” weaves a symphony out of whispers, while “Mother” twangs plainly and poignantly.

By the time a distorted guitar finally makes an appearance halfway through the disc’s penultimate song, “On My Own,” it doesn’t feel like an intrusion. Instead, it’s as if Low has taken its tried-and-true songwriting formula—a slow buildup into a smoldering climax—and stretched it to the length of an entire album. And an entirely superb one. If that’s a metaphor for longevity, so be it.
(review by: JH)


Derek Erdman worked a record-setting few hours at Sub Pop before getting fired. But how on earth could someone get fired so fast? He responded to a fan complaining about artwork on a Father John Misty CD with perhaps one of the most snide and sarcastic grouping of words ever brought together for the purpose of shaming. Via Sub Pop:


I bought Fear Fun by Father John Misty but I think you went overboard with the art design for the CD. Not putting any name on the CD is lame. My friend unloaded the player, it got mixed up + then the CD sat out getting dusty.

Trying for “artful” (“artsy”?) you got cutesy. And a pain-in-the-neck-ful.

Think about it. I had to write the name in my sloppy handwriting.

More cutesy were the inserts; rambling on and on. I read books. I listen to music CDs. I do not read stuff inside CD packages.


PS. I enjoyed listening to the CD.

And the response…

Dear Helen,

Thanks a lot for your letter! We here at Sub Pop strive for 105% customer satisfaction, and we have no idea how we’re doing until somebody lets us know. Trust me, we’re disappointed that you’re disappointed.

We thought long and hard about your dilemma and couldn’t come up with a better solution than yours. Writing on the CD is the most efficient way to discern it from others, we applaud your ingenuity! We were hoping that you wouldn’t mind if we suggested this idea to others who are having the same problem. If you’ve patented the idea, we’ll be happy to forward the proper paperwork to pay you for our use of the idea. Let us know what fee you’re comfortable with.

In regards to all of the pesky, unwanted information on the CD sleeve, we’ve included a handy cover sheet to place over any words that you don’t want to look at while listening. It might seem that it’s just a piece of paper, but it’s rather opaque and should serve as a soothing emotional blanket. In fact, I’m using one right now.

Thanks for writing and we’ll see you in court!
Derek Erdman / Sub Pop

Wow. Not a happy camper, that guy — but seriously hilarious! Even better, below is a sample of his reflective exit interview. You can check out the full interview here.

In your cover letter, you mentioned “numerous” positions in your employment history where you dealt firsthand with customer service. You failed to mention you were such a dick. Why?

Honestly, I wasn’t actually trying to be a dick, I was just trying to be helpful. How is it my fault that this person has such poor penmanship? The solution I offered her seemed like a good one to me. I swear I wasn’t being trying to be a dick.

Here’s an apology from Sub Pop.

Dear customers: We sincerely regret the earlier post of our brand new (he started today) receptionist’s response to a letter criticizing the artwork on the Father John Misty CD. The only course of action we could reasonably take was to terminate the employee immediately. Though he’ll have the distinction of being the shortest (in more ways than one! (he’s tiny)) Sub Pop employee, he’s also aware of what he’s done wrong and that he shouldn’t be proud of himself. To avoid a situation like this in the future, we’re currently taking steps to make sure we don’t hire this type of person again.


Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, and Vampire Weekend will headline this year’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, Il. In addition, the Postal Service and the National will also perform. You can grab your tickets soon. Via Chicago Tribune:

Lollapalooza, which relaunched in 2005 as a destination festival in Chicago, has become increasingly successful, consistently selling out 270,000 tickets over three days in recent years. The festival is expected to have a similar format to last year, with more than 100 artists arrayed on eight stages over three days.

Party on!

Lollapalooza 2013 | August 2-4, 2013 : Grant Park : Chicago, IL

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Palma Violets: 180 (Album Review)

Palma Violets’ ascent was notable, they said, strange. ‘Best Of Friends’, the first recorded output and first single from the south Londoners came after they’d secured a notoriously riotous live reputation; after they’d got themselves a considerable and dedicated fan base. You know – in that way that used to seem completely bloody normal?

Have you ever found yourself running down a city street after dark, giggling while drinking the most dubious form of alcohol you could find in the closest corner shop? Felt you could take on the world; the glorious fuzzy half-way point between sobriety and otherwise, like time stood still? Been in a dark, damp club, music blaring when OH GOD, OH GOD THAT SONG I MUST DANCE NOW? ‘180’ is a bit like that.

It’s named after the band’s base in a Lambeth house. But, rather than coming across as the exclusive club house to which only a select few belong; it’s more like a drop-in centre. Palma Violets’ deliciously raggedy rock is enveloping. If scratchy guitars and lolloping drums could give hugs, these would be the sweatiest, messiest, yet most kind-hearted type. ‘Best Of Friends’ boasts of innocence, ‘Step Up For The Cool Cats’ a calling-card to sometime outsiders. Even the dreadfully-named ‘Chicken Dippers’ and ‘Johnny Bagga’ Donuts’ shimmer with howling exuberance.

But it’s not all short-sharp scruffy punk: closer ’14’ verges on the epic, though thankfully never leaving the record’s basement leanings behind, and proves the record’s greatest earworm. Then it’s left to true closer – secret track ‘Brand New Song’ – to leave a grin on even the most cold-hearted of listeners. “I’ve got a brand new song,” they tell us. “It’s gonna be a Number One.” The quartet’s puppy-dog eyes might not be pictured, but you’ve got to will them on.