Let’s get this straight right off the bat – there’s no whistling.
As a matter of fact, there’s little of anything resembling Peter Bjorn & John‘s trademark sound in frontman Peter Morén‘s solo album The Last Tycoon. Except Peter’s voice.
Not that I was hoping for a Writer’s Block duplicate. The opposite, actually – the attempt to switch sides faster than Anne Heche from the sound that made him semi-famous is the most commendable thing about the album. It tries.
When I first caught a glimpse of Band of Horses live, it wasn’t in person; it was a tepid, shaky performance of “The Funeral” on David Letterman (YouTube). I’d had their debut, Everything All the Time, for a while and hadn’t really listened much except to know that the difference between the muscular recorded version of the song and the Letterman adaptation was glaring. Granted, a one-song late-night television debut isn’t the best barometer of a band’s live prowess, but others have done it far better than Band of Horses did.
Ryan O’Neil sounds hungry. “I swear to God I thought hip hop was dead,” he asserts on the very first breath of The Adventures of The One Hand Bandit and The Slum Computer Wizard. It’s not a lament, mind you, not mournful. It’s more like relief — he heard the talk, explored the dilemma himself, and realized that it’s all bullshit.
O’Neil contributed to a few tracks on this year’s Brenner’s Breaks Vol. 1 mixtape (review), adding another element to what was mostly a showcase for producer 100dBs. Adventures, though, is entirely his beast. Stylish, rangy, eloquent, O’Neil touches on a number of different topics, over the typical variety of dBs’ diverse beats, and offers a consistent lyrical flair throughout the course of the album.
How much would you pay to hear the new Radiohead album before it is “released”? Because, no, really, Radiohead wants you to set your own price. On October 10, you’ll be able to download In Rainbows from the band’s website for a cost of your choosing. So “x” out of Soulseek and give the band at least a penny; even if you don’t love ’em, isn’t one cent worth seeing an archaic business model crumble?
The album, self-released, will drop in tangible forms “before or on December 3.” You can pre-order a “discbox” which includes the CD and LP versions; a bonus CD of new songs, digital photos and artwork; and will come encased in a hard book. They’re not playin’ around. Pre-orders also include access to the digital download, so you’ll already know all the words by the time you’re pouring over images of crazy bears. The most vanilla of you could just wait until the regular CD comes out sometime early ’08.
There’s just so much to appreciate here. By releasing the album only through their website, they control it in all aspects. Instead of announcing a release date months down the road, only to have the album leak anyway, the band will get at least some cash out of the ‘net hounds. And the notoriously loyal Radiohead fanbase will still pre-order the loaded deluxe package. Meanwhile, fans who weren’t expecting a new album until at least next year only have to wait nine more days.
I don’t want to get into a missive bemoaning the death of hip-hop, but a little care goes a long way. Forget about the fact that producers and MCs have all but abandoned the concept of organic collaboration, most tracks nowadays just sound like a race to boost the bottom line. They’re too sterile. The best producers are the ones that display a lived-in, emotional connection with the music.
Brenner’s Breaks Volume 1, then, is on some real shit. There’s a real spirit living in these tracks, and the sprawling narrative becomes a voyage. While most modern hip-hop producers try to blow their load in three minutes, 100dBs uses a softer palette, tempering the energy. Like the tortoise, he wins in the end. Unlike his earlier work, the source sounds no longer dictate 100dBs destination – he’s in the driver’s seat, and his tools are a means to the end. It’s now his voice entirely.
Arcade Fire has crafted an intellectual, creative, and almost entirely boring second album.
When I hear Funeral, I hear an album born out of necessity. I hear a group so haunted by the spectre of death that the only way to escape its demons is to hide in the sanctity of music. I hear the cold realities of life, set to song, and frantic, paranoid energy.
With Neon Bible, I hear conflict. Not in the music itself, but in the direction. Maybe unsurprisingly, the group sounds unsure where to take the most anticipated indie album of the decade. The result is incohesive and occasionally awkward — most notably in the transition from “Intervention,” the most Funereal track on the album, and “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations,” a sterile, digital song that’s far removed from any semblance of emotion. Likewise, the inclusion of a re-recorded “No Cars Go,” one of the group’s most popular songs, is perplexing. Though it’s hard to deny the song benefits from the greater production and faster tempo, the song’s notoriety immediately separates it from the rest of the album, further damaging Bible‘s concept of a whole.
What I like most about instrumental music is that there’s nobody putting words into my head (a bit obvious, I know). Specifically, I’m able to get lost in my own thoughts instead of someone else’s.
When it comes to Air France’s all-too-brief On Trade Winds EP, I don’t get too fancy. There’s no use trying to over-think its intent when two of the four tracks are titled “Karibien” and “Beach Party” (mp3), and that’s perfectly fine for me. There’s no state of mind I like better than one in which the glow of a sunset warms every inch of the inside of my skull.
The best part of being a music lover is when you listen to a new release from a favorite artist—one you’ve been waiting for—for the first time. It’s a moment that makes you forget what’s going on in your life or whatever else is on your mind. All is love. Despite two full-time jobs (I’m still figuring out how it’s possible to have two full-time jobs), it’s something I find time to make an event out of.
So I guess you might know how I feel about the Shins and their forthcoming album Wincing the Night Away (due January 23, 2007). I’m expecting a backlash for two reasons. 1) It’s been three years since Chutes Too Narrow, and in this day and age people don’t want to wait for an album that long without it being an undeniable masterpiece (a dangerous proposition because, uh, there is no such thing). 2) A majority of the band’s fanbase (the Garden Staters) fell in love with a song long after they’d already shifted stylistically. Regardless, Wincing is a fantastic album.
This you know—thanks to the Internet, there is nothing indigenous in music anymore. The web has erased national borders and led to different cultures swapping native musics. It’s no longer impossible or even odd—it’s almost commonplace now—for artists to collaborate on albums from different locations without ever meeting in person. The past few years have led to a united globalization of popular music both here in America and abroad. Certainly now more than ever cultures are flirting with each other artistically, in some instances—Brazilian baile meets American hip-hop, for example—even fornicating. It’s at the point where an actual album of Swedish reggae from Stephen Malkmus would no longer be a daring career move. But lost in the slew of talented foreign artists to find acclaim here are two gifts from the Far East, quietly operating on opposite ends of the spectrum, mastering their respective genres in preparation to take over the world.
Shugo Tokumaru is still somewhat a mystery. Numerous attempts to learn about the shadowy figure behind both L.S.T. and Night Piece have all resulted in failure; both his personal and MySpace websites offer little to no biographical information. I attempted to run the “About” section of shugotokumaru.com through a translator and came up a string of accomplishments that were formed in backwards sentences and this ending: “In the future my pace you cannot separate the eye from character and activity and extraordinary music sense.” I’m not sure exactly what that’s supposed to mean, but it sounds magical—and really, it takes but one listen to see through the shroud of mystery and view Tokumaru through his fog of gentle pop music.