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January 6, 2009 |

By TK Burton | Music | January 6, 2009 |

Welcome to the third and final entry in the Favorite Discoveries series. Hope you’ve enjoyed what we’ve come across this year.

kingsofleon460.jpgKings of Leon

I don’t know where I’ve been or how these guys escaped me. Sure I’d heard a little bit here and there, but every time I’d make an effort to really listen, I just couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. For whatever reason, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a tone deaf fool and that Kings of Leon are pretty damned awesome.

Now, they’ve been around for a while. Like 2000, a while. That’s eight years of bringing real rock and roll and leaving the compromises at the door. Chalk it up to their family past (the band, three brothers and a first cousin, grew up under Evangelist preacher father, turned to rock and roll when father quit the church and divorced his wife) or the commonly heard cut from the critics that they’re basically a “southern Strokes.”

You can certainly hear the abandon that might have come from the turmoil of their history in their first few records. But what you also hear is a sense of time. Their time. Perhaps they made music that sounded like the Strokes because that was their time when the needed that time the most.

But screw all that speculation. The real discovery comes in the form of the record “Because of the Times.” The first few records rocked. They were fun and raunchy and made me want to move like Jagger fucking Bowie. Um, I mean… What?

Anyway, they were great rock and roll records. But “Times” is a big record. A BIG record. It sounds like a rock band that’s discovered that they’re actually good at this rock band racket. A rock band that’s embraced the idea and power of being a rock band and now they’re flying down the highway on that Silver Eagle with a brand new purpose.

There’s a lot more to the record, but these are the silly things that I really like about it.

“Knocked Up” — “She’s buckled up all Navy,” that line alone makes me think of a girl. A very particular girl that I like to think about. And it’s over seven minutes long!!! The song, not my thoughts of the girl. The last few minutes of the song should get repetitive and tedious, but the fellas are employing some really nice technique, akin to jazz, that holds me to the end. Big Rock Epic.

“Charmer” — The screaming is so awesome, I can’t get enough of it. It’s timing, it’s tone, it’s purpose…all great. The song itself is pretty neat too.


“Black Thumbnail” — I love any song about doing things your way and fuck the rest of them. And I believe he’s demanding, “Don’t leave no smell on me.”
“Ragoo” — He sings, “you caught me with my pants down.” And I think he’s singing with a straight face
“Fans” — This song is just all around awesome. This is an anthem. It opens quiet, but a little turbulent. It’s sweeping landscapes in the sunrise of the Great Plains. A relieved sigh of, “You can’t get me now, mother fucker!” It swells to a quick pace on the road and then kills the engine just to feel like it’s flying.
“Trunk” — This song just sounds like someone about to do something very very wrong.
“Camaro” — Okay, I like Camaro songs. It’s like a game for bands. Bands that are supposed to be tough and cool should do a Camaro song and then be judged accordingly. How better analogized can rock and roll be than with the Camaro. It’s the most ridiculous car ever. No one takes a Camaro seriously. Except for 16 year old rock and rollers. This is a good one. Musically, this should be coming out of a Camaro. But the Baddest Camaro you’ve ever seen. This song could be the soundtrack to a Heavy Metal Magazine cartoon about the Baddest Camaro You’ve Ever Seen.

VampireWeekendCD2.jpgVampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
[XL Records]

I don’t believe this album deserves all the Top 10 rankings it’s getting this year. While there are some great songs on here, including “Walcott”, “Oxford Comma”, “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” and “A-Punk” I think that overall, it’s just a 3-star album. The keyboards in some instances are distracting (“Campus”), and in worse cases, fucking annoying (“M79”). I thought that fake horns and strings went out of style when the mall organ stores went out of business.

Okay, everyone loves the “African music” influence. Personally, I think Paul Simon did a better job with Graceland, but Christ, that came out in the 80s! There are too many dynamic shifts in the music for my taste. “Blake’s Got a New Face” with its choppy drum breaks and shitty-sounding 80s keyboard (Is that a Yamaha DX-7? Are those making a comeback?), gets my vote for “Worst Song of the Year.” And that includes any Nickelback song that might have been released this year. But then, maybe that’s why all the kids like it. “A-Punk” is another good example of this. Great song, but what’s up with the “Stairway to Heaven” fake-sounding recorders around the chorus?

The snotty lyrics are awesome, especially in “Walcott” and “Oxford Comma.” In “Walcott”, I dig that the singers voice is very pleasant, and when he claims that “The Bottleneck is a shit-show,” it’s way more powerful than some metal dude screaming “fuck” with a throaty howl. As far as “Oxford Comma,” I’ve also wondered why someone would lie about how much coal they have.

The other thing I enjoy about this album is the 50s-sounding rock and roll guitar. It’s very staccato and clean, and a nice change from the usual “Les Paul through a Marshall stack” sound in most rock.

Good luck with the Sophomore Jinx, fellows.

fleetfoxes.jpgFleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes sort of snuck up on me this year: I can vaguely remember a moment when I wasn’t aware of them, and then I remember hearing about them and listening to them, and then I sort of recollect buying their first album, and really quite liking their sound. But when did they become one of my favorite bands of all time? They are now a firm fixture in my life, and a band I need to listen to - and White Winter Hymnal, which features on both their excellent EP and their excellent album, has joined my exclusive repertoire of shower songs.

Well, I saw them in concert, which helped: it was one of those moments where you realize what a group is all about - where you make sense of their sound, and understand what they are trying to do. That harmonizing! The delicate yet thick and cushiony arrangements! Their ability to play their instruments!

I don’t just admire Fleet Foxes for their professionalism, of course (although they are unbelievably tight; when they intertwine their voices for four-part harmonies, nothing is out of place, and everything feels easy and good). For their debut, disgusting young upstart Robin Pecknold has crafted a set of timeless, melancholy and evocative songs that draw on folk, pop, rock and choral music. Think Beach Boys singing Townes Van Zandt, with a dab of whichever Buckley you prefer. They’re that good. On the strongest song from their album, ‘He Doesn’t Know Why’, a heavenly choir forms a lovely backdrop for Pecknold to sing against, and the song builds up a crescendo of crashing drums and lovely piano. It’s a ghostly lament, as the chorus “There’s nothing I can do” comes back again and again. Otherwise, ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ is the simplest and most melodically sweet song of the set - very folky, echo-y, full of anguish, and you want it to last ten minutes longer than it does. ‘Ragged Wood’ is a rocking number, honky-tonking along with jiggy drums and some strong guitar work.
Fleet Foxes also brought out an EP this year that’s worth listening to, called Sun Giant. My highlight on it is the glorious ‘Mykonos’, with stirring bass and swoonsome harmonies. It has a ghostly quality to it, and makes me shiver a bit - but it also sounds warm, even as Pecknold unfolds his tale of loss.

I think Fleet Foxes are aiming to do great things with music: their sound is so particular to them, and so original despite being a fusion of so many influences. In concert, Robin Pecknold played a beautiful version of Judee Sill’s ballad ‘Crayon Angels’, which fitted in so perfectly with their sound, which tells you that they are as good as the bands that have inspired them, and that their agelessness may serve them well in future. For the time being, their warmth and sweetness have been my soundtrack of the year.
—Caspar Salmon

Pajiba Music

Our Favorite Discoveries, Part 3
/ Pajiba Music Writers & The Eloquents

Music | January 6, 2009 |

TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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