Side A : Todd’s Picks
Side B : Chris’ Picks
It’s weird when friends fight.
Yesterday, the Weeknd launched a new video for the song “Belong to the World.” Mere moments after the song hit the interwebs, Portishead mastermind Geoff Barrow logged in to his Twitter account and said, “This is bollox” or something like that. He’s referring to the fact that the Weeknd song samples the kick-ass drum part from Portishead’s “Machine Gun,” and apparently was used:
a.) without permission
b.) more specifically, despite Barrow turning down a request to use said sample
For context, here’s “Machine Gun”:
And the Weeknd video can be found at http://buzzworthy.mtv.com/2013/07/15/the-weeknd-belong-to-the-world-video/.
I like the Weeknd; maybe more specifically, I love House of Balloons. The other two mixtapes were OK (Thursday) and good (Echoes of Silence). I love Portishead. I have two of their albums inside my top 20 of all time.
I generally have no qualms with sampling as a form of expression. Seems like most of what I like about House of Balloons has its roots in sampled material. “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” is pretty much Siouxsie & the Banshees’ “Happy House” with some falsetto (the first half of the song, anyway); two other songs benefit from the foundation of samples from Beach House (“The Party and the After Party”; “Loft Music”). I also really like the songs “What You Need,” “The Morning,” and “Coming Down,” which might very well use sampled material as well, just not instantly recognizable to my ears like the Siouxsie and Beach House material.
Music I like and admire certainly used uncleared samples. Of course, a lot of that music was created before De La Soul got smacked down by a lawsuit from the Turtles (for sampling a Turtles song featuring music the Turtles didn’t write…). And for whatever reason I have no qualms with what Girl Talk does, probably because it’s more often than not really well done.
And Portishead samples. I know. And as Barrow has pointed out on Twitter, the lion’s share of songwriting credit went to the original artists, or the samples were crafted in collaboration (“Glory Box” and “Western Eyes,” respectively).
In this instance, the reason I tend to side with Barrow, aside from the fact that he as the originator has the right to say no, boils down to this:
Did Tesfaye really need to use the “Machine Gun” drums to prop up this tune? Couldn’t he have programmed a militant beat of his own? To go around Geoff Barrow’s denial and use the sample anyway kinda tells me he couldn’t…which seems pathetic.
The Weeknd has some classy backers on Twitter, people who are getting the retweet treatment from Mr. Barrow. Example A:
Nigga u just a hater. The weeknd made the song way better then urs. Sit back and mourn you fagg @jetfury
— DINERO JAY (@4everAloneJay_) July 15, 2013
Laughable, regarding the sentiment that this new song is “way better than ‘Machine Gun.'” Weaksauce, in terms of nigga and fagg.
And this guy, who seems to be pretty tight with Abel:
— TIL WE OVERDXOSE (@ME23XO) July 15, 2013
First of all, *SHOULD HAVE.
Second of all, *YOU’RE STUPID. (Yes, you are.)
Third, I’m sorry, this song isn’t that great. Too glossy, too “lite.” The synths sound more Carly Rae Jepsen than mysterious R&B. The Weeknd excels when the mood is gritty, dark, sensual. This sounds pretty thin, aside from, well, the Portishead drums.
I guess that’s why he used them after all.
If you’ve read some of my posts over the last year or so you may remember that I am a big Fleetwood Mac fan. Their Rumours album was the #10 selection in my part of the “MoSS? Undisputed Top Albums Ever” lists Chris and I made last year. My wife is a huge fan too so when I saw they were coming to Des Moines this summer there was no way we were going to miss it. In need of additional support crew, we looked no further than our Pygmalion Fest/Best Coast concert pals. I’m pleased to report that thanks to their help… No wrong turns this year baby! Although, I wouldn’t have minded making a small 90 minute detour to the Missouri border for some fireworks (this trip being pre-4th of July and all.) Sadly, Iowa does not sell the good stuff.
Anyway, upon arrival in the big city of Des Moines we started our evening off at a martini bar called The Standard. They have excellent food (Tapas baby!), very good/not too pricey drinks and horseshit service. Concert night with one waitress? Come on The Standard! You can do better. They did have a cool little guy/girl band performing while we ate. They did excellent covers of some very random groups. Weezer, Timberlake, Marvin Gaye are just a few examples. I wish I could remember their band moniker so I could give them a plug but sadly, I don’t. Too many boozie drinks that night I suppose. So would I go back to The Standard for another pre-concert dinner?… Probably.
Since there was no opening act, all we had to worry about was getting our first concert beer and finding our seats. Price tag on a can of beer at the Wells Fargo Arena was a shocking $8. 8 bucks? For Coors (Pronounced Kerrs in my house) Light? I was a bit taken aback until the beer wench handed over two ice cold 20 oz. cans. 20 ounces? Shit lady, that’s all you had to say! I could barely carry them to our seats which were not exactly close. That’s the one bummer about this trip. I can add up the total ticket cost of my last five shows and they are still just under the ticket price for Fleetwood Mac and we were still midway to nosebleed land. Still, there was no way we were missing this one.
When we finally sat down I noticed that the crowd was pretty large. If they didn’t sell out the venue I would be surprised. I was also surprised at the age range of the audience. Since the band members are in their mid-60s, I assumed our thirtysomething foursome would be at the young end of the spectrum. That was not necessarily the case. While there was no shortage of baby boomers, there was probably almost as many 30-40 year olds on hand as well. I even saw a few teenagers wandering around getting a rock and roll history lesson from parents.
We didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes for the show to begin. Fleetwood Mac came on stage a mere 15 minutes after the designated start time. I can deal with 15 minutes. That’s basically on time in rock and roll land. Maybe “The Mac” have given up the rock diva thing after all these years. Or maybe they just wanted to get the show done before the 11PM Matlock episode started. I’m kidding of course. Over the period of the two and a half hour show, not one of the members of the band showed any signs of slowing down. In fact, they seemed to have endless energy.
Guitarist/Vocalist Lindsey Buckingham was onstage for almost every song and still plays flawlessly and ferociously. One of my favorite Lindsey songs is “Never Going Back Again” which showcases his unique guitar work. The live version that night was slowed down a bit from the original but it still shows he has the skills.
[Side note on the video: Although I did upgrade my mobile to the highly superior iPhone, this could not help my videos from the night. Shitty seats = Shitty video. I was able to find a few YouTube clips filmed by some cat named Jason Smith. Luckily, he recorded some of my favorite performances of the night. Thanks Jason!]
Stevie sounded great too. Her voice may not be able to hit the higher notes perfectly anymore but she can still belt out the hits. One of my favorite Stevie songs is “Sara” and I was singing it all afternoon in anticipation of hearing it live as my annoyed support crew can attest. After a couple of those 20 oz. beers I was talking about earlier, I had to take a restroom break. As I was doing my business, I heard the opening lyrics of “Sara.” Talk about bad timing! I was able get to my seat to in time to catch the last half of the song though. Check out the video below.
Another Stevie highlight from that night was the performance of her solo tune, “Stand Back.” She pulls out all of the trademark Stevie stuff. Air keyboards. Flowing witch/gypsy dress. Waving scarves. And my favorite, the Stevie Spin. That’s right. The Spin. What other rock star can whip the crowd into a frenzy solely by spinning in a circle like a little girl? No other rock star. That’s who. I got caught up in it too. At the sight of the first Stevie Spin of the night, my wife and I turned to each other and simultaneously shrieked “SHE’S SPINNING!!!” Check out the video below.
Every current member from the Rumours lineup (except for John McVie who has never been particularly talkative) spoke to the crowd during breaks in the action. They all seemed to have the same theme…Gratitude. They appeared truly touched and humbled by the years of love and applause. Even though the ticket price may be a bit high, I suggest you go out and see Fleetwood Mac. Before we know it there won’t be too many bands like them left.
Second Hand News
Not That Funny
Sisters of the Moon
Never Going Back Again
Eyes of the World
Gold Dust Woman
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way
At the beginning of June, many music sites started posting their “Best Albums of the Year So Far” lists. They considered June 1st the perfect time do so. It being the halfway point of the year and all. Well, we here at Music or Space Shuttle? actually own and know how to operate a calendar. Bear with me here, I’m going to do some math. You see, there are actually twelve months in a year. The halfway point would be after six months. That would make the the end of June or early July the perfect time for a “Best Albums of the Year So Far” list. Enough snark. Let’s get to the list!
Deap Vally, Get Deap! EP – Get Deap! is probably my biggest guilty pleasure record this year. The rock duo’s EP is four songs of dirty guitars, screaming vocals and questionable feminine hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crushing hard on the both of them. They’re like a cross between PJ Harvey, The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin. Hoping they come to the area for a live show soon. I may just run away with them. –T
Key Track(s) – “Lies”, “Gonna Make My Own Money”
Ducktails, The Flower Lane – This one surprised me. I was never a big fan of Ducktails in the past. The last LP was fine but never really kept my interest. Pitchfork streamed this record for free last prior to the release and I couldn’t stop playing it. The mastermind behind Ducktails is the guitarist for Real Estate so there are some similarities between the two but this record stands up well on its own. Chris’ former pretend girlfriend Madeline Follin from Cults even makes a cameo on my favorite song from the record “Sedan Magic.” They were in Iowa City in April and put on a great show. Chris wrote about it here. -T
Key Track(s) – “Sedan Magic”
My Bloody Valentine, m b v – What was almost as unbelievable as the release of a new My Bloody Valentine album is the fact that somehow it was not an absolute letdown. In fact, it was brilliant. The first three songs sound like a natural continuation of Loveless. The middle third reminds me of stuff the band released on the various EPs from 1988 to 1991. And the final third showed where the band could go if it damn well wanted: jungle beats, devilish swirls of guitar, soaring synths. A longer examination of an instant classic can be found in a post from February. –C
Key track(s) – “in another way,” “wonder 2”
Palma Violets, 180 – When I hear hype surrounding bands like Arctic Monkeys or the Vaccines or the like, I give their records a spin and often come away disappointed. This isn’t at all what I thought I would hear! Yet when I listened to a band that lacked the “next big thing” tag, one called Palma Violets, lo and behold, there it was! 180 is the album I’d always thought I’d hear from the buzz bands. “No-frills” rock, but punctuated with a charismatic singer and nice use of keyboard among the garage rock sounds. I’m starting to rethink my declaration of seeing Wild Belle instead of these guys at Lolla. –C
Key track: “Best of Friends”
Rhye, Woman – Reminiscent of The Weeknd in a couple of ways: one, is the singer a guy or a girl (answer: guy); two, regardless, this is really freakin’ great. Slinky, sexy, smooth as silk. “The Fall” is a vocal treasure, while “Last Dance” parts the smoky haze of the record for a few minutes to allow for moments of upbeat groove. While the vocals are natural to pair with slow and low tempo, it’s the juxtaposition of the emotion against the more up-tempo instrumentation that keep this collection from coming off as one-note. The comparisons to Sade and the xx are fair both in terms of similar sound and similar quality. –C
Key track: “The Fall”
Savages, Silence Yourself – The savage (ahem) rumble of the drums and bass is what does it for me when it comes to Savages’ music. Of course, that alone isn’t going to get the job done, and thankfully the vocals and guitar work provide sharp contrast. That’s not to say the drumming is some sort of sloppy, tribal, Meg White-kind of stuff (which I like as well, in that context); Fay Milton snaps off precise snare hits and provides a tight, fast backbone. Anyway, this is what you get when you get four people dedicated to art but aren’t afraid to also make tight, listenable songs in the process. –C
Key track(s): “Shut Up”
Sigur Ros, Kveikur – I love that one of the coolest, heaviest records of the year was created by three dudes from Iceland, including the pixie-like Jonsi. It’s not like the band had to reinvent itself to sound this way; songs from the early albums have been intense, bordering on metallic at times. Even on the relatively chill album ( ), they showed they could deconstruct into harsh madness (“Untitled 8,” anyone?). As one reviewer put it, perhaps Georg (bass) and Orri (drums) were sick of never getting any credit, and just went buck wild on all our asses. It worked. –C
Key track: “Brennisteinn”
Small Black, Limits of Desire – I had big hopes for this album after loving their first full length album New Chain and subsequent Moon Killer MixTape. After the first listen, I was less than impressed. Maybe it was their bizarre album cover. Maybe it was because the chillwave vibes of the first album were mostly gone and what was left was mainly a synth pop record. It took a few additional listens for me to remember, “I f’ing love synth pop records!” -T
Key Track(s) – “No Stranger”
Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob – This one is a shoo-in for a #2 spot on my overall Best of 2013 list since their previous two records had that title in 2007 and 2009. This time the ladies changed up their style a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to the new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it. -T
Key Track(s) – “How Come You Don’t Want Me”, “Closer”
Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin – Let’s say Tame Impala had a love-child band with one of those garage rock groups you might find on an old Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation. Sounds as dreamy as chocolate and peanut butter coming together, no? Thee Oh Sees pretty much sounds like the spawn of the aforementioned scenario, doing its thing at an incredibly prolific rate, to boot. Floating Coffin seems like their fourth album in three years–probably because it is!–and each output continues to satisfy. Not only is there energy galore in the tunes, you won’t find a much better use of the vocal weapons “Whoooo!” and “Owwwwww!” anywhere. –C
Key track: “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”
Torres, Torres – I know I’m supposed to use these single paragraphs to sing the praises of our favorite albums thus far in 2013, but with Torres, I’m having trouble pinpointing. Perhaps it’s the way her voice melts throughout the opening song, “Mother Earth, Father God.” Or the lyric “Honey, while you were ashing in your coffee, I was thinking about telling you what you’ve done to me” on “Honey.” Or how there is a sinister element to her songs. Or how the chorus just falls out of her mouth so wonderfully on “Jealousy and I.” Or that someone named Mackenzie Scott decided, “You know what? I’m going to go by the moniker ‘Torres’!” (shrug) Oh, look what I just did. I guess it’s all pretty great. –C
Key track: “Jealousy and I”
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City – This might be the year that Vampire Weekend finally drops its bridesmaid status on my end-of-year lists and moves up one slot to the top. (Finished second to Portishead in 2008; Crystal Castles in 2010.) The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. The esoteric lyrics are still here, but the most moving words come on “Step,” where Ezra declares “I feel it in my bones” and “I can’t do it alone.” –C
Key track(s): Pretty much all of them
Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt – Waxahatchee is the solo project of songwriter Katie Crutchfield and is for the most part very simple. One vocal, one guitar and occasionally some drums. The songs ebb and flow from soft acoustic to droning distortion filled guitars and her vocals float effortlessly overtop all of them. I started listening to Cerulean Salt a few weeks after the new My Bloody Valentine record was released. Like anything else that was released post m b v, I assumed I would be over it quickly and back listening to the masters of shoegaze. I was wrong. I was stuck on this album almost as long as I was on m b v. It was tough picking a “key track” for this one because this is one of those rare records that I find all the songs to be equally as good. Take a listen to “Peace and Quiet” below and judge for yourself. -T
Key Track(s) – “Peace and Quiet”