Parquet Courts

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2016

Today is April 18, 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.  Also, we have reviews for nearly 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. Alcest – Kodama; Angel Olsen – My Woman; A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service; Bon Iver – 22, A Million; Pity Sex – White Hot Moon; Summer Cannibals – Full of It (7 plays)

Garage rock is still a dominant trend in indie circles these days, and Summer Cannibals with their fiery energy and Pity Sex with their peppy melodies represent the best of the scene.  As for Tribe, who knows what was more surprising–that the group reunited or that its comeback effort was so good, able to call back to their 90’s heyday without sounding like retreads.  Many have pointed out the influence that Alcest has had on Deafheaven (frontman Neige even appeared on the latter’s groundbreaking Sunbather for a spoken-word contribution), and it looks like the tables have turned–after going in a softer direction in Shelter, Alcest brought some edge back (and a few shouts) to their melodic mix of shoegaze and metal.  Bon Iver continues to experiment with loops and vocal effects (in the vein of his work in Volcano Choir) moving further and further away from the delicate acoustic of For Emma, Forever Ago; however, the result is still some gorgeously moving music.  Angel Olsen was one of the artists that we picked up on after reading year-end lists, and we quickly became fans of her versatility, with an album that ranges from classic retro numbers to sweeping epics.

9. Chance the Rapper – Colouring Book; Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (8 plays)

If you were looking for inspiration or a quick pick-me-up, the best place to look last year was the ebullient Chance the Rapper.  His mix of gospel and hip-hop helped create some of the best songs from last year, but the album as a whole seemed to run a little to long.  Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age helped Iggy Pop stun audiences and critic with a great comeback album, mining the sounds of Pop’s landmark solo efforts Lust For Life and The Idiot.  The new songs mixed seamlessly with the classic material when they were out on tour, and together they put together one of the best shows we saw last year.

8. Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not; Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine; Mitski – Puberty 2; Parquet Courts – Human Performance (9 plays) 

With their latest, Dinosaur Jr. has now put together more great albums in their reunion years (four) than in their original golden era (three-ish).  Parquet Courts rebounded with an album that stood up to repeated listens much better than the at-times grating Sunbathing Animal, and songs like “Berlin Got Blurry” stuck with us long after the fact.  Hamilton Leithauser formally teamed up with Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend) for his second solo effort (after collaborating on a couple of tracks for Black Hours), with the result being a record that effectively matched Hamilton’s remarkable and unique voice with doo-wop, old country, and soft ballads.  Mitski was another find from the critics lists, and we only wished we had come across her inventive explorations of identity and depression sooner.

7. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition; Deftones – Gore; M83 – Junk (10 plays)

We continue to be amazed at the ability of the Deftones to continually put out great new records in a genre where bands can quickly grow stale; perhaps more impressive was how Gore did not have any big singles but was still able to hold your attention from beginning to end.  A lot of people dismissed Junk when it first came out, but we quickly grew to love it once we realized the truth in the title; the complaints about the sequencing of the album have some merit, but we enjoyed the detours into what seemed like theme songs from lost 80’s French TV shows.  Plus, Anthony Gonzalez deserves all the credit in the world for his ability to use a Steve Vai guitar solo effectively.  Danny Brown’s voice can grate on people, but if you can accept his B-Real-style vocals, then it’s easier to plumb into one of the most musically adventurous hip-hop albums in years.

6. The Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum; Radiohead – A Moon-Shaped Pool; The Thermals – We Disappear (11 plays)

This is the part of the list where old favorites take up residence.  The latest from the Besnard Lakes was a bit of a disappointment, though it ends on an incredible high note that makes one wonder why they didn’t build the whole album out of this song.  Radiohead returned with a much better version of what they previously attempted with the forgettable The King of Limbs, though the best song from the sessions comes only on the deluxe edition (the rejected version of their theme to Spectre).  However, we don’t need any caveats to explain how The Thermals ended up this high on the list, as we enjoyed how they were able to meld the better parts of their recent work (the energy of Desperate Ground, the insight and thoughtfulness of Personal Life).

5. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial; Operators – Blue Wave (12 plays)

Come for the lo-fi guitar rocks, stay for the incisive wit and deep explorations of the young psyche with Car Seat Headrest.  Teens of Denial is an album that grows with each listen, and amazingly never feels as long as its 70-minute runtime.  Dan Boeckner never lets us down, and we were big fans of his latest side-project Operators, which brightens the sound of his previous drum-machine and guitars outfit Handsome Furs.  The man effortlessly comes up with great melodies, and the new wave keyboards are a nice touch.

4. LVL UP – Return to Love (13 plays) 

We were excited to find a new band that apparently loves the classic Elephant 6 sound as much as we do, with the song “Hidden Driver” especially reminding us of On Avery Island-era Neutral Milk Hotel.  However, the band switches between three different songwriters, and the result is a more varied record that one might expect, though all hitting in that sweet spot of classic alternative/indie rock.

3. The Avalanches – Wildflower (14 plays)

Another comeback album that a lot of people seemed to have forgotten, we immediately fell in love with Wildflower.  Yes, Since I Left You is now a classic in some circles, but this was another brilliant mix of countless samples and original music that we kept revisiting over and over again.  Also, we might argue that “Because I’m Me” was the song of last summer and of many summers to come.

2. Preoccupations – Preoccupations (15 plays)

We initially were underwhelmed by the announced name change, but we were much more impressed by this sophomore effort from this Canadian foursome.  The band built on the promise of the second half of Viet Cong and released a post-punk masterpiece.  This time the centerpiece of the album comes right in the middle, with the epic three-part “Memory”; the middle section with Dan Boeckner might be some of the most gorgeous music we heard all of last year.

1. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years (17 plays)

We still believe that LOSE should be considered the band’s masterpiece, but we became serious fans of the band’s followup to that incredible album after repeated plays in our car.  It may be a step back in terms of ambition, but there are plenty of hooks throughout the record, and you may find yourself humming different songs each day of the week.  The band is still capable of packing an emotional punch as well, and the layers reveal themselves after multiple listens.  At the end of the day, this is the album we always would default to when deciding what to play, and that may be as good a reason as any to make it our album of the year.

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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.

Covered: “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

I’m not sure if you can call Nancy Sinatra’s classic hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” a good song per se, but it is definitely a memorable and fun one.   To its credit, “Boots” does an excellent job of evoking in present-day listeners the sound of the Swinging 60’s; filmmakers have relied on it as a retro touchstone for years, including in memorable scenes that range from Full Metal Jacket to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  It’s a fun piece of trashy pop, with a versatile pseudo-female empowerment message that can be interpreted either sincerely or ironically.  Musically, the most memorable thing about “Boots” is its hypnotic descending bass line, though I’ve always had a particular fondness for the particular tone of the cheap-sounding guitars as well.  However, the song fails to do anything with the fact that the legendary Hal Blaine behind the kit, and those ridiculous horns that end the song are best used as fodder for potential edits due to time restrictions.

The cover that inspired this edition of our regular feature was the version done by Parquet Courts for their second album of 2014, Content Nausea, recorded under the moniker of “Parkay Quarts”.  Their take on the song (titled on the album as “These Boots”) straddles the line between serious and mocking, sticking close to the original for the most part musically speaking while vocally alternating between not-giving-a-shit and caring-just-enough.  The group made sure to include that amazing bass riff as well as for doing a reasonable facsimile of the original’s guitar tone, and even did a better job with the horns by adding a nifty supporting part to the verse.  Courts/Quarts also improve upon the ending by ending everything in a giant haze of guitar squall and irritating feedback.

The Content Nausea version also reminded me of the ridiculous take done by Operation Ivy, where they transformed the pop number into a bouncy ska romp as “One of These Days” for their album Energy.  They didn’t really care to remember any of the lyrics besides the chorus, and it’s just as well, since beyond the initial inspiration to add guitar strokes on the upbeats they didn’t bother to do too much to it musically either.  It does however fit in perfectly with the rest of Energy in that regard, and it’s only when you pay attention to the fact that Jesse Michaels is shouting those famous words in particular that you realize that this is a “cover”.  As a song in and of itself, it’s not particularly good, but as an example of the kind of we-working of pop classics by early punk bands, it’s not half-bad.

Neither of these cover versions are essential, but at least they’re fun.  They’re also perfect set-fillers that keep the audience engaged without demanding too much of their attention.  And no one has to really worry about impinging on the reputation of the original: while it is fondly remembered, no one is going to fight for the sake of Nancy Sinatra’s classic bit of kitsch.

Over the Weekend (Jan. 12 Edition)

Videos, live performances, lists, and general news as we determine the superior “O” state once and for all…

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.

There’s also a trio of album releases that were announced this morning.  Death Cab For Cutie is releasing Kintsugi on March 31st and will be their first album “without” founding guitarist Chris Walla, who while no longer a member of the band still has a presence on the album.  Sufjan Stevens is releasing Carrie & Lowell on the same day, which we can take as further proof that the “50 States” project is dead.  And Waxahatchee will be releasing Ivy Tripp on April 7th, and you should probably click the link because Pitchfork has helpfully included the new track “Air”.  We were big fans of her previous album Cerulean Salt, and while this sounds a bit more polished than that lo-fi classic, sounding like a stripped-down Joy Formidable is something we can support.

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.

We here at Rust Is Just Right are always down for hearing more from Spoon, so we are pleased to share their appearance on Austin City Limits over the weekend as well as their guest spot on Sound Opinions.  We’ll see if we can go the rest of the week without mentioning them, but don’t bet on it.

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”.

Review: Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

As you may have noticed with our various features and mentions of the band, we here at Rust Is Just Right are big fans of the band Parquet Courts.  Their album Light Up Gold made our Best Of 2013 list*, and when we heard that a follow-up was coming this year we were extremely excited.  We loved their incisive blend of Pavement-meets-Minutemen smart-ass punk, and were hoping for another quick blast of their nervy, no-frills guitar rock.  However, it seems that these expectations have only set us up for disappointment, and while Sunbathing Animal has its moments, too often it seems like we have to work to get its full rewards.

Part of what made Light Up Gold work so well was the willingness of the band to get to the point and then get out of the way.  Parquet Courts would write a couple of quick hooks, say their piece, and then end the song–Light Up Gold was a lightning-quick 15 track/33 minute album, with several songs less than two minutes.  When the band would stretch out on certain tracks, like “Master of My Craft” or “Stoned and Starving”, there was enough momentum to sustain your attention, and enough interesting ideas that made it worth your while to stick with it (we wrote a feature specifically about the latter’s use of making the mundane seem epic, and how the band used the relatively epic track length in comparison to the rest of the album to its advantage in our Feats of Strength feature).  On Sunbathing Animal, many of the tracks seem to stretch out a minute or so too long, at least if you have the Light Up Gold template on your mind.

There’s still a lot to recommend on Sunbathing Animal, however.  Yes, the comparisons to Pavement’s slacker-ish attitude and careful tunelessness are still apt, and those trebly guitars with minimal distortion are still on full display.  Songs like “Vienna II” and “Always Back in Town” keep up the uptempo, ramshackle spirit of their earlier work, and songs like “Black and White” and “What Color is Blood” show that the band can find new areas to explore within a similar sound.  It’s in songs like the title track that you can see the new emphasis of Parquet Courts, focusing on ideas like repeating patterns and unbreakable cycles.  “Sunbathing Animal” is one song where the longer-than-expected song length eventually works to its advantage, with the anticipation of some sort of resolution continually delayed, increasing the tension that the listener feels as the band bashes away and vamps on a single chord with barked-out vocals.  By the end, you’re ready to sing along with the words of the title, and somehow it provides a satisfactory conclusion even though the music itself doesn’t seem to resolve as you would expect.

But even knowing in advance the emphasis on repeated patterns can make the album a slog in certain places; the album practically dies with “She’s Rolling” in the middle, and “Raw Milk” kills all the momentum from the goofily fun “Ducking & Dodging”.  Then again, one of the highlights is “Instant Disassembly”, which somehow manages to ride a simple melody played at a languid pace over the course of its seven minute long running time; it certainly helps that while it may be basic, the melody is still catchy.  I imagine that the band had in mind the irony of naming their longest song “Instant Disassembly”; it’s possibly also why they named the song that almost stops the album dead in its tracks “She’s Rolling”.  I can admire their intent, but as a casual listener it’s not always a successful approach.  While Sunbathing Animal has grown on me with repeated listens, it’s unlikely to take the place of Light Up Gold in my car’s stereo.

*We know that technically Light Up Gold was released in 2012, but it was such a limited run that most people didn’t hear it until its 2013 re-release.  And if you claim that you were one of those few people who did hear it in 2012, you’re probably a liar.

Catching Up On The Week (June 6 Edition)

Lots of news and profiles and interviews for a weekend of #longreads.

Interpol announced that they will be releasing their new album entitled El Pintor this fall, on September 9.  If you’re wondering about the name, yes, it is Spanish (for “the painter”), but if you look closely, you should realize it’s an anagram of the band’s name (the stunning cover art helps a little bit in making the connection).  It appears they haven’t officially replaced departed bassist Carlos D, as Paul Banks assumed bass duties for the album in addition to his vocal and guitar work.

We finally got official word that the new Spoon album will be released on August 5, and it’s to be called They Want My Soul.  We’re still not exactly sure what the “R.I.P. June 10” business is quite yet, but it makes sense considering the album title.  Check out this great interview that the band did with NPR.

If you didn’t get your fill of Soundgarden from our Feats of Strength analysis this week, be sure to check out these interviews with the band.  At Ultimate Guitar the band answered questions from fans covering a lot of the technical details of their playing, and at Consequence of Sound there’s a retrospective about the production of Superunknown that’s fairly illuminating.  And if that’s not enough, SPIN has an extensive oral history that looks at the making of the landmark album.

AV Club takes a look at Travis’s The Man Who for their Permanent Records feature through the lens of their influence on Coldplay, while making a case for the album on its own merits.  I have long been a fan of that album, not just for their adolescence-ready lyrical themes (is there a more universal sentiment than wondering at some point “why does it always rain on me?”), but also for some gorgeous guitar work.  The solo in “As You Are” has to rank among the high points of music in 1999, not necessarily for its technical merits but for its ability to capture the emotional climax of the song.

This week saw some big new album releases for indie rock, and we’ll be working our way through reviews soon, but in the mean time you can look at multiple interviews with Parquet Courts, one with the New York Times and another with Stereogum, and if you’re looking to get into the post-hardcore sound of Fucked Up but are not quite sure you’re ready for it, Stereogum’s top ten should provide a useful guide.

As I’ve said before, 1994 was a huge year in music, so there’s going to be a ton of retrospectives this year.  This week, the eyes of nostalgia turn to Stone Temple Pilots, as Stereogum celebrates the release of Purple, probably their best album (though contrary to their claim, the band never was and never will be better than Pearl Jam; let’s just acknowledge STP was better than their detractors claim and move on).

And finally, since the weather seems to have officially changed into summer, now’s the perfect time to check out this look back at the beginning of Warren G’s career and his influence on the rise of G-Funk, courtesy of Pitchfork.

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.

Over the Weekend (May 12th Edition)

Considering the amount of material we have for our Monday roundup, this should be a very good week.  Let’s get to it!

Of course, as we’ve covered before, the biggest news coming up is the release tomorrow of the new album from The Black Keys.  They’ve been doing their part by performing on SNL this past Saturday, performing “Fever” and “Bullet in the Brain”, and by performing on Letterman tonight.  They did two songs for the show, and also treated the crowd outside the Late Show rooftop to a full set featuring songs from previous albums.  You can tune in to this link to catch one of the re-airings, though this is probably only temporary.

Speaking of the late night shows, Late Night with Seth Meyers featured another band on which we did a feature recently, as Parquet Courts visited last week.  Here’s their performance of the new song “Black and White”, from the upcoming Sunbathing Animal.

Soundgarden is prepping for their big tour with Nine Inch Nails, and their warmup will include a special gig at New York’s Webster Hall where they will perform the entirety of Superunknown, and the tickets will cost only $19.94 (the year the seminal album came out, of course).  That’s a pretty damn cool venue, and to see a band of that stature in a relatively small place like that will definitely be a great experience for the lucky few who are able to go.

We had a link for a short article on Big Star on Friday, and today the Facebook page for the band posted a link to a rare track from co-founder Chris Bell’s early band Icewater.

Fender had a couple of cool posts worth checking out.  The first is a talk with Nile Rodgers about his legendary “Hitmaker” Stratocaster, a strange combo guitar that he picked up at a pawn shop decades ago but whose distinctive sound is what you hear on all those great records featuring Nile.  The second is an article about a recent show by We Are Scientists where they were joined by former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp.  It fit right in with last week’s 20th anniversary of The Blue Album, and together they performed several Weezer songs together, as well as “Friends of P.” from Matt’s other band, The Rentals.  I wish I could have been at that show, and I’d have to say I’d prefer the “Weezer Are Scientists” version of the band over their current incarnation.

In recognition of Mother’s Day yesterday, here is Eminem’s latest video, the Spike Lee-directed “Headlights”, which covers his attempts at reconciliation with his mother.

And finally, we’ve got yet another useless list from Rolling Stone, if you’re into that kind of thing.  I had been thinking that it had been too long since we’d had one of those, but they did us a solid last week by publishing their version of the “100 Best Albums of the Nineties”.  If you want to know whether or not you should give it a look, I’ll note that in their eyes that Bridges to Babylon (#76) is the superior album to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (unlisted).  I think that’s all I have to say.

Feats of Strength: Parquet Courts

One of our favorite albums here at RIJR from 2013 was Light Up Gold from Parquet Courts; in fact, it finished in a tie at the number 9 slot (we’ll set aside the fact that it had a limited release in 2012, because nobody you know bought the original limited-distribution release).  The album blows by at a blistering pace with 15 songs in 33 minutes, all delivered in a quick, witty punk style that first captures your attention with witty hooks, but then keeps you smiling as you listen to the hilarious lyrics.  I think the best description I came up with is if the guys from Pavement decided that they wanted to do an album of Minutemen songs; now that I think about it, that sounds like a great idea in and of itself–Stephen Malkmus, you should probably get on that.

The one exception to the hit-’em-and-then-quit-it rapid-fire approach to songwriting on the album was the song “Stoned and Starving”; on the album where two songs edge over three minutes and many are only a minute-or-so in length, “Stoned and Starving” seems positively epic by clocking in at over five minutes (with the live version posted above being around seven minutes).  And what subject is worthy of such intense scrutiny?  Parquet Courts analyzed such subjects as mental health in two minutes (“No Ideas”) or the shitty economy in one (“Careers in Combat”), so whatever the topic is it has to be pretty complex and subject to nuanced interpretation, right?  Well, the title of the track says it all–it’s about a guy who is stoned and is starving.

It is the extremely trivial nature of the narrator’s task at hand juxtaposed with the epic scope of the track that makes the song so brilliant.  The consistent, driving bassline gives the song a constant forward-motion, evoking our hero’s dogged quest to rectify his problem.  The looping, repeating guitar riffs mirror the circles in which our protagonist is travelling, as he continually finds himself in Ridgewood, Queens and flipping through magazines.  There are many philosophical questions that are confronted–are these ingredients actually safe to eat, would Swedish Fish, roasted peanuts, or licorice accomplish the task with the greatest efficiency, and would the money be better spent on cigarettes even though smoking kills?  At some point, our narrator clearly wanders off, as evidenced by the meandering guitar solo that tapers off over the last two minutes of the song, fading out into feedback; but the bassline and the rhythm guitar part continue, indicating that the quest likely went unfulfilled.  What hath become of our hero?  Who knows, but maybe we as an audience can learn from the failures of this particular journey, and meanwhile listen to some kickass punk rock.