With all the world-changing events that have occurred in the past few days – the killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist and, the big one, two celebrities getting married on TV – you’d be forgiven for asking “who gives a shit about Miley Cyrus right now?”
Well you’d be forgiven, but you’d also be wrong. See, while a team of Navy SEALs were storming a compound in Pakistan and doing what they do best, media savvy Miley was also hard at work, becoming the single most important musician of all-time. As Nitsuh Abebe’s excellent article in New York magazine explains, Miley’s 2009 hit ‘Party in the USA’ has inadvertently become Osama Bin Laden’s “death song” – the track that everyone flocks to on Youtube to have barely-literate partisan debates pissing contests.
(Incidentally, we ran with Team America’s ‘America, Fuck Yeah,’ thinking we were on solid ground. Clearly we’ve lost touch with the crucial preteen girl demographic that will decide all future world events. If nothing else, it’s heartrending proof that no matter how tight he shuts his eyes and just wishes as hard as his little heart will let him, Jom is just never going to be a little girl again.)
What does this have to do with anything? Nothing, really. Except that, not content with ousting Bruce Springsteen from the top of the “awesome anthems with USA in the title that we can chant in celebration of having vanquished the enemy,” Miley’s also…
While gamers everywhere explode with frothy, hyper-excitibilty over the release of the second installation in Valve’s Portal series, The National have given the rest of us a reason to be just as happy; hot off the heels of their contribution to the soundtrack of indie flick Win Win, they’ve dropped another new song to go along with the videogame.
“Exile Vilify” is meant to evoke the “same visceral reactions from its listeners that Portal does from its players” and though my gaming knowledge extends as far as Mario Kart and FIFA, if that statement rings true, you can count me in. It’s the sort of somber, slow-moving ballad that the band seems to be able to produce at a whim, suspending Matt Berninger’s croon above a beautiful piano melody and string arrangements, and it’s just as good as we’ve come to expect from a band that rarely ever puts a foot wrong. You can find it below, along with the teaser trailer for Portal 2:
For those of you already dreading that some random bloke named Kaz (operating under the moniker Redlight King, named after the so-called ‘tree’ that kicks off a drag race) is going to butcher a Neil Young classic, fear not, as it’s not a cover song.
Hell, it’s not even about a ranch hand who looked after some cows. It is a rather heartfelt tribute to his father, a schoolteacher by day and a stock car racer at night (“The life he demanded / Kept us all in a struggle / When he ruled with his fist / It kept us all out of trouble,” writes Kaz, before jokingly relaying that there are no father issues).
He has added in recent interviews that his songs on his forthcoming debut “are written about real issues, real experiences. I like to bring listeners in deep, and give them time to look around . . . . [w]riting songs when you’re in a dark place is dangerous. The songs I wrote for this album I won’t write again. I won’t have to. I hope people will be able to connect with it and take from it what they need. It’s about the human condition; in the end, we’re all the same.”
Kaz did ask Mr. Young, however, for rights to sample the song. Rarely one to entertain sample requests, Young (and/or his lawyers) refused multiple times before finally relenting.
Depending on which way you look at it, London indie folk band Mumford & Sons represent either the future of commercial music or its distant past.
In the old, old days (or as recently as the seventies), before the pursuit of massive first-week sales became record industry dogma, it was commonplace for albums to start low and make their way to the top of the charts. With the huge advances in marketing and the windfall profits of the CD era, record industry thinking became totally geared towards the first week, and artists found it virtually impossible to break through commercially without embracing it.
However the incredible success of Mumford & Sons’ 2009/2010 release Sigh No More (it reached #2 on the Billboard Top 100 a year after its release) spells out what many of us have been predicting for years: when people no longer feel compelled to buy music before they’ve heard it, the charts become more representative of what people actually like, rather than what they think they might like. And we have a lot more money in our pockets with which to bail out banks, insurance companies and car manufacturers.
Which is why it seems perfectly normal when an artist like Taylor Swift – a member of the now very exclusive club of artists who still sell millions of records – records a cover of Mumford & Sons’ ‘White Blank Page.’ Notwithstanding the musical similarities (though there is a chasm between Swift’s bluegrass style and Mumford’s…
Gil Scott-Heron’s return to the studio in 2010 produced an album nearly as interesting as the struggles and addiction that kept him away for so long. In We’re New Here we see Heron’s latest album remixed and rethought in a contemporary fashion. Far from glossing up Heron’s gritty vocals; artist Jamie xx rethinks Heron’s material in ways totally unsuited to his rambling. Yet as with his treatment of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep, we see Jamie xx casing Heron’s vocals in a new electronic surrounding that makes no bones about departing entirely from the original. NY Is Killing Me throws such rough punches, the dark dubstep bass the perfect companion to rather mirthless lyrics. It is the wide range of ways in which the album compliments and contrasts its source that makes Jamie xx’s rethink so compelling.
For a full review of We’re New Here by Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx, please check out Deviant’s review here.
Canuck tween heartthrob Justin Bieber and Iowa’s favourite douche-metal band Slipknot have more in common than you’d think.
With Lady Gaga famously having Christened her fans her “little monsters,” you could be forgiven for thinking the phenomenon began with her. In actuality, musicians have been giving pet names to their followers for decades, long before Slipknot dubbed theirs “maggots.” More recently, Justin Bieber inadvertently entered the pop dictionary as a noun, his most ardent fans having been dubbed “Beliebers” by a disbelieving public.
What do these two names have in common? Simples. The late, great Richie James Edwards penned the words: “Little people, in little houses, like maggots: small, blind and worthless.” Clearly, Slipknot have a great affection for their fans – or at least did before they all grew up and realised that well-fitted clothes are always more flattering. Fittingly, Beliebers (and Believers in general) also tend to be small, blind and worthless in varying quantities.
Which brings us to the video. ‘Psychosocial Baby’ shouldn’t really work on any level yet, somehow, it works on every level simultaneously with reckless disregard for everything that is good and pure. Furthermore, it confirms three basic tenets of the Universal Law: a) Slipknot have always been a pop band with a shitty metal backing track; b) the Biebs is death metal to the core; and c) it’s still really creepy when Ludacris raps about his 13-year-old girlfriend waking him up in the morning.
Regular readers of the blog will know that we’re bigfans of BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge - not just because they invite artists to cover a diverse array of songs, but also because they invite guests from right across the spectrum of artists instead of just sticking to rock acts.
This afternoon, it was the turn of New Jersey pop-rockers My Chemical Romance, who had previously performed Blur’s ‘Song 2′ on the show. Stating a clear preference for Britpop, the group have again opted for a ’90s classic in the form of Pulp’s ‘Common People.’
Everybody knows that the original is one of the best songs ever, with a fantastic video to go with it, and William Shatner has already served up the ultimate cover version. However My Chem’s punkier take on the track manages to retain much of the drama and intensity that made it such a great song to begin with. And more proof that the Live Lounge is the best thing since, well, ‘Common People.’
My Chemical Romance – ‘Common People’:
William Shatner feat. Joe Jackson – ‘Common People’:
Some cover versions don’t make a lot of sense. Witness Exhibit A: Almost everything on Youtube. Or Exhibit B: Any of the thousands of extreme metal covers of Britney Spears songs, none of which have ever been anything other than turgid shit and an affront to the Princess of Pop.
UK orchestral metal band Xerath’s cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Speed Demon,’ on the other hand, makes an awful lot of sense. In fact, most Michael Jackson songs translate well to the sphere of heavy metal, particularly those from the run of Thriller->Dangerous when he self-consciously attempted to incorporate heavy rock into his music.
‘Speed Demon’ is far from the best track on Bad – in fact, it’s probably one of the worst – but that’s just to say it doesn’t rank up there with his innumerable classics. It’s a good song and one that suits a band who attempt to balance melody with harsh vocals, and to contrast fairly basic guitar riffs with frenetic polyrhythms (just check out the hummingbird-like synth work on the original).
Speaking of the original, it’s probably best to start at source before listening to the cover. Better still, start with the bonkers/insane/awesome video for which words could never truly do justice. I’m not a fan of quoting Wikipedia for a variety of reasons, but the crowd-sourced summary of the video was too perfectly-worded to ignore:
In the video, Jackson, in an attempt to avoid overzealous fans (even The Noid), disguises himself as a rabbit named
When you have over 60 international bands touring Australia at the same time, a number of things can occur… The Poms frequently get sunburnt, the yanks usually get arrested & the kiwis just never end up going back. But there’s one thing that can always be counted on… Photo shots with koalas and kangaroos. Here’s Gaslight Anthem drummer Benny Horowitz fulfilling his tourist visa obligation.
Down under, we must also look like guinea pigs or something. On the one day at the Soundwave Festival 4 weeks ago, I personally witnessed multiple new songs from bands eager to test out their new tunes on a hopefully welcoming audience. The Blackout, The Bronx and There For Tomorrow are all outfits who took the opportunity to do so, since they have new albums coming out soon. But the most intriguing band to perform a new track was New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem.
Still unknown as to whether this was an offcut from ‘The American Slang’ sessions, a new track for a forthcoming album, or just some awesome ditty that a talented bunch of guys can write and dispose of when they see fit, the song is called ‘Biloxi Parish’. Now I could break it down for you with paragraphs of descriptive analysis, but all I really need to say is “The Gaslight Anthem” and you should already know the quality that you are in for.
Or should you? For – as can be seen on the humorous, if mumbled, preamble on…
BBC’s Radio 1 premiered another new Fleet Foxes song set to appear on their forthcoming album Helplessness Blues. It’s not quite the warm, sprawling title track released a month ago, but further establishes that Helplessness Blues will be more of the same good old folk that made everyone fall in love with their debut album. I’m usually one to criticize a stagnant sound, but personally, I’ll never tire of Robin Pecknold’s voice.
A brand new National song has found it’s way onto the internet, with a particularly special premise for the seasoned slow-burning indie rockers; “Think You Can Wait” is the first song the band has written specifically for a film. Win Win is Tom McCarthy’s latest feature following 2003’s The Station Agent and 2008’s The Visitor (excellent films, I might add), as well as writing credits for Pixar’s Up, and it’s been getting a great reception on the festival circuit, including the currently underway SXSW. Starring Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Tambor, amongst others, the film follows Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), an attorney, high school wrestling coach, and all-around sad sack, who uncovers a wrestling prodigy, only for the boy’s mother to turn up, from rehab and without a penny, and threaten to dismantle everything.
“Think You Can Wait”, which plays through the credits, is a moving, pensive song that seems to float along as gracefully as we’ve come to expect of the band, on the back of Berninger’s rich baritone and typically understated instrumentation and string arrangements. It’s a song that tucks in nicely between “Lemonworld” and “Runaway”, off their hugely-acclaimed 2010 release High Violet, though as a whole burns more in tune with the mood of 2007’s Boxer. “I’m out of my mind / think you can wait?”, Berninger wonders broodingly in the enigmatic lyrical style that, over the course of five LP’s, has carved itself into its own comfortable, idiomatic niche and as he wallows, “I’m trying / but…
At no more than a year older than me, it’s remarkable just how much Sandman Viper Command sound like seasoned vets. Of course they are: they released their first album a few years ago, not long after hitting their 20s, and they’ve spent the last few years touring relentlessly. Now, the Burlington boys with the ridiculous name are finally back with some new music. As good as their first album Everybody See This was, and it was pretty good, “Rough Love” might be better. The first single off their upcoming 7″ of the same name, the track shows the progression of a band that took a step back from school to live, breathe and study music. The Beatles influence is obvious, but it’s the song’s second half that catches my fancy, going from bouncy, riff’d out jaunt to an amplifier exploding blast of Iommi-fied groove.
Listen to it, won’t you?
Living in the facebook/youtube age of instant celebrity can have its benefits. I was reminded of that today. For today, I have found “Friday,” a music video by teenage recording artist Rebecca Black. There are few words to describe what happens in the following video. This is a song about Friday. Which comes after Thursday. And is followed by Saturday. I won’t try to give you context as to who this is because there is none needed. This braces-heavy video is a ten car pile-up, simultaneously awful and mesmerizing. If you find yourself asking ‘Is this really happening?,’ the answer is yes. It is.
Once you have some context, I highly recommend watching this slightly slowed down version which turns Black’s anthem into comedy gold.
There’s a hell of a lot going on in “Don’t Stop”, the latest teaser off The Dodos’ forthcoming No Color. It’s instilled with the groups typical energy, tightly wound around masterful finger-plucking and pitter-patter percussion, and I’d dare say it might just be one of their best songs to date. There’s still no sign of Neko Case’s reported contributions to their 4th LP but it’s safe to say my interest in the rest of No Color has hit a fever pitch.