Posts Tagged ‘ radiohead

Record Review: Grizzly Bear – "Veckatimest"

grizzly_bear-veckatimest-cover-betterGrizzly Bear could easily rest on their laurels — the delicate interplay between instruments and weaving vocal harmonies that typified their 2006 breakthrough Yellow House comprise the current indie sound du jour, and the record is still being discovered by new listeners.

But rather than replicate that album, the Brooklyn quartet have taken a page from tour-mates Radiohead and forged ahead artistically. And while the elements that made Yellow House so engaging are still present, the band have married them to a muscular groove, led by drummer Chris Bear and multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor. The new vibes are prominently on display with the album’s first single, “Two Weeks,” and the creeping “Cheerleader.”

By moving forward this early in their career Grizzly Bear have positioned themselves as an unpredictable entity, one whose releases fans will anticipate with bated breath, wondering what curve ball they’ll throw next?

This review originally appeared at exclaim.ca

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Grizzly Bear: Under Pressure

Grizzly Bear: Under Pressure

This story appears originally in the June 2009 issue of Exclaim! and at Exclaim.ca


Following up to a successful record is a delicate process, even for the most seasoned bands. The pressure — self-imposed, from labels or fans — can break a band in half. But how do blog-rock darlings keep it together after one of their favourite artists drops them the ultimate compliment?

It’s a dilemma Grizzly Bear faced last summer. On tour with Radiohead in Toronto, guitarist Johnny Greenwood took a moment to thank their openers, and drop a bomb on the band, proclaiming Grizzly Bear his favourite band. “That was pretty insane,” says the Brooklyn-based group’s drummer Chris Bear, just a hint of understatement in his voice. “He doesn’t really talk that much onstage, if ever.”

Their new album, Veckatimest (pronounced vek-a-tim-est), is the group’s attempt to break new musical ground after their 2006 album Yellow House received near unanimous praise. It’s the first time all four members — Bear, singer-guitarists Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor — have worked as a group. “With Yellow House we were trying to figure out what we were doing, trying to explore a bunch of different territories,” he explains. “I think it ended up coming off more atmospheric. This is slightly more influenced by what we became as a live band.”

Grizzly Bear spent much of the two-and-a-half years following Yellow House‘s release on the road, from playing for five people at a poetry night above a pub to sold-out amphitheatres with Radiohead and pretty much everything in between. La Blogotheque even convinced the guys to perform an acoustic set in a Parisian washroom for the weblog’s Takeaway show. “That’s probably the weirdest place we’ve played,” says Bear. “We didn’t really have any versions worked out.”

Somewhere in between lavatory gigs and rocking arenas, the band found time to write Veckatimest‘s 12 songs. Recording began in upstate New York last July before breaking for the Radiohead tour, where they road-tested some of the new tunes. “They drastically changed from how the original demos were,” says Bear. The quartet reconvened at Droste’s grandmother’s house in Cape Cod before finishing up at a church in New York City. “We tried to not force any ideas to happen if it wasn’t feeling natural,” he says, noting that they gave neither themselves, nor their label any sort of deadline.

The intricate vocal melodies and interplay between instruments that make up the backbone of Grizzly Bear’s sound don’t come quickly or easily. A willingness to smash and rebuild their songs from the ground up was key to the band’s songwriting process. “That’s probably what we spend the most time on.”

A gap-bridging 2007 EP called Friend, featuring alternate arrangements of songs from their first two records, is a prime example of this method. The band has also proved eager to get others in on the act, recently commissioning French house music producer Fred Falke to remix “Two Weeks.” “I think its cool to hear,” says Bear. “Now we have a crazy Euro-’80s aerobicize remix!”

He says the process never really ends; even though Vekatimest in the can, the band is still trying to figure out how they’re going to play the record live. And though he’s anxious for fans to hear the new album, Bear doesn’t posit any opinions as to what Greenwood might think of the album. “I just hope we can continue to live up to his expectations.”

The Onion strikes down indie rock hubris

the-onion-logoAs a bastion of printed satire, pretty much no one touches The Onion in terms of quality and relevance. No one is spared their sharp pens be it politicians, celebrities, athletes and yes, even musicians.

The Onion has waded into the music realm before, chronicling a fatal stampede at a Yo La Tengo Concert, Marilyn Manson’s latest promotional efforts and P4K’s final word on music.

The website is once again stirring the pot, this time taking aim and Radiohead and the many wannabe bands that were spawned in it’s wake. Check out “Radiohead Denies Influencing Local Band

Record Review: Doves – "Kingdom of Rust"

doves-kingdom-of-rust-462161Doves have never made a bad album, and while they enjoyed steady interest since their debut, Lost Souls, they never experienced the ubiquity of turn-of-century contemporaries Coldplay. Both groups shared common points or reference but Doves were unable (or more likely, unwilling) to write stadium-filling anthems. But while Chris Martin and company painted themselves into a corner, Doves remained free to chart more far-flung sounds and structures, at least as far as Bends-era Radiohead aping goes. Kingdom of Rust sees the trio picking up where they left off four years ago, playing to their strengths of intricate arrangements and sweeping, melodic vocals. If Kingdom sounds less ambitious than its predecessors that’s because the field the band operate in has become a lot more crowded than when they dropped high-watermark “There Goes the Fear” seven years ago. But long-time fans or even nubes shouldn’t take that as their cue to ignore this record, as each track contains smaller movements, ensuring that there’s something new to discover on each listen. The group continue to create a sound that belies the expectations of a three-piece band. By charting their own course in familiar waters, Doves remain a unique and exciting presence in pop music.

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca

Kill Yr Critics

This article from the Guardian is one of the best comments about music criticism I’ve ever read, despite you know, kinda being one of them.

The crux of the arguement is that we’re all too wishy washy in our opinions – we need to be precise and viscious, good or bad. I kind of agree and I do struggle with the whole “let them down easy” vs. “tear them a new asshole” thing – I want to explain why a record fails, but I also don’t want to get bogged down in explanatory bullshit. However I’ve yet to come up with a definitive solution.

Not this guy though.  His answer? American cartoon characters. He provides several examples, from the Simpsons to Family Guy. Of course the best cartoon culture critics were also the first. Beavis and Butthead on Radiohead’s “Creep

Beavis: “Why don’t they just play the cool part all the way through?”

Butthead: “Well Beavis, if they didn’t have a part of the song that sucked, the other part wouldn’t be so cool.”

God I miss those two…

Record Review: In-Flight Safety – We Are An Empire, My Dear

1ifs-empirecoverhighres-smInnocuous is the most concise way to describe In-Flight Safety‘s sophomore record. There’s nothing obvious to criticize and it never offends but there’s nothing to rally around either. The Halifax-based group operate in the Bends-era Radiohead school of populist indie rock, and that’s fine. But that pool is an awfully crowded one and it’s going to take a lot more than what’s on offer here to catch listeners’ ears. The quartet sequestered themselves in a converted schoolhouse in rural Nova Scotia to make this album but unlike Bon Iver‘s backwoods triumph last year, the group’s seclusion did nothing other than create a neat back-story. In-Flight Safety are a talented group capable of big things but by concentrating on rote atmospherics and limp, single-note guitar hooks they deny their fans the big sing-along songs that will finally bring the group to the masses. After all, what’s the point of being a populist band if you’re not actually that popular?

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca


Radiohead pairs with Marching band for best. Grammy performance. ever.

Did you see the Grammy’s? Lame, I know. Still we got that killer performance of “Swagger Like Us” with the most pregnant woman in the world and this “don’t even try to be as good as us cause you will fail miserably” performance of In Rainbows opener “15 Step” from Thom York and Johnny Greenwood. To avoid listening to Gwyneth Paltrow skip ahead to the 57 second mark. See it again for the first time.

Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood and the USC Marching band – “15 Step”

Album covers recreated with Lego

2926734347_0a05a166f5A lot of people probably already saw P4K’s post about Format Magazine’s recreated hip hop album covers made with Lego, but I love both music and Lego, and some fool has actually taken the time to combine the two. There’s also “The Lego Album Covers Pool” on Flickr. Hats off to that person.

I have to say, I find the ones that use Lego to recreate the background far more interesting than the ones that just photoshop the Lego men into the frame. Here are my favourites…

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the-strokes-lego-300x300

Weezer, masters of the music video

weezerWith MTV and MuchMusic playing fewer and fewer videos, more and more bands and their fans are looking to sites like Vimeo and Youtube for their music clips. Like with the introduction of the music video and MTV at the dawn of the 80s, the change in technology has brought with it new bands like OK Go who are better able to adapt to the changing times. Then there’s Weezer. With the exception of Radiohead, no other the bands from the golden age of the music video (the early 90s) have really been able to capitalize on new distribution models the way Weezer has. In 1994 They were often dismissed as a one-hit wonder after their Spike Jonze directed clip for “Buddy Holly” became a staple on music video channels with it’s clever use of footage from Happy Days. It’s since become a shining example of a music clip done right.

Weezer was an inactive entity at the turn of the century when the shift away from physical products started. But their profile during their post Pinkerton 5-year dormancy their profile, and the reassesment of their sophmore effort blossomed in online forums and message boards. When they returned in 2001 with the Green Album they were arguably more popular than at their Blue Album heights. They’ve ridden that wave into Web 2.0 notoriety culminating this summer with their video for their excellent single “Pork and Beans,” which lampooned/paid homage to a litany of viral video stars and then followed it up with what amounts to their own viral video for second single “Troublemaker.” Once again Weezer have rocketed to the top of the heap with catchy hooks and clever visuals. Is it a cheap grab for attention? Maybe, but when it’s this fun to watch, who cares.

Pork and Beans

Troublemaker

Radiohead’s "House of Card" clip keeps hope alive for music videos

Music videos seem to be getting worse by the day. I’m always think of the the early to mid 90s as the golden age of the medium, back when directors like Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Jonathan Glazer would set new bars for visual mastery with every clip they helmed. But as those directors have moved on to feature films (as they rightly should), there’s now a void. Tenuous times at the big labels that funded most of the ground-breaking video work of the period has created a more calculated approach – soundstage with some props, dancing, skimpy clothes and for God sakes, don’t let people forget who’s the star. Back in the day, even the most mainstream pop stars like Madonna bothered to create eye-popping videos that all but guaranteed regular play on Much Music and MTV. Now she turns out boring, tacky-ass pap like “4 Minutes” (don’t even get me started on the actual song). A good video used to be able to propel even the worst song to the top of the charts. But now that music videos are a bit of a non-factor what with the music channels all but abandoning their original mandates I sometimes wonder, why even bother. Then Radiohead drop a clip like “House of Cards,” and you remember why you used to spend hours in front of the TV, remote in hand, ready to tape your favourite video so you could watch it over and over again, memorizing every frame, every look the singer gave the camera. Thnks 4 the mmrys guys.