LxListening: Rocking and Rolling

rock-n-roll

Rock music has really fallen far in the last two decades, being replaced by hip hop, pop, and then electronic music as the primary musical language of the day. While it once ruled the musical landscape for about 40 years (about 1955-1995), rock music is quickly becoming like jazz, a genre for a sub culture, rather than popular culture. So in some ways, liking rock music makes me (and maybe you) a bit of an old fogy. Whether it’s the predominant music of the day or just part of a subculture, either way, there will always be vibrant, exciting rock music just as there is always vibrant, exciting jazz music.

Early 2016 is no exception. Several of my favorite rock bands going released albums or singles as well as a few new bands I’m excited about. Here are six songs from bands that keep rocking and rolling even into 2016.

 

“Mother of the Sun” – Black Mountain

Quite simply, this is a mountain of a song. If you are a fan of 70’s hard rock and heavy metal like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, there really probably is no better modern band for you to listen to. Trippy, heavy riffs that just serve as body blows. The perfect male/female rock vocal duo in Amber Webber and Stephen McBean as if they were transported straight out of 1970. Yet they have enough experimentation and songwriting craft to not just be a carbon copy of those 70’s rock bands.

 

“Dust” – Parquet Courts

“Dust” is the perfect anthem for cleaning your house. What a strange, funny, and surprisingly existential song it is from the fine Texas band, Parquet Courts. They have some of my favorite guitar/bass interplay since the Strokes. Now you have no excuse not to clean.

 

“Black Lipstick” – Chicano Batman

Receiving the blessing of Jack White, L.A. band Chicano Batman isn’t just one of the best named bands around – they are also one of the most interesting bands around. Combining psychedelic soul, Brazilian tropicalia, Latin blues, and soul into one amusing musical melting pot, I can’t wait to see these guys live.

 

“The Wheel” – PJ Harvey

In a year of political division, alt-rock great PJ Harvey is making political anthems for the people. Her new album releasing this week, The Hope Six Demolition Project, is filled with catchy yet piercing rebel anthems standing up for the people of England and those around the world, continuing her political bent started on her last album, 2011’s Let England Shake.

 

“Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” – Car Seat Headrest

Young guitar and singer/songwriting prodigies appear to be popping up left and right. Courtney Barnett was our obsession the last two years, and I think its safe to say, Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest might be ours this year. In addition to writing my favorite rock song so far this year, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is a stunning two-sided song starting tender and coyly before finishing with triumphant and biting guitar.

 

“The Answer” – Savages

Measured in pure riffage and intensity, it’s really hard to beat Savages. Jehnny Beth looks pretty much possessed on stage, and the rest of the band plays with the precision of Joy Division and the force of the Stooges. They are truly a sight to see.

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Best 20 Albums of 2013

greatest, favorite, best, albums of 2013

As Austin noted in our introduction to our favorite songs of 2013 list yesterday, it is much more difficult to list a years worth of favorites than one might think. 2013 was quite an interesting year in music. Many big names (or at least big expectations) left a disappointing taste in fans’ mouths (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, The Strokes, Jay-Z, etc.). This left the door wide open for smaller, and sometimes even unheard artists to really pave the way to a brighter future, and in some cases, all-out overnight stardom (Lorde, Savages, CHVRCHES, etc). This also left a lot of room for controversy. Who is worth the listen, and who is just going through the motions while filling our ear buds with noise? Well the controversy was not absent in making this list. With all three of us at LxL listing out our top 20 albums separately and then combining them into a normalized list, there was bound to be some peoples favorites left off. Mean things were said, blood was spilled, and opinions hotly thwarted. Nonetheless, the list must go on. Here is what we considered to be our favorite albums of 2013:

20. AlunaGeorge – Body Music
alunageorge body music album-cover art
Last year, Alunageorge’s “Your Drums, Your Love” ranked in at #20 on our favorite songs of 2012. This year, the soulful pop R&B duo returned with a full LP to support the single, as well as a grip of other ripe-for-the-shaggin’ type of tunes. The duo now garnered another #20 slot, but this time on our albums list with Body Music.
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Top Ten Live Acts of 2013

Paul McCartney - best live act of 2013

This is one of my favorite things to write every year, as we get to look back at all the great shows we attended this year. While we no doubt love listening to music in our cars, at work, or with friends, undoubtedly the preferred method remains live music, as it is something that will never go away. One last quick disclaimer: we are only able to see so many shows between the three of us, and not all three of us went to each of these shows, so of course this list is a bit flawed. But with that note aside, our ten favorite live acts.
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Top Ten Thursday: Best New Artists of 2013

 

Best New Artists of 2013

We began our end-of-year coverage yesterday with our five most disappointing albums of the year, now we switch to a positive note with our favorite new artists. This turned out to be a very strong list, as we judged these artists on the strength of their debut, but also on their potential over the long haul. Sometimes the concept of a “new artist” can be ambiguous (see Grammy’s Best New Artist Nominees every year), so we defined it as having to release their first proper studio album this year. So here are our bright new stars.
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Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 Recap

Pitchfork Music Festival, 2013

On the surface level, I think it’s natural to have some preconceived notions of what a festival put on by Pitchfork may be like. Pretentious I would imagine is the first thing that would come to many people’s minds. An uppity crowd filled with music snobs and young folks more focused on style than substance. You’d probably also assume that following suit with any other festival/venue it would provide nothing but overpriced food and beverages that would be moderately annoying to wait in line to get as well. The lineup can also be a bit off-putting for some. Unsure of all the names on the lineup seems to be a problem for even dedicated music followers at times as Pitchfork likes to stick with very highly acclaimed (even if it is themselves in fact acclaiming them) list of acts. Not to mention the staggeringly small number of acts for a three day festival that pales in comparison to that of a Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, or Coachella.

After attending this festival for the second time, I have to say that I am continually amazed at how far off base all of these notions are. Every one of them. The crowd is amazingly genuine. It is smaller than most fests, but people there seem to be genuinely into music. I attribute this largely due to the fact that Pitchfork’s lineup is not conducive for the teenie-bopper types that are looking to attend a three day festival to simply see one show a day whether that be Monsters of Men or fun.. All of the fans at Pitchfork seem to genuinely be there to enjoy all music. As far as price goes, there is hardly a bar in Chicago where you can get craft beers for $5, let alone a spectacle venue. Food is also moderately priced, from local Chicago restaurants, and very delectable. The lineup, whether you know the artist or not, is wonderful. Every act you see there (or at least that I saw there) is someone I would pay a full priced ticket to see as headliners. And the fact that this number of acts on the list is smaller than most, only provides strong set times, and less conflict from overlapping acts. All-in-all it has to be the US festival with the most bang for your buck. Now let’s get down to brass tax shall we?

I attended this year on Saturday/Sunday only. Friday I was at a Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field that will be worthy of it’s own post at a later time. So below is my quick few-sentance recap of what was one of the more surprisingly great festivals/weekends of my 2013:
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Parquet Courts and Savages Show Review

Parquet Courts and Savages

Sound Opinions Live

July 18th, 2013

Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL

parquet-courtsSavages Sound Opinions Live Review

My two favorite new bands this year (London’s all-female Savages and Brooklyn Americana punks Parquet Courts) came together for a free live taping of my favorite music podcast, Sound Opinions (sorry All Songs Considered), for a night of interviews and live performances at one of my favorite Chicago venues, Lincoln Hall. As you can tell, a lot of favorites, so expectations were high, but the night definitely didn’t disappoint.  Not only was it cool to see both bands for the first time, but it was cool to see them do an interview right beforehand, as both interviews shed some light on why each band makes the music they do.
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Weak List Wednesday: Best Songs of 2013 So Far

Best Songs of 2013 So Far

We have reached the halfway point of our 2013, so it’s time to bring out our mid-term lists for the season. With so many great options to choose from already in 2013 it was hard to narrow this list down. Acts like Foxygen, JT, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs may have all gotten snubbed, but here is what made our top 5:

 

5. Savages – “She Will”

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