Posts Tagged ‘kid a’

The King of Limbs: Review

Your first reaction to the latest Radiohead album will be based almost entirely on what you expected from it. This is true to some extent for every album (and every movie, television show, novel, meal, etc.), but it’s particularly the case for Radiohead. The band has built a reputation as the most daring and innovative band on the planet, and it has now gone over three years between albums twice in a row. In other words, these guys have a lot to live up to.

I suspect that Radiohead knows this, and that it at least partially motivated the quick release of The King of Limbs. Just over a week ago, the album had no official name or release date; then last Monday the band announced not only that the album was complete, but that it would be released in five days. To top all that off, the band released the album on Friday, a day before they had initially planned.

The general effect of this was both to preempt any long, anticipatory buildup to the album, as well as to shift focus from The King of Limbs itself to the manner of its release (something Radiohead has done before).

Not that fans need or ought to be “distracted” from The King of Limbs: The album is quite good. Continue reading

The Suburbs: Review

“Sometimes I wonder if the world is so small that we can never get away from the sprawl…” —Arcade Fire, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

“I used to think I was not like them, but I’m beginning to have my doubts…” —Arcade Fire, “City With No Children”

When I was 17, I saw Arcade Fire in what remains the best live performance I have ever seen. It was February 2, 2005, and even though the band’s first album, Funeral, had only been out for a little over four months, it seemed like Arcade Fire had been around forever. By the time the concert rolled around, the band was big enough to bring David Byrne on stage to perform an encore for an audience that included, among others, David Bowie.

In fact, Funeral had had so much buzz prior to its release that it seemed destined to underwhelm. I, for one, was ready to play contrarian and bash it, if only because “Arcade Fire” is a really stupid name for a band. The only problem, though, was that the album was legitimately awesome. From the opening track, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” I loved it, and I was happy, for once, to completely understand what all the fuss was about.

Of course, with such a hyped and successful debut, there come questions of whether or not those fortunes can be duplicated. And while I really like their second album, and I really enjoyed them the next time I saw them in concert, I had started to think that Funeral was the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle success story that only happens to a band once.

The release of The Suburbs, though, has changed that. Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Top Ten Albums of the Decade

Albums may seem like a dying a breed as technological advances make it easier to skip and rearrange tracks, but they are still the primary creative force for most musical acts. And whether it’s a pointless convention or the natural artistic outlet for music, we still evaluate acts based on the strengths of the albums they put out. For most music fans, it’s albums that allow them to develop a relationship with a band or artists work. Whereas most of NPI’s musical retrospective thus far has been an attempt to sum up what was popular, innovative and interesting about this decade in music, this list is not going to be concerned with broad trends: We are looking simply for the BEST albums of the decade. Now, this is just one man’s opinion, but I think it’s safe to say that if you made it through this decade without listening to these albums, then you’re missing out on quite the musical experience.

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Aught Lang Syne: The Decade in Music

I’ve never been a big fan of Kanye West. I generally think he’s overrated,* and I find his antics off-putting. None of his big singles—“Jesus Walks,” “Through the Wire,” “Gold Digger”—ever really resonated with me; I didn’t really think they were bad, but I never went out of my way to listen to them (not that I ever had to). But when I first heard “Stronger,” I remember thinking that West had trapped some kind of “cultural sound” in a bottle (I didn’t think it in those words, exactly; it was probably something more like This song is awesome!). “Stronger” was the kind of “cutting edge” song that sounded both ahead of its time and of the moment.

*Truthfully, this impression is mainly of College Dropout, which I really didn’t like. Most of his work since that is more or less accurately rated.

Rock music stopped being the most interesting genre of pop music at least ten years ago. This isn’t to say that there are no more good rock and roll bands, or that rock music has nowhere left to develop—both of these statements are flatly false—but simply that the dominant sounds of popular culture were not rock and roll this decade. Part of this is rock’s own fault: Watch a movie from that late 1990s and you’ll hear what a lot of “rock” sounded like then—a lot of Third Eye Blind, Sixpence None the Richer, Vertical Horizon, and, of course, Barenaked Ladies. Not exactly riveting stuff.

But even more of it had to do with the flourishing of other genres, most notably rap and hip hop. Almost every artist to get that elusive combination of commercial and critical success this decade was working within those genres: Jay-Z, Kanye, Eminem, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Usher, etc. The only rock bands to approach the success of those acts in the 2000s were Coldplay and Green Day…and those bands fucking suck. Continue reading

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #121: Nashville Skyline Rag

 

OK, this is kind of cheating. “Nashville Skyline Rag” isn’t really a song, it’s more like an album interlude. It’s completely instrumental, and mainly serves to pace the album, like Radiohead does with “Treefingers” or “Fitter Happier,” or The Beatles do with several songs on The White Album.

The difference between those songs and “Nashville Skyline Rag,” though, is that OK Computer, The White Album and Kid A are all generally considered “high concept” albums. The interludes are (hypothetically) necessary to maintain the album’s sense of flow. Nashville Skyline is really just a simple country album. It’s only 27 minutes long, and three of those minutes are a pretty basic country beat without lyrics.

I don’t profess to be a country music expert, but this is a pretty humble, some might even say trite, composition.

What makes the song forgivable, and the Nashville Skyline album as a whole interesting, is the sense that Dylan is having fun. After his seminal work of the mid-60s and a debilitating motorcycle accident, this album, combined with The Basement Tapes, sounds like Dylan has moved beyond the pressure of trying to be brilliantly innovative and unpredictable with every album. And sometimes, I guess, the only way to get beyond that pressure is to do something completely unbrilliant and predictable like “Nashville Skyline Rag.”

Funky Winkerbean: The Comics’ Most Interesting Failure

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This* is not an unusual strip of Funky Winkerbean—the bane of the “funny pages.” Funky Winkerbean is not a funny comic strip, and it isn’t a particularly good one. I do not read it with any kind of regularity. In spite of, or maybe even because of, these reasons, though, Funky Winkerbean is by far the most interesting strip to ever appear in the Comics.

*In the current plot line, Wally returns home to a wife that thought he had been killed in action. Hilarious!

First, a little history.* Tom Batiuk started Funky Winkerbean as a high school teacher in 1972. The strip was about high schoolers. I suppose it was funny (in a bland, unoffensive comic strip way), containing stereotypical characters such as the high school principal, teachers, coaches, and the titular student. It also included a computer that became (not was programmed to, but “became”) an avid fan of Star Trek. Suffice to say, Batiuk wasn’t breaking new ground.

*Admittedly with the help of Wikipedia’s Funky Winkerbean page.

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