Posts Tagged ‘tv on the radio’

Brooklyn Mix

August 8th, 2015 | The Mix | 0 Comments


After years of dreaming about it, two weeks ago, I finally made the move to Brooklyn. Every day I wakeup and walk outside here, and I think, “Yes. I made it.” And I think my living here finally has led me to better understand the music of Brooklyn. So I put together a little mix with just nine of the amazing bands that this borough can proudly claim as its own.

There is kind of an overarching Brooklyn sound. It’s tattooed and bearded. Fearlessly experimental. Almost sunbaked and windswept. And the musicians are incredible, but smart and talented enough not to fall into cliched patterns or sound overly ‘professional’.

Have You Heard The New…Passion Pit Album?

July 22nd, 2012 | Features | 1 Comment

Ok, obviously this is a biggie. As we all knew Passion Pit came out of nowhere and blew up big time. And deservedly so – the debut EP and the album that followed it, Manners, were by almost all accounts great, and on numerous levels. Both were releases that anyone could like, and pretty much everyone did. So now, three years later, how does album number two, Gossamer, hold up? Actually, for this question, I don’t have such a clear answer.

Here’s the deal: there are a couple things I don’t like about Gossamer, but on the other hand, there are a number of things I can’t help but like.

To start with the bad, Passion Pit‘s lyrics used to be largely indecipherable gobbledegook delivered with some kind of magic conviction that made you not care what they were – at other times, they could be semi-obscure emotional statements. Only rarely – like in “I’ve Got Your Number” – was it clear what was going on lyrically. Vocals were high-pitched and usually just flowed so well with the music you’d have to really put some effort in to figure out what they were. I did, and decided I was actually better off not knowing. Now, while I wouldn’t like to discourage a songwriter from writing more complex lyrics, if you’re going to write more complex lyrics, you have to actually be able to pull them off. Most of the time Passion Pit main-man Angelakos – who almost single-handedly wrote and performed the entire album – manages to pull things off lyrically. But there are a couple instances where he doesn’t really, and I’m really talking for the most part about the first song, “Take A Walk”, which I’ve already torn apart, so if you want to read a full-scale attack on that one, there’s the link, be my guest. But basically, this song is just so stupid that if you took it off the album, the whole thing would be like way better. So basically – want to enjoy the album more? Delete this song from it.

Second problem is that with major label money sometimes comes major label ego and studio production. Most truly great indie bands that go major (TV On The Radio, Flaming Lips, Etc.) just make their records sound bigger, better, and cleaner. For the most part this is what Passion Pit did, but in the process they also got rid of some of their indie charm. Everything on Gossamer sounds bigger – which can be good – but also more ‘digital’, more radio-ready, sometimes to the point of being to clean and even sonically bloated. Luckily it doesn’t go too far, but kind of teases the line – if the excellent Chris Zane hadn’t been kept on board it’s likely things would’ve been a lot worse.

But now the good: the songs and the hooks. Angelakos is still a gifted songwriter and delivers great, catchy hooks and choruses time and time again, particularly on the second half of the album. And when he does, it’s something special, and that’s why he was able to go major. Just look to the almost Disney-esque beauty of “On My Way”‘s chorus, or the un-avoidable infectiousness of “Love Is Greed”‘s. Though Gossamer slows down a bit more than Manners, even trying out old school Boy 2 Men-style Rn’B on one track, “Constant Conversations”, no track is without at least some interesting melodies or changes. So, as a whole, Gossamer is a pretty solid, coherent listening experience – though perhaps not quite to the same extent as Manners was.

Gossamer is destined to be a decisive album: the casual, mainstream-ish fans will probably just grab the songs they like and throw them on their iPod playlists (not as though they’d go full front to back for any other band or artist); many other less-pretentious types will also adore it. But then a hipper contingent will (predictably) declare it a sell out album, one not worth even talking about. Unfortunately I may find myself closer to the latter crowd – ultimately, the album may just be a little too clean, overriding the appeal of the hooks. But I’ll admit that this is by no means a worthless album or one that deserves to be ignored. In fact, I may just change my mind about Gossamer as I continue to explore it.


May 5th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

What makes a song great? What makes some songs greater than others? I’m not 100% sure. It’s tough. Some songs are big, fast and grand. Others have power in their intimacy and understatement. Over the next several days, I will post my picks for the top 25 songs of all time, posting five more each day counting down to the all time greatest song of all time. I only picked one song per artist based on the potency of the lyrics, melody, performance and production. Here’s the first five:

25. The Velvet Underground – “Rock & Roll” (Full Length Version) off Loaded

Lou Reed wrote one hit single, “Walk On The Wild Side”, but this Loaded cut with the VU should have been his other. Three chords, a simple but powerful message, a solid guitar solo and the song is kind of weirdly composed but seems totally perfect. Loaded may be the VU’s worst album, but “Rock & Roll” is probably the band’s single greatest song.


24. TV On The Radio – “Family Tree” off Dear Science,

Three shuddering chords echo across eternity in this stunner about forbidden, star-crossed love. Tunde Adebimpe’s somber delivery performs its part modestly, allowing Sitek’s atmospherics to swarm the soundscape like graveyard fog. When the drum-machine kicks in towards the end carrying the song off like a funeral march, it gets me every time. This ghostly elegy is TV On The Radio’s best yet.


23. The White Stripes – “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” off White Blood Cells

Detroit poetry for lost love from the always awesome Jack and Meg White. Simple, striking and powerful, this song is The White Stripes at their absolute pure-pop-garage-rock zenith and that desolate, dirty riff is the sound of a star being born.


22. Dinosaur Jr. – “Freak Scene” off Bug

The opening riff just says it all: an anthem for freaks, geeks, and anyone who just doesn’t fit in and can never seem to get what they want. The song is cut up into the main verse part and the parts where J. Mascis goes crazy on his fret-board, churning out gorgeous, screaching melodies like rainbows. The key to this song however, is the sensitivity and naivety in Mascis’ voice and the joyous, searching quality in his noodling.


21. Moby Grape – “Seeing” off Moby Grape ’69

Skip Spence’s last song with the Grape pretty much makes the rest of Moby Grape ’69 seem like the tame thing it is in comparison with this incredible closer. Phantasmogoric guitars shplash around the left and right channels as if they were trying to illustrate the acid-trip scene in Easy Rider in audio format as the song jolts between quiet acoustic bits in between full blown rockouts. In under four minutes, this epic seems to encapsulate what it might feel like to feel your mind being violently whacked off its rocker by schizophrenia and a plethora of hallucinogenics. And then there’s that weird falsetto bit in the middle where it sounds like the angels comes down and just takes Spence’s head off with them for good. Spence’s insanity was no laughing matter and it pretty much decimated the unbound talent of this incredible sage of a man, but it did make for this masterpiece of a song, as well as his classic Oar album.


20. Arcade Fire – “No Cars Go” off Neon Bible

The Neon Bible version is definitely better, hipsters. An enormous epic about dreaming of  a world away from the techno-pression of the modern age, with Owen Pallet’s majestic arrangements elevating this already unbelievable composition to new heights of elation. Strings, organs, synthesizers, and gorgeous harmonies; uplifting and incredible: “No Cars Go” is the Arcade Fire at their best.


Grubtunes Top 10 Albums of 2008: 1-5

December 5th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

1. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges


This year’s release from MMJ is a bonafide tour de force. The band had begun experimenting with drum machines and interesting sonic textures on Z but on this album they just ran with it and created a truly remarkable artistic achievement. They continued to experiment with drum machines, synthesizers and electronics but they also managed to push every song to its awesomeness-breaking point.


Each song on the album is perfectly composed but they’re never satisfied simply with a well-rounded pop song. They’ll play around with the songs, adding interesting little parts or sections, building the song’s grandiosity as much as they can without ever coming off as pompous. For instance there’s the sort of weird jam bridge at the middle eight point on the title track which comes off as brilliant rather than indulgent simply because it rocks as much as the rest of the song.


Musically the band tries out various different styles, ranging from the cartoonish “Highly Suspicious” to the soaring, gorgeous “Smokin’ From Shootin”. They try their hand at Southern Rock, Prince-style sexiness, hard rock, acoustic ballad, ethereal prog-rock and dance-rock and succeed at each while still never sounding like anything other than themselves.


Lyrically Jim James continues to impress, writing interesting tales of seduction in “Librarian”, musing about life and age in “Two Halves” and just being plain adorable in “Thank You Too”. His durable tenor seemingly has no bounds as he adapts his voice perfectly to each song, cooing, squealing and drawl-ing when necessary.


Evil Urges is a modern masterpiece, fully deserving it’s place alongside others like Ok Computer and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and it is easily my top pick of 2008.



2. TV On The Radio – Dear Science,


TOTR always rock and they’ve been getting better with each release. While Dear Science, isn’t as mysterious and dense as Return to Cookie Mountain its accessibility and stronger pop appeal make the album a different animal, in many ways better than its predecessor. Not only that, but the songs are more consistent and catchier. “Halfway Home”, “Dancing Choose”, “Golden Age”, “Stork And Owl” and (my favorite) “Family Tree” are all among their most incredible songs and the lyrics are stunning.


Dave Sitek’s production is incredible as usual, and while I do miss the lovely noise-murk of Return to Cookie Mountain, the beautiful palette he uses here continues to display the man’s absolute mastery of his craft. In Sitek’s world, the mix of strings, synths, drum machines, electronics, acoustics and vocals all meld to form a strangely beautiful hybrid of technology and humanity.


Combining brilliant compositions with brilliant performance and production, Dear Science, is another great album from one of the best bands around.



3. Beck – Modern Guilt


Beck’s teaming with Dangermouse was a clever one. On Modern Guilt both draw on their love of classic Psyche and 60’s pop and meld it with modern beat-based production to create what a retro-leaning album should sound like.


While Beck’s songwriting and singing are fantastic as usual, it’s Dangermouse’s production that makes this release truly noteworthy. Dangermouse manages to capture that classic 60’s sound in the record’s mix, its bass sounds, its drums sounds and its guitar sounds, yet looking closely, his choice of sound is always perfect. He never picks the sounds of the period that sound dated but rather he managers to attain their classic elements but present them in a way that still sounds contemporary.


Through Beck, Dangermouse managed to create the third best album of ’08, and a great modern psyche record.



4. Deerhunter – Microcastle


Deerhunter finally fulfils their pop potential on Microcastle, their best and most accessible album to date. On it, Bradford Cox and company have created a fantastic neo-shoegaze sound while never skimping on well-written, well-composed pop songs. As usual, Cox’s lyrics detail the most interesting of the weird thoughts in his head regarding sexuality, pain and escape. With an interesting lead personality and a tight band behind him, Deerhunter’s Microcastle is a great album from one of the most exciting bands around.



5. Black Kids – Partie Traumatic


The backlash this album received, particularly from Pitchfork, was absolutely appalling. Black Kids fully delivered on the promise of their Wizard of Ahhhs EP with a great album of wonderful pop tunes wrapped in a dense 80’s-leaning sound indebted greatly to The Cure. Not only were songs like “Hit The Heartbreaks”, “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” and “Love Me Already” insanely catchy and sugary sweet but also their lyrics were often witty and charming.


Partie Traumatic is a fantastic debut from a great, young band and one of my favorite releases of the year.

TV On The Radio

November 16th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week started off as a little project between two dudes in Brooklyn. Now they’re hailed as one of the best bands in indie-rock today, counting among their biggest fans none other than David Bowie. Their albums have been listed on (as well as topped) various best-of-the-year lists and their latest is likely to do the same. This week’s band of the week is…


I’ve always like TV On The Radio but I never truly got into them until now. Admittedly, I still haven’t listened to their entire first album, but Return To Cookie Mountain (their second album) hooked me in with catchy ditties like “A Method” and “Whirlpool”, which coated haunting melodies in David Sitek’s always incredible and inventive production. 

Though Sitek is hardly the principle reason for all of TVOTR’s musical achievements, his masterful, layered production is an undeniably essential contributor to them. That isn’t to underscore the importance of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone’s incredible, (often multi-tracked,) versatile vocals

The group’s third album, Dear Science, continues to build upon the achievements of the past, though it is noticeable cleaner, more accessible and extroverted than previous albums. While it lacks Return To Cookie Mountain’s subtlety, the group make up for it in delivering their most consistent and exciting album yet that shows the group continuing to broaden its horizons and push envelopes. Songs like “Dancing Choose” represent them at their most accessible, while the beautiful “Family Tree” and “Stork and Owl” represent still more depth to the band’s songwriting prowess. 
The lyrics continue to be for the most part wonderfully elusive and poetic and their delivery by the band’s vocalists is always moving. 

TV On The Radio are three albums into their career and they’ve already accomplished far more than the vast majority of bands in existence today, let alone in the past. Like Dylan though, this is a group that never looks back, but continues to explore new avenues of sound and song despite how successful previous discoveries may have been. If you’ve yet to listen to this band, please rectify that quickly; you don’t want to be one of the unlucky ones who haven’t yet been turned on by TV on the Radio.