Archive for the ‘Anthems for the future’ Category

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Anticipation

January 3, 2009

It’s a new year and the possibilities are pretty much endless.  2008 saw the unthinkable happen with the release of a new album from Portishead and, even more unexpectedly, Chinese Democracy.  What forthcoming albums are getting you all excited?  Here’s the Goodnight Believer guide to artists that will (hopefully) be gracing these pages in coming months:

Dates confirmed

Thursday – Common Existence (February 17)

Asobi Seksu – Hush (February 17)

Bishop Allen – Grrr… (mid-February)

Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love (March 24)

Some point in 2009

Institut Polaire – Make Your Own Mayflower

The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus

Mastodon – Crack The Skye

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – Vs Children

De La Soul – You’re Welcome

Mew – TBA

Mute Math – TBA

You can always dream

My Bloody Valentine – TBA

Sufjan Stevens – I’m calling this one Colorado Democracy

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Arena

October 28, 2008

Montreal’s The Stills were in the right place at the right time.  When they dropped Logic Will Break Your Heart in 2003, they sat on top of a wave of anthemic 80s influenced moody rock.  One year after Interpol’s Turn On The Bright Lights and one year before The Killers’ Hot Fuzz, they were pretty much the mid point between the darker tendencies of the former and the populism of the latter.

That’s mostly faded and fashions have moved on.  So have The Stills, more or less.  They’re still in love with shimmery verses and big crashing choruses.  They remain the quintessential indie arena band – not yet popular enough for the venues their music demands.

This year’s album Oceans Will Rise is full of hooks and drama.  It doesn’t have a stand-out to match their epic “Lola Stars And Stripes”, but if you loved that song there’s plenty in the same vein – like the sweetly angsty “Being Here”.  They also push their sound in a few new directions – even if those directions are still influenced by British bands of the 1980s.  Opener “Don’t Talk Down” is a great piece of Police-ish reggae pop.

The Stills – “Being Here”

The Stills – “Don’t Talk Down”

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Is this the future?

October 13, 2008

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I go through phases of indifference to music.  While I still listen to it, it doesn’t move me and I’m really only pressing play out of habit.  And then a band comes along and shakes you out of your ennui.  Like the first time I heard Silent Alarm.

New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus have done something like that for me this weekend.  My ipod was skipping through some new music on random and out of my speakers blasted an epic of distorted fury – with a real tune half-hidden within it.

There’s something a little pretentious about this band: barely out of high school, with a band name ripped from an obscure Shakespeare play and song titles like “Upon Viewing Brueghel’s ‘Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus'”.  Lucky they’ve got the chops to live up to their own hype.

They’re like an angrier Broken Social Scene – all shambolic, noisy singalongs with a triumphalist vibe that makes you want to declare a national holiday.

If you’re looking for something to shake you out of your October blahs, I’m happy to give you my prescription.

Titus Andronicus – “No Future Part Two: The Day After No Future”

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Raise my glass to the b-side

September 8, 2008

A 2008 re-issue that has surprised me in a number of ways is the new double-disc version of Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Jimmy Eat World at the time.  They seemed too popular, too catchy, too…something.  “The Middle” was something of a guilty pleasure, but it never occurred to me to listen to the rest of the album, still less to track down the b-sides.  Maybe I’m more open-minded nowadays – I’m certainly aware that catchiness and accessibility aren’t downsides.

So here we are, 7 years after the release of this mega-selling album and for no apparent reason they’ve done the deluxe treatment.  But like I’ve said, it’s surprisingly good.  The original album is polished and accomplished while still emotional and passionate.  Corporate rock this isn’t.

The bonus tracks are also pretty good, including their version of Wham!’s “Last Christmas” and a cover of Guided By Voices’ “Game of Pricks” – a surefire way to my heart.  The original b-sides hold up well, too, including the crunchy “No Sensitivity”, which can soundtrack my remaining teen angst any day of the week.

Jimmy Eat World – “Game of Pricks”

Jimmy Eat World – “No Sensitivity”

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With horns and guns

August 5, 2008

Even more than I expected, I was thrilled by the experience of seeing Sigur Rós play at Festival Hall on Friday night.  For a band I’d always considered a little bit aloof and otherworldly, they were a lot of fun.  They had a brass band in white suits.  They got us to clap along to “Gobbledigook”.  They fired paper out over the audience.  They made a joyful noise that transcended mere music.

I should have known.  Whether they were always like this, I can’t say, but their latest (unpronounceable) album is easily their most light and fun-loving album.  It’s certainly a world away from the chilly expanses of 2002’s ( ).

On Friday, when they launched into the deliciously pop “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”, my brother turned to me and said half-shocked “It’s Coldplay!”  It’s not at all, but I knew what he meant.  There’s something so anthemic and crowd-pleasing about Sigur Rós’ newer songs that makes you half wonder if they might end up as the biggest band in the world.

To the thousands of people packed in the room the other night, they already were.

Sigur Rós – “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”

Sigur Rós – “Við spilum endalaust”

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Easy prey

June 19, 2008

There’s really no fun in mocking Coldplay, especially not for someone who used to enjoy their music. I may write off my love of Parachutes as a youthful indiscretion (I was still under 20), but I’ll still defend any number of their early singles. That said, their drubbing at the hands of the critics has been of their own making.
By X&Y, the songwriting formula was so set and predictable and the lyrics so generic that it seemed like Chris Martin was sleeping on the job.

With this in mind, I was dubious about their claimed reinvention at the hands of Brian Eno. Sure, Eno worked wonders with U2 back in the 80s, but he’d have a hard time making them any good these days. And do we have such short memories? Barely 6 years ago, Coldplay were “reinventing” themselves with some help from Echo & The Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch. Remember the “experimental” first track, “Politik”? And remember how A Rush of Blood to the Head only cemented Coldplay in the charts and properly defined their sound?

Then there came the grudging praise from hipster luminaries like Pitchfork and Popmatters and I wondered if maybe the hype was half right.

Now, having heard Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends, I’d call it about 10% right. I don’t want to talk about the lyrics or the mundane singalong choruses. If I could sentence a song to death for its crimes, “42” would be first against the wall. “Lost” would need a bloody good attorney. But occasionally the experimental flourishes work and I find myself enjoying it.

I mean, c’mon, the segue at the end of “Yes!” sounds like My Bloody Valentine. And “Viva La Vida” is a pretty good pop song. If you hate Coldplay, this won’t be enough for you, but for me it’s a minor blessing.

Coldplay – “Yes!”

Coldplay – “Viva La Vida”

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Format wars

June 7, 2008

Before last night, I only had the vaguest of recollections of VHS or Beta – I seemed to imaging that they were at the poppier end of mid-decade dance-punk. They used lots of synthesizers, right? But the memory wasn’t a bad one, so when my friend offered me a free ticket for the Factory Theatre show, I gladly took up the opportunity.

The crowd was mostly what you’d expect – young, immaculately-attired hipsters with hair just the right kind of scruffy, flannelette and jeans that wouldn’t fit a two year-old. And the band looked like a slightly older reflection of the crowd.

Once they started playing, I was charmed. Lots of danceable grooves a la The Rapture or Daft Punk, mixed with some serious stadium rock aspirations. So much melody, so much enthusiasm. It seems that they’ve changed a bit since first gaining attention – the rock element is a new addition from what I understand. But it fits them nicely. Unlike their jeans.

VHS or Beta – “Fall Down Lightly”

VHS or Beta – “Burn It All Down”