Tag Archives: Radiohead

The Place of Music Scenes

I’ve been spending a lot of my recent ‘free-thinking’ time on the subject of music scenes, specifically about how they form and what effect they end up having on music as a whole. When a music scene has developed it means that there’s suddenly a new type of sound which is starting to get more attention and exposure for artists playing it, with that sound also occasionally being tracked to a specific location or region as well. For some examples, there was the Grunge movement in the Northwest in the late 1980s, a new definition of Alternative Rock emerged in the mid-90’s with bands such as Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Archers of Loaf, Guided By Voices and The Pixies gaining popularity, and recently there was a defined new-wave rock scene in New York City which spawned artists like The Strokes and Interpol. So how do these scenes actually start? Theoretically I can think of a few ways, but they all share some common points.

  • A new artist emerges and plays a sound which sounds so different from anything else that is currently being played, and so it inspires imitation and new methods of thinking. (Example: Bob Dylan)
  • An artist with an already established following and influence has a sudden drastic sound shift which worked incredibly well for them. (Example: Radiohead)
  • Multiple artists get inspired from the same source, bringing extra attention to an artist who’s music left a significant impact and is just now being remembered. (Example: The Velvet Underground)
  • An awesome local music scene emerges to draw a crowd, and somebody from that local scene emerges into the national spotlight. (Example: Neutral Milk Hotel)

There have to be other scenarios as well, but you’re probably starting to understand what I believe has to be present for a successful music scene to form. The sound has to be new and unique to the other options out there, and somebody within the scene has to grow in popularity enough so that they can spread the word around about it. It’s an interesting dynamic to think about, but that theorization is only the beginning point to this article.

Smaller music scenes get defined constantly and the study of these is basically what it means today to be current with modern music, and the people who get to define what these smaller scenes are work for the music media. Their job is to try and define these different music scenes and report what’s happening within them from a specific mindset, and this effects their opinion on who deserves to be recognized and how releases should be rated. This approach makes some sense from their perspective because if you’re covering music on a day-to-day basis then I imagine you wouldn’t be very keen on viewing every new release as a blank slate, but it’s a flawed approach towards rating music.

That’s because while music scenes are real and potentially valuable, they can also be a mirage which only displays the sounds which share common qualities with each other. Where’s the space for creativity and new ideas within this mindset, and what solutions get missed if you’re stuck looking for the answer in the same place repeatedly?

When it comes to new music, I think it’s best to just compare it to the total product rather than how it fits into the modern music scenes because of this. How well does the band or release stand alongside the successful sounds which have come before it, and how likely is it to inspire the sounds which will follow? That’s the ultimate question right there, and with all of the different genres and stylistic differences which have made an impact in music history I would think it’s safe to say that there’s never going to be a sure-fire answers to those questions. It’s just something that time decides, but keeping an open mind towards what could leave an imprint is an important step.

Connor’s Albums of the Year

22. Atoms for Peace- Amok

Thom Yorke and Flea jam out. Cool electronic vibes with a new Radiohead sound. Dank bass riffs. If you love Phish, this might be your #1, or #2 if Phish released an album this year.

21. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

7th grade me would’ve been a lot more pumped for this. It’s good experimental rock music. Nothing will beat Songs For the Deaf in my eyes, though this is an interesting take on the Queens’ sound. Rock on.

20. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

I was hyped for this all summer, with “Whoa” and “Chum” having been out for a WHILE, it ended up being that those were two of the best songs on the album. Those are great songs that are hard to top, but I was hoping for more consistency. The song featuring Frank Ocean is sick though, and the “Centurion” beat is crazy. The rest is so-so in my opinion. The Earl Mixtape is better.
 

19. Yo La Tengo – Fade

This is really great and should probably be a lot higher on my list. It came out in the very beginning of the year. The vibe is mellow and melodic. This thing is endlessly listenable. I can’t see how anyone would dislike it. I’ve always enjoyed Yo La Tengo, but I’ve never been super passionate about them. That being said, I would recommend this to ALL

18. Owen – L’ami Du Peuple

Another solid release from Owen. My favorite song is “The Burial”, which is one of the few Owen songs not to feature an acoustic guitar. “Tonight, I’m a priest/ Shrouded in your quilt/ And you will see/ Truth in me/ So f***ing say something.” OOOohhhhh. “Who Cares” is great too.

17. The Story So Far – What You Don’t See

Pop/punk angsty songs about girls done right. I wish I was 15 again so I could get a girlfriend, get dumped, and listen to this all the time.
 

16. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

I saw NIN with my dad last month. They were my favorite band as a youngling, and I still hold TR in a very high regard so this meant a whole lot to me. Hands down the best light show I’ve ever seen. You can check out footage here if you’d like. Unreal stuff. The music is leaning on electronica, but in a good way. Still \m/
 

15. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

This is weird stuff that sounds abrasive and terrible to most people I know. It’s all instrumental, experimental, synthy, electronic music. It can take you places though. I wish I could explain it better. This could easily be your nightmare. I think it’s incredibly interesting. Listen and let your thoughts wander.
 

14. Tim Hecker – Virgins

Very similar to Oneohtrix as far as genre and style are concerned, though the sound is very different. This was made with live instruments and manipulated later which makes for a very organic experimental sound. There are so many layers and things going on here. Enthralling. The first track sounds like the earth is ripping apart. Close your eyes and imagine%%*&!)@*&^^&^%%{}”{“}{}”}{}”}{“”{}”{}”}{}”}{}}{}”}}”:]
 

13. Volcano Choir – Repave

Justin Vernon does post-rock stuff. Same old cryptic lyrics that could be interpreted a bunch of different ways. Thumbs up. This is my favorite song from the album and the best music video of the year (besides “Wrecking Ball”)
 

12. Touche Amore – Is Survived By

You can feel the passion behind Jeremy Bolm’s voice as he screams every line. This album is about leaving something meaningful behind after you die. Congrats dude, cause you did.
 

11. The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanny Valley

The Dismemberment Plan will always have a special place in my heart. Emergency & I is one of my favorite albums ever. I was beyond psyched when they announced a new album and tour. Shoutout to Ted for seeing the show with me. They definitely have not lost any of their talent or songwriting ability, despite not having the same emotional overtones of depression, isolation etc. When bands reunite to make a new album, I’m always worried it’s going to suck based on countless examples. Not only did this not suck, it’s very good.

Continue reading Connor’s Albums of the Year

Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 60-51

Here are numbers 60-51 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.

60. Death Cab For Cutie- Steadier Footing

This is the chance I never got/ To make a move, but we just talk about/ The people we’ve met in the last five years/ And will we remember them in ten more.

A really short and pretty song by Death Cab from earlier in their career, “Steadier Footing” captures Gibbard people watching from his porch late night after a party. He was looking for some isolation, but he found himself in a conversation which was incredibly genuine and capped off the night well for him. I always loved the talking point about if the people who you’re currently friends with will still be friends of yours in ten years because it’s a very real fear for myself, in an ever-changing world you have to wonder if the good things will stay constant.

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59. Bright Eyes- Amy in the White Coat

“You see, we’re all trying to endure/ You could easily go and make your own life somewhere/ Couldn’t you?

I dug into Noise Floor after hearing the more popular Bright Eyes albums and loving them, and I remember that on the first listen I enjoyed it, but the only songs that really jumped out at me were the Daniel Johnston cover of “Devil Town”, the piano-lead “Drunk Kid Catholic”, and “Amy in the White Coat”(in hindsight, “Blue Angels Air Show” should have been in this grouping). At the point though I hadn’t followed the storyline to “Amy in the White Coat”, I just remembered it as a good song that I wanted to re-visit, and on that second listen I was stunned and saddened. The entire track is about a girl, Amy, who is in an incredibly bad living situation with her father (I don’t feel fully comfortable typing out how so). The horrible part is that Amy’s just found a way to deal with it because she needs to be there to survive, so she doesn’t really see an alternative. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard.

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58. Radiohead- The National Anthem

“Everyone/ Everyone is so near/ Everyone has got the fear/ It’s holding on.”

I respect Radiohead a lot but I don’t obsess over them, in fact the only real Radiohead song that I feel a strong connection to is “The National Anthem”. I like how this song attacks you as new instruments get introduced to the chaos in response to Thom Yorke’s messages to the masses. Everything seems like it really belongs in the track, as Radiohead creates a national anthem where the nation doesn’t get rid of the ugly, where it isn’t meant to be sung by kids in school, and where there are just long segments of chaotic noise occurring.

Continue reading Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 60-51