Tag Archives: XL

Ratatat – LP4

Ratatat - LP4RatatatLP4 (XL Recordings)

My wife hates leftovers.

Her reasoning is sound: She grew up in a large family where leftovers were a financial necessity in many cases. But no matter how I try to convince her that the chili is always better on the second day or how there is nothing better than a cold meatloaf sandwich, she inevitably will chose a bowl of cereal over yesterday’s menu.

I bring this up because LP4 from Ratatat essentially is composed of the leftovers from their last effort, LP3. There is the element of an actual string quartet on the latest offering and a bit more drama in some of the electronic flourishes, but make no mistake: The songs presented here were first introduced for possible inclusion on the previous release.

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New Vampire Weekend video: Holiday

Video: Vampire Weekend – "Holiday"

Nice! Vampire Weekend has transformed into the Beastie Boys for their latest video from Contra. Seriously, I never realized that Ezra Koening could look exactly like King Adrock. Who knew?

Directed by the Malloys, the video features our heroes dressed in 18th century garb while cruising down the street in their 64 Impala, macking on bimbos, and hitting the beach. It’s essentially “Hey Ladies” in powdered wigs.

Vampire Weekend: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Holy Fuck – Latin

Holy Fuck - LatinHoly FuckLatin (Young Turks/XL Recordings)

I checked my player three times after starting Holy Fuck‘s latest, Latin, just to make sure the thing was playing. There was nothing wrong, as I discovered with each quick glance, it’s just that the album’s opener, “1MD,” takes its own sweet time in opening up; a few minutes go by before you actually hear something music related.

When the skies finally do manage to part, this Toronto-based project delivers some impressive electronic workouts.

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Beggars Group Knows What’s Up

BeggarsI’ve known for a while that the Beggars Group has its shit together. This might be “inside baseball” but as the publisher of an online music zine, I’ve been very impressed with how their publicity department deals with us. Each release from their four labels (Matador, 4AD, XL, and Rough Trade) is promoted with a free, easily shareable MP3, and review copies are distributed far more simply than any other label. It is no coincidence that we review more stuff from Beggars than from other labels; they make it easier for us, and we’re kinda lazy—sometimes too lazy to even send an email requesting a promo.

Now, after reading this interview with Beggars founder and chairman Martin Mills, I realize why they’re great: the dude running the show is hella smart.

“You read the industry is 60 per cent of the size it was ten years ago. But that 40 per cent that has gone is almost entirely the cream at the top. Records that sold two million now sell 500,000 – that’s where that’s gone. At the same time it’s easier to sell those slightly smaller levels.

“What’s called pejoratively ‘the new middle class’ is someone like, say, Calexico or Midlake, who can sell 100,000 plus records every time they put out a record; they can play to 3-4,000 people in 30 or 40 cities around the world. And they can make a pretty good living out of that, doing what they love doing, and can do it on their own terms, and that’s fantastic. We’ve got a bunch of bands like that, they’re not necessarily seeking stardom or riches. That’s incredibly healthy.”

You just don’t expect to read quotes like that from a music exec. It’s refreshing. Mills has lots of insightful opinions on a variety of topics, and he makes a shitload of sense. He wants his artists (and his labels) to get paid, but acknowledges that “some of our best purchasers are also pirates.” It’s a complex world we’ve got here, but this guy reminds us that it’s a great time to be a smart independent label.

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Karen Elson video: The Ghost Who Walks

Video: Karen Elson – “The Ghost Who Walks” (live full band video)

We posted the acoustic version of this song back in February, but this is this time the rest of the band gets to play along. Recorded live at Third Man Records in Nashville, and directed by Jack White. The album is due May 25.

Check out last month’s profile in the New York Times:

“If I wasn’t a model, I would never have been around interesting musicians, even had the financial capabilities to say, ‘I don’t have to work right now, I can sit and make my record,’ ” she said […]. Though she has long been musically minded, “I could never have made this record five years ago,” she said. “This record only could have been made with Jack.”

Nice that she acknowledges her place of privilege. Of course, if the music sucked we’d all just ignore her or ridicule her mercilessly. Since it sounds pretty good, that gives us the excuse—and the critical obligation!—to stare at a beautiful woman.

Karen Elson: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Titus Andronicus - The MonitorTitus AndronicusThe Monitor (XL)

Have you ever heard the line “Go big or go home?” I hate that catch phrase. I also hate New Jersey, even though I’ve never been there and don’t think I’ve ever met anyone from the state. My discontent stems from a barrage of phone encounters with New Jerseyians who seem genetically disposed to being miserable fucks trying to make everyone else as miserable as they are.

Titus Andronicus hales from New Jersey, they seem miserable, and they’re aiming for the upper deck with their sophomore effort, The Monitor, a loosely knit concept album featuring a barrage of indie guest stars fueled by pony kegs and a desire to be a part of something special.

It’s the kind of album that can get reviewers in trouble; The Monitor is such a blatant attempt at musical martyrdom that you want to immediately discount it. However, it’s delivered with such drunken stumbles and underdog charm that it’s easy to get caught up in its anthemic reverie and blindly champion it.

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New Vampire Weekend tennis video: Giving Up The Gun

Video: Vampire Weekend – "Giving Up The Gun"

I think they’re trying to get the “cool” people to hate them. Vampire Weekend‘s latest video off Contra features a tennis tournament directed by The Malloys with cameos from Lil Jon, RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, Jake Gyllenhaal, and a Jonas Brother. RZA plays the judge. Lil John plays a French speaking coach. Ezra Koenig makes eyes at the camera, doing his best to look as dreamy as possible.

Bourgeois trappings aside, Robert Christgau correctly points out that despite attending Columbia this is “no closer to ruling-class power than it is to the affluence of the average American geekboy who gets to insult music he resents online.” Still, indie blog Hipster Runoff has predicted that VW will be 2010’s Kings of Leon. Next stop: The “Today” Show for a morning concert? We’ll see…

Vampire Weekend: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Holly Miranda – The Magician’s Private Library

Holly Miranda - The Magician's Private LibraryHolly MirandaThe Magician’s Private Library (XL)

Here in the Midwest, we know a few things about the phenomenon known as “brain drain.” Young and talented people leave our surroundings in massive numbers, taking their talents and dreams with them as they discover big cultural meccas like New York, Los Angeles, and any number of proclaimed hipster capitals that offer the allure of a wider diversity and infinite possibilities.

The ruse is how these same locations can also manage to suck the life out of those young optimists, replacing their identities with a collage of outside influences until they no longer resemble the individual who arrived with such big dreams and ideas.

I bring this up because Holly Miranda is one of those examples of “brain drain,” albeit an unconventional one. After dropping out of her Michigan high school, Miranda turned a quick visit to her sister’s New York abode into her permanent zip code. There was something about the East Village that prompted a need to stay. It also spurred a creative drive which eventually led to an encounter with TV On The Radio‘s Dave Sitek. Sitek eventually agreed to man the controls of her solo debut, The Magician’s Private Library, a ten-song postcard of dreamy landscapes.

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Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here

Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New HereGil Scott-HeronI’m New Here (XL)

“I did not become someone different / that I did not want to be,” Gil Scott-Heron gruffly admits on the title track to his first album in thirteen years, “But I’m new here…will you show me around?” It’s a frightening prospect given Gil’s challenges with drugs and the law in the past decade, and hopefully the “new” is means “new leaf,” a desire that is magnified by the quality of this long awaited release.

I’m New Here presents autobiographical, spoken word interludes against fully developed songs (which Gil’s voice handles with more character than inherent talent), and word jazz. The skeletal arrangements and minimalist electronica is a perfect backdrop for his prose and the subject matter is compelling enough for repeated listens. In short, I’m New Here is a perfect introduction for anyone wanting to learn more about the grandfather of political rap and one of word jazz’s most notable artists.

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