Tag Archives: QOTSA

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: May 2013

So yeah, it’s June.  What else can I say… at this rate, I should just type out my Year End Best-Of, because I can’t believe the year is almost half over…

I shall start by getting this out of the way: my Album of the Month for May was Daft Punk‘s latest.  As if it could have been anything else.  It’s on track to be my #1 for the year.  Unless Trent can whip something up before Dec. 31, 2013, it’s a safe bet.  This album is huge.  SPIN described it as a Bob Fosse meets George Lucas space musical.  Pretty much.  My song-by-song review is here.

How about the music?  Well, shit was bumpin‘ this month, likely influenced by Daft Punk.  Interestingly enough, my most plays did not come from iTunes, but from YouTube.  Like all the kids do these days, I was streaming music without downloading.

Desired reaction: @_____@

I watched/listened to the 15-minute animated nightmare teaser for the new Queens of the Stone Age album, …Like Clockwork, well over twenty times.  Over and over and over again.  It’s fantastic.  Credit that fucked up cartoon for making me fall in love with the new record.  It is gorgeous RAWK.  OK, so:

1. Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork short film

2. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
Just kidding!  But I did break a playcount record and vanquish the 200-play marker (combining iTunes and my iPod, it’s nearing 300).  Dizzam… no but seriously, it was a Daft Punk song.  Just listen to the album already!!!!

2. Daft Punk – “Fragments of Time
This is the one with Todd Edwards, he of “Face to Face” fame.  It’s my favorite track off the album and the moment the soft-rock cheese gives way to a synth/guitar freakout, a la Discovery, my head explodes with happiness every single time.  It’s glorious happy times.

3. Giorgio Moroder – “Racer
Geriatric Italians rock.  This track is for some Google car-racing game (hence the title, duuuuuh) and it is a banger.  If there were more tracks like this on Random Access Memories, the EDM kidz would stop bitching and whining.  It is a hypnotic doozy for the dance floor, the sequel to his 2-pronged attack at a comeback.

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs“Buried Alive” (feat. Dr. Octagon)
My favorite track off Mosquito (April’s Album of the Month!), this is a wackadoo leftfield song featuring a killer verse from Kool Keith/Doc Ock, my favorite since his appearance on Prodigy’s “Diesel Power” — the best song on Fat of the Land.  It’s a creepy, funky little number, blown apart as soon as Keith drops the first line.  God, this song.

5. The Wanted – “Walks Like Rihanna
So I’m totally going to hipster-claim that I’ve liked The Wanted since I heard this song in Summer ’11.  Yeah, no shame.  This song has the stupidest lyrics ever and the chorus makes me cringe; I hate when songs reference things that plant them FIRMLY in a specific period (most egregious hate-offense for me: New Radicals’ references to Beck, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson… odd that the 3 of them are still around but that little shit is in a gutter).  Anyway, this drivel is very catchy.

6. Thirty Seconds To Mars – “Conquistador
I haven’t liked a 30STM (isn’t that what the kids call them?) since their debut single.  They have a massive international following that boggles me, but hey, kids like overblown, overearnest and trying-to-hard anthems.  So do I.  This song is driving, catchy and fit for massive arenas.  You’ll always be Jordan Catalano to me, kid.

7. Penguin Prison – “Golden Train
I missed this song from 2010… thank you Gap in-store music and Shazam.  It’s funky, it’s playful, it’s catchy.  I was dancing in the clearance section.  Blast this and pretend we’re back in the Off The Wall era.

8. Rihanna “Right Now” (feat. David Guetta)
I love how this “features” David Guetta, as if he didn’t write this song for one of his albums and this is a b-side masquerading as an a-side.  Whatever.  Anyway, it’s typical of the output that Rihanna and Guetta pump out: heavy, fever-sweat inducing hard house (there’s even some dubstep for the kidz) with impulsive youthful lyrics.  Makes you want to dance until you drop…or hump something until you pass out.

9. deadmau5“Professional Griefers” (feat. Gerard Way)
Confession: while I didn’t really like My Chemical Romance, I always had a soft spot for Gerard Way.  He’s got vision, he has passion and he can really shred the vocals.  This sounds like a remix of a MCR song (I mean that to be a good thing).  It’s aggressive and heavy.  I’m usually not a fan of deadmau5 either.  This is just a great case of worlds colliding.

10. Selena Gomez – “Come and Get It
Boy, the inclusion of the Bollywood-style music really elevates this song to something else.  On its own, it is a pretty basic and boring pop track, but I am a sucker for the ethnic sampling.  I will likely be sick of it by the end of the summer, but for the moment, it’s one of the songs that I don’t immediately change on the radio (see: “Mirrors”… groan)

 

Yikes, lots of guilty pleasures on this list!  See you at the end of June…

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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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