Posts Tagged ‘radiohead’

33 & 1/3: Kid A

July 25th, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments

kid a

Marvin Lin (editor-in-chief and co-found of Tiny Mix Tapes and a former Pitchfork editor) starts off his 33 & 1/3 book about Radiohead‘s Kid A by saying he’s not going to spend his time writing about how the album was actually made, but rather, about how the album was received in terms of popular culture. Luckily this ends up not being entirely true. In the process of trying to write about the effect the album had on the world, he ends up digging a lot into how the album was created conceptually, though he doesn’t spend much time on studio stuff.

As Lin writes, Thom Yorke and certain parties in the band were tired of rock music and wanted to explore more electronic, experimental avenues of sonic creation. So the band trades in their guitars for synthesizers. At the same time, Thom Yorke is having a serious case of writers block, so he cuts up his bad lyrics, puts them in a hat, and picks out the words to make up new lyrics. At the same time, the band is, as always apparently, reading voraciously, and the ideas they’re coming across subtly appear to influence the shaping of the album, even if only on a  subconscious level. In particular, Naomi Klein‘s book, No Logo, is a big influence, and its title almost became that of the album as well.

This unique confluence of factors led to the band enacting a major gear shift in creating Kid A, then releasing the album upon a very unsuspecting public, embarking on a new and uncertain millennium. Amazingly, despite how incredibly dark and weird the album is – and how much more so it seemed at the time of its release – its sheer excellence and all the good will Radiohead accumulated until that point resulted in Kid A being both a huge critical and commercial success.

I was only ten years old when Kid A was released and had probably never even heard of Radiohead, let alone been excited for the release of Kid A, but Lin does a good job of reminding the reader how unprecedented it sounded in 2000, especially coming from the band that put out The Bends and Ok Computer. Likewise, as Pitchfork wrote when they named Kid A the best album of the last decade, how amazing it is that all the hallmarks of the album are commonplace now: EDM and intelligent (or ‘alternative’) rock go together hand in hand; every other band uses synthesizers and drum machines (though the ondes Martenot isn’t quite as popular).

Lin also writes, of course, about how the popularity of file sharing and the internet played a big part in the album’s unique release. He also spends a substantial amount of time talking about the endlessly fascinating Thom Yorke – with a couple pages even just about what other celerities who are not so fond of him have said – and his politics, as well as the politics of Radiohead‘s, and Kid A in particular. Basically all the stuff you would hope to read about in a book about Kid A, unless you’re not a big recording nerd and just want the technical stuff. My biggest complaint would be that reading about the band’s politics was so interesting that I would’ve loved more.

Environmentalism Mix

July 17th, 2014 | The Mix | 0 Comments

I’ve done a lot of travelling over the last couple months. I was on a business trip that took me to Edmonton, Vancouver, LA and New York, and then my two-month road trip that I just got back from, during which I went to a ton of cool places, most notably Asheville, Austin, San Fran and the bay area, Portland, and Olympia. In about two weeks I’ll be back on the road on my way to Sackville, New Brunswick, as discussed in the last post. From there I’ll be heading down the East coast to my soon-to-be-new home, New York City 🙂

I’ve always been environmentally-inclined, but lately I’ve been on an extra strong green-trip, probably because I’ve been seeing such beautiful natural sites and visiting so many ‘hippie’ type places with strong local green movements. So to tie in with this, here’s a little compilation of environmental-oriented songs – and if it encourages you to be more environmentally conscious or friendly, that would be good too 🙂



The Brian Jonestown Massacre @ The Barby, Tel Aviv 11/7/12

July 14th, 2012 | Features | 0 Comments

I fell in love with The Brian Jonestown Massacre after seeing DiG when I was 15. I know that BJM frontman Anton Newcombe didn’t appreciate his portrayal in the film, but to me, the band I saw in that film was so incredible because it was almost as if all they had was their love of 60’s music and their conviction that they could make music just as good for their time. And that went a long way. I immediately went out and bought Their Satanic Majesty’s Second Request – that was a great album. I downloaded the rest of their discography and loved most of it – there were a couple albums I wasn’t that excited about – namely the newer ones, as much as I hate to say it. The BJM were a great band in the 90’s, partly because they were so out of time and place – there was nothing ’90’s’ about their music after Methodrone. By 2003’s And This Is Our Music they kind of consolidated their sound and they lost that great ‘fandom’ energy that made them so exciting up to that point, as they jumped from exploring one sound to another with each new album – all the time, still sounding so essentially like themselves. I stopped listening to them for a while, only returning after hearing them at a trashy hipster bar in Brooklyn in 2010 and remembering how great a band they were, especially if you listened to them in the right context. When I found out they were coming to Tel Aviv, I was psyched to have a chance to finally see them live after listening to them for so many years. I managed to get a guestlist spot to cover the show, and so here are my impressions of the BJM in 2012.

The lineup I saw included many of the key players from the band I fell in love with in DiG, such as Matt Valentine and Joel Gion. They all actually look pretty much the same, despite the fact the band I saw in that movie was really at least 10 years younger than the one I saw on Wednesday. Unfortunately though, it’s not quite the same band. These weren’t the young screw-ups in an up-and-coming band with a hopeful future ahead of them and the world at their feet from the movie – these were musicians. Perhaps they were playing the music they knew and loved – indeed, much of the set was from their classic 90’s output – and perhaps they were having a great time doing so. But that ‘youth element’, that unpredictability they were so renown for, was nowhere to be seen.

Musically they sounded professional – not astoundingly tight, not loosey-goosey – but professional, able. They played the songs; they sounded like they did on record. Ironically, there may have been a lot of audience members in the 90’s who wondered why this band couldn’t put their squabbles aside and just play a dumb concert, but here they were doing just that with no problems and at all…and it just didn’t feel special. And with a band like the BJM it is all about the feeling. The BJM  isn’t Radiohead – they’re not a band whose songs in and of themselves are really all that mindblowing – nor are they Led Zeppelin or some band known for being really tight and technically impressive. What made them so great in the first place was the feeling that they had and could infect their listeners with. And you can still hear that feeling on their 90’s records, but in 2012, it’s just not there anymore. Most likely this is something they can’t be blamed for – they’ve gotten older and they’re just not that young and exciting anymore.

I believe that there’s going to be a time when The Brian Jonestown Massacre are really, really cool again and we’re going to re-love them like we do Guided By Voices – but I don’t think we’re there yet. My advice to the band from this perspective would be: lay low for a bit and then come back and play a bunch of reunion shows that makes everybody piss their pants, just like Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine did and continue to do. But that being said, at least in Tel Aviv, there’s plenty of demand for them right now – indeed, the show was pretty full – and maybe the bandmembers need the cash.

Have You Heard The New…The Shins?

January 10th, 2012 | Features | 2 Comments

Those lovable indie wunderkinds The Shins are back! Wow. I’m almost done university. The last time they released an album I wasn’t even in my final year of high school (!). Who do you guys think you are? Radiohead? The Strokes? Anyways – it’s coming out on March 20th. First song dropped today. And it is called “Simple Song”.

Listening to the song, it’s no major game changer for The Shins. It’s a solid song, maybe a little less production-heavy (not that that’s a bad thing with these guys, production is usually great) than the stuff from the last album, but only a little. It’s definitely closest in spirit to the stuff off the last one, Wincing The Night Away. That being said – I don’t know if it’s quite as impressive a first single as “Phantom Limb” was. That stuff was pretty exciting at the time. And for The Shins, it was the most exciting time, like ever. We’ve all still got love for them, and Mercer clearly hasn’t lost his touch for songwriting in the time since, as the Broken Bells album proved. But they’re not exactly the hot topic anymore. Indie’s not quite as quirky and sensitive these days as it was back in ’06. Or is it? Hmmm…well, it’s definitely different.

What I’m getting at is I don’t think the next Shins album is going to be all that special. Usually when a band loses their hot streak, they rarely get it back (cough, STROKES, cough). That’s not to say I don’t think Mercer can still bust out some killer tunes, but this first feeler of the new Shins doesn’t hint at great things ahead, it hints at serviceable things ahead, even if this simple song is more than serviceable itself. It doesn’t have that “get excited for this” feeling a first single drop should have. And even that can often be deceptive (cough, STROKES, cough). But we’ll see. Personally, I’d love to hear another great Shins album.

Have You Heard The New…Wilco Album?

September 7th, 2011 | Features | 0 Comments

Wilco – Dawned On Me

So the new Wilco album The Whole Love is out on September 27th, but it was streaming online in full the other day. A lot of us heard it. Some of had thoughts on it. Here were mine.

Marc: Wilco is a pretty reliable band. Their albums are always solid, but some are more solid than others.

In their early years – between 96’s Being There and 04’s A Ghost Is Born – Wilco were on a major roll. Those were the classic years, when each album was special, exciting, and ambitious. They started as just an amazing alt-country band, and morphed into a forward-thinking Americana answer to Radiohead with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – for my money, the best album of the 00’s. If that was Wilco‘s peak of perfection, A Ghost Is Born was their glorious descent from the heavens, which some might say was even more incredible than anything that came before it. I’m not surprised that Tweedy felt the need to check himself into rehab right before the album’s release, you can tell from listening to it that there’s something messed up here, but the most beautiful kind of messed up.

After that, Wilco changed, they sort of consolidated the experimentalism, the jamming, the great songwriting and everything into a finely tuned machine. So while Wilco is still awesome and I’ll rush to listen to everything they put out, gone is the excess, and with it the excitement. Instead, since 07’s Sky Blue Sky each Wilco album has kind of had the same vibe. There’s the slow songs, the pop songs, the longer songs, the lovely little studio touches, etc. So The Whole Love is a great album with some really great songs (“Dawned On Me” and “Born Alone” are my favourites), but I can’t help wishing that Wilco would go a little crazy again and come out with another real classic.

What did you think of the album? Let me know in the comments section or over Facebook or Twitter.