David Bowie recently released a bonkers new video for the title track off his upcoming album Blackstar, and though Mos Def & Talib Kweli do not make a cameo appearance, the bizarre sci-fi vignettes are worth watching regardless.
M.I.A. also released a controversial new video for her song “Borders” from the upcoming Matahdatah, featuring a cast of dozens of refugees. You can view the video in the link above, since this YouTube copy will probably be taken down in the near-future.
Coldplay has probably the last big release of this year, with A Head Full Of Dreams coming out on Friday. The first single is the soaring “Adventures of a Lifetime”, accompanied by a video featuring computer-animated gorillas, because why not.
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.
The Walkmen were one of the greatest indie rock bands of the new century, and with excellent solo debuts this year from former members Hamilton Leithauser, Peter Matthew Bauer, and Walter Martin, now is as good a time as any to go back and revisit one of their classics, Bows + Arrows.
But it’s not only the year that is appropriate, but this particular season as well–though Bows + Arrows is not a concept album per se, it does seem to revolve around a period in late December. Not only do many of the song titles reference different aspects of the holiday season, from “No Christmas While I’m Talking” to “The North Pole” to “New Year’s Eve”; Even seemingly innocuous titles like “138th Street” help conjure up images of winter, as that particular is on the northern part of Manhattan. In addition one can find musical and lyrical markers as well that recall this particular time of year. The band’s unique “vintage” sound evokes in the listener feelings of nostalgia (or perhaps memories of a past real or imagined); this is due mainly to their trademark trebly guitars dipped in heavy reverb, accented by their unique warm organ flourishes, and filled out with a dash of rickety but energetic percussion. In an era when seemingly every new rock act met at the same art school and came out of the same dive from the Lower East Side, The Walkmen stood out from the pack with a style all their own.
Even in their early years, The Walkmen seemed to have an air of maturity to their sound, or at least gave off the sense of a lived-in weariness that only comes from years of experience. This is evident from even just a quick listen to their breakthrough hit, The Rat”. The song revolves around an old friend or lover returning, but without having made amends for the transgression which led to a break in their relationship (to tie it in to our thesis, this is the kind of scene that would play out as people return to their hometowns for the holidays). The song is a furious rocker, but in the midst of the raucous pounding drums and insistent tremolo-strummed guitars, there is the hauntingly gorgeous bridge: “When I used to go out, I’d know everyone I saw; now I go out alone, if I go out at all.” In those two lines, The Walkmen captured the feeling that comes at the moment one realizes the fun of youth has receded, and now with that chapter closed there is the question of what to do next. “The Rat” was great on its own, but that bridge made it transcendent.
“The Rat” definitely deserves all the accolades it has received over the years, but have long felt that “Thinking of a Dream I Had” is equally deserving of admiration. The song kicks off with a galloping tom pattern (colored with some sleigh bells), and is matched by a boisterous and bouncy guitar part, before it runs headlong into a slow, delicate organ figure. The contrast between the two sounds provides an intriguing juxtaposition, especially in the way it is combined with the chorus: the initial figure is the accompaniment for “I’m waiting on a subway line, I’m waiting for a train to arrive; I’m thinking of a dream I had,” but switches gears as Hamilton sings, “Maybe you’re right.” At that moment, it gives the impression to the listener that this is a moment of true contemplation and reflection (as the verses seem to confirm). It’s absolutely gorgeous.
The entire album is filled with great songs, but for those who are more familiar with the more polished work of the latter years of The Walkmen, some may be put off by the more raggedy production. On the other hand, for many that is precisely part of the charm of this particular record. Hamilton is still feeling out the edges of his unique voice, and to some his bark may be grating, but make no mistake, the man hits every note he wants as intended. At the very least, one should enjoy Bows + Arrows for the reason that it’s one of the few modern rock albums that expertly deploys an organ.
Some #longreads as you prepare for a weekend where you can finally stop writing about Project Pabst…
SPIN did a series of interviews with the members of The Walkmen who went solo–first talking to Walter Martin, followed by Peter Matthew Bauer, and today publishing their piece on Hamilton Leithauser. The fact that all three solo albums are brilliant and remarkably different from one another speaks to how amazing and underrated their band together was.
Chris Cornell gave a quick interview to Rolling Stone talking about looking back to the days of Superunknown. The best part of the interview was the discussion about his interactions with Artis the Spoonman, giving new insight into their relationship.
Finally, I think that I need to inform our audience that a banjo cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” exists. And it’s not bad.