Typically, in this space, we do the week as a Thursday-to-Thursday thing, and we wait a week to consider any videos that come out the same Friday as this column runs. As you may have noticed, one Beyoncé Knowles happened to give us a new “visual album,” with 17 new music videos, just last night. According to most estimates, she threw the whole bundle on iTunes at around 12:13AM, and many of them aren’t online in full yet, which means they won’t count toward this week’s countdown. That’s good, since there’s no way in hell I’d have time to puzzle through them all without at least a day to consider. But if the Beyoncé videos counted toward this week’s list, there’s a good chance we’d be looking at an all-Beyoncé top five, especially when you consider that this was a slow week for music videos. Instead, that all-Beyoncé list may still arrive next week, and we’ve got five other videos below.
We just published our 50 Favorite Songs Of 2013, but this week reminded us that the year ain’t over yet. On Wednesday, both EMA and Burial dropped new songs that would have commanded serious consideration if we’d had them even a few days earlier. Needless to say they both landed on our list of the week’s best songs, below. Although, honestly, this week reminded us that this week ain’t even over yet — last night, at midnight, Beyonce released a whole new album with exactly zero warning, and surely some of those songs belong on this thing, too. Not to worry; they’re eligible for next week’s list. And frankly, it would be hard to cut any of the five songs that were included here. Check ’em out below.
A$AP Mob assured us that Lordes never worry (or something like that), but this is still some unfortunate timing for New Zealand’s anti-excess teen queen: She released surprise new music online at the same time as Beyoncé. In Lorde’s case, though, the early Christmas present is just one song, a non-album single called “No Better.” It will scan as a welcome delight for anyone who got hooked on Pure Heroine, but it still seems kind of like finding socks wrapped up under the tree compared to a 17-song “visual album.” Hey, she’s against lavish celebrity excess, remember? Listen below.
Mark Kozelek is a brilliant songwriter — I’d argue he’s among the best of our generation — but he’s got an equal genius for song interpretation. Via Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, or under his own name, he’s done so many notable covers at this point that even a representative cross section doesn’t do justice to his oeuvre: John Denver, Godflesh, the Cars, the Jackson 5, Danzig, Bruno Mars, KISS, Yes, “The Star Spangled Banner” … plus of course entire covers albums dedicated to Modest Mouse and Brian Johnson-era AC/DC. And all this material is unfailingly true to Kozelek’s musical vision: stark, melancholy, clear, serene, driven by Kozelek’s rich, dolorous voice, which is frequently thick with reverb and multi-tracked to cover nine octaves at once. It’s a thing of sublime beauty, absolutely one of my favorite sounds in the whole world. Because of his rare gifts, Kozelek is probably uniquely suited to do an album of Christmas songs. That album — Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols — won’t actually be released till next November, but to slow-boil anticipation and bring some much-needed gravitas and solemnity to our 2013 festivities, he’s made available a couple of the album’s tracks: The a capella “O Come All Ye Faithful” arrived earlier this week, and today, we’ve got his gentle, breathtaking, nearly unaccompanied “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Listen.
Controversial director Lars von Trier and indie darling actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg have one of the creepier director/actress relationships; they teamed up for the apocalyptic Melancholia and next year’s hypersexed Nymphomaniac. For the latter, Gainsbourg has recorded a cover of the rock standard “Hey Joe” (popularized by the Jimi Hendrix Experience on their landmark debut Are You Experienced) with production by Beck. It’s a breathy, hauntingly ominous take that nonetheless retains the song’s bluesy swagger, and you can definitely hear the Beck in those bass parts and choral flourishes. Listen below.
A couple of months ago, we learned that the Jack White/Alison Mosshart band the Dead Weather was getting ready for an imminent return by prepping a bunch of singles, all of them available through a Third Man subscription series that’ll take the band through 2013. At some point, they’ll also compile those songs, and a few others, into a new full-length album. And we heard a preview of “Open Up (That’s Enough),” the furious and unstable first single. Well, today, we get to hear all of “Open Up (That’s Enough),” and it goes hard. The track is a restraint-free ripper with seesawing circus riffs to burn, and you can hear it below.
In the Thurston Moore/Kim Gordon breakup, neither one got custody of Lee Ranaldo or Steve Shelly. Instead, Ranaldo and Shelly, the two former Sonic Youth bandmates, got custody of each other. Shelly plays drums in Ranaldo’s new band Lee Ranaldo And The Dust, and they just released Last Night On Earth, their debut album as a unit, earlier this fall. Last night, they brought some of that old tangled Sonic Youth chemistry to Conan, where they banged out a warmly scruffy rendition of “Lecce, Leaving,” their Last Night On Earth single. Watch it below.
DJ Premier was the musical half of Gang Starr. He produced “NY State Of Mind” for Nas and “Kick In The Door” for Biggie and “Come Clean” for Jeru The Damaja. There’s a strong argument that he’s the greatest rap producer of all time. And now he’s remixed Disclosure’s “Latch,” the woozy electro-wobble ballad that made a name for Disclosure and another name for guest singer Sam Smith. For his remix, Preemo has stayed away from the hyper-accurate scratches and soul-feeding drums that he’s known for, turning it into a panting sex-jam instead. It’s lovely. I’m as lost in the new Beyoncé album as everyone else in my Twitter feed this morning, but a track like this demands a quick break from that. The remix, like Kaytranada’s reworking of “January,” comes from Disclosure’s forthcoming collection Settle: The Remixes, and you can hear it below.
Bey just surprised everyone by releasing her self-titled fifth solo album exclusively on iTunes. The BEYONCÉ “visual album” includes 14 songs — featuring musical collaborations with Jay Z, Drake, Frank Ocean, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland, Justin Timberlake, Blue Ivy, The-Dream, Sia, Miguel, Hit-Boy, Caroline Polachek, Noah “40″ Shebib, and others — and 17 videos from directors like Jonas Akerlund, Hype Williams, @lilinternet, and Terry Richardson.
Portland folk-rock band Blitzen Trapper recently put out their new album VII a few months ago, but only dropped this new video today. Director Robbie Augspurger turns “Thirsty Man” into the soundtrack to a very surreal and goofy take on noir tropes. There are moments that seem like things that have appeared in countless films (the mysterious woman, the bloody interrogation, etc.) but everything is slightly off in a pretty entertaining way. Why does the mysterious man have a framed picture of a poodle? Why is everyone fighting over that phone shaped like a lady’s shoe? Probably better not to ask. Watch it below.
We last heard from Yellow Ostrich last fall when the Wisconsin combo released 2012′s best Ghost EP not by Sky Ferreira. They’ll be back with their next Barsuk full-length Cosmos in February, and from the sound of lead single “Shades,” they’ve pumped up the volume this time. Out with the splendidly spare, R&B-inflected “Ghost” sound; in with the loud guitars and groovy bass. “Shades” is a new millennial psych-rocker worthy of Tame Impala or Temples, but it also reflects Radiohead and Coldplay if you gaze upon it from the right angle. I trust you won’t regret pressing play below.
Milk Music released a statement today saying they will not be playing live shows anymore. They promise that this has nothing to do with the state of the band, rather it’s an artistic decision they’ve made while they focus more on recording and making videos. Speaking of videos they also put out their newest one. It’s for “No, Nothing, My Shelter,” one of the tracks off their Album Of The Week release Cruise Your Illusion. Read the full statement from the band and watch the video below, directed by Dylan Sharp of Gun Outfit.
The xx took to Facebook today to announce a very unusual sort of residency: Over the course of 11 days next March, they’ll play a series of 25 private concerts at New York’s Park Avenue Armory with each show’s attendance limited to 40 people. The shows will go down 3/19 to 3/29 as part of the armory’s spring season, reprising a similar series of intimate gigs the band performed at the Manchester International Festival this year. The xx will perform twice nightly at 8 and 10 p.m. with a 6 p.m. show added on weekend dates. Tickets cost $55.
I considered myself extremely lucky when it came to Chvrches this year. I think I am one of the very few audience members who got to see both the first show of their US Tour (at Sasquatch! Festival) and the final, Tuesday night’s private performance for SiriusXM at the McKittrick Hotel, the same building where the popular interactive play Sleep No More is performed.
Mark Linkous, the man behind Sparklehorse, committed suicide in 2010, and now Box Of Stars, a nonprofit that raises mental health awareness, hopes to honor him with a new tribute album called Last Box Of Sparklers. If it reaches its $50k goal, the crowdfunded compilation will include Linkous admirers and contemporaries; right now, the lineup of contributors stands to include Mercury Rev, Mark Lanegan, Califone, and Phantogram. And below, you can hear two very different tracks from the comp: The Flaming Lips’ woolly and psychedelic version of “It’s A Sad And Beautiful World” and the Joy Formidable’s sprawling, heavy take on “Gold Day.” Listen to both.
We named Portland micro-psych duo Wampire a Band To Watch earlier this year. Since then, their Polyvinyl debut Curiosity has yielded videos for “Orchards” and “The Hearse.” Now comes a third visual, this time for “Giants.” It’s a deranged romance of sorts brought to you by director David Fine. Watch it below.
A few days ago, we learned the perplexing news that former child star Macaulay Culkin has a new band called the Pizza Underground, which plays Velvet Underground covers but changes the lyrics so that they’re about pizza. Of course he does! Really, it’s the only thing Macaulay Culkin could do with his life that makes sense. And now there’s a 15-minute video of Culkin and his bandmates dicking around, practicing, and playing their first shows. Obviously, this is something you need in your life, and it’s below.
Eagulls have a new video out that is a tad less gross than their previous one that featured time-lapse footage of a rotting pig brain. “Tough Luck”’s clip is just as visually layered and hazy, but here it’s built out of scenes of the band playing. Watch the Sam Alder-directed video below.
With music festival season over, we’re now getting some initial lineup announcements for next year. The massive NXNE Festival in Toronto has announced its initial lineup for 2014 and it’s looking good. It covers music, film, and other media between 6/13-6/22, but there’s an emphasis on music in the last few days starting on the 18th. So far you can count on seeing St. Vincent, Juicy J, Danny Brown, Speedy Ortiz, and some others. Check out the full lineup announcement below.