Last week Neil Young released the vinyl-only A Letter Home, a collection of covers recorded in single takes on acoustic guitar in Jack White’s Voice-O-Graph booth at Third Man Records. About the size of a phone booth, the machine records you to vinyl as you play, which is exactly what Young did, giving the album a unique vintage quality. It became a surprise release on Record Store Day via Third Man, but now Reprise will issue a deluxe version of the album, which contains a CD, standard LP, “audiophile” LP, seven 6″ vinyl singles, picture book, and a DVD of videos of Young recording the various covers, which include songs by Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Willie Nelson. Below you can watch a video of Young playing Bert Jansch’s “Needle Of Death.”
Britpop luminaries such as Damon Albarn, Noel and Liam Gallagher, and Jarvis Cocker have been in the public eye a lot in recent years, either for reuniting their classic bands or pursuing new projects or both. But what about all the Britpop stars who aren’t consistently making headlines anymore in the States? What have those people been up to lately? It’s Britpop Week so let’s explore.
About a month from now, noise artist Ben Frost will put out his new album, A U R O R A, and it’s an absolute monster. We’ve already heard the first single, “Venter,” a track that slowly built pressure like a dormant volcano before exploding more than four minutes in. The newest song, “Nolan,” waits exactly one second before letting loose a storm of screaming synths and crushing, heavy drums courtesy of ex-Liturgy/current Guardian Alien drummer Greg Fox and Swans percussionist Thor Harris. The song winds itself tighter and tighter around its complex, looping rhythm before a bright melody fights through at the halfway point. It’s the musical equivalent of being lost in a blizzard, but Frost’s dense, muscular production makes that one hell of an adventure. Listen to it below.
The Jazz June is among the more unsung emo heroes of yesteryear. The Pennsylvania combo doesn’t have the same name recognition as fellow reunited emo bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Owls, American Football, or Braid, but judging from Evan Weiss’ enthusiasm when he told me he was producing the Jazz June’s upcoming album during this interview, they seem to qualify as your favorite emo band’s favorite emo band. Thing is, “Over Underground,” their contribution to a split 7-inch with Dikembe and the first song they’ve released in 12 years, doesn’t sound much like anyone’s conception of emo. It’s more in the classic indie rock vein a la Built To Spill and Archers Of Loaf. So this is something you’ll want to hear whether you’re a Jazz June fan or just an aficionado of fine ’90s-style guitar music, and you can do that below.
The Horrors are basically a psychedelic synths-and-guitars band, but they’re also the sort of band who gleefully defies categorization. And as it turns out, they’re the type of band who can knock out an awesome cover of a Chicago house classic at will. The Chicago house music originator Frankie Knuckles died a few weeks ago, and as a way of paying tribute, the Horrors covered his classic 1987 Jamie Principle collaboration “Your Love” during a recent BBC session. (The song should be familiar even to contemporary British listeners. In the wake of Knuckles’ death, it climbed back into the UK’s top 40, which is a very cool thing on the UK’s part.) With their version of the song, the Horrors turn the song into a spacey rock drone. Below, listen to the Horrors’ whole live-in-studio session; the “Your Love” cover starts around the 18:00 mark
“Move That Dope,” the burping, twitching Future/Pusha T/Pharrell/Casino posse cut from Future’s new album Honest, is easily my favorite single of the year, in any genre. And last night, Future and Pusha T appeared on The Tonight Show to perform a scaled-down version of the track with the Roots. (If you’re Jimmy Fallon, the song is called “Move That Dough.”) Future is a surprisingly controlled, composed live rapper, and Pusha T is one of rap’s great onstage livewires. The Roots, meanwhile, did a chaotic backing-track-plus-drum-clatter take on Mike Will Made-It’s incredible Neptunes-esque beat. Watch the performance below.
Emo-pop survivors Paramore released a self-titled album last year, and that thing has legs. Their new-wavy single “Ain’t It Fun,” which has persistently refused to go away, is one of the best guitar-driven pop hits in recent memory. And last night, the band got one of the rare musical-guest spots on Late Night With Seth Meyers, where they did a fun, spirited rendition of “Ain’t It Fun.” And in related news, the tricky British indie-poppers Dutch Uncles remixed “Ain’t It Fun,” and Paramore used that remix as the B-side of their Record Store Day “Ain’t It Fun” 7″ single, basically turning it into a Hall & Oates song that turns gospel at the end. Below, watch the Late Night performance and listen to the Dutch Uncles remix.
Canada recently began its annual seal hunt, drawing the passionate ire of many, many animal-rights types, including, unsurprisingly, Morrissey. In one of his characteristic inflammatory online posts, Moz took special aim at Canada’s federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea: “If she considers such butchery to be so ’humane,’ why doesn’t she place herself among the tens of thousands of grey-coated harp seals that will be slaughtered within the next few weeks. She could then test the humane aspect of having her head blown off for herself.” Shea, perhaps not realizing that it’s impossible to get into a public debate with Morrissey and win, clapped back, via a spokesperson named Sophie Doucet: “This is clearly just another case of a millionaire celebrity, desperate for a hobby, shamelessly regurgitating misinformation and myths that fringe animal-rights groups have been pushing for years.” Obviously, nobody would expect Morrissey to shrug at this and move onto something else. He was always going to respond. And now, he has responded. Here’s what he says: