Over the Weekend (Oct. 12 Edition)

New music, new videos, and other fun stuff to help you get through the week…

After some rumblings and hints in the past few months, the music press was quick to pounce on the news that Gorillaz are working on material for a new album to be released next year, as per an interview with Jamie Hewlett in DIY.  There was not much more confirmation beyond a simple statement, but fans have long been itching for a follow-up to 2010’s Plastic Beach.

Considering that it was only a few weeks ago that Depression Cherry came out, the news that Beach House is set to release another album this Friday came as a shock to fans and journalists alike.  The duo stressed that Thank Your Lucky Stars is not a B-Sides collection or remnants from previous sessions, but its own full-fledged album.  Stereogum has an interesting piece talking about the various clues that the band had hidden away in their website.

Foals released the video for their song “Give It All” today, and the video is a rather cinematic tale of a a doomed romance.  There is even a director’s cut available with a different ending available.

Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney is releasing his debut solo album Many Moons at the end of the month, and today shared the single “Airport Bar” from the record, a laid-back and easy-going affair that would have fit in quite nicely with the past couple of albums of his main gig.

Low released a video for the gorgeous Ones and Sixes track “Lies”, and the heartbreaking depiction of the struggles of a day laborer is a perfect fit for the melancholic beauty of the song.

“Over the Rainbow” is one of the most popular and recognizable songs of the twentieth century, and PBS takes a look at the composition of the song and how it captured the hearts of so many people.

Hutch Harris of The Thermals talked to Baeble about his entry into the world of standup comedy, and if you follow @thethermals on Twitter, you would not be surprised that the man behind one of the most consistently funny accounts in music has decided to jump into those waters.

In a post that is sure to delight some and anger many more, Deadspin takes a look at fourteen different times that Jay Z has been “owned” by another rapper on one of his tracks, though many of these selections have Jay occupying a guest spot.  We are disappointed that Ja Rule did not make the list.

We have long failed to provide an adequate number of cat videos on this site, and locally Run The Jewels is helping us out in fulfilling our quota.  They have released a ridiculously goofy video for “Oh My Darling (Don’t Meow)” from Meow The Jewels, which should fulfill all your Laser Cats fanfic desires.


Review: Blur – The Magic Whip

Over on this side of the Atlantic, news of a long-awaited Blur reunion album has been greeted with a collective shrug.  It is a reaction that is indicative of the band’s general reception in the US, but not befitting of the group’s sustained greatness over the course of their career.  Most American listeners remember Blur more-or-less as a one-hit wonder (“oh yeah, those guys that did the ‘Woo-hoo!’ song!“), which is a shame because that particular attempt to taking the piss out of grunge is hardly indicative of the band’s diverse body of work.

Blur’s albums have been eclectic and sprawling affairs, with the band shifting effortlessly between different genres over the course of the record, and The Magic Whip follows that template as well.  Unlike the band’s previous work though, there are no big singles to be found on the new record; it is unlikely that a crowd favorite like “Tender” or “Beetlebum” or “To the End” will emerge from this set of songs.  Fans should not be discouraged however–though Blur does not reach the peaks that they have in the past, overall this is perhaps the band’s strongest group of songs since their self-titled release, and it improves with every listen.

It is rather remarkable how little The Magic Whip resembles the typical comeback album.  The effort compares favorably to the recent Dinosaur Jr. reunion, as Blur sounds like they never broke up in the first place; listening to The Magic Whip in conjunction with the rest of the band’s discography, the novice listener would have no idea that there was a sixteen-year gap between the new album and the previous full-lineup incarnation.  There are no attempts to cash in on any modern trends, nor are there any painful attempts to recapture the glory of their youth; perhaps this is the payoff for all that restlessness and genre-shifting from their previous albums earlier in their career.  Blur never really had a typical sound, so they are free to experiment however they would like.

Contrary to what one may expect, there is only a moderate influence that can be detected from Damon Albarn’s myriad side-projects since the band’s last album; there is a bit of dub that recalls The Good, The Bad & The Queen, a bit of the melancholy that marked his recent solo album Everyday Robots, but little that is reminiscent of Gorillaz.  Instead, it is a much more cohesive affair than what would have been predicted, especially considering the background behind the recording of the album (it was put together during the downtime of a cancelled music festival over the course of a few short days).  In general, The Magic Whip is a laid-back affair, and some of the album’s best moments are when the band takes it down a notch and stretches out a bit, such as in the drifting “Mirrorball” or the appropriately-named “I Thought I Was A Spaceman”.  Of course, Blur is never content to just stick around mining the same groove, so there are a fair number of uptempo numbers, most notably the cheery “Ong Ong”.  It is an effervescent song that is placed perfectly near the end of the album, serving as an excellent capstone to the record, and will have you singing along with its refrain of “I wanna be with you” long after the whole thing is over.

Over the Weekend (Oct. 20 Edition)

Who knew the middle of October would be filled with tons of new videos and news to report?

Thurston Moore’s new album The Best Day comes out tomorrow, but today he released the Halloween-appropriate video for the track “Speak to the Wild”.  Once you’ve collected yourself after watching it, be sure to check out his introspective interviews with The Guardian and Salon.  Of course, you may want to check out the NPR stream of the album as you do so, which we linked to last week.

However, the biggest news of the day is the confirmation that Sleater-Kinney is reuniting.  Early reports of their new box set that’s being released included a new single with the date “1/20/15”, and today the band confirmed that they will release their new album No Cities To Love on that date.  In the Line of Best Fit link you will also see the lyric video for new single “Bury Our Friends”, a tracklist, and a list of tour dates.  There’s no Portland date listed yet, but considering we witnessed their final show and their first “reunion” onstage with Pearl Jam, we can probably assume one will be added in the future.

Interpol released the video for El Pintor‘s “My Desire” today, and the grimy video also is appropriate for the season, filling the screen with plenty of the band’s trademark red and black.

Damon Albarn announced that he’s getting ready to get Gorillaz going again, with hopefully a 2016 release in the future, sure to please many fans of the side-project.  However, it’s another group of his that I’m personally more excited to hear about, and that’s the fact that apparently The Good, The Bad, & The Queen was not a one-off effort, and that a new album from the band is written and ready to be recorded.

TV on the Radio is getting ready to release their new album Seeds, and last night the band played the previously unreleased “Could You”.

Pond, the side project from a couple of members of Tame Impala, are set to release their second album, and have released a new video.

Foo Fighters were on Letterman all of last week, and Consequence of Sound has done a good job of cataloging not only the various musical performances (many of which include legendary guests), but also the various comedic skits that the band did for the show.  The band premiered their new single “Something From Nothing” last week on the show, and today released a fancy lyric/performance video for the song, featuring guitarist Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick.  The song itself takes a while to build, and I’m not entirely sure the effort was worth it, but its emphatic chorus is sure to impress many fans.

And finally, be sure to check out the comic strip Pearls Before Swine and their musical take on the legendary “Who’s on First?” routine.

The Danger Mouse File

With the recent release of the new Broken Bells album After the Disco, this is as good a time as any for people to become even more familiar with the different projects of Danger Mouse.  If you’ve listened to music in the last ten years, you’ve come across several songs produced by Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, and more likely than not own at least an album filled with his contributions.

If there is one thing that I can pinpoint as a signature of the Danger Mouse Sound, it’s the idea of the old made new again, or perhaps the retro in a modern context.  This is not done in a showy or bombastic way–at no point in a Danger Mouse song is he calling to the listener’s attention THIS IS AN OLD STYLE/CONCEPT.  There is nothing post-modern about his use of old styles, and certainly no ironic commentary.  He’s not just throwing old records into a blender and spitting out reprocessed old music; you won’t find a dubstep version of a Hollies song, for example.  Though he first got most people’s attention with his Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up The Grey Album, he’s moved well beyond throwing modern beats behind old soul samples. It’s much more subtle, which is why it’s worked so well over multiple iterations. 

There are certain reoccurring elements that can be found in the Danger Mouse sound.  The one that I usually pick up on is a certain bass sound–quick, staccato single notes, and often muted to dampen the sound a bit.  There are also certain idiosyncrasies to his drumming/percussion, namely in his snare sound and his use of the ride cymbal, often matched with a late 50’s/early 60’s rock beat.  And you are also likely to hear certain organ flourishes that give an additional color; it’s usually not a dominant sound, but present enough in the background that it is a significant part of the atmosphere of the song.

Danger Mouse hasn’t just been consistently excellent in the past decade, he’s been quite prolific.  That means there are probably a few albums of his that you haven’t gotten around to listening to, or may not even have known existed.  I mean, I was looking at this list and saw a few albums that I owned that I had no idea he had helped produce.  It could just be confirmation bias speaking, but as I’ve listened to them in writing this article, I keep going, yeah, that definitely has that Danger Mouse sound.

One of those albums is The Good, The Bad & The Queen, which has unfortunately been forgotten about a bit over the years.  It’s the rare super-group album that’s worth listening to (and it definitely is a super-group: Damon Albarn of Blur, Simon Tong of The Verve, legendary drummer Tony Allen, and holy shit Paul Simonon of The Clash).  While each of the component parts are brilliant, they unite to create a singular album that is different than anything else they’ve ever done.

Another overlooked album is the debut of Electric Guest, Mondo.  I’ve heard the single “This Head I Hold” a bit on the local alternative radio station, but it never made much headway nationally.  It very much has the kind of groove found in Danger Mouse’s work with Gnarls Barkley, namely from the bass and from the classic pop-rock drums, just with a different singer.

Speaking of Gnarls Barkley, even though everyone knows their breakout hit “Crazy” and a lot of people picked up their debut album, their follow-up The Odd Couple never caught on like it should.  There was no single track that stood out from the pack like “Crazy” did, but the album was stacked from top-to-bottom with fantastic songs.  “Run”“Going On”, and “Surprise”  were all incredibly fun tracks filled with energy that should pack the dancefloor.  “Blind Mary”  was a bouncy track that managed the difficult task of being positive yet melancholic.  And then there’s the devastatingly heart-breaking ballad, “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul?”, with it’s absolutely perfect video.

2008 was an absolutely banner year for Danger Mouse, creatively speaking.  He had three of my top ten albums of that year, an honor that means absolutely nothing to most everyone.  In addition to The Odd Couple, there was his work on Beck’s Modern Guilt and The Black Keys’s Attack & Release, albums which I will argue are among the high points of each artist’s careers.  Beck is of course famous for shifting genres with each album, and he slides in smoothly into the Danger Mouse style.  Beck always had a great touch in finding bits and pieces of old styles and repurposing them in modern contexts, so it should have been no surprise that he and Danger Mouse were simpatico.

The Black Keys were a different story.  They had an easily identifiable trademark sound of ragged two-man blues/rock, and it was unclear how another element could fit in without disrupting that aesthetic.  So often the production touches were at the margins or added for just little bits of color–a perfectly timed organ hit here, a little jazz flute there, etc.  It was enough to push the group into new creative directions and eventually into greater commercial success.  While some may grow tired of how The Black Keys have come to dominate rock radio today, I will always appreciate it when great songs like “Little Black Submarines” come on, even if they ruin some of its beauty by knocking out a whole verse and not allowing the song to properly develop (a rant that I will save for a later day).

It’s a lot better than being constantly subjected to Nickelback.

But perhaps the most interesting entry in the Danger Mouse discography is the project he did with composer Daniele Luppi, entitled Rome.  It’s basically a soundtrack to a fake spaghetti western, and it’s really quite a blast.  The album does a great job of mixing in instrumentals with more traditional “songs”, featuring Jack White and Norah Jones on vocals.  In the end it fulfills the goal of any project like this: it makes you want to see the movie that would have this soundtrack.

If this has done anything, I hope it makes you at least somewhat excited when news of another Danger Mouse release comes out.  And checking the calendar, you should be feeling that in approximately…three months.  Enjoy.