New Music: Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

18 03 2010

Gorillaz third release is every bit as genre-shattering as the first one

It’s the time of year where I get to write more about new music than the older stuff that just happens to be popping through my computer speakers, and that is something to be excited about.  Just this week new albums from Gorillaz and Broken Bells (more on them later) dropped new albums, and new cuts from MGMT, The National, Erykah Badu, Band of Horses, and Nas and Damien Marley are all expected before May.  Not to mention Drake, LCD Soundsystem, and The Arcade Fire all expected out before the end of the year, plus whispers of a new Radiohead album (SHH! they can hear you thinking about it).

The third release from Gorillaz, Plastic Beach, is pretty much what you expect from Damon Albarn and his animated company; which is the unexpected. Read the rest of this entry »


What I’m Listening To – Wilco: Sky Blue Sky

8 02 2010

Wilco's sixth album might be their best

For 16 years Wilco has been consistently changing the face of popular rock music.  Their fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was named the third best album of the 2000’s by Rolling Stone Magazine.  Funny story about this album is that it was completely rejected by Wilco’s label at the time, Wilco was dropped from the label, and the rights to the album were given to them for free.  Needless to say somebody at Reprise Records lost their jobs soon after because this album was brilliantly innovative, and remains Wilco’s most successful album to date, selling over 590,000 copies.  Their next album A Ghost is Born won two Grammy’s in 2004, and Wilco have been one of rocks best groups ever since.

Despite the successes of these two albums, my favorite album of theirs is their sixth release: Sky Blue Sky. This album is full of amazingly honest writing from lead singer Jeff Tweedy (a staple of the band) along with brilliant play from guitar virtuoso Nels Cline (a new addition).  It has downtrodden acoustic ballads, upbeat guitar-driven jams, and Pink Floyd-esque breakdowns.  This is truly a complete album.  Tweedy’s sense of melody is really what drives the music, but the arrangements of the songs are what bring them to live.  Side With the Seeds lulls you to sleep and then explodes into a guitar driven breakdown accompanied by a string section, which seamlessly transitions back into the sleepy A section.  The next song, Shake it Off, is more of the same.  I love the opening verse of this song.  Tweedy moans:

“Sunlight angles on/ wooden floors at dawn/ ceiling fan is on/ chopping up my dreams/ what is left of them/ I take to sleep again/ where I dare pretend/ I’m more than I seem.”

After this verse, Wilco bring the funk with a smooth electric piano groove that transitions into the chorus.  Once again they ride the waves of an awesome bass line back into the spacious, empty verse.  As I mentioned before, the arrangements of these songs keep the album dynamic and exciting to listen to.  Rarely does a Wilco song follow a verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus type of standard arrangement.  They always keep it fresh, and the transitions are where the Pink Floyd reference begins to make itself apparent.

While their follow-up to this album was a slight disappointment in my opinion, Wilco is definitely a band to keep an eye on, not only for their studio accomplishments, but also because they’ve established themselves as one of the best live bands out there.  They’re essentially the old vets of indie rock, but that doesn’t mean they are going away any time soon, and that is certainly a good thing.

Key Tracks: You Are My Face, Side With the Seeds, Walken, Impossible Germany.

You might also like: My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Beck