What I’m Listening to: MGMT – Congratulations

13 09 2010

You can make cool music with your shirts on guys.

The boys of psychedelic rock phenomenon MGMT warned the world that their sophomore release would not be the catchy, synth-laden, electro-pop that their massively successful debut was.  They risked completely losing the frat-boy fan base that launched them into stardom over the last couple years. Personally, when I heard the words MGMT and surf-rock in the same sentence, I must admit I was skeptical, and my preconceived notions of what Congratulations would be kept me from giving it the attention I soon realized it deserved. Surf-rock and frat-boy labels aside this album is a legitimate attempt at something fresh and unique.  For a second time Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have ripped the rugs out from under our collective feet and sent us free-falling into musical bliss, once again demonstrating a connection with the new youth counterculture displayed by few other artists. Read the rest of this entry »


What I’m Listening to: Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

31 08 2010

Steven Ellison A.K.A. Flying Lotus puts his love for Los Angeles on display

In my opinion the music industry, as with many other industries, has always stood divided.  There are forward thinking innovators, and there are those who dwell in the realm of familiarity, sexploitation, and cookie-cutter tunes designed for the masses.  It has always been a shame to me that the latter of these opposing schools of thought often earns a greater portion of air-time, money, and fame, while the innovators, the true artistic masterminds, get left in the dust: poor, broken, and forgotten.  Obviously there are those who overcome the public’s lust for awful music and find their creative niche where they can be embraced for the geniuses they are.  One such artist is Steven Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus. Read the rest of this entry »

What I’m Listening To – Beach House: Teen Dream

3 05 2010

The members of Beach House not surprisingly in front of a sunset

For anyone who has never heard a Beach House song before, you should be able to get the gist of their musical style from their name.  It is exactly the type of music that you would imagine to be on repeat if you owned a beach house and had nothing to do with your time but relax and watch the clouds go by. Read the rest of this entry »

What I’m Listening To – Wale: Attention Deficit

2 03 2010

Wale's amazing debut Attention Deficit

Let me begin with an apology.  Wordpress doesn’t have support for characters that aren’t used regularly in the English language (as far as I can tell), so my apologies to Mr. Wale for not being able to place the accent over the e in his name.  Normally I wouldn’t apologize for something like this, but dude gets pissed when people screw up his name.

“They keep sayin whale, but my name wall-ay/ hoes call me Mr. never wear the same thang.”

I guess it only makes him kind of mad. Read the rest of this entry »

What I’m Listening To – OK Go: Of the Blue Colour of the Sky

22 02 2010

OK Go should be quite the show at Bonnaroo this summer

OK Go have been around since 2002 when they released their self-titled debut.  Despite all the attention they’ve garnered for their outreageously choreographed music videos, fights with their record label over embedding videos, or opening up for Panic(!) at the Disco on tour, I must admit I never payed much attention to them (probably for the exact reasons listed above).  Associating themselves with Panic(?) at the Disco definitely placed them into a specific, judgmental category for me: Don’t bother listening.  So when did the change take place?  Bonnaroo announced their line-up for the 2010 festival about a week ago, and near the top of the list was OK Go.  Having attended ‘Roo last year I know that they don’t mess around when it comes to booking acts for the festival.  It is the most eclectic gathering of musicians in the world.  From old to new, Hip-Hop to death metal to Jimmy Buffet, Bonnaroo knows how to throw a party, and even the artists you’ve never heard of always manage to entertain.  So since I plan on returning to the massive farm in the middle of nowhere for a weekend of only god knows what this summer, I figured I would check out all the acts I’ve never heard that are scheduled to play.  So I got my hands on most of it, put it into a giant iTunes playlist, hit shuffle, and let the thing run while I screw around on the internet for hours doing nothing.  After listening for a while I started to realize that every time I came across a really cool song, it was OK Go who was responsible for said song.  So finally this morning I decided to just listen to the album all the way through.

Of the Blue Color of the Sky is OK Go’s third album, and it’s fantastic.  They are one of those rare bands that has a flare for the outlandish, electronic, and psychedelic rock that doesn’t usually have mass appeal, but they maintain a pop sensibility about their melodies and song writing that crosses over genres and makes for REAL pop-music (sorry Lady Gaga you don’t qualify as real music to me).  The rhythms are basic, dancey, and upbeat.  The mix of synths, arena-rock guitars, and robot vocals (Before the Earth was Round), makes for a dynamic, enthralling listen.  Later in the album they pull out the acoustic guitar for a downtrodden ballad (Last Leaf) and keep it out for a little bit of the exciting psychedelic rock (Back from Kathmandu) I mentioned before.  OK Go worked with producer Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, MGMT) on this album, and his influence shines through on all the aspects of the album that I mentioned earlier.  I hadn’t heard of Mr. Fridmann until recently, but I am a HUGE fan of this guys work.  Everything he touches seems to come out completely original, and he has a way of taking things out of the mainstream, yet maintaining mass appeal (if that makes sense), which is the yellow brick road of success for indie rock bands these days.

All in all I must say that I am really looking forward to seeing these guys live this summer.  They remind me a lot of TV on the Radio who played an amazing set at Bonnaroo last year, so I expect more of the same from OK Go…don’t disappoint me guys I just wrote a lot of really good things about your music!

Key Tracks: Back from Kathmandu, In the Glass, This too Shall Pass

You Might Also Like: TV on the Radio, Animal Collective, Spoon

What I’m Listening To – Akron/Family

19 02 2010

This album cover looks like something my grandma would have on her wall

Akron/Family’s 2005 self titled debut pretty much sounds like a bunch of noise the first time you hear it.  It reminds me of a little kid mulling around the kitchen, banging pots and pans to get his mothers attention as she prepares dinner.  Then they put forth something that sounds conceivably like regular pop-music, and then they take it away and go back to noise.   Needless to say, I LOVE IT.

So as noted by my previous posts on Grizzly Bear and MGMT, I love a good psychedelic, artsy rock record, but Akron/Family is different.  As opposed to being rooted in rock, they instead hold a foot in the realm of folk.  Almost all of the guitar is acoustic, the songs are driven by polyrhythmic, tribal like drums and percussion, and the vocals are imperfect and driven by emotion, like all good vocals should be in the age of Pro Tools where everything is too perfect.  After listening to the album it is pretty crazy to think that the entire thing was performed by only three musicians, rotating instrumental and vocal duties.  Nothing really to specific to say about this album, but in general its another personal favorite of mine, and everyone should check it out.

Key Tracks: Running, Returning.  Italy.  Before and Again.

You might also like: Animal Collective, Annuals

What I’m Listening To – Arcade Fire: Funeral

16 02 2010

Arcade Fire's debut "Funeral" is a personal favorite

So the word on the street is that the Arcade Fire have a new album due out this year, combine this with new albums due out from MGMT and Radiohead and it should be a great year for music. Arcade Fire have been one of the most innovative, original bands, both in the studio, and live, of the last five or six years. The news of their highly anticipated third studio album had me excited and so I went back to listen to their brilliant debut: Funeral.

I must admit that I was unaware of this album when it was first released, and I didn’t even learn of this band until the follow-up Neon Bible was released in 2007. Even though Neon Bible was every bit as critically acclaimed as their debut, there is still something about Funeral that I can personally connect to more than its successor. After listening to this album it is no surprise that these songs were the inspiration to the recent film Where the Wild Things are. Oft-ignored childhood themes of dissonance, isolation, rebellion, and free spirit are all touched upon. These are not things that a normal rock band would address, but Arcade Fire do it with such passion and conviction that it is hard to not be emotionally connected to such relevant song-writing. The Lyrics to “Wake Up” really hit on a lot of these points. Lead man Win Butler sings:

“But now that I’m older/ My heart is colder/ and I can see that its a lie./ Children wake up/ hold your mistakes up/ before they turn the summer into dust./ Children don’t grow up/ our bodies get bigger/ but our hearts get torn up./ We’re just a million little gods causing rainstorms/ turning everything good to rust.”

The childhood themes don’t stop with the lyrics. The upbeat, yet serious, anthemic feel that makes the Arcade Fire who they are is all over this album and it fits perfectly with the aforementioned writing style. After reading the lyrics to Wake Up (above) it might be hard to envision the song being placed in NFL advertisements, but the epic guitar makes it perfect. Side note is that Arcade Fire NEVER lisence their music to outside sources (minus the WTWTA) trailor, and idiotic copyright laws allow the NFL to use their music for 15 seconds or less, despite the band’s attempts to protect their music, but that’s a topic for another day.

This is one of those albums that brightens your day for reasons that you can’t quite put your finger on.  Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) puts a smile on my face every time.  All of us remember waking up with the power out and going back to sleep, claiming ignorance, to try and get out of school.  This song is the embodiment of what I said before about the lyrics and  the music coming together to put forth such an emotionally charged, easily relatable rock performance that is as of now unmatched by artists everywhere., and I’m certain that Arcade Fire will continue to break new ground for years to come.  Good luck musicians of the world, Arcade Fire have set the bar, and they have set it high.