Is anything worth waiting a decade for? Yes. This. This song is worth the wait of a decade. I don’t mean that the song is especially astounding or that it will lift you to heights unimaginable. I’m just saying that after ten years of loving this band, now there’s more and that rules. The album drops in May and I’m gonna review the dickhole off of it.
As for “The Dog…,” the guitar riff says it all. TBG has always been catchy without reveling in their cleverness; folk-rock without being too masochistically sad or annoyingly happy. This is sipping whiskey. This is a rocking chair. This is nodding at your buddy who enjoys the jam. “This one’s written like a comedy/ Heart enters into a room/ Inside the inside that you nearly see/ Decide the insides are not true.” Yeah, exactly.
Alls I’m saying is I’m excited, here. And yeah, I ain’t been around the site, but I’m listening. And when TBG decide to grace us with an album for the first time since 2003? I’m listening a lot.
I love me some weirdo music, and while I don’t consider myself an expert on the matter or anything, I often listen to some of these weirdo bands the tumblr kids are digging on and I can’t help but smell something fishy. I won’t name any names here, but some of these big-time weirdo bands just sound phony to me, like they’re putting on ill-fitting costumes that they obviously swiped from the weirdo lost & found. Reminds me of that scene in Ghost World where the guy from Blueshammer says, “We’re gonna play some authentic way-down-in-the-delta blues,” and then, not surprisingly, they end up playing the blues like a bunch of lunk-headed frat gooches.
Alt-J, on the other hand, seem like real-deal weirdos, and I can’t get enough of “Fitzpleasure.” On paper they’re British, but those Icelandic elf accents they sing in really sound like they come from the heart. It doesn’t feel like they consciously decided to try some kinky syncopation, it just feels like that’s the way they think rhythm is supposed to sound. When they sing, “In your snatch fits pleasure,” I believe it never occurred to them how filthy that might sound to native English-speaking ears.
Zeitgeists are tricky things to capture. A lot of times, artists just stumble into capturing a zeitgeist, like Green Day did with Dookie. Other times, they try really hard to capture a zeitgeist, and against mammoth odds, they actually do it, like Green Day did with American Idiot. But most of the times that artists try really, really hard to capture a zeitgeist, they end up flailing wildly at an already-broken pinata, like Green Day did with 21st Century Breakdown. “I followed Jesus on Twitter,” Billie Joe sang, “but He didn’t follow me!” (OK, I made that lyric up, but I still think it sums up the album’s shameless desire to be The Definitive Rock Statement Of The Early 21st Century.)
The fact that 21st Century Breakdown flopped, at least compared to the mega-success of American Idiot, seems to have humbled Green Day a bit, and thank goodness. Yes, they’re planning on releasing 3 new full-length albums between now and next January, but judging by “Oh Love,” the first single from their next album (¡Uno!), at least they’re no longer coked-up on their own self-importance, convinced they’re The Undisputed Voice Of Their Generation, desperate to be bigger and more meaningful than The Clash and U2 combined. With this song at least, they’ve gone back to doing what they most consistently do best: power pop songwriting, classic rock yearning, and punk simplicity. “Oh Love” is so tight and agreeable it feels much shorter than its 5-minute run, and while it’s not all that novel rhythmically or lyrically, Billie Joe’s melodies have a few surprises in store. (In particular, the little jump he takes around the 2:56 mark gets me every time.) “Oh Love” sure won’t threaten to swipe the Song Of The Summer status from “Call Me Maybe” or anything, but for recently-disillusioned Green Day fans like myself, it might be one of the brightest rays of musical sunshine we’ve had all year.
When I talked about the first installment of Action and the Raff, I was sure that they hijacked one of the best beats I’ve ever heard. I mean, nothing against these two, but that beat was destined for something greater, right? Now, I’m not so sure. These two are firing on a weird cylinder– like they’ve taken the governor off of a golf cart for the sheer mayhem on the course. The free-association massacre that is “Hot Shots 2″ leaves me reeling. What am I supposed to do with lines like Bronson’s “You got a nice white dick/ that’s what the sistas say/ (thank you).” He THANKS them. What of the completely brilliant absurdity of Riff Raff? “Poppin fifty collars/ might be Barry Gordy./ Pterodactyl dashboard/ Seats prehistoric/ DINOSAUR.” I’m speechless. He touts himself as the rap game’s Dr. Huxtable. I’m laughing. Of course, they bring in another rapper to ruin the experience (the atrocious Dana Coppafeel), but the beat, THE BEAT. How are they getting these beats? Who did they kidnap? I must know.
The lesson here? I might like these dudes for a whole album/mixtape together. Get weird fellas. I’m down. Maybe you will be too. Give them a shot: DINOSAUR.
Maps & Atlases became one of my new favorite bands in 2010, when their full-length debut Perch Patchwork floored me with its blend of intricate virtuosity and accessible pop songcraft. So I’ve been awaiting new music from this band the way comics geeks have been awaiting The Dark Knight Rises.“Winter” is the first single from Maps & Atlases’ forthcoming album Beware And Be Grateful, and to me, it feels like a nice teaser more than an exciting trailer. It’s got me a bit more hyped to hear the new LP, though I can’t help but hope they’re just saving the real fireworks for later.
Singer Dave Davison’s vocals and melodies aren’t quite as soulful or venturesome as most of the ones I fell for on Perch Patchwork, but I’m OK with that. They’re catchy enough to keep me humming along, and besides, the instruments pick up more than enough slack here. Bassist Shiraz Dada and drummer Chris Hainey are as springy, propulsive, and lockstep-tight as they’ve ever been, while Erin Elders’ guitars fill in the blanks with plenty of squiggly hooks. If “Winter” proves to be one of the stronger tracks on Beware And Be Grateful, it should still be a solid and satisfying album. But I’m crossing my fingers that “Winter” is merely a hint of what’s to come, and that it turns out Maps & Atlases have pushed themselves to greater heights yet again.
The Occupy movement isn’t in the news nearly as much as it was before Zuccotti Park allegedly became a health hazard, and Mayor Billionaire’s Brute Squad evicted the protestors in the dead of night without any of those pesky journalists getting in the way. But Occupy is still a thing, and it could still come roaring back any day now. Especially with the weather getting warmer, and with the distribution of wealth remaining ridiculously and unfairly lopsided. And if Occupy does come roaring back, it’s gonna need some kick-ass protest anthems if it really wants to take this shit to the next level.
“Call To Arms” isn’t just Latyrx’s first official single in the 15 years since their excellent debut album, it’s also an eager attempt to be one of those sorely-needed Occupy anthems. Or an athem for whatever protest movement that may rise up in Occupy’s place, should it fail to carry on, since “Call To Arms” doesn’t explicitly name-check any particular organization. Nor does the song have a very specific agenda. It basically asks, “Are you angry about all this bullshit? OK cool, let’s march” (albeit in much more lyrical ways). The chorus has Karyn Paige screaming “What do we want?”, and she doesn’t sound angry as much as she sounds like she’s just trying to be heard above the clamor. Lateef and Lyrics Born, along with special guest Boots Riley of political hip-hop veterans The Coup, respond with “Anybody, everybody, everything.” When Karyn screams “When do we want it?“, the answer is “Right the fuck now.”
Occupy caught some criticism for not having enough focus or offering enough solutions, and the same could certainly be said of “Call To Arms.” (It also offers a dubious philosophy or two, such as “Long as we show up/ we’ve already won.” If only.) Of course, protest songs don’t necessarily need 10-point plans for correcting the wealth gap and reducing unemployment, they just need to inspire revolution. In that respect, “Call To Arms” succeeds modestly. It’s also noteworthy because it adopts an unusual tone for the kind of song it wants to be. Protest music usually comes in the form of quiet Dylan-esque folk or raging Public Enemy-style noise. But since Latyrx is always about positivity and throwing all-inclusive parties, “Call To Arms” takes the form of a reasonable, mid-tempo party jam with some decent hooks and a hot bassline. It aims for the chip on your shoulder, and the fury in your heart, but mostly it aims for your cerebral cortex and your booty. It may not be the musical Molotov Cocktail the 99% needs, but at least it’s a spark.
“Keep It In Motion” feels much longer than it should be, and yet not nearly long enough. Longer than it should be because Guided By Voices (especially in their current Toxic Alien Blood lineup) typically don’t let a song go on for 2+ minutes if it only has about 30 seconds’ worth of ideas. The simple structure of “Keep It In Motion” makes “Blitzkrieg Bop” sound like “Paranoid Android.” Bob Pollard nestles with a beautifully easy melody and sings, “Keep it in motion/ keep it in line/ keep it in motion/ keep it on time/ walk it down the line/ walk it all the time/ keep it in line.”Then Tobin Sprout joins the next couple go-rounds basically to echo what Pollard’s singing.
Despite how much it milks itself, “Keep It In Motion” makes me want to listen to it dozens of times in a row, or however long until I get my fill for the foreseeable future. It’s uncannily comforting. The driving beat, the floating guitar, Pollard & Sprout’s awful bliss, the strings or synths or string-like synths: together it all rolls along like “Don’t Panic” in skywritten calligraphy. It doesn’t rock very hard, but it somehow reassures me that rock n’ roll will never die. Sometimes I wish it went on for like 20 minutes, but ultimately I’m glad it ends every 2:17. That’s about how often I need the one electric guitar chord at the end, boinging in out of nowhere and giving the track that big “yeah!” it quietly wishes for the whole time.
“Keep It In Motion” is the first single from Guided By Voices’ forthcoming album Class Clown Spots A UFO, due to drop in about 3 months. Yes, Guided By Voices dropped a new album less than 3 months ago, and it was pretty good.
There’s masochism, and then there’s whatever the hell “Love Interruption” is. He wants love to stab him, bite him, betray him, kill his mother and send her wherever, he doesn’t seem to care. If love hurts like a mother-killer, then it must be the real deal. The chorus is where things get a little hazy: “I won’t let love disrupt/ corrupt or interrupt me/ anymore.” Is he finally starting to outgrow his masochism? Or is it the opposite: what if love has been so painless, innocent, and acquiescent for so long that it has, in fact, become disruptive, corruptive, and interruptive- which is what’s driving him toward pain and humiliation in the first place?
I’m not looking for answers here. There’s much beauty in such stark ambiguity. Jack’s and Ruby Amanfu’s vocals get it just right, too: fearful and fragile, yet curious and bold.
The song works just fine without drums, yet sometimes I feel like it begs for drums, and Jack adamantly refuses to give it any drums. It’s Jack’s first solo single now that he and Meg have officially disbanded, and there’s a big, gaping, percussion-less hole inside. Coincidence?
This week’s installment of the singles club is a strange one. I’m featuring Action Bronson and Riff Raff’s “Bird On a Wire” which belongs to those names as much as the beach belongs to a cottage owner. From the introduction of the rolling bass line and the first 80′s style hook, this is a Harry Fraud joint. Dude’s a good producer, being billed as an up-and-comer by magazines paid to ignore up-and-comers. He’s a darling of rap blogs. The fact that Riff Raff– a soulja boy tell ‘em offshoot bro and MTV “star” of “From G’s to Gents”– is on this track just shows how much money soulja boy is gonna throw around to get his people good beats. Bronson is a mediocre rapper with some good songs sprinkled throughout his career. He slows his Ghostface-style flow down to fit the beat and it is pretty obvious he is the talent here. He drops a couple jewels, including my personal favorite “Tailor me a leather suit/ on some Jodeci shit/ Bi-coastal, man/ We supposed to be rich.” It’s a faux-DOOM flow which works since he and Raff are just background noise anyway. I’d like to personally thank Riff Raff for only staying on the track for like 30 seconds and letting the beat ride proper. Also, thanks for dropping 30 brand names into that 30 seconds. You have a really bright future ahead of you.
Back to the backbone: this beat fucking knocks. I want to drive a flying car over every American city with more than 200,000 people in it, urinate on park-trees and keep this beat on blast. I want to carve this beat into my shoes using esperanto. I want to figure out the world’s hardest rubick’s cube with only this beat as my guide. I want to live inside this beat while it stares lovingly at its two mothers from a swimming pool. Even the programmed drums are perfect. It’s my jam. I hope it can be your jam too. What would it take to get Meek Mill to freestyle over this? Can we get some good rappers to jump on it? If anyone hears anything, let me know. Until then, I’m on my “ignorance is bliss” grind, this song turned all the way up on computer speakers until the MP3 leaks.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib collaborating is a dream collaboration and if 10 listens is all I need to review something, I can likely review this three times already. Gibbs goes in hard, Madlib’s production is, as usual, astounding and the beginning sample rules. Even more maddening is that the B-side, “Deep,” could be even better. When this album comes out, I might never be heard from again. I plan on bumping this and driving around for days until I run out of money/gas and have to sell drugs to get back on my feet. I mean, why not? I could be thuggin’, right? Right? In any event, is the whole album as tight as the Thuggin’ EP? If so, I’m gonna be hard-pressed to find a better album this year.
Time for a totally different direction. I’m an unabashed Shins fan and I’m all kinds of pumped about Port of Morrow. That said, this song is super-produced, the lyrics lack their normal storytelling fervor and, overall, I’m not sure if I love it. I know I like it, but The Shins have never really had a single I didn’t absolutely love. Maybe I can force myself to love it. Just maybe, the rest of the album will crush this synth-driven hook-jam. Either way, “Simple Song” is pretty good, at the very least, and I am shaking in anticipation for a new Shins record. Believe that.