Category Archives: Feature Article

London Olympics Music 101

The United Kingdom, having been the starting point of popular music, or at least  one of the most important focal points thereof, and as host to the XXX. Olympiad will truly deliver something special in the days to come. Not only in sports but also when it comes to showcasing musical talent from the UK. Let’s see what we know so far, starting with the acts’ names and then everything you need to know concerning their appearance.

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Featured Video: Nels Cline (Wilco) rig rundown

Premier Guitar has done a great favour to us guitar enthusiasts when they opted for a rig rundown with the one of the most exciting, avantgarde, yet greatly popular guitarist, Nels Cline from Chicago alt-rock band Wilco. See the 36-minute (!) video below:

Nels’s setup in 2005 from his own page’s ‘Tech Talk’ section:

BEST SONGS OF 2011: #03

Seems like 2011 was a good year for those who love creative opening tracks as number 3 on our 2011 songs’ list is also a track 1-side 1, this time namely ‘Art of Almost’ by American alternative rock band Wilco. I would not really steal the show from the review or from the album description, it’s quick and straightforward enough to say that ‘Art of Almost’ is not only a flawless piece of work because of the exceptionally well-constructed broken beat played by drummer Glenn Kotche throughout the majority of the song, or Nels Cline mad guitar solo, John Stirratt’s rock-solid bass-rule, or the many this-and-thats added by Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen… The greatness of ‘Art of Almost’ predominantly lies in its capability of fitting in with other songs of an album with completely different instrumentation and of completely different moods.

Album version:

Alternative take:

Live version performed on ‘…Letterman’

BEST SONGS OF 2011: #04

When looking at today’s popular music, the work of Elbow certainly stands out as one of the most forward-thinking, yet traditional and moderate groups of musicians with beautiful, elegant arrangements, deep and well-thought-out lyrics which are easy to feel for, as much as they are really easy to chant at concerts.

Their latest album ‘build a rocket boys!’ was a critical success and it’s no secret you’ll meet it among the best albums list for last year as well.

‘The Birds’ is an unusual opening track: it builds up slowly, its mid-tempo rumbling with Guy Garvey’s soothing vocals gives a laid-back, yet lively basic atmosphere and after the shift, it becomes evident: there’s life, creativity and will to prove even after a lengthy and acclaimed career and the Mercury Prize. Elbow is the most elegant act around.

Album version:

Live at Reading Festival 2011:

BEST SONGS OF 2011: #05

“Besides touring heavily with now two albums to perform songs off, the band recorded their third album ‘The Cold Still’ at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios with producer Ethan Johns and engineer Dom Monks. The album shows a different aspect of the band’s sound, a certain openness in instrumentation which gives a musical proof of the band marching from smaller venues to concert halls and arenas. The interesting dialogue of acoustic and electric guitars in ‘Cause For Alarm’, the darker-than-usual soundand pumping rhythm section of ‘Step Out Of The Car’ and the stadium-filler ‘Organ Song’ and the dramatic ‘Both Sides Are Even’ all stand out from a generally solid effort.”

(feature article on Sound Arkive)

The song performed in a hotel room:

And on the album:

BEST SONGS OF 2011: #06

Catching up with my obligatory 2011 list, here’s the 6th best song from the now-past.

Beastie Boys has always been the definition of cool (let’s just think about the video for ‘Shake Your Rump’, the whole ‘Paul’s Boutique’ album or the fact that every member plays an actual instrument) and they upped their game or at least stayed on par with ‘Hot Sauce Committee Part Two’, the sequel to the never-released first installment.

MCA has beat cancer, the boys got down to beats-making and lyrics-writing and have dropped a plate with instant classics like the instrumental ‘Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament’, ‘Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win’ with Santigold, ‘Long Burn The Fire’ as well as the great music videos of last year.

The song I’ve chosen is ‘Nonstop Disco Powerpack’ though because it’s a great way to some up what the Beasties are, with clever rhymes, absolutely fantastic mc-ing (especially by MCA who shows that he’s not just simply back… he’s f–in back), a great beat and trousers-shaking bass.

And honestly: how badass do you have to be to showcase your album as a stream from centre court, Madison Square Garden?

You can listen to the whole album over here. (The song itself starts at 3.54.)

New Music: EXITMUSIC

I was browsing around on YouTube to post something onto my personal facebook wall before going to lunch when I found this band and since I couldn’t help but think of Radiohead just because of their name, I thought I’d take a look. And I can tell you with great confidence: they have only few stylistic features comparable to that of Radiohead… If any.

EXITMUSIC is rather a shoegaze/dreampop duo based in Brooklyn, New York City which comprises of Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church. They got together after Church had moved back to NYC after teaching English in India and Taiwan. The beginnings must’ve been very romantic: Church had nothing but an acoustic guitar and Palladino was writing songs on guitar and playing around with a four track layering sounds and creating little pieces of music. Devon states on the band’s myspace page that his musical influences include “Radiohead’s Kid A, that second Sigur Rós album, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Warp Records electronic stuff.”

So there they worked in magical Brooklyn (has anyone thought about how many great bands hail from the borough?) and released their first full-length album titled ‘The Decline Of The West’ which has been described as sort of a post-punk/trip-hop happening. Palladino and Church then moved to Los Angeles, married and Palladino began looking for acting work. (As she is a professional actress as well.) Work and opportunities waited in the east however: she got a role in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and the couple happily moved back to New York where they recorded Exitmusic’s latest output: an EP titled ‘From Silence’ which lyrically deals with loss, both personal and universal, “the destruction of nature and the destruction of our own nature.” Musically and sonically the situation is even more intriguing: the ambient, layered atmosphere-kind of approach is definitely present alongside simple beats that make the setting even more dramatic and of course, on top of it: Palladino’s strong, dramatic and emotional singing.

The EP was released in October 2011 and is available on iTunes (and via other services as well, I presume) and there’s also a 1USD single from mind-blowing opener ‘The Sea’ on their bandcamp page. (Click on the photo and you’ll be taken there.)

Performing live as a four-piece (Aleksa Palladino – keys, vox, guitar; Devon Church – guitar; Dru Prentiss – drums; Nicholas Shelestak – programming, keys), EXITMUSIC is a band definitely worth checking and worry you not, thanks to KEXP (the savior of worthy indie music, let it be electronic, guitar-driven, folksy or anything else) here’s a full performance they gave on air to listeners:

Inbetween Days: end of 2011, looking forward to ’12

It’s been a crazy year in many ways. I wouldn’t really like to start a possibly endless enumeration of different things that spring to my mind. Politics got a lot different (both domestic and international – make no mistake, I study these things), popular music has survived the ugly phenomenon we shall refer to as dubstep, we have seen divorces, flops, great songs and greater albums, oil catastrophes, scientists found a planet similar to Earth. And_so_on…

Unfortunately I have not been able to finish up the ‘best of’ lists here on Sound Arkive. I wanted to write about the remaining songs, the 10 best albums, the honorable mentions as well as concert of the year. Well, those words will surely be brought to you in 2012. But to be fair – and to give some impetus to all of you who are planning to go to party, I’ve embedded the 10 best songs as a dragontape playlist under this paragraph. (Be advised, the Beastie Boys song is practically missing, thanks YouTube.) Click on the link below and blast it away:

http://www.dragontape.com/#!/4402338

I also had quite a year in terms of festivals: I visited VOLT Festival held in Sopron, Hungary. This was my 9th VOLT (both ever and in a row) and perhaps this was the most modest edition, at least for me. (Of course my illness in the middle of everything did not really help.) Anyway, when I was around I enjoyed it of course and was particularly blown away by The Ting Tings. Same thing happened in Zagreb, Croatia at INmusic Festival where I had not one but two life-defining moments (fortunately, not moments but whole soundchecks and concerts), namely the performance of Arcade Fire and TV On The Radio. Two live experiences I can cross off my bucket list but will seek the opportunity to live again as many times as I can in the future. Below you can see a compilation of photos I took at these happenings. Also, we shouldn’t forget what possibly was one of the coolest things I’ll ever get to: the opening of the new terminal at Budapest International Airport with the concerts of Hungarian electronica-rock band Zagar and English once-drumandbass act Kosheen. (Sorry for the low-res images.)

Click HERE to enjoy the pictures.

So everybody could ask me: ‘what are your new year’s resolutions?’ I’m going to give you the musical ones:

  1. see either Arcade Fire or TV On The Radio once again (and this time be more aggressive about the photo with Kyp Malone if I meet him again)
  2. visit at least one of the Great Fives (more on this later)
  3. depending on my exam schedule, appear at my 10th VOLT Festival – the place where everything began
  4. write, record and release the first Laughing Vixen album
  5. have a Telecaster I’m gonna modify
  6. see Rammstein play live
  7. improve on my guitar playing
  8. perform at 2012’s Jew’s Harp Festival
  9. record my long-planned new jew’s harp-centered album
  10. go to as many concerts at the Palace of Arts as I can

With this, I wish you, dear readers all the best for the new year!

See you all in 2012.

BEST SONGS OF 2011: #07

I know, I know, you have all been waiting for the review of the full album, believe me, I wanted to do it, I just could not get down to it. (You’ll see why in the top10 albums section.)

For now, I just wanted to praise the genius of Iceland’s queen of popular music through this song only. ‘Biophilia’ is truly a multimedia masterpiece, embracing technology and the world of tones, notes and music unlike any other release, at least in 2011. But forget about the fuss. Let’s not think about how many intruments were custom-made only for the album (like the gameleste, or the pendulum bass which of course is not some gritty, rude and distorted bassline for drum and bass bands but an actual pendulum) and subsequent residencies held by Björk so far in Manchester and Reykjavík. Or the apps which made it more interactive. Or the so-called Manual Edition which contained photos and essays dealing with nature. Let’s concentrate instead solely on the song itself.

It begins with a beatifully arranged gameleste line and Björk’s voice – masterfully intermixed overdubs and a huge bass part with a clever beat. From this you can tell that Björk partly went back to her early days, producing ‘general’ electronic music but she found her roots not only in terms of production preferences. Her voice is as clear and dynamic as ever. And of course, the second part of the song. Oh that second part…

(video directed by Michel Gondry)

BEST SONGS OF 2011: #08

Who would’ve thought that a decade after the white guy from Saint Joseph, Missouri showed the hardcore rappers how hip-hop could be reinvented the situation would ‘worsen’: the hip-hop scientist of the year is not even American anymore. What’s worse than that? Yup, he’s from…Canada.

Drake certainly made a great impression on everyone and it should be no secret that his sophomore stuff ‘Take Care’ will land on our own album top10 as well.

So for now let’s just look at ‘We’ll Be Fine’, a song produced by T-Minus and 40. This bass heavy beast could even be considered a trend-follower if it wasn’t for all the clever solutions in the song: the harp sample, the great beat, or the “ah-ah-ah”-sounding sample that accompanies the choruses. T-Minus and 40 especially are masters of simple but atmospheric arrangements and ‘We’ll Be Fine’ is nothing short of those.

Lyrically the song bears an interesting dramatic curve in which Drake’s words embrace the inspiration (Aaliyah, hip-hop’s greatest martyr besides of course 2Pac or B.I.G.), the past we all have to face and of course, the fame, success and well-being of the present which stays nevertheless melancholic. I would not go as far as calling this ‘poetic’ but it’s certainly more intelligent and deeper than many songs of today, especially in this genre.

And the chorus’s ‘We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine, we’ll be fine’ is of course a nice message for us all for 2012.

Listen to the song below: