Cloud Nothings

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2017

Today is April 17, and while the rest of the nation trudges through another Tax Day (a few days later this year), we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to return from the dead and 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.

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.

10. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps; Fleet Foxes – The Crack-Up; Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers; Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory; Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy; Wolf Parade – Cry Cry Cry (7 plays)

It should come to no surprise for our readers the band who inspired our site’s name would crack our Top Ten with our return, though their low placement on the list may raise some eyebrows.  While their return has enough artistic merit to make it more than a simple cash-in on instant nostalgia, Cry Cry Cry lacked the standout songs that marked Wolf Parade’s previous work, with the album seeming to be more competent than anything.  Still, the one-two punch of Dan Boeckner’s “Artificial Life” and Spencer Krug’s “King of Piss and Paper” (reversed for the video) should alleviate the worries of any fans that the Canadian supergroup still has gas left in the tank.

I felt bad for the short people behind me

Wolf Parade, at the Crystal Ballroom

Tyler, the Creator bounced back from a couple of forgettable efforts with an ambitious album that recalls why fans were so impressed with the Odd Future crew back when “Yonkers” first hit, mixing bangers with surprisingly introspective tracks.  We’ll leave the discussion about the lyrical prowess of Vince Staples to others (they never really impressed us that much, but the words aren’t usually our focus), but the beats on Big Fish Theory were a goddamn revelation considering the malaise that seems to be spreading over modern hip-hop these days.  We’re not sure what gets the party going with the kids these days, but bump Vince’s latest on your headphones and you should be set for one heart-pumping adventure.

Much like Dinosaur Jr., another iconic alternative group, Godspeed has shown new life after their return from their prolonged hiatus.  However, as good as their recent albums have been, they seem to be following a similar arc where the third album doesn’t quite have the juice of its two predecessors.  That said, the climax of “Bosses Hang” is exactly what we need these days.

Phoebe is the newcomer to the party, and her delicate debut is perfect for late-night listens.

9. Dieg Cig – Swear I’m Good at This; The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (8 plays)

What can we say–we love duos.  The mix of the sugar-sweet vocals with the propulsive punk makes Diet Cig a welcome addition to the garage rock revival.  The War on Drugs exceeded our expectations; we had begun to get tired of the band’s style (and had read too many critiques of their sound), so we weren’t exactly pumped for their latest.  However, there are plenty of songs on Understanding which will make the band’s eventual Greatest Hits release.  That said, we pray that on the next album Adam Granduciel learns you can use drum patterns besides ones that hit on 2 and 4.

The War on Drugs, at the Crystal Ballroom

8. Alvvays – Antisocialites; Beck – Colors; LCD Soundsystem – American Dream; Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent (9 plays)

Alvvays went a bit darker with their follow-up to their self-titled debut, and added new textures to their indie-pop sound.  Beck finally released his often-teased follow-up to the Album of the Year winning Morning Phase, and while it seems the rest of the country wasn’t psyched for a return of “fun” Beck, we found this album plenty enjoyable.  Beck may have fussed over individual sounds endlessly before the release of Colors, but repeated listens prove it was well worth the effort.  LCD Soundsystem was another welcome return of indie rock royalty, and though it seems they may have stalled a bit creatively after their wonderful initial three album run, “Call the Police” was worth the price of admission in and of itself (though we wish they could have found a way to include the teaser single “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” on the album).  Protomartyr further honed their sound of post-punk mixed with the ravings of an esoteric college professor.  Relatives was not as initially catchy as The Agent Intellect, so it may discourage new fans, but eventually it hooks your way into your brain–see how the line “She’s just trying to reach you” keeps repeating throughout and how it fits with the themes of the record.  The lyric from the Michigan band of “It’s been leaded by snider men to make profit from the poor” might be the best line from 2017, but it’s the following line I keep repeating in my head: “I don’t want to hear those vile trumpets anymore.”

Protomartyr, at the Doug Fir

7. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder; The National – Sleep Well Beast (10 plays)

Hug of Thunder might be the most consistent front-to-back record in the BSS catalog, with several songs that are just really damn uplifting.

Broken Social Scene, at the Crystal Ballroom

By contrast, Sleep Well Beast is a step down for The National, but they’ve been on fire since Alligator and you can’t expect them to maintain perfection forever.  The electronic flourishes to the album are a nice touch, and there are several standout songs that will be great additions to the average setlist.  Simply put, the album gets dinged only because it pales in comparison to their recent string of successes.

The National, at the Schnitz

6. Death From Above 1979 – Outrage! Is Now; Queens of the Stone Age – Villains; Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3 (11 plays)

Death From Above officially dropped the “1979” from their name, but it’s going to take us a while to get used to it.  However, we are thrilled that the return to form of The Physical World was no mere fluke, and we’re exceedingly pleased to see the band continue to evolve.  At first, it may seems the album dips in the middle, but after a few times through it becomes clear the forays into sludgier metal riffs are a welcome evolution for the duo (and will help save the stamina of a singing drummer).  Hell, see how easy they make metal look with the hard-hitting opener, “Nomad”.  We may overrate these guys compared to others, but honestly, we have no idea why “Freeze Me” wasn’t a bigger summer hit.

Death From Above, at the Roseland

It took a few times though to get on the same wavelength as QOTSA for their latest, with our initial impression being that a few of the better songs would have worked just fine as Eagles of Death Metal tracks instead.  But once we got lost in the sound and feel of the record, we began to appreciate it more.  Also, “Villains of Circumstance” will be remembered as one of their best ever.

Queens of the Stone Age, at the Hult Center

RTJ is in a strange position, because the schedule of their leak and official release had them straddling the line between 2016 and 2017 lists, but this feels like the right spot for them (if we included every single listen since its release, it would tie for the top spot).  RTJ3 isn’t as lean as its predecessors, but there’s plenty here that will leave listeners longing to hear the continuing saga of Jamie and Mikey.

Run the Jewels, at the Crystal Ballroom

5. Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$; The xx – I See You (12 plays)

A couple of surprises make it into the top half of the list!  We were not impressed with Joey’s debut, but All-Amerikkan Bada$$ is an impressive step forward, effectively mixing groovy R&B and political hip-hop.

We thought The xx had already begun running out of creativity with the decent Coexist, but it turns out there is still juice left in their minimalist indie rock.  Who knew you could make introverted love songs so danceable?

4. Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (13 plays)

Big K.R.I.T.’s ambitious new record easily slides into the trinity of Wu-Tang Forever and All Eyez on Me on the list of greatest hip-hop double albums.  Though nominally split between his two personalities with the party anthem heavy “Big K.R.I.T.” and the introspective gospel-tinged “Justin Scott”, the album flows just fine as one long piece.  Hell, even the few skits on the album can be listened to more than once!

3. Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound; Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins; Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life (14 plays)

Now here’s a triumvirate you would expect from us.  Japandroids got an early jump on everybody with a January release, which partially explains their high ranking on this list, though we don’t want you to put too much in that disclaimer.  Wild Heart of Life is a half-brilliant, half-decent album, which explains our reluctance to fully commit to any direction in our assessment.  The title track opener is an all-time great for the band, and the run from “Midnight to Morning”, “No Known Drink or Drug”, and “In a Body Like a Grave” finish the album on a rousing note.  It’s the middle songs which sag, though we appreciate them as experimental forays necessary for a duo who wish to have a long career.

Japandroids, at Revolution Hall

Grizzly Bear once again returns with an album that sounds great on headphones, begging for you to pick out more and more details with each listen, all in a style that’s perfect for either driving in the car or listening late at night.

Grizzly Bear, at the Roseland

Cloud Nothings made the most consistently brilliant punk record of the year, and goddammit I hope that band keeps moving on to bigger and better things.

Cloud Nothings, at the Doug Fir

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.; Spoon – Hot Thoughts (16 plays)

After the overflowing To Pimp a Butterfly, a record that placed a lot of its emphasis on being a complete album, it seemed Kendrick was coming back with a series of hard-hitting singles–“Humble.” and “DNA.” were huge, aggressive tracks which got everybody fired up for the release.  The initial impression of DAMN. as a series of singles eventually proved to be incorrect, as Kendrick revealed more of the thought process behind the album.  For us, though, the switch was flipped when the “Collector’s Edition” was released, which flipped the tracklisting from back-to-front.  All of a sudden, the album seemed to have a much better flow, and its themes became more readily apparent.

What more can be said about Spoon?  The band is incapable of releasing a less-than-great album at this point, and Hot Thoughts shows off a fun side that had been hiding in the background for a few years at this point.  Britt and the guys walk the tightrope of staying true to their “sound” while not repeating themselves–for example, the funky “Can I Sit Next To You” fits right alongside their early hit “I Turn My Camera On” without it being a rehash.

Spoon, at the McDonald Theater

We love the whole album, but we’re going to keep the somber “I Ain’t the One” and the relevant-to-these-times “Tear It Down” on repeat.

1. Slowdive – Slowdive (17 plays)

The return of My Bloody Valentine may have inspired more ink, but we appreciated the return of the other titans of shoegaze more.  Slowdive fits right in next to Souvlaki and Just for a Day, but doesn’t feel like a mere revival of their early-90’s peak.  The music is as gorgeous as ever, venturing from the delicate haunting vocals in the ballads to the big rush of guitars in the epics.

Slowdive, at the Crystal Ballroom

We’re not sure if we’ll look back in ten years and definitively say we made the right choice on the number one album of 2017, but we’re confident in saying we’ll still love the hell out of this album.

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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.

Over the Weekend (Aug. 18 Edition)

Kicking off the week with a ton of new music and exciting news, as summer slowly morphs into fall…

It began with cryptic message from a giant blimp, but it’s official: Aphex Twin is releasing a new album.  Richard James most recently released music as AFX, (with the vinyl-only release of Analord, though a compilation of selected tracks was later sold as an Aphex Twin/AFX release on CD called  Chosen Lords), but even then it’s been a long time since we heard new music from him as those records were last released in 2006.  Syro will be the first Aphex Twin album since 2001’s Drukqs; no word on whether we’ll have any more creepy music videos, but the artwork announcing for the release seems to suggest as much.

Fans of the site should be well-aware of how excited we are for Death From Above 1979’s upcoming reunion, and a warm-up show brought us some additional material to help whet our appetite.  A fan has uploaded another track scheduled to appear from the new album The Physical World, courtesy of a free CD handed out to fans at the show.  “Government Trash” lives up to its name, as the song shows the harder-edged roots of the band, and is a perfect example of trashy punk.

Interpol today gave us another taste of El Pintor with the release of “Ancient Ways”.  It’s an uptempo track that shows that the band is really intent on piling up instruments on top of each other, similar to the style of Interpol, but with some of the edge of their earliest work.

KEXP has been uploading videos from a number of different groups that have stopped by their studios, and they’re definitely worth the time to watch all the way through.  So far I’ve watched Peter Matthew Bauer perform an excellent set with a full cast of backing musicians (which is sure to irk Rick Moody, since it contradicts his point) and Cloud Nothings rip through their latest, and I’m looking forward to checking out the Broken Bells and Wye Oak sets soon enough.

It’s always fun to hear bands talk shit about one another, and Kim Thayil provides quite a bit of it with these recent rips on Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins.

And finally, some sad news as Rick Parashar, a producer and engineer known for his work with the early years in the grunge scene in Seattle died a few days ago.  He helped out with Ten and the Temple of the Dog album among others, a contribution that which we all appreciate very much.

Cloud Nothings, Live at the Hawthorne Theatre

It had been a long time since I’d seen Cloud Nothings live, back when I caught them on an Austin rooftop at SXSW in 2011.  Cloud Nothings morphed from a bedroom/pop-punk project of Dylan Baldi into a full-fledged band, first as a four-piece and now as a trio, with their albums Attack On Memory and Here and Nowhere Else grabbing the attention of both audiences and critics.  I was impressed with them back then, and their recent work enhanced their reputation even further in my mind, so I was eager to finally witness the band’s evolution on stage instead of just on record.

The night kicked off with The Wytches, a band that sometimes provided energy, and sometimes provided noise; melodies were strictly optional.  METZ in many ways followed the same pattern; the way I put it was that “METZ are really good at making a lot of noise at a quick tempo”.  It was a fiercely energetic punk rock, with music that alternated between dissonant chords or emphasizing a bended note for measures at a time, and vocals that were an indecipherable yell.  It reminded me a lot of Side 2 of Nevermind, and then I got a little depressed wondering if the band members were even alive when that album was released.  By the end of their set, they had won me over a bit, as I let the cacophony rain over me and thought “Sonic Youth really should’ve written some more hardcore songs”.

My phone can at least capture a pretty clear picture of the marquee

My phone can at least capture a pretty clear picture of the marquee

As we waited for the headliner to hit the stage, a quick look around the room gave me the impression that a significant portion of the crowd was even younger than the band members themselves.  I’m pretty sure I have some concert t-shirts that were older than many crowd members, and I’m still on the right side of 30 (though to be fair, we moved from the Adult Beverage section to the front in order to have a more proper experience of the show, so that easily skewed my perspective).  But you know, school’s out for the summer, so I’m perfectly fine with the Youth of America heading out to a punk rock show, especially for a band that’s influenced by the group that wrote an excellent album by that name (Portland’s very own The Wipers).

The more recent material from Cloud Nothings has been angrier and more cynical, but Dylan was a perfectly polite host, as he introduced the band to the crowd.  For the most part, the specific interaction with the audience was minimal, since there was business to attend.  The band tore through mostly newer stuff, rarely taking a breath or stopping to tune.  It certainly didn’t sound like the band was just kicking off a new leg of their tour after taking a short break, since the three guys were just about as tight as possible (when I informed my friend of this fact, he said he never would have guessed).

The lighting did me no favors.

The lighting did me no favors.

Each member turned in a great performance, with drummer Jayson Gerycz sounding as spectacular live as he does on record; the ridiculous acceleration marking the climax of “Psychic Trauma” being a particular highlight.  Dylan’s guitar-playing was also quite the sight, as his fingers performed some incredibly nimble gymnastics across the fretboard.  It’s clear that he uses a lot of interesting and unique chords to get that interplay between rhythm and lead, but to see it actually performed in action gave me a whole new appreciation for his composition skills.  Dylan also tore into a couple of fierce solos, with the one in “Stay Useless” energizing an already-amped crowd.

As could be expected, the sound mix wasn’t particularly good, with different parts burying each other.  The bass was especially brutal, often drenched in unintended feedback and overtones, the vocals were often muddy, and the guitar never really loud enough to hear all the necessary details.  The Hawthorne is not a particularly forgiving space, but the band still put on a great performance built on energy and crowd familiarity.  We didn’t need to hear every single note to know that we just heard a fantastic show.

The band has departed.

The band has departed.

 

Catching Up On The Week (June 13 Edition)

For those of you who survive Friday the 13th and the full moon, here are some #longreads to get around to on your weekend.

Earlier this week, we had our review of Hamilton Leithauser’s solo debut, but for those of you who need an additional fix of The Walkmen, Drowned in Sound has the stream for Peter Matthew Bauer’s solo record Liberation! available on their site.  The stream wasn’t working for me when I checked, but maybe it will for you; at the very least, you can read Bauer’s track-by-track guide to the album.

Next week also sees the release of Familiars from the Antlers, and Pitchfork caught up with them for an interview.  The band talks about a couple of unexpected inspirations for the new album, including Twin Peaks and The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Johnny Greenwood recently announced that Radiohead is taking a year off, which I guess counts as news if you were looking around and noticed, hey, it’s been…over a year since The King of Limbs, but people are reporting this anyway.  Read up to see what adventures Johnny has gone on in the meantime, and while you do that, be sure to check out these pictures that fifth graders drew after being subjected to Hail to the Thief.

Stereogum has a look back at Hot Fuss, since we celebrate the ten year anniversary of every decent album that we at the very least half-way remember/are likely to sing a couple songs while drunk at karaoke.  (Everybody thinks that they can sing “All These Things That I’ve Done”, but it’s tougher than it seems–they could probably do “Mr. Brightside” however, since the vocal melody is basically the same pitch throughout the song (that said, I still enjoy the album)).  However, this provides an interesting behind-the-scenes look in the days before their breakthrough release, and is worth checking out.

AV Club finishes up their “Fear of a Punk Decade” feature with a look at 1999 and…Jimmy Eat World, because that pretty much says everything you need to remember about punk in 1999.  Granted, there’s a much more in-depth discussion of a lot of other bands, but let it be known that was the hook to get you reading.

Normally we tend to keep things strictly music-related on this site, but considering the subject’s connection to music, we’ll say that you should take a look at The Hollywood Reporter’s quest  for answers to the suicide of Searching for Sugarman director Malik Bendjelloul.

And finally, SPIN interviews Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings about his recent collaboration with Wavves.  We’re pretty excited to see what the final result of that combination will be.

Review: Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

It’s been a real fun ride watching the continued evolution of Cloud Nothings over the past few years.  I started keeping my eye on the band back when it was still a weekend project of Dylan Baldi, having fortuitously downloaded the initial bedroom recordings of Turning On on a whim.  Baldi’s strengths had been his great melodic sensibilities and a knack for strong hooks, so few would have expected the direction that he took with the Steve Albini-produced Attack on Memory, which added a healthy dose of grit and bitterness to the mix.  Attack on Memory was an often great album that was a significant step forward for the band, even after taking some of its unevenness into consideration.  The question was then what direction the band would take next.

Here and Nowhere Else sees Cloud Nothings increasing the aggression and upping the angst even more, and the result is a voracious blast of pure intensity that doesn’t let up over the course of its half-hour runtime.  However, some of the ambition found on Attack on Memory, which can partially be explained by Baldi pulling double duty and handling both rhythm and lead guitar parts.  The songs don’t have the same obvious surface complexity as those on Attack on Memory, though that’s not necessarily true from a structural songwriting standpoint, as several tracks venture into unexpected directions.  The real strength of the album is that it’s clear that the band has become an even more cohesive unit during the intervening years of touring.  There are several nice melodic basslines that snake their way throughout the album and Jayson Gercyz’s drumming is a real standout from front to back, as he is able to change tempos at the drop of a hat as well as match the mood with subtle dynamic touches.  Listen in “Psychic Trauma” to how seamlessly Gercyz switches from a steady groove to a raucous attack, culminating in an absolutely ferocious final climax.

There is no equivalent to the Wipers’-influenced “Wasted Days” on Here and Nowhere Else, but “Pattern Walks” comes close.  It’s a nice touch that the chorus benefits from the purposefully lo-fi mix that can have the listener mistaking the title for “padded walls”, giving an extra edge to the song.  It devolves into a glorious mess, with swirls of keyboards, but it lacks the intricate guitar lines, the groovy solo section, and the perfect shout-along of “I thought I would be more than this” from “Wasted Days”.  The album does end on a high note with the excellent “I’m Not Part of Me”, which proves the perfect bridge of the early bedroom days of the band and the new aggro-punk leanings of the current incarnation.

Catching Up On The Week (Mar. 28 Edition)

We have a few #longreads and some new music news for you this weekend, so if you didn’t have plans, you’re now in luck.

First, we got a bit of a surprise today when The Antlers posted a quick clip on YouTube that seems like a teaser for an announcement for an upcoming new album.  There’s not much to go on, besides a solemn instrumental, some band footage, and a final quote of “soon.”, but this is exciting nonetheless.  If you don’t feel the same way, then you need to spend your weekend finding a copy of Hospice, one of the most heart-breakingly beautiful albums of the past decade, and Burst Apart, their more-than-worthy followup so you can get into the proper mindset.

A little young for Antlers, but...

A little young for Antlers, but…

Next, we’ve got another video for you to enjoy, courtesy of The Daily Show.  Jon Stewart did an interview with Amy Yates Wuelfing and The Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes to discuss an oral history of a legendary New Jersey bar and the different legendary punk shows that took place in that humble setting.  It’s bizarre to see Gibby dressed in a way that is reminiscent of a college professor, at the very least.

Last week we mourned the death of Scott Asheton, and since then more and more tributes have been published.  Iggy Pop talked with Rolling Stone about his memories of his bandmate, and Vice published an interview Legs McNeil did with Scott himself.

Beck is continuing to open up and talk in the wake of the release of Morning Phase, and FILTER did a great piece on him.  We learn for instance that unfortunately there were a couple of albums that were lost, so we were never able to hear the original followups to Odelay and Sea Change as they were intended.  We also get some insight into his creative process over the years, like how old ideas are shaped into new songs.  And we also get a bit more information about the planned new album that hopefully will be released by the end of the year.

Finally, there’s a lot for all the Cloud Nothings fans out there.  We’re eagerly anticipating the release of Here and Nowhere Else next week, but apparently that’s not the only new music we’ll be hearing from Dylan Baldi.  Cloud Nothings and Wavves decided to collaborate, and it looks like we may soon hear the fruits of their labor (with the additional help of Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend as well, it seems).  The band also gave a quick description of their early shows to Clash Magazine, who interviewed several artists including Los Campesinos! about their first gigs.  And finally, Pitchfork did an extensive profile of the band, which should have you fully prepared for their release on Tuesday.

Catching Up On The Week (Jan. 31 Edition)

A few quick links you may have missed this week and worthy of your time this weekend

Complex had a great article this week in which a member of the Recording Academy provided a first-hand account of the Grammy Award voting process.  It’s a quick read, and it gives you a clue as to how you end up with some of the more ridiculous options over the years.  Of course, if you’re not inclined to read a behind-the-scenes look because the Grammys are not an award worthy of your time, that’s perfectly fine.  Fiction has its merits as well, for the record.

Cloud Nothings debuted a new song this week on SoundCloud, and you can listen to it here.  I’ve been a fan for a few years now, and appreciated how their new-found love of The Wipers shaped their previous album Attack On Memory (without “Youth of America”, there would be no “Wasted Days”, and Dylan Baldi would probably be the first to point that out).  After listening to the new track, I’m glad to hear that this love of The Wipers was not just a passing phase and continues to be an influence.  Hopefully the rest of the new album lives up to this song (we’ll find it for sure on April 1).

And finally, the music world (and the world itself) lost a giant when Pete Seeger died earlier this week.  It’s been great reading tributes to him from all over, and seeing different friends post his performances.  There was one that I caught last night that I wanted to share, and that was his performance of his classic “If I Had A Hammer” with Stephen Colbert.