The year 2000 was a much simpler time. The only creature on earth who Tweeted was the Rockin’ Robin (and not the Thicke kind). Digital music storage devices were those CD holders we velcro’d to the visors in our cars. Bush was the band who sent the grunge movement straight to hell, not the man who sent the world there.
As the decade progressed, the music industry ran away from Napster like Buffy sprinting from Sunnydale as the Hellmouth swallowed it whole (spoiler alert). A slew of buzzy, modern bands soon killed off rock and roll dinosaurs like Oasis, Pearl Jam and Dinosaur Jr. with the same tailored swiftness as the asteroid that wiped out the real dinosaurs (spoiler alert 2: electric boogaloo).
If Y2K was the dawn of a new day, surely those new buzz bands would be here to stay. Or would they? Seriously. What the hell happened to the Kaiser Chiefs, Hot Hot Heat, all the The’s (Coral, Strokes, Subways, Zutons, Weepies, Vines, Klaxons, von bondies, Futureheads, Go Team!), Interpol, Bloc Party, British Sea Power, LCD Soundsystem, Stellastarr*, the Tapes n’ Tapes, Franz Ferdinand*, Grizzly Bear and all the Blacks (Lips, Kids, Rebel Motor Cycle Club, Godspeed’d Emperor).
Up until 2013, the only acts still in the game were Arcade Fire, the Black Keys, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Jack White (the mother of reinvention). But thankfully, some of these acts have re-ignited their wocka flame. So to them, we raise a Zima and salute you:
Arctic Monkeys[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/104981448″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
NME gave the Monkey’s latest long-player a 10/10, which is pretty impressive until you see the rest of their so-called perfect albums. As for the Monkeys — they progressively lost me with each release following their hit-packed debut. By the time 2011’a Suck it and See came around, I was like, “suck it, I’d rather see some melodic and groundbreaking band like the Delta Spirit.” But now, they’re back and holy crap does the new album, AM, deliver. I’d give it a solid 8.5. With QOTSA Josh Homme behind the board again, the band is broadening its sound and settling in for a solid final 15 until they’re Rock and Roll Hall of Fame eligible.
Lily Allen[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119795224″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Lily Allen dropped two pretty perfect pop albums before saying “fuck you very much” to pop culture and popping out a couple of pups. She clearly stayed plugged in to radio’s downward spiral from the nursery and re-emerged with manicured claws that Wolverine would die for. ‘Hard Out Here’, the first single from what will hopefully be her third album in 2014, takes it all on: body dysmorphia, liposuction, cat calling, feminism, AutoTune, twerking and Jell-o butt — but what could easily have been a Lilith Fair dirge or a novelty song has bested Miley, RiRi and Britney at their own game. Instantly memorable, danceable and controversial. As she so eloquently sang in her last hit, ‘The Fear’, this is what makes life so fucking fantastic.
New album due in 2014, get the single here.
The Sounds[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/116799404″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
The Sounds were like many of my abusive audio relationships (Blur, Afghan Whigs, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry) where I buy album after album, choking out vanishing space on my CD rack, trying in vain to get back to the high of their original work. When I saw em at Metro in Chicago, touring for their pitch perfect 80’s throwback, Living in America, I thought they were gonna be huge. Lead singer, Maja Ivarsson, brought the combined sexy swagger of Deborah Harry and Gwen Stefani, but the packed house of girls went absolutely kah-rayzee (imagine Beliebers with better taste) over the pin-up hot, assassin musician boys in the band: Felix, Johan, Fredrik and Jesper. But alas, album after album followed — all fairly good I guess, but not as fun. Until now. The newly released Weekend has the hooks, the urgency and the energy of the original — all while moving the band forward in melody and maturity.
Against Me![soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119698068″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Gainesville St. Augustine aggro punks, Against Me!, prepare to drop their sixth album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, there are still assholes on their comment bards who can’t stop bitching about Butch Vig, the uber producer who helmed the band’s two Sire Records efforts New Wave and White Crosses. I rank those Vig-torious albums among the best rock LPs of the past 20 years, but that doesn’t stop the cries of “sell out” and “Judas” and “11:11” in their news feeds. I get why people love the early albums so much, they’re very gutteral, impassioned and angry. But let’s face it, if lead-singer Laura Jane Grace kept up that throat shredding for another decade, she would need to hold off hormone treatment to get larynx reassignment surgery. And as urgent as those early tracks are, after a while they kind of all sound like my dad penning angry letters to the heads of Costco and Dennys — “They’re in Miami, fucking Miami!” yeah yeah yeah, we get it, you need a hug. On the new stuff, Laura Jane’s songwriting gets better, the hooks get bigger and the songs get more and more compelling. I usually hate concept albums but this one has me intrigued.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues is out January 21, 2014. Pick up the heartbreaking acoustic EP, True Trans, for $1.98 here.
We Are Scientists[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/114208320″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
I’ll admit, I have all of We Are Scientists’s early records but wouldn’t recognize any of the members if they were waiting on me at Guitar Center. That said, their early work packed quite the wallop, placing them high on the decade’s list of great alt rock hitmakers. I saw em open for either the Kaiser Chiefs or the Futureheads at the Fonda in Los Angeles and they owned the place. And then “poof” they were gone. A Google search shows that some more albums followed which begs some catalog exploration because the new EP, Business Casual, is quite good. In addition to four originals, they take a stab at Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” — which is something I advise no band to ever attempt, but what the hell they did, so judge for yourself.
Business Casual by We Are Scientists is available here.
* I plunged and bought Franz Ferdinand’s new “comeback” album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action — but I have to tell ya, save for the catchy title track, it has yet to grab me, I’m much more intrigued by the catalog tour they did with winning the live session bonus disc on the $10.99 deluxe edition. But the original is on sale this week for $6.99 so check em out for yourself.