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.
I think the emergence of Calvin Harris beyond We Found Love is one of the biggest musical stories of 2012. Sweet Nothing with Florence Welch will be a hit. I Need Your Love with Ellie Goulding could be a hit. Let’s Go worked. He’s gone from producer to a main attraction. Which he deserves kudos for.
The biggest omission for me is Zedd’s Clarity, which featured one of the best vocal performances in electronic music. Well produced. Epic without being corny. Great, great track. I’m sure Interscope is waiting to drop it on America at the right time. But that’ll be a hit for sure.
Definitely agree with Local Natives. Excited about Foals and Shout Out Louds. Don’t be surprised if My Brightest Diamond releases an album in 2013. She announced she’ll be performing new tracks at a show in January. Which I’d love.
lol you’re making my point. “Tebow sucks” is a nonsense statement. But because people say it so much, it causes Tebow disciples have a freakout when he does anything good. If rational people simply said, “Tebow is average. His problem isn’t that he can’t ever win, it’s just that he can’t win enough”, he could be a backup in peace. In the same way, Taylor Swift does not suck. But when enough people say she does, the backlash causes some to believe she made the 19th best album in 2012. Which is equally farfetched.
Actually, now that she’s dating the guy from One Direction it’s Team Swyles. Seriously.
Defending Taylor Swift is like defending Tim Tebow. They both have too many fans and too much recognition to need any individual’s profound analysis or praise. Still, I consider praising Taylor Swift like celebrating Tim Tebow for throwing a touchdown pass. Perhaps our expectations of them were too low to begin with and we’re compensating with shock and surprise. Taylor Swift is a fine writer and performer. She’s always been those things. But we don’t need to dedicate SportsCenter or the Grammys to either one.
Personally, I look at discographies in two ways. What’s the album I’d give to someone who knew nothing of their music? What’s the album I’d most want to see performed live? If those two answers line up, I consider it their best. My logic is, what’s the album that best captures an artists’ core sound while allowing for the greatest potential to share emotional experience with that artist. On my standard, I’d pick When the Pawn. Therefore, I can’t argue that Fiona Apple, not at her best, is still better than all the artists’ who released albums this year. For that alone, I wouldn’t put her at #1. But if you do, I dig it. She’s very good.
I’d love to get a breakdown of where people think The Idler Wheel fits into Fiona Apple’s discography. Personally, I wasn’t comfortable overpraising an album I don’t consider to be one of her two best collections. Obviously, ranking an artist’s albums against previous ones can be silly, considering every work has its own set of objectives and goals. But if When the Pawn was released in 2012, would it be the #1 album of 2012 too?
I’ll say this about Fun. I saw them last week perform at a radio station end-of-year festival. By the nature of living in America with a radio, whether or not I liked it, I knew their songs. You can either resist or just give in for an hour. I gave in and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I wouldn’t mind if I never heard We Are young again but they were huge in 2012 and deserve some praise.
I’ll use one last sports analogy before I shut up. Some people have a problem with Major League Baseball including a player from every team at the All Star Game. I don’t. It might give some attention to random players having good seasons instead of having all Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies selections. As a fan, I know their rosters. They have great players that always make the All Star Team. That’s fine but that’s boring. Unless Texierra or Pujols is having a monster years on their great standard, they don’t really need recognition. Yes, their numbers are always good. Its just that they’re not worth talking about. I want to see Mike Trout or Josh Reddick or Adam Jones. Does that mean the All Star Team is going to have all of the best performers from that season? Not always. But it’s worth giving new players exposure for the benefit of the game. I didn’t need NME to tell me Fiona Apple was great. I knew that already. Was she great on her standard of greatness? I don’t think so. So she doesn’t need NME’s ink. These lists can be a great tool to expose fans to other artists who are worth listening to. Which I think is more important than getting a list “right” or “wrong”.
I want to perhaps explain why Fiona Apple not being on this list isn’t that big of a deal. We all recognize her brilliance. That Fiona Apple released an album that was entirely exceptional shouldn’t be surprising. In the same way no one would lose their shit over Lebron James scoring 30, having 10 rebounds and 8 assists in a game, I’m a little surprised the world is still in awe that Fiona Apple accomplished with The Idler Wheel that which she has only ever accomplished, which is to make great music. Now, if Norris Cole scored 30/10/8, it’d be worth talking about. And he deserves praise. But that’s because it’s unexpected. His numbers are the same as Lebron’s, but different athlete’s have different standards. When Lebron dropped 50 in Boston in a playoff elimination game, that’s worth recognizing. I think these lists should celebrate more underappreciated artists who contributed to a great musical year, not craft a purely objective standard of quantifiable “best” work. Because it becomes a bit predictable.
When Fiona’s discography is laid out, is the Idler Wheel her most transcendent work? Probably not. I comfortably would say it’ll be the album I’ll come back to the least. Not saying it isn’t great. It is. But Fiona scored 30 points with it, not 50. She did what we all expected from her, which is be amazing. Do we need to discuss it? Not really.
I think just out of respect for their history, everyone should relisten to Bloc Party’s album. How they failed to get any traction from Four is stunning. Is it their best work? Maybe not. But they’re too talented to be as forgotten as I fear they will be this End of Year season.
And between their LP and EP, Schol of Seven Bells had a very good year. If they released the best tracks from those two releases into one collection, they’d be receiving a lot more recognition. They deserve it too.
Metric – Synthetica
In terms of artists getting paid, ease of access doesn’t matter as much as our lack of personal ownership toward musicians we like. The motivation to drink from a local brewery surely involves its superior taste. But it also involves feeling personally invested in a brand’s success. Buying local produce or buying from local bookstores might be (irritatingly) trendy but more so it’s a commitment to supporting institutions we value. Music shouldn’t be so different. Country fans take ownership of their artists. Country artists get paid. Rihanna’s Navy and Little Monsters take ownership of their artists. Rihanna and Gaga get paid. Even Christian hiphop’s Lecrae sells 100K of his releases because Christian culture understands that ministers have to be supported by their constituents. So much of independent music’s culture is based on hearing an albums just long enough to have an opinion of whether or not they belong on end-of-the-year Best-of lists. It’s a fun conversation to have every December. But that’s not a motivation artists can bank on.