Just saw FR perform last week. Brilliant performance. With the right producer, I think these guys could be primed for a Snow Patrol-esque jump. They’re too dynamic to be contained in the UK indie sphere.
I found the platitudes honoring Lou Reed’s death rather funny. Not because he doesn’t deserve them. But because the same publications that cited his fierce commitment to nonconformity publish ridiculous interviews like this. When “artists” like Toro Y Moi or Grimes show their “don’t-give-a-fuck” attitude by shouting out Buckcherry or Taylor Swift, it’s really insulting to the legacy of men and women who demanded outsiders and freaks and the misunderstood be showcased and celebrated. I hated this.
Yikes. Regardless of right and wrong, keep it in the family.
This dynamic is interesting to think about in relation to big UK rock bands. Elbow’s discography is undoubtedly less musically diverse than Coldplay’s, but Elbow is a band all Brits can rightly be proud of, meaning they’ll rarely get criticized for being musically monotonous. Keane has released five #1 albums in the UK. Each sounds very British, by either relying heavily on U2 or Queen for inspiration. They’ll get hammered by American and even UK press, but they accomplish their goals more often than not. Oasis’ obsession with the Beatles has been discussed for years. There seems to be a tension between ambitiously claiming a mantle from the past successors, being a cultural representative to the rest of the world of what British music is while still being artistically interesting. Americans seem less forgiving with their artists.
Of course Cults yearns for the days of pay-for-plays. They’ve no on-stage personality, little chemistry with each other as performers and write songs with the emotional resonance of a bad Judd Apatow movie. They’re exactly the kind of artists who need to be on a major label. Without the business savvy or engaging body of work to be culturally relevant, they depend on “smart people” to make them so.
I saw two shows this summer by Manhattan’s Hudson River Park. One was guitar band Ducktails. One was EDM phenom Zedd. Seeing Ducktails was one of the most soulsucking musical experiences I’ve ever had. The performers tried their best to look as entirely disinterested as possible. The crowd followed their lead. I was so bored it become uncomfortable. Zedd featured an explosive set that brought the crowd into a brilliant frenzy. This article is missing the obvious detail. Guitar music, in 2013, is boring. If you had a chance to see Porter Robinson, I hope you took it. His song, “Language”, is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard. It didn’t need a guitar to make it that way. I’m glad he didn’t feel any obligation to the past or our parents’ sense of “good music”. Guitar rock today wants to get the 80s approval. But the 80s doesn’t pay for festival tickets.
I discovered this band opening for Death Cab a few years ago and didn’t become a fan but was intrigued. Liked Pedestrian verse a lot. And then went back to Midnight Organ Fight and have become a disciple. They’re great! Their music doesn’t feel like they’re bastardizing a genre for trendy appeal. Nor do they abandon their influences at the expense of their songwriting or performing. Like them a lot.
Holy/I Feel Better
Keep Yourself Warm
Floating on the Forth
Loneliness and the Scream
Good Arms vs. Bad Arms
Acts of Men
The Modern Leper
Reminds me of her performance of Sally’s Song, both being darkly whimsical. Enjoyed it.
Between this and the fashion-show-gone-bad, interesting how she’s teaming up with corporations lately. Not sure what it means or if its a trend but I’m surprised how, at this stage of her career, she’s more open to these kind of opportunities.
This is a good album but I’m a bit surprised by this reaction. “She’s not in the business of discovering new sounds” is correct. That keeps my reaction to The Electric Lady subdued. Not only does this album feel familiar but it ultimately feels very common. Thousands of black churches around the country have performers and vocalists able to elicit the same reactions the Electric Lady does: to make listeners feel like dancing their asses off. Which obviously isn’t a problem. But I’m not comfortable with modern internet audiences engaging black cultural performers and being blown away by musical choices that are relatively common to black music, in generations past and present. Monae demonstrated an ability to explore new sounds with the ArchAndroid. That this album does that far less feels like a step back in her development as an artist. Plus, that a woman expresses her love to another woman doesn’t feel entirely “progressive” in 2013. There’s nothing about this album to dislike and I wish her a lot of success with it. But not discovering new sounds isn’t an option anymore. Kanye West made a career of ” breaking down the boundaries between the old ones.” That tradition carries on with Yeezus. But at the same time, his willingness to expand the listeners expectations in the process made it worth celebrating. The Electric Lady? Not so much.
To be fair, I’m not sure one can pretentiously like Coldplay. Maybe unapologetically or casually or closetly. At least, not on a website like Stereogum. But I hear your point lol.
I’ll say this about the “First Two Albums” debate. Whether or not someone enjoys Coldplay’s first two albums moreso is their choice. It’s a matter of preference. But to dismiss Coldplay’s later releases, often times via reflex, isn’t fair. Coldplay never aspired to be indie artists. The sound they captured in Parachutes does not reflect their ambitions as performers or entertainers. I’m glad they then left it behind I’d compare it to Christopher Nolan. Someone could easily argue that Momento is his best film. But Christopher Nolan shouldn’t have kept making artistic independent films. He belongs in the blockbuster space. As a society of casual moviegoers, we’re better off that Nolan showcases his talents in a way that’s ultimately accessible and entertaining that the masses can enjoy. Coldplay does too. Coldplay is better at making pop albums than rock albums. They perform pop albums better than rock albums. Therefore, I’m more excited about the music they’ve put out recently, because they are better suited to their strengths and add a thoughtful and necessary contribution to modern pop music.
Coldplay’s my favorite band and seeing this article made me instantly defensive. I hate 80 percent of all writing about Coldplay because it’s redundant and often focuses on the same talking points (Eno, Paltrow, Radiohead, angry NYTimes reviewer, references to the Fray or Snow Patrol) but the music. This was pretty good.
I agree. Viva la Vida is Coldplay’s best album. Whenever I hear the “I liked their first two albums” crowd, it’s obvious they haven’t listened to the music. Your comment about their music getting “brighter” was a good one. By incorporating visual elements to their shows (from their silly French costumes to massive explosions of paper butterflies or bright wristbands), their live shows have become truly satisfying spectacles. Writing about Coldplay but ignoring how their music is designed to be performed is a pretty big omission. Which is why I prefer Mylo Xyloto to Parachutes. In a live setting, MX gives the band more chances to be themselves, which are worldclass performers.
X&Y is easily my least favorite album. But as a fan, it’s my favorite to think about. The band’s stated objective is to “bring passionate music to the mainstream”. Upon reaching a global audience, I sort of admire Coldplay raising the stakes even higher than they had after the worldwide success of A Rush of Blood…The music itself is overlong and lyrically uninteresting. But just because they didn’t know how to be a global pop band doesn’t mean they don’t earn points from me from not shying away from that distinction. Their success demanded that they be bigger and they gave it their best shot. They failed. But that’s not the worst thing. Crafting an opinion of Coldplay based on it fails to see how the work fits into a bigger, more satisfying picture. Everything X&Y does wrong they changed with Viva la Vida. Which is growth most bands can aspire to achieve.
In this list’s defense, I’m glad you appreciated Four more than the average Bloc Party fan. It deserved more love and consideration than it got. But no This Modern Love? Even Kreuzberg could have slipped into the top ten.
Perhaps it’s a credit to Bloc Party that my favorite three songs don’t make your top 10. But every time I see Verizon’s new commercial featuring So Here We Are I get goosebumps. And it’s not because I’m reminded of their cell service.
Amazing video. I’m pretty sure her sister, Maude Maggart, is the accompanying singer. In an interview with New York public radio, Fiona described recording Hot Knife with her. The process seemed entirely euphoric. Glad that was captured in this video.
I like Canada but I humbly suggest moving exclusively for the chance to use Spotify Premium. Which is exactly where this playlist is going right now.
This is wild speculation on my part but I’ve always wondered what effect Radiohead realizing they’d never “make it big” in America had them, especially post-OK Computer. Not to play musical psychiatrist but I’m sure most British bands from Queen to Muse to Coldplay to Oasis would admit that making it in America is one of the sure signs of having Beatles-esque success and stature. OK Computer had moderate-to-good success in the US but nothing that established their presence culturally. Whenever I watch VH1 discussing Radiohead and Creep during one of their many countdowns, it’s obvious how little of their legacy permeated beyond that song in a popular context in this country. Which is a shame. If, having created their masterpiece, they realized they weren’t heading toward U2 level popularity in America, I wonder if Yorke determined that they could go about their music without massive guitars.
The versatility in Karen O’s vocal performances is awesome. At the beginning I was hearing sounds that reminded me of the Cardigan’s Gran Turismo. Which featured similar percussion against similarly mellow vocals. But the ending blew my mind. Whatever tone she goes for, it feels effortless but worthy of the term “rock”. I am all about this song.
I appreciated the comment about Backyard Skulls not standing out in sequence. I’ve caught myself deciding that BS is better than I’d previously realized, probably because I’ve been blown away by Acts of Man and I love the energy and lyrics in Holy.
I wonder if the unexpected release of MBV kept music fans from digging into this album because, while I won’t say it’s my favorite album of 2013 so far, it definitely is the one I’ve listened to the most. It really is great.
Nice review and I don’t not agree. I’ll say this. Before Holy Fire launched, the band wrote on their Facebook that they were to have a album release party in New York where they’d play the whole record. “No RSVP needed, just show up!” Being a pretty big fan, obviously I jumped on the chance. Unfortunately, the band didn’t realize that their party was invite-only so the line outside the event space was initially not getting in. Which was annoying. Their rep/manager said that eventually they’d let us in one by one as space filled up. Most people left but the die-hards/losers waited for an hour or two before gaining admittance.
A group of four people ahead of me were let in one by one, except one girl, who was denied because she was under 21. So she was almost crying outside while her friends went inside. A few minutes later, out comes the other three along with Yannis, the lead singer. He took pictures with the now giddy girl and her friends and casually chatted with them. He didn’t seen entirely engaged or charismatic but definitely gave them all a lot more time than I would have expected. Even if he was just trying to get a smoke in, I thought it was pretty cool of him to do.
I guess I mention this story because, while I’ve always thought the members of Foals could star in a remake of a Clockwork Orange or be in Misfits, I liked seeing Yannis accept his role of band leader, which includes meeting sobbing girls on Delancy St. As the band progresses and gets more popular, they are making steps to act, sound, record and perform their songs like a band that matters. Which I respect. There is a Bloc Party/Coldplayesque quality to Holy Fire that takes away some of the fun they had with Antidotes or Total Life Forever. But I’m glad they believe in their skills and their sound enough to try to make the leap from indie act to headliner.
Ever since Stereogum’s interview with Corgan last year, I’ve been fascinated by everything this guy does. I don’t know his music well enough to consider myself a fan. But whether he’s doing tea or Jessica Simpson or wrestling, I’m down. This was funny and awesome.
This is the kind of song every band needs to release with spring and summer approaching. Upbeat, catchy, easy to dissect with a few listens. It’ll get on some commercials, it’ll be a hit at festivals. It’s a good opener for what will be a great album. Really enjoyed this song.
As seen with her work with the Crystal Method or even Tiesto, Haines’ voice just works with an electronic track. I love this.
I agree a lot with your assessment of where Holy Fire stands in relation to their other releases but am willing to give Foals the benefit of the doubt for a few reasons. Foals become too critically acclaimed and/or popular in the UK for this release to be anything other than an Event. Most bands in that situation make the kind of record that’s bigger in sound while trying to be Important. Foals did too, to varying degrees of success. I love Coldplay’s music and while their ambitions for X&Y were noble, it played outside of their strengths and didn’t really work. Keane’s another easy example of a popular British band’s 3rd LP that went absolutely flat. They’ve still never recovered their appeal from their genuinely well-regarded Under the Iron Sea. Maybe these bands are shooting for their personal OK Computer and just failing. But even putting that kind of expectation on any band is going to cause bands to make “gorgeous, shiny” music that sacrifices some of their humor and charm in the process.
Here’s why I think Holy Fire easily works better than the other two examples I used. I think they captured the bigness of their live show on record for the first time, which is important. I respect when band’s don’t shy away from the expectations or coronation of becoming the Next Great Band. Everyone could create their own version of MGMT’s Congratulations, which was a big middle finger to their new fans and pop sensibilities. (I’m not debating the album’s quality, just saying it’s a bit cowardly to make a great album and not try to follow it up for the reasons that made said LP great.) So I respect Foals for not fearing that label. Plus, some songs ought be considered some of their best. My Number is great. Inhaler is great. Everytime and Out of the Woods are interesting enough for me to put them on repeat. This album fits comfortably in their discography, drawing comparisons, influences and ideas from both in a way that feels like a balancing of two, rather different, forces. So I like it.
Having the album for only a day, there are enough solid songs after my initial listens to ensure I’m going to dedicate more time to this album and get excited to see them again on tour.
“Grand and arena ready”?! That might be true but it’s equally the most basic observation about Holy Fire. I don’t know why but I feel personally invested in making Foals’ happen in America. They’re so good. In concert. On Twitter. Their progression on their albums has fascinating to think about. They just announced a tour with Surfer Blood. There’s just more going on with that band than your brief write up. As a Foals fan, I beg Stereogum readers to not forget about Holy Fire. It’s very good.
My problem with Mumford and Sons isn’t their music per se. I have a problem when band’s bastardize an established genre of music to the point that listeners feel no interest in discovering that genre deeper. For example, the world is jumping onto electronic music, but if your level of interest starts and stays with David Guetta or Avicii, you haven’t exposed yourself to the nuances of that genre. In the same way, Mumford (or the Lumineers for the matter) don’t encourage me as a listener to discover more folk. Whereas, when I first heard the Low Anthem for example, I got more excited about hearing more of that kind of music.
As the biggest representatives of folk music, Mumford should feel a responsibility to educate their listeners in a more complex way about what folk can be. They haven’t yet.
I’m 23 and I feel compelled to defend my peers against the, “What’s your first CD?” argument. Granted, I wasn’t technologically savvy, and perhaps might have illegally downloaded albums if I knew how, but I bought so many albums in high school. It was routine. Which isn’t to say I bought them full price. Every Friday, while working in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I’d leave work and reward myself by going to a used book store nearby, buying a few CDs, take those CDs and listen to them while I ate McChicken sandwiches from McDonalds. That was the highlight of my week. But I’d go to Circuit City after school to find new releases or others I couldn’t find. One of the things I’d do with my friends was scour bargain sections at Virgin. I remember buying Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie….for 20 bucks at Best Buy because I heard 1979 for the first time and loved it. I discovered I hated the album and I still consider it a waste, consider used copies on Amazon are 99 cents. And I think I stopped buying as many when they became a hassle to carry around between semesters, artists stopped putting the lyrics inside the sleeves, and Spotify had everything I wanted anyway. But I loved finding a friend’s CD binder and flipping through and seeing what they had. And wanted one equally as impressive. My experience probably isn’t a mainstream one. But it probably isn’t rare.
I’d like to add one more thing to your list of “generational, philosophical, economical” reasons sales are going down. I’d argue it’s really a cultural one, somewhat exclusive to indie musicians. Chief Keef sold 50K copies of his new release. That’s a solid number. But he has the rap community and black community behind him, which are two groups that regularly expect to support “their own”. With so many indie bands operating without clear objectives, a socially conscious message or identifying principles from which others can share and celebrate, they’re not groups people can feel personally connected with. People that’ll stream music on Spotify or argue why piracy isn’t really that bad will send Occupy Wall Street a check, because at least OWS represents something they’ll want to get behind. Honestly, I don’t feel any moral or noble motivation to buy music. Instead, I enjoy feeling slightly connected to a band’s success. Everyone needs to pull out their End-of-the-Year list and ask themselves how they returned the favor. The Emily Whites of America want to brag about the size of their hard drives. That’s silly. Emily White needs to start finding artists who represent something she believes in and find ways to get involved, the easiest way being to just buy a CD.