1.) SONG OF THE YEAR: Palma Violets - "Last of the Summer Wine"
Just like countless other great rock n' roll songs, this one's greater than the sum of its parts. Yeah, the intro's too long on this song. And so's the outro. The lyrics are moronic. (The "official" video is absolute garbage - see above.) And the chord progression isn't exactly original but... there's just somethin' about the classic guitar tone and the finesse they play the lick with and the sweet, sweet melody that slays me every time.
After having never been inside Barclays Center during its first year-plus of hosting concerts and assorted events and such, I found myself entering the fortress of distressed steel for the third time in less than a month. My enjoyment of the two shows I saw recently at this venue (Yeah Yeah Yeahs in mid-September, Atoms for Peace a week or so later) was related directly to the concert sound inside the arena at each show (YYY's - great, A4P - shitty); what would Nine Inch Nails' live show have in store?
Within moments of Trent taking the stage it became plainly obvious that this evening would be more about the visual spectacle than anything else. And what a spectacle it was! In fact, this was likely the most visually stunning live show I've ever seen, featuring smoke, laser beams, innumerable lighting effects, and, most impressively, a series of huge, transparent curtains enveloping the band that allowed for all kinds of crazy bullshit. I'll spare you an excruciating description of what went on, because there are few things in life lamer than some dude trying to describe a light show (GOD! I WISH YOU COULD SEE IT!), but check out this article for some great GIFs and plenty of relevant quotes from Trent and his art designer.
Face it. It's tough to go into any Thom Yorke side project without at least partially wishing that was devoting more of his time and energy these days to Radiohead. This all started in 2006, with Yorke's first solo album, The Eraser, which was decent, but the material simply begged to be fleshed out by a full band, seeming skeletal and cold. Each of Yorke's projects following In Rainbows has continued more or less in the spirit of The Eraser, and each has been at least halfway decent, so I guess we'll take what we can get from the man.
At this show, I arrived just after 8, having found no evidence anywhere (Atoms for Peace's website, Brooklyn Vegan's show listings, even Pitchfork's AfP tour announcement) that there would be an opening act, but unfortunately I must not have gotten the memo; when I got to my seat a couple songs into the opener's set, Barclays was emptier than I've ever seen an arena during showtime. I have nothing good to report about the opening set (boring electronic crap), other than the fact that their suckiness allowed me to make frequent trips from my seat to the nearest beer vendor confident that I wouldn't be missing anything worthwhile.
Atoms for Peace took the stage around 9:20ish, starting off with the best song from Amok, "Before Your Very Eyes..." (see above for video). From the outset, the band was in great form, with Yorke dancing maniacally across the stage, Flea doing his thing, and the percussionists immersing the crowd in dense, dancy grooves. Also from the outset, it was pretty obvious that the sound in the venue was distractingly bad, and that the crowd (at least my section way up in the rafters) was comprised of chatty, drunk, bored Manhattanites who had no intention of dancing.
As expected, the evening took the band through several songs from The Eraser and much of Amok, with but one scant Radiohead song in the setlist ("Paperbag Writer" from the Com Lag EP). The highlight overall was probably the haunting performance of "Rabbit in Your Headlights" from the UNKLE album. Throughout the set, Yorke switched off between guitar, vocals, piano, and cutting some serious rug. Clearly, his enthusiasm lies with this type of material these days, instead of trying to write the next "Paranoid Android" or whatever. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the material at this show much more than I do on the Amok album, and I'd absolutely recommend seeing Atoms for Peace live.
AfP's tour continues throughout North America for the next few weeks before they shoot over to Japan for a few shows. Check out the Barclays setlist here if that's your thing.
I simply don't get the universal acclaim for this. And I certainly don't agree with the "well at least we're lucky Kevin Shields finally put something out" stance assumed by so many mbv apologists. This is an album nearly entirely devoid of any memorable melodies. Yes, there are a few interesting moments (the synth part in "In Another Way" in particular, and a few scattered guitar lines here and there), but I don't hear any good complete songs. The closest they come is on the thumpin' little "New You," which unfortunately comes across as little more than a homage to Loveless' awesomeness.
Atoms for Peace - Amok
At this point, Thom Yorke obviously is more interested in being a producer than a singer in a rock and roll band; he seems to be more intrigued by chopsticks-tapping-on-the-desk-sounding minimalist percussiony stuff than writing the next "Paranoid Android" or whatever. Sure, there are a couple decent tracks on here, but by the midpoint you start to feel that you've heard all this stuff before, and that you may actually hear it still yet again before the album's over.
Also, what's the point of shelling out the big bucks to have Flea and Joey Waronker as your rhythm section if you're going to neuter their contributions to the point where they sound like a synth bass and drum machine?
White Widows - White Widows EP
Just a solid, meat-n-taters, no bullshit metal record, seamlessly incorporating elements of hardcore, sludge, and thrash. Fuck with this album and you'll be shittin' teeth for a week. Also, always great to hear Goes Cube's Kenny get another outlet for his stellar drumming.
Although there haven't really been any essential albums thus far in '13 (sorry, I'm not drinking the mbv Kool Aid just yet), that could change shortly. Each of the next several Tuesdays has at least one album by a me-approved artist scheduled to drop. Let's talk about that, shall we?
Feb 26 (that's tomorrow!) - Atoms for Peace, Amok
This is the first album by Thom Yorke's "other" act (pictured above). Basically it's pretty much widely accepted that Atoms for Peace is the full-band representation of Yorke's 2006 solo album, Eraser. Eraser was OK, but when I saw Atoms for Peace live in April '10, they really improved on the skeletal Eraser tracks, filling them out with melody, feeling, and (perhaps most importantly) a capable rhythm section.
According to the reviews I've read, Amok is closer to Eraser than an album with full instrumentation should be, which is a shame. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that Amok will be a snoozer, but I'd love for Mr. Yorke and company to prove me wrong.
also out February 26: Mogwai, Les Revenants
The good: last time Mogwai did a full soundtrack for a film was 2006, when their music accompanied the movie about French soccer legend Zidane, and that album featured some decent tracks. This time around, Mogwai is soundtracking a French TV series about zombies, which one would think would be the perfect source material for the band's fuzzed out post rock.
The bad: late last year, Mogwai put out a teaser EP featuring a couple of tracks from the album, and it was the worst non-remix-centric release of the band's career. Hmmmm.
On their fifth studio effort, the men of BOAT will forge ahead in their makeshift, self-styled "sloppy pop" watercraft, bringing hooky, GbV-influenced tunes to the masses. Huzzah! For pre-album release promotional purposes, they asked a bunch of their friends / favorite bands to cover songs from Pretend to Be Brave, and you'll find those songs, as well as first single "Inside an Aquarium" at their Soundcloud page.
March 19 - Marnie Stern, The Chronicles of Marnia
While Marnie Stern's hyper-caffeinated guitar histrionics have always been highly entertaining, I felt that her most recent album, 2010's Marnie Stern, was the first thing she's done where the songwriting matched her obvious talents. In the past, Marnie has relied upon drummer extraordinaire Zach Hill for help with song arrangement (not to mention street cred), but he's got his hands full with his dangerously overrated Death Grips project for now. But fear not, you can't do much better for a substitute than Oneida's Kid Millions, who handles The Chronicles of Marnia's beats.
March 19 - Thalia Zedek Band, Via
This is a big year for Ms. Zedek, as Matador recently announced that they will be reiussing the long out of print debut album from her highly influential '90s project, Come. But before that happens in early May, Zedek's solo act will release their new joint, Via, on Thrill Jockey. I've enjoyed each of her previous solo outings, and I'd expect that this one would be as textured and melodically mournful as her previous work.
So, I had an absolutely brutal day at work. Don't want to get into it too much but let's just say that constantly having to clean up other people's messes frickin' SUCKS. Brutal. Was so drained during the trainride on the way to the city that I almost passed out in my seat. A full-scale aerobic workout/danceathon seemed out of the question at this point (but fortunately that's exactly what I got).
At first I was kind of pissed that I was going to miss Fang Island at Knitting Factory Brooklyn tonight in lieu of this band (about whom I knew very little prior to the show), but ultimately I'm happy with my choice - this here Atoms for Peace show was, in fact, the best concert I've seen thus far in oh-ten (out of about 25 or so shows seen so far this year).
Took the LIRR in from Syosset at 6:40; made it to Penn in about an hour. C/E uptown to 50th St., quick walk and SHA-ZAM I'm outside Roseland by 8. Had an extra to get rid of (nobody I actually know wanted to pony up the $65[!?] ticket price for said extra), and I found a dude who gladly (and quite graciously) took the extra off my hands. Interestingly, this was a ticketless entry / will call only show, and it looked as though that totally cut down the amount of scalpers and assorted lowlifes that are usually congregatin' outside Roseland prior to the show.
No interest whatsofuckingever in the opening act, some trip-hop guy. Only thing notable about the dude's set was that he mixed in "Idioteque" as his finale. /sarcastic clapping/
Atoms for Peace took the stage just before 9:15, starting off with the title track from Thom Yorke's proper solo album, The Eraser. As would become the theme of the evening, the full band really fleshed out the Eraser tracks, expanding on the more skeletal studio versions of the songs with ballz-to-the-wall THICK instrumentation via rocking the fuck out (and, at times, what seemed like honest-to-goodness dare I say "jamming").
While we're on the subject of instrumentation, Mr. Yorke went back and forth between guitar, keys, percussion, and plenty of dancing his ass off. Great to see him so into it, as it was absurdly HOT inside Roseland and his enthusiasm spurred the crowd on to some epic boogieing (well, it did me at least).
Other instruments being played onstage: bass (by Flea no less), keys, guitars, massive loud double-bass drum kit, assorted weird percussion objects, sampler type dealies (um, I think) and at one point a trumpet.
Can't really help ya out with the setlist; sorry 'bout that.
I listened to The Eraser quite a bit way back when it came out (it actually made #20 on my now quaintly outdated Best Albums of '06 list) but - not gonna lie - haven't busted that badboy out any time recently. I think "Analyse" may have been the second song they played, and "Black Swan" was in there somewhere too, I think during the first "set." In fact, I'm pretty sure they went through much (all, possibly?) of The Eraser's material during the evening.
The more recent "The Hollow Earth" was played as the first song of the two song encore (um, I think?). I'm pretty sure "Everything in Its Right Place" was the only proper Radiohead song played, but who knows, they could have played "These Are My Twisted Words" or some shit and I would have had no earthly clue.
Stuff went down as follows: full band for about 45 minutes, brief break, Mr. Yorke solo on a few songs, then the bang rejoining for about another 20 minutes or so of trippy, hard, psychedelic grooves. During Thom's solo segment, the first two songs he played were declared as "new" (plenty of joking about them being composed so recently that lyrics hadn't even been written yet/etc.). One was called "Daily Mail" and introduced by Thom saying something to the extent of "this is a song about the New York Post, which we have in England... except over there we call it 'The Daily Mail' [paraphrasing here]."
The third and final (um, I think?) song of the solo set was a stunning piano rendition of "Everything In Its Right Place."
Normal me usually dances eighth notes. On this evening, I danced sixteenth notes.
Was gonna write a bunch about the two biggest assholes I encountered (one of whom spilled a beer all over me after I forearmed him cuz he was trying to fucking trample me; the other of whom barreled into me then inexplicably tried to rip my backpack off) but really it was just the typical brand of spoiled NYU pricks / entitled, obnoxious Manhattanite scum / meatheads you see at most Roseland shows. (Anybody who remembers the "SHE LOVES YOU NO LESS!!" idiot from the first MBV show in '08 can commiserate.)
I was really, really, really impressed with the material. If these guys were to, y'know, hypothetically release an album (or some such) that was as good as this show, I'd have to say it would be in the discussion with the new Gorillaz joint and the Fang Island record for Best Album of Oh-Ten. Probly could do some cursory research to find out if there's an Atoms for Peace album in the pipeline, but waaaaaaaaa too tired at this point. Tuddd out.