Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tame Impala - Currents (2015)

Last year I picked TV On The Radio's Seeds as the best I heard all year.  It's a shame it took till October to find it, and it's kinda surprising that it beat out Lana Del Rey's Ultraviolence and Jack White's Lazaretto, both outstanding releases looking back on them now.  This year, there's been all kinds of great music released on the indie circuit.  Some you may have heard of such as Sleater Kinney, No Cities To Love, some you may not have like Lianne La Havas, Blood.  I'm calling it right now.  Tame Impala's 3rd album, Currents, released back in July may be the album this year.  Though in addition to the aforementioned 2 albums, Lana Del Rey has another due out in a few weeks, The Dead Weather is finally out with new music very soon, and I wouldn't be surprised if we hear something from Beck before years as well as something from No Doubt and PJ Harvey.  Indeed this is quietly shaping up to be an outstanding year for the indie artists.  So, what's up with Tame Impala you ask, well with lyrics like;
Finally taking flight
I know you don't think it's right
I know that you think it's fake
Maybe fake's what I like
Point is I have the right
I'm thinking in black and white
I'm thinking it's worth the fight
Soon to be out of sight
Knowing it all this time
Going with what I always longed for

 And some of the most solid psychedelic riffs, a masters level of attention to production detail made for the best 51:06 of vinyl listening goodness I've heard in months. 

They released the first single off the album in March well ahead of the finished album and it signaled a huge departure to what made the Aussie group famous.  Tame Impala had built their careers on some way out there progressive psychedelic rock music.  Their first album, was a synth heavy experimental chaotic mess of rhythms so complex you may have mistaken them for a late 60's early 70's lo-fi wall of soundscapes type of group.  Think about what Pink Floyd + Genesis / Acid would =.  A beautiful mess, that's what happened.  Listen to damn near anything from Innerspeaker (2010) to get a feeling of what I'm talking about.  For this album, their first single Let It Happen clearly set the tone for a much more mainstream feel. 

Let It Happen

The 2nd single from Currents was the one that got some actual notice particularly in Hipster indie circuits.  What got me immediately was the departure from their experimental and gravitation toward complete melodies.  The psych/rock group made a chill out song that anybody could listen to no matter what frame of mind they were in - which - when you think about it is kinda the hallmark of a great psychedelic group right?  If after hearing a song you wish it were longer because you were just getting into a groove, they've done their job.  So, released in April their 2nd single, Cause I'm a Man dropped, and this album was suddenly a much anticipated hit.  Hell, when I heard about it, it made this blog real quick.

Cause I'm a Man

Seriously, up until I bought the album, that was my favorite song.  Fortunately Tame Impala didn't suffer from what a lot of artists suffer from when they're trying to get popular too fast.  The didn't release their best songs as singles and end up selling the album's filler.  Turns out with perhaps 1 or 2 exceptions, this whole album was some of the best most technical and eclectic collections of music I've heard in a while.

In a testament to this albums brilliance, upon it's release it was Tame Impala's first #1 album in their home country, and #4 here in the U.S..  Here's the rub though, not since Jack White's Lazaretto last year has an album been released that sold more on Vinyl.  That's right, within the first 2 weeks of the release of Currents, it sold more than 14,000 copies - on vinyl alone, and that's just in North America!  For whatever reason it sold a lot more on vinyl in Australia, which substantiates the awesome limited edition available there.  It sold so well, that it's pre-orders sold out within 2 weeks of the release of their 2nd single.

Two other singles from that album were out before the July release of Currents.  Disciples and Eventually.  Both of these songs while good, don't quite capture the essence of  Tame Impala's future potential.  I'm fairly certain that these were released to give their current fans something to look forward to because of their complex psychedelic sound.  The money songs are a very over produced Past Life, and my current favorite, which I quoted above, New Person, Same Old Mistakes.  The latter of which is rapidly becoming the soundtrack of my existence these days.  Matter of fact, I challenge you to put on some headphones and listen to this track, (shitty PC and or phone speakers won't do it justice.) and not repeat it twice.

New Person, Same Old Mistakes

Damn, this song changes tempo more than an 80's opus.  The vocals, and more specifically the lyrics are just mind blowing.  When he speaks of what people may think about his music now and basically says, "fuck you, this is what I like."  It really gives you makes you glad that he along with the group can do so without alienating his core followers and selling out completely.  This whole song speaks volumes about a lot of things.  I may end up wearing this track out.  It would suck though as this is a 2 LP release.  

Unfortunately if you are lucky enough to find this album these days, it will not be cheap on vinyl.  Since it's release it's climbed to north of $30 for the domestic release.  It's even higher if you're lucky enough to snag the Australian release which was all kinds of awesome.  1 record was yellow, the other purple and it came with an .mp3 download code all on 180grm vinyl.  They're rare, but can be had for around $50-80 depending on where you find it.  But, for an interesting change, I'm going against my love for vinyl here.  Just buy the album.  Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, direct from their site, wherever.  I'm going so far as to call this one of the most important releases this year in all of music.  Sure there will be bigger more mainstream releases, but none of them will be authentic as Tame Impala.  Buy this album now and thank me later.

Next week, I'm conflicted and can't decide, but I'm seriously thinking leaning toward going back and redoing a few of my earlier picks from before I started the blog, just to give them a proper write-up, or the other insanely awesome record I lucked in to from 2000.  Either way, it'll be awesome.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sirious/ly: The Dead Weather - I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)

From their upcoming album, Dodge And Burn, (Out September 25), this is I Feel Love - (Every Million Miles) ....   Yeah, this actually happening, it's it's awesome AF!  (That guitar at the 1:55 mark though....  Shades of Jimmy Paige)

I Feel Love - Every Million Miles

Monday, August 17, 2015

Depeche Mode - Violator (1990)

Yeah, so this happened.  Once again, another of the greatest albums of all time.  Up until 1989 Depeche Mode as a group was largely an underground New Wave/Electronic, "thing".   Sure they were popular among their fans, but they really didn't go mainstream till this album, Violator, in 1990.  So if that's true, why the 2 year disparity?   (I'll get to that in a minute.)  Even worse, how did their first album, 1981's Speak & Spell not certify them as legit?  Seriously, it was easily the more superior album.  However, Violator like the Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' to fuck with.

Violator was officially released in the spring of 1990.  Buzz for the album began began that previous August in 1989 with the release of the first of the 4 singles from Violator, the ever popular and often covered....

Personal Jesus

Think about it, that single was released roughly when Prince's Batman soundtrack came out.  So for those that can remember, you were either listening to Personal Jesus or Batdance....  That's right, I said, Batdance. (Eventually when I get a few more soundtracks in my vinyl collection, you'll see this whole album, it was quite good believe it or not...  When I was 11)

Prince - Batdance

Sorry for that intermission.  Mind you, Personal Jesus was released 13 months after their last single from their previous album, Music For The Masses.  That single, Little 15, solidified Depeche Mode as the dark wave group that we all needed but didn't deserve.  It's almost a crime that we had to wait over a year before we heard anything else.  So obviously, Personal Jesus was the only appropriate follow up of releases.  About 6 months later, still before Violator was released, they released what would become the 2nd single from the album, Enjoy The Silence.  We all now know that's become an anthem of the group.

Enjoy The Silence

At this point, Depeche Mode was easily the most popular group in the UK.  Enjoy The Silence became their biggest hit, and most nominated song by far.  All of this, and they don't even have an album yet.  By the time Violator was released that March, there was so much buzz and anticipation that Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence simultaneously became their 2 biggest singles ever.  Blame popular radio for that. In a year that's number 1 single was from Wilson Phillips, Hold On, for the uninformed, it was nice to see that there was still a chance for music to not completely suck coming out of one of music's greatest decades.

So let me interject here for a moment.  By 1989 the dynamic in music was beginning to change.  We all know that some of the greatest creativity in music came out of the 80's.  The newest sounds, and techniques that were born of the 70's hit the mainstream.  New Wave was formed, Pop music was actually good and not popular for the sake of being popular.  Meaning that artists were creating lots of "Pop" music, but not for one off's.  There were entire Pop albums and dance parties organized around those albums.  At some point in the late 80's something happened though.  Many "underground" artists were creating new music, much of it was so specialized that there was a shift in listening habits for a lot of fans.  Music became quite literally, very regional and almost less global.  The dynamic now became east coast, west coast, north east, Detroit garage, euro electronic, world beat, Caribbean and so on.  From there came sub genres of music, Hip-Hop birthed "Gangsta".  Rock Gave rise to "Grunge". Caribbean morphed into "Ska" Detroit Garage became "Indie" or "Underground" Euro Electronic became "Trip-Hop" and Prog "Electronica".  It goes a lot deeper.  Why is this relevant to Depeche Mode and more specifically Violator?  Because Violator marked the last album that spoke to a generation of the alienated youth.  The messages and symbols through this album were filled with some of the heaviest messages without being depressing. (Sort of like if the Smiths were an electronic dance group.)  Whether you were Goth or not, there was something on this album for you that much music from 1990 just didn't provide.  The 3rd single, Policy Of Truth is reflective of that.

Policy Of Truth

The final single, World In My Eyes was released late in the summer of 1990.

World In My Eyes

A few days later Jane's Addiction will release Ritual De Lo Habitual, and Prince will release the soundtrack to Graffiti Bridge.  Can you feel the direction in which music is headed?  Depeche Mode won't release another album for 3 years, a much, much darker, Songs of Faith And Devotion. Though after that things get weird with them till Playing The Angel in 2005.  Frankly, I'm still mad at Exciter.  Come on, seriously?  Dream On?  What the fuck.  Can you say Luxe Saturday Night Dance Party?  (Hosted by Andre, of course.)  

Guys look, Violator is easily one of the best albums ever made, that's not coming from me alone but scholars of music all over the world.  This album was so popular that it was re-released on vinyl and it was an awesome pressing.  All 180gm of it can be had in virtually any record store worth visiting.  
Next week, something new, something "Current".

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sea of Cowards - The Dead Weather (2010)

Supergroups!  They either work or they don't.  I've talked about them enough from the great, The Dirty Mac. To the not bad at all, Audioslave.  To the downright horrible, After Bridge,  (Seriously, what the actual fuck guys?)  The thought is that if you take the best parts of the whole, that you get a bigger and better whole.  Thankfully, it works more often than it doesn't, however when it fails, it fails hard.  If it works really well, it's much more prone to catastrophic failure and all those involved learn real quick why they may have been in the situation to be available to create a supergroup in the first place.  (Looking at you Velvet Revolver.)

Let's look at today's pick.  Take Jack White and the Kills.  Separately, they're outfuckingstanding.  Jack White more so with Meg when they're doing The White Stripes thing, but I digress.  The Kills were easily one of the greatest OG's of modern Indie rock back in 2000.  Slam them together and you get some serious syrupy rock.  Jack White's blues and the Kills command of garage rock and metal made 2 albums that just drove the garage scene into the mainstream.  Sea of Cowards, their 2nd release in 2010 was simply a filthy aggressive album worthy that ended just a hair short being metal.  They had to settle for legit blues rock instead.

The Difference Between Us

The cool thing about this album overall was the fact that it was released just under a year after their first album, Horehound, as a group was released.  Because of the nature of indie music, it's almost impossible to chart, but when you're good it's real easy to stay on top.  In a time that the Kills were essentially not creating music for distribution, and The White Stripes were kinda gone, having a(nother) Jack White side project was more than worth paying attention to.  So how did Jack White manage to find a reformed punk singer and a group full of electro blues rockers in the first place?  Easy, he lost his voice on tour and she was there.  The Kills were on tour with The Raconteurs, Jack, performing his ass off as usual, lost his voice and asked Alison Mosshart to fill in on a few songs.  Turns out they're a lot better together than they are apart.  Well except for this...  

Old Mary

There were two singles from this album, Die By The Drop, and Blue Blood Blues.  The former was released about 2 months before the albums was and is the first song on the album.  Kinda grabs you quick.

Die By The Drop

That video alone kinda reminded people how serious this group was.  Unfortunately this was the lasst album the group released....  Till September that is.  Their 3rd studio album coming up in about a month now.  You would be kinda silly to not jump on this.  Maybe not the Third Man Records version, but the vinyl none the less.  Jack White has consistently put out some quality vinyl.  It's one of the many perks of owning your own label outright.  If you all remember Lazaretto from last year, there were all kinds of awesome "easter eggs" literally on the record.  This particular vinyl spinning above was no different, even 5 years ago.  If you drop the needle of your turntable on the right spot of the label on both sides, you'll get 2 bonus tracks.  That's stuff you can't won't get from the .mp3 or CD album folks.  

I Really Need a New Turntable Though...

One last cool thing about this album, it was originally recorded to analog tape then pressed onto the 180grm vinyl.  As are most releases from Third Man Records.  That means, and this should come as a shock to none of you, that when you play this on a quality record player, you're hearing this album the way it was meant to be heard.  Studio quality all the way.  This particular piece of was was found on the way out of Mystic Disc in Mystic Connecticut.  Awesome shop along the water just past the bridge.

Side note, I saw these guys perform live almost exactly 5 years ago in Brooklyn.  The biggest takeaway from that was the chemistry between Jack and Alison.  Those two performed a duet that felt like it should have been X-Rated.  No they didn't strip each other or anything sexual, but they just performed the fuck out of Rocking Horse, from their first album, Horehound.  It made you think they were cheating on someone.  Ever seen someone light a cigarette with a blowtorch?  Easily one of the best concerts I've ever been to in my life.

Can't promise "Vinyl Monday's" anymore, but I can promise you updates when I'm spinning.  Be on the lookout for those.  Maybe I'll be in a Depeche Mode mood soon...  Just sayin.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Prince - Purple Rain (1984) 50th Post

Assuming that most of the readers here are over the age of 35, love the 80's culture, and or have a vast appreciation of popular cultures greatest decade of excess, there was a lot going on to remember in 1984.  Let's set the mood a bit in case you forgot:

  • Michael Jackson won 8 Grammy Awards for Thriller, a month after the Pepsi incident
  • Herbie Hancock owns at the 1st ever MTV Music Video Awards, guess which song put him over.
  • Rick Allen makes Def Leopard jokes funny
  • Tipper Gore almost destroys artistic expression by creating the PMRC because...
  • Prince releases Purple Rain, no doubt one of the greatest, filthiest, most groundbreaking and successful albums in the history of music.
Purple Rain was a lot of things, fundamentally it was an album, a movie, and a soundtrack.  The 3 being mutually exclusive.  If you've never seen the movie, I implore you to just buy it.  While it's far from cinematic award winning genius, it's an excellent period piece on "teenage" angst with outstanding music.  It's almost the "anti" John Hughes type of 80's flick.  The album itself, Prince's 6th studio album, was made more successful than 1999, his 1982 behemoth album that officially put him into mega star status.   

Purple Rain is consistently, to this day even, ranked by many measures as one of the greatest albums of all time.  In it's first week, it managed to be certified Diamond in it's first week selling a bit less than 2 million copies.  Rolling Stone put it down at 76 in their book of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  In 2008 Entertainment Weekly called it the best album released in 25 years.  The single greatest distinction however came in 2012 when the Library of Congress added it to the National Registry of Recordings that are aesthetically, culturally, and historically important.  That means should the earth ever be destroyed and we're forced underground, this album will survive most others.  Sorry Spice Girls.

What really made this album work was it's exposure and raw talent of Prince Roger Nelson.  (Yep, that's his name...  Suddenly Michael Jackson's kids names aren't so strange now are they?)  When I say raw talent, not only can prince sing across different registers, he can play drums, guitar, and keyboards.  At the core, he is a funk musician, but he's so much deeper than that.  There's R&B, as in he wrote and performed one of Chaka Khan's greatest hit's, I Feel For You.  Matter of fact, he recorded it first in 1979 on his self titled album.  Listen to that one on Spotify, or even better if you can find the album, Prince, kinda rare, buy it.  Remember I Wanna Be Your Lover?  Lead track.  Trust me it's worth it.

Then there's the Psychedelic Prince:

How about Hip-Hop Prince, as in My Name is Prince.  

My Name Is Prince

Purple rain featured 5 released singles beginning in 1984 after the release of the movie.  The first one:

When Doves Cry

When Doves Cry in my opinion was the first modern power ballad before hair bands made the term popular.  It's not often that we hear a song so deep and complex till the 3rd single release, Purple Rain.  For those that remember, it was not only the climax of the film, it genuinely provided the emotional connection to the album.  As awesome as Purple Rain the song was, it suffered from the same thing that most underrated songs often do.  It was too long.  Clocking in at over 8 minutes with soaring guitar solos and isolation of everything from the organ to the orchestra to the vocals, it was a mini opera in it of itself.  It was shortened just to get air play to around 4 minutes and change, sadly it lost a lot in translation.

Purple Rain

Other Singles included, Let's Go Crazy, I Would Die 4 You, and Take Me With U.  The latter being the weakest release on the album, but I'm fairly certain it was the only safe choice left given that Darling Nikki was just as fun as it was downright evil.

Speaking of evil, the album certainly wasn't without it's controversy.  Anyone remember Tipper Gore?  Well, this album kind of illustrates her origin story.  Specifically Tipper's creation of the Parents Music Resource Center.  Why?  Because in 1984, her 11 year old daughter was "caught" rocking out to this album, (along with damn near the rest of the world, my 6 year old self included).  What's so wrong with rocking out to popular music?  I'll answer that question with another question?  What was so wrong with Elvis performing Hound Dog on The Milton Berle Show in 1956?  The answers to both frankly, prude's.  In the 50's, culturally it was almost unheard of for people to overtly display public sexuality in any form.  The rub here was, TV was a relatively new concept then so nobody had ever seen anything like that up until then.  Fast forward to 1984, after decades of music fueled by drugs and alcohol by artists that were literally dying because of excessive amounts of both, someone decided to add some sex instead of the former.  Oops.  Once again, sex is bad, but things that can actually kill you, cool and the gang.  It's here that 2 things happened to music.

1.  The rise of sexuality in musical artistic expression launches across genres.  (Madonna, Robert Palmer)
2.  The rise of the family movement begins.  Which will bite the world in the ass when Bush Sr. becomes President.

Oh, and Tipper Gore becomes a thing if for no other reason than to shame artists for their art, for the sake of art.  It's not until the alternative music wave some 10 years later that this course begins to correct itself.  All hail Rage Against The Machine.  

There's no way I'm going to wrap this post up without my closet favorite song.  Perhaps of all the songs that Prince ever did, this is the one I love the most for a wide range of reasons.  Some personal, many more just because it's almost musically perfect.  It really defines the little things that made 80's music so damn unique.  From the tempo changes, to the story telling to the imagery, all tied up in a short tight package.    It's hauntingly so uneven that you can't help but to love it's rhythm if nothing else.  This shit get's powerful in the last act both in the movie, and on the vinyl.  It really should have been a single.  The Beautiful Ones

The Beautiful Ones

All things considered, Purple Rain was a music defining release.  In 1984, you had a couple of choices of how you were going to enjoy this album.  Most people got it on tape and vinyl.  If you were lucky enough to own it on vinyl back then you were able to hear every ounce of precision that went into the production of it.  You heard every solo and every chord from the synthesizers.  The heard the vocal range that Prince possessed when he was in his prime.  At the time, it was difficult to listen to this album multiple times without getting something different from it every time.  There aren't too many albums ever made that managed to capture the voice of it's generation, in the 90's it was Nirvana, in the 50's it was the Beatles, in the 80's it was all over the map.  But like the 70's, you were of 2 schools, Zeppelin or anybody else.  Prince isn't anybody else.  He's his own definition spanning many decades.  Find this album.  Even if you don't have a turntable, you should just own this to say that you do.

Here's to another 50 posts!