As promised, Brit band Gorillaz released a new set for free on Christmas this year. "The Fall" -- recorded on tour during the fall this year as the group toured North America -- was crafted entirely on the iPad, with the use of nearly two dozen iPad applications in addition to live instruments.
Each track corresponds to a different U.S. city, making it a tour diary of sorts, though dynamically the set doesn't seem to vary. It sounds mostly like Damon Albarn has his hands on some new toys and didn't settle on any one favorite.
Clash cohorts Mick Jones and Paul Simonon are in the mix, as is another "Plastic Beach" contributor Bobby Womack. Oh and hey there's a cameo from Archie McPhee Yodelling Pickle on "Seattle Yodel." You're welcome.
Seems like "The Fall" will be up for free indefinitely, for stream, and fan club members get a download of the thing. My favorite part of it is the ad for Microsoft's newest Explorer browser at the bottom of just one long cheerleader chant for Apple iPad.
I didn't think albums sucked this year, because albums never suck any year. It goes without saying that top 10 lists are and will always remain subjective, though year after year I find myself on the defense -- but less so out of lines in the sand, but because of the girth of solid releases.
Some material falls out of that traditional realm of album, and I guess I just keep with what works. Killer soundtracks like those from "Scott Pilgrim" and "Tron," EPs like Robyn's "Body Talk Pt. 1" and The Tallest Man on Earth's "Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird," singles collections and reissues from Fucked Up and Rolling Stones, and albums that seem like singles collections (here's to Cee-Lo Green, Gaslight Anthem, Redman, Ariel Pink).
It pains me to omit some of my favorite indie acts like Arcade Fire, Jonsi from Sigur Ros, The National, Joanna Newsom, Sharon Jones, The Books, Hot Chip and some newer rock-leaning acts like Pearly Gate Music, Phantogram, Here We Go Magic, Women and Titus Andronicus. Dillinger and Devo had a sweet year, as did Cudi and Big Boi.
See how many names I crammed in there? And that's just the top level stuff. Good year, guys, there's never a sucky one!
1. Laura Marling, "I Speak Because I Can"
2. Kanye West, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"
3. Beach House, "Teen Dream"
4. Sade, "Soldier of Love"
5. Sleigh Bells, "Treats"
6. Local Natives, "Gorilla Manor"
7. Janelle Monae, "The ArchAndroid"
8. LCD Soundsystem, "This Is Happening"
9. Nathaniel Rateliff, "In Memory of Loss"
10. Small Black, "New Chain"
Sufjan Stevens had a busy year: there was the "All Delighted People" EP, "The Age of Adz" full-length release, and now this, a Christmas EP.
While it was the singer-songwriter's tradition before to make EPs of Christmas music for family and friends every year-- five of which were ultimately boxed up for the aptly named "Songs for Christmas" set in 2006 -- this new one, for 2010, is a little different. The Brooklynite-by-way-of-Michigan musician is joined by neighbors and friends Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National, plus Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire.
Stevens and Parry helped out on The National's latest, pretty great "High Violet," so it was a holiday reunion of sorts. They tackle Christmas classics like "Silent Night" and "Auld Lang Syne," and throw some instrumentals on there, like "Go Nightly Cries." The set, which is making the rotation untitled, is eight tracks long, including some originals.
According to Dessner the Aaron, "Silent Night" at least was recorded a "few years ago."
"Richie happened to be in town [in Brooklyn] and he happened to have his big, beautiful, upright bass and we recorded ‘Silent Night'… and it kind of made us all love this song again,” he said on BBC 6, as he and Bryce "DJed" for a night on BBC 6 Mix.
After it was released, "Songs for Christmas" has been one of the few sets of holiday music that I've been able to keep on rotation for multiple listens, beyond just the general Vince Guaraldis and The Carpenterses. I find some of that boxed set's "silly" songs -- like "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever" and "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" -- totally unbearable, but nothing that the "Delete from Library" command can't fix. But dude kills it on classic carols like "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," hymns like "Come Thou Fount" and Christmas songs like "I Saw Three Ships."
However, with this little collaboration, there's not a skippable track on/in it, even "Auld Lang Syne" in all its out-of-key, singing saw goofy glory. Despite Stevens recent spate (I mean three tracks) of 10+ minute tracks, he does have the gift of brevity.
As previously reported, Parry and Aaron Dessner will be working more with each other soon -- if not currently -- on the Little Scream debut.
Listen below. How do you like it?
Update: Tracks removed, head for the hills of YouTube.
R.E.M. are certainly taking advantage of this slow time in new music news: the veteran rock act has announced the released date for forthcoming new album "Collapse Into Now," and is even giving away its first track for free.
"Discoverer" can be yours for the price of your front teeth email address through R.E.M.'s homepage. Additionally, those who pre-order "Collapse" via iTuned during the week of Dec. 20 will get a free download of "It Happened Today." Radio free downloads. The set is out on March 8, 2011
According to a release, the band -- Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills -- have brought some special friends on board to round out the record: notably, Patti Smith, guitarist Lenny Kaye, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, electro-freak Peaches and The Hidden Cameras' (!!) Joel Gibb.
Raekwon, Method Man, Redman, Ghostface: all on one of the most stellar heavy-hitting collab tracks of 2010. "Troublemakers" is hot off the press of Ghostface Killah's forthcoming "Apollo Kids," arriving late in a stocking near you on Dec. 21.
The Def Jam set has a whole host of eye-popping contributors -- like the Game, Busta, Sheek Louch and Jim Jones -- but also a host of Wu Tang rep, including GZA, U-God, Method Man and a pair of tracks with Raekwon (who won over the heart of 2009 with his "Cuban Linx, Pt. 2).
"Troublemakers" is a treat mostly in that all four rappers deliver solid rhymes, no superfluous frills, and not a soft spot in its glorious four minutes.
Jason Lipshutz gives a solid breakdown of the whole "Apollo Kids" album here.
Beach House's "Teen Dream" is going to make one particular HitFix crit's list -- *cough* -- so it's a joy to see the Sub Pop duo have even more to share this year.
"I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun" is available for free download on the band's website. Yes, of course there's some jingle-jangle in the song going on, but it largely avoids sounding stickily, well, Christmas-y. Victoria Legrand's voice king of hangs around the same five notes, lazily letting us know it ain't getting any warmer.
Stay tuned for more news on HitFix year-end lists -- and for more noise from the Baltimore band, who are "dreaming" of a fourth full-length. Let's hope Katy Perry doesn't cop the title to their next set.
The 2011 Golden Globe nominations are out as of this morning, and with it comes a new crop of songs up for Best Original Song honors.
"Bound to You" and "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" from "Burlesque," "Coming Home" from "Country Strong," "I See the Light" from "Tangled" and "There's a Place for Us" from "Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" all made the cut.
So that's pitting Christina Aguilera, Cher, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi and Carrie Underwood against each other. It's a good mix: a return to a classic Disney musical ("Tangled"), new musical ("Burlesque"), a actress launching into new musical territory and an "American Idol" tacking on a credit's song for a kid's adventuremovie.
Last year, they chose "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart" over the credits songs from "Avatar" (Leona Lewis) and "Brothers" (U2) (and over that silly little number from "Nine"). Bruce Springsteen's world-wearied "The Wrestler" took it over songs from "Cadillac Records," "Bolt," "Gran Torino" and my personal favorite "Wall-E" (which itself had that tacked-on feel, too, sadly) in 2009. It was Eddie Vedder ("Guaranteed" from "Into the Wild") the year before that, and Prince ("Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet") the year before that. Emmylou Harris, Mick Jagger, Annie Lennox, U2, Sting. That's the whole last decade of Best Original Song winners.
They're all big names, many solo artists, all longtime musical veterans. "Crazy Heart" is a little bit of the exception -- it was co-written by newcomer Ryan Bingham -- but also co-written by esteemed songwriter/producer T Bone Burnett and sung by acting vet Jeff Bridges.
So compare that to this year's crop? It's a bit of a new ballgame.
[Read more and listen after the jump...]
Moore and Paltrow have been acting for quite a while, though Moore's singing career is much more established. Cher just kinda came back. Frankly, I don't care much for the paint-by-numbers composition given to Underwood, whose career is currently on the short side rather than the long.
"Country Strong" has been described as "'Crazy Heart' with a girl," a rep that might taint voters' perceptions. Interesting choice, going with ballad "Coming Home" as opposed to the title track, too. Aguilera is one of the most gifted pop vocalists from the last two decades -- and shared a pop era with Moore, remember? -- but has had a hard year, with poor critical reception for her new album and mixed results for "Burlesque." Cher's track may split the votes between the two, though I think Aguilera's track is a much stronger bet of the two "Burlesque" songs (though Cher's got the Cher name).
I think the tracks from "Burlesque" and "Tangled" were much better executed and produced, but it may just come down to Aguilera and Paltrow's names.
She and Jack White -- who produced her forthcoming covers set "The Party Ain't Over" -- have a go at "Thunder on the Mountain." It's motorcycle-movie nasty, particularly for a lady who's 73 who's holding her own against White's guitar w-w-wail. Stream that puppy below.
As she promised, Jackson is working with White in other ways as the "Party" gets promoted. The White Stripes founder will be part of the Third Man House Band on Jan. 21 and Jan. 23, at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg and L.A.'s El Ray, respectively.
Third Man Record's The Vault record club members get first dibs on tickets starting on Wednesday (Dec. 15), while general public can go crazy on Thursday.
"The Party Ain't Over" will be released on Jan. 25. It features contributions from Jack Lawrence (The Dead Weather/Raconteurs), Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket), Patrick Keeler (Raconteurs), Ashley Monroe, Jackson Smith and Karen Elson.
Make love, not war. That seems to be the theme of Broken Social Scene's "Texico Bitches," culled from the Canadian rockers' 2010 record "Forgiveness Rock Record."
The music video takes us to a field, with a wrestling match-duel, and a promise winner takes all. The face-painted athletic, erm, supporters from both sides are out for blood. Instead of blood, chocolate sauce (which, at first, appears to be motor oil) is poured on the combatants.
The two men face each other, feel grisly-mighty, pull off their shirts and lock into a wrestling hold. Chocolate rain, emotions run high. Yeah, we didn't AT ALL see this turning homoerotic...
It's weird, and it's funny. We're sure there's some other message there from director Thibaut Duverneix, but I'm busy dreaming of falling asleep with a lover in syrup.
Meanwhile, BSS have slated new tour dates for 2011, with at least one great big stop at New York's sound hole Terminal 5.
When the whole world's broken, sometimes you just need a little music, y'know?
Welcome to the World's Worst Bar Ever, host to Kings of Leon's music video for "Pyro." It's hardly a locale for royalty, as the quartet plays to sad patrons -- the wheelchair-bound, the domestic abuser, the lonely stripper, the awkward mismatched dates, the bitter bartender.
As I said in my review of KOL's newest "Come Around Sundown,"Â "Pyro" features frontman Caleb Followill pushing some pretty strong religious imagery, admitting "I don't wanna be your cornerstone." Yet it's the band that acts as a guide to heaven/the Light/an afterlife to these characters on the eve of destruction. Just as things are about to turn uglier in this single-shot video, the characters are lifted from the ground and sent skyward. It's very lovely up there, like being in water.
Thematically, it has similar Messianic implications as the rock act's curious clip for "Radioactive," though this one lacking in racial implications and with violence to boot.