Tag Archives: Nine Inch Nails

2014 Year In Review

Hey, we haven’t updated this blog in over a year!  It was a busy year.  A good year.  Especially for the ears.

Without further ado, here’s my year in review.  Let’s see if the other ILTSOI dudes can step up too…

Nothing can stop us now.

FAVORITE 14 OF ’14

1. Tove Lo Queen of the Clouds

An absolutely perfect album from start to finish.  Catchy, melodic Swedish pop at its finest.

2. Sam Smith In The Lonely Hour

The lush soundtrack to heartbreak and unrequited love, with a voice so smooth you want to wrap yourself up on the sofa and pass out with a smile on your face (and tears drying on your cheeks).

3. Tori AmosUnrepentant Geraldines

Return to form (groan) for my favorite singer of all time.

4. Taylor Swift1989

Can’t deny the pop perfection.  The love might wane with time, but there’s no denying this beast of an album.

5. Alt-J This Is All Yours

You thought their debut was funky and mind-blowing?  Add a million more layers and a tighter control on the soundcraft.  A lush journey into funky town.

6. InterpolEl Pintor

The second “return to form” (repeated groan) on this list.  Tight, melodic, groovy.  Everything that self-titled shitfest was not.

7. Run The JewelsRTJ2

Very rarely do I hear a song and exclaim, “Fuuuuuuuuuck!!!”  This is an entire album of that.  The lyrics wow, the melodies are delicious, and everything is just hard as fuck.  And Zach de la Rocha.

8. RoyksoppThe Inevitable End

A perfect way for them to go out: darkness, groove and a continued roster of perfectly curated guest singers.

9. Lana Del ReyUltraviolence

Not as good as her debut, but the throwback lushness saves this from sophomore slump status.  A time machine.

10. War On DrugsLost In The Dream

This is #1 on most of the year end lists, and with good reason.  It’s a propulsive, immediate and absolutely dreamy journey through soundscapes.  Dylan, Springsteen, Arcade Fire.  It’s all here.

11. Kaiser ChiefsEducation, Education, Education, War

One of my favorite bands.  They’ve only disappointed me once in 4 albums.  They won’t win any awards, but consistently releasing start-to-finish pogo-pop-rock perfect albums contribute to their long-lasting place in my heart.

12. Coldplay Ghost Stories

Their worst, hands down. But it’s not that bad.  I’ve grown to enjoy this more than when they released it in the summer.  Because it’s NOT a summer album.  It’s cold, sad, lonely, introspective.  Casual fans will love the Parachutesness of it all.  I appreciate that it’s a peek into Chris Martin’s ruined heart.  Take this break, come back with another life-affirming opus.  *hugz*

13. Pharrell WilliamsG I R L

Skateboard P is actually pretty underrated: he’s been producing amazing bangers for over a decade, and yet he’s just blown up in these past 2 years (thank you Daft Punk and The Voice).  This is just another release of Pharrell gems.  Get the throwback party started.

14. Crosses – †††

Deftones will never release anything “classic” now that Chi Cheng passed away (just like — less morbidly — Interpol will never release anything of top caliber without Carlos D), but this Chino side project comes close.  It’s sexy, groovy, relatively calm.  Chino’s voice can still send shivers down a spine like no other.

Albums I listened to to-death that weren’t released this year: Bastille, Clutch, Katy Perry, Avicii, Avatar, Fitz and the Tantrums

Albums that kinda let me down: U2, Beck, Black Keys

 

FAVORITE SONGS OF 2014

As always, this is based purely on play count on my iTunes.  I may have listened to them in other places (see: ipod, burned CD) but this is a fair indicator of my earworms of the year.

1. Lorde – “Yellow Flicker Beat”

2. Coldplay – “Magic”

3. Pharrell and Daft Punk – “Gust of Wind”

4. Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora – “Black Widow”

5. Goldroom – “Embrace”

6. Ariana Grande and Zedd – “Break Free”

7. BANKS – “This Is What It Feels Like”

8. Interpol – “Tidal Wave”

9. Royksopp and Robyn – “Monument (The Inevitable End Version)”

10. Tori Amos – “Trouble’s Lament”

 

GIGS OF 2014

1. Avicii – TD Garden – June 25
An absolute party from start to finish.

2. Tori Amos – Boston Opera House – August 15
First full Toriphile experience for me: waited all day with a group of fans/new friends for a glimpse of Tori, then drinks, then a perfect setlist.  If we actually got to talk to her, it would have been the most perfect day of 2014.

3. Arcade Fire – Xfinity Center – August 19
Nice to see them in a huge amphitheater.  Their sound and presence needs all that space.

4. Clutch – Lupo’s – September 5
Rocked. The. Fuck. Out.

5. Lady Gaga – TD Garden – June 30
Finally.  Happy birthday to me.

6. OneRepublic – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion – June 24
All hits, all the time.

7. Nine Inch Nails (with Soundgarden) – Red Rocks – July 21
My all-time bucket list venue.  My all-time favorite band.  Maybe I’ve seen Trent too much lately.  Maybe my mind wasn’t in the right place.  An otherworldly experience.

8. Jimmy Eat World – Lupo’s – October 18
Futures isn’t my favorite Jimmy album (see: Bleed American) but hearing it start to finish was something else.  Finally got “Nothingwrong” and life is good.

9. Katy Perry – TD Garden – August 1
Much like OneRepublic, this was just an unfair barrage of hits that would make any artist blush.  What a party.

10. Cibo Matto – The Sinclair – February 8
A comeback tour, a new album, old friends.  But when you don’t play “Sci-Fi Wasabi” as you originally wrote it, this nagging fan loses a little interest.

11. Iggy Azalea (and Austin Mahone) – Gillette Stadium – June 15
Free.  Yeah nothing beats that.

 

It was a good year.  Hopefully another year doesn’t pass without an update…  Make it a good one!

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2013: Year In Review

What a year.  Most of my favorite artists added some soul, some funk, some humanity to their usual cold and sad sounds.  It was the year of the big release, the unleashing of the hype monster.  Seemingly everyone and their grandmother released something new this year and it was just a glorious and embarrassing goldmine for us music-Smaugs.  Looking back on a great year as my ears already enjoy 2014.

My Favorite Albums of 2013:

1. Empire of the Sun: Ice On The Dune
Nothing catchier or more joyful blessed my life all year.

2. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
The most epic album of the year.

3. nine inch nails: Hesitation Marks
A return to form for Trent and a reaffirmation of rabid fandom for me.

4. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
The biggest grower of the year…just give it a chance.

5. Lady Gaga: ARTPOP
Most underrated “big” album of the year, absolute bangers from start to finish.

6. Queens of the Stone Age: …Like Clockwork
Cocksure (hee hee) swaggering sexy rock and fucking roll.

7. Lorde: Pure Heroine
Newbie of the year with an honest-to-goodness perfect set of tunes.

8. Kanye West: Yeezus
The biggest mindfuck, the biggest statement, and one of the hardest albums of 2013.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito
Possibly their worst album, but with such a discography, this rabid subterranean creepfest slays.

10. KT Tunstall: invisible empire // crescent moon
It’s about her late father and ex-hubby, so you know you’re in for some gorgeous heartbreak.

11. Bruno Mars: Unorthodox Jukebox
Perfect pop album.  Period.

12. how to destroy angels: welcome oblivion
Trent’s other release of the year, a quieter, more feminine affair.

13. Goldfrapp: Tales of Us
Sultry and languid, perfect for secret late night debauchery or a quiet come-down.

14. Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob
2013’s catchiest, prettiest pop-mindfuck dedicated to hearts and heartbreak.

15. Disclosure: Settle
The soundtrack to the permanent Uniqlo store in my heart.

16. Savages: Silence Yourself
Ferocious debut from a group of lasses with bigger, brasher thrash-balls than both Kanye and Trent.

17. The Strokes: Comedown Machine
A solid send-off(?) set from one of my favorite bands of the ’00s.

18. OneRepublic: Native
We liked “Counting Stars” a year ago…

19. Imagine Dragons: Night Visions
They don’t know who they want to be and every song sounds like another band, but they’re the best damn tribute band of the year.

20. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
Now that they’re singing about death and sad stuff, I can finally relate to these chaps.

21. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience, Part 1
This bloated album only receives placement because of “Mirrors”, its only reason for existing.

22. Austra: Olympia
I loved her from the moment she sang her first note in concert, so this set — however underwhelming or same-same — is still welcome.

Not Released in 2013 But Still Dominated My Life:

1. Ellie Goulding: Halcyon
Thank you, Skrillex, for breaking her heart, because this is a gigantic, emotional wubby ride.

2. Jessie Ware: Devotion
Pure, utter talent and class from this ’90s throwback queen.

Yeah, that’s right.  I only listed 24 albums.  Not 20.  Not 25.  I’m a rebel.  On to the songs…  These are the tracks that ruled my life for 12 months.  Ranking was tricky:  I based this purely on iTunes/iPod combined play count.  Not radio eargasms, not streaming on YouTube, not clicking “Back” to repeat a song and thus losing the extra count.  “Radioactive” should be higher.  Alas, it is a cruel world.  You all know how to use YouTube or whatever streaming-shit the kids are into these days, so I hope you don’t mind doing the leg work and searching for these yourself.  Embedding links?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My Favorite Songs of 2013:

1. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”
2. Coldplay, “Atlas”
3. how to destroy angels, “Strings and Attractors”
4. M83, “Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør)”
5. Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”
6. Lady Gaga, “Venus”
7. nine inch nails, “Came Back Haunted”
8. Linkin Park and Steve Aoki, “A Light That Never Comes”
9. Lorde, “Buzzcut Season”
10. Phoenix, “Entertainment”
11. Ylvis, “The Fox”
12. Empire of the Sun, “Celebrate”
13. Lady Gaga, “Applause”
14. Kylie Minogue, “Skirt”
15. Avicii, “Hey Brother”
16. Churchill, “Change”
17. Empire of the Sun, “Old Flavours”
18. Giorgio Moroder, “Racer”
19. KT Tunstall, “Made of Glass”
20. Naughty Boy, “LaLaLa (feat. Sam Smith)”
21. Tegan and Sara, “I Was A Fool”
22. Bruno Mars, “Moonshine”
23. Disclosure, “Latch (feat. Sam Smith)”
24. Queens of the Stone Age, “I Sat By The Ocean”
25. Bruno Mars, “Natalie”
26. Drake, “Hold On We’re Going Home”
27. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Thrift Shop”
28. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
29. OneRepublic, “Counting Stars”/”Preacher”/”Can’t Stop”
30. Kanye West, “I Am A God (feat. God)”/”Black Skinhead”
31. Katy Perry, “Roar”
32. Pitbull and Ke$ha, “Timber”
33. Sara Bareilles, “Brave”
34. Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”
35. Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive”
36. Sebastian Ingrosso & Tommy Trash, “Reload (feat. John Martin)”
37. Selena Gomez, “Come and Get It”
38. Frank Ocean, “Eyes Like Sky”
39. Lana Del Rey, “Summertime Sadness”

Year in Gigs:

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (with Har Mar Superstar), May 12, 2013, House of Blues
Smushed into the front row by a crowd of surprisingly aggressive and scary young people, I gave into the chaos for the first time in my life.  No panic attack.  No diving for safer waters.  No passive aggressive elbow jabs.  I lost my mind for over an hour, parts of me forever smeared onto my neighbors (and parts of them melded into me).  One of the best shows of my life.  And Karen O held my hand.  I mean, c’mon.  We’re done here.

Karen O is my halfie queen.

2. nine inch nails (with Godspeed You! Black Emperor), October 11, 2013, TD Garden
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of attending a “heavier” show with me, you know I get a little wild.  Whiplash-y, drool-y, oh-my-God-get-away-from-me NUTZ.  Well last time I saw NIN (in Beijing), I reached that peak of utter insanity and have yet to replicate it.  This night was close, but in a section where 99% of the fuckers sat down (SAT DOWN. AT A NIN CONCERT.) it was hard to completely lose it with a straight face.  Alas.  Trent titled the tour “Tension” — which he said refers to the bubbling tension seething underneath the surface of the newfound control that he’s putting on the group — whereas I saw it as “SEXUAL TENSION.”  Everything was funked up — he even has soul sistahs now! — and I wanted to just grind myself into the arena flap-chairs like a horny mongrel.  And they played rarities like “Even Deeper” and “Into The Void.“  Hunh… even deeper into the void…  MY VOID.

We’re so high up you can’t even see Trent. Just that blast of light.

3. Empire of the Sun, September 7, 2013, House of Blues
An utterly blissful experience of smiles and joy.  The crowd was one of the few that did not annoy me once (shocking, considering it was mostly EDM fuckface kids) — not a single time!  And the euphoria was capped off by show-closing “Alive” where we all jumped in unison, smiling at each other, and one guy stopped, turned around to me and gave me a high five.  Fuck yeah.

Empyreans Unite!

4. KT Tunstall, September 25, 2013, Somerville Theater
A girl and her guitar.  That’s all you really need with KT Tunstall.  Crowded into a small, intimate theater (playing Insidious 2 next door…), we enjoyed such a special evening with one of the most underrated, hilarious and embarrassingly talented singers in contemporary music.  I laughed, I cried, I made bird sounds (yes, there was a bird-call contest).

KT is my quarter-Canto goddess.

5. Queens of the Stone Age (with The Kills), December 13, 2013, Agganis Arena
You want a balls out rock and roll show?  Indeed.  There were whiplash guitars, soaring choruses and absolutely crushing riffs.  I’ve waited AGES to see these guys and it was perfect.  A smaller setting might have been nicer, but they’re too big now for little old me.

QOTSA Rocking Your Ass

6. how to destroy angels, April 27, 2013, House of Blues
Trent.  Twice in a year.  Is this real life?!!  For this experimental set — one of only a handful of shows that the band will perform, ever — it was all about the mood, the stage show and the experience of seeing Trent, his wife, and his creative team just bend your mind and melt your brain with ingenuity.  “NIN with female vox” as they are often described.  I was lucky just to be there.

Marital Bliss

7. Alt-J, March 3, 2013, Paradise
Glad I saw them when (and where) I did: they came back 5 months later and played the Bank of America Pavilion.  In this tiny space (one of my all-time faves), they brought their stunning debut to life.  Like how to destroy angels, this was for the experience.  You’ll never get to see them at such an intimate venue ever again.

8. Selena Gomez and Jason Derulo, June 30, 2013, City Hall Plaza
Happy birthday to me!  This was a radio show where we caught a bevy of pop hits in a short amount of (free!) time.  The day was most memorable NOT for Ms. Selenerrrrrr, but for a mid-set crowd panic-rush that brought back terrifying visions of the Marathon bombing.  It was just a giant brawl, but for a moment, we all thought it was something much, much worse.

See you again next year!

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Playlist: Summer Fun//Back To School

Summer sure flew by, didn’t it?  As those languid days bled into each other and stifling heat and humidity gave way to cooler climes, my song consumption also cooled down a bit.  It happens every year: summer is full of bangers, then autumn hits and I’m back to my comfort zone of moody atmospherics, darker content and more introspective experiences.

From the heights of summer fun to its final gasps, let me just track my musical diet so we can move on with autumn and get ready for the final year end blow-out best of’s for this insanely overwhelming and generous year of music.

My song of the summer (Sorry “Get Lucky” and suck it “Blurred Lines”)

 

JULY TOP 10 (as always, by order of playcount)

1. Naughty Boy featuring Sam Smith – “Lalala”
This is one of those magical tracks that drops into your life and changes it forever (melodramaaaaaa….)  But seriously this is such a gorgeously lush dance track with crazy angelic vocals from my new favorite soul-singing white boy.  Get on it if you haven’t heard yet!!!  Seriously, just watch the video NOW.

2. Guy Sebastian featuring Lupe Fiasco – “Battle Scars”
This is an older track that my sister just discovered this summer.  Soaring choruses swapped with rapped verses.  Usually I cherry-pick the choruses and spend the rap verses groaning and rolling my eyes (see: anything with Gym Class Heroes), but this is equally moving and passionate.

3. Disclosure featuring Sam Smith – “Latch”
The second “La-“/Sam Smith song on the list, “Latch” is a hypnotizing dose of ’90s club music set to Smith’s delicious croon-shrieking (boy got range!)  This was huge over the summer, get to catching up if you haven’t heard it yet.

4. Austin Mahone -“What About Love”
This new pop idol looks like the next Bieber but this song is about 110% N’Sync, circa Celebrity.  He even says “Bye bye bye.”  A done deal.

5. The Bullitts featuring Tori Amos – “Wait Until Tomorrow”
This is some movie/music project by the Bullitts.  Of course I am onboard for Tori, but the rest of the soundtrack album is killer.  Features a whole bunch of people (from Lucy Liu and Rosario Dawson to Mos Def).  Also likely to be the only dubstep track featuring Tori.

6. Britney Spears – “Ooh La La”
Did you know there was a Smurfs 2?  Yeah, wtf, right?  This is from that soundtrack.  A classic Britney banger.  Kept our July fresh.

7. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Can’t Hold Us”
Some songs are just designed to get you hyped.  This is one of them.  You know it; you’re likely sick of it already.

8. Armin Van Buuren featuring Trevor Guthrie – “This is What It Feels Like”
Pure unadulterated house-techno joy-fest.  Throw them hands up and be happy you’re alive.

9. Mel C featuring Matt Cardle – “Loving You”
I’ll always love my favorite Spice.  Sporty’s solo stuff has always been the best, mostly because she’s the best vocalist from the Spice Force 5.  Paired here with UK X-Factor dreamboy, it’s a power ballad in the vein of James Morrisson/Nelly Furtado “Broken Strings.”

10. Sebastian Ingrosso and Tommy Trash featuring John Martin – “Reload”
Holy shit, there are a lot of “featuring xyz”s on this list, eh?  The summer of the feature, ha!  Genres don’t exist anymore, everyone likes everything.  Alas.  Anyway, here we are, with the 3rd year in a row that John Martin has benefited from his friendship with Ingrosso (2011 had “Save the World” and 2012 had “Don’t Worry Child”, both with Swedish House Mafia).  What a party.

Favorite Album of July:  
Disclosure: Settle — a continuous dance mix straight from 1991, packed with current UK vocal up-and-comers.  Groovy.

AUGUST TOP 10

July bled into August and the above 10 continued to gain spins (holy shit, all that pop and EDM!?!  Isn’t this a fucking rock blog???).  Here are the new additions to the eternal summer playlist.

1. Lady Gaga – “Applause”
If you know me, you know the build-up to this release was a little bit important for me.  After Daft Punk and NIN (ok fine and Arcade Fire), my most anticipated comeback-single-drop was Gaga’s.  I was not disappointed and this song did not stop playing for days.  Holy shit.  She does not disappoint.

2. Zeds Dead – “By Your Side”
Sludgy, chilled-out pseudo-dubstep from the current EDM wave, but I love it because of that angelic female vocal and its kinda-trip-hoppy feel.  This is more my pace.  You can keep your violent drops and molly, thank you!

3. Nine Inch Nails – “Copy of a”
The album is perfect, Trent’s best since 1999’s Fragile.  This is the opening song of the new album, Hesitation Marks, and the 2nd single.  I must say, it makes 1st single (and 2nd song on the album) “Came Back Haunted” a better song.  Jittery, driving and ferocious, but without all that violence and rage of early-day Trent.  Just delicious.

4. Avicii featuring Aloe Blacc – “Wake Me Up”
You’ve all heard it.  It’s on the radio every 5 seconds.  For a brief moment in August, it was still fresh and exhilarating.  It’s still good, but it’s almost played out.  Alas, thank you Avicii for pumping out another life-affirming earworm.

5. David Bowie – “Let’s Dance” (InFiction String Remix)
This soundtracks a car commercial.  And it is amazing.  “Let’s Dance” is one of my favorite Bowie tracks (up in the Top 3 with “China Girl” and “Suffragette City”) and this is one of the few remixes that I love (I’m usually not a fan of remixes).  It’s got that creepy X-Files vibe, some sci-fi M83-type shit.  Once the vocals kick in, it’s just a blast.

6. Depeche Mode – “Should Be Higher”
Off their latest, Delta Machine, this is a slinky sultry nugget that thumps along like a mysterious cloaked version of “Personal Jesus” or anything off Playing the Angel.  After all these decades, they still can make me dance and grind.  So sexy it hurts.

7. Michael Buble – “It’s A Beautiful Day”
I was in Europe for a wedding.  This song was out.  It was a perfect marriage (ha!) in terms of soundtracking a particular moment in time.  he cranks out perfect smile-makers and this one is one of his best.  All hail Buble.

8. Chthonic – “Set Fire To The Island”
The best black metal band from Taiwan has released one of the few black/death metal songs that I can listen to on repeat.  Usually stuff like this is reserved for particularly bad days when I want to smash everything.  It’s pummeling, it’s loud, it’s gorgeous.  Why?  The chorus is drenched with classical Chinese opera instrumentation and operatic vocals.  A fantastic combination.

9. Austra – “What We Done?”
On their sophomore album, Austra have beefed up with atmospherics.  Whereas their debut was a freaky trip through dark creepy tunnel, this one feels more open, more expansive and a lot more lively.  It’s still creepy, but the beats hit harder.  Rather than bobbing our heads in a dimly-lit corner of the room, we’re now dancing on a dimly-lit dancefloor.

10. Katy Perry – “Roar”
This took me some time to get into.  It’s so boring and plain.  Where’s the fun?  But after a while, that overly positive, go-get-em girl! attitude really wore me done.  I like it now, ok ok.  It’s only a matter of weeks before it’s on Glee.

Favorite album of August:
KT TunstallInvisible Empire//Crescent Moon
First half is about her dead dad; second half is about her divorce.  So you know this is going to be a cheerful record.  It’s her most stripped-down yet, almost acoustic in its instrumentation.  It’s also very pretty.  I love the delicacy of it, but my friend said it was “sad music.”  Sure.  But it’s good sad music.  Less lush than Beck’s Sea Change, but maybe in the same spirit.  She has yet to disappoint me.

See you in a month, when the list gets inevitably darker, heavier and moodier.  Fear not, pop-phobes ;P

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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 newrock1019.com

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Playlist: June 2013

Yep.  It’s June.  The year is half over.

Summer blends together for me; it’s all one giant month.  I listened to one thing almost exclusively this entire month: Empire of the Sun’s sophomore effort, Ice on the Dune.  It is a perfect album.  Absolutely perfect.  How do I gauge whether an album is “absolutely perfect”?  If I don’t skip any songs and keep it on repeat.  It’s so good, I can’t even stand it.

 

What about the other songs that crept in over the month?  Here they are.  Click on this Songbricks link to see/listen to them in order while you’re reading this lovely word vomit (seriously, do it.  I put the playlist together and it will benefit your reading experience.)

1. Groove Armada – “History” (Feat. Will Young)
I haven’t listened to Groove Armada since the ’90s.  This song popped up on our local EDM channel the other month and it was instant love.  I listen to this on repeat, ad nauseam, and am still not sick of it.  Will Young’s insane glass-shattering hyper-falsetto is just divine and that skittering groove gets into my bones.  It’s beautiful.  So damn good.

2. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”
First time I heard it, I didn’t like it.  Same for the 2nd and 3rd and…. you get the point.  I can’t stand their other songs and that filtered in to my judgment of this track.  But I can’t deny it anymore.  It’s on the radio all the time and it weaseled its way into my heart.  The pounding drums nail me in the chest every time and it’s a great banger.  The video is pretty awesome too.

3. nine inch nails – “Came Back Haunted”
Of course I love this song.  But before I go hardcore NIN-nerd/apologist on you, I will say it is nowhere near any of Trent’s top output.  It’s a decent track.  Everyone’s gushing that it’s a “return to form,” but to them I say, “Have you listened to anything of theirs since 2005?”  All of Trent’s shit sounds like this now…  this could easily fit onto 2008’s The Slip (with all the blips and synths and same-old-same-old lyrics).  If it found its way onto Year Zero, it’d probably be the best song on that annoyingly boring album.  Anyway, it’s good.  I hope it bodes well for the rest of the album (Hesitation Marks, out 9/3 on Columbia!), though I hope Trent spends more time on developing some soundscapes and atmospheres, instead of this 4-on-the-4-floor stuff.

4. Kylie Minogue – “Skirt”
This song is deceiving.  It starts out really blippy and bloopy, the sound of computers seducing each other.  It’d fit nicely onto Body Language or something.  There’s even some dubstep, because 2013/EDM, bro.  But then there’s a swell….a build-up….an unbearable wait… and then that chorus drops and the galaxy explodes and holy shit this song is fucking amazing.  Everything in life is worth it for that chorus.  Once it drops, all the dubstep becomes bearable.  And then it kicks back in and I can’t even take it anymore.  And that’s why my skirt came down.

5. Empire of the Sun – “Old Flavours”
After hearing about 5 seconds of this track on their outrageously overblown cinematic trailer for the new album, I was almost as excited as when I heard the initial tease of “Get Lucky.”  Yes, I did just say that.  This melody is undeniable and my #1 go-to on this fantastic release.  It kicks of a 4-song chain at the end of the album that is 15 minutes of pure dance bliss.  This song, “Skirt” and “History” have been keeping my goosebumps very busy this summer.

6. Kanye West – “I Am A God (Feat. God)”
Speaking of goosebumps… the 3:03 mark on this track, wherein Kanye is screaming (not dude-yelling, but straight terror-wails), sends chills down my spine every time I hear it.  The track itself is home to my favorite lines on this album (see: croissants) and my favorite “feature” (who can beat GOD? lolz).  The minimal drone makes this one of the most “industrial” tracks on Yeezus, sounding like the spawn of NIN and Human After All-era Daft Punk.  It’s so driving and anxiety-ridden, so when that final screaming release comes in, it feels like you’re breaking down right next to Kanye.

7. Vampire Weekend – “Ya Hey”
God?  Yahweh? Ya Hey.  This is my favorite track off this album.  It’s light, breezy and carries the listener along a pretty tuft of clouds.  The chorus is catchy too; it sounds like the Chipmunks.  I still have trouble getting past their Ivy League douchey image, but props for this awesome song.  It makes me feel happy.

8. Savages – “Husbands”
Here’s where the good feelings go away.  If you want that same anxiety and frantic spasm-inducing frenzy (like when listening to Yeezus), try on these chicks.  Holy crap, this is intense.  It’s Siouxsie meets Joy Division.  After listening to this, I feel invigorated, jittery and in dire need of some anti-anxiety pills.  Whoo!

And that’s it.  “Where’s 9 and 10?!?!” you ask.  Nothing made the cut.  Listen to some Empire of the Sun and check out my Best of 2013 (So Far) list.

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Review: Kanye West – Yeezus

Gat-DAYUM.

The sheer audacity to release a CD with no label or design.

The sheer audacity to release a CD with no label or design.

It took me a week to muster the energy and mental fortitude to tackle this album.  I saw SNL.  That shit was intense.  I heard the snippets.  This didn’t sound very cheery.  It’s summer: I want fun, sunshine and good vibes.  Not an angry, aggressive assault.  It felt like way too much to handle in one sitting.  And my suspicions weren’t that far off.  Luckily it’s the opposite of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — tight and concise, it’s a 40-minute punch to the face.  Get ready for the year-end Best Of list death-match between this and Random Access Memories.  It’s going to be ugly (concise artistic statement vs. overblown indulgent masterpiece?  WHICH IS WHICH?!?!), but no matter what, Daft Punk wins.

Yeezus is heavy.  In every way.  The beats are the hardest, most industrial assaults since NIN’s The Downward Spiral.  The lyrics are vicious, spat out through the speakers like the best hateful Marilyn Manson tracks from the old days.  The content is absolutely draining.  A couple songs in and I’m already exhausted: I’m hyped up, my head is bobbing furiously and the lyrics are making me extremely uncomfortable.  This might be one of the best rock records of the year.  Therein lies the genius of Kanye.

My favorite Kanye albums are his more surprising ones (unsurprisingly).  The quirkiness of 808s and the genre-hopping of Graduation.  The grandiose insanity of …Dark Twisted Fantasy.  I enjoy his first two for gracing the world with some of the best rap singles in history, but as full statements, it’s all about 808s and Yeezus.  He’s getting shit for aping Death Grips, for these misogynistic lyrics and for yet another curveball.  Who the fuck cares.  This is art from one of the few geniuses we have today.

So let’s go for a ride.  I’m strapped in with my giant headphones, crouched over my computer, the bass from these beats resonating down into my gut.  See you on the other side!

1. “On Sight” – This opener lobs a bomb right to your head, courtesy of Daft Punk.  It sounds like Nine Inch Nails…and then Kanye starts rapping and it gets gross and offensive and snarling.  At one point in the din, he asks: “How much do I not give a fuck?”  Then drops a pretty soul sample.  As soon as you’re wooed into comfort, the beat kicks back in and you die.

2. “Black Skinhead” – Far and away my favorite track on this album.  It employs one of my favorite beat-motifs of all time (see: “The Beautiful People”, “Uprising”).  The drum smashes are just pummeling, good LORD.  Bouncy, jerky and unrelenting.  Can you mosh at a Kanye gig?  Because this tour is going to be crazy.  At the end he just starts rasping, “GAWD!  GAWD!”  I feel the same way.

3. “I Am A God” – This track’s liner notes actually say “Featuring: God.”  LOLZ.  Only fuckin’ Kanye.  This has more atmospheric depth and a sprawling Tron-scape kind of feel.  The steady digital drone is claustrophobic.  The swelling melody is goosebump-worthy…  This song is also home to some of my favorite lines on the album, all insanely egotistical and ridiculous, from this: “I just talked to Jesus/ He said what up, Yeezus?”… to, my favorite, this:  “In a French-ass restaurant/ Hurry up with my damn croissants!”  CROISSANTS.  The ending gives me chills, with Kanye screaming — like, terrified, I-cannot-breathe, someone-save-me shrieks — as the melody dips and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) drops in to end it on an angelic note.

4. “New Slaves” – One of Kanye’s “Songs With A Message” and I love it.  He’s getting a lot of shit for copying Death Grips, but the thing is, he is Kanye.  Whoever he’s aping doesn’t matter: Death Grips are indie-favorites, a blip on the History of Music radar, a precise band with a precise style.  This is Kanye, oh He of backpack rap, auto-tune masterpieces, John Mayer, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, Bon Iver genre-smashing duets, and a cultural icon.  So when Kanye does something like this — which might sound like a punk duo going nowhere — it matters.  And he also does stuff that lesser groups don’t: he just keeps the twists coming.  This song is bleak, dark and ugly… then BOOM: at 2:51 — drumroll please — the song explodes from its prison with a glorious auto-tuned declaration of joy and FRANK. OCEAN.  The song endings on this album are stunners.

5. “Hold My Liquor” – This one starts out kinda dumb, but still has its shining moments.  At this point, these lyrics, man…. He is so angry.  I wonder what the fuck Kim is doing to him (or vice versa).  Is he even happy with the mother of his child?!  Anyway, this song has some really pretty instrumentation, despite all the nigga-this, nigga-that, which gets tiring.  But then, ooooooh, that guitar-solo ending drone is pure bliss.  Chief Keef and Bon Iver are both on this one, which is really even more whatdafuck piled onto the existing whatthehelllll.

6. “I’m In It” – Eesh, this track is disgusting (get a poncho!).  If you’re not a fan of rap-porn (which this pretty much is…), skip this track.  I couldn’t even listen to it with my sister in the same room; it was too embarrassing.  Cunnilingus, salad tossing, fisting, some racial insensitivity (relating to “eating” Asian with sweet and sour sauce) and all the things Kanye will do to you with his “reptile.”  It’s 50 Shades fetish shit with a gorgeous falsetto sample.  To bring it right back to my world (NIN, Manson, Tori), there’s even a lyrical “starfucker” interlude toward the end.  As repulsed as I was, the song was electrifying, hypnotic and strangely arousing.  I don’t even know anymore…

7. “Blood On The Leaves” – This is the one with the Nina Simone “Strange Fruit” sample… so, yeah: divisive.  This could have been on 808s: it’s dark, he’s auto-tuned.  It’s a huge banger with ominous marching band horns, though I’m with the rest of the critical public in questioning his use of this sample — with all the heaviness associated with it — on a song about gold-diggers and baby mammas.  Is he saying that all that bullshit is the black man’s modern day lynching?  Ick. I have no idea.  But it’s Kanye; he must have a reason.

8. “Guilt Trip” – Another unrelenting drone set atop the motif of da numba one “Chief Rocka,” one of my favorites.  Favorite line: “Star Wars fur/ yeah I’m rockin’ Chewbacca/ The one chief rocka/ Number one chief rocka.”  *Mic drop*  Another of my favorite lines is quite similar to one of my favorite Coldplay songs (“Violet Hill”): “If you love me so much, then why’d you let me go?”  Interestingly enough, DJ Premier’s real name is also Chris Martin.  Did Kanye do that on purpose?!?!  I don’t know what to believe anymore!  We end on a heavy Bjork Homogenic-era (see: the 90s) beat drop, right before the sound of an alarm…

9. “Send It Up” – This one is abrasive.  The lyrics are ugly.  The beat is irritating.  The mood is dark.  That goddamn alarm keeps sounding.  And it still sucks me right in.  I love noise, I love the din, I love when my ears tell me that this sound is not supposed to feel good.  And I love to dive headlong into it.  This is another NIN-track (but actually it’s the 4th Daft Punk production credit… they are really gunning for Trent on this album!) and you’ve also got a Beenie Man sample.  Again, whattheholyfuckinghell.

10. “Bound 2” – Yay, rejoice, old school Kanye fans!  It sounds like Late Registration!  College Dropout!  Graduation!  Hooray!  After nine songs of hell, this is a welcome finish.  It’s so throwback, it’s so leftfield.  I’m sitting here grinning like an idiot because Kanye really knows how to do it.  There’s still some flourishes of digital noise in here — lest we forget about Yeezus — and some line about “spunk on mink” (good luck getting that out!) which is hilarious.

And then we’re done.  It’s been 40 minutes.  Where’d the time go??!  That was exhausting.  Physically, mentally and — yes — even emotionally.  There’s a lot of ugly in here.  If I didn’t understand English, I’d have thought it was a great alt-metal album.  But he’s really got a lot of awkwardly hateful doozies in there that you just can’t shake.   This is his darkest stuff ever.  And it’s thrilling.

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Review: How to destroy angels_, “Welcome Oblivion”

On March 5, 2013, Trent Reznor released new music with his new band, How to destroy angels_ (yes that underscore is supposed to be there don’t ask me why I don’t know either).  Therefore one can conclude that no matter how middling or meh this output happens to be, it is still Trent and Trent still rules the roost in Neiltown.  That being said, htda’s debut LP — Welcome Oblivion — is not awful.

 

 

On one hand, you’ve got the good stuff, the shit that sounds like a conventional song, which, Trent being Trent, sometimes is not so easily attained.  Lead single “How long?” is the closest you’re going to come to convention.  There’s a chorus (I think?), some lyrics, it’s catchy.  This might be played on a really cool radio station that nobody listens to.  On these so-called “good” songs, it just sounds like a NIN song where Trent is replaced by his wife, Mariqueen (seriously, even her delivery sounds exactly like Trent).  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

On the other hand, you get a whole shitload of stuff that sounds like Ghosts or Year Zero, my two least-favorite NIN projects.  While I appreciate the thought put into both albums, man cannot live on concept alone.  Ghosts tries my patience, even if there are some gorgeous tidbits floating around those 4 volumes of tedium.  Year Zero has its moments as well, but God help me, half the songs sound the same.  SNORE.

That’s how I listened to this album.  The songs either fall on the “songs” side, or on the “Oh GAWD Trent, no more Ghosts/Year Zero/David Fincher movie score castaways!” (or somewhere in between).  Here they are, presented alongside convenient “File This Under” acronyms (i.e. “YZ” = Year Zero, “G” = Ghosts, etc.):

 

“Songs” (a.k.a. download/listen to these if your attention span is as small as mine)

1.  “Ice Age” – cute folksy little track that strums on and on and on.  It’s catchy enough and sticks in your head. (Ghosts/Fragile)
2. “On the wing” – more sleepy harmonies from Trent and Mariqueen, yet this sounds a lot like a Goldfrapp song that snuck onto Year Zero.  Which is awesome.  Hence the placement in “Songs” rather than below in the “Not So Bad.”  (YZ/The Slip)
3.  “How long?” – THE standout track of this album and a good enough reason for the creation of this entire LP.  It is a grower, but oh boy, what an earworm.  I played the shit out of this track and I’m not even sick of it.  It finally sounds like Mariqueen’s gig, not a cheap cover version of a NIN song.  I love, love, love this song. (sounds like htda.)
4.  “Strings and attractors” – more masturbatory Ghosts shit.  I’m so done with these blips and bloops and bleeps.  Mariqueen sounds nice and angelic on this track, but as with “Too late, all gone,” it tries my patience.  Not sure why, but I just want to press the “next” button… and then, THEN it becomes something else.  Something Fragile-y.  And I’m back onboard. (G/F)

 

“Not So Bad” (a.k.a. I’ll take what I can get…)

1.  “The Wake-up” – a good intro.  Short and sweet. (YZ/G)
2.  “Keep It Together” – droning and monotonous, but hey, there are vocals!  VOCALS! (YZ)
3.  “And the sky began to scream” – the blips and bleeps get a bit more aggressive and Mariqueen drops the vox (barely) again… this is like begging for crumbs.  (YZ)
4.  “Welcome oblivion” – vox TOTALLY sound like Trent… starts off Year Zero-y, ends with some surprisingly awesome Fragile-sounding twangs and drums. (YZ/F)
5.  “The loop closes” – this is a strange one.  You’ve got the Year Zero production, but also some flourishes of Fragile and even Downward Spiral (!!!!!!) instrumentation.  It’s another mainly-instrumental wank-fest, but it’s surprisingly gratifying.  This track also has the most Trent vocal presence, if you care.  (DS/F/YZ)
6.  “Hallowed ground” – the delicate closer of the album is a mixed bag.  You’ve got your icy piano tinkling, which reminds me of Still, and your ominous Year Zero electro-beats.  It’s peaceful and relaxing and if you’ve made it this far, just enjoy it and be glad the album is finished.  (S/YZ)

 

“Jesus Christ, Trent Reznor… enough of this shit!”

1. “Too late, all gone” – this sounds EXACTLY like a Year Zero castaway that replaced Trent’s vocals with Mariqueen.  I don’t know why it bugs me so much…  maybe because it feels lazy?  I don’t want to hear any more Year Zero shit, let alone a track that’s supposed to be for another group.  And it’s not even a bad song (technically, for whoever you are reading this, it’s worth a download.  Honestly.), I just have lost patience at this point.
2. “We fade away” – Ghosts with vocals.  Again.  Sigh.  It’s not terrible by any means, but an album full of b-side worthy songs is not an album.  (G)
3. “Recursive self-improvement” – oh, these fucking song titles.  We’re on track 11 and you can tell I’m clearly getting frustrated.  Even Radiohead are not this self-indulgent (fightin’ words!).  Should I have bought Amok instead?  I’m not even sure.  Let me go get another beer while this song blips its way to the end… This sounds like the soundtrack to a video they play in the computer exhibits at science museums.  (Social Network castoff?)

The problem with NewTrent (i.e. post-drugs, clean-living buff TR) is the quality of the output.  It used to be that we had to wait fucking YEARS between NIN projects.  As a kid, this felt like an eternity.  OldTrent would drop off the face of the earth and, being the time before Facebook and Twitter, we had to rely on news websites and rock mags for any news of his whereabouts.  Then he’d magically reappear, drop a new single, and heads would explode.  This is why I’d wait in line for a midnight release of a new NIN album.

Then, starting in 2005, NIN came roaring back with With Teeth (in my opinion, their last good album) and it’s been a steady outpouring of project after project of whatever NewTR feels like tossing to his fans.  Year Zero.  Niggy Tardust.  Ghosts.  The Slip.  Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Social Network.  This.  It’s too much.  I’d rather he release something mindblowing twice a decade instead of the same old bloopy-blippy shit, stretched out over ten volumes with various scores and soundtracks in the mix.  May God help me, but I’m sick of wading through this muck and mire just to find one or two songs that connect.

Their self-titled debut EP is still their best output, by far.  Because SONGS.  Four of six tracks from the Omen EP appear on Welcome Oblivion, making that EP a waste of time.  Yet I still buy them all.  And I’m still going to the concert in April.  I trust Trent’s vision and will at least appreciate this as an artistic statement.  But this is yet another project where I’d be just as satisfied downloading a couple songs and getting on with my life.  I’m happy Trent is keeping the creative juices flowing, but I really need the new NIN album to be a banger.

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