The Magic Whip

Catching Up On The Week (July 17 Edition)

Some #longreads for your brief moments indoors as you beat the heat…

Rust Is Just Right is heading to Project Pabst up in Portland this weekend, but we are providing some reading materials for those who are unable to make the trek themselves.

Speaking of Portland, Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse had an interesting interview with the media in Poland that was reprinted in Willamette Week where he lets loose on the uglier side of “Portlandia”.  After digesting that, be sure to read this extensive profile of Isaac, which documents the making of Strangers to Ourselves and proves that Buzzfeed can actually produce something of worth.  Then you can top it all off with a quick look at the video for Modest Mouse’s latest single, the bouncy “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box.”

The biggest news of the day is the much-anticipated release of Currents, the new album from Tame Impala.  During our absence, record release dates have shifted in the United States and now they more closely follow the schedule used by the rest of the world, hence the Friday premiere.  To help prepare you for Currents, check out Pitchfork’s feature on the man behind Tame Impala, Kevin Parker.

We enjoyed immensely the return of Blur, giving high praise to their comeback album The Magic Whip.  Billboard has a fun interview with Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon talking about how the reunion came together and the influence of Hong Kong on the record.

Deadspin offers this op-ed which serves a strong defense for 90’s nostalgia favorite, Third Eye Blind.  We find nothing wrong at all with this stance.

Finally, this week saw the AV Club start a new column called “Version Tracker”, where they analyze a song and the various covers that have been performed over the years.  This is remarkably like our own feature, Covered.  We do not claim any bad intentions on their part, since it is unlikely that deliberately took our idea.  If however the AV Club would like to acknowledge our part in creating as the first comment on the piece state, “a damn brilliant concept for a feature,” we would appreciate that, if not some other sort of compensation.

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Review: Blur – The Magic Whip

Over on this side of the Atlantic, news of a long-awaited Blur reunion album has been greeted with a collective shrug.  It is a reaction that is indicative of the band’s general reception in the US, but not befitting of the group’s sustained greatness over the course of their career.  Most American listeners remember Blur more-or-less as a one-hit wonder (“oh yeah, those guys that did the ‘Woo-hoo!’ song!“), which is a shame because that particular attempt to taking the piss out of grunge is hardly indicative of the band’s diverse body of work.

Blur’s albums have been eclectic and sprawling affairs, with the band shifting effortlessly between different genres over the course of the record, and The Magic Whip follows that template as well.  Unlike the band’s previous work though, there are no big singles to be found on the new record; it is unlikely that a crowd favorite like “Tender” or “Beetlebum” or “To the End” will emerge from this set of songs.  Fans should not be discouraged however–though Blur does not reach the peaks that they have in the past, overall this is perhaps the band’s strongest group of songs since their self-titled release, and it improves with every listen.

It is rather remarkable how little The Magic Whip resembles the typical comeback album.  The effort compares favorably to the recent Dinosaur Jr. reunion, as Blur sounds like they never broke up in the first place; listening to The Magic Whip in conjunction with the rest of the band’s discography, the novice listener would have no idea that there was a sixteen-year gap between the new album and the previous full-lineup incarnation.  There are no attempts to cash in on any modern trends, nor are there any painful attempts to recapture the glory of their youth; perhaps this is the payoff for all that restlessness and genre-shifting from their previous albums earlier in their career.  Blur never really had a typical sound, so they are free to experiment however they would like.

Contrary to what one may expect, there is only a moderate influence that can be detected from Damon Albarn’s myriad side-projects since the band’s last album; there is a bit of dub that recalls The Good, The Bad & The Queen, a bit of the melancholy that marked his recent solo album Everyday Robots, but little that is reminiscent of Gorillaz.  Instead, it is a much more cohesive affair than what would have been predicted, especially considering the background behind the recording of the album (it was put together during the downtime of a cancelled music festival over the course of a few short days).  In general, The Magic Whip is a laid-back affair, and some of the album’s best moments are when the band takes it down a notch and stretches out a bit, such as in the drifting “Mirrorball” or the appropriately-named “I Thought I Was A Spaceman”.  Of course, Blur is never content to just stick around mining the same groove, so there are a fair number of uptempo numbers, most notably the cheery “Ong Ong”.  It is an effervescent song that is placed perfectly near the end of the album, serving as an excellent capstone to the record, and will have you singing along with its refrain of “I wanna be with you” long after the whole thing is over.

Over the Weekend (Feb. 23 Edition)

New music, new videos, and other fun stuff as you prepare for when the revolution comes

Holy shit guys, we’re actually going to get a new Blur record!  Damon Albarn has apparently found some time in between his three hundred musical projects to record an album with his old mates, as The Magic Whip will be released here in the States on April 28.  As an appetizer, here’s the bizarre lyric video for the weird new song “Go Out”.

Normally, we would have this new video occupy our lead spot–after all, it includes not only a song from one of the best albums of the year so far, but also features some of our favorite television characters as well.  However, it’s not everyday that Blur announces a new album, so the Bob’s Burgers-themed video for Sleater-Kinney’s “A New Wave” gets the second slot, but it should make you happy nonetheless.

NPR has a couple of new albums streaming on their site that are worth sharing: first, Swervedriver returns for their first record in nearly twenty years with I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, and then there’s Of Montreal offering up Aureate Gloom for your pleasure.

Father John Misty stopped by The Strombo Show, and during that appearance he covered the Leonard Cohen classic “Bird on the Wire”.  It’s a bit jarring at first to hear the song without Cohen’s trademark baritone, but Joshua Tillman still makes a fine version.

Death Cab For Cutie have shared another new track from Kintsugi, which will be out by the end of March, called “No Room in Frame”.

Vox takes a look at Eric Malmi’s attempt to determine the Best Rapper Alive by looking at the use of assonant rhyme.  As with most data-intensive looks at creative endeavors, take it with a grain of salt.

And finally, have some fun as the satirical website Clickhole asks the question “How Well Do You Know The Lyrics to Radiohead’s ‘Creep’?” with their ridiculous quiz.