By Jeremy Nifras
It’s been a long three years since The Strokes released their last record, 2013’s Comedown Machine. Unlike many people, I enjoyed the hell out of that album (it topped my 2013 albums list), and was heavily anticipating whatever the band could deliver next. Since the release of Comedown Machine, the group embarked on numerous solo ventures, such as Albert Hammond Jr. and Julian Casablancas’ newest solo efforts, as well as Nick Valensi writing songs for Sia, among others. Continue reading
by Tom Hummer
Classic albums generally take time to achieve that status. Artists don’t know when they’re making them, and listeners can’t recognize them as such on first listen. After all, future impact can’t be predicted or anticipated, and such acclaim is usually determined by the upcoming generation(s) that it influences, not by today’s fans. It’s an effect that slowly compounds over years and years, and only decades later when a record still feels vital, fresh, and relevant, can you really call it timeless. Hell, I didn’t even like most of my favorite records on first listen. Continue reading
2015 has been a rather interesting year in music, and it’s also been a year which I have been unable to update this site as much. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to update this blog as frequently as I’d like, and just do an occasional discussion post or list post such as this one. No need to worry, however, as you can still catch my opinions over at the Iris Records blog, as well as my podcasts over there as well.
All blog updates aside, I have been enjoying a handful of albums this year, which you can view below. If your favorite album doesn’t appear on my list, chances are I haven’t heard it or didn’t dig it as much! So without further ado, here are my favorite albums of 2015, so far.
This is NOT a review, but rather a reflection. Although it may be categorized as a review, please disregard it.
Upon first listen, To Pimp a Butterfly was a confusing experience. Layered instrumentation, strange interludes, and spoken word outros made my first listen all the more head-scratching. However, now I’m really starting to see the full picture. It’s not the story album that GKMC was, but rather a loose concept about his own personal growth throughout his life. The instrumentals are also insanely rich, and I respect him for picking unique instrumentals to suit his themes, rather than mending “current” beats to his liking.
Furthermore, I really don’t think any rapper out there today quite has the guts, ambition, or vision to make an album such as this. This is the album every rapper hopes to make, or at least tries to make, but never quite reaches.
In an interview with the New York Times, Lamar is quoted: “I’m the closest thing to a preacher that they have,” said Lamar. “I know that from being on tour — kids are living by my music. My word will never be as strong as God’s word. All I am is just a vessel, doing his work.”
Now, if any other rapper out there today made this same statement, I would immediately assume he/she was completely egotistical and full of themselves. But in this case, I can truly believe those words (to an extent). Sure, he’s no missionary, but Kendrick gave the American people, particularly blacks, the record they never thought they needed. And now that it’s here, we can willingly accept it.
To quote my friend Robert Treanor: “It isn’t looking backward. It’s looking to the future. This is one of the most American records ever made. Music didn’t need this record, the American people needed it.”
Cleveland-based Cloud Nothings originally began in the late 2000s as the solo project of now-frontman and chief lyricist Dylan Baldi. The project initially boasted catchy and melodic indie pop tunes on their first two albums (their self-titled record is highly recommended), before moving on to much darker and heavier material on their next two albums, one of them being their new record Here and Nowhere Else, released earlier this year.
This new record brought intense energy and passion unheard in previous releases, and that was definitely evident in their live show at Irving Plaza on Tuesday. The band opened with the fiery two-punch songs “Now Hear In” and “Stay Useless” that definitely set the tone for the rest of the night. A memorable moment was during the track “Cut You”, when the eager audience yelled the lyrics “Do you want to hurt him/do you want to kill him”.
The trio continued to blaze through fan favorites such as the mosh-ready “Separation” and the hooky “Just See Fear”, but perhaps the highlights were the two longest songs in the band’s repertoire, “Pattern Walks” and “Wasted Days”. The latter was drawn out to an appalling 10 minutes, approximately (too busy moshing to keep track of time). The band closed out the night with “No Future/No Past”, possibly the band’s darkest song to date. Cloud Nothings continue to prove they’re one of the best live bands out there right now, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
In addition, the Detroit-based garage rock act Tyvek opened for the band. They showed to be a great opening act for Cloud Nothings by bringing out solid riffs, energetic drumming and fantastic guitar solos. While it was nowhere near as explosive as Cloud Nothings’ set was, they were still a very enthralling act to have witnessed live.
Alas, it’s time for another Spoon record. This Texas-based rock quartet (now quintet with new member Alex Fischel) has been proving themselves time and time again that they’re an extremely solid pack of songwriters who write really concise, catchy, and groovy indie rock tunes. Although their music wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking, they were able to spawn a few of the most enjoyable and accessible indie records of the 2000s (Girls Can Tell, Kill The Moonlight, etc.). And with their new record, Spoon continues to push forward this fact further into the decade.
When Dot Hacker recorded their debut album, Inhibition, it was just prior to lead singer/songwriter Josh Klinghoffer’s invitation into the Red Hot Chili Peppers, putting the record’s release on hold. When the record finally did drop in 2012, I was pretty impressed with a lot of the tracks, but the product felt like a mixed bag. Although the album itself was pretty much spotty, highlights such as “Eye Opener” and “Order/Disorder” are tracks I still play regularly to this day. It’s a shame that record came out as it did, as there were lots of unheard potential waiting to be unlocked.