Aphex Twin

Over the Weekend (May 11 Edition)

New music, new videos, and other time-wasters to kick off your week…

Fans of Aphex Twin should be thrilled with the massive amount of free music that he released today.  There is a zip file with over 2 GBs worth of music available for download, as well as a YouTube playlist of over 200 songs, though the amount of overlap between the two has yet to be determined.  We had seen evidence before that Richard James was hard at work in all those years between releases, but it is great to finally hear more of the results.

Courtney Barnett is an artist that has been receiving a huge amount of buzz lately, especially after her recent appearances at SXSW.  We have been rather skeptical of the praise so far (our reaction to her recent single that has begun to get radio airplay is that it sounds like “Molly’s Chambers” with a female version of Mark E. Smith yelling over the top), but we have to admit that we enjoy the fun video that was created for “Dead Fox” that was released today.

Sharon Van Etten will be releasing a new EP next month, and today she released another track off of I Don’t Want To Let You Down.  Pitchfork has the SoundCloud link for “Just Like Blood”.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are currently on tour celebrating the tenth anniversary of their self-titled debut, and Stereogum has the premiere of an acoustic version of “Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away” from that seminal album.

And finally, have fun with a variety of useless lists this week.  The most ambitious is SPIN’s 300 Best Albums of the Past 30 Years, which if anything is at least diverse, and at least makes an attempt in a lot of cases to avoid merely following along with consensus opinion.  Diffuser provides a handy list of 19 Influential Grunge Musicians that they claim “you’ve never heard of,” but whatever the accuracy is of the second part of their claim, it serves as a handy guide for diving into the Seattle scene beyond the Big Four.  Then there is NME’s contribution, a list of the original titles for famous albums, which has more than a few mildly amusing anecdotes.

Catching Up On The Week (May 1 Edition)

Some #longreads for your May Day weekend celebration…

We here at Rust Is Just Right were more than excited to hear that Titus Andronicus will finally be releasing their new album later this summer, on July 28.  We remember rumblings from early in 2014 from Patrick Stickles about the band’s planned rock opera, and even heard what were supposedly tracks from the project back at their 2013 MusicFestNW performance, so we had been anticipating this announcement for a long time.  Stickles talked to Grantland about the production of the album, and shared the first single as well.

It is the thirtieth anniversary of the seminal album Psychocandy, and The Jesus and Mary Chain are set to embark on a short tour of the US to play their electrifying debut in its entirety.  To help celebrate this occasion, we are linking to not one, but two interviews with the band’s lead singer, Jim Reid, courtesy of Stereogum and Consequence of Sound.

Elsewhere on the Consequence of Sound site, there is a great interview with Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob where he discusses the significance of Aphex Twin’s …I Care Because You Do.  Not only is it a great dissection of an often-overlooked highlight in Aphex Twin’s impressive discography, but it also shines a light into the electronic scene at the time.

Deadspin has an analysis of Van Morrison’s late-career work, to help fill in the blind spots for those who only know of the legendary singer’s pre-Astral Weeks work.

And finally, Kathy Foster of The Thermals talks to VNYL for their #FirstSpin series about her early experience with vinyl.

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2014

Today is April 15, and while the rest of the nation celebrates Tax Day, we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund/gives them an added checklist when they head out to their local record stores this weekend for Record Store Day.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.  Also, we have reviews for all of these albums, so for those of you seeking a more detailed analysis all you need to do is click the appropriate tag above.

10. Alvvays – Alvvays; Aphex Twin – Syro; Nothing – Guilty of Everything; Real Estate – Atlas (8 plays)

Alvvays and Nothing edge themselves onto the list with fantastic debut albums, the former being a sublime beach-pop record and the latter finding an intriguing mix between shoegaze and metal.  Real Estate’s latest would make a great companion album to the Alvvays record on any future trip to the coast, with the band further refining their laid-back, easy-going vibe with some of their most tightly-constructed songs of their career, like “Talking Backwards” and “Crimes”.  The only reason why Aphex Twin’s fantastic comeback effort is so low on the list is that we in general do not spend much time listening to electronica; otherwise, it would have ended up much higher on our list.

9. Beck – Morning Phase; Ought – More Than Any Other Day; Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal; Solids – Blame Confusion (9 plays)

We never grew to love Sunbathing Animal in the same way that we did Light Up Gold, so its inclusion on the list is mainly due to our insistence on trying to gain a greater appreciation through repeated listens; that said, it did have its moments, like “Dear Ramona” and “Instant Disassembly”, that we would love to hear the next time they roll through the Northwest.  Ought’s debut album is the perfect example of why we delay the publication of our list, since their fascinating debut did not come onto our radar until after we saw it on another year-end list, and it soon became one of our favorites with its intriguing take on garage rock and post-punk.  We jumped in early on the Solids bandwagon, and were pleased to see that the duo’s fuzz-rock had some staying power over the course of the year.  And we hope that Beck is as proud of his showing on our list as he is of the Grammy that he got for his gorgeous new album.

8. The Antlers – Familiars; Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else; Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE (10 plays)

Cymbals Eat Guitars surprised a lot of people with the leap forward that they took on LOSE, an ambitious, anthemic guitar rock masterpiece.  Cloud Nothings somehow came back with an even rawer record than Attack on Memory, and in the process became more of a cohesive group, with the furious drumming being a noteworthy highlight.  As for The Antlers, this is becoming old hat for them, because they once again delivered an incredible record, this time meditating on reconciling the internal struggle, dressed up in hauntingly gorgeous hooks.

7. Fucked Up – Glass Boys; Sharon Van Etten – Are We There? (11 plays)

We may have been in the minority with our disappointment in David Comes to Life, but Fucked Up more than made up for it with the punchy Glass Boys.  As for Sharon Van Etten, she continues to find the perfect balance between the pain and sadness of her lyrics and the beauty of her music.

6. The Black Keys – Turn Blue (13 plays)

Though there is probably a sizable contingent of people who are tired of The Black Keys at this point, we are not in that subset.  Turn Blue was the right step after the arena-rock of El Camino, and we love it when they collaborate with Danger Mouse.  Also, the guitar solos in “The Weight of Love” were probably the year’s best.

5. Interpol – El Pintor; Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 (14 plays)

After their disappointing self-titled album and the polarizing Our Love to Admire, Interpol gave itself a needed shot in the arm with El Pintor.  Though on paper it seems that dropping the band’s “secret weapon” Carlos D. was a bad idea, Paul Banks comfortably assumed those duties and seemed to reinvigorate the rest of the band with their strongest effort since Antics.  Run The Jewels proved that sequels can improve upon the originals, with Killer Mike throwing down some of the best verses of his career.


4. TV on the Radio – Seeds; The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream (15 plays)

A lot of critics seemed to have slept on Seeds, but any visit to see TV on the Radio on their latest tour should quiet any doubts that people had about the band.  It is an album about finding strength through loss, and the band crafted some of its best songs in the wake of the loss of bass player Gerard Smith.  The War on Drugs improved upon their initial breakthrough Slave Ambient by shaping their soundscapes into more cohesive “songs”, but the album is still a delight to listen to with the headphones cranked up to listen to all the different sonic details.


3. Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours; Peter Matthew Bauer – Liberation!; Spoon – They Want My Soul (17 plays)

It is fitting that two of the solo albums from one of our favorite bands would end up in a tie; though we mourn the apparent loss of The Walkmen, we should rejoice that we have been blessed with multiple excellent albums already.  Each captured distinct parts of their previous band’s sound–Hamilton’s penchant for vintage sounds, Peter with the charming raggedness of their music.  Spoon once again proved that they are the most consistently brilliant band in indie rock for the past 15 years, as They Want My Soul effectively captures the band’s past sound as well as finds new ways to innovate, with songs like “New York Kiss” and “Outlier”.


2. The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits (19 plays)

This is perhaps the best example of the peculiarities of The Process, as the placement of Tomorrow’s Hits was partially inflated by just how much fun it is to drive around playing this record.  The band looked backwards for inspiration, re-configuring the sound of a bar band from the 70’s to create one of the most entertaining records of the year.  The Men have been busy throughout their career, releasing five records and five years, so we should probably be expecting a sixth record soon.


1. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World (23 plays)

We have been in love with this album since the second we heard the opening notes of “Trainwreck 1979”.  Death From Above 1979 made the most of the ten years off since their debut, finding the perfect balance between recreating the magic of their early work while moving ahead into new and exciting directions.  You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine still holds up hundreds of years later, and The Physical World looks like it will repeat the same feat.  The band still has the same ferocious energy as when they first burst on the scene, but it is clear that both Sebastien and Jesse have improved as musicians, finding new ways to create original music through the simple tools of bass and drums (with the occasional synth).  Hopefully we do not have to wait another ten years for the next step.

Catching Up On The Week (Jan. 30 Edition)

Some #longreads as you scramble for something to do in the hours leading up to the “Big Game”

“Vinyl or CD’s?” is an argument that has raged on for decades, and the shifting fortunes of both formats in the last few years has inspired numerous articles promoting one side over the other.  LA Weekly has an extensive and informative piece on the debate, providing a history of the creation of the technology as well as insights into the music recording process to help support the claim that compact discs do in fact “sound better.”  That should be good news to record companies, who apparently view the recent surge in vinyl sales as “just a fad” even if there are reasons to believe this isn’t the case.*

We mentioned earlier this week that Sundance saw the premiere of the new Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck, and because our love for Nirvana has barely diminished over the years, multiple publications from a variety of  backgrounds have pieces on director Brett Morgen and his film, including Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and The Daily Beast.

As a companion to our recent review of the fantastic new Sleater-Kinney album No Cities to Love, you may want to read this extensive feature on Carrie Brownstein for Consequence of Sound’s quarterly literary magazine FACES.

Do not adjust your flickering screen: Rust Is Just Right is recommending that you read an interview with Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit.  Stereogum has a fascinating discussion with the guitarist that shows his good humor and self-awareness of his place in music, and Borland provides an interesting perspective of the business and how bands operate.

And finally, Pitchfork has a couple of worthwhile pieces from “The Pitch”, both relating to leaks: the first analyzes the quest to determine whether or not the SoundCloud leak of unreleased Aphex Twin material was genuine, while the second examines the history of digital album leaks from the past two decades.

Catching Up On The Week (Jan. 2 Edition)

Some #longreads while you nurse that hangover…

It’s always a treat when we get to hear from Aphex Twin, so you should probably read this interview where the man himself answers questions from several famous DJs and producers in this special from Groove magazine.

The AV Club takes a look at how Pink Floyd ended up with a number one album when they released The Division Bell in 1994, based purely on the power of nostalgia.

A look at the greater context of Black Messiah, with an eye towards how those unfamiliar with the work of D’Angelo should approach it, with help from a fan.

And finally, for the more technologically inclined, here’s a look at how the different ways you physically store your digital music can affect its sound quality.  I haven’t read it yet, but for those readers who have a stronger scientific background, feel free to chime in and respond.

Over the Weekend (Nov. 10 Edition)

New music, videos, and other fun as we prepare for “Foo Fighters Week”…

The Foo Fighters are released their eighth studio album today, Sonic Highways, and we’ll be running features on the band all week long.  To help get you into the spirit, SPIN has provided a ranking of all 147 Foo Fighters songs, including covers and soundtrack selections.  As with all lists, this one has its fair share of faults, including a weird affinity for the band’s weakest effort (Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace), dismissal of some of their best recent work in Wasting Light, and an unfortunate-but-expected disdain for tracks from One By One, and ranks “Hey, Johnny Park!” at least thirty spots too low.  On the other hand, it does provide the proper reverence for deep cuts like “A320” and “February Stars”, so we’ll take the good with the bad.  And though we have most of these Foo Fighters singles, including several obscure ones, this list did inform us of the existence of this performance with Serj Tankian of the Dead Kennedys’ classic, “Holiday In Cambodia”.

Aphex Twin recently sat down for an extensive interview with Dan Noyze, and not only that, provided a number of outtakes and and fragments made during the making of Syro.

Hutch Harris from local favorites The Thermals sat down with Late Night Action recently, and talked about subjects including the band’s early recording methods as well as the band’s personal involvement with their merchandise.  It’s always fun to listen to Hutch, so watch when you can.

Here’s an excellent list of “Songs You’ll Never Hear on a Sufjan Stevens Album”.

We’ve mentioned Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler’s upcoming side-project before, but now we have a bit more info about Big Noble.  They’ve also provided a video of one of their songs, which is a nice combination of Kessler’s crystalline guitar with intriguing soundscapes.

Mark Ronson is going to be the musical guest on SNL in a couple of weeks, and to get an idea of where he’s at, he recently released one of the songs he wrote with Tame Imapala’s Kevin Parker, and the result is something that sounds a bit like MGMT.

We’re looking forward to the second album from Father John Misty, since Fear Fun was such an excellent debut; plus we need an additional enticement to go see Josh Tillman’s stage show once again.  I Love You, Honeybear will be released next February, but last week FJM performed on Letterman the new track “Bored In The USA”, and it was fantastic.

Cults performed in Austin, and Pitchfork was there.  That should be enough to get you to click the link.

And because we’ve spent the entire weekend pondering the philosophical conundrum that comes with “too many cooks”, we’ll ride that out the rest of the week and post the video here.

An Incomplete List of SCARY Music Videos

We here at Rust Is Just Right enjoy the Halloween season, especially since it gives us the perfect reason to indulge in our love of all things horror.  So, of course we’re going to use the holiday as an opportunity to show some of our favorite scary music videos.  We don’t think we have the authority to say that these are the scariest, or that these selections form any definitive list, but we hope you enjoy them in all their terrifying glory.

Before the revival of the zombie craze truly took hold, Phantom Planet made a great video depicting the making of a low-budget zombie horror story for their single “Big Brat”.

I remember jumping for the remote to try and change the channel as quickly as possible once the faces started melting and the shit truly hit the fan when I saw Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” for the first time.

Before Daft Punk won the hearts of the people with Random Access Memories, they had the worst record sales of their career with Human After All.  This may have been partially due to their horrifying video for “Primetime of Your Life”.  Though they more than capably proved their point about the perils of eating disorders, the skeleton motif may have been too effective.

[So that we don’t stress your browser, we’ve got plenty more videos (including a few legitimately terrifying ones) on the next page.]

Continue reading

Review: Aphex Twin – Syro

It was worth the wait.  It had been over a decade since we last had a proper Aphex Twin release, but Richard James has rewarded us with the challenging but beautiful Syro.  It’s not a revolutionary new work, but more of a distillation of the best parts of Drukqs with flashes of the brilliance of his 90’s output that put him at the vanguard of the electronic music movement.

The liner notes that inventively catalogs the use of every bit of musical equipment on SYRO

The liner notes that inventively catalogs the use of every bit of musical equipment on SYRO

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of electronica, and not particularly an expert of the genre (though I’m sure I upset at least a few people by using the catch-all term “electronica).  I haven’t been a regular purchaser of electronic music since the Big Beat era; any forays into the area are usually based on the insistent recommendations of friends (Darkside) or from research into musicians with a penchant for experimentation (Tim Hecker).  The rise of EDM in the past few years has only been a source of confusion and frustration, as the entire movement seems to be merely a repackaging of sounds and ideas that Richard James perfected back in the 90’s.  Mix in the abrasiveness and breakbeats of “Come to Daddy” with the acid-jazz grooviness and distorted finish of “Windowlicker”, and you have 95% of the formula that’s racking up the big bucks at these raves.  Just toss in a trick as old as music itself (“the drop” of the bass has always been a trick in a band’s arsenal), apply it in a haphazard fashion, ignore any semblance of rhythm or conception of songcraft in general, and you’ve got yourself EDM.

The album artwork is a list of all the expenses that went into the production of the record

The album artwork is a list of all the expenses that went into the production of the record

But Richard James sets himself apart from his successors, because it’s clear to even the lay individual that has a much better understanding of the fundamentals of music itself.  Even when he’s trafficking in beats that are lined-up with pinpoint precision based on computer formulas and arranged in odd meters, you can still feel a beat.  It may be odd, it may be unfamiliar, but it’s not arrhythmic–there’s a method to the madness.  James also has an excellent grasp of songwriting, providing careful shape to each song and the album as a whole.  The album draws you in with a subtle and trippy beginning, before pumping up the energy with a frenetic middle, before drawing back down and ending with a beautiful, Satie-inspired epilogue (meaning a delicate, spare piano with the barest hints of chord progression and melody, but still capable of evoking immense beauty).

The entire list of expenses, which can be read after unfolding the album cover.

The entire list of expenses, which can be read after unfolding the album cover.

Whether you’re listening to Syro as background music or with intense concentration through headphones, it’s clearly apparent that each sound was created and applied with the greatest of care and precision.  Fans will recall many similar tones from the Richard D. James Album, but he also tosses in several new variations as well, with each perfectly calibrated to elicit a particular emotion.  It’s difficult to go into more detail, not simply because it’s practically impossible to refer to specific tracks without employing a significant amount of cutting and pasting (James really emphasizes the pointlessness in some respects of distinguishing certain tracks by employing random letters and signifying particular “mixes” for each song, as if we have access to alternative mixes and they’re not just holed up on his hard drive somewhere, though noting the BPM for each track is a nice touch), but also because of the sheer amount of notes and styles in each particular track.  Hence, the resort to generalities.

It should be clear then this is an electronic album that casual fans will appreciate.  And since the more specialized press seems to be in agreement that his is a great record, I can take comfort in the fact that my inexperienced perspective has at least some solid footing.  It won’t be the Kind of Blue of the genre, but definitely a worthy addition to Aphex Twin’s illustrious discography.

Over the Weekend (Sept. 22 Edition)

Kicking off the official beginning of fall (even if it begins a day later this year) with some new music and videos…

Jeff Tweedy is set to release the album (Sukierae) he recorded with his son Spencer tomorrow, and the duo stopped by the NPR offices to perform as a part of their “Tiny Desk Concerts” series.

The Antlers have another gorgeous, dreamy video from Familiars, this time for the song “Refuge”.  Not much actually happens, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying all the pretty colors.

If you’re in the mood for a little more action in your music videos, and don’t mind handling a bit of the bizarre, then check out the video for the Suicide-inspired track “Grid” by Perfume Genius, whose new album Too Bright is also set to come out tomorrow.

King Tuff’s new album “Black Moon Spell” is also set to be released on the 23rd, and if you’re quick you can listen to a stream of the glam-rock album on NPR right now.  The title track is the best song that T. Rex never released, if you ask me.

Kele Okereke from Bloc Party will be releasing his second solo album on October 13, and today released the second single from Trick.  Listen to “Coasting” here.

On Friday we linked to Pitchfork’s extensive interview with Richard D. James, but we we wanted to make sure that you saw this video that was linked to in the article of an early performance of “Aisatsana”, featuring a piano swung across the stage as if it were a pendulum.  That should be enough of a signal for you to watch:

And finally, Carl Newman and Neko Case from the New Pornographers talked to NPR about what it takes to write a good pop song, and the piece includes video of their performance at the Brill Building which gave their new album its name.  Unfortunately, the piece also didn’t include Neko’s cover of the Squidbillies theme song, but we got you covered.

Catching Up On The Week (Sept. 19 Edition)

Some #longreads as you prepare for the return of the purest of athletic competitions: Ivy League football.

Next week sees the release of the highly-anticipated new album from Aphex Twin, Syro, though if you live outside of the United States, you may have had the chance to purchase the album as soon as today.  This is Richard D. James’s first album under the Aphex Twin moniker since Drukqs came out in 2001, so anticipation has been extremely high for electronica fans.  James sat down for an extended interview with Pitchfork (filled with all sorts of fancy website tricks) that you should probably read to help pass the time before you get a copy of Syro in your hands, and the Village Voice has a piece putting the new album into context.  For a taste of the new album, here’s “minipops 67 [120.2]

“:

Another high-profile release coming out next week is the album that Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy made with his son Spencer (released under the name “Tweedy”), Sukierae.  Jeff writes a piece for The Guardian discussing the significance of the album form, and why Suierae is a double-album.

J Mascis sat down for a fun interview with Pitchfork for their Guest List feature.

NPR examines the lasting popularity of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”.

WIRED samples some psychological studies that attempt to explain the scientific reason why you and your friends tend to like the same music as well as analyzing the significance of music in social interaction.

And finally, our readers should be well-aware of how psyched we are about the reunion of Death From Above 1979, so of course we’re going to pass along any stories about these guys.  FADER talks to the band about some of their favorite movies while Rolling Stone talks to the band about their time apart.  In true Rolling Stone fashion, the interviewer keeps on referring to the limited-run Romantic Rights EP as the touchstone of their early days instead of the wide-released full-length You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, but I’m willing to let that detail go.