Some #longreads as you prepare to fire off the last of your “balls” jokes this weekend…
Stereogum takes a look at the 10th anniversary of the self-titled debut from LCD Soundsystem, and I can think of no better way to kick off the weekend than to play “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” at an unreasonable volume, so here you go.
Perhaps the biggest news of this week was the surprise release of Björk’s new album, with Billboard providing the behind-the-scenes response of the leak of Vulnicura. In order to get you into the proper mindset for the new album, it might be a good idea to read the New York Times profile on Björk as well as her already-much-discussed Pitchfork interview.
We’re not fans of Mötley Crüe by any stretch of the imagination, but when we found out that Drew Magary did a profile of the band while providing a glimpse of the life of a roadie, we were intrigued. Magary is one of our favorite writers, so we’re glad to share his GQ article along with the extras that didn’t make it into the piece.
Many of you have been humming along to the infectious “Uptown Funk” for a few weeks now, so you might be interested in how difficult it was for Mark Ronson to put the seemingly easy song together, according to this Grantland profile.
The Guardian has a great interview with Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt about his early days working as a fanzine and newspaper columnist and seeing the best of the 80’s underground scene. It’s a lot like revisiting Our Band Could Be Your Life from a Northwest perspective, as he reminisces about the early days of Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr., Big Black, and more. In a related piece, The Guardian also takes a closer look at the terminally under-appreciated Portland punk legends Wipers as a part of their new celebration of cult heroes. Hopefully more and more people go and take a look back at their classic early output.
It’s been a real fun ride watching the continued evolution of Cloud Nothings over the past few years. I started keeping my eye on the band back when it was still a weekend project of Dylan Baldi, having fortuitously downloaded the initial bedroom recordings of Turning On on a whim. Baldi’s strengths had been his great melodic sensibilities and a knack for strong hooks, so few would have expected the direction that he took with the Steve Albini-produced Attack on Memory, which added a healthy dose of grit and bitterness to the mix. Attack on Memory was an often great album that was a significant step forward for the band, even after taking some of its unevenness into consideration. The question was then what direction the band would take next.
Here and Nowhere Else sees Cloud Nothings increasing the aggression and upping the angst even more, and the result is a voracious blast of pure intensity that doesn’t let up over the course of its half-hour runtime. However, some of the ambition found on Attack on Memory, which can partially be explained by Baldi pulling double duty and handling both rhythm and lead guitar parts. The songs don’t have the same obvious surface complexity as those on Attack on Memory, though that’s not necessarily true from a structural songwriting standpoint, as several tracks venture into unexpected directions. The real strength of the album is that it’s clear that the band has become an even more cohesive unit during the intervening years of touring. There are several nice melodic basslines that snake their way throughout the album and Jayson Gercyz’s drumming is a real standout from front to back, as he is able to change tempos at the drop of a hat as well as match the mood with subtle dynamic touches. Listen in “Psychic Trauma” to how seamlessly Gercyz switches from a steady groove to a raucous attack, culminating in an absolutely ferocious final climax.
There is no equivalent to the Wipers’-influenced “Wasted Days” on Here and Nowhere Else, but “Pattern Walks” comes close. It’s a nice touch that the chorus benefits from the purposefully lo-fi mix that can have the listener mistaking the title for “padded walls”, giving an extra edge to the song. It devolves into a glorious mess, with swirls of keyboards, but it lacks the intricate guitar lines, the groovy solo section, and the perfect shout-along of “I thought I would be more than this” from “Wasted Days”. The album does end on a high note with the excellent “I’m Not Part of Me”, which proves the perfect bridge of the early bedroom days of the band and the new aggro-punk leanings of the current incarnation.
A few quick links you may have missed this week and worthy of your time this weekend
Complex had a great article this week in which a member of the Recording Academy provided a first-hand account of the Grammy Award voting process. It’s a quick read, and it gives you a clue as to how you end up with some of the more ridiculous options over the years. Of course, if you’re not inclined to read a behind-the-scenes look because the Grammys are not an award worthy of your time, that’s perfectly fine. Fiction has its merits as well, for the record.
Cloud Nothings debuted a new song this week on SoundCloud, and you can listen to it here. I’ve been a fan for a few years now, and appreciated how their new-found love of The Wipers shaped their previous album Attack On Memory (without “Youth of America”, there would be no “Wasted Days”, and Dylan Baldi would probably be the first to point that out). After listening to the new track, I’m glad to hear that this love of The Wipers was not just a passing phase and continues to be an influence. Hopefully the rest of the new album lives up to this song (we’ll find it for sure on April 1).
And finally, the music world (and the world itself) lost a giant when Pete Seeger died earlier this week. It’s been great reading tributes to him from all over, and seeing different friends post his performances. There was one that I caught last night that I wanted to share, and that was his performance of his classic “If I Had A Hammer” with Stephen Colbert.