The Roots

Best of the Rest: Other Highlights from 2014

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

Atmosphere – Southsiders.  At this point in their career, you know what you’re going to get with Atmosphere, and for occasional fans that’s perfect.  Slug still comes up with great one-liners, and Ant provides an intriguing, grimy production to back him up.

Biblical – Monsoon Season.  This selection is proof that good things can happen when you show up to see the opening act.  We first caught them when they were touring with Death From Above 1979, and we instantly fell for their version of heavy metal that takes the sensibility of Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon and expands it out to include several rocking solos.  A prog version of Red Fang?  We’re there.

clipping. – CLPPNG.  These guys do a great job of pushing the boundaries of modern rap, though their experimentalism can get the best of them on occasion.  There are several instances on CLPPNG that the abrasiveness becomes oppressive, but then there are plenty of other times where everything coalesces and it just hits.  Throughout the record, MC Daveed Diggs showcased some of the best technique of the past year, displaying an impressive ear for rhythm and deploying some incisive rhymes, with “Story 2” serving as the most prominent example.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!.  This mixture of electronica, jazz, hip-hop, and R&B flows effortlessly from one track to the next and always keeps your attention.  Kendrick Lamar’s appearance on “Never Catch Me” is the highlight, but there is a lot of fun to be had throughout the album.

King Tuff – Black Moon Spell.  A unique mix of glam rock and lo-fi indie, the best moments of this album are some of the most fun rock’n’roll released last year.

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun.  Mastodon continues to evolve and refine their sound, reining in some of their tendencies towards excess with more concise songs but still adventurous enough to seek out some crazy riffs and solos.  In this way, Once More serves as an efficient composite of their previous albums, but also features some of their catchiest riffs yet.

The Roots – …And then you shoot your cousin.  The Roots are so consistently excellent that they are practically the Spoon of hip-hop.  Their latest concept album was overlooked and underrated, and though it suffers from a diminished presence from Black Thought, the record still works even if it leans on more traditional R&B than rap.

Slow Bird – Chrysalis.  They show a good ear for slow builds and pretty melodies, and  one can hear the foundation for future success.

Tweedy – Sukierae.  Who would have thought that Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer would make a good team?  This side project has enough of the charm of his main gig in Wilco, while also offering enough of an alternative that makes it a worthwhile effort.

Walter Martin – We’re All Young Together.  This is the third solo album from a former member of The Walkmen released last year, but since the intended audience was for children there were much lower stakes involved.  However, this is one of those “kids albums” that is just as pleasant for adults, with its effortless easy-going charm.  If you play this for the kids, chances are they will grow up with good taste in music.

Also Worthy of Praise

Broken Bells – After the Disco; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run; D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah; Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita; Eels – The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett; Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways; Parquet Courts – Content Nausea; Sun Kil Moon – Benji; Temples – Sun Structures; tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack.

All Albums That Were Considered

Here is a list of the albums that we listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just could not crack the previous lists.  The good news is there were no absolute stinkers this year, though some were weaker efforts from bands that had excelled in the past.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – IX; Band of Horses – Acoustic at the Ryman; The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation; Circulatory System – Mosaics Within Mosaics; Cold War Kids – Hold My Home; Coldplay – Ghost Stories; Crosses – Crosses; Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots; Dum Dum Girls – Too True; Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons; J Mascis – Tied To A Star; Jack White – Lazaretto; Karen O – Crush Songs; Kasabian – 48:13; Kevin Drew – Darlings; The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers; Philip Selway – Weatherhouse; Pixies – Indie Cindy; Thee Silver Mt. Zion – Fuck Off We Get Free We Pour Light On Everything; Thurston Moore – The Best Day; Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield; We Are Scientists – TV en Francais; Wye Oak – Shriek.

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The Mid-Year Reassessment; Or, “We Should Probably Mention These Albums”

Our primary goal here at Rust Is Just Right is to spread the love of good music, generally through a careful and informed examination of precisely what makes certain music “good”.  We like to think we’ve done a fairly good job of this, through detailed album and live reviews as well as features like “Feats of Strength”.  But even with our best efforts, we haven’t been able to share all the great music we’ve heard so far this year.  So, we’re going to put a twist on a standard practice of most other music publications: instead of posting a Best of the Year (So Far) list, we’re going to list albums that we love but for some reason or another haven’t given the proper attention.

Albums from bands that deserve more recognition, but this wasn’t the one that would put them over the top:

Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield

We Are Scientists – TV en Francais

Album from a band that we didn’t really appreciate before, but really liked their new stuff

Wye Oak – Shriek

Great album from a band where we know the drummer

Slow Bird – Chrysalis

Great Hip-Hop albums we love, but we really suck at writing about Hip-Hop

Atmosphere – Southsiders

The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

Great Heavy Metal album we love, but we really suck at writing about Heavy Metal

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

Album that we meant to review as part of a larger feature, but haven’t yet

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run

Album that is so great that we’re kicking ourselves for not writing about it sooner

Sun Kil Moon – Benji

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 (Apr. 7 Edition)

This is a Monday that should be especially easy to handle, because there are a ton of new videos to watch and aid in your quest to find the best ways to procrastinate.

It wasn’t a bad weekend to stay at home, because Nine Inch Nails made a rare television appearance in performing for the legendary Austin City Limits.  SPIN has the video of the almost hour-long performance, but I’m not sure how long it will be up, so better watch this one as soon as you can.

Continuing a week full of Nirvana tributes, here’s a roundup of a few from various artists from this past weekend, including covers from St. Vincent and Muse.  Lost in the (understandable) fuss over Nirvana, is the fact that this weekend marked another terrible anniversary, that of the death of Layne Staley.  The Everybody Loves Our Town Tumblr has a link to his last performance with Alice in Chains.  And here is another strange way in which the stories have been combined, thanks to the use of Photoshop.

Lots of news for fans of Jack White (which includes us, of course), as he announced the upcoming release of his solo follow-up to Blunderbuss, with Lazaretto scheduled to hit stores on June 10.  In addition, he’s announced a string of tour dates and released the “liquidy” video of the instrumental track “High Ball Stepper” (embedded above), a great please of ragged blues-rock.

Speaking of Jack White, Weezer stopped by the headquarters of Jack’s Third Man Records to record an acoustic version of fan-favorite “Susanne”.  Hey, remember when Weezer not only wasn’t awful, but actually pretty great?  That song is from that era, and along with “Jamie” is the reason why I bought the expensive Deluxe Edition reissue of the Blue Album.

J Mascis always seems to be having something going on, from his work in his main band Dinosaur Jr. to his solo work to even his acting (he’s been a guest on Portlandia and will be in the upcoming film The Doublehere’s a clip of Richard Ayoade talking about casting J).  J also has a side project with Sweet Apple, and you can find the debut video “Wish You Could Stay” (with guest vocals from the great Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, and more)), as well as a stream of the entire album, The Golden Age of Glitter, on Stereogum.  The single is a pleasant, shimmery piece of guitar pop, so please click if that description intrigues you.

Coldplay has released a music video for their latest single, “Magic”, and it’s rather good.  It’s made in the style of a silent film (with Coldplay being the backing music, of course), and involves a storyline with Zhang Ziyi and, well, magicians.  It’s nice to have some visual flair to a song that’s going to be pretty omnipresent on radio for a few months.

And because we publish this pretty late in the day, this allows us to catch some news just as its breaking–like the fact that The Roots are releasing a new album next month.  …And Then They Shoot Your Cousin will be out May 13, and Pitchfork has the first single “The People Cheer”.

Over The Weekend (Feb. 10 Edition)

It’s Monday, and what better time to watch some videos because doing actual work sounds pretty awful right now.

There goes my plan to invest in Medieval Madness points

Not For Investment Purposes

Justin Vernon from Bon Iver and Volcano Choir sat in with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon’s show last week, and Pitchfork has videos of the combo playing Bon Iver songs.

Punk icon Dennis Lyxzén (Refused, The (International) Noise Conspiracy) has a new group called INVSN, and their sound is a bit different than what you would expect.  Then again, if you expected synths and programmed drums, I would like to learn about the hallucinogenic substances you’ve been ingesting.  But I like the sound, and Stereogum has the video for their song “61”.

I’ve been sticking around after The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to watch the show @Midnight.  I’ve been switching between that and Community reruns, but lately I’ve been sticking around the reruns less often (though this may be the result of the syndication schedule not doing a great job of shuffling the episodes).  I only bring it up here because Neko Case was a contestant on the most recent show; you can watch her Win The Internet here.

And finally, here’s Andrew W.K. doing a guest song for a show on Animal Planet, featuring a ridiculous-looking cat.  It is everything you’d hope and expect it to be.  And that’s the best way to start the week.