I haven’t conducted a scientific survey or anything, but it sure seems like Stereogum readers seem more annoyed at us for omitting Arctic Monkeys’ AM from our albums-of-the-year list than for omitting any other album. Those readers may have a point; AM is a tough, confident, generally badass piece of rock music. The band is about to release the album track “One For The Road” as a single, and they’ve got a good one as a B-side: The simmering, intense, oddly soulful “You’re So Dark.” Hear it below.
Demdike Stare has fairly quietly released a handful of 12″ singles this year. They always come in the factory default sleeve you see above, all simply titled “Test Pressing” and separated by a number. These releases have been some of the most exciting electronic music of the year, dense sprawling tracks as terrifying as they are propulsive. Now, after a teaser we saw a few weeks ago, it looks like they saved the best for last. Testpressing #004 begins with the ominous slow burn of “Fail,” building around a steady 4/4 pulse and wailing industrial sounds. It sounds like house music reserved for the darkest and hottest part of hell. It’s a classic-sounding Demdike track, but in no way prepares you for what follows.
We last heard from ex-Weezer bassist Matt Sharp’s Rentals in 2009, when the multimedia project Songs About Time generated a series of four new EPs of soundtrack music including a collaboration with Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago, all of which were later compiled into the 2011 Japanese tsunami relief benefit Resilience. Despite that isolated surge of creativity, the Rentals haven’t released a full-length album of pop songs since 1999′s sophomore effort Seven More Minutes. That’s set to change in 2014: The band has signed to Polyvinyl and will release an as-yet-untitled LP next year. In a delightful twist, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney features on all 10 songs.
Anything R. Kelly does anything on a stage, you owe it to yourself to watch. Kelly’s new album Black Panties comes out on Tuesday, and last night, he was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live, playing the outdoor festival stage to a louder reaction than most of the bands who show up there. Kelly took the opportunity to recreate the album’s absurdist cover — Phantom Of The Opera Mask, violin bow, pretty lady draped over him — while singing a medley of “Genius,” the 2 Chainz collab “My Story,” and “You Deserve Better.” 2 Chainz was there, and he looked really happy to be there. And because Kimmel will never resist an opportunity to make a joke out of something that’s already funny, he roped Benedict Cumberbatch, his other guest last night, into dramatically reciting Kelly’s “Genius” lyrics. Give Cumberbatch credit: He sells the living shit out of it. Watch the performance and the recital below.
The Nine Inch Nails live show in 2013 has garnered perhaps even more acclaim than the masterful comeback album Hesitation Marks, a record we ranked among the year’s absolute best. But whereas anybody can stream the album on Spotify or whatever, fans who are broke, geographically isolated, or otherwise indisposed haven’t gotten to witness this Talking Heads-inspired production. Well, today is NIN superfans’ lucky day: The band posted Nine Inch Nails Tension 2013, a full-length concert movie filmed 11/8 at the Staples Center in L.A., online today. It’s not the full set, but 14 songs over 77 minutes is certainly better than nothing. Press play below to live (or relive!) the euphoria.
Here’s how former Oasis co-leader Noel Gallagher describes his own personal 2013: “Fucking had a shit year. All I’ve done is sit around the house and become a fucking hypochondriac. Dog-shit year. Can’t wait until it’s over.” But Gallagher also has something to say about the year in music, and he’s said them in similarly quotable fashion. Let’s dive in.
Even among Scandinavian black metal bands, Watain have a particularly striking, powerful, and original visual aesthetic, so it’s hard to believe they’re only now — on their fifth album — releasing their first video. “Outlaw” is one of the heavier (and better) tracks from the August release The Wild Hunt, and while the video is blurry and grainy as hell (intentionally so), it really does capture the coolest elements of the band’s psycho-fuck style. I didn’t see anything NSFW here, but if you’re not comfortable watching, say, American Horror Story, you might want to avoid this, too. To everyone else, I encourage you to check it out — it’s a really creepy video and an excellent song.
The Walkmen announced their “extreme hiatus” on Black Friday — though, as the extensive Walkmen profile we published today explains, that break was a long time coming — which made last night’s show in Philadelphia at Union Transfer their swan song, at least for now. The setlist was short, sweet, and career-spanning, with 13 songs in total, one for each year since the band formed. Sun Ra Arkestra helped out with horn parts on the first two numbers, and from there on out it was these five guys who’ve given us so much great music playing together one last time. Below, find fan-made video of opener “Red Moon” and a moving two-song encore including “138th Street” and “We’ve Been Had.”
Jorge Elbrose are Jorge Elbrecht and Ariel Pink. Ariel’s real last name is Rosenberg, and pink is “rose” in French, so Elbrose seems like as good a name as any to call one of the best collaborative pairings of the year. Their previous song, “Hang On To Life,” was a stunner and one of our favorite songs in July. Now they have another track out for the Mexican Summer 5 Years compilation, which was released in honor of the label’s anniversary in tandem with a massive concert, where Pink played the best set I’ve seen by him. You might remember this is the same compilation that brought us another great collaboration from Autre Ne Veut and Fennesz. “Called To Ring” is a thicker, fuzzier track but no less romantic until it hits its false ending and then comes jumping back harder and rougher than before in a way that brings to mind Microcastle-era Deerhunter. It’s getting to be due for a new Ariel Pink album by next year, and it’s easy to hope he’ll bring Elbrecht in for it, they’re making some of the best music of their careers.
The last image anyone probably associates with !!! is a crackling fireplace, but that’s the only thing we get in the 3:42 video for the dance-punk veterans’ new sentimental holiday single “And Anyway It’s Christmas.” For that matter, !!! is probably the last band anyone expects to release a sentimental holiday single. (More like ???, amirite?) But here it is, a smooth and heartsick disco ballad laced with twinkly percussion and keyboard sounds that could pass for jingle bells. “And Anyway It’s Christmas” is somewhat reminiscent of that Pulp song James Murphy produced or the eternally wistful and effortlessly graceful Sergio & Benoit, meaning you should certainly give it a spin. Who knew these guys had it in them?
The indie supergroup Wild Flag had a great, albeit short, run: One excellent self-titled album, a year’s worth of face-ripping live shows, a place in the heart of every music dork who worried that they didn’t make bands like that any more. But now, it looks like the run is over.
When Chicago singer/songwriter Angel Olsen announced her upcoming album Burn Your Fire For No Witness last month, it was accompanied by lead single “Forgiven/Forgotten,” which Tom noted was “a juiced-up two-minute rock song that’s about 1000% more muscular than anything on Half Way Home,” Olsen’s skeletal 2012 breakthrough. Now that song has a video by director Zia Anger, and it features Olsen hugging it out with her love interest and cracking a smile on various solo walks and bike rides. It’s a simple and effective visual for a simple and effective song, and you can watch it below.
Brooklyn band Caveman had a great, if overlooked, year. After putting out a very nice self-titled album (the highlight of which, “Over My Head,” is a must listen), they spent the rest of the year touring, stopping at Sasquatch Festival, where I saw them play an excellent set. Now they’ve just dropped “Empire,” a B-side from the album sessions, which starts fairly gently and gradually builds to a gauzy, beautiful finish. Listen below.
Throughout his three decades with Sonic Youth and as a solo act, Lee Ranaldo has discovered countless ways to wring noise out of his guitar. Fortunately for aspiring avant guitarists in major metro areas, Ranaldo is the sharing type. In October, he hosted a guitar clinic at New York record store Other Music; a second clinic will follow 12/11 at Amoeba Records in San Francisco. The bits captured in a new five-minute video suggest the New York stop was an eye-opening exchange of ideas replete with mallets, effects pedals, voicemail samples, and a Stratocaster hanging from a noose. Ranaldo shows off some of his favorite techniques and answers questions about gear after transforming a solo rendition of his recent “Lecce, Leaving” from a straightforward rocker into a harrowing noise excursion. As he explains near the end, “This was meant to be more of a demonstration than a lesson — a realm of possibilities with the guitar.” If so, Ranaldo seems to have achieved his objective. Watch below.
Somewhere along the line, something went wrong. Things fell out of place, or failed to fall into place to begin with. The general assumption is that Johnny Marr’s set went absurdly long, and that nobody forced Kurt Vile to shorten his in order to get things back on schedule. On subsequent days, photographers and others in and out of the backstage scenes will repeat a rumor that the Walkmen bringing their own sound man along contributed to the issues and the confusion, but no one really knows what that means. Whatever the cause, things don’t go right. Having flown in that morning from their various hometowns — New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York — the Walkmen arrive in Austin on Friday, November 8, for a high-billed set at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and are able to play only six songs.
Random Access Memories, the brilliantly luxe disco album from Daft Punk, is easily the group’s biggest pop success, but they haven’t made too many videos for it. There was “Lose Yourself To Dance” and the Coachella ad for “Get Lucky,” and that was pretty much it. But now they’ve apparently made another one. The album track “Instant Crush” featured a heavily Auto-Tuned Julian Casablancas. And now French TV has aired some footage from the clip, which features Casablancas striking rock poses while a couple of giant wax dolls stare soulfully at each other. Watch a preview below.
Last year, before he dropped the hyphen, I undertook the difficult task of ranking Jay-Z’s albums from best to worst. I had my opinions, and the comments section, by and large, did not agree with them. Neither, it turns out, did Jay. The superstar recently ranked his own albums on his Life + Times website, adding a bit of commentary to it. The results are mostly what you’d expect: Blueprint 3 too high, Vol. 3 too low, Reasonable Doubt right on top. But there’s comfort to be had in knowing that even Jay thinks Kingdom Come was pretty shitty. Below, check out the list, and, as a bonus, check out a remix of the Magna Carta Holy Grail track “Tom Ford” with a posthumous guest verse from the great Pimp C.
Lana Del Rey’s new 27-minute short film Tropico works, more or less, as a glossy but bugged-out extended-length music video, a pretentious but sensationalistic dive into her center-free aesthetic. As directed by music-video veteran fantasist Anthony Mandler, LDR and male model Shaun Ross appear in a few very loosely connected vignettes. In the “Body Electric” segment, they’re in a dreamy Garden Of Eden amidst various icons: Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Jesus. The “Gods & Monsters” part takes place in a fever-dream vision of an L.A. gang-world. And for “Bel Air,” they dance through some idealized vision of the American countryside. The whole time, there’s a lot of zoned-out voice-over, including a bit where LDR recites the famous opening of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl over a strippers-and-guns montage. Be advised that the whole thing is mildly NSFW for stripper-related reasons.
In the recent Louis Vuitton-commercial short film L’Invitation Au Voyage, David Bowie sang a solo-piano version of “I’d Rather Be High,” a song from his comeback album The Next Day, at a Venice costume ball. And on the new deluxe edition of The Next Day, there’s a “Venetian Mix” of the song, which adds a ton of harpsichords to the album version. Now director Tom Hingston has put together a video for that Venetian mix, which combines World War 2-era stock footage with brief, ghostly glimpses of Bowie. Watch it below.
A lot of people have offended Kanye West this year — Jimmy Kimmel, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, and Nike CEO Mark Parker among them — and in turn, Kanye has pissed off a few people, too. You can now add the Anti-Defamation League to that number, thanks to some comments from one of Yeezy’s many recent radio interviews.