Posts Tagged ‘Beck’

2014 Year End Roundup Part 2

December 27, 2014

I covered some of my favorite hard/garage rock songs of 2014 here. Next up is a mix of some of my favorite miscellaneous rock, Scandinavian pop, and folk-y songs. Again, you can download an MP3 of the mix here.

1. Down From the Rafters, Hundred Waters from The Moon Rang Like A Bell. Picking up on the slow vibe of the end of my last mix, Hundred Waters serves up an atmospheric tune that swirls around Nicole Miglis’ Bjork-like vocals, builds to a subtle groove and then fades back into the air.

2. Lonely Press Play, Damon Albarn from Everyday Robots. A lovely, shuffling track indicative of the mostly somber mood of his first solo album. As usual, Albarn’s voice fits this style well (see any of the slow pieces from a Blur album). Some took the grayness of the album as an indication of a boring affair, but I think there’s a lot of interesting things to find in here if you stay with it and give it a few listens.

3. Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes, Sun Kil Moon from Benji. Continuing the somber mood with a standout track from Mark Kozalek’s acclaimed release. Journaling as music, he pulls no punches with lyrics that tackle life’s problems surrounded, in this song at least, by the terror of the Nightstalker. His vocals have their own cadence that is the rhythm accompanying his guitar until the vocals end and a drumbeat kicks in to take you home.

4. Silver Timothy, Damien Jurado from Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son. Moving a little bit more towards rock but with a spacey vibe on a standout from a solid album. The lyrics have a faint echo which contribute to the feel this song was recorded on a spaceship hurtling through deep space, the guitars spewing out the back of the ship as it hits interstellar overdrive.

5. Goodbye Weekend, Mac DeMarco from Salad Days. This track exemplifies the consistent vibe throughout this album, relaxed and welcoming. Perfect summer album for sitting on your porch with a beer and doing nothing. He sings about not telling “the boy” how to lead his life, but it’s a mild protest from someone who doesn’t really want to be bothered from getting up from that porch.

6. Are You With Me Now, Cate Le Bon from Mug Museum. Snuck in a late 2013 release that I didn’t hear until this year, but it seemed to fit in with the mix’s vibe. A sweet voice that evokes 60’s folk for me, this was a perfect song to start a morning at SXSW this year.

7. Hi-Five, Angel Olsen from Burn Your Fire For No Witness. A little country, rock, folk and a dash of punk defiance made this another album that is finding itself on a lot of top tens. A really spectacular voice that trembles with emotion along with her guitar on this song.

8. Blue Moon, Beck from Morning Phase. This album got some unfair criticism in my opinion for trying to create an album evoking pain and loss when Beck is not in a position currently in his life where he’s experiencing those things. I think this was more a reaction to the rawness of Kozalek’s album that came out around the same time more than anything. “Disingenuous” or not, I think this was a beautifully crafted record.

9. The Body Electric, Hurray For The Riff Raff from Small Town Heroes. Some more folk with elements of rock and punk influence, a sad and powerful song about violence, its effects and taking away the murder ballad from men. A good live act too, with a lot of upbeat songs to play off songs like this one.

10. Shattered & Hollow, First Aid Kit from Stay Gold. You wouldn’t know it from listening to this song, but this sister duo hails from Sweden. The sheen of Swedish pop is in their DNA as each album they’ve put out gets more polished, but they are rooted in American folk for sure.

11. Just One of the Guys, Jenny Lewis from The Voyager. Don’t sleep on this one because it came out near the end of the year! Really good stuff, a great chorus and hook that she seems to be able to effortlessly create and deliver every time she puts out a new album.

12. Younger, SW/MM/NG from Feel Not Bad.  Second band from Sweden on the mix, and though they have Swedish pop sensibilities, their music seems to have a grander, more epic scope (think Sigur Ros) than your average Swedish pop song.

13. Whatever That Means, Highasakite from Since Last Wednesday. Another Scandinavian band, though unlike First Aid Kit, this Norwegian group sounds much more like you’d expect to hear from Scandinavia. Pop beats filtered with ephemeral female vocals and soaring melodies. Saw these guys at SXSW on a rainy morning, which was the perfect setting for experiencing them for the first time.

14. Name on a Matchbook, Springtime Carnivore from Springtime Carnivore.  No, it’s not another Scandinavian group, though I thought this fit in well with those groups.  No, this band is from right here in LA, and I may or may not have been getting my hair cut next to the bassist for this band a few months ago.  Anyway, a nice piano part and some nice vocals anchor this summer-y indie pop song.  And some good whistling!

15. , Foxygen from …And Star Power. I haven’t decided yet how I feel about this album as a whole, it’s certainly not as focused as last year’s excellent effort. This song is in the wheelhouse of that album, well-crafted psychedelic 60’s pop with witty lyrics. It’s happy and wistful at the same time, fitting in well with the previous few songs.

16. Unkinder (A Tougher Love), Thumpers from Galore. End this mix with another Euro-pop number. Last year when I saw Bastille I really liked it but never thought I’d be hearing them on American Top 40 radio. This song seemed to have the same elements (bouncing beat, manicured vocals) but they haven’t made the same leap. Yet.

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Some Music for the New Year

January 20, 2014

The 2014 music releases are already coming fast and furious.  Vets like Bruce Springsteen, Roseanne Cash, and Stephen Malkmus all have released new discs, which I haven’t gotten to yet.  Here’s a couple of other albums that have come out that I listened to and enjoyed:

1) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Give The People What They Want.  Delayed while Sharon Jones got treatment for cancer, this album continues the band’s great run of capturing the essence of 60s Motown R&B.  Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, they mix in upbeat numbers with ballads that are going to leave the people wanting more.

2) Damien Jurado, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son.  Another throwback album, this one to 70s AM rock radio.  You can hear one of the songs here.

3) Twin Oaks, The Lion’s Den.  Found this on Bandcamp, it’s a California duo that evokes Mazzy Star with melancholy and haunting songs.

Listen: Beck:

Also, more excited about Beck’s new album with his release of Blue Moon.  Like Jurado, Beck seems to be channeling 70s rock in the vein of Neil Young, both musically and with his cover art (above).  Finally, St. Vincent has a new album coming out and Annie Clark looks like she’s going to continue making unique songs that still rock.  Get a sneak peak here.

Another Great Opening Track

June 21, 2010

Devil’s Haircut – Beck from Odelay

Continuing on the same theme as one of my last posts, here is another strong album opener.  Following the mega-success of the opening track to Mellow Gold, there was great anticipation about the follow-up.  Mellow Gold had been a shambling, glorious mess of an album, with all kinds of different musical ideas.  Even though that album was released by Geffen Records, the production seemed to be a throwback to his earlier independent releases.

The first thing you notice about Devil’s Haircut is the crisp sound that greets you.  It really pops.  The famous Dust Brothers produced this album, and they seemed to be a great fit for this artist and this album.  The song, like some of their work for the Beastie Boys, has all kinds of things going on in it.  It starts off with a peppy drums and a loud guitar riff, then the guitar drops out while Beck begins his lyrics.  Keeping in line with Mellow Gold, his lyrics border on the nonsensical, but like with the previous album, somehow it works.  A synth burst bubbles in the background, some echo effects come in right before the chorus of “Got a devil’s haircut/In my mind.”  Some fuzzed out guitar, then back to Beck, the drums and the synths.  The mid-song breakdown has a different guitar sound entirely (I think it’s a guitar) that almost sounds like a sitar or possibly it’s another synth.  Some keyboards, and a sampled yell (goddamned?!) and then a quick breakdown with some feedback and echo-y drums.  Chorus cuts again, then I think there’s a harmonica.  The guitars then amp up, and the last 20 seconds is Beck shouting the chorus like the lead singer of a thrash metal band as the song ends in a squelch of guitar feedback completely opposite from the polished, crisp beginning.

As an opening cut on what would prove to be a classic album, this signaled that Beck was more than up to the task of following up the success of Loser.  While in some sense this song is a continuation of the ramshackle style of Mellow Gold, it just felt different and made you want to dig further into the album.  I first really got into this album as I was driving home from Kentucky by myself, and once I’d gotten through the album once, I had to keep listening to it again, especially to hear this track.  That’s the mark of a good album opener.  Not only does it get you psyched for the rest of the record, but you want to come back to the beginning again and again.