Posted by: ericclark | November 24, 2008

Who’s excited about The Killers’ ‘Day & Age’?

The Killers         The Killers

I blasted The Killers’ “Hot Fuss” in my car on the way to work in honor of today’s release of the Las Vegas’ band’s new album, “Day & Age.” While I could care less about Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” also coming out this week (any album that takes 15 years to make is destined to be a disaster), I’m strangely excited to get my hands on The Killers’ latest effort.

I say strangely because I didn’t really like The Killers’ previous album, 2006’s “Sam’s Town.” Actually, I didn’t really listen to it, since I was turned off by lead single “When You Were Young” and the group members’ sudden desire to grow whispy little goatees and try to be Bruce Springsteen.

Thankfully, it’s sounding like “Day & Age” is more of a return to the glam dance-rock of “Hot Fuss,” The Killers’ 2004 debut. I first heard “Day & Age” songs “Human” and “Spaceman” weeks ago when the group performed on “Saturday Night Live,” and I immediately was hooked.

I was planning on trekking out to Best Buy this evening to buy a hard copy of “Day & Age,” but it looks like Amazon. com is selling the album download for $3.99, at least for the moment. I’ll have to think about this one.

Watch the video for “Human” on YouTube and hear more of The Killers’ new songs on the group’s MySpace page.

What do you think?

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Posted by: ericclark | October 15, 2008

Breakdancing goblin in new Chemical Brothers video

                                                           The Chemical Brothers

What could be better for Halloween than watching a dumpster-diving goblin cutting loose in the middle of the night? That’s exactly what’s happening in The Chemical Brothers new video for “Midnight Madness.” It’s one of the more entertaining clips I’ve seen all year. You can watch it below.

Can you dance like that?

Posted by: ericclark | October 6, 2008

Will Rise Against debut at No. 1?

                                            “Appeal to Reason” by Rise Against

Will Rise Against’s fifth album, “Appeal to Reason” (out Oct. 7),  debut at No. 1? Possibly. But a better question might be, “Who the heck is Rise Against?”

Rise Against is a politically left-leaning rock band that has been dabbling with mainstream success for the last few years. The group earned its dues on the hardcore punk scene in the early ’00s, and now Rise Against seems to be on the brink of commercial dominance.

Why do I think “Appeal to Reason” even has a shot at debuting at No. 1? Well, Rise Against’s last album, “The Sufferer and the Witness,” debuted at No. 10 on Billboard’s album chart back in 2006. Plus, Rise Against has a whopping 19 million profile views on its MySpace page, which shows plenty of clout.

Rise Against’s new-release competition on Oct. 7? Oasis’ seventh album and a holiday retread by Elliot Yamin of “American Idol.” We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, watch the video for “Re-Education (Through Labor),” the first single from “Appeal to Reason.” The ending is a bit disturbing, but in a manner that’s more philosophical than gruesome.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Rise Against’s “Appeal to Reason” debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s chart. Not bad!

Posted by: ericclark | September 22, 2008

Jenny Lewis week!

             Jenny Lewis

The wait is finally over for Jenny Lewis fans! Lewis, best known as the frontwoman for L.A. pop-rock group Rilo Kiley, this week is releasing her second alt-countryish solo album, “Acid Tongue.”

For the last few years, I’ve been smitten not just with Lewis’ stunning looks but also with her stellar songwriting abilities. Lewis is a superstar in the indie-rock world, and “Acid Tongue” might just make her a superstar in the rest of the world.

Here’s a great video of my favorite song from Lewis’ 2006 solo debut, “Rabbit Fur Coat.” It’s called “You Are What You Love.”

Also check out some of Lewis’ new songs on her MySpace page.

In love yet?

Earlier this year, I posted about a band that had written a great song about hearing The Clash for the first time. That band was The Gaslight Anthem, and now that the New Brunswick, N.J. group has released its second album, “The ’59 Sound,” they’re worthy of another look.

I’ve been listening to “The ’59 Sound” pretty much non-stop since it came out about a month ago, and the album is creeping toward the top of my always-in-progress best-of-the-year list. Big heart, big hooks and plenty of Springsteen-ish sentiment make The Gaslight Anthem one of the more exciting new bands of the last few years.

You don’t even have to take my word for it: Have a look at this concert review from The New York Times. Then visit The Gaslight Anthem’s MySpace page or watch the video for the title track from “The ’59 Sound” below.

What do you think?

Conor Oberst

I’ve been a fan Bright Eyes since 2002’s “Lifted,” but I have to admit that the band’s last three albums – 2005’s “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” and “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn,” and 2007’s “Cassadaga” – didn’t  have much staying power with me.

I liked each of those albums when I first heard them, but they didn’t stay in heavy rotation for more than a few weeks, and I haven’t listened to them since.

However, I’ve gotten enough enjoyment out of Bright Eyes over the years that I still closely follow the group. When I heard Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst was releasing a solo album this year, I wasn’t exactly excited, but I figured I’d pick it up anyway.

I’ve been listening to Oberst’s self-titled solo debut for about three weeks now, and I have a feeling this one is going to have more staying power than Bright Eyes’ recent releases.

One of the strengths of Oberst’s solo album is its tight focus. While most Bright Eyes albums pile on the instruments, here Oberst works with a small alt-country band. The album’s 11 songs all have a similar tone, making it the most cohesive album Oberst ever has put out.

Oberst’s solo album reminds me of other stripped-down outings from well-known musicians, like Beck’s “Mutations” or Sufjan Stevens’ “Sevan Swans,” two albums I come back to all the time.

Check out the zany video for Oberst’s first single, “Souled Out!!!”:

Or have a listen at Oberst’s MySpace page.

What do you think?

Posted by: ericclark | July 22, 2008

Frightened Rabbit: Album of the year?

  Frightened Rabbit

It’s hard to believe that 2008 is more than half over. That means it’s not too early for music geeks like me to start obsessing about our favorite albums of the year! So far for me, it’s a close race between Mates of State’s “Re-arrange Us” (which I profiled in an earlier post) and Frightened Rabbit’s “The Midnight Organ Fight.”

Yes, one of my favorite albums of the year so far is by a band named after a scared animal. I’ll admit, Frightened Rabbit isn’t the greatest band name I’ve ever heard, but if the group keeps making albums as good as “The Midnight Organ Fight,” I could care less what they’re called.

So who is Frightened Rabbit? They’re a four-piece indie-rock band from Scotland led by singer and guitarist Scott Hutchison, a guy with a thick Scottish brogue and, if his songwriting is any indication, one heck of a messy love life.

“The Midnight Organ Fight,” Frightened Rabbit’s second album, might best be classified as a break-up album. Just about every song is about either falling in or out of love. Sure, the subject has been done to death, but Hutchison brings so much depth to his songwriting that he practically makes love, lust and all its trappings sound like entirely new subjects.

Just have a look at the first few lines of “The Twist”:

“Do the twist in the twisting outfit / The loose tie with the loose limp wrists / Lift your dress enough to show me those shins / Let your hair stick to your forehead.”

“Did you blush then when our hips touched / I can’t tell, you’re already red / Am I right? You give me the signs / Is that pink mist or just lit dry ice?”

“You twist and whisper the wrong name / I don’t care nor do my ears / Twist yourself around me / I need company I need human heat.”

You can listen to “The Twist” at Frightened Rabbit’s MySpace page. Also be sure to check out “The Modern Leper” (in the running for my favorite song of the year so far), which brings a U2-style lift to the band’s music.

Here’s a video of another excellent song from “The Midnight Organ Fight,” “Heads Roll Off.”

“Heads Roll Off” by Frightened Rabbit

What do you think of Frightened Rabbit? What’s your favorite album of the year so far?

Street Dogs     Street Dogs

Dropkick Murphys’ 1998 debut, “Do or Die,” ranks as one of my favorite punk albums of the ’90s. Much of the album’s appeal was due to lead singer Mike McColgan, whose ramshackle growl brought to mind The Clash’s Joe Strummer and made the Murphys sound like Boston’s toughest group of barroom brawlers.

I was shocked when I picked up the Murphys’ follow-up, 1999’s “The Gang’s All Here,” and found out McColgan no longer was in the band. As I would later find out, McColgan, a Gulf War veteran, had left the group to become a Boston firefighter. He was replaced in the Murphys by Al Barr, whose voice was similarly rough and tough but not as charismatic as McColgan’s.

At that point, I thought I had heard the last of McColgan. But in 2006, I received my second McColgan-related shock. He had formed a new band, called Street Dogs, that had just released its THIRD album! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard about McColgan’s new band, but I chalked it up to the group’s relatively generic name. So I picked up “Fading American Dream,” and there was McColgan, sounding just as strong and urgent as ever.

Street Dogs just released their fourth album, “State of Grace,” this time on Hellcat Records, the former home of Dropkick Murphys. While the Murphys have kept their Irish influences front-and-center in their music, Street Dogs have abandoned most of that sound, instead focusing on more of a street-punk approach. The result is 11 songs of fast and furious punk rock, with McColgan singing about topics related to gritty city life.

I was a big fan of Dropkick Murphys’ latest album, last year’s “The Meanest of Times.” Barr has really found his niche as a vocalist, and fellow singer Ken Casey also never has sounded better. I’m not yet sure if Street Dogs’ “State of Grace” will have as big of an impact on me, but it’s off to a good start after a few listens.

Check out two of Street Dogs’ new songs, “Mean Fist” and “Two Angry Kids,” on the group’s MySpace page. What do you think?

 

Posted by: ericclark | June 23, 2008

Mates of State instantly catchy, pretty darn cute

Mates of State                                                        Mates of State

Mates of State, an indie-pop duo composed of married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, are one of those bands I’ve been aware of for years but never listened to until recently. After giving the duo’s new album, “Re-arrange Us,” a few spins, I think they might just become one of my favorite bands. And they have four older albums I can pick up whenever I want!

I’ve been a big fan of fellow indie-poppers The New Pornographers for several years, and I think the two bands have a lot in common in their sound: Male/female vocals, sugary sweet hooks and frequently frantic instrumentation. Mates of State seem a little bit more DIY (Do It Yourself) than The New Pornographers, though, since they only have two members (Kori sings and plays keyboards, Jason sings and plays drums) and prefer a slightly punkier sound.

Aside from Mates of State’s music, Kori and Jason just seem like the cutest and coolest couple around. They have two daughters, Magnolia and June, who tour with them on the road. They started out in the heart of the Midwest (Lawrence, Kan.) and now live in New York. I guess I just like the idea that if Mates of State could do it, there’s no reason why my wife and I couldn’t also form a band and tour the world. Aside from the fact that we don’t have any musical talent, of course.

Check out two Mates of State videos below. The first is for “Get Better” from the new album. The song is great, and the video, featuring people in animal masks, is funny and creepy at the same time. The second video is for “Fraud in the ’80s” from the group’s 2006 album, “Bring It Back.” It better captures what Mates of State are all about.

“Get Better” 

“Fraud in the ’80s”

Visit Mates of State’s MySpace page to hear even more songs.

What do you think of Mates of State?

Posted by: ericclark | May 30, 2008

Death Cab for Cutie’s mini rock opera

                                                       Death Cab for Cutie

So I picked up Death Cab for Cutie’s new album, “Narrow Stairs,” last week, and I’m having trouble getting past the first two songs. They’re just too good.

“Bixby Canyon Bridge” and “I Will Possess Your Heart” open the album. “Bixby” is more than 5 minutes long and full of ethereal vocals, crunching guitars and swooning atmospherics. “Possess” tops 8 minutes, with the first half of the song an already infamous instrumental anchored by a thick bass groove.

Together, these two songs seem to form a 12-minute mini rock opera. I’ve been listening to them practically on repeat. It’s like the rest of the album doesn’t even matter, with its shorter and more accessible songs. But I’m sure I’ll get into the rest of “Narrow Stairs” in due time.

Actually, I have given a few listens to the album’s third song, “No Sunlight,” and I think the lyrics are darkly hilarious, with singer Ben Gibbard detailing how depressed he is because he’s no longer a child. I can relate to that. I think any adult who participates in the daily grind can relate to that. Which doesn’t exactly explain why a newly minted rock star like Gibbard (“Narrow Stairs” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart) would have much to be unhappy about.

Have a listen to “I Will Possess Your Heart” at Death Cab for Cutie’s Myspace page or watch the video below. You’ll have to get the album to hear “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” which I think actually is the better of the two songs.

What do you think?

 

 

 

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