Today is Day 3 in the wait for the next Radiohead album. The band decided to put together an ultra-long period of time between announcing and releasing the album (5 Days) which is the second longest time ever behind Guns and Roses ‘ The Chinese Democracy’. For you the bored reader is just a moment for us both to catch our breath.
Suffice to say I have been sitting as patiently as possible while listening to the top indie cred bands on the planet try to jockey for my attention. Today it’s been a hefty amount of PJ Harvey which I want to spend a bit more time listening before giving my final thoughts but early on this might be the best album of this early part of 2011.
Yes, the indie kids have won. The win by Arcade Fire at the Grammy’s was a crushing moment where the mainstream’s testicles were squeezed together and reminded once and for all that it’s not the evil kids stealing music but rather they are the ones that are making the music. They are throwing away their Guitar Hero consoles and getting behind their Garageband software and creating their own tracks. Yes, Arcade Fire’s music is not about sampling, but rather straightforward rock with a point, they went up against a slate of music that pretty much sucked and it’s easy to beat music that sucks. While it’s been known for awhile that the record industry has been in trouble, we notice every day that the music that is inspiring the next generation of rock heroes is not under the control of the corporate label but being released on smaller indie labels or in some cases no label at all. The power of the internet is changing the power of influence.
I am listening to Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s new album right now called ‘Love is a Stream’. Now even for 98% of you out there, you are probably not going to want to listen to shoegaze droning guitars, ala My Bloody Valentine, meandering on for minutes on end. There is not going to be any lyric sheet and he is not going to be standing up on the stage next year accepting any award. But it’s an artist like this that expands upon ideas that are not necessarily within the mainstream. For a small fraction of the population that are into their own rock fetishes, there is a scene and a genre being generated on a daily basis.
Next thing that you know is an work inspires others; by taking some elements of his work and putting it into a pop song to create something unique. It surely is bullshit sometimes that as a fan that tries to in my spare time keep up with what is happening have to read blogs and blogs of information and check out various sources for what might be interesting but what is different between this and 20 years ago, hunting for import singles at local record stores? The difference back then was there were far fewer bands which could get their music released and a distribution system which did not favor indie labels. Today they are waiting to be discovered and sought out.
What I love about Radioheads decision to release their music within the week is that this is what bands can do now. There is no red carpet or lead up necessary. They have an advantage of being Radiohead but they are helping pave the way for bands of all shapes and sizes to play a larger role in their distribution of music, putting less influence on the suits and more influence on the fans that post about music.
I am finding that the album in question that I am listening to (Jefre Cantu-Ledesma) has been a pleasant listening album while writing down my most intimate and emotional thoughts. My #1 hero is John Boehner.
And at some point there need to be fans like myself that have made attempts in my brain to post about music to actually start writing about it rather than writing about dying bands.
(For those that follow my R.E.M. blog I have to admit that things are not going well over there and have questioned whether it is time to hang it up. I am not buying the new album all that enjoyable from what I have heard and finding that maintaining that is like sticking an ice pick between my nail and finger).
And some 30 second reviews of some albums that have been rattling around my eardrums.
The Decemberists – The King is Dead
I got tired of the Decemberists’ album ‘The King is Dead” pretty quickly. This album will not be remembered like the Smith’s “The Queen is Dead” and Colin Meloy needs to stop kissing R.E.M.’s proverbial ass with his comparisons to the new album with this. Sorry it does not remind me of it one iota with the exception of a couple songs: Calamity Song, (sorta feels like ‘Talk about the Passion’) and ‘This is Why We Fight (The R.E.M. montage), otherwise it’s just boring crap rock. I have never understood the love for Meloy. I got Castaways and Cutouts years ago and was first enamored with this rock group from Ireland until I found out that they had nothing to do with Ireland other than some alternate universe that Meloy is living in.
The Braids – Native Speaker
The Braids new album ‘Native Speaker’ is the perfect holdover album for those Animal Collective/Panda Bear fans waiting for new material as they have provided that soundscape for other bands to create their own impression of Merriweather Post Pavilion. I think the album works. Hell I think the genre works as a new form of hipster jam band on a summer afternoon.
Smith-Westerns – Dye It Blonde
I read somewhere online that the Smith Westerns were the new hyped-up band, ruling the rock and roll blogosphere and to be honest with you, I do not have a problem with that whatsoever.
The Smith Westerns did more than just record an album but they found a way to bring the dead back to life. For if John Lennon did not perform on this album, he had to have been in the studio producing it. This Chicago band is still not drinking age and yet they already have a good handle on some of the best of rock and roll history. This buzz band from Chicago is good at finding it’s place and it will be interesting to watch them in the future if they begin to dig a bit deeper into the record store bins for some more obscure works.
Destroyer – Kaputt
Dan Behar’s project has us looking back to the 70’s, for me a Orange Pontiac Stationwagon sitting and listening to AM radio from the likes of Chuck Mangione. Or maybe it was one of those creepy Sunday Night Television Movies.
However, when an artists turns back the clock you always have to be concerned that it’s not a Xerox copy of the past. Here we hear elements of the past, with the synths that might remind you of the 80’s. A song like ‘Savage Night at the Opera’ reminds me of ‘Gothic Lite’, a possible song left off an album like The Cure’s ‘Disentagration’.
There are moments that feel more like a Platinum Collection from the 80’s and while at times it offers some delights it cannot compare with other similar albums such as Arielle Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s latest effort. The flute and jazz makes the recording feel a bit flat unless the ‘Lite Rock Station’ was the station that you got your rocks off on.
Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Following up the Destroyer review is Cut Copy that have decided as well to come out with an album that has us yearning for the days of MTV. While Cut Copy still borrows quite a bit from those 80’s all-stars it succeeds where Destroyer doesn’t in feeling less stale. If you buy into the heavy synth sounds of the 80s are you going to rush out and get a band trying to reproduce this or just go back to your 80s collection of tapes, watch John Hughes movies and remind yourself that Generation X is still the coolest of all Generations.
James Blake – James Blake
This “buzzing” indie sensation is trying to mold soul, dubstep (for those not in the know, they are trying to remix albums by making the drums and basslines much more significant). What makes Blake’s recordings so appealing is that unlike many others in the dubstep genre, its Blakes singing that stands out in a similar vein to how The XX blasted onto the scene with their minimalist dubsteb/Chris Isaac interpretations.
Blake’s album is one of those transitional records that you will either get or not get. Some might find it a bit too clever for it’s own good and others might find the progression here to a genre that might offer bigger and brighter things.
To Be Continued . . .