Late For The Future
This badass combination of Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) and Boots Riley (The Coup) is perhaps the new album I'm most excited about. The main reason for my excitement is that it seems a can't-miss formula - Boots' rhymes are rough-edged but still tight and frequently topical. And Morello is one of the most talented guitarists, well, ever. What's not to get excited about? The two tracks available through Trent Reznor's NIN|JA Tour webite are simply outstanding -- in addition to Morello's masterful guitars and Riley's superb rhymes, the band also benefits from the drumming/percussion skills of Stanton Moore. Moore, one of the founding members of the funk/rock/jazz jam band Galactic, Moore's pedigree goes even farther than that -- he was also the drummer on the metal band Corrosion of Conformity's In The Arms of God album. All of this adds up to one of the most intriguing collaborative efforts in years. Let's hope it plays out well, and that we don't end up with another Audioslave (decent band, but weaker than the sum of its parts).
Swoon, April 14
The Silversun Pickups may never escape the Smashing Pumpkins comparisons, but that's OK. It's an accurate comparison, for the most part - take the dreamy, meandering aspects of Gish era Pumpkins, the feedback and breathy vocals, and you've got a solid case to be made. However, remove the pretentiousness and Billy Corgan's rampant arrogance, and now we're getting somewhere interesting. Carnavas really was an excellent album, full of strong guitar work and unusual vocal work, and I'm hoping for the same outstanding production on Swoon. I'm a sucker for the screechy feedback feathered through their graceful melodies, and Brian Aubert's vocals (with the assist from bassist Nikki Monninger) provide a lush, ethereal compliment. Yet at the same time, Silversun Pickups can rock, shifting mid-song to screaming howls and power-chords. It'd be nice to see them flex a little and move out from the omnipresent shadow of the Smashing Pumpkins -- they're a talented and entertaining enough band that they don't deserve the label.
The High End of Low, May 2009
I admit it. I'm a Marilyn Manson fan. I won't apologize for it either - as I said in this piece, the he's a performer with an incredible sense of showmanship, and for that I can't help but admire him somewhat. But costuming and face paint aside, Manson is also incredibly talented - and surrounds himself with talent as well. His songwriting, while self-aggrandizing and clearly aimed at controversy, is exceptional, and as far as the noisy hard-rock/industrial scene goes, his sound continues to impress. Their last album, 2007's Eat Me, Drink Me, felt a bit like they were simply going through the motions -- not really breaking any new ground like they did with its predecessor, The Golden Age of the Grotesque. It would be nice to see the band get back to experimenting with different styles like they have in the past -- two of their more interesting releases were the burlesque/swing-inspired Golden Age of the Grotesque and the Bowie-esque Mechanical Animals. Manson succeeds when they try new things, when they take ideas and themes from other genres and twist them around to fit into their own unique vision. Will they try it again? Or will they simply continue to recycle their old sounds? We'll know soon enough.
Built To Spill
This might all be a dream, I'm not sure. BTS hasn't released an album since 2006's phenomenal You In Reverse. But lead singer/guitarist/genius Doug Martsch has said that he's written a number of new songs, and announced at the end of 2008 that they were going back to the studio. I can't wait - Martsch is up there with Mascis and Moore on my list of indie guitar rock gods. The idea that all three bands might drop albums this year makes me freak the fuck out. Seriously -- all three of them were covered in our guitar solos piece, so how could we not be excited about it? Built To Spill has been producing brilliant, innovative records for more than 15 years now, and they refuse to slow down, to get boring or derivative. Instead, they seem to simply get sharper and tighter with each successive release.
The Ecstatic, June 2009
What on earth is next for Mos Def. He's already been a part of one of the best hip hop records of my lifetime (Black Star). His solo work has ranged from brilliant (Black on Both Sides) to flat-out revolutionary (The New Danger). He's proven himself to be a talented actor (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Something The Lord Made). If you told me he was going to write a book on how to successfully travel to the Negative Zone, I'd probably believe you. That said, it's been three long years since his last release, and I for one am thrilled to pieces for another sample of his amazing production and hypnotic lyrics, especially considering this album will feature the likes of Slick Rick, Madlib, Black Thought and Jay Electronica. Yippy!
This was finally confirmed on their website in March, which is great news. The world needs more 8-piece Latin/Hip-Hop/Rock bands out there, although no one does it better than Ozo. Their last album, Don't Mess With The Dragon, was solid, and with Chali 2na back in the lineup, nothing but good things can happen. Chali is ridiculously talented, and his work with Ozomatli and Jurassic Five, not to mention his collaborations with Galactic as well as his own fantastic solo album, Fish Outta Water, are all superb efforts. While I'd really love to somehow miraculously get Cut Chemist back in the group, I suppose I'll settle for the current lineup. I've now missed the opportunity to see Ozo the last two times they've come through these parts; I swear that will not happen again.
The Liberty of Norton Folgate, May 2009
Madness and their unique blend of ska and pop have returned! Well, not officially to the US, but they have a new album slated to be released in the UK this May. We in the US should not be surprised at this UK only release, for 1999's stunning return album (after a 13 year hiatus), Wonderful, is only available here as an import. Since Wonderful, Madness's only other offering was an under-the-radar covers album called Dangerman Sessions Vol. 1 in 2005. Now Madness gives us their first album of new material in 10 years with The Liberty of Norton Folgate. The record is a concept album of sorts. It is a tribute to an area in London which possessed a seedy reputation as "a city born of blood, mud and immigrant which grew through adventure, betrayal and treason." The area is losing its history and identity through modernization, but Madness have planned to preserve its story and essence in song. The music is sure to pick up right where Wonderful left off, as the most important invisible components of Madness are back; producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. They have been with the boys since the first album 30 years ago, and are arguably just as responsible for Madness's sound as the band itself. So what will ...Folgate sound like? I am anticipating an even more grown up reggae/ska/pop sound, orchestrated with complex arrangements, all based on simple poppy and catchy hooks. But YOU don't have to wait for the release to hear the album! For one, there are many Youtube clips of Madness as they performed most of the new album at London's Hackney Empire back in June 2008. Second, a crafty Google search will probably find the 12 album tracks, as they are surely posted somewhere on the W.W.W. Madness gave away the album digitally when pre-ordering the special 3-cd+vinyl+pin+poster box set back in December. And third, the box set itself was just released March 9th. The old-fashioned purist and lover-of-packaging in me has decided to wait until I get the box set before I sample their goods. But I am excited for this batch of new material from one of the most reliable bands on the planet.
I would love to travel into the future and get my hands on a copy of Blur's new album. Problem is, I don't know what to set my DeLorean's time circuits to. In "I'll-Believe-It-When-I-See-It" news, Blur was rumored to be in the process of recording a new album back in December. It was set to be a glorious new Blur-year with long time disgruntled guitarist Graham Coxon back on board. This news followed on the heels of a Coxon and Damon Albarn (singer) reconciliation and reunion of sorts: they began jamming together. When asked what the "stuff" sounded like, Coxon said "It wasn't exactly pop music, it was sort of meditation music." Awww crap that doesn't sound good. This news created a whirlwind of allegations that studio time would be reserved in early 2009. Hmmm, it now seems to be early 2009, and no new Blur-album news exists. Sure, there was the one-off Coxon/Albarn shared stage performance at February's NME music awards. And all four will reunite to play a couple of this summer's blockbuster UK festivals. But new album news has vanished. Again. If you're feeling déjà vu, don't be alarmed. Blur is famous for the misleading folks with their bait and hook headlines. Let's recap the illustrious "NEW BLUR ALBUM!" announcements over the past 5 years (according to Wikipedia), shall we? In early 2004, the band said they would record a new EP (industry term for a small, half-assed effort) along with a reunited Coxon. None of this happened. Later, in 2005, after recording a bunch of unsatisfactory tracks, the boys grabbed a wire coat hanger to abort the project. This was probably a good thing because if they judged it to be "bad," especially after 2003's disastrous Think Tank, then I'm glad they stopped the project altogether. Two years later, the slippery Coxon was reported to have made up with the band again, and they were totally, definitely, absolutely gonna record in October 2007. That recording session consisted of fish and chips and some enjoyable shepherd's pie at a lunch (probably not their actual meals), but nothing more. So here we are with 2008-2009's new album gossip. Is this new buzz something we can sink our teeth into and expect to happen? As much as I would love to hear what the guys could come up with, post personal differences and after Albarn's band Gorrilaz, I am definitely not going to hold my breath.
Untitled (summer 2009)
College frat boy fans can rejoice, for Cake will be coming out with their first record in five years this summer. Truth be told, Cake deserves much more credit then that. I know I've enjoyed their laid back approach, poetic spoken/sung lyrics and Spanish tinged music since their first album Motorcade of Generosity back in 1994. Fifteen years later, we have a similar yet wiser Cake. Trumpet player Vince DiFiore admits, "since we've started doing this, people have become stronger musicians - more versatile, with a bigger musical vocabulary...[but] our strength is still working well together as a band." As for what to expect, I believe this record will continue along the same style Cake has carved out for themselves. It will, however, be complimented with a friendlier, more relaxed and positive vibe than past offerings. After their last album in 2004, Pressure Chief, they broke off relations with Columbia Records and started their own record label, Upbeat Records. Working for yourself can be a freeing move, as Cake does not have to live up to anybody's expectations or deadlines anymore. Cake also went completely green with this most recent creative endeavor. The group completed a total overhaul of their Sacramento studio, adding solar panels to the roof, thus taking themselves off the electric grid. Thanks to the bountiful California sun, the band estimates that they only used 10% of the sun-generated electricity, so they were able to send the excess back into the community. It was this environmental do-goodery that created the cooperative, positive environment in which Cake wrote and recorded their upcoming record. I'm very excited to hear how their revitalized attitude will translate into song, especially when combining it with the changed political setting and their patented intelligent, metaphoric lyrics.
Super Furry Animals
Dark Days/Light Years, US-4/21/2009, UK-13/4/2009
My first question is "When?". When has Super Furry Animal's singer Gruff Rhys had any time to sit down and record a new album's worth of material with the band? I mean, he was just on his solo tour promoting Candylion a year and a half ago, and then he released his 80's electro-dance side project Neon Neon (a collaboration with hip-hop producer Boom-Bip) just under a year ago. But I guess more complex things have happened in shorter amounts of time. With that understanding, we now have a brand new SFA album set to come out in April. SFA have always been slightly ahead of the curve electronically and technologically, so on March 16, they are presenting a webcast on the SFA website, in which they will play the entire new album Dark Days/Light Years live. This corresponds with the internet only release of the album, available for digital purchase that day as well. Humorous as ever, Rhys promises this album to be a riff and groove filled melodic offering, lacking acoustic ballads, country rock, steel pedals and saxophones thanks to the "banned instrument directive of the SFA board." He said that it "is very focused musically as a cohesive album" and if you are an SFA fan like me, you can rejoice because Rhys adds that "there's only one slow number which isn't slow at all." To whet your appetite more, the website boasts that the first single, "Inaugural Trams" features Nick McCarthy (Franz Ferdinand) performing a German rap. Adding even more potency to the release's anticipation, SFA mainstay Pete Fowler has returned to design the artwork, this time WITH Tanaami, the Japanese artist responsible for SFA's last love/hate album cover, Hey Venus. So go buy the actual, physical album when it comes out. Your eyes, ears, and brain will thank you.
Untitled, Summer 2009
The Starlight Mints, one of my top five favorite bands, are due to release their next studio album this summer. Their website has been in a static state, saying that they've been "in the studio" for what has seemed like 2 years. So finally, after a re-vamped site, and a bit of updated information, they announced that they are now finishing their yet-to-be titled follow-up to 2006's fantastic Drowaton ("not a word" backwards). The only other official information I've been able to dig up about the band is their short south-central tour schedule that culminates at the free music festival in their hometown of Norman, Oklahoma this April. But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Many readers may not know about the Starlight Mints, or only know about them as that weird theatric/carnivally indie-pop band that opened for Mates of States a few years back. The Mints specialize in combining a variety of intricate music styles, rhythm sections and tempos together to form unique songs that offer new discoveries with every listen. In a song like the instrumental "Rhino Stomp" from Drowaton, they mash together two distinct sections: an urgently buzzing synthesizer and a drudging bass, string, and drum section that musically emulates a rhino's lumbering walk. On the other hand, their somewhat creepy, playground bop-a-long song "Popsicle" (from the first album, Dream That Stuff Was Made Of) combines a sedate lead vocal with a bouncy bass and multiple short start/stop sections that create the feeling of a drugged-up LSD ride on a merry-go-round. As for this summer's new effort, I can only hope for them to continue displaying the growth they've showed from album to album. With each step, their songs have become increasingly layered. Each tune on their most recent record was a mini-masterpiece. The band has learned how to creatively fill in empty space with melodies that enhance the songs rather than complicate. If they continue to expand on this learning curve, like I assume they will, we are guaranteed an even catchier and impressive delivery than what the Mints have achieved so far.