I’ve been waiting for this moment for about a year now. Yes, I just found out Alt-J (∆) is releasing a new album on September 22 and I’m SO FREAKING EXCITED! And you know what? You should be too. A quick preview of the album shows it has all the potential to be just as great as their first. To help you get excited, let me share with you the awesomeness that is Alt-J’s debut album, An Awesome Wave.
You might actually know these guys from their song, Fitzpleasure. A snippet of this tune was on a commercial (I think for Verizon?) which amped their popularity. Or at least I think it did? I just know I started hearing that song in unexpected places. In any case, if you haven’t heard any of Alt-J’s stuff, then buddy, you’re missing out! An Awesome Wave is incredibly solid, unique, and downright enjoyable to listen to. There isn’t a single track I disliked. Even the interlude tracks are great. Hands down, it is one of my all time favorite albums. Hence, all the excitement for the new one, This is All Yours.
Real quick: In case you’re wondering about their name, the alt-j command on a Mac word doc will make a delta sign like this, ∆. If you’ve got a Mac, go ahead and give it a try. I’ll wait.
So who are these guys and why do I love them so much? Alt-J really has this truly unique and incredibly captivating sound that can be kind of hard to explain. They skillfully blend an eclectic mix of sounds into something that buzzes with intrigue. It’s got a bit of everything from strangely different vocals to semi-classical instrumentals to modern, synthy beats. In the end, you’ve got this titillating music that’s somehow both refreshingly new, yet hauntingly familiar. It’s instantly addictive; the kind of music that you obsess over. The album has an almost seamless progression between deliciously up-beat, pulsing tracks like Fitzpleasure, and ones that, for lack of a better term, are “excitingly mellow.” What’s excitingly mellow? Check out Something Good to see what I mean.
The band also puts out some pretty cool music videos. The one for Breezeblocks is my favorite and totally worth watching. It tells a story backwards, and… No, I won’t spoil it. Ok, maybe a little. See, the thing about telling a story backwards is that the information you receive at the end actually changes the beginning, and therefore, the whole story. I’m sure you can see how that’s just dripping with dramatic narrative potential. Oh, yes, and the song itself is pretty great, so that helps too. Here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure:
Are you ready to take a dive into An Awesome Wave yet? Here are a couple more tracks to get your feet wet. Come on in. the water’s great!
So, are you addicted yet? In case you missed it before, you can listen to the full album here. More importantly, now, you can join me in excited anticipation for their new album, This is All Yours. You bet your muffins, it shall be mine indeed! If the excitement is just bubbling over to the point you can’t contain it anymore, I’ll leave you with a short preview. (FYI: If you pre-order their album, you can download these tracks instantly).
*Fair warning: this video is probably NSFW.
For a long time, I was obsessed with music videos. One of the first CDs I ever bought was a RHCP greatest hit combo album that came with a DVD of music videos. Fan-freaking-tastic. Although nowadays I don’t get around to seeing them all that often, on occasion I stumble upon a music video that just tickles me pink. One of these is “Dangerous” by Big Data featuring Joywave.
If you haven’t heard this song before, just for fun, let’s play a game. Listen to it once without watching the video and try to imagine what it would be like. Then, watch the link below to see how freaking far off you are. I know I sure as hell was. It was a hilariously unexpected treat.
I thought it would be cool for me to mini-post vids and info by bands I’m really looking forward to [maybe] seeing this year. The bands will be posted alphabetically, obviously.
The next band on my list is Andrew Jackson Jihad: Punk Rock Folk Rock Duo. I haven’t seen these guys live yet but I hope to very soon. They play a mean show.
Another duo appears next on my list! The Coffee Project is comprised of Buddy from Less Than Jake and Jake from Rehasher. There is a trombone; should I have to say anything else?!
Many of you may know the name Lana Del Rey from her recent remixed success, Summertime Sadness, which, well, although I can appreciate a good remix (you know, one that brings something new to the song and doesn’t just layer in an overdone heavy bass club beat or synths up the singer’s voice on a loop), unfortunately this wasn’t one of them. So, on the off-chance this is the only song of hers you’ve heard, allow me a moment to point you in another Lana direction:
I first heard her song, Radio, earlier this year and immediately fell in love. She has one of those strikingly deep, powerful voices that makes you hold your breath at first, then try to belt alongside her. The musical style reminded me of the late 50’s, early 60’s, where the singer was the star of the show. There’s also something oddly familiar about the sound, which evokes a strong sense of nostalgia. And the lyrics are relatable enough to make you think that maybe those memories are really yours. I oddly felt this when listening to Video Games, another Lana delight.
However, Ride, released late last year, is possibly my favorite. The verses, although quieter, still hold the deep cinematic quality carried throughout the song. Though her voice softens, it commands attention to the lyrics, which unravel a story of “heartbreak.” I say “heartbreak” because I don’t mean it in the romantic sense necessarily, but rather I mean the type of heartbreak caused by simply living, being lost, wanting something more – things that most of us are familiar with, either from our teenage angst phase, the post-graduation “what am I doing with my life?” worries, or yes, even that breakup you weren’t quite ready for and couldn’t quite figure out how to bounce back from. [If you’re interested in diving deeper into this song’s particular “heartbreak” story, there is an extended version of the song, which actually starts with a very poetic, though potentially, dramatic (if you’re not into that sort of thing) narration that leads into the song, then wraps up again with some final thoughts].
The quieter verses build up to the chorus, where Lana lets loose that cannon of a voice. She succinctly, yet artfully expresses the inner torment caused by her life’s heartbreak story and her solution to “just ride” to get away from it all. The last part of the song pushes past the regular rise into something… grander, more powerful. This part starts with my favorite line in the song, where she exclaims, “I’m tired of feeling like I’m f**king crazy,” and continues, triggering a sense of catharsis.
The relatable lyrics, cinematic background instrumentals, that voice, and the cathartic release of inner turmoil all make this one of those songs you easily decide to add into the soundtrack of your life, at least it was an easy decision for me. Which, pro tip: Ride plays nicely during late night drives, as the kick off to a spontaneous road trip, or when you need to blow off steam, but happen to be behind the wheel.
In short, this is what I think of when I hear Lana Del Rey, and hopefully what you will too! Also, if you’re not that techno-y rendition of Summertime Sadness currently playing on repeat on the radio, I’m including the original version in the videos below. Speaking of which, ready for a flood of videos? Here we go! Enjoy, you crazy kids.
Covers can be amazing. At their best, they frame a song in a new way that can completely change its meaning. As long as an artist is internalizing the song and making it their own, it’s a cool thing. Not everyone will like every version of a song, but that’s the beauty of it, really. The song introduces
itself to you in new ways.
One of my favorite covers of all
time is Madeleine Peyroux’s version
of Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars” (from Either/Or, which is a thoroughly great album, btw). The original has
been at the top of my “Most Romantic Songs in the World” list for around 100 years, despite the fact that what it’s really about is incredibly dark. It’s a simple, honest, and sadly / weirdly romantic account of trying to resist the pull of alcoholism. I just think of it as being about actual romantic love, because let’s face it: love can be pretty fucking similar to alcoholism. I didn’t even realize that until I knew what this song was really about. You may disagree, but if you listen to the different versions in both contexts, I think you’ll find that the two seemingly disparate subjects are strangely interchangeable.
Jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux really turns this song into a starry-eyed, languid, dreamy thing that is kind of more true to what I’ve always wanted the song to be. Her sultry, meandering rendition is still somber, but this version seems less conflicted, less tragic and fragile, less accusatory. It’s healthier, somehow. The point of view is softer, while the musical approach is richer. She changes the entire song. Plus, her voice is absolutely incredible.
You can find this song on Careless Love.
Both versions of the song are always side-by-side in any playlist I add them to: I can’t hear one without wanting to hear the other.
I’ve always had a hard time coming up with “top #” lists for music related things. This is my first actual attempt at a list for my top 5 favorite bands of all time.
The first band is obvious to me, and to anyone that has talked to me for more than 10 seconds; the rest of the list is really muddy and not necessarily in order.
I’m going to try to keep this as simple as possible. I plan on having more posts on each of these bands in the future.
I fell in love with this band in high school and I’ve never looked back.
Favorite Album: Good Mourning
Favorite Song: Warbrain
Times Seen Live: 10+
Another high school band. This band really hit it well for me when I really got into reggae but couldn’t handle the roots music.
Favorite Album: Second-Hand Smoke
Favorite Song: Get Out
Times Seen Live: 0 😦
I’m in love with this band for so many reasons. They have changed a lot since their inception. Much like my aging tastes in music, they seem to run perfectly parallel.
Favorite Album: Red of Tooth and Claw
Favorite Song: Brother
Times Seen Live: 2
4. Old 97’s
This was the first band that introduced me to Alternative-Country. Yes, this is a thing.
Favorite Album: Too Far to Care
Favorite Song: Won’t Be Home
Times Seen Live: 0
5. The Misfits
This band is an institution.
Favorite Album: Static Age
Favorite Song: Astro Zombies
Times Seen Live: 1 (Post Danzig & Graves)