Archive for February 5th, 2011

The Captain Discusses Modern Rock 2010 Part Zwei

6. Ghetto Stars – Tricky

After Tricky’s triumphant return to form on his last album in 2008, I was expecting him to return to the mid-tempo schlock that cluttered his previous few albums. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him stick to guns this year with Mixed Race. The best examples of what used to make Tricky so great are all on display in this track, the album’s standout. Trip-Hop beat with a melodic synth hook? Check. Detached sounding female vocals? Check. Nonsense lyrics about life in the hood? Check. It’s all here. Welcome back to the mid-nineties my friend.

7. With You In My Head – Unkle

This track was almost not included on Modern Rock 2010 for a very superficial reason. But more about that in a minute. Unkle is a group that I almost completely forgot about. Back in the late-nineties, Unkle was formed by two trip-hop pioneers in James Lavelle and DJ Shadow. Their 1998 album Psyence Fiction was in constant rotation at the 420 Madison house back in the day. That album produced one of the best music videos of the nineties, Rabbit In Your Headlight

Since that time James Lavelle continued Unkle with a new partner, and made several albums that I’ve never heard. The first I heard of Unkle again was this year and it was in the most embarrassing place I can think of – the soundtrack for The Twilight Saga – Eclipse. For some reason, the soundtracks to the Twilight films are chock full of great bands1. This year it included several artists who are Modern Rock, like The Dead Weather, Sia, The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend and Band Of Horses. But the music is always more important than the source, so Unkle got the nod.

8. Converter – The Helio Sequence

The Helio Sequence is a band that I continue to like despite knowing virtually nothing about them. Their Wikipedia page and MySpace page are both pretty light on a band bio. Apparently this was released as a single for this year’s Record Store Day. I found this track on the July edition of Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlist, one of my favorite sources for new music. The track is a bit longer than I would like, but the densely layered melodies eventually won me over. The Helio Sequence is due to put out a new album in 2011 Not sure what to expect.

9. Lights – Interpol

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Interpol is one of my favorite bands from the last decade, but time has not been their friend. When a band tinkers too much with its signature sound it often leads to disastrous results. With Interpol, the opposite has happened. On their fourth album, Interpol, they sound EXACTLY like their previous three albums, to their detriment. The album sounds like a band mostly phoning it in by not making any decisions2. This is pretty much the only song on the album I liked, and I had to trim about a minute of the beginning of the song to get it down to an acceptable length. Even though I’m mostly complaining about them, I still think this is a solid song. But I think this song is, to quote Sick Boy from Trainspotting, “merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory.”

10. Freak – The Smashing Pumpkins

The biggest surprise of the year was the latest rebirth of The Smashing Pumpkins. As the frontman for one of my favorite bands from the nineties, Billy Corgan seems to have spent the last ten years doing everything he can to be an unlikeable prick. Being the singer for a band comes with a certain amount of narcissism, but Billy seems to indulge in it. After the Pumpkins comeback album in 2008, original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin left the band leaving Billy as the only original member. Billy pulled an Axl Rose and recruited a whole new band to tour with him as The Smashing Pumpkins3 and has been releasing a new song via the bands’ website every 6-8 weeks for the past two years. Everything about this sounds terrible, except for the actual music. Somewhere Billy remembered why he likes making music, and has released the kind of laid back, lived-in music that I loved so much in my teens. So, despite how much I dislike Billy the person, Billy the musician is still good in my book. This track in particular could have fit in effortlessly on several of the Pumpkins’ early albums. And in the end it’s only the music that matters.

Ciao,

The Captain

1. For the life of me I can’t imagine a 13-17 year old girl listening to these bands. This sounds like what the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World should’ve been…
2. Having a self-titled fourth album is pretty much the definition of a band no longer giving a shit.
3. The new bassist for the Pumpkins is Nicole Fiorentino, the bassist from 90’s alternative mainstay Veruca Salt. Crazy!

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