Alt-J – Don’t Try This at Home

I’ve been wanting to post Alt-J for some time but they are so different, so offbeat, that I have struggled with the task of introducing them to those not used to hearing things a little different.

To give you an introduction check the first video on the YouTube playlist.  It is a live set that shows just how much their audiences love their music.  They clearly know all the lyrics and at one point take over the singing altogether.

The second is a new video from their recently released album Relaxer.  Like some of their other videos this shows some of the deep, dark side of Alt-J.  Like some sort of peyote dream of life and death, it is also a hypnotic song about love.

What can I tell you to prepare you for Alt-J?  First, the obvious bits.  Alt-J is the Apple Mac key combination for the delta symbol (∆).  Delta is used in math and science to denote change.  OK, that was the easy part.  I understand part of their unique sound comes from their initial practice space where they had to keep the volume down leading to some very unusual drumming.

What does it all mean?  I guess that’s the hard part.  They look so normal in person, but their sound and feel seems to represent something much darker and more dangerous.  Yet I heard an interview where one of them said they played folk music. After all is said and done, it’s up to each listener to get his or her own response to their music.  I’d encourage you to give them some time, and check out several of their songs and videos before judging them.  They are a remarkable band and they hit it big immediately.  They sold out Madison Square Garden (where I took the picture above) after just one album.  Wow.

YouTube playlist: Alt-J

Spotify playlist: Alt-j

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Best Coast – It’s Always Summer Here

With summer weather here at last, here is some good summertime listening.  Rock and Roll and Surf and Sun have a long history together.  It’s a flavor that keeps returning and can be heard today in many bands.  Best Coast are a popular duo who are also a favorite of mine.  Singer and songwriter Bethany Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno bring a touch of retro, a dose of California, and a light beachy sound that is sure to drum up ideas of sun and surf.  This is music that is fun to listen to, to turn up, and to soak in the sun with.  Just click on this playlist and you will immediately see what I mean.

YouTube playlist: Best Coast

Spotify playlist: Best Coast

The Kills – Have a Few Bangers, On Me

A banger is a song that you want to just rock out to.  It has a strong beat, a tight sound, an attitude, works well with the car windows rolled down, and just makes you say, “Yes!”

The Kills are a singer and guitarist couple that were born to make bangers together. They exude rock and roll attitude on stage and the crowd eats them up.  I saw them when they released Ash and Ice in 2016 – a comeback after the guitarist suffered an injury that turned him into a four finger guitarist.  Well, that limitation seems to have led to super intense, creative, rock and roll.  I loved it and will go again anytime they are in town.

What is Rock and Roll if not about shaking things up, bringing some attitude onto the stage, and letting it all out.

On this playlist:

Impossible Tracks – Check the video to see them live

Doing It To Death – Their blowout hit – check the video for a very unusual funeral

Heart Of A Dog

Siberian Nights

YouTube playlist: The Kills

Spotify playlist: The Kills

Sufjan Stevens – Influential, Simple, and Yet Complex

I don’t think I will be very good at describing Sufjan Stevens other than to say his music is beautiful, sometimes simple, often deep with feeling and allusions to important matters of the human spirit, and sometimes remarkably complex.

So there you have it.  Ha!  I think there are a few things to appreciate about this artist. First, he plays lots of instruments and his recordings often consist of him playing many tracks himself.  This is where it can sometimes get super complex.  When he performs live he needs a bunch of musicians with him on stage to even come close to reproducing what is on the record.  (See the second video below.)

Next, he has produced quite a lot of music covering a wide range of themes.  Some highly personal and some broad and far reaching. He works with lots of artists, but in a way he seems like a DIY (Do It Yourself) when it comes to putting it all together.

Finally, the feeling of his music is often spirtual or at least meaningful but Sufjan has been consistent in not attributing his music to any specific religion or philosophy. Nonetheless his music is often deeply moving.

So there you have it.  Its simple, complex, beautiful, and certainly unusual.

In this playlist:

Venus – From the recent Planetarium album

Too Much – You must check out the video version – how many people can he fit on one stage?!

Should Have Known Better

Futile Devices

YouTube playlist: Sufjan Stevens

Spotify playlist: Sufjan Stevens

 

Parquet Courts – Cool Music with Guitars and Attitude

Here is another band I just saw at Governors Ball who have been getting lots of play on Indie Rock radio and internet blogs.  They are from New York and Texas and have been around about six years.  They use a straight up guitar, drum and occasional keyboard set up.  They combine rock guitar sounds, with tuneful songs, and a bit of punk rock attitude.  The first two videos on this playlist show them live and give you a good idea of their sound and style and great guitar work. Hard not to like this all American band.

On this playlist:

Berlin Got Blurry – Stoned And Starving – Pretty Machines – Human Performance

YouTube playlist: Parquet Courts

Spotify playlist: Parquet Courts

The Orwells – Rock and Roll is Alive and Well

The Orwells are some young guys who’ve just released a third album but they sound more like rock royalty. With guitars blazing, great driving bass lines and a manic lead singer these guys prove that straight up guitar rock is still great.

I took this photo yesterday at the Governors Ball music festival.   The lead singer, oddly named Mario Cuomo, was intense and loving the festival atmosphere.  He drove security nuts climbing all over the stage rigging and getting up close to the audience. Watch this space.  These guys will keep blowing up.

In this playlist:

Let It Burn – The video gives you a sense of what one of their concerts can be like

Who Needs You – Classic rock is still being made

Black Francis – Nod to Frank Black (Pixies)

Heavy Head – From their 2017 album “Disgraceland”

Dirty Sheets – Also from Disgraceland

YouTube playlist: The Orwells

Spotify playlist: The Orwells