[Polyvinyl / Transgressive; 2014]
Nostalgia-based music is far from a new thing. Every year 100s of bands release albums paying homage to the sounds of old, ranging from 60s psychedelia, 70s prog-rock, or 80s new wave. With their self-titled debut, Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) are just another one of these bands borrowing heavily from the past, but the difference with this Nova Scotia quintet from many others is the flawless craftsmanship displayed through every track on the album.
I’m not suggesting that what Alvvays have created is perfect. In fact, pristine musicianship and production would tarnish exactly what makes the album so great. Thanks to producer/genius Chad VanGaalen, the album’s rough, lo-fi exterior amplifies the warm and welcoming heart of the music. The songs are a refreshing mix of 60s pop and 80s new wave, blending the jangly guitars of the Mama’s and the Papas with the no-nonsense synths of Kraftwerk. This is far from a paint by genre venture with the album’s constant reliance on a rumbling under current of overdrive helping to give it a faint punk aftertaste.
A few weeks ago the MTV Video Music Awards took place, and to be honest, I didn’t watch. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I viewed the yearly event (probably in a dorm room over a decade ago). I hate to play the “back in my day” card, but I do feel that there was a time when the VMAs were legitimately about rewarding great music videos and not just a popularity contest. Big winners in 2014 include former child stars like Miley Cyrus and Drake, and Lorde was awarded the “Best Rock Video” of the year for her song “Royals.” You know, THIS SONG that doesn’t feature any guitars and is built around a looping hip-hop beat? Can we all just agree that rock (at least the popular variety) is dead?
On social media I’ve seen some bemoan the age-old complaint that MTV doesn’t even play music videos anymore, but I think it’s time to get over the fact they haven’t been a music channel for over a decade. Some have suggested that music videos don’t matter anymore. However, I think they are more important than they have been since their explosion in the 80s. Young people have turned to YouTube as a major source of music listening, often playing the same video multiple times just to re-hear their favorite OneDirection song. The highest rated videos on YouTube aren’t of people on fire, or people getting hit in the nuts, but music videos of teeny-bop stars (hence why YouTube has now started its own music awards).
I am still old-fashioned in my listening habits, predominantly purchasing LPs and CDs with the occasional MP3 when I can’t wait until my next record store visit. Despite my out-of-touch approach to music, I do still check out new music videos on occasion. I’m not spending hours online watching videos, but I do have some new videos that I’ve watched several times. Here are some of my favorite videos as of late.
On this month’s episode we jump between new music from Woods, Hamilton Leithauser, Spoon, and Open Mike Eagle to classic tracks from Soundgarden, Aimee Mann, Wugazi, and Bob Dylan. Check out the new episode HERE or suscribe on iTunes (search keyword: BDWPS).
Woods “Moving to the Left”
Hamilton Leithauser “11 o’ clock Friday Night”
Soundgarden “Girl U Want”
Spoon “You Do”
Aimee Mann “Save Me”
Open Mike Eagle “Golden Age Raps”
Wugazi “Another Chessboxin’ Argument”
Bob Dylan “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind”
Last night during The Both’s performance at the Mohawk in Austin, Aimee Mann revealed a fact about Ted Leo that I was unaware of. “Ted is a Hobbit nerd,” she announced during one of their many moments of mid-set banter. This proclamation caught my attention because I happen to also be an avid fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work (I’ve been known to show up randomly at friends’ houses dressed as Gandalf, although I’ve never left any marks on their doors). While Mann threw out this detail about Leo as a little jab, he wore the “Hobbit nerd” label with pride the remainder of the show, revealing more and more of his nerdom with each passing song. Here are some facts I learned about Leo and his vast knowledge of Middle Earth:
[Sacred Bones; 2014]
Whether it be the turmoil between Israel and Hamas, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Malaysian crash over the Ukrainian war zone, or the continued violence in Iraq, it’s safe to say that the world has fallen on hard times. Even the music world has taken note of the uncertainty with a handful of dystopian albums being released this year (EMA, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Damon Albarn). With all the doom and gloom in the air, it’s surprising that an often unpredictable and brooding artist like Amen Dunes have released an album that can best be described as stripped-down and placid.
For this month’s episode, I record on the road. Amidst my summer road trip, I take a moment to check out new tracks from The Pains of Being Pure at Heat, Afghan Whigs, Marissa Nadler, Death Grips, and Angel Olsen. I also discuss a documentary about A Tribe Called Quest and continue my look into the life of Bob Dylan. Check it out HERE or subscribe to the podcast at iTunes (search: BDWPS).
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart “Kelly”
Afghan Whigs “Matamoros”
Marissa Nadler “Drive”
Death Grips “Have a Sad Cum”
Angel Olsen “Forgiveness/Forgotten”
A Tribe Called Quest “Can I Kick It?”
Bob Dylan “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”