Beck hasn’t put out a new record since 2008’s Modern Guilt. And sure, that’s a long wait for fans eager for new music, but the ever-inventive songwriter has been far from dormant: From his diverse production work and Record Club video series, to last year’s sheet music album, Song Reader, Beck’s remained as creative and productive as ever.
And this summer, he resurfaced in a big way, playing a run of acoustic shows in New York and at the Newport Folk Festival and (finally!) dropping a few new singles on his own record label, Fonograf. Now, Beck has released his third new single, “Gimme.”
With “Gimme,” Beck completes a trilogy of stand-alone songs that, when heard all together, seem tonally and musically linked.
In June, there’s was wobbly and chopped electronic beats of “Defriended”
And now there’s “Gimme,” a short percussive-driven track featuring heavily-filtered, robotic-sounding vocals and essentially indecipherable except the titular words “gimme.” And with plenty of sonic noises filling out the corners of the mix the weirdest one he’s put out.
None of these tracks will appear on Beck’s forthcoming, so far unannounced full-length album (and possibly two albums) due sometime before the end of the year. And while these three songs may — or may not — serve as an indication of what’s to come, with a musician like Beck, it’s always fun following him no matter what direction turns.
My favorite new band of 2011 was Yuck, a grungy ’90s-leaning band with members far too young to have experienced that music the first time around. Yet the band’s fraying distortion and hooky, guitar-driven melodies on songs like “Georgia,” “The Wall” and especially the droning noisy freakout “Rubber” made it clear the band has that era’s music down pat. In 2011 alone, I caught the band FOUR times — twice at South By Southwest and twice at the Black Cat in D.C.
After some time off, Yuck recently announced it parted ways with frontman Daniel Blumberg — who has gone on to pursue his solo project Hebronix. It was odd news. Blumberg may have been something of an introverted persona on stage, content to hunch over his pedals, his mop of curly hair hanging below his eyes, or face inward towards his amp as he created swirls of feedback and static. But his musical voice and angsty songwriting — not to mention the scribbled hand-drawn illustrations that served as the album covers for the record and various 7″ singles — were so key to the Yuck’s aesthetic.
Honestly — and no slight to the other three members, guitarist Max Bloom, bassist Mariko Doi, and the afro’d drummer Jonny Rogoff — it was hard to imagine the band without Blumberg.
Still, Yuck band is carrying on. The band is set to release its new album later this year — produced by Chris Coady (Beach House, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Smith Westerns) — and with its first single “Rebirth,” we’re now getting a sense of what this new iteration of Yuck might sound like.
“Rebirth” features Bloom taking on the frontman role on vocals, and his voice is awash in hazy reverb. And the song is more dreamlike, at least compared to the full-throttled grunge pop and distortion-fueled shoegaze on the Yuck’s killer self-titled debut. While it may not have the “so-loud-it-hurts” power of “Rubber,” this song’s textures are signs that Yuck is growing in instrumental scope. And Bloom and the band are still capable of crafting songs with a defined mood and excellent melodies.
Few bands survive after essentially losing their head like Yuck has, but it also presents an opportunity for reinvention. As the title suggests, “Rebirth” is a clear line in the sand between the old and new. So with Bloom at the helm, it should be interesting to hear what Yuck has in store both with the full record and its live show.
UPDATE 8/14: Yuck has officially announced its second album, Glow & Behold, will be out on Oct 1. on Fat Possum. And the band has offered another new single, “Middle Sea,” that feels a bit closer to the grungier power pop of its first release. Can’t wait to hear the whole thing!
Really loving this video for “Tiny Head” by The Luyas:
I just really dig how simple and clean it is, but still manages to be artful. Based around the singer Jessie Stein, The Luyas are another Montreal-based band with ties to Arcade Fire — former multi-instrumentalist, Pietro Amato, and current violinist, Sarah Neufeld make up two of the band’s four members.
This band’s new album Too Beautiful To Work is coming out soon (Feb. 22) on Dead Oceans, a label that’s part of that Secretly Canadian\Jagjaguwar\Dead Oceans trifecta. Whenever I get something in the mail from one of these three imprint, I know there’s a very good chance I’m going to like whatever record is inside. And for this record, the band enlisted Owen Pallett to compose string arrangements.
Also be sure to listen to their fantastic cover of Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” which employs low brass in a really excellent way. It’s also got some very solid electronic-inspired poly-rhythmic percussion which helps make this amazing song their own.
Braids is one of those bands that’s getting considerable buzz right now for 2011 and after hearing the opening track from their album Native Speaker, “Lemonade,” it’s easy to hear why. The band seems to have just the right mix of ethereal, often Bjork-like vocals, minimal repeated electronics ala Animal Collective and melodies that are in the indie rock wheel house. This record is quite good and will surely catch on with some people this year.
As a bonus, here’s another stellar song, “Lammicken,” which is just a tad more challenging but just as inventive and transfixing.
I sure love a well executed cover song. Case in point: Holly Miranda‘s haunting rendition of Sparklehorse’s “Hundreds Of Sparrows.” Miranda, a member of the Detroit band Jealous Girlfriends, has been playing the song recently in her solo set. But on New Year’s Day, the singer-songwriter gave away a lo-fi recording of the song for free on her site.
What makes this song work so well is how she so skillfully paired away the late Mark Linkous’ trademark production, down to a lone finger-picked guitar, vocal harmonies and the building flourishes of a glockenspiel. It’s easy to load up a song with too many layers, but Miranda shows a lot of restraint. It’s a perfect and loving tribute that finds the both beauty and sadness in Linkous’ words.
I’ve only just now gotten around to listening to this band Yuck this weekend after their debut album came across my desk this past week. But wow… I think I might have a new favorite for 2011 and the year hasn’t even started yet.
This song “Rubber” in particular grabs immediately with some of the beefiest shoegazer distortion I’ve heard this side of black metal and ’90s grunge. But once you get into its melodic trance, it becomes so cathartic. The band can be powerful poppy garage rock or they can be sweetly melancholy and minimal. Mark my words, this band will be one the interblogs will be talking about this year — at least until some sort of backlash happens. But enjoy it while you can.
Check out their weird and pretty gross at times, yet strangely beautiful (and NSFW) video for “Rubber.” Beware, it has both a nude woman and extreme closeups of dogs getting washed and groomed. Do what you will with that information.
One of my favorite new music discoveries this year has been the duo Houses, who’s album All Night was one of my most heavily played albums from about October on. As I said in my recent Song of the Day write up, their minimalist electronic music is dark, hazy and yet completely blissful and emotionally cathartic.
So I was happy to find — albeit belatedly — that they recently released a new song, “This Is War,” on the site Alternative Apparel. This one eschews the electronics and samples for a dirgey piano, washed out guitar lines and haunting vocals that build to climactic peak that recalls The Antlers, The National or Deerhunter. Apparently a holiday song, here’s what Houses’ member Dexter Tortoriello writes about the music:
Holiday songs are often about snow, gifts or family – all of which are happy and nice – but when you stop and think about it, most holidays are based around very serious events. Christmas is, at its core, a recognition of the birth of one of the most famous and controversial figures in history. His birth and life are a truly incredible story in themselves, regardless of your personal beliefs. The song is about that very first Christmas day. It’s a haunting yet beautiful melody; we chose not to use the electronics that we’re known for on this song and opted instead for a more traditional composition. It seemed fitting.
Needless to say, it’s great. Check out the video below:
I cannot express how much I am looking forward to the new Flaming Lips album Embryonic, which arrives in stores on October 13. From what I’ve heard of the pre-leaked tracks, the band sounds to be taking another sonic shift… a bit more psychedelia and noise than the last few albums. I was probably one of the few who thoroughly enjoyed At War With The Mystics, but I can see why people thought it was a bit too similar to Yoshimii and were subsequently underwhelmed.
For one reason or another, last year’s Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel by Brandon Cox’s side project Atlas Sound, never really caught on with me. Compared to Cox’s main musical outlet Deerhunter, and specifically 2008’s Microcastle, Atlas Sound just seemed more of the same.
After a bit of prodding from friend and occasional music collaborator (not to mention All Songs producer) Robin Hilton, I took another listen to that first record, as well as the new one Logos and fell in love.
My favorite track so far from Logos, “Walkabout” which features Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox.
*I’m fudging a little with my original concept of ‘Best Song’ I’ve heard all day, because really, this video outweighs the song for me. But what the hell…
I came across this great new video for Jenny Lewis’ song “See Fernando” from last year’s album Acid Tongue. Never really got into that record compared to her first solo effort Rabbit Fur Coat, but this song really works in this context. It’s a fun little homage to those old 1960’s spy action caper movies and tv shows.