Category Archives: News

Review: nine inch nails – Hesitation Marks


The last time I was in the US for a new NIN release, it was 1999.  Before midnight, my then-gf and I waited outside our local Newbury Comics for the doors to swing open.  There were a couple other nuts there and some sturdy lesbians waiting for the new Tori (also on our list).  For a dedicated music fan, this is what you did.  It was a time before leaks (Napster was just getting started), it was a time before we took music ownership for granted.  It was also a time before musicians communicated so openly with fans.  We hadn’t heard from Trent since “The Perfect Drug” (which I spent days tracking down with my confused father chauffeuring me all over town) and the Lost Highway soundtrack.  It felt like ages.  We wanted to get our hands on The Fragile before anyone else.  We spent the rest of the night and early morning listening to that massive double album, barely making it to class.  Even though I always say The Downward Spiral is my favorite record and NIN’s best, I secretly (and honestly) prefer The Fragile.  Downward Spiral may be the best — it is violent, scary, desperate — but The Fragile meant more to me and still registers.  I’m not that angry, confused and sad kid anymore.  And neither is Trent.

Fans might be upset (“It’s not The Downward Spiral/The Bends/Parachutes/Definitely, Maybe/…Baby One More Time!  Waaaahhhhhhhh!”), but if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years being a NIN devotee, the old school folks will come around and end up loving it.  It always happens.  We all grow up.  Why should we expect Trent to stay mired in suicidal rage?  He’s married, sober and has two kids (I know, when the fuck did that happen!?).  He has an Oscar.  If anyone would have told me this in 1995, I would have scoffed.  He’s happier now and has control over his life, but those same demons still linger.  They linger in me, they linger in us all.  He’s channeled them here in a pristine package and it is the finest NIN experience since The Fragile.

If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, head over to iTunes and stream it before the release date.  Let’s get this ride started!

1. The Eater of Dreams kicks off with see-sawing blips and bloops — then a creaking of a rusty wheel — and then everything becomes awash in dread.  Trent always does a good job starting albums with a mood-setter.  This is a marriage between the decaying gears and cogs of his earlier work with the digital soundscapes that he’s so fond of creating these days.  A fitting thesis statement for an album that he’s using as a bridge to his past.

2. Copy of A is a driving dance party.  It sounds like we’re floating in an isolation chamber, his voice echoing off the walls and getting lost in a thick electronic sludge.  The intensity builds up with some classic trills and tinkles that are heard best with headphones (seriously, this is orgasmic) — one of my favorite things about Downward Spiral and Fragile were the new sounds, buried in the background, that you could hear on repeated listens — and the rave finally explodes with such clarity that I almost started to pogo dance in my kitchen.  The bottom drops out suddenly and the low-end bass comes up to catch you on a nice meaty cloud.  This song gets better and better with time.

3. Came Back Haunted was a perfect comeback single.  If you’re a fan, you’ve heard it.  Multiple times.  If you’re not a fan, go listen.  We’ll wait for you here.  It’s classic first-single material for New Trent — fast, intense, a real collar-grabber — much like “Discipline,” “Survivalism” and “Hand That Feeds.”  The lyrics say it all: “Everyone now reminding me/I am not who I used to be.”  This is a full declaration of Trent 2.0.  There is no going back.  (Bonus geek-points for the very very brief Downward Spiral piano motif)

4. Find My Way begins with some breakbeat, drum-and-bass type shit, before the upper octave piano chimes in.  My favorite NIN songs include this kind of delicate piano work, the rare glimpse of soft beauty under all the ugly.  This could fit nicely on The Fragile, and for this I am grateful.  His voice soars as he oohs and ahhs, the volume never getting too loud.  There’s some harmonizing in there too.  It’s a pretty non-ballad that is going to sound incredible in a packed arena.

5. All Time Low is a fucking FUNK FEST.  In the same vein of his funk-doobiest shit (see: “Closer,” “Only,” “Kinda I Want To,” “Even Deeper,” “Into the Void,” “The Big Comedown,” “Discipline,” most of the shit on Year Zero), this is a stank bassline orgy (courtesy of Pino Palladino, D’Angelo’s bass man) complete with “hoo-hoo-hoooh“s and sexual breath intake.  It ends in the stars with some pretty humming.  There’s tastes of The Fragile AND Year Zero on this, which still confuses me (see: my favorite and my least favorite NIN albums, respectively).  But so far this is an early front runner for favorite deep cut on the album.

6. Disappointed is a Radiohead song.  Seriously, go listen!  Trent must have also enjoyed Kid A and Amnesiac as much as I did, because he’s clearly channeling that blip-dee-bloop vibe on this.  There’s even some nice “Lotus Flower” handclapping.  But then the minor chord twangs and Wall of Dread guitars come flooding in and we’re finally in NIN territory.  The ending is an overwhelming assault of beauty.  It really is Radiohead circa Kid A, but with a lot more soul and humanity.  And dread.  Lots of dread.

7. Everything…  well here we go.  If there were ever a song to divide the NIN community, it’s this blast of cheery pop-rock (yikes!) goop.  There are blasts of guitar and aggressive yelling, but at the heart of it, it’s a beefed-up Cure song.  The guitar and bass are so peppy it is unnerving.  Fear not: it is not so pop that it could be played on the radio, but once that drum-machine loop comes popping in, you’ll have a hard time believing this is the same guy singing about fucking you like an animal.  Now let’s all pogo-bounce and listen to Smashmouth.

8. Satellite is the 2nd of two new songs written for the now-delayed Greatest Hits package (“Everything” being the other).  This is another leftfield inclusion.  It’s a song about paranoia (they’re watching!) and stuff like that, making it very Year Zero-ish.  But it’s so much better.  If Year Zero had more songs like this, I might actually enjoy it.  It is so funky it hurts.  It sounds like it was produced by RedOne or one of Beyonce’s or Gaga’s guys.  Dat beat is so dirty I’m grinding my ass into my chair with such delight and relish.  The doom guitars do kick in eventually, but that beat… man, that beat.  Sorry Miley, but the real BANGERZ are on this record.  This is going to be on my iPod for a very, very long time.  Twerk it!

9. Various Methods of Escape starts off sounding like some of the non-NIN stuff that Trent’s been meddling with lately (see: movie scores, How to destroy angels_).  But the trademark guitars bust in and then Trent starts singing in falsetto.  It’s very pretty.  Again, the beat and soundscape sound very Year Zero-ish, but those small details (jarring minor chords, the warbling, the whispering) give it just enough grit and humanity, veering it away from that polished sci-fi.  The denouement is another ode to The Fragile.  It glides along a pretty wave before crashing down with driving drums and guitars.  Early contender for Fan Favorite on this album.

10. Running would make a great workout song, just in case that title didn’t register.  It’s another funky exercise that gets seriously twisted and unnerving, with dueling whispers battling like the angel and devil on your cartoon shoulders.  Minor key Fragile guitars jut in.  Disembodied mantras.  All over that slick as shit jungle beat that would sound at home on an early Bjork remix record.

11. I Would For You is pummeling.  At first I thought it was a Watch the Throne b-side (kidding!) but it really is a heavy hip-hop beat.  The lyrics hint at the new Trent: “If I could be someone else, I would for you.”  Awww, that is just the sweetest.  For the moment, though, that sweetness is buried underneath the glorious noise.  This is the start of a near-perfect blend of mixing that lasts until the final song.  Think of it as Part 1 in a suite.  (and there’s more Fragile guitar, huzzah!)

12. In Two builds the atmospheric tension until you can barely take it anymore, and then just pops and completely drowns you in digital honey.  The beat is HARD.  The vocal delivery is sharp.  This is aggression and angst.  Like everything else before it, it remains funky.  But this is much more jagged.  To bring in a much-maligned rip-off band from yester-decade: this song sounds like what Orgy spent so long trying (and failing) to achieve.  I know that doesn’t help the case, but if you listened to Orgy, you might understand.  There’s a very deliberate sheen to the song, once you strip away the jagged guitars, the ambient noise.  Again, the noise drops away for a classic Trent-whisper-over-white-noise intermission, before punching you right back in the face to remind you just whose house you are in.

13. While I’m Still Here is the song with Lindsay Buckingham, oh patriarch God of Fleetwood Mac.  There’s also saxophone on it.  So how’s that for a nice head-fuck.  It starts off sounding like a How to destroy angels_ castoff (imagine Mariqueen singing this…) but then that familiar dread trickles back in.  “Hurt” this is not.  It’s not even on par with the hollow beauty of “Zero Sum” or “Right Where It Belongs.”  It’s too human, too rich with humanity.  Buckingham’s jamming is so unlike anything Trent has done before.  It isn’t programmed, it isn’t precise.  All that work on Sound City must have taken its toll on the old guy.  Once the sax toots its way onto the track, you know the game is changed.  There is a bubbling storm of dread underneath everything, but damn it if that guitar twanging and sax work isn’t the most human noise ever set to the NIN sound.  One of the most interesting songs in his catalog, which is saying something.

14. Black Noise is an appropriate title for the closing song — which is just an extended finish to “While I’m Still Here.”  We started this adventure with noise, and we end with noise.  “Ripe (With Decay)” ended The Fragile on a half-measure, leaving the listener with an incomplete and uncomfortable sense of emptiness.  This ends with bellowing dissonance, building up to uncomfortable levels before abruptly cutting to silence.

Trent said that he wanted to link Hesitation Marks to The Downward Spiral (which can be seen most clearly with the choice of artwork and throwback font), but I feel like it’s more akin to The Fragile.  This experience isn’t as outright violent and sociopathic as Spiral.  There’s highs and lows, points of beauty and discomfort.  There’s organic flourishes (Fragile was full of them, planned and controlled as they were), there’s experimentation.  It is a wonder that Trent is still trying to do things differently at this stage in his career, when he could just as well be perfectly fine doing Greatest Hits tour after Greatest Hits tour.  I am so happy with this record.

Fanboy reaction: this is so fucking awesome.  It’s been so long since I’ve been excited and enamored by a new NIN record.  The past few have been good, but could have been shaved down to something better.  This is an experience.  It’s glorious and I love it.  I only hope Trent decides to play more new stuff on the tour (I can’t believe I just said that).  A+

Unbiased critical reaction (lol yeah right): this is a very good album.  Maybe 4 out of 5 stars.  It is up there with the better NIN albums.  Granted, we will never get another Downward Spiral, but this is a very nice successor to The Fragile.  It’s fresh, exciting and, above all, worthy to stand with the greatest in the NIN catalog.

Hesitation Marks is out on 9/3 via Columbia Records, in a bajillion different editions (deluxe, digital deluxe, audiophile).  Buy them all.

the different album covers, courtesy of

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Review: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Excitement and delayed satisfaction are tricky things.  We all know that a project can collapse under ridiculous expectations, falling short of delivering something biblical for the hungry masses (see: The 20/20 Experience, for me at least).  Or a project can meet expectations in ways that are completely unexpected, delivering something so ahead of its time (and yet, not) that your brain needs time to catch up, like my first viewing of The Matrix (see: Random Access Memories).

Queens of the Stone Age haven’t put out an album that I love since releasing the classic Songs for the Deaf, one of my favorite albums OF. ALL. TIME.  The two follow-ups didn’t have that same oomph, that same liveliness, hunger or creativity.  They weren’t terrible; they just didn’t meet expectations.

My affair with their latest, …Like Clockwork, has been a rough ride.  Bootlegged clips of live performances left me cold.  First single “My God Is The Sun” didn’t impress.  Even my first couple viewings of their animated teasers failed to ignite my inner Queen.  And then they released a 15-minute short film of those animated snippets.

I think I’ve listened to this 15-minute song loop at least 20 times in the past couple weeks.  That’s, what, 5 hours?  Yeah, more or less.  And I’m listening to it right now.  Not only is the animation bloody, brutal, and twisted, it’s also a hypnotic visual glimpse into the “psyche” of this album.  It’s a creepshow, a violent, churning nightmare from the dark corners of our hearts and minds.  I credit the cartoon with plunging me headlong into a rewarding love affair with this new album.  You should really watch it.

Now that the album is up and ready to stream, of course I had to give it a go-round.  Here are my initial first-listen thoughts.

1. “Keep Your Eyes Peeled”
Chugging and lurching, this song sets the tone for the rest of the album: shit’s going to get twisted.  You’ll feel some despair, some anxiety, some sluggish sonic mud.  But there’s ghoulish harmony (with Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters?!?!??!), there’s aching falsetto, there’s some beautiful riffage — lest you forget which band you’re listening to.  I’m so excited for the rest of this album.  And what?  Sad violin at the end?  Yes.

2. “I Sat By The Ocean”
Man, this song is just a doozy of feel-goodery and groovy fucking riffage.  I think this and “If I Had A Tail” are my early favorites, only because they are so catchy.  One of the issues I had with their previous two albums was the lack of pop-centric focus — it was too many “ideas for songs” and not enough follow through.  This track just makes my shoulders shimmy and my head nod.

3. “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”
LOL this starts off sounding like a NIN Fragile-era track… then it becomes a sad piano ballad.  Break out them tissues!  There’s some old sci-fi lasers squiggling their way through the keys, but this is mostly sad, introspective suicide fodder.

4. “If I Had A Tail”
YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, this is really my favorite track on the album.  It’s cool, full of swagger, like a Stones song.  This is the track with Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys, whose penchant for groove seems to have rubbed off on Josh Homme.  This is glorious rock and roll, especially the epic ending.  Gitchie gitchie, ooh la la!

5. “My God Is The Sun”
This song is a blast, a fist to the face, a riff-explosion to the bowels.  Something to put hair on your chest.  The bass churns, the drums smash and Homme sounds like he’s raising the dead with the power of these chords.  Grohl is on this song (and a few others), smashing the shit out of his drum kit.  Truly badass.

6. “Kalopsia”
Trent.  Reznor.  That’s pretty much all I need to say about this track.  OK fine, some words.  It starts slow, creepy.  Then the boys jump in with a lot of shout-singing, then harmonizing, then I’m just smiling like an idiot because I love when my musical heroes play together in the sandbox.  The overall tone of the track reflects its title: it does sound vaguely like a calliope, a twisted comedown from a dark Hell carnival.

7. “Fairweather Friends”
There was some promise at the start: I heard some bouncy jangles, some playful notes.  Playful?  Who am I kidding… it’s relatively straightforward…. and then there’s some guitar wailing that might save this track from the garbage pile.  But truthfully: if this is my “least” favorite on the album so far, that’s not bad at all.  And that ending is very LOL-worthy.  Oddest thing about this griping and whingeing?  It features Elton John (yes, really), Trent, and my girl (and Homme’s wife) Brody Dalle from Distillers/Spinerette.  It should be more awesome…

8. “Smooth Sailing”
FUNKAAAAAAY!  Damn bitch, this makes me want to STRUT… whilst not giving a fuuuuuhk.  “Bruises and hickeys/Stitches and Scars/Got my own theme music/Plays wherever I are.”  Fuck yeah: if that isn’t my new life motto, I don’t know what could take its place.  #1 Cool Song on this album.

9. “I Appear Missing”
This is a gorgeous, gorgeous song.  Full of power, full of purpose, driving and grand, perfect for a stadium.  The guitars soar, the harmonies blast into space.  I envision a lot of air guitar noodling in front of my bathroom mirror this summer.

10. “…Like Clockwork”
We end on a beautiful piano ballad that morphs into an old California-flavored track from the ’70s.  Or at least that’s what it sounds like to me.  This whole record, it sounds like we’ve been trapped in a filthy post-apocalyptic city full of dark alleys and festering sewers.  Now we’re finally back in old Queens territory: a wide open desert.  It’s an all-in jam session here, going all over the place, but returning to that pretty piano.  A fitting end to a tight record.

This album isn’t an epic Year-Changer like Random Access Memories, just a really great rock and roll album, which we are sorely, sorely in need of these days.  I’ll rank it in the top 3 QOTSA albums, up there with Rated R and Songs for the Deaf.

…Like Clockwork is out on June 4th on Matador.

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Review: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories


It’s finally here.

I debated whether or not to listen to the leak, but I’ve been waiting for this thing for so long that I threw morals out the window.  You ready?  Here we go.

1. “Give Life Back To Music”
Simple, groovy intro of what to expect from the album.  It doesn’t go anywhere, really.  But it’s so smooth and comforting, I’m chomping at the bit.

2. “The Game of Love”
Light them candles, run a bath, get those scented oils ready: it’s time to get DOWN.  I started caressing my keyboard and slowly grinding my big swivel chair — totally naturally — about midway through this song.  A gazillion babies will be made to this track, guaranteed.  Mmm, mmm, mmm… I’m gettin’ all sweaty.

3. “Giorgio by Moroder”
Giorgio Moroder talks over the slick, funky bass of this cool cat track.  It’s like that weird Baz Luhrmann graduation song that was big all those years ago.  Except awesome and badass because it’s Giorgio fucking Moroder talking over Daft fucking Punk.  The breakdown at the end is just buzz-out freaky great.  Oh and it’s 9-minutes long.

4. “Within”
Setting: cyborg piano bar.  Song: this.  Vocoder vox over a lush chillaxed melody.  I’m drifting off into space.

5. “Instant Crush”
Indeed, the robots say with a wink.  The groove throws me back to some Police/Alan Parson’s shit, steady and thrumming.  Is that Cyborg Julian Casablancas on vocals?  Oh yes, it is.  SURPRISE.  I’m still on a high as the synths come in to get the body moving.  Then the electric guiltar solo comes whizzing by.  Is this still Daft Punk?!?  It’s still fucking AWESOME.

6. “Lose Yourself To Dance”
Let me just take a pause here, as the guitars squawk and jive: this is their most human album to date.  It’s so vibrant, so organic, so — oh hey guys, Pharrell’s here early! — groovy.  Pharrell’s falsetto (phallsetto?) pops up a couple songs before “Get Lucky” arrives.  Hand claps, bass squiggles.  Hawt dayum!  This is no club banger, but it’ll keep me slinking and snapping until the end of time.  I feel like it’s a good time to pop on a suit and go strut through my neighborhood.  (but if I’m being honest, it does drag a little if you’re not drunk or high off pheromones… don’t ever say I’m a complete Daft Punk fanboy apologist ;P)

7. “Touch”
We Are Drifting Into Spaaaaaaaaace.  “TOUCH…”  Who is that old guy singing?  It’s Paul Williams (no relation to Pharrell).  Who?  This guy.  I was iffy at first, but then BAM, it explodes into some Mos Eisley cantina type shit.  But classier.  And there’s some angelic choir at the end.  This AOR, borderline elevator-music is not my type of thing, but it’s a pleasant enough journey to take before….

8. “Get Lucky”
…fuck yeah: there’s an additional 2 minutes tacked onto the album version.

9. “Beyond”
OOOOOOH MYYYYYY GAAAWWWWWWD.  Triumph!  Cinematic epicness!  This is some “I Keep Forgetting” Michael McDonald shiiieeeeeet.  Ga-roo-vaaaaay.  The lost in space riff at the end is absolutely delicious.

10. “Motherboard”
I think I hear a flute in there.  Yeah, that’s a flute.  Where was the Collaborator video for that?  This sounds like a come-down song, something to break the monotony of spacing out/making out/gittin’ down/gittin’ it UP.  (There’s some strings in there too.)  but oh wait goddamn THE ENDING.  Are we back in the midst of the ’90s UK rave scene?  LOVE.

11. “Fragments of Time”
This will throw your parents back to their childhood (or grandparents?  how old are you?)…  It’s SO good.  Todd Edwards handles vocals on this track.  You may remember him from Discovery gem “Face to Face.”  Another happy surprise on an album already chock-full of impressive and respectable guest spots.  (there’s even a Discovery alluding keytar freak-out at the end)

12. “Doin It Right”
This sounds like classic Daft Punk — in case all of the relatively mellow stuff on this album is really angering you young “EDM” kidz — but it’s still no club banger.  I guess there are no 4-on-the-floor showstoppers here?  Anyway, this is the one with Panda Bear, oh he of Animal Collective.  This indie hipster inclusion rubbed me the wrong way at first (Daft Punk’s talent is a bit weakened because this sounds like any other Pitchfork/Stereogum-baiting throwaway), but the track is harmless.

13. “Contact”
Is this M83?  JK! JK!  It’s an astronaut in space and yeah yeah we get it, you’re robots.  The doom-and-gloom organ brings back that cinematic feel from “Beyond” and ohmygod this will be a great closer.  Sounds like the closing song to a really badass movie, right before it abruptly stops and the credits roll.  I love the drum and metal breakdown.  Just a not-so-subtle reminder that no matter what you thought of the album, Daft Punk will still kick your ass.


Verdict: of course this is fucking awesome hahaha… DUH.

Personal faves: “Fragments of Time”, “Giorgio by Moroder”, “Instant Crush”, “Get Lucky” (duh), “Beyond”, “Motherboard”, “Contact”

Next single: “Fragments of Time”, hands down.

Let’s face it: this album could never, ever, eva eva evah live up to the expectations piled upon it (see: The 20/20 Experience).  No way in hell.  So stop bitching.  But goddamn, is it a smooth, smile-inducing groovefest.  You want bangers?  Head to Homework.  You want more outrageous synths?  Do Discovery.  You want to get bored to death and wish you were really a robot so you could turn yourself off?  Human After All.  Solo dance party in your undies until you collapse from exhaustion?  Alive 2007.  A good warm feeling of joy, life and chest-bursting affirmation?

Random Access Memories.

Out *officially* on 5/21 via Columbia.

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Review: The Strokes – Comedown Machine

Oh March… what a month.

New Trent, new JT and now new Strokes.  Tis a good month.

The Strokes - Comedown Machine


Let me get this out of the way: I love the Strokes.  Their last two albums have been clunkers (Angles was shit and First Impressions had a couple amazing tracks… mired in shit).  Is This It is on my Desert Island Discs (do we change this to Desert Island MP3s now?) list, one of my Top 10 of ALL TIME (take that!), and Room On Fire will always occupy a soft spot in my heart.

How does this album stack up?  It’s pretty fucking good.  It’s no Is This It.  It’s no Room On Fire.  And it’s not just good because it’s not First Impressions or Angles.  It’s a solid little thing, a nice meld of the first two albums and Julian’s solo effort, Phrazes for the Young, which I also loved.

And now follows my quick jumping-of-the-gun review.  We shall see how this ends up on the year-end ranking…

1. Tap-Out: “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”?  Sunny pop blast to open the album.  Me like.

2. All The Time: sounds most like Is This It.  Jangly and jumpy, Julian raspy as ever, it’s a hard-charger.  Me like.

3. One Way Trigger: if this song becomes one of the “Age Old” divisive arguments among Strokes fans, put me squarely and forever on the side of “THIS SONG IS AWESOME.”  It took forever to grow on me, but that falsetto and “find a girl, find a job, find a dream, shut it down” shit really connect with me.  Me love.

4. Welcome To Japan: this is early front-runner for favorite track on the album. This is groovin’ shit, like No Doubt “Hella Good”-type nasty funk-pop.  Me love.

5. 80s Comedown Machine: zzzzzzzzzz… Melody and instrumentation are fine, but Julian’s putting me to sleep on this one.  Me sleepy.

6. 50 50: YEAAARRRRRGH!  With more balls and heavier riffs, this would make a badASS QOTSA song.  Sure wakes you up from the “80s Comedown Machine” funk.  Julian’s screaming like a man on this.  Me love.

7. Slow Animals: get into the groove again.  Julian sounds like he’s floating in space, but damn if the other guys are working their fingers off.  The “chorus” comes out of nowhere and it’s guaranteed to get stuck in your head, even if I have no clue what Julian is sputtering.  Me like.

8. Partners In Crime: wooooo, guitars go home, you’re drunk!  Before the wacky chorus kicks in, I got some tastes of Phil Collins’ “Another Day In Paradise” (haha, no joke).  This is fun and upbeat, but the most praise I can give it is for creativity and to say it wasn’t on Angles (burn).  Me like.

9. Chances: WHO IS THIS?!?!???  It sounds like someone but I can’t put my finger on it.  Someone NOT Julian Casablancas.  Mid-tempo, relaxing little number.  But what the fuck is that insane girl-singing in the beginning?  This sounds 80s soft rock.  Me sleepy again.

10. Happy Ending: tee hee.  It’s not quite happy, nor is it the end of the album.  Meh?  Me kinda like.

11. Call It Karma Call It Fate: the drugs have finally taken full control of the brain.  I thought this was an old Motown song at first (“Heard It Through the Grapevine”?) that morphs into some dreamy Beach Boys pop tune.  Definitely the most surprising track of the album, and quite possibly their swan song.  Me like.

So there we have it, folks.  3 killers, 5 great ones that’ll likely grow on me and a few snoozers.  Hey, I can’t complain; nothing is as bad as this cover art (or Angles).  If this is really their last album, as it’s feared/rumored, I’d say it’s a good way to go out.  They’ll remain one of my all-time favorite bands, even despite Angles.  Good job, boys.  (B+/A-)

The Strokes, Comedown Machine, out 3/26 on RCA.  Stream it on Pitchfork before the album drops.

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New Release Mayhem, Starring Silversun Pickups, Tenacious D and Candlebox

It’s almost April.  APRIL.  Where has 2012 gone?!?  All of a sudden, we’re on the doorstep of Spring and soon it’ll be time to drive around with the windows down.  Preferably, new tunes will be wafting from your speakers.  Here, I present to you a quick info-dump of highlights, lowlights and curiosities that will be released in the coming fiscal quarter.  It’s not going to be a stellar year, judging from this batch.  But with the lack of Blockbuster Albums, I’m sure the bulk of these will be Pretty-Good Albums.  Get your bittorrent clients ready…


The Good (AKA, What You Should Be Excited For):

Let’s start with the stuff I’m most excited for…

The Shins, Port of Morrow (March 20): it’s already out, but let us remind you one more time.

Mars Volta, Noctourniquet (March 27): At The Drive-In reunite AND Mars Volta have a new album?  Sparta fans hang their heads and pout (cue George Michael’s Snoopy-walk…).

Cowboy Junkies, Wilderness (March 27): is it too much to hope for another “Common Disaster”?

Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal (April 3): it’s already out in Iceland (and you can find it online), but the US release has a new album cover.  You should pick up any version you can get your hands on.  This is a beautiful, beautiful album.

Jack White, Blunderbuss (April 24): judging from what we’ve heard thus far, this should be great for White Stripes fans (Dead Weather and Raconteurs fans are not as important).

The Dandy Warhols, This Machine (April 24): this band is so underrated it’s not even funny.  With a discography of solid albums under their collective freak-boho belts, this should be another good set.

Santigold, Master of My Make Believe (May 1): it’s been 4 years (FOUR!!!) since her phenomenal debut.  The first few tastes we’ve received are promising, so this should be another funky, catchy set from NYC’s M.I.A.

Keane, Strangeland (May 8): they’ve never disappointed me and I’m hoping this will be another album’s worth of catchy hooks and heartbreaking whining.

Silversun Pickups, Neck of the Woods (May 8): their last album was one of my top 3 of 2009.  Between this and the new Keane, May 8th is going to be sweet (cue Cube)

Garbage, Not Your Kind of People (May 15): the first single, “Blood For Poppies”, is not enough to inspire my inner fire, but hopefully the rest of the album will be a solid return to their self-titled album and not another shitshow like beautifulgarbage.

Tenacious D, Rize of the Fenix (May 15): yes, YES YES YES.

But it’s not just about the shit that I enjoy.  I’m the populist of this blog, so I have to mention a few other notable newbies.

For pop fans — certainly there are none of those here — Madonna has that new one coming out, if you were unawares because you live under that rock.   I cannot wait for this album, as Madonna can do no wrong in my book.  Also Katy Perry‘s re-release of Teenage Dream and Nicki Minaj‘s new set of insane schizoid rap.  The Idol crew have new sets from Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Clay Aiken.

For old farts and fans of old people music, Santana‘s dropping a new one on May 15 and my Bizzarro-world alter ego (see: Neil Young) and band Crazy Horse will drop Americana, the first album in nearly a decade, on June 5.

For the more high brow and/or too-cool-for-school, we’ve got M. Ward, Elvis Costello, Regina Spektor and a pair of Damon Albarn goodies (this guy cannot rest!) on Rocket Juice and the Moon (March 27) and Dr. Dee, which is about some forgotten 16th century British scientist, on May 8.  Ugh, stick to Blur and Gorillaz, pleeeeease…


The Bad (AKA, Things That I Believe Should Never Be Released, AAKA, Did Anyone Ask For This???)

Chris Brown‘s latest audio abortion… can we please be rid of him already?

Marilyn Manson, Born Villain (May 1): I’ve been a diehard fan since Portrait, but how much bullshit can one fan endure?  It’s been almost a decade since he’s released anything worth listening to and almost half a decade since releasing anything I could sit through without wanting to burn all of my old t-shirts and import singles.  Sigh… he needs to just give up already and OD.  What a waste of talent…

In other past-their-prime news, for the withering and aged rockers amongst you, Ministry (March 27) and Van Halen (out now) beckon.  Sigh…


The Curious (AKA, WTF?, AAKA, They’re Still Around?!?, AAAKA, Wow, Someone Needs Money…)

These aren’t necessarily awful (who am I to judge?) but they had me scratching my head…

First off, it is apparently ’90s throwback time.  Both Monica and SWV have new albums coming out, as if anyone asked for these.  If only Aaliyah and Left-Eye were still with us, we’d have a more A-level pair of comebacks to look forward to.  Ashanti is also trying to get back in the game.  If Ja Rule thinks the world is waiting for new material from him as well, may God help us all.

On that note, it might also be time for an early ‘oos screamo/skatepunk revival.  I have nothing against this batch, as I may or may not have some of their stuff in my library, but seriously, I had no idea these groups were still in existence.  So, Warped Tour kidz, get ready for new Operation Ivy, Mxpx, Taproot, Anberlin and *drumroll* THE USED.  You know Yellowcard dropped a new album last year, right?  No?  Well then, that does not bode well for these folks…

Counting Crows and Train will also drop mediocre new albums for the soccer mom masses, but what I’m truly, truly excited for are two records that nobody asked for: Candlebox (April 3) and Eve 6 (April 24).  Oh yeeaaaah!!!  Remember them?  Yeah, exactlyOur Lady Peace is also making a comeback with Curve (April 17) which I’m kinda excited for.  If this opens the floodgates to Seven Mary Three, Sponge, Marcy Playground or Everclear, that Mayan apocalypse thing might not be such a bad idea.


LOL.  This is not an April Fool’s joke.

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Sixteen Saltines

Jack White.  Boy oh Boy.  This song makes the whole White Stripes break up a little easier to deal with.  Take a listen.

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NEW Arcade Fire – Abraham’s Daughter

Oh hail the gods of music.  Just yesterday I was beseeching my favored deity for a taste of what Arcade Fire would be offering to the upcoming Hunger Games soundtrack.  And today it dropped.

One of two songs to appear on the film’s soundtrack, “Abraham’s Daughter” is a dark little dirge sung by Regine, my favorite Canadian sprite.  “Sprawl II” (or would it be III?) this ain’t.  It’s a brooding lament about good ol’ child sacrifice, which is something both Panem AND Abraham are familiar with.  It closes on a heavy tribal stomp that left me with a feeling of absolute dread.  If this is supposed to set the tone for the entire movie, then damn, this is going to be one hell of a ride.  Second contribution “Horn of Plenty” is said (by Win himself) to be Panem’s national anthem, so you know that shit is going to be grand, over-the-top and completely terrifying.  Just like Arcade Fire’s best torch songs.  Let the games begin!

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Daydream Believer

Fake, made-for-tv band or not, this is one of my favorite songs ever.  Rest in peace, Davy Jones.  You’ll always be a part of my childhood.

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Of Monsters & Men

Get on board now, because this band is going places in 2012.

Of Monsters & Men is a humble little Icelandic band that have blown up over the past couple months, riding the success of their breakthrough single, “Little Talks.”  Thank God for my local alt-station, WFNX, otherwise I wouldn’t have heard this wonderful song.  I can’t stop listening to it.  Thus, I thrust it upon you now, dear reader.

The music is heartfelt and triumphant, catchy and extremely hummable.  Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke called them the “new Arcade Fire” (and Iceland’s Mumford and Sons), which I think is a perfect summation of this band for the curious listener.  If grand crescendos, textured instrumentation and happy chorus-chants are your thing, then you’ll be as happy as I am to have discovered a new band.

When I first read about them, the band’s name confused me.  I thought they were either a hardcore band who were trying too hard to be scary (“ooooh, Monsters!  We’re so tough and dangerous!!!”) or a pretentious Fueled By Ramen joke band who were trying too hard to sound edgy and literate (“let’s make a play on Steinbeck but change ‘mice’ to ‘monsters‘ because we’re so hip and chicks will dig it, bro.”).  Alas they are just a folk band from the land of Bjork and Sigur Ros, sans loopy freakishness and fake language bullshit.

For their upcoming tour, their Boston stop was upgraded from a tiny hall in hipsterville to our downtown House of Blues.  And their debut album, My Head Is An Animal, hasn’t even dropped yet (out in “early 2012” via UMG).  I can already taste the inevitable indie-blog backlash that’ll happen when the masses discover the band…

Enjoy the “Little Talks” video.  It’s a gorgeous and playful little thing, a refreshing artistic bow by a band that we’ll be hearing a lot of in the coming months.


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M.I.A., The Superbowl’s Real Winner

Well that was a disappointing game.  My beloved Pats lost.  Alas, we’re used to disappointment in Boston.  If anything could save my evening, it was Madonna’s halftime show.  Chock full of guests (Cee-Lo, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO), there was clearly one stand out performance: M.I.A.‘s middle finger.  It’s the one thing we’re all still talking about.

You don’t get much more rock ‘n roll than flipping off the entire country.  Why else was she there?  For Madonna’s new single?  Psshaw.  M.I.A. is smarter than that.  In addition to that delicious subversion, she’s also got her own music to promote.

The video for “Bad Girls” includes drifting cars, fire and booty-grinding.  Also, did I mention she’s in a vaguely Arab-esque setting with sand, oil pipes and a whole lot of veils and keffiyehs.  Yes, you read that right.  Leave it to Maya to keep tings political.  I love you, gurl.

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