Guided By Voices are not going to slow down for you or anyone. The Ohio indie rock OGs just released their last album Motivational Jumpsuit last month, and they’ve already made plans to give us another one, the 18-song Cool Planet, this spring. The band recorded this one, they assure us, in a proper video, and I’m tempted to believe that Robert Pollard just wrote a pile of new songs because it was too cold to go outside in the Upper Midwest this winter. This is the band’s sixth album since reuniting a couple of years ago, which is staggering. How many bands never make it to six albums before breaking up for the first time? So many bands! Cool Planet’s first single is “Bad Love Is Easy To Do,” and it’s a characteristically swaggering, tossed-off power-pop anthem. Listen below.
A ton of people — HAIM, Angel Haze, London Grammar, Sondre Lerche — have covered Miley Cyrus’s world-beating tearjerker “Wrecking Ball,” and there’s a reason for that; it’s a fucking great song. Our latest “Wrecking Ball” interpreters are British art-rockers Wild Beasts, who did a trebley acoustic version of the song while they were doing an in-store set at New York’s Other Music on Monday. They played it for laughs, which is a bit annoying, but they’re still good singers, and it’s still a great song. Watch it below.
Fun fact: Syd Butler, the bass player in Fred Armisen’s Late Night With Seth Meyers house band, is the Hold Steady’s old Frenchkiss Records label boss. So maybe that’s why the Hold Steady were on Late Night last night, the first musical guests of the second week of the show under Meyers. Or maybe, as Meyers says, he just loves this band; he wouldn’t be the only one. On the show last night, the Hold Steady played “Spinners,” a charged-up song from their forthcoming Teeth Dreams. It’s the first time I’ve seen frontman Craig Finn going guitar-free onstage, and amazingly, he doesn’t look uncomfortable without an instrument to randomly flail at every few seconds. You probably already know this, but the Hold Steady is one of the world’s great working live bands, so you should probably watch the video below.
If you’ve spent enough time listening to the Mountain Goats, you know that frontman John Darnielle has a remarkable gift for short, economical, evocative fictions that come in the form of songs. He’s gone longer, too; his book in the 33 1/3 series, about Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality, is structured as a novella about a troubled kid and the terrible ways that the world treats him, and it absolutely devastated me. So it’s amazing, wonderful news that Darnielle has just announced plans to publish his first novel, Wolf In White Van.
It snowed yet again yesterday in Ohio, so I spent the entire day inside with my wife taking it easy and enjoying each other’s company. We laid around in bed for a while, fixed up a late breakfast, worked ahead on some projects, watched a few episodes of Gilmore Girls on DVD, spent some time reading, ate some chili for dinner that had been simmering in the crockpot all day, and capped it off with the Oscars. It was exactly the sort of day Tom described last year when reviewing Justin Timberlake’s first installment of The 20/20 Experience: “It sounds like being happy in love, with nowhere to go an nothing to do.” At one point during the day I threw on headphones and immersed myself in Atlas, the album Real Estate is set to release tomorrow, and it captured that sensation of sighing domestic bliss better than any album in recent memory — better, even, than Timberlake or Beyoncé’s vaunted tributes to matrimony last year. Those albums were steeped in marital contentment, but they were also glamorous, metropolitan, and sexy. They evoked images of galas and awards shows and nightclubs and passionate limousine quickies. They weren’t just about being happily married, they were about being rich and famous and impossibly beautiful while happily married. And while Martin Courtney’s doing well for himself these days, the experiences he conjures on Real Estate’s third album are distinctly middle-class. As usual, his head is somewhere in the suburbs.
On their new album Underneath The Rainbow, Atlanta garage-rock warriors the Black Lips, once known for stunts like drinking their own piss onstage, are mellowing out considerably. The band co-produced their new album with the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, and early tracks like “Boys In The Wood” and “Justice After All” have a bit more Southern boogie-rock influence than we’re used to hearing from these hellions. And right now, you can stream the entire new album at Soundcloud (via Noisey).
Underneath The Rainbow is out 3/18 on Vice. Also, Pitchfork reports that the band will be playing what they call “scented shows” on their forthcoming tour, with each event supposedly made to echo “ocean,” “cedar,” “moon,” “denim,” “squid ink,” “fire,” and “semen (if the man only ate fresh plums for about a week).”var chartbeat_zone = "misc";
Over the last couple of years, the New York rapper Le1f has built up a serious body of work for himself. On the mixtapes Dark York, Fly Zone, and Tree House, he’s built up a clubby, sensuous, theatrical sound and proved himself to be an absolute monster of a rapper in the process. He sounds like absolutely nobody else currently working, and it’s time he finally dropped something that cost actual money. Next week, he’ll release his new EP Hey, which features the 2012 anthem “Wut” and the slitery new single “Boom.” And right now, you can stream the whole thing at Pitchfork.
It feels like it’s been a lifetime since word leaked out that the actual backstory of William Leonard Roberts II, since we learned that his real prison-guard past couldn’t be further removed from the drug kingpin he likes to portray on record. His ability to sell that over-the-top and avowedly fake persona has been a fascinating, unprecedented success over the past five years or so, and he’s essentially rewritten the rulebook on rap authenticity just by existing and staying popular. On Mastermind, though, Ross goes to primary sources to prove his own largesse. “Drug Dealers Dream” opens with an automated bank teller letting Ross know exactly how much he has in his checking account — $92 million, give or take. I have no idea whether the phone message is genuine, but it feels like it could be genuine, and it feels, even more, like Ross wants us to know that it could be genuine. It’s not enough for him to throw a stray eight-figure number into a verse; he needs you to crosscheck its veracity. One song later, there’s another line that we know is real: Sampled news reports on a recent failed attempt on Ross’s life, with Ross already milking it for hardness points. (He does not, you’ll notice, include any news reports about suffering sleep-deprivation seizures.) The interminable “Dope Bitch Skit” is three minutes of two girls trying to one-up each other talking about how much money they have; it’s super-irritating, and you won’t listen more than once. Together, these extramusical moments begin to tell their own story, a story of a man who created a persona, sold that persona, and then spent six albums piling so much up on it that this persona finally began to sag. Because Mastermind marks the moment that Rick Ross starts to sound like a dinosaur.
In the four years since their last album, Canadian duo Chromeo’s brand of electrofunk is more “in” now than it ever has been. “Jealous” takes advantage of that fact: It’s bold, propulsive pop, and it’s easy to hear the immense appeal of the song, which could piggyback on the success of “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” to become massively popular. It’s the fourth song we’ve heard from the new album, following the Toro Y Moi collab “Come Alive,” “Sexy Socialite” and “Over Your Shoulder.” Listen below.
These days, new music from Fennesz comes too infrequently; his last official solo album was released six years ago, but what we’ve gotten recently has been revelatory. His collaboration with Autre Ne Veut last year, “Alive,” was just about perfect (and our Song Of The Week) and now he has announced a new album. Bécs will be released on Editions-Mego, the classic experimental label and not an unfamiliar place for the producer/guitarist. The last Fennesz LP released on Editions-Mego was 2001′s Endless Summer, one of the most beautiful-sounding records of the 2000s (while still essentially a noise album). The first single off the new one, “The Liar,” is darker than that last Mego outing, but it follows the trajectory Fennesz has been moving in over the last decade or so, and with some headphones on you can find vastly different layers playing out: some hellish, others angelic. The track is streaming below, and really it’s just great to hear that guitar again, even though it is iconically unrecognizable as a guitar.
The Walkmen may be on a “pretty extreme hiatus” but the band members seem dead set on making sure you don’t miss them too much by releasing a bunch of solo efforts. Following in the footsteps of frontman Hamilton Leithauser and Walter Martin, bassist Peter Matthew Bauer will also release an album this year. “Latin American Ficciones” is our first look at his upcoming debut Liberation!. Listen below.
The Roots are having a big year, having just been promoted from Late Night house band to Tonight Show house band. And now they’ve announced plans to bring their Roots Picnic festival back to Philadelphia for the seventh time. As usual, the Roots will headline, and they’ll also back up Snoop Dogg on a co-headlining set. The typically eclectic bill will also feature a ton of artists in heavy rotation on ?uestlove’s iPod. The lineup includes Janelle Monáe, A$AP Ferg, Action Bronson, the War On Drugs, AraabMuzik, Jhené Aiko, Just Blaze, British dance stars Rudimental, and a DJ set from Biz Markie. The show comes to Festival Pier At Penn’s Landing 5/31.var chartbeat_zone = "misc";
This April, Sunny Day Real Estate will release the new single “Lipton Witch.” It’ll be the first piece of new material we’ve heard from the band, who played some reunion shows in 2009, in about 14 years. The track will be available on Record Store Day in the limited quantity of 2,500 (on burgundy vinyl, except for 100 being pressed as clear), split with a song from the band Circa Survive, who came up with the idea. CS band member Brendan Ekstrom said he thinks it is one of the best songs SDRE has made, and you can read his full statement about it below.
San Francisco-based Tycho (aka artist and producer Scott Hansen) will soon drop the post-rock instrumental album Awake. Compared to his previous releases, Tycho’s fifth album is concise, coming in at around 40 minutes, but each track delivers with deep ambient pop rhythms and electronic sounds. Stream Awake now via NPR.
Last month we heard “Oxen Hope,” the debut single off singer/songwriter Mirah’s Changing Light, her first solo album in nearly five years. Though it’s being called her break-up album, she’s said it is one that manages to find resolution, and that resolution comes in the form of the closing track “Radiomind.” It’s a song built around airy strumming and featherlight synths, as Mirah proclaims her love for the radio, and really music as a whole, as something transformative and redemptive. Experience its catharsis below.
As you probably know, B.J. Novak is a writer and actor who got pretty famous working in both roles on NBC’s The Office — you’ll remember him as office douche Ryan Howard. Novak recently published a short-story collection called One More Thing, which I just finished reading a few weeks ago, and if you want my opinion, it’s a really good book. The tone falls somewhere between those old Woody Allen stories and George Saunders or Sam Lipsyte. It’s a little inconsistent by design, but it has lots of great moments; I thought the story “Sophia” was a total knockout. Anyway, one of the stories from that collection was featured on a recent This American Life. It’s called “Julie And The Warlord”; I’m not sure it’s one of the best pieces in the book, but I enjoyed reading it very much. It’s a surrealist story about the first date between a young woman and a warlord, in which the warlord explains to the young woman how his job works amid some inane small talk. The piece was read for TAL by Novak (as the narrator), Community and Mad Men’s great Alison Brie (as the young woman), and TV On The Radio vocalist Tunde Adebimpe (as the warlord). The audio is below; skip ahead to 7:02 to listen to the story, or just stream the whole episode. And cop Novak’s book here or ideally at an independent bookstore in your neighborhood, if you have access to such a thing. /sanctimony
It hasn’t been that long since the last time we heard from the Minneapolis indie-rap institution Atmosphere; The Family Sign, their last album, came out in 2011. But the duo’s next album Southsiders will come out in a different world. The duo’s new single is called “Bitter,” and if it was about the group’s feelings regarding Macklemore wholesale jacking their entire style and getting famous with it, I’d understand. Instead, the song is about how other people are bitter. Nobody’s ever accused Slug of being shy about sharing bad feelings, but you have to admire his restraint here. Below, listen to “Bitter” and check out the Southsiders tracklist.
At this point, it doesn’t make much sense to call the Mississippi rapper/producer Big K.R.I.T. “underground” anymore. He’s on Def Jam, his last album had 2 Chainz on one of its singles, and now he’s got a song with Rick Ross. K.R.I.T. produced “New Agenda,” his new Ross collab, himself, and it’s fun to hear Ross’s king-sized bluster on one of K.R.I.T.’s twitchy, traditionalist country-rap tracks; Ross compares himself to William “The Refrigerator” Perry, which is perfect. But more than that, it’s an ideal chance to hear K.R.I.T. sounding simultaneously confident and humble, and showing off those beautifully organic production chops. Listen below.
Q&A: Heems On His Self-Imposed Exile In India, Greedhead’s Comedy Aspirations, And His Upcoming Solo Album
The music world hasn’t heard much from Himanshu Suri since late 2012, when the release of Wild Water Kingdom, his second solo mixtape of the year, was followed quickly by the announcement that his pioneering rap group Das Racist had broken up. Suri is about to break that silence. In recent months, the man best known as Heems departed his native New York to bounce around Asia — playing shows, making an album, discovering emerging music communities, visiting relatives, and plotting a number of new ventures that seem likely to return him to the center of musical conversation this year.
A few weeks ago, we posted “Busy Earnin’,” the new single from the London synth-funk group JUNGLE. As far as I can tell, none of the members of the band show up in the song’s brand-new video. Instead, the video focuses on the dancers featured on the single’s cover art. The whole video is just one big, choreographed dance routine, all taking place in a big, white room. It’s a fun, unpretentious video, and if we’re entering a new age of people dancing in music videos, I’m not mad. Watch it below.