On Wednesday night, America will say goodbye to David Letterman, a comedic genius who has been revolutionizing late night television longer than I have been alive. I missed out on the NBC years, so I learned about all his most memorable bits secondhand. Instead, for me he was always the guy on CBS facing off against the Leno juggernaut. As a kid, I appreciated Leno’s easy humor more, but over the years I began to appreciate Letterman’s sarcastic wit and his ironic take on comedic conventions, and eventually fully embraced his approach. In my mind, “Is This Anything?” is the pinnacle late night achievement.
An underrated part of Letterman’s legacy was his willingness to book unconventional musical acts. In our brief run so far, we have spotlighted performances from favorite bands on the show several times, and we probably should have shared several more. Over the years, the Late Show has provided several great groups with their first major exposure on a network, and it was always a joy to see Dave himself get a kick out of many of the bands that performed. Of course, let us not forget the contributions from the brilliant Paul Shaffer and the CBS orchestra; there were few things cooler to watch than seeing Paul join in when he was digging what he heard, like he did with Red Fang a few months back.
A few #longreads as you prepare for the new year to begin in earnest…
Amid a crowded field of new releases next week, the long-awaited return of Sleater-Kinney stands out from the rest as indie rock fans welcome the return of the beloved 90’s band. So it’s no surprise that the band is getting write-ups in most music publications this week, including Pitchfork, Grantland, and Nylon. We’re probably missing other tributes as well, but we’ll try to make up for it by linking to their performance on Letterman last night.
Another new release that we can’t wait to hear comes from another Pacific NW favorite, as The Decemberists return next week with What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. The Oregonian looks at how the band helped shape the Portland music scene over the past fifteen years, which while giving the city a new national profile also riles up some locals, as evidenced by a few of the comments.
We left a ton of material on the table for today’s post, and with the flurry of news this morning our roundup is even more overstuffed than usual. So let’s dive right in with the surprise release of the music video for the Beastie Boys track “Too Many Rappers”, featuring Nas in both audio and visual form. While it’s sad to remember that Hot Sauce Committee Part Two will be the last album we ever hear from the Beasties, but it’s certainly great to have some more footage of the crew having fun together.
NPR has streams for two highly-anticipated new albums available this week. First, there’s the long-awaited return of critical darlings and Pacific Northwest favorites Sleater-Kinney, who are releasing their first album in ten years next week with No Cities to Love. Then there’s the self-titled debut of Viet Cong, who have garnered a ridiculous amount of buzz among various indie blogs in the past couple of months. I don’t yet have the same enthusiasm, though it may take a few more listens of their noisy guitar rock to convince me.
Ghostface Killah seemingly never stops working, because after releasing his solo album 36 Seasons last month (and appearing on The Wu-Tang Clan’s A Better Tomorrow), he’s set to release another album next month. This time it’s a collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD, with their record Sour Soul set to be released February 17. Their latest track, “Ray Gun”, features a guest spot from DOOM and has a nice grimy funk feel, complemented by some gorgeous strings. Stereogum has more information, including links to previously released tracks, for your perusal.
It’s disappointing that a once-vibrant genre as Country has become just a bunch of homogenized pablum, and worse yet is the fact that every year it continues to get worse. The genre has just become Nickelback with a half-assed over-enunciated Southern accent, and that’s a damn shame. The thing is, consumers are at least partly to blame, since as The Atlantic points out, uniformity is what sells.
Last week featured some great musical guests on the Late Night shows, including performances from such RIJR favorites The War On Drugs (who performed the epic “An Ocean In Between The Waves” on The Tonight Show) and Parquet Courts delivering a dynamite version of “Bodies Made of” on Letterman, a song that initially sounds like a poor choice for the national stage until it gets to its epic breakdown. But the standout of the week was Foxygen and Star Power performing “How Can You Really” on The Late Show, which prompted an enthusiastic response from Dave himself.
And finally, a couple of fun lists that can either be used as a discovery tool or merely as argument fodder. Stereogum has a list of “30 Essential Post-Rock” songs which along with usual suspects Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós, and Explosions in the Sky includes several other bands that may not be as well known, though this may partially be due to a broad definition of “post-rock”. You can have an argument about that specific topic as well as the following list from Complex, which goes through each year since 1979 to anoint “The Best Rapper Alive”.
Some videos and lists and other fun stuff as you continue to put off Christmas shopping…
Last week we said farewell to one of our favorite late night comedy shows with the end of The Colbert Report, but that wasn’t the only great program that finished its run last week. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson was underrated for the entirety of its run, as few could match the creativity and anarchic spirit of its host. Craig ended things with a bang on his last show, and it was nice to see this tribute at the top of his show. Here’s the official video, though it’s missing an excellent second half as seen in this link.
The “Bang Your Drum” performance was an excellent followup to the latest rendition of the annual holiday tradition of Darlene Love performing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home”) on The Late Show with David Letterman. Of course, what really takes the performance to another level is the bari sax solo, but all the musicians are worthy of praise.
Daniel Kessler from Interpol’s side project Big Noble just released their first music video, providing a visual accompaniment to the soundscape “Stay Gold”.
And a melancholy farewell to Joe Cocker, who possessed one of the great voices in rock history. His cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends” was a huge part of my childhood, and I’m sure millions of others could say the same thing.