The Shins

Over the Weekend (Nov. 24 Edition)

Some videos and other fun as you prepare for the big holiday this week…

This weekend marked the twentieth anniversary of Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy album, and there were retrospectives from both Billboard and Stereogum.  Both do a great job of talking about how the album was a turning point for the band, and how though it’s a respected effort, it’s still underrated.  I was inspired by these pieces to listen to the remastered version of the album that was released a couple of years ago, and it adds a whole new level to the record.

Our favorite new music video comes courtesy of hometown heroes Red Fang, which should be no surprise, considering their track record of great videos.  This time for “Crows In Swine” they prove that their brilliance extends even into the realm of animation.

We previously shared the lyric video for the new song from The Decemberists, and now we can link to the official music video for “Make You Better”.  It features Nick Offerman guest-starring as the host of a lost television show from the 70’s, with The Decemberists providing a goofy performance.

Rolling Stone has been publishing a ton of Foo Fighters-related material, and one of the coolest pieces they’ve done is a list of various cameos that Dave Grohl has done for various albums and performances.

Last week Sebadoh stopped by the AV Club for their Undercover series, and they performed Rush’s “Limelight”.  Personally, I feel that the band balances between taking it seriously and having fun with it, but half of my enjoyment may have been due to the various Rush fans in the comments getting offended by Lou Barlow’s ridiculous vocals.

TV on the Radio hit the Late Show with David Letterman last week to perform “Happy Idiot”, and it’s obvious that as the band hits the road in support of Seeds this is going to be a definite highlight of their set.

Speaking of late night performances, Cold War Kids went on Conan to play “All This Could Be Yours” and delivered a passionate performance of their latest single.

Before there was The Shins there was Flake Music, and Sub Pop is reissuing the only record of the predecessor band.  NPR has it up for streaming for your pleasure.  Elsewhere on their site, be sure to check out this video talking about the special way in which musicians’ brains work.

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Over the Weekend (July 7 Edition)

Hope everyone had a fun holiday weekend, with all fingers and toes still intact.  On to the news and videos:

Big news last week as Death Grips broke up, just in time for me to miss seeing them on their tour with Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails.  To tell you the truth, I wasn’t fully expecting the group to show up, considering their history, but it’s a bummer nonetheless.  The “break-up” makes sense, in either their own narrative of being an art project or an outsider’s perspective of being a pure troll-job.  At least we can say that a lot of rich people gave them money, and they repaid that debt by giving the public a lot of cool music for free.

Some might say that the biggest news was the leak that Pink Floyd is releasing a new album, but this is only significant for people who never listened to The Division Bell and don’t care that Roger Waters is not involved in the new project.  Still, if you’re looking for an excuse to turn out the lights and fire up Wish You Were Here, might as well make it this one.

Or you could listen to “Wish I Was Here”, a collaboration between Cat Power and Coldplay for the new Zach Braff film of the same name.  I don’t remember much of the movie “Garden State”, but if it got more people to listen to The Shins, I’m perfectly fine with its existence.  I still get chills listening to “New Slang”.

Continuing with another (un)expected collaboration, Rolling Stone has the latest video to result from the Miley Cyrus/Flaming Lips partnership, this time with special guest Moby.  Yes, drugs were involved.

Jack White is continuing to clear out his vault, and announced the release of a single from his band The Dead Weather, along with a live album from The White Stripes.  Pitchfork has the details if you’re interested.

If you’re in the mood for some reading, you could do better than read the AV Club’s Hatesong feature, which continues to be a waste of time for most everybody involved.  This past week saw a comedian complain about Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” because…he was in 8th grade and didn’t like his classmates that liked the song.  AV Club, you’re better than this.

If you need something to lift up your spirits after that, no worries: we finally have a new song from Death From Above 1979.  The track “Trainwreck 1979” made its debut on Zane Lowe’s program on BBC Radio 1, and you can catch it at about the 1 hour and 54 minute mark.  Be sure to set your cursor back a couple of minutes before that, as Zane explains the significance of You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine to many music fans, even if it never sold all that much.  It reminds me of “Sexy Results”, but a quicker and dirtier version of it.  In other words, it’s grimy, but still has a good dance beat.

[Edited to add:] The band has uploaded a lyric video for “Trainwreck 1979” and have also included information to pre-order the new album The Physical World on their Facebook page.

Still bored?  Check out some Best Albums So Far lists, courtesy of Relix and Stephen Thomas Erlewine.  Several the albums we’ve touted appear on both lists, so good news for us, but they should also provide the opportunity to discover other new artists as well.

And last but not least, Spoon continues to release new tracks from its upcoming release, They Want My Soul.  The band released “Do You”, plus Brit stopped by the BBC Radio 6 studio to do a quick acoustic show and interview.

Review: Broken Bells – After the Disco

It’s been amusing to read reviews of the new Broken Bells album, namely the amount of focus that multiple critics place on the name of the record.  It brings to mind memories of middle schoolers putting together slap-dash book reports and riffing as much as they can on the title and back page in their oral presentations.  It makes me wish that I had some social media pull to start a trending hashtag of #CrappyBookReports.  I can understand how certain bands spend a lot of time and effort thinking that the album title really encapsulates what they were going for on the record, but you know, sometimes it’s just a convenient label (and just something taken from a particular song).

So, in other words, I’m not placing much stock in any grand statement in After the Disco.*  Instead, I’m content to enjoy it as a pleasant 45 minute record of mid-tempo rock.  The highs aren’t particularly high, and I wouldn’t say there’s a killer single hidden in the tracklisting somewhere, though “Holding On For Life” was enough of a hook to get me excited to actually buy the album.

One thing that the album does a great job is throwing enough curveballs that seemingly straight-ahead tracks usually in a place that you don’t expect.  It makes for a great listening experience, but hell to figure out which song exactly it was that you were digging.   Opener “Perfect World” starts with a great, motoring groove (almost a disco beat!), and then ends with a great half-time coda that brings the mood back down to Earth (maybe I should give critics more credit–they saw the album title AND listened to the first song).  That said, songs where the tempo picks up like “The Changing Lights” and “Medicine” stand out a bit, but they never fully lift off.  It’s most clear in the song “No Matter What You’re Told”–if there was just a little bit more urgency and just a couple more beats per minute (and a snare sound that was a bit more lively), this would be a great crowd-pleaser.  But the restraint is clearly by design, so it’s difficult to pin all the blame on stylistic choices like that one.

The biggest problem is with the concept of “Broken Bells” itself.  Both James Mercer and Danger Mouse have done excellent work on their own, but the combination of the two is puzzling at first glance, and there’s not really enough in their music to take away any potential doubts.  Mercer already has an authoritative voice in The Shins and is a suitable vehicle for most of his musical ambitions; Danger Mouse has produced great tracks, but he could probably need a stronger vocal presence than Mercer.  The music never really rises above its side-project nature; the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.

But there is something to be said for just good music; bands don’t always need to justify themselves.  In that respect, I’m perfectly content on buying Broken Bells albums and will probably continue to do so in the future.

*For the record, I always thought that After the Disco would have been a perfect title for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ It’s Blitz!