Run the Jewels

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.

Over the Weekend (Apr. 6 Edition)

New videos and other fun stuff as you fill in the hours around the NCAA championship game…

Lots of new songs and videos to get through this week, so let’s get straight to the action.  After announcing a North American tour and releasing a new track (the groovy epic “Let It Happen”), Tame Impala has finally revealed some details about their followup to the fantastic Lonerism.  The album Currents will be available later this year, and to help celebrate the news the band released another track, the slow-burning “‘Cause I’m A Man”.

My Morning Jacket continues to leak out new songs from their upcoming album The Waterfall, sharing the ballad “Spring (Among the Living)” last week.  My immediate reaction was to say that it is a more dramatic version of “Victory Dance” from Circuital, but with a seriously ripping guitar solo.

Kendrick Lamar is doing the rounds in promoting his album, which involves things like talking to MTV about the origins of the album title to doing radio interviews discussing how he did the Tupac interview that closes To Pimp a Butterfly, as well as announcing his engagement (congrats, btw).  Kendrick also released the music video for the new album’s latest single, “King Kunta”, which features a performance in his hometown of Compton.

The National have shared a previously unreleased track from the Trouble Will Find Me sessions, a song called “Sunshine On My Back” that features Sharon Van Etten on vocals.  The band explained in a Facebook post various options for people to purchase the track.

Most of us were not able to make it down to Austin for SXSW this year, but NPR is doing us a real solid favor by hosting video of TV on the Radio’s performance at the festival.

Legendary punk rockers Refused announced a new tour last week, this time emphasizing smaller venues.  If you are unaware how much we love the band, you should take note that the header photo that graces this site comes from their reunion show at the Roseland from a few years ago.  Unfortunately, though it would have been amazing to see them perform at the Doug Fir, tickets sold out in about two seconds, so it is unlikely RIJR will be able to review the show.

Maybe our inability to purchase tickets was due to the fact that we forgot to post the latest Run The Jewels video.  Killer Mike and El-P released the video to the fantastic “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” which features a memorable appearance from Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha.  Enjoy the symbolism.

And finally, watch another one of those “let’s see what today’s teenagers know about the 90’s” videos.  This one has kids listen to various 90’s songs, and for the most part they didn’t do too badly.  I can forgive these guys for not knowing Ace of Base or how the non-rockers were unfamiliar with Tool’s “Sober”, but it pains me that so few knew who Coolio was or could identify Green Day’s first big hit.

Over the Weekend (Feb. 2 Edition)

Videos, news, and other fun stuff as you recover from the worst playcall of all-time…

The coffee in Seattle probably tastes extra bitter today after yesterday’s Super Bowl loss, but the weekend wasn’t a total bummer for them since Friday night saw the “reunion” of supergroup Mad Season for a special event.  Blabbermouth has videos of the show which featured original members Mike McCready and Barrett Martin joining the Seattle Symphony to perform a trio of the group’s songs.  The evening also featured guest appearances from other Seattle grunge superstars like Chris Cornell, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Matt Cameron, as well as native Seattleite Duff McKagan.  As an added bonus, the stars also performed a couple of songs from the classic Temple of the Dog tribute album.

Back on the other coast, there was an epic Jack White concert that included a special appearance from Q-Tip, as well as openers Run The Jewels performing with Zach de la Rocha on the fantastic “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”.  Consequence of Sound has videos of both performances because in all likelihood, you weren’t there.  Elsewhere in the city at a fall smaller venue, Hamilton Leithauser was performing, and with guitarist Paul Maroon debuted a few new songs that may be released in the future.  Considering how much we loved his solo debut, our excitement level is pretty high.

That said, you still had the chance to watch some excellent live performances from your couch this weekend, but if you missed out, we got you covered.  D’Angelo made his Saturday Night Live debut with songs from his new album Black Messiah, and The Black Keys went through a quick set on Austin City Limits featuring mostly recent material.  Stereogum has the links to the appropriate videos.

We also have a couple of new music videos this week.  First, Deerhoof released the video for “Black Pitch” from La Isla Bonita, and it revolves around singer Satomi Matsuzak enjoying the coastal scenery despite the cold temperature outside.

Then we have Run The Jewels’s second appearance in today’s linkfest, since they just put out a video for “Lie, Cheat, Steal”.

If you’re in the mood for lists which prominently feature the Pixies, we have a couple for you.  First, there’s PASTE ranking the 80 Best Albums of the 80’s, and then there’s Consequence of Sound looking at the Top 10 4AD albums for that record label’s thirty-fifth anniversary.

Have some fun thinking about the fact that Rick Rubin is now doing annotations for Genius, and then hurrying over to see what the guru has to say about the great songs that he worked on (and his thoughts on songs he did not).

Finally, spend the day listening to albums from the one holiday-appropriate band that there is for February 2.  We’ll help get you started.

Over the Weekend (Jan. 19 Edition)

Videos, news, and other fun music-related articles as you celebrate today’s holiday

In honor of today’s holiday, I hope you take some time to read Killer Mike’s excellent op-ed on how we should pay tribute to Dr. King’s true legacy.  Mike emphasizes the revolutionary ideals of Dr. King, and pushes us to do more than talk vaguely about his virtue but to take action.

Flying Lotus continues to deliver thought-provoking videos for his recent album, You’re Dead!,  with the latest being the dark and disturbing “Coronus, The Terminator”.  He writes in the comments, “For me, Coronus is one of the most important moments on You’re Dead! and holds ideas I’m planning to explore in my future work. I’m happy that the visual encapsulates the meaning of the record and this ambition[.]”

Modest Mouse also released their latest video this morning, with the fan site Interstate-8 providing the video for the track “Coyotes”.  The band had given a tease for the video this past weekend by posting a tweet of the video’s star, so at least those of us who were befuddled by the message now at least understand the meaning.

As a fan of Seattle bands (and the city in general) but not of their football team, it’s been a pretty difficult month.  First, I have to deal with Pearl Jam selling special “12th Man” t-shirts as well as Mike McCready raising a special 12th Man flag at the Space Needle, and then I have to see that Alice in Chains performed at halftime at the game on Sunday.  That said, it’s terrible for Fox not to have broadcast it, but kudos for the various fans who have been sharing footage from the show. (Update: The Seahawks are now sharing official footage of the performance.)

Most people know that bands often make ridiculous demands in their Tour Rider, but few make an actual game of it.  Enter the Foo Fighters, who included an activity book to help hammer home the important points and make sure that the various venues actually paid attention.

And finally, proof once again of the importance of music, with a recent study that shows that music training provides significant benefits to development in children’s brains.

Catching Up On The Week (Dec. 12 Edition)

Some #longreads as you try to stop laughing every time you hear “Pineapple Express” on the local weather report…

Earlier this month, the Pixies released a three-disc reissue of their classic album Doolittle for its 25th anniversary, and I truly mean “classic” in every sense of the word.  The AV Club has a roundtable devoted to the album, and the band’s label at the time 4AD has created an interactive version of the liner notes online.  Be sure to check those out as you blast that album the rest of the weekend.

For those more interested in current music, Consequence of Sound has named their Band of the Year and Artist of the Year, and they are Rust Is Just Right favorites The War On Drugs and Run The Jewels, respectively.  As such, they each get the extended profile and retrospective treatment.

Because it’s always fun to read his interviews, we’re going to link to a Rolling Stone piece with Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers answering questions from Twitter.  You’ll find stories about their infamous socks costume, potential future drum battles with Will Ferrell, and updates on their new album.

In more serious news, this week saw the release from the Senate Intelligence Committee on the use of torture by the CIA in the last decade.  Among the various methods employed was the use of music, in different forms, and Vox has a breakdown of the psychological connections that humans with music and how the CIA exploited them.

Over the Weekend (Dec. 8 Edition)

Lists, lists, and more lists.  Oh, and the most metal animal on the planet…

Once again, we have even more Best-Of lists for you to peruse, including Best Albums of the Year lists from The AV Club, Stereogum, and God Is In The TV (though they only have half their list published as of today).  You’ll see a lot of our favorites appear on these lists, but you can use these lists like we do and try to track down stuff that you may have missed the first time.  The AV Club helps out even more in this regard by listing all the authors’ ballots, including less-represented genres like metal (courtesy of the lists of Jason Heller and Sean O’Neal).  Also, kudos to Ryan Bray for having Tomorrow’s Hits at the top of his list, since we love that album from The Men so much and it hasn’t been getting the recognition we feel it deserves.

Run The Jewels, who is of course well-represented on these lists, released a new video for “Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)”.  Though not as involved as their effort in “Blockbuster Night (Part 1)”, at least you get to see El-P and Killer Mike perform their verses on one of the highlights of Run The Jewels 2.

Speaking of music videos, we’ve got lists for those too, as Pitchfork rounds up a Top 20 and Consequence of Sound came up with a Top 5 (though they were more generous with their songs list, giving us a Top 50 that includes several RIJR favorites).  It’s no surprise that the Flying Lotus/Kendrick Lamar collaboration “Never Catch Me” is found on both lists (and probably others that we have yet to track down).  Though we featured it earlier this year, we present it to you once again for your convenience.

Considering the themes of that video and the Flying Lotus album in general, now is the time to note that today is the tenth anniversary of the murder of ‘Dimebag’ Darrell, and Billboard has a whole series of remembrances of the legendary guitarist that are worth taking some time to read.

We understand that not everyone can have taste in music that is as good as ours or our readers, and Noisey explains that despite this initial stumbling block, there are benefits to dating people with different musical tastes.

And finally, with a story that’s sure to generate some aww’s, metal salutes, and clicks, here’s the news about Slayer rescuing a homeless kitten.  No word on the condition of the homeless man in the story, but I guess we can at least take comfort that the kitty is safe.

Catching Up On The Week (Dec. 5 Edition)

Some #longreads as you once again ignore the Grammys

While lately most of their interviews have been rather serious, this week Run The Jewels have some fun talking to the AV Club about their love of Steven Seagal movies.  If you prefer analysis of their music instead, Stereogum has a piece discussing the significance of male friendship to their latest album.

There’s a reason that when watching the OutKast reunion this year that Andre 3000 didn’t feel like being there, and that was confirmed in his interview with FADER where discusses the specifics of his “selling out.”

If you’re looking for a gift for a music-loving friend, you might want to check out the book Check the Technique, which does us all a service by diving behind the scenes to provide us with information behind some of hip-hop’s classic albums.  The Atlantic interviews author Brian Coleman about both volumes.

Proving that just about every album gets the 20-year treatment, Stereogum has a piece on Bush’s debut Sixteen Stone.  While admittedly it was one of my first albums, it’s not exactly a landmark record, but the evolution of its reception makes the essay worth reading.

And finally, most of our Foo Fighters coverage has revolved around Dave Grohl, but this time it’s Pat Smear getting the spotlight.  Pat talks to Diffuser about the making of Sonic Highways and how he ended up becoming a part of Nirvana, as well as his unique take on guitars.  Though the introduction mentions only two of the legendary bands of which he was a member, rest assured, Pat does talk about his time in the Germs for a bit.

Over the Weekend (Dec. 1 Edition)

Various fun links to help you recover from the holiday weekend…

It’s that time of year again when all the different music publications begin their tally of the best albums of the year, and while we here at Rust Is Just Right hold out on releasing our list until the next year, that doesn’t mean we won’t share what others have deemed worthy.  Both MOJO and Paste have released their lists, and you’ll find that many of the albums we’ve praised this year have shown up on both countdowns.  If you feel we have been incomplete in our coverage so far, by all means take a look–we’ll be doing so as well to make sure we have covered all the bases.

The War On Drugs are high on both lists, and probably ours as well–we’ll see for certain next year.  Though their concert this Wednesday night might help nudge them up a bit.

Speaking of lists, The Village Voice was compelled to compile a list of the 60 Best Songs Ever Written About New York City.  I’m not sure what was the impetus or the reason why the cutoff was at 60, but frankly we’re just glad that Interpol’s “NYC” and Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train” were fairly close to the top.

Not only is it List Time, it’s also the “Holiday Season.” While Holiday music is generally not the most thrilling genre out there, Los Campesinos! may be the band to avoid that pitfall.  You can hear for yourself, as Pitchfork is streaming their Christmas EP this week.

Noisey talks to two big 90’s bands who are still out there chugging along, posing the same questions to Everclear and Bush–though the interviews were clearly conducted separately, it’s interesting to see their answers side-by-side.  Also, it’s worth reading just to hear about Art Alexakis giving a midterm that day.

Elsewhere on Noisey, Killer Mike discusses his reaction to the grand jury decision in Ferguson in a heartfelt interview.  He’s a busy man these days, not only touring behind the incredible new Run The Jewels album, but also helping to write an Op-Ed on a Supreme Court case being heard today about rap lyrics and the First Amendment.  Billboard has some reporting on the case, including the fact that Eminem lyrics were quoted by Chief Justice Roberts.  Elonis v. United States is potentially a significant opinion for First Amendment caselaw, so it is worth following the arguments.

Review: Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

“Run the Jewels” is the answer, your question is “What’s Poppin’?”

Since the announcement in late October that they had leaked the much-anticipated sequel to their thrilling debut album, Run The Jewels has been the talk of the music world.  And it’s with good reason: Run The Jewels 2 is even better than the original collaboration between El-P and Killer Mike.  Their self-titled debut was among the best-reviewed albums of last year, and found a spot on most year-end lists, including our own.  The sequel does an even better job of mining and improving upon the best trends in hip-hop from the past twenty years, and finds the connection between the duo stronger than ever.

So while the quoted lyric above is certainly not the most acerbic or clever line on the record, the closing line of opener “Jeopardy” does sum up RTJ’s place in music right now.  If you need a better sampler of the album, you should listen to the banging “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, which will fully abuse your car stereo’s subwoofers with its pulsing bass.  The two MC’s trade verses fast and furious, picking up their speed and intensity with each round as the music grows more chaotic around them.  Another highlight is “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) which builds a bouncy, stuttering beat off a guest appearance from Zach de la Rocha, recalling the era when turntablism reigned.

Run The Jewels 2 is a treasure-trove of brilliant beats and production from El-P, switching up styles and moods on the fly that accommodates the desire for variety while never sacrificing flow.  Grimy, serious material like “Angel Duster” and “Blockbuster Night Part 1” fits in easily with more fun tracks like “All Due Respect”, which takes the fun elements of rap-rock without the negative connotations that term has taken in more recent years, thanks to some excellent drumming from Travis Barker.  It’s a lean and efficient album too, clocking in at less than forty minutes, so it never wears out its welcome–but it’s likely that you’ll be putting the whole thing on repeat.

Note: there seems to be a difference between the free download version and the physical copy you can buy, with the former including an extra verse from Gangsta Boo to provide the female counter to the duo’s claims on “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” that’s missing from the purchased disc.

Over the Weekend (Nov. 3 Edition)

News and new videos as you adjust to the terrifying new era of reverting back from daylight savings…

The Decemberists have announced that they will release a new album early next year, entitled What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.  And so we don’t come away with only this announcement, the band also provided us with a new song, “Make You Better”, complete with a “visualizer” video.

Prince performed on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, eschewing the normal two song/~four minute blocks for one eight-minute mega-jam.  It was a memorable performance, and not just for Prince’s third-eye sunglasses or his backing 3rdEyeGirl group.  At the very least, we learned that Prince has spent some time listening to Pantera.

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.

Nirvana fans may be intrigued by the recent discovery of a “sound collage” that Kurt Cobain created, illustrating more of a connection with a band like The Olivia Tremor Control than one would have suspected.  Note: this sounds nothing like Nirvana, but have fun with it anyway.  Update: An interview with Cobain’s girlfriend at the time, Tracy Marander, sheds some light on the recording, including that there are two versions of “Montage of Heck” and that Nirvana diehards had known of this for years, and in fact a copy had been circulating for some time.

Wilco had some fun on The Tonight Show last week, though not all the footage was aired during the show.  Check out this acoustic version of the classic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot track “I’m the Man That Loves You”.

And finally, to wrap up our coverage of bands that played on late night last week, there’s The Flaming Lips in full costume performing “With A Little Help From My Friends” (with their “fwends”), and Run The Jewels blasting “Early” with a Halloween-appropriate performance on Letterman.