LxListening: Q4 Finds

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Musical Treasure Finds

Every year, I devote the first half of December to catching up on any music I may have missed this year before we put together our end-of-year lists, a favorite exercise for any music fan. So I scour other publications lists (which always come out crazy early and sometimes miss out on a great release like Beyonce’s late surprise last year), ask friends for recommendations, and try to get a hold of any album that been on my to-listen list. Thus, here are five of my favorite song discoveries in that period, all which could find their way onto our end-of-year lists in a few weeks.

The Preatures – “Cruel”

Love the feverishly catchy sound of HAIM but could do without so much cheesy 80’s production? Give these Aussies a try. There is still the catchy 80’s pop sound, but the Preatures favor funk and disco production and just won’t slow down until you are thoroughly entertained. “Cruel” is a great example of this, certainly invoking a little Prince crossed with the Hives.

Luluc – “Small Window”

The Aussies are really come up strong this year, as Luluc is yet another late year discovery for me from Down Under. This comes appropriately from the world of NPR, which couldn’t promote the Aussie folk duo’s new album more in the last month with two of NPR’s finest critics citing Passerby as their favorite album of the year. I haven’t heard it enough to go anywhere near that far, but the still, calm beauty of songs like “Small Window” are undeniable.

King Tuff – “Black Moon Spell”

Who said rock is dead? T. Rex disciple Kyle Thomas released his third album under the moniker King Tuff called Black Moon Spell, and it’s full of full-blooded rock songs to bash in your head to. The title track has a Monster guitar riff with a capital M, a tour-de-force rock performance you rarely hear these days.

Allah-Las – “Follow You Down”

You can find L.A. rockers Allah-Las at the intersection of early 60’s surf rock and late 60’s psych rock. Their sophomore effort, “Follow the Sun” has the laid back vibe you would expect from that combination, but plenty of pop heft to make it worth your while.

Parkay Quarts – “Pretty Machines”

So this isn’t a discovery as much as an excuse to talk about Parquet Courts’s new album Content Nausea, released under the alter-ego Parkay Quarts. This song to me shows why Parquet Courts are sort of the heirs to the Strokes throne of coolest indie rock band around. While Parquet Courts don’t have the leather jacket cool of the Strokes, they do have the “no skin off my back” aloofness of the Strokes and make up for the lack of style with whip smart and irreverent humor both lyrically and musically. “Pretty Machines” even sounds like a Strokes song with its super melodic lead guitar riff and laid-back vocal.

 

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TV On The Radio Review: Seeds

TV On The Radio

Seeds

TV On The Radio album cover art

As this NPR piece so brilliantly states, artists often find themselves at a crossroads midcareer, either endlessly repeating what they have been successful doing or they go scrambling for a new sound with very little success. TV On The Radio, collectively one of LxL’s favorite bands, found themselves in mid-career land on their fourth album Nine Types of Light, an album that angled for a more straightforward rock radio-friendly sounds, but ultimately was their first disappointing release. They traded in some of the weirdness and layers of sound that might them so fun to keep turning to time and time again for a more instant but more shallow sound. Seeds, the New York rockers fifth album, finds the band going for that more immediate pop sound as well, but it’s hooks are stronger, songs are tighter, and layers are more interesting than Nine Types of Light, even if it doesn’t reach the height of their two masterpieces, Return to Cookie Mountain and Dear Science.

TV On The Radio come out of the gate swinging on Seeds, with four of the album’s best songs opening up the record. “Quartz” has Tunde Adebimpe trying to get beyond a broken relationship, but like the singer himself, you can’t help but get caught up in the waves of love (and sound). “Careful You” has to be the most TV On The Radio-sounding TV On The Radio song ever, with it’s cloud of apocalyptic noise that hangs over the song, and a constant feeling that something is amiss under Tunde’s soulful vocal. It’s what fans have grown to love about the band distilled into five minutes. “Could You” follows, which may be an extremely similar title to “Careful You”, but its as different as it gets from its predecessor, serving as more of an anti-thesis to the TVOTR sound. “Could You” is essentially the bright, jangly folk of the Byrds as interpreted by the strange, husky sound of TV On The Radio, making it the best and most surprising song on Seeds. “Happy Idiot”, the current single for Seeds, is another pleasant change of pace for the band, a post-punk inspired pop tune that sort of serves as whip-smart critical counterpart to Pharrell’s smash hit “Happy”. Look, even Peewee Herman agrees!

Coming off that murderer’s row of songs, TV gives us a big hangover with easily the worst track of the album, the mundane comedown of “Test Pilot”. This might be my least favorite song the band has recorded, and I generally love their ballads like “Dreams”, “Stork & Owl”, and “Family Tree”. The melody sounds cheap, the harmonies are overly sentimental, and it just feels out of place in their catalog. Fortunately they recover quickly with the propulsive “Lovestained”, led by Kyp Malone’s freaky vocal, who is the real MVP of the band in my opinion. While Tunde beautifully sings the majority of TV’s songs, Dave Sitek adds the layers and production, and Jaleel Bunton adds the intricate and thunderous percussion, it’s Kyp’s shroud of guitar noise, haunting harmonies, and straight up weirdness that keeps TV On the Radio one of the most distinct rock bands out there. “Lazerray” also deserves a mention, as it’s maybe the most thrilling song on the album and a surefire live favorite, as it’s a Ramones-style pop punk nugget but with all the crunch and darkness that TV On The Radio has to bring.

I’m happy I sat with this album for a couple weeks, as my grade has probably went up a point and a half from repeated listens. TV On The Radio is a band built for repeated listening, as they add enough layers and surprises to unsurface with each listen. I didn’t expect this album to be the same because of the immediate catchiness of its melodies, but the second half especially with multi-chapter songs like “Lovestained” and “Ride” prove more exciting with each listen. Seeds is proof that when artists get long in the tooth, the best bands keep creating something fans know and love but in new and surprising ways.

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Can’t Miss: “Could You”, “Happy Idiot”, “Lazerray”, “Lovestained”

Can’t Hit: “Test Pilot”

 

LxListening: Spoon-fed

best Spoon songs

Editor’s Note: This is a repost from two years ago, that highlights some of my favorite Spoon songs and why.

In the past, we have used these Friday playlists to highlight artists we love (the Beatles, Wu Tang Clan, Frank Ocean), and this week once again falls into that category. In getting an early First Listen of Britt Daniel of Spoon’s new side project Divine Fits (with Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade and Sam Brown from New Bomb Turks), it caused me to want to go back and immerse myself in Spoon’s catalogue, which is by all means consistently great for seven albums. I don’t think it can be overstated how difficult it is to make smart, well-crafted pop songs the way Britt Daniel has done consistently. Of course, this couldn’t be done without his tremendously capably band most notably with drummer/producer Jim Eno laying the base work for everything. So without further ado, lay back and get Spoon-fed.
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LxL’s Favorite New Podcast: Wits

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It is not very often you come across one of the most delightful things on earth, so when I came across just such a thing, of course I feel compelled to write about it.  Let me get the obligatory Wikipedia-esque description out of the way, just so you know exactly what Wits is.  Wits is a radio variety show hosted by John Moe, most easily accessed as a podcast for free in the iTunes Store.  The typical installment of Wits features one comedian/actor and one musical guest.   While this probably all sounds pretty standard, I assure you, it is not.
Continue reading “LxL’s Favorite New Podcast: Wits”

LxListening: Spoon-fed

best Spoon songs

In the past, we have used these Friday playlists to highlight artists we love (the Beatles, Wu Tang Clan, Frank Ocean), and this week once again falls into that category. In getting an early First Listen of Britt Daniel of Spoon’s new side project Divine Fits (with Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade and Sam Brown from New Bomb Turks), it caused me to want to go back and immerse myself in Spoon’s catalogue, which is by all means consistently great for seven albums. I don’t think it can be overstated how difficult it is to make smart, well-crafted pop songs the way Britt Daniel has done consistently. Of course, this couldn’t be done without his tremendously capably band most notably with drummer/producer Jim Eno laying the base work for everything. So without further ado, lay back and get Spoon-fed.
Continue reading “LxListening: Spoon-fed”

Feist Review: Metals

Feist

Metals

Metals
Today we are gifted with a new release from female singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/Canadian Leslie Feist, or better know as simply, Feist. Unlike most “hosers” from Canada – eh, Feist has a warmly beautiful face, a chillingly passionate voice, and a soul. (No offense to our massive Canadian fan base) She also creepily looks like my friend Ashley:
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