Archive for the ‘alt rock’ tag
After three long years, the wait for new Jimmy Eat World musical sweetness is finally over. However, for those who are nostalgic to jump around to angst-driven tracks like “Sweetness” and “The Middle,” the upcoming ninth album may be quite the change as Jim Adkins describes it as more of an “adult break-up record.” The lyrical maturity of the single even feels as if it could belong within the 2004 album “Futures,” proving that after nearly 20 years together the band still maintains a distinct sound all of their own. Longtime listeners find familiarity in Adkins’ vocals melding with a chorus of heavy guitars in “I Will Steal You Back,” giving fans a quick preview of what to expect from “Damage,” set to be released on June 11.
Jimmy Eat World – “I Will Steal You Back”
Remember Rock ‘n Roll? You know, that thing that used to draw crowds of thousands of people and induce underage women to take their shirts off in front of emaciated men with long hair that they had never met? In 2012, Rock without an adjective in front of it seems like a character from the Walking Dead, but undeterred, here come the Killers.
This band is no longer the glammed up over-sexed Killers that you feel in love with on Hot Fuss. The Killers have been able to fill stadiums for awhile now, and Battle Born is their first album that really embraces the level of fame they’ve reached. The idiosyncrasies that made ‘Somebody Told Me’ and ‘ Mr. Brightside’ such landmarks — the ambiguous sexuality, the disco strobe beats — are long gone. So too is the squishy artiness of the Killers’ most recent effort, 2008′s Day & Age, an album that can pretty much be summed up by the notorious line from that albums single, ‘Human:’ “Are we human? Or are we dancer?”
Instead, Battle Born is focused squarely on repurposing the now antiquated sound of straight up rock. On “Runaways,” Battle Born‘s aptly chosen single, Flowers does his best Bruce Springsteen over downright cheesy backing vocals, and the electric guitars riff with abandon. You can practically hear the flash bulbs popping. And it works: ‘Runaway’ is such a painfully earnest homage to the ghost of rock gods past that you can’t help but smile at it. It’s when Battle Born turns to other classic trope of arena rock, the ballad, that it loses it’s way.
“Here With Me,” comes off as so saccharine that it could be dropped in among any of those power ballad compilations that get sold on late night TV without anyone blinking an eye. And when Flowers sings, “Don’t want your picture on my cellphone/ I want you here with me,” it’s hard to avoid how dated this nod to the present sounds. While on ‘Runaway’ the attempt to bring back Rock seems valiant, “Here With Me” verges on the painful.
Ok guys, the scene’s love affair with Frank Ocean is verging on a full-blown pre-engagement. Now-ancient alt rock band Afghan Whigs try to bring Ocean’s “Lovecrimes” down into familiar slow and dreary territory with a latest cover and, well, it’s a snoozer. And not the kind to give you nightmares or anything – we’re talking bland comatose episode here.
There’s nothing like a good summertime record. Japandroids came out with the excellent Celebration Rock a few weeks ago. Childish Gambino got some AudioCred love earlier this month. And that Bibio remix has legit been on all of my summer BBQ mixes this summer. Same goes for the wonderful JEFF the Brotherhood song, “Sixpack,” that premeiered a few weeks back. Jake and Jamin Orrall came up with this fun little Weezer ripoff that I haven’t been able to stop listening to.
The “summer jam” is a necessity, and JEFF the Brotherhood’s latest album, Hypnotic Nights, promises early on to deliver much in the same way Celebration Rock did. There are some serious similarities: both are more concerned with partying than getting too deep or existential; both wear their inspirations on their sleeve. Where JEFF differs most conceptually is in its execution: they’re not as earnest as Japandroids.
Now that’s not actually to their discredit. While Japandroids basks in its inspiring “we made it!” bromance, JEFF gets to just trudge out some interesting rock sounds with the tuned-down, who-cares attitude of a stoner. And they do so right from the first track, “Country Life,” where they talk about wanting a place where they can “drink and swim in a creek.” It’s a nice rocker with a cool occasionally shrieking guitar and a “kick-CLAP” breakdown, that leads into the aforementioned “Sixpack.” And again, there, it’s just about two dudes hanging out: “It’s pretty hot out / it’s only 15 miles / I wanna cool out / and get wasted.”
It’s the strong start to Hypnotic Nights that gives you the impression of a great summer record. It goes on from there: “Hypnotic Mind” is a track that sounds like the Descendents, while “Mystic Portal II” packs a Beach Boys vocal melody. “Wood Ox” channels some of that Japandroids vibe, with a nice shout-along part.
But the story of Hypnotic Nights is the story of two fundamentally different albums in one. It’s almost completely front-loaded, with very little in the second half of the album that’s of any interest. It loses the inspiration of the first five songs and, unbelievably, becomes barely listenable from then on out.
The first sign that Hypnotic Night is falling off the rails occurs at literally the first track on the second half of the album, “Staring At the Wall.” It is an absolute throwaway, a boring, late-career Foo Fighters track that somehow found its way onto someone else’s album. It’s something I initially thought would be a misstep in an otherwise flawless record. The next song tries to get back on track, with another seemingly-Weezer-inspired track called “Leave Me Out.” But outside the ridiculous opening lyrics (“Pretty as a peach / she’s so out of reach / I can’t even try / cuz I’m living a lie” — again, not terribly complicated songs) it’s flat in a way that the first half of the album just isn’t. You don’t feel any excitement.
“Every single night I endure the flight/Of little wings of white flamed butterflies in my brain/These ideas of mine percolate the mind/Trickle down the spine swarm the belly, swelling to a blaze.” Fiona Apple sings these words all in about ten seconds flat on “Every Single Night,” the gentle opener to her new LP. And just like that, she’s back. Like she never left.
Only seven years have passed since there has been a new Fiona Apple record, but it may as well have been an entire lifetime. Even longer ago was when Fiona first hit the scene, at the age of nineteen, sweeping the entire world away with her debut album, Tidal. Despite all of the time that’s passed– all of the new technology, the media, wars, iPods, whatever– Fiona has remained as intact as ever, almost entirely untouched by the things that so pollute the rest of us. The now thirty-four-year-old claims to have no ties whatsoever to social media, computers, or even recent music trends; with one listen of her fourth album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, you definitely believe her.
The Idler Wheel is Fiona at her most pure. It’s an acoustic fantasy, and Fiona is traveling with just the bare necessities: her piano and her voice. Then, of course, there are her lyrics; just like she does on “Every Single Night,” Fiona has always been the master of injecting heaps of meaning into a very small amount of space. Her words are her ultimate weapon, and she uses them to protect herself. She builds little safe havens within her songs in the most scarily intimate sorts of ways. “That’s when the pain comes in/Like a second skeleton/Trying to fit beneath the skin/I can’t fit the feelings in,” she continues on “Every Single Night.”
Loneliness seeps out of the songs on The Idler Wheel, but there is also an undeniable optimism layered beneath (or above, depending on the track). Sort of like life. As jazzy and tumultuous as ever, Fiona’s voice soars on “Left Alone,” “Hot Knife,” and “Werewolf.” Her raw emotive quality– unlike any other singer alive– makes it hard to choose where and when she sounds best, because there are so many choices. Lyrically, she’s as bizzar-o as ever, which is just where we like her. She effortlessly shifts from mature and satirical on “Valentine,” to bitter finger-pointing on “Regret.” On “Jonathan,” Fiona offers a rare, more revealing glimpse into her personal life, as she so obviously references her writer ex-boyfriend Jonathan Ames. However, she perfectly combats the intimacy of the song’s title by singing, “I don’t want to talk about anything.” As ever, just when you think you’re getting closer to figuring Fiona out, she throws you for a loop. And then another.
“Rock’n’Roll is shit at the moment,” declared Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, lead singer of the Hives, during a recent interview with the UK’s The Guardian. He continued on, referring to emo as “pretty shit,” then added, “Rock’n'Roll is fifty drunk people in a room who want to have fun, but there’s something extremely unsexy about it being perverted into middle-class guilt and whining.” Obviously, it’s clear that Howlin’ Pelle feels less than optimistic about the current state of things; but these are pretty bold statements from the singer of a band whose recent release does little in the way of making it better.
There was a time in music, not too long ago, in fact, that in order to be taken seriously, a band had to put ‘The’ in front of their name: The Strokes, The Vines, The Libertines, The Cribs, The Futureheads, The White Stripes. The Hives were among the forefront in that pack, finding great success in in the early 2000s with energetic hits like “Hate to Say I Told You So.” Sadly, however, the time for ‘The’ has passed, and unlike some garage-rock revival bands who have managed to survive by moving forwards, the Hives seem hell-bent on moving backwards.
Which is not say that it’s all bad on Lex Hives, the band’s first release in almost five years. “1000 Answers” is a fast-paced jam with a classically punk riff. The band have also experimented with some new sounds and styles, like on “Midnight Shifter,” which is pure rockabilly fun. On that track, a joyous and fierce piano carry things along nicely, but most other tracks are just quite simply a drag. Album opener “Come On” is clearly meant to get the party started; the whole song is made up of shouts of “Come on! Come on! Come on!” and, yeah, that’s all. It might have worked if it didn’t feel so inauthentic. For the most part, It will leave you less pumped and more irritated.
While the kids in Be Your Own Pet were always pretty fun to listen to this side project from brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall has been a much more rock n’ roll enterprise. A preview to their July 17 album Hypnotic Knights, “Six Pack” is the band’s new single, which sounds so much like an old Weezer B-side it makes me want to break out my “Jamie” 7″ and play some video games. It’s fun as hell, and a perfectly welcome addition to any summertime playlist. Bonus points for the Mets t-shirt in the above photo.
Are you prepared to answer the question “Grandpa, what was a rock band?” “Uh it was kind of like four dudes with girl’s hair jumping around under hot lights” isn’t a good answer. A better one: “A rock band was The Men.” Not only will this answer confuse little Billy enough that he’ll wander away to play with his jetpack, but it also gets to a harder truth about The Men. So many of the rock groups of the last forty years have participated in bringing The Men to us today that it’s hard to pick one and say that they weren’t, in some way, The Men. The Brooklyn group’s great synthesis passes the testosterone booster of 70s rock through the filter of the golden age indie of the 80s and 90s, with the result that The Men sound like three or four of your favorite bands. A lesser band might have used that similarity as a way to meekly smuggle one or two singles through a few car commercials, but when The Men rip someone off, the theft is so bold and blatant that it ends up being less an homage than an act of defiance. The Men dare them to take their songs back.
When The Men scale back towering jam “Ex-Dreams” to drums, a single guitar line, and a Thurstonian patter of almost-poetry, could Sonic Youth hope to snatch it back? Would Kevin Shields have the presence of mind and body to challenge early-MBV aping “Please Don’t Go Away”? The message is clear: they are gone; we are The Men. But where the group copies and pastes they also add welcome punk muscle. I don’t remember riff-surfing guitar workout “Oscillation” rocking quite so hard in the hands of Yo La Tengo.
“Oscillation” is by far my nomination for overall standout from Open Your Heart because it’s the only time The Men take their enormous riffage for a walk, keeping one guitar a distorted wave and the other keyboard-clean, building a groove and burning it down and then eulogizing it with a bored lyric: “I would like to be informed/ of what’s/ next.” But the nature of the album is such that everyone’s going to find their favorite tracks according to their rock loyalties. And that’s both the strength and primary difficulty of the album.