(I'm just going to point out that this is officially one of my favourite images currently in existence)
Chromeo are a special band for me. I first discovered them on Modular's Leave Them All Behind compilation- a disc that, to me, was a revelation. I was a bit shocked at how well indie and electronic music went together. To my mind, there were indie bands and then dance producers and never the two shall meet, but this CD put Tom Vek and Fiery Furnaces songs next to remixes (the 2005 me had hardly heard a remix up until this point) and would you know it worked?
The next time I came across Chromeo was hearing some live tracks they did for the sadly missed "And This Is Our Disco" podcast, the first podcast I subscribed to that wasn't based on the premise of "DJs play indie songs you can dance to" but "DJs play electronic music, alright?" To say they were instrumental in my discovery of electronic music might be a bit much (and would leave out bands like The Knife, Clor, Ratatat and of course, Daft Punk) but they were definitely an important stepping stone out of my comfort zone. The best thing about Chromeo is, without a doubt, the shiny, retro-futuristic keyboard sounds- complete with talkboxes- and it's obvious that, despite their albums being roughly 1000% fun, a lot of hard work and technical know how goes into making that sound.
Here's a video showing a bit more of that side of Chromeo, though it still seems like a hell of a lot of fun ("I'm much more arrrr-tic-u-laaate"). It's basically a nerdy studio tour that shows how they get those pristine synth sounds. Enjoy!
ps. Anybody fancy seeing Chromeo in Manchester? It's gonna be mecha-awesome.
I have been told many times in my life that I'm a music snob. I disagree (read about why I'm not a music snob, actually, here) but The Flaming Lips are one band that my entire opinion of you hinges on. Put simply, if you don't enjoy any aspect of the Flaming Lips' music- and they've been through many, many line-ups and sounds to choose from- then there are fundamental things that you and I will never agree on, and it's best you leave right now.
However, it's apparently not as simple as that, what with the Lips releasing the dense, wilfully weird album, 'Embryonic' last year. It seems even those who liked the Lips found it difficult to get their heads round the repetitive, blisteringly distorted grooves of "Convinced of the Hex" and "Silver Trembling Hands", though I personally found them thrilling. One criticism often levelled at the album, is simply that it's less pop minded than "At War With The Mystics" or "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots", and the Guardian even called it "career killing". Christ...
So what makes a band release that kind of album? Well you can find out in a very good documentary called "Blastula" that has interviews with the band about the recording process and how the songwriting went. Plus there's juicy studio footage.
You can watch a making of Embryonic, for one week only here on Pitchfork TV. You blatantly should.
I can't recommend this album enough, because as far as I'm concerned, every one of the eleven songs on it (twelve if you have the CD reissue) is excellent, and the majority of them are perfect.
It's an album that does have great memories for me. Memories of finding my parents' vinyl copy and sitting on the floor in the loft, listening to the opening of "Second Hand News" and looking at the old, yellowing images of the band in the record's sleeve. Despite not having a sound that is overly fashionable these days, and Mick Fleetwood and John McVie's penchant for tiny shorts and daft poses, these people seemed cool to me. A gang of friends- and unbeknownst to me, lovers- who made great songs and took silly photos, who doesn't want that?
Though I do distinctly remember talking to my Dad about how Lindsey Buckingham was the finest female guitarist ever and how I wanted to get one of Stevie Nicks' solo albums because "he was a great songwriter". It does seem odd that now, when bands tweet, facebook and photograph everything they do, a cluelessness about which member's which- and what their gender is- is almost sweet. But yes, this blog post isn't about great new stuff and links to new downloads like most of my others. I just thought I'd talk about my memories of this great album, as inspired by a documentary "The Story of Rumours" on iPlayer.
Listen to it here, and then go out and buy a copy of Rumours. And then listen to that.
Seriously, it is such a good album that will never, ever get old for me. It's like a hug carved into black wax.
Kong are one of the most curious bands currently on planet earth. Matching outfits, masks and relentless noise make any band worth exploring to me, and these are the three main ingredients in Kong.
Well actually no, that places too much importance on the appearance, the real three ingredients in Kong are drums, bass and guitar, all being bashed, thrashed and eventually smashed to produce a distorted, gnarled monolith of sound. Kong's use of distortion is amazing in itself, even without the fact that the riffs are hypnotic yet at no times funky or predictable. The bass alternately rumbles and squawks but never devolve into simple fuzz. All sounds at all times have teeth in a Kong song. That might well be the most pretentious way I've described a band's sound so far here at Nice Try... but Kong are quite the oddity. But like oddities there's a perverse thrill in checking them out. Which you can do now for free.
Kong have put "Count To Nine" for free download here. What makes the song extra special, is the guest vocals from the Bronx's Matt Caughtran- who I once hugged at a gig- which adds a powerful growl to the already frighteningly heavy riffs. Delicious stuff that might make you sick.
ATP- or All Tomorrow's Parties if you want to get long-winded and acknowledge the Velvet Underground Reference- have, for some years, been the best promoters around. It's them I have to thank for two of the most awesome spectacles of live music I've ever seen (this and this) as well as the most impressive festival line-ups imaginable- Pavement's only UK festival date, need I say more?
The trouble is, because ATP concerts and festivals are so good, they get the crowds they deserve and therefore sell out. And fast. So imagine if you could hear the bands online somehow?
NPR apparently has you covered, with entire sets from ATP NY- which was on in New York earlier this month- being on their website, free to stream and download. This is good news because, well, look at this line-up (click to enlarge).
I've been listening to Explosions in the Sky's set all morning and the audio quality is amazing. There's also sets from Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile and Girls- and I imagine many more to come (I'm praying Raekwon's set is added).
Go here to view all the sets available, then click on the artist you want to hear. Enjoy.
These Monsters are pretty great. They've been going since 2005, and this year released one of the most outrageous, confident and enjoyable debut albums imaginable with "Call Me Dragon" (the title track of which is damn high on my list of songs of the year).
The album manages to be luxurious and spacey whilst still having a hard, sinister rock edge, like it's being played by a prog band having their strings pulled by Black Sabbath. It was the prog aspect of their sound that really attracted me to them, so when I saw them live a few months ago on the Manchester leg of the WOLVES festival tour I was a little shocked at how primitive, raw and punchy the band's new material was. Though, after talking to the band after their performance, it became clear that- as the songs on Call Me Dragon were written a few years ago- the band's progression wasn't as sudden or unexpected as I had thought.
But now the new sound is official, now that new demos have been premiered on the band's soundcloud page.
That line is just one reason why DOOM is one of the best rappers alive. Another reason is the fact that- unlike a depressingly large amount of rappers- he can produce beats just as well as anybody who produces for him. It was because of this, he had the ability to be crazy productive and release over twenty albums under loads of psuedonyms in the ten years and amongst all those releases are at least five stone cold classics (Operation: Doomsday, Madvillainy, Take Me To Your Leader, MM Food and any of the Special Herbs series in case you were wondering).
Oh, and another reason why he's one of the best rappers is his awesome mask.
Though if there's one thing that has stopped him being the world's most well known hip hop star- as he rightfully should be- it's DOOM's live reputation. In 2007, Doom did a kind of stupid thing. He sent a bunch of DOOM-posters, skinny fakes in DOOM masks, to perform at his gig while he presumably sat at home not doing much.
So now, with that reputation, it takes balls as steely as his Metal Face to make his next release a live album.
Well it has arrived and I personally am impressed. DOOM's normally whispery and slurred delivery is still there but he seems invigorated, roaring out lyrics and punchlines that, on record, require a keen ear to catch.
He even breaks his image of being serious (though it's amazing he still has that reputation. I mean have you HEARD the DangerDoom album?) by pretending to be sick during "VomitSpit" and cheerily encouraging the crowd to shout "SUPER!" during the, by all accounts, amazing opener of "Hoe Cakes".
So yes, hopefully this performance isn't a one off- and not just cause I'm seeing him when DOOMSDAY comes to Manchester- because, if DOOM gets a reputation as a live heavyweight, on a par with his on-record performances, then he should by rights be given a spot with his friends Mos Def and Ghostface Killah in the holy trinity of alternative hip hop.
Veering even further away from my comfort zone, here's a post about one of the most surreal musical curiosities I've come across recently. Will Smith's daughter, WHO IS NINE YEARS OLD (!!!) is releasing a single.
Take a moment to process your first reaction to that. What kind of song do you expect her to come out with? A weak pop number? An upbeat, Disney Channel-friendly sing song about being yourself and how nice friends are?
You would be hugely wrong, because she has somehow come out with a huge hip hop song, that's less Hannah Montana and more like Rick Ross and Big Boi. I'm not even joking, play the vid.
Hear those MASSIVE drums? And where did you last hear a chorus with a repetitive, pitch altered refrain like that? The Rick Ross classic Hustlin'. In fact Whip My Hair could basically be Hustlin' just sped up.
A nine year old is taking influence from coke-obsessed rappers. Whilst some sensitive parents may be shocked or outraged by that, all I'm saying is Whip My Hair is precisely a million times better than I expected of a child star, so musically speaking it's a very good thing.
Plus the chorus has a little nod to Devo, which I am all in favour of.
ps. Huge "blog shout outs" to Akira the Don for the discovery of the vid.
Zefs Chasing Cara- don't even try to make sense of that name- is, amazingly, the project of just one guy. The reason why this is so surprising will become apparent when you hear him. It's rare for a band to have such complex riffs and not just devolve into pedal stomping, riff worship. Fortunately, by keeping the guitars clean and adding whirring synthesiser parts, it manages to be impressively tangled in its intrumentation but still keep a simple pop sound.
It should come as no surprise that This Town Needs Guns have come out in praise of the new ZCC EP "Kneel And You Will Lose", with both bands doing the kind of widdly riffery that math-rock dreams are made of. Zefs Chasing Cars however is a bit more relaxed than This Town... which does mean less dancefloor urges- but then again, when it comes to math-rock, there's hardly any way to dance to it without ending up twitching to awkward time signatures and basically looking demented.
You can download Kneel And You Will Lose here and I thoroughly recommend you do. Especially good for those who are dipping their toes into the world of mathy music. treat yourself.
Just a quick post combining two things I've mentioned before. Just as I was getting excited about Starslinger and also telling you to check out the new Deerhunter video you'll never guess what has happened.
My knowledge of beats and beatmakers is like Richard Villalobos' music. Minimal.
That's not only a terrible joke that few, if any, people will enjoy, but it's also true. Whilst I can get by when talking about hip hop, I only have a small selection of favourite producers in the genre. Predictably these are mainly Stone's Throw artists (an amazing label you should check out right now) J Dilla, Madlib and (MF) DOOM with the important inclusion of Flying Lotus.
What's the point in blogging on a topic you know little about, you may ask. Well one, because I would like to know more about the genre- I'm seeing DOOM next month and hate gigs where you can't hold your own when it comes to discussing the band/artists in question. And two, because I recently found a great beats tape from a Manchester producer called Starslinger. Starslinger wears his Dilla influence quite proudly- and why shouldn't he? Dilla's amazing- sharing J's love for sliced up samples and loose, occasionally arrhythmic drums lead by stuttering hi-hats. Though Starslinger has less futuristic synths whirring and wailing than Dilla, preferring to let the samples lead the composition.
It's all very good stuff, and if only the northern rap scene wasn't fuelled by MCs raised on speed garage, the beats would be the perfect for a local rapper to make his name with.
Anyway, you can download the album here. Enjoy, and please comment letting me know about other good producers working locally- or of any that I need in my life.
I doubt there as many singer songwriters working today, who are held as close to their fans' hearts as Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan's fans (SufFans?) have even remained devoted despite a lack of bona fide new material since 2005's Illinois. Though that may be because Illinois is one of the greatest and most touching albums of the decade.
And it's fair to say that new stuff from Stevens wouldn't come after a Chinese Democracy style wait. In the interim there was "Run, Rabbit Run", an album consisting of remixes of 2001's Enjoy Your Rabbit, and the instrumental, orchestral and- to some extents- experimental piece, "The BQE".
But now there are two new songs, from a new album, "The Age Of Adz" billed as Stevens' first collection of songs for five years. The songs are called "I walked" and "Too Much", and can be downloaded FOR FREE here. The songs might take fans expecting "Illinois part 2" by surprise. There is a clear electronic influence and no swooning tempo changes, though Sufjan's trademark choral backing and aching voice are still left intact.
These previews really only tell us what we already knew. That "The Age of Adz" will be a very interesting release, and that it may be difficult as it follows one of the best indie/folk albums in living memory.
Belle and Sebastian are one of the best bands that Britain has ever birthed. In fact, as I stood on my tip toes near the front, waiting for them to come on stage at this year's Latitude Festival, a merrily drunk Scottish man turned to me and said "You're about to see Glasgow's answer to the Beatles". Needless to say his opinion was shared by almost all the crowd there and what followed was without doubt the best headline set I have ever seen at a festival.
One particularly special moment was when the band's second lead singer Stevie Jackson lead us all in singing along to a new song called "I'm Not Living In The Real World". It was, as expected, a cracking little tune and today B&S have released another new song, the title track to the forthcoming album "Write About Love". Download: Belle & Sebastian- Write About Love
The song sees them carrying on down the jolly 60s pop route that they've been walking ever since "Legal Man" came out in 2000. Whilst it would be nice to hear a return to the minimal, melancholy of early albums "Tigermilk" and "If You're Feeling Sinister", that is only because we are having so much of a good thing we can afford to be picky.
Deerhunter are an impressive band and are easily my favourite of the thousands of projects frontman Bradford Cox completes in his average week. Though his blog has been quiet lately, it used to have fresh EPs of all new material thrown up every other day.
It's rare that a talented musician producing less material is a reason to celebrate, but maybe, if Cox can tame his rather erratic sprees of productivity and focus on producing one concise and consistent album, then the forthcoming "Halycon Digest" should be amazing.
And based on the video for new song "Helicopter" here (a grainy black and white study of Bradford's face and, well, little else) it should at the very least be an interesting album.
Of course, the news that Arab Strap is dead, is hardly hot off the press. The Scottish duo of Aiden Moffat and Malcolm Middleton- responsible for some of the rawest love songs of our time- split after their 2005 swansong album "The Last Romance" (and a lovely best of called "Ten Years of Tears").
However they are now having a bit of a resurgence, having released a massively comprehensive boxset "Scenes of a Sexual Nature" (details of what was included in the mammoth set can be found here) and- quite likely to attract those less ardent Strap fans not prepared to pay £60 for "Scenes..."- now resissuing the band's first two albums ("The Week Never Starts Round Here" from 1996 and 1998's "Philophobia") with the fancy double disc treatment.
ALSO! What with Aiden Moffat being simply one of the most fun grumps in music he has released the uncomfortably hilarious short film "Arab Strap is Dead". Much like an Arab Strap song, the video makes the viewer feel, not so much like they're watching someone spill their guts, more like they're watching Moffat perform open heart surgery on himself and wax lyrical about everything he finds in there.
So here's the film. If you don't love Aiden Moffat even a little bit by the end of it, you should probably see a doctor.