Last Friday night, alternative rock band played a high energy set at the Riviera Theatre at Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago. The band formed over 22 years ago in Boston, MA, releasing their first album in 1992. Since then, they’ve toured the world, just released their seventh album, and have brought joy and delight to countless fans who came of age in the early 2000’s. (Yours truly included)
I’ve long been a Sufjan Stevens fan. He is an intelligent, clever songwriter who seems to enter every record with an ambitious plan and the determination to carry it through, and his finest songs are charged with the strongest emotional resonance, especially “Chicago,” which with its anthemic strings, inviting mass choir, and straining but hopeful lyrics, is a soundtrack for new beginnings. This is why it is all the more remarkable for me that Stevens, has made the finest album of his career and one of the best of 2015 with Carrie and Lowell, a record about the ultimate ending.
27 year-old Kendrick Lamar’s first major-label LP, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, was one of the best albums of recent memory (in my opinion). Lamar’s poetic gifts blended perfectly with an ultra-minimalist backdrop appropriate to his complex tale of gangs, struggle, and redemption in Compton. On To Pimp a Butterfly, the lyrics are still the same superb quality, but the music has gotten larger to match a concept that demands even more attention and asks more demanding questions.
I’ve done a little bit of writing about how amazing a year in music 2015 has proven to be so far. While I admit to feeling slightly let down by Modest Mouse’s release from a couple weeks go, I’m proud to report Death Cab’s latest doesn’t disappoint. Maybe Ben Gibbard does his best work when he is distraught, but heartbreak continues to suit him. For a deeper analysis on that point, and the idea that we’re always in a way coming of age, see NPR’s Stephen Thompson’s summation. As for me, I can say I like the first half of this album better than the second — but all around, I really enjoy it.
This year has already been a great one for new music, with the release of new work from Belle & Sebastian, Sleater-Kinney, and the Decemberists. The force of nature that is 2015 music continues tomorrow, with a new release from Jose Gonzalez. Vestiges and Claws is currently streaming on NPR First Listen, along with the latest from Public Service Broadcasting. But it doesn’t stop there — Here are some of the new albums coming out in the next few weeks for which I can barely contain my enthusiasm. [Read more…]
If you’re like many people, you watched the Grammy Awards on CBS last Sunday night. If you’re like even more people, you paid attention as the Internets blew up about some media-fueled spontaneous feud that may or may not lead directly to causing World War III.
Long story short: on Sunday, in a huge upset, alternative rock musician Beck’s Morning Phase won the coveted Album of the Year trophy over Beyonce’s self-titled silver lion of death that was widely expected to take home the tiny record player.
One key idea I’ve always stressed in writing about the Grammys for the Recorder is that the awards themselves are nonsensical. Just go back to my Album of the Year reviews and tell me how to compare Ed Sheeran and Beyonce. It’s impossible. We care about these awards not for what gets given (as in the Oscars) but for the performance factor, the chance to see all the biggest names in music on one stage, seeing who rises to the occasion and who…doesn’t.
With that in mind, here’s our official recap of the best and worst moments of last night’s show. And congratulations to Beck for winning Album of the Year for the difficult, but lovely, Morning Phase! And for getting all Simon and Garfunkel with Chris Martin on a lovely “Heart is a Drum!”
The Decemberists celebrated the release of their new album, “What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World,” with a performance in Portland January 20, the day it came out. The city declared it “Decemberists Day,” and the mayor presented the band with a custom quilt made of squares representing local artists and businesses. This pageantry is possibly nauseating to some, but wonderful to me, because I love Portland, and I love the Decemberists.