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.
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.
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.
Though we here at Rust Is Just Right try as hard as we can, it simply is not possible for us to review all the great new albums that come across our way. However, since our goal is to highlight great music that you may have not discovered yet, we feel obligated to at least give a brief mention to some of the records that we have accumulated over the past few months that are worthy of your consideration.
Ceremony – The L-Shaped Man This album sounds like a lost collection of Joy Division/early New Order B-Sides, and I mean that with absolutely no snark at all. That should come as no surprise, considering the band is named after the song that served as a bridge between the two bands, but this actually represents a shift in sound for a group that previously trafficked in a style closer to hardcore. In other words, take every smartass remark made about Interpol and apply it to these guys, but we suggest that you refrain from over-intellectualizing and instead embrace the gloomy grooves.
Deradoorian – The Expanding Flower Planet Fans of the Dirty Projectors are well-acquainted with the beautiful, ethereal voice of former member Angel Deradoorian, and they should be delighted with her solo debut. It is easy to get lost in the trippy, psychedelic journey that Deradoorian takes on this record, though at times it can make for a frustrating listen, despite the abundance of talent on display.
Ducktails – St. Catherine The side project of Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile shares many of the qualities that led fans to appreciate his main gig, namely easy-going vibes and slick, pretty leads. However, Mondanile does get to indulge a bit and explore other sounds, venturing towards the synthpop side of the music spectrum.
Ratatat – Magnifique There is nothing quite like this distinctive instrumental duo, who blend electronic beats and catchy inventive guitar riffs. For this go around, Ratatat shows off their sunnier side, incorporating elements of surf music into their trademark sound. The album seems to drag on a bit longer than it should, but it would be hard to cut out any specific track, because that would mean missing out on some excellent hooks.
The Sonics – The Is The Sonics The garage-rock pioneers have returned with a vengeance, proving that the old guys still have the energy to blow the young folks out of the water, so to speak. In other words, this is not your typical embarrassing reunion of fogies who are long past their sell-by date–there is some serious verve and passion to this record.
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.
Summer may be winding down, but luckily it’s not over quite yet; there are still a couple more weekends for you to enjoy some sunshine and relaxation before the horrors of autumn begin. However, you might be getting a little annoyed with listening to the same Summer Mix playlist on your iTunes–a perfectly understandable concern. To that end, it is worth checking out the self-titled debut of the sunny beach-pop band Alvvays.
(Ed. note: from what I’ve read about the band, despite the odd spelling, the name is still pronounced “Always”)
There have been several bands that have mined this vein of indie rock in recent years, most notably DIIV and Real Estate; the trademarked trebly guitars laced with reverb, the simplistic percussion, and the general laid-back vibe are all present on the album. Even though there are many strong similarities between these groups, the upbeat disposition of many of the songs as well as the unique vocals of Molly Rankin help distinguish the group from its peers. Whereas Real Estate would be perfect for spending the day relaxing by the ocean, Alvvays fits better as the soundtrack to help get you amped on the car ride to the beach.
The album begins with a 1-2 punch of “Adult Diversion” and “Archie, Marry Me”, and it’s easy to see why these two songs were the first singles. “Adult Diversion” is propelled by a bouncy arpeggiated guitar part and airy vocals, a combination where one can note the apt comparisons to DIIV, but the true engine is the driving bassline, which provides both momentum and a great counterpoint. “Archie, Marry Me” is a a great pop song with a big chorus, with a style that recalls the Dum Dum Girls and their attempts to capture that 60’s nostalgia haze. While it’s easy to get caught up in the big sweeping hooks, the best part of the song is actually the feedback-drenched lead guitar in the second verse that provides a necessary subtle edge to the gauzy production.
The album is not without its problems, as the momentum begins to sag around the middle with “The Agency Group” and “Dives”. The latter is actually a well-done ballad with enough unique touches that are promising for the future, but within the context of the album it just ends up being a drag. Alvvays is able to avoid falling off the rails with the energetic “Atop A Cake” and its extremely catchy chorus, which should have you singing “How can I lose control when you’re driving from the backseat” long after you’ve finished listening to the album. Other highlights include “Ones Who Love You”, a great slow number that gradually builds into a shocking climax of “You can’t feel your fucking face” before breaking back down once again, and the midtempo song “Party Police”, which is built around an intriguing minor-key guitar lick and finds Rankin hitting an unexpected high note like Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries or Sinéad O’Connor.
When Alvvays is hitting on all cylinders, it’s a fun ride; unfortunately, there are a few too many moments when it stalls. That said, it’s a solid debut that can easily find a place in any future Summer Mix, and the band displays enough talent that it’s worth watching what they do in the future.
Some videos to help you get over that heartbreaking…tie against Portugal.
Interpol just released the video for “Anywhere” from their upcoming album El Pintor, and it’s a live version shot in an “amateur” style from one of their recent shows. Musically, it sounds like one of their usual busier, uptempo numbers, but it should be enough to get the crowd pumped at future shows.
Courtesy of the Everybody Loves Our Town Tumblr, we have footage from a recent Pearl Jam show that has gone somewhat viral over the weekend. As per their usual, Pearl Jam tagged the end of “Daughter” with their cover of “It’s OK” by Portland punks Dead Moon, but this time Eddie sang a bit of the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” from Frozen. Since I do not have any children, this is the first time I’ve actually heard the song, so I finally have an idea what everyone is referencing; Eddie seems to miss a couple of notes, but hey, it’s a live improv and he’s fitting it to the chord progression of a different song, so I won’t bust him too much.
We mentioned previously that Soundgarden did a special show where they played Superunknown in its entirety, and here’s the audio of that full show, with additional interviews from the band.
We don’t have any real #longreads for you to scroll through this weekend, but there are a lot of shorter interesting articles that are worth your time. That’s probably a good thing, because I imagine a lot of people will be focused on the NCAA Tournament this weekend; then again, if you were looking for us a source of distraction, we’re sorry.
I was glad to see that one of the conditions of the settlement between GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys was a public apology by GoldieBlox. If the case had gone to litigation, there was a potentially an intriguing fight over how parody in certain contexts should be handled under Fair Use. Complicating matters for GoldieBlox was the fact that they were using the parody for other commercial purposes. After all this, I hope everyone learned this lesson: always ask permission, and make sure you get the proper license.
There have been discussions recently on the issue of audio quality and the way that digital technology from both the musician’s and consumer’s perspective has had a significant effect on recording (See “Pono”), this article takes a look at how musicians have attempted to push for greater rights and use of live musicians instead of samples. The piece makes good points about how difficult it is to actually replicate live sounds, and how musicians (especially string players) are often screwed when it comes to compensation. However, the article fails to account how some artists take advantage of the more mechanized sound and use it to their advantage (See the entire career of Kraftwerk). I appreciate their intentions, but it’s not the only pathway.
On a similar note, here’s some more disappointing news for musicians: Late Night with Seth Meyers is booking fewer musical guests than the show did under Jimmy Fallon. Billboard reports that this is by design, as the show believes that Meyers has other strengths. Say what you will about Fallon’s ability as a late night host (and believe me, I have), I always appreciated that he would often book underground acts and give them exposure, like Titus Andronicus or Parquet Courts. Hell, Refused even played Fallon’s show. Hopefully Fallon will do some similar booking with The Tonight Show in the future.
Record Store Day is coming up in a month, and there are several cool releases to look forward to picking up this year. But while RSD has provided a lot of good exposure to independent stores in the past few years and have provided a lot of foot traffic, this article explains that the type of product being offered often languishes on the shelves and other such factors mean that the “holiday” may actually hurt several stores.
CNN continues to show that they have little idea about how to do anything right. Deadspin has a piece on how they used an absolutely awful lede in a story about Kurt Cobain. The original article has since been altered, but the Deadspin staff had fun in coming up with their own versions of other possibly awful openers that CNN could have opted to use.
Finally, here’s a pleasant song for your weekend: Real Estate recently did a live cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, and Pitchfork has the video. It’s one of my favorite songs, and I appreciate the spirit of the cover.
Real Estate is in many ways as close as to what you get to a “known quantity” as you can get in indie rock. They have a signature sound that is apparent from any track picked at random from their catalog–a laid-back, shimmery guitar rock, but don’t emphasize the “rock” so much, you don’t want to harsh everyone’s mellow. This is not meant to be a dig on the band at all. We should be thankful that they’ve managed to be so distinctive and original that a listener can tell instantly whether or not they like the band. Instead, we should wonder how a band from Ridgewood, NJ is able to recreate the feeling of a lazy Southern California summer day so well.
One can then easily appreciate their sound overall, and their albums as a whole, but it normally takes an effort to distinguish between the individual songs themselves. For example, when I first listened to their previous album Days, I enjoyed the overall vibe of the record: a perfect soundtrack for relaxing and either reflecting on the pleasant weather outside or maybe just creating an image in my head of what I wish the weather actually was. But it took several listens before I could pick out the intricacies of the individual songs, even the singles. The details eventually revealed themselves over several listens, such as the amiable bassline melody of “Younger Than Yesterday” or the slow deconstruction of “All The Same”. The album was no longer just a congenial haze, but a collection of distinctly gorgeous songs.
A well-made shirt.
The new album Atlas follows a similar pattern. It definitely has the same trademark Real Estate sound, which is by design (the band has stated that they’re not interested in radically transforming their style from record-to-record). One therefore shouldn’t expect any real evolution within the confines of their style. But there are refinements and new details that make the album worth exploring. Hell, the band even came up with a really catchy single with “Talking Backwards”, which manages the neat trick of being a perfect encapsulation of the band that’s also presented in a hooky, toe-tapping manner that should capture the ear of any new listener. Even though the lyrical subject of the need for communication is one that’s been covered many times before, the band still manages to be engaging; sometimes exchanging comfort for originality is a fair trade-off. Real Estate does an equally good job with ballads as well, though the difference between the ballads and the “rockers” on a Real Estate album are about 10 beats per minute. Real Estate knows their strengths, and plays to them well.
Feel the good vibrations.
However, one gets the feeling that there were some missed opportunities on the album. One of the highlights of the album is the song “The Bend”, a mid-tempo number that pleasantly chugs along, right up until the moment the tempo suddenly shifts at about four minutes in and the chugging nearly grinds to a halt. It’s a dramatic moment, as the band stops on a dime, and it immediately grabs the listener’s attention and takes him or her out of their previous groove. The deliberate beat also gives the lead guitar lines an additional emotional heft, as they wring out as much passion with each note as possible. It’s a great moment, and since it occurs in the middle of the album, one expects perhaps that the record will shift directions. The band instead goes right back into their wheelhouse and dives back into their standard jangly guitar rock, which is fine and what I expected when I bought the album, but it still leaves me wondering where else the band could have gone instead.
*There is one complaint that I have from the various reviews I’ve seen: comparing Real Estate to Television is pretty damn lazy. Both bands have two guitarists and…that’s about where the similarities end. If anyone wonders why Television is considered punk rock, a quick comparison to Real Estate should give him or her a clue.
This week saw the release of a few albums that we’ll review in the coming weeks, including the latest from the band Real Estate. They got a lot of buzz and critical acclaim from their previous album, Days, so it’s no surprise that they’re getting the feature treatment from a lot of the rock press. Rolling Stone has a quick interview with the band, and Pitchfork has a much more in-depth profile as well.
If nostalgia is more your thing this weekend, Stereogum has you covered there as well, with an appreciative look at the 20th anniversary of Superunknown. We’ve linked to the info on the upcoming reissue of the album, so you may have already noticed that we’re fans of the album (and of Soundgarden in general). We may use this piece as a jumping-off point for a broader look at Soundgarden, but it does a good job of focusing on a few interesting details that some may not be familiar with, so it’s definitely worth reading at some point.
And finally, here’s a cool piece talking about how Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah went on a “living room tour” over the past few months, and I’m not sure if quotation marks are necessary, because living rooms were the exact venues where he performed. He talks a little about the fun and logistics of the experience, and I’m excited to learn from the article that CYHSY will be releasing a new album in May.
A few quick links you may have missed this week and worthy of your time this weekend
In preparation for our upcoming profile on Beck (and his new album coming out next week), you may want to read up on these retrospectives courtesy of BuzzFeed (really?) and Grantland. Strangely enough, the BuzzFeed profile was a bit more satisfying, despite the assertion that Midnite Vultures is Beck’s masterpiece, a claim which is pitched as fact and not a matter of debate. As for the Grantland piece, the premise that the “real” Beck is either one of two types (ironic funkster or serious folkie) doesn’t make much sense at all, but you know, deadlines mean you gotta come up with SOMETHING.
The A.V. Club had a couple of interesting bits of news. I’m really excited to hear that Sharon Van Etten has announced that her new album is coming out soon with this teaser. If you haven’t picked up her previous album Tramp, do so pretty much immediately. In addition, we have news of another “supergroup” forming–and since Dave Grohl and Jello Biafra are both involved, the label is definitely necessary.
Pitchfork will be posting a documentary on the Brooklyn venue 285 Kent, and one of their teasers is this video of a live performance by Deafheaven at the club. We’ll be discussing their album Sunbather in-depth in the future, and when we do our Top Albums of 2013 in April, it will definitely make an appearance. There’s a good reason a lot of outlets have done thinkpieces on the album.
And finally, when it’s time to settle into a relaxing weekend, it’s a good idea to listen to some Real Estate. If you’re bored with your relaxing weekend, it’s a good idea to learn to play some Real Estate. The band is providing the lesson with their newest video, which displays an overlay of the guitar tablature to the song.