On Wednesday night, America will say goodbye to David Letterman, a comedic genius who has been revolutionizing late night television longer than I have been alive. I missed out on the NBC years, so I learned about all his most memorable bits secondhand. Instead, for me he was always the guy on CBS facing off against the Leno juggernaut. As a kid, I appreciated Leno’s easy humor more, but over the years I began to appreciate Letterman’s sarcastic wit and his ironic take on comedic conventions, and eventually fully embraced his approach. In my mind, “Is This Anything?” is the pinnacle late night achievement.
An underrated part of Letterman’s legacy was his willingness to book unconventional musical acts. In our brief run so far, we have spotlighted performances from favorite bands on the show several times, and we probably should have shared several more. Over the years, the Late Show has provided several great groups with their first major exposure on a network, and it was always a joy to see Dave himself get a kick out of many of the bands that performed. Of course, let us not forget the contributions from the brilliant Paul Shaffer and the CBS orchestra; there were few things cooler to watch than seeing Paul join in when he was digging what he heard, like he did with Red Fang a few months back.
A few #longreads as you prepare for the new year to begin in earnest…
Amid a crowded field of new releases next week, the long-awaited return of Sleater-Kinney stands out from the rest as indie rock fans welcome the return of the beloved 90’s band. So it’s no surprise that the band is getting write-ups in most music publications this week, including Pitchfork, Grantland, and Nylon. We’re probably missing other tributes as well, but we’ll try to make up for it by linking to their performance on Letterman last night.
Another new release that we can’t wait to hear comes from another Pacific NW favorite, as The Decemberists return next week with What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. The Oregonian looks at how the band helped shape the Portland music scene over the past fifteen years, which while giving the city a new national profile also riles up some locals, as evidenced by a few of the comments.
We left a ton of material on the table for today’s post, and with the flurry of news this morning our roundup is even more overstuffed than usual. So let’s dive right in with the surprise release of the music video for the Beastie Boys track “Too Many Rappers”, featuring Nas in both audio and visual form. While it’s sad to remember that Hot Sauce Committee Part Two will be the last album we ever hear from the Beasties, but it’s certainly great to have some more footage of the crew having fun together.
NPR has streams for two highly-anticipated new albums available this week. First, there’s the long-awaited return of critical darlings and Pacific Northwest favorites Sleater-Kinney, who are releasing their first album in ten years next week with No Cities to Love. Then there’s the self-titled debut of Viet Cong, who have garnered a ridiculous amount of buzz among various indie blogs in the past couple of months. I don’t yet have the same enthusiasm, though it may take a few more listens of their noisy guitar rock to convince me.
Ghostface Killah seemingly never stops working, because after releasing his solo album 36 Seasons last month (and appearing on The Wu-Tang Clan’s A Better Tomorrow), he’s set to release another album next month. This time it’s a collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD, with their record Sour Soul set to be released February 17. Their latest track, “Ray Gun”, features a guest spot from DOOM and has a nice grimy funk feel, complemented by some gorgeous strings. Stereogum has more information, including links to previously released tracks, for your perusal.
It’s disappointing that a once-vibrant genre as Country has become just a bunch of homogenized pablum, and worse yet is the fact that every year it continues to get worse. The genre has just become Nickelback with a half-assed over-enunciated Southern accent, and that’s a damn shame. The thing is, consumers are at least partly to blame, since as The Atlantic points out, uniformity is what sells.
Last week featured some great musical guests on the Late Night shows, including performances from such RIJR favorites The War On Drugs (who performed the epic “An Ocean In Between The Waves” on The Tonight Show) and Parquet Courts delivering a dynamite version of “Bodies Made of” on Letterman, a song that initially sounds like a poor choice for the national stage until it gets to its epic breakdown. But the standout of the week was Foxygen and Star Power performing “How Can You Really” on The Late Show, which prompted an enthusiastic response from Dave himself.
And finally, a couple of fun lists that can either be used as a discovery tool or merely as argument fodder. Stereogum has a list of “30 Essential Post-Rock” songs which along with usual suspects Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós, and Explosions in the Sky includes several other bands that may not be as well known, though this may partially be due to a broad definition of “post-rock”. You can have an argument about that specific topic as well as the following list from Complex, which goes through each year since 1979 to anoint “The Best Rapper Alive”.
Some videos and lists and other fun stuff as you continue to put off Christmas shopping…
Last week we said farewell to one of our favorite late night comedy shows with the end of The Colbert Report, but that wasn’t the only great program that finished its run last week. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was underrated for the entirety of its run, as few could match the creativity and anarchic spirit of its host. Craig ended things with a bang on his last show, and it was nice to see this tribute at the top of his show. Here’s the official video, though it’s missing an excellent second half as seen in this link.
The “Bang Your Drum” performance was an excellent followup to the latest rendition of the annual holiday tradition of Darlene Love performing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home”) on The Late Show with David Letterman. Of course, what really takes the performance to another level is the bari sax solo, but all the musicians are worthy of praise.
Daniel Kessler from Interpol’s side project Big Noble just released their first music video, providing a visual accompaniment to the soundscape “Stay Gold”.
And a melancholy farewell to Joe Cocker, who possessed one of the great voices in rock history. His cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends” was a huge part of my childhood, and I’m sure millions of others could say the same thing.
Some videos and other fun as you prepare for the big holiday this week…
This weekend marked the twentieth anniversary of Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy album, and there were retrospectives from both Billboard and Stereogum. Both do a great job of talking about how the album was a turning point for the band, and how though it’s a respected effort, it’s still underrated. I was inspired by these pieces to listen to the remastered version of the album that was released a couple of years ago, and it adds a whole new level to the record.
Our favorite new music video comes courtesy of hometown heroes Red Fang, which should be no surprise, considering their track record of great videos. This time for “Crows In Swine” they prove that their brilliance extends even into the realm of animation.
We previously shared the lyric video for the new song from The Decemberists, and now we can link to the official music video for “Make You Better”. It features Nick Offerman guest-starring as the host of a lost television show from the 70’s, with The Decemberists providing a goofy performance.
Last week Sebadoh stopped by the AV Club for their Undercover series, and they performed Rush’s “Limelight”. Personally, I feel that the band balances between taking it seriously and having fun with it, but half of my enjoyment may have been due to the various Rush fans in the comments getting offended by Lou Barlow’s ridiculous vocals.
TV on the Radio hit the Late Show with David Letterman last week to perform “Happy Idiot”, and it’s obvious that as the band hits the road in support of Seeds this is going to be a definite highlight of their set.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Cymbals Eat Guitars recently uploaded the music video for “Warning”, off their excellent new album LOSE, featuring a very young band (Crosshair) playing the part of CEG. If you never got the chance to pick up their stellar debut Why There Are Mountains, wait another week for the reissue.
Spoon helped end The Daily Show’s run in Austin in style, playing multiple tracks off their latest excellent album, They Want My Soul. We would embed the videos here, but Comedy Central uses a screwy system, so either go to The Daily Show website or find all three performances on Pitchfork, since they did the legwork to get the correct plug-in.
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.
That wasn’t the only memorable performance from Letterman last week, as Interpol did such a great job with “All The Rage Back Home” that it prompted Letterman to continually ask if he could join the band.
There’s a Deafheaven side-project that is definitely worth checking out, if the first single is any indication. Creepers features Dan Tracy, whose drumwork on Sunbather helped make that album one of the best of 2013 as well as touring guitarist Shiv Mehra, and they have an album coming out October 28. “Stuck” reminds me a bit of the Nothing album that came out earlier this year, so if it was the shouting vocals of Deafheaven that turned you off that band, that’s definitely should not be an issue with this release.