A Defense of Live Music, Which Is Apparently Necessary

A few weeks ago, we linked to a piece from Talking Points Memo that featured the inflammatory headline “Face It, Live Music Kinda Sucks.”  As expected, the article does not improve from its initial comparison that “live music is the grownup birthday dinner of cultural events”, and it certainly does not fulfill its stated promise of providing an “airtight case” of that assertion.  Sometimes an essay can overcome its terrible arguments with some creative and compelling commentary, but there is absolutely nothing in the article that resembles anything that can be construed as entertaining.

Here is a breakdown of the author’s argument: 1). People don’t want to hear bands they don’t know; 2). Musicians can be boring/play for too long/other people suck; 3). Live music isn’t as good as studio recordings; 4). Good bands don’t get booked; 5). People suck and do bad things and somehow this is the result of live music.  This  last part didn’t get its own bullet-point, but was apparently tacked-on at the last minute to score some social commentary points, which is depressing in and of itself–you may have admirable aims in tackling issues of racism, sexism, and other forms of harassment, but if you use a lazy argument it just hurts your overall point, especially if it lacks relevance to the specific issue at hand.  It is completely unproductive, and results in turning off the potentially impressionable as only the converted hear the message.

Even if one ignores the extraneous social commentary, it is not as if the author’s primary arguments have any merit.  For the first point, there is the tautology that the author admits to in his own goddamn article that “nobody likes things they don’t like”, but there is no elaboration of this basic concept.  Sure, it can be annoying to hear crappy opening bands, but for the most part it is rare to hear genuinely awful bands, so maybe it is possible to endure a half-hour of light annoyance in order to hear your preferred choice.  Of course, as rare as it may be, there is always the possibility that you can find a new favorite band from an unknown opener; even if the success rate is rather low in this particular context, it is roughly equivalent to what you would find just scanning the radio.

The second and third points are even more ludicrous.  If you like a band so much that you are paying money to see them live, why would you complain that you may be forced to endure a three hour show?  Most fans appreciate hearing as much of a band’s catalog as possible.  Of course, the solution for someone who thinks that a concert is running too long is rather obvious: leave early.  The other argument has the appearance of some legitimacy, since it is true that there is often a fundamental tension in seeing a band live.  It is a struggle for musicians to satisfy the demand of sounding similar to the studio recordings with which their fans are familiar as well as making the live experience worthwhile by offering a unique experience, but seeing how a musician handles that clash of expectations is half the fun of a live show.  Some bands succeed, others do not, but that is how most things go in life.  However, the fact that the author cites Beck as an example of a musician’s failure to meet those conflicting expectations casts some doubt on his ability to discern as to what makes a good performance; over the years, Beck has done an excellent job of assembling various groups of musicians that do a fantastic job of recreating and reinterpreting his studio albums in a live setting, including during his recent Morning Phase tour.

The final point is just dumb, and is undercut by the author’s own admitted shittery.  Congratulations, you were able to book shows despite the fact that your band was terrible (and judging by the photo you submitted for this piece, I have no problem believing this to be the case).  In general, most venues care much more about their bottom line and simply will not book bands that fail to bring in an audience; half-assed sociological assessments do not usually enter into the picture.  Good work on earning a few hundred bucks here and there by putting on a terrible performance, Mr. Kennedy, but there is a clear reason why we in the public at large have never heard about your musical exploits.  Despite the fact that you didn’t give a fuck about your audience, it doesn’t mean that most bands follow your model.  I have seen Of Montreal perform a gig for dozens in a basement bar in rural New Hampshire and play a sell-out show for thousands in New York City, and they played with the same gusto and enthusiasm for both shows.  In other words, there’s a reason why they are the ones that still have a musical career.

Related to this discussion is the recent questions asked by some about the relevancy of live albums.  It is difficult to think of a less vital position to take, considering that if you do not believe in the endeavor of creating a live album for fans you can choose to simply not to buy the album–it is not as if the existence of these albums crowds out the market for other non-live albums.  But the answer is simple: fans find value in these recordings.  At their most basic level, live albums benefit from the extra energy that infuse the performances, from both the musicians themselves and the presence of the crowd; even if the listener is not physically present for the show, there is still some benefit in hearing a live recording because of this factor.

These albums also allow fans to hear exciting new variations of their favorite songs; the studio recordings do not have to be a “finished product”, and bands can tinker and deconstruct various elements and rebuild them into something new.  As an example, with each of their tours Eels emphasizes different parts of their sound and offer intriguing new takes on their songs, whether it be fuzzed-out rock on Electro-Shock Blues Show or delicate ballads on With Strings.  Live albums also offer fans the chance to hear amazing displays of musicianship and improvisation; there are those that are content with hearing one version of Pearl Jam’s “Black”, but there are thousands of others that enjoy hearing Mike McCready create different beautiful solos with each performance.  Plus, there’s always fun in hearing particularly memorable stage banter that a recording might capture, as many Pearl Jam bootleg devotees can attest.

The point is that live music is great any way you find it.  There is no need to be an ass and try to find reasons to hate it.


Over the Weekend (Feb. 9 Edition)

News and videos for you to watch as you contemplate the fact that people seem to actually care about the Grammys…

The Grammys were on last night, which prompts us to ask the question first posed by Eels, “Whatever happened to Soy Bomb?”

In general, we here at Rust Is Just Right do not particularly care about the Grammys, a position we will explain in more detail in a piece that will be published tomorrow, but we were glad to see that one of our favorite albums of the year took home that particular prize.  Morning Phase, while not our pick for top album, will certainly find its way onto our list when we publish it in April, and we’re perfectly content to see that the man who made OdelayMutationsSea Change, and Midnite Vultures (and also wrote the 90’s-defining song “Loser”) receive an award.  Kanye West’s antics at the show and subsequent explanation has generated its own series of stories and opinion pieces, of which this Billboard op-ed is probably the best.  At least Beck responded with humility to the whole affair.

In much more interesting news, Grammy Award-winner Kendrick Lamar released a new track this afternoon, the furious “The Blacker The Berry”.

For those who can’t wait for the release of I Love You, Honeybear tomorrow, here’s Father John Misty performing songs from the album for WFUV.

And finally, in probably the best news we’ll hear all month, The Replacements have announced that they’re hitting the road for what they call the “Back By Unpopular Demand” tour.  Of particular interest to us is their April 10th show at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, because we can now look forward for the first time to a night of singing along to some of our favorite songs like “Bastards of Young” with one of the all-time greatest rock bands of all time.

Enough With the Fucking Arcade Fire, Already

One of our primary goals here at Rust Is Just Right is to provide an alternative to a lot of the dismissive snark that is the hallmark of a lot of contemporary music criticism these days.  We believe that in a world that’s overflowing with great music, it’s better to analyze and promote what’s worth listening to instead of attempting to tear down what’s already popular.  Sure, it’s easy to succumb to the temptation of writing something bitingly clever about a band that we don’t like, but it’s not really going to accomplish all that much.  Besides, it’s not our place to decry other people’s tastes.  If you enjoy something, we’re in no place to tell you why you’re wrong–life is simply too short and awful to take away any such joy like that.

Given those parameters, this editorial may seem to run counter to that mission.  Yes, we are going to slag on Arcade Fire, but that’s not the main purpose of this piece.  No, our qualms are with the breathless adulation and coverage that the band receives on an infuriatingly and consistent basis, and how Arcade Fire has somehow in the past decade became shorthand for what’s “good” in “indie rock”.  This unabashed love of the band has frustratingly led to the ridiculous need that many publications and writers to shoehorn a mention of “Arcade Fire” in pieces that are completely irrelevant to the group.

First, we’ll lay all our cards on the table and explain why we don’t like the band in the first place.  Well…Eels wrote a superior album about coping with the deaths of close family members, Pavement did a much better job of writing seemingly-tuneless melodies, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor along with Broken Social Scene did a far better job of simply being a collective of Canadian musicians.  Hell, even the cover of Funeral is infuriating, since it comes off as a rip-off of the art associated with Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea–shit, it even has the same goddamn font that NMH used.  The art just screams “WE REALLY LIKE NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL AND WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT WE’RE COOL LIKE THAT!”  If you want more substantial criticism (beyond this standard rock-critic trope of accusing a group of being derivative of all these other influences), it boils down to the fact that their music is boring, they can’t sing, and have never written an insightful lyric.  They wrote a two-chord song, and they couldn’t figure out how to do it in a key that was in the range of their singer–LCD Soundsystem managed to do that, and came up with one of the greatest songs of the decade despite James Murphy’s limited vocal abilities.  This is a band that ruins their one decent moment, the song “Wake Up”, with an abrupt and inexplicable shift into fucking “Walking On Sunshine”.

Perhaps my frustration with the band can best be explained by their presence in the film “Her”.  It’s an absolutely amazing film and further cements in my mind that Spike Jonze is a true genius, and I was glad that he won an Oscar for his work.  However, I had significant issues with the score.  There was one key scene where the OS “Samantha” composes her own music, and we in the audience here it played back.  It’s twinkly piano music that sounds pleasant on the surface, even if it has no real melodic ideas, and sounds like something an entity with limited knowledge of songwriting would create.  Which seems to fit the idea of a computer attempting a human behavior and approximating that behavior except…it was frustratingly obvious that the piano was played by a human, since the rhythms were wildly imprecise and fingers were lingering too long on certain notes and making the notes stick together and therefore ruining the illusion.  That’s Arcade Fire in a nutshell: humans attempting to mimic machines which are trying to pass off as humans, and failing miserably.

For the most part, it hasn’t been an issue and aside from their presence in an otherwise magnificent film, I’ve been able to avoid Arcade Fire rather easily.  It doesn’t take much to avoid clicking links like “Watch Arcade Fire’s 25 Best ‘Reflektor’ Tour Cover Songs”, even if those links appear everywhere and on multiple sites.  No, the true problem is when the band makes a random appearance in an article that has absolutely nothing to do with them, as illustrated in this review.  Pitchfork’s review of M83’s re-release of their first three albums marked the moment when we officially reached Peak Music Critic Insufferability, as the reviewer attempted to describe M83’s style with this statement: “Arcade Fire are perhaps a better touchpoint for their overall approach: lead with emotions telegraphed big and wide enough to fill a stadium, and let the guitars and synthesizers fall into place around them.”

Now, let that sink in for a second.  Not only is it ridiculous to compare the music of the two bands (since no one who has ever listened to both bands would find a connection beyond “these are two acts that create sounds”–just listen to that video above and explain how it resembles Arcade Fire in any fashion), note that the connection between the two seems to be…that the two groups are both emotive.  This assertion that somehow Arcade Fire was the first group to emphasize emotion in some capacity in their music is completely insane (especially in an era where “emo” was huge) and demonstrates the myopia that afflicts a generation of rock critics in which in order to convey that a musician is “serious” that it must be compared to this one band.  To further underscore how clumsily the point is made in the review, note that the comparison to Arcade Fire is immediately dropped and no further mention is made in the rest of the review.

However, the most ridiculous aspect of the comparison is just simple chronology.  M83’s first two albums were released before Funeral, while their third was released a couple of months after.  Unless those crazy Canadians can bend the rules of time and space, it can be definitively stated that they had absolutely no effect on the French electronic duo.  If you’re dead-set on making some sort of comparison, perhaps another article can be written about how M83 influenced Arcade Fire, but why bother.  I mean, this is a great song that displays subtlety and mastery of melody–something that is difficult to find in an Arcade Fire song.

That’s not the only irrelevant mention of Arcade Fire I encountered this month–in a review of Death From Above 1979’s new album, I learned that apparently we started measuring time in terms of Arcade Fire album releases in the past decade.  To be fair, that isn’t the worst problem with that ridiculous review (which includes gems like finding out that Wolfmother was apparently a dance-punk band), but it once again points to the annoying habit that many rock critics employ of needlessly dropping references to Arcade Fire.  DFA1979 are as bad a comparison as M83 in terms of music, but why the hell should that matter?

These are all symptoms of the general problem of giving Arcade Fire way too much credit than they deserve.  In this feature, we see the band get praise for…incorporating “whoas” in a song, as if having an instrumental swell accompanied by a wordless chorus was a fucking revolutionary act (just one year later, we would see a much better example of this technique from My Morning Jacket).  Arcade Fire somehow also gets credit for “having an auxiliary floor-tom for intermittent bashing” when Radiohead had a hit the previous year doing exactly that (and to great effect).  Even the most diehard Arcade Fire fan has to admit that Radiohead is a much more influential band.  Besides, has this been a real trend?  Sure, White Rabbits used it to great effect on “Percussion Gun” and it helped get people to listen to their fantastic album It’s Frightening, but for fuck’s sake, it isn’t worth tricking me into clicking a link for a goddamn Imagine Dragons video.  More than anything, it just seemed like an excuse for this poor excuse for a Canadian collective to employ extra people to play random percussion, seemingly ripping off Slipknot of all bands (hey, I knew I forgot another random influence of Arcade Fire).

Arcade Fire fans, I mean you no harm.  But please, if you end up working as music critics, please refrain from constantly mentioning your favorite band.  It reflects poorly on all of us.

Eels, Live at the Aladdin

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s always a good idea to see Eels live.  Their reputation may not suggest it (singing a lot of bitter and sardonic ballads certainly helps contribute to a certain impression otherwise), but the band is usually guaranteed to turn in a memorable performance.  Steve Perry didn’t show up Sunday night, but the crowd definitely had a great time nonetheless.

It's summer, evening shows are starting when it's still light out

It’s summer, evening shows are starting when it’s still light out

In previous years, we had seen the band perform with a string quartet, feature a documentary about E’s physicist father and answer letters from fans, and create a retro-themed variety show.  This time around, the band ditched the matching track suits (and full beards) from the Wonderful, Glorious tour for more serious attire, fitting the mood of the band’s melancholic and reflective new album, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett.  It took a few songs before I settled on an appropriate descriptor, but an offhand comment by E realized that the suit-and-tie ensembles gave the group the look of a serious jazz quintet.  The comparison fit, because while several songs were a bit slower and more introspective, the band was still able to rev it up when the tune required it.

The show began with the instrumental opener of Cautionary Tales, which segued into a delicate cover of the old classic “When You Wish Upon A Star”.  The early songs were a mix of material from the new album and the Hombre Lobo/End Times/Tomorrow Morning trilogy, a batch that E remarked was full of “downers”, but were appropriately received by the audience nonetheless.  E kept the mood light with quips like that, asking the audience to forgive him for not behaving like a rock star and blowing his nose in a break between songs due to a cold, and informing the crowd that Portland folks welcomed him with a nice bag of cocaine, and that it should kick in any minute.  E never gets enough credit from the press for his humor and his willingness to engage the audience, but the crowd certainly appreciated it.

The band in their snazzy attire

The band in their snazzy attire

The pace would pick up when the band dipped into old favorites, like “Grace Kelly Blues”, “I Like Birds”, and “My Beloved Monster”.  The band was in fine form, and the fact that it was the same lineup from the Wonderful, Glorious tour probably helped the cohesiveness, as they effortlessly switched instruments and altered the arrangements.  It was a homecoming for three of the four backing members, as The Chet (guitars, pedal steel, melodica), Honest Al (upright bass), and Knuckles (drums/percussion, or “the yard sale back there”, as E joked) were all from the PDX area, and perhaps they were inspired by playing in front of a hometown crowd.  But the quality of the band and it’s always changing dynamic helps emphasize another great point of catching Eels live, and that’s that the band is always willing to alter a song or approach it from a new angle.  This was most commonly seen with their attempts to make “Novocaine for the Soul” fresh after playing it thousands of times, but on Sunday it was seen in reworkings of great songs like “Fresh Feelings” or “Last Stop: This Town”, both of which kept the spirit of the original versions but were intriguing new takes of the songs.

After a false encore, where E ran into the crowd and hugged audience members, and after a real encore break, the band ended with a beautifully sublime “3 Speed” and two excellent covers, an elegant rendition of “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” and a gorgeous version of Harry Nilsson’s “Turn On Your Radio”.  The band then exited to a standing ovation, and the crowd was left hoping that the band would return soon, and wondering what they have next in store (even twenty years after their debut).

Catching Up On The Week (May 30 Edition)

We hope you’re as ready for the weekend as we are; if so, here are some #longreads for your pleasure.

We here at RIJR been enjoying the latest album from The Roots, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, and though it’s unlikely we’ll provide a full review, we’ll link to someone else who might help fill the gap…like the drummer for The Roots, ?uestlove.  He wrote a series of essays for New York Magazine talking about the state of hip-hop and black culture, providing context for the story behind their new album.  You can find the first essay here, which should then lead you to the next five parts.

New York Magazine has another big feature this week, as Jody Rosen wrote a column called “In Defense of Schlock”.  You can imagine what it covers–namely, a defense of what is unfairly perceived as “low-brow”.  The top 150 songs list is pretty good, but at a certain point I have to say we disagree on what “schlock” is exactly.

We mentioned earlier this week that Steve Perry made his first public appearance as a singer in nearly two decades at a recent Eels concert, and Stereogum has an interview with E on how it happened.  Again, it’s always worth checking out Eels live.

With Parquet Courts’ new album Sunbathing Animal coming out next week, now’s a good time to read up on Steven Hyden’s entertaining interview with the band at a bowling alley.

And finally, the Primavera Sound Festival is happening in Barcelona right now, which for many of you probably doesn’t mean that much, but since you’re viewing this on the internet, hey, there’s a solution–they’re streaming many of the acts through their website.  That said, it’s kind of bullshit that the Slowdive performance isn’t airing, even though that’s the only reason I care about the festival.

Over the Weekend (May 27 Edition)

We took the day off yesterday in recognition of Memorial Day.  This is how we at RIJR celebrated, with Gary Clark Jr.’s superb rendition of the National Anthem from this year’s NBA All-Star Game.

The Atlantic had a nice piece where they asked musicians their thoughts on what the most influential song in history was.  Personally, I felt that Walter Martin, formerly of The Walkmen, gave the best answer.

Speaking of The Walkmen, Hamilton Leithauser’s solo debut Black Hours is available for streaming on the NPR website; they also have a stream of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Only Run up as well.  Next week sees some other highly anticipated new albums, including Sunbathing Animal from Parquet Courts and Glass Boys from Fucked Up.  Pitchfork has the streams for both.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s always worth seeing Eels live.  You never know what kind of set you get, from a somber strings-enriched performance to a retro-variety hour show, or having Steve Perry from Journey randomly showing up and performing live for the first time in nearly two decades.

Chris Cornell gave a quick interview to Rolling Stone talking about looking back to the days of Superunknown.  The best part of the interview was the discussion about his interactions with Artis the Spoonman, giving new insight into their relationship.

Finally, I think that I need to inform our audience that a banjo cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” exists.  And it’s not bad.

Essential Classics: Eels – Electro-Shock Blues

With the release last week of The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, the eleventh album from Eels, now is the perfect time to take a closer look and examine their greatest work, Electro-Shock Blues.

Electro-Shock Blues was the follow-up to Eels’ debut album, Beautiful Freak, which is known mainly for the smash hit single “Novocaine for the Soul”.  That song would be both a blessing and a curse for the band, as it helped them break through to a wider audience (E had previously released two solo albums before adopting the “Eels” moniker, and while both records are good, they never received much commercial success), and was an effective calling card for the band’s style.  From E’s distinctive voice, to their often bitterly sarcastic take on life (the lyric “Jesus and his lawyer are coming back” is a great example of capturing that typical mid-90’s cynical detachment), to their focus on how to treat emotional pain (summed up perfectly in the title), “Novocaine” was in many ways representative of their style.  On the other hand, that meant a lifetime of dealing with expectations of playing the song every night on tour.  E’s approach of completely altering the style of the song each tour has been an effective remedy, varying between such drastic differences as the surf-rock version of the Electro-Shock tour or the withdrawn, restrained version of the With Strings tour, turning a rote performance into a surprising highlight each night.

All of this is to provide the background that Eels should have been in position to enjoy their new-found success.  Unfortunately, real life intervened as E was confronted with the deaths of his sister (suicide) and mother (lung cancer), among others, after the release of Beautiful Freak.  E worked through the feelings of being the last living member of his immediate family and channeled his grief into the production of Electro-Shock Blues, making it more than the stereotypical “difficult second album”.  The intentions are clear from the outset, with “Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor”.  E uses his sister’s diary to give a harrowing look at her anguish as she struggled with mental illness (summed up with the concluding lines “My name is Elizabeth; my life is shit and piss.”), and backs the lyrics with a delicate, spare guitar and a ghostly backing choir.  The subject matter remains grim for the next few tracks, with “Going To Your Funeral Part I”, “Cancer for the Cure”, and “My Descent Into Madness”, but the tone of the music shifts to provide an effective counterpoint and cut against the seriousness of the topic.  “Funeral” has a slightly sinister ambiance, but is driven by a slow, grooving bass line; “Cancer for the Cure” is a goofy rave-up, complete with cheesy organ accents (a similar approach is taken with the jazzy “Hospital Food”); and “My Descent Into Madness” has an optimistic tone with fancy classical string flourishes and warm keyboards, which provide a sharp comment on the lyrics covering medically-induced happiness courtesy of institutionalization (“Come visit me at eight o’clock, and then you’ll see how I’m not the crazy one”).

The album reaches a turning point with the song “Last Stop: This Town”, as E copes with his loss by imagining flying above the city with his deceased sister.  He begins by showing her the world that she has left behind, and then the distortion kicks in with some turntable scratches, as they travel together on an emotional journey (a physical manifestation of the inner turmoil–“taking a spin through the neighborhood, the neighbors scream, ‘What are you talking about?,’ cause they don’t know how to let you in, and I can’t let you out”).  There is a moment of regret, when E asks, “Can you take me where you’re going if you’re never coming back?”  However, by the end of the song he’s content to let her go, as indicated by the brighter tone of his vocals in the last chorus.

The other peak on the album is the tender “Climbing to the Moon”, as E recounts a visit with his sister while she was institutionalized.  The lyrics by themselves are heart-breaking, but the music often underscores key emotional components that only add to their emotional impact.  Subtle touches like airy synths after “Got a sky that looks like heaven” and a country-tinged, lower-register guitar figure after “Got an earth that looks like shit” help accentuate the metaphors.  Sometimes these details work in the opposite way, providing an ironic element; as E sings about climbing to the moon, the chords gradually descend with the lyrics “Got my foot on the ladder”.  The entire chord progression in the chorus is naturally circular and begs repetition, emphasizing the futility of the task of literally climbing to the moon.  Yet the hopeful tone and lyrics show that it’s not worth it to be bogged down in the hopelessness of the situation, but to continually press ahead.

Eels closes the album with songs that show E contemplating how to move ahead.  “The Medication is Wearing Off” sees E facing the death of his mother with the knowledge that even though she’s gone, life still moves forward, as evidenced by the metaphor of his mother’s watch that keeps ticking.  That doesn’t mean that he is finished grieving–“The medication’s wearing off–gonna hurt a little, not a lot” and “Sunrise on the corner of Sunset and Alvarado, I think ‘What the hell do I do now–watch the day disintegrate, so I can stay up late and wait?'” indicate otherwise.  But he knows he has to continue, and the slight repeating guitar lick is a gentle reminder.  E adds an upbeat postscript (literally) with “P.S., You Work My World”, as he realizes that even if the outside world is falling apart and he has no idea what he should do, that “maybe it’s time to live.”

As a whole, the album is a perfect encapsulation of all the various emotions that come with the grieving process, all backed by delicate instrumentation that never overwhelms the listener, and balanced with key moments of levity.  It’s powerful without ever being overbearing, and catchy while still inviting closer scrutiny.  It may not have had the cultural impact that other records covering the same territory did, but I’d argue that it did so in a far more effective manner.  With Electro-Shock Blues, Eels proved that not only were they not a one-hit wonder, but that they were great artists worth following, even as their career would go on for decades.

Best of the Rest: Other Highlights from 2013

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

EELS – Wonderful, Glorious.  It had begun to seem as if Eels were stuck in a rut, with a trio of dour albums (Hombre LoboEnd TimesTomorrow Morning) that were difficult for even a superfan like me to listen to on an regular basis.  But E switched up the formula a bit and even sounds “happy” with this album.  And the live show for the tour for this album was quite great as well, a kind of variety-show getup with everyone dressed in monochrome tracksuits and sporting the same facial hair.

No Age – An Object.  No Age have always been a band that’s difficult to appreciate on first listen, but even fans of their abrasive sound (whether it be riotous punk rock or feedback-drenched ambient) weren’t sure how to respond to An Object.  In many ways it was built more like an art project than just “the next album from No Age”, and surprisingly it often worked.

Phosphorescent – Muchacho. This country-tinged indie folk album is a real treat to listen to on a relaxing, sunny day, but would still be worth it if it only included the reworking of “Wicked Game” that we didn’t know we needed in 2013 with “The Quotidian Beasts”.

Red Fang – Whales and Leeches.  I always love hearing my favorite hometown metal band, so it was surprising that they didn’t manage to make it onto the official list.  Such is the mysterious ways of The Process.  It seems that touring with Mastodon rubbed off on them a bit, as one could definitely hear their influence on the album (my initial comparison was “Mastodon on amphetamines”, and I think that it still fits).  And good news, Red Fang is still making great music videos.

David Bowie – The Next Day.  Can we just pause a minute and recognize how awesome it is that it’s 2014 and David Bowie can just surprise the world with a damn good album 45 years into his career?  The album isn’t perfect, but there are some songs that would fit comfortably aside the old classics on a Greatest Hits.

Los Campesinos! – No Blues.  I keep telling everyone to go to one of their shows because it’ll probably be the most fun you’ll have all year, and I’ll continue to do so.  No Blues sees the band continuing with the mature sound from Hello, Sadness but with a slightly more positive outlook.

Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady.  It’s hard to keep track of the narrative about robots and revolution, but the music is fantastic.  Seeing her perform with OutKast was one of the highlights of Coachella.

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual.  I hadn’t understood the love that some people had for this band until I heard this album.  It’s bizarre, but I like it.

Death Grips – Government Plates.  Who knew we hadn’t heard the last from Death Grips?  My favorite part is that when I downloaded the album, it was automatically tagged as “Rock & Roll”.  If you are unfamiliar with their music, well…

Also Worthy of Praise

Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana; Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt; Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons to Die; Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On; Tim Hecker – Virgins; Neko Case –  The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You; Washed Out – Paracosm.

All Albums That Were Considered

Here’s a list of the albums that I listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just couldn’t crack the previous lists.  And I’m not going to do something like say the new albums from The Strokes or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were complete garbage, because that wouldn’t be nice.

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest; Daft Punk – Random Access Memories; Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze; The Strokes – Comedown Machine; Surfer Blood – Pythons; Atoms for Peace – Amok; Ducktails – The Flower Lane; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast; British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy; The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanney Valley; M.I.A. – Matangi; Palms – Palms; Phoenix – Bankrupt!; Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts; Deerhunter – Monomania; Jake Bugg – Shangri-La; Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God; MGMT – MGMT; Mudhoney – Vanishing Point; Yo la Tengo – Fade; Beach Fossils – Clash the Truth; Fitz & The Tantrums – More Than Just a Dream; Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here; The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual; Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving; Darkside – Psychic; The Dear Hunter – Migrant; Dr. Dog – B-Room; How to Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion; Kavinsky – OutRun; Major Lazer – Free the Universe; Of Montreal – Lousy With Sylvianbriar; Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven; Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love; Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious; Tyler, the Creator – Wolf; Typhoon – White Lighter; Baths – Obsidian.

Over the Weekend (Apr. 14 Edition)

Tomorrow is a big day for Rust Is Just Right, because we’ll be releasing our long-awaited list of the Best Albums of 2013.  We’ll explain why we chose that particular day for the big reveal tomorrow, but just be content knowing that the day will finally be here.  Meanwhile we have a selection of videos to help you ease into the week.

Last week, Queens of the Stone Age released a music video of their latest single, “Smooth Sailing”, featuring Josh Homme on a wild night of partying with a group of businessmen.  As the old saying goes, beware of what karaoke may bring.  Now’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the song and the rest of …Like Clockwork, because we’ll have a review of their live show later this week, and QOTSA will certainly make an appearance in tomorrow’s Best Of list.  You could check out their performance at Coachella from this past weekend as well; Pitchfork has their performance as well as many others, so they’re worth checking out.

Eels also released a music video last week for “Mistakes of My Youth”, the lead single from the upcoming album The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett.  The full album is also available for streaming on YouTube, ahead of its release date next week on the 22nd.  It seems the band has stepped back from the happier, livelier sound of Wonderful, Glorious to a more delicate, winsome sound that E has favored on recent albums, but long-time fans of the band should be pleased.

Atmosphere just released a music video for “Kanye West”, their latest single from their upcoming album Southsiders.  It’s a fun Bonnie & Clyde story, with an unexpected couple, with a cameo from Slug as a cashier.

Yesterday saw an unexpected release from the Deftones, as they released a track from the Eros sessions in memory of their departed bassist, Chi Cheng, who died a year ago on Sunday.  “Smile” was the first song we’ve heard from the sessions, which were put on hold after Cheng had gone into a coma after a car accident.  Though Chino Moreno had himself posted the song, the record label took it down because of copyright issues; we’ll see how long the link I’ve posted lasts.

We also got a brand new track today from The Black Keys, who posted the title track to their upcoming release Turn Blue today.  It’s a groovy ballad, reminiscent in my mind of their cover of “Never Gonna Give You Up” and featuring that trademark Danger Mouse bass.

And finally we have Sigur Rós performing a cover of the song “The Rains of Castamere” for the Game of Thrones soundtrack.  While the song is nice, I get a bigger kick out of the band dressed up in costume for the show itself.  I can’t wait to catch that scene when it airs.

What You’ve Missed (If You Haven’t Checked Our Tumblr)

Here’s another reminder that not only do we have this nifty website with all sorts of in-depth analysis, but we also have a spiffy Tumblr which is great for passing on little bits of news.  Sometimes we even make an attempt at a pithy comment!  If you haven’t checked it so far, you’ve missed news about the anniversary reissue of Soundgarden’s landmark album Superunknown, a new song from Tokyo Police Club, that The National will be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on March 8th, and that the Eels will be releasing a new album and going on tour this spring.

Live at the Schnitz, well after Superunknown

Live at the Schnitz, well after Superunknown

So yeah, make it a habit to check out, and you won’t miss out on stuff like this!  Unless of course, we do more of these round-ups.  Which we probably will, but just save yourself the hassle and go directly to the source.