Results for Brooklyn
From Dallas to Brooklyn, and now to Chicago, Secret Machines have stopped by to talk with Jim and Greg and play a rare acoustic performance. The band is known for their full-blown, spacey rock sound, which Greg explains was perfect for the outdoor setting at Lollapalooza this summer. It's interesting, therefore, to hear them so stripped down. Listen to brothers Benjamin Curtis and Brandon Curtis on guitars and Josh Garza on percussion as they perform "Daddy's in the Doldrums" off their most recent album Ten Silver Drops and a cover of "Rest of the Day," by fellow Texans Bedhead. You can also check out the bonus track "1000 Seconds."
The Machines talk about their evolution as a band, which wasn't ordinary. They moved to New York and set up recording time in a studio before they had ever even played together. Their do-it-yourself attitude has paid off though. Both Ten Silver Drops and their debut Now Here is Nowhere were recorded by the band, despite requests from big name producers like Bob Ezrin. Thank God for Eno's "oblique strategies."Go to episode 57
While the performer gets all the glory, sometimes it's the producer who shares the guts. This week Jim and Greg revisit their conversation with one of rock's great behind-the-scenes men, Tony Visconti. Visconti has worked with everyone from The Moody Blues to Alejandro Escovedo, but is primarily known for the albums did with glam rockers T. Rex and David Bowie. Visconti relays how he was lucky enough to meet both men shortly after moving from Brooklyn to the UK; both were relatively young and undiscovered. Marc Bolan of T. Rex was still performing hippy folk songs as a member of Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Bowie was beginning song writing but had no direction. Visconti established long-term relationships with both Bowie and Bolan and helped them carve out their identities. In fact, he was tapped to produce Bowie's latest release, The Next Day which Jim and Greg review below.Go to episode 381
Last year at South By Southwest, Jim and Greg discovered a young, talented Brooklyn rock band called Sunflower Bean. The group is made up of bassist and singer Julia Cumming, guitarist and singer Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber. What makes the members of Sunflower Bean so interesting is their pursuit of a career in rock music despite growing up in the home of hip hop and in the age of EDM. However, that doesn‘t mean they don’t have diverse influences, channeling artists like Syd Barrett, The Beach Boys and Neu! at times on their debut album Human Ceremony. Greg sat down to chat with the band when they were in Chicago, and they talked about musical influences, Sunflower Bean's origin and how the group held the title of most shows played in New York City in 2014. Plus, they'll give a fun live performance.Go to episode 590
El-P, aka Jaime Meline, joins Jim and Greg in the Sound Opinions studio this week. Take a look at any of the underground hip-hop that came out of New York in late '90s, and chances are you'll find El-P somewhere in the background. As a rapper, producer, and head of the indie record label Definitive Jux, El-P has left an indelible mark on New York hip-hop. And he's not slowing up anytime soon. This year, El-P produced Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music and his own solo album, Cancer 4 Cure. El-P grew up in Brooklyn during hip-hop's golden age in the eighties. By 1993 he'd founded his own group, Company Flow. He tells Jim and Greg how creating the track "Last Good Sleep," for their sophomore album, Funcrusher Plus, transformed his approach to songwriting. The more specific and personal the story, El says, the more universal. Today, even El-P's“political”songs are more about internal struggles than external ones. In fact the title for his record, Cancer 4 Cure, is inspired by the idea that our bodies are constantly fighting off an illness latent inside us. Not to suggest that Cancer 4 Cure is a downer. There's hope, Jaime says, - though“not unbattered hope”- that the characters in his songs will come through.Go to episode 356
The Hold Steady
Jim and Greg welcome The Hold Steady this week. The Minneapolis born, Brooklyn bred band are on tour to promote their 2008 album Stay Positive. Our hosts talk to lead singer Craig Finn, guitarist Tad Kubler and keyboardist & accordionist Franz Nicolay about their“meat and potatoes”style of rock and roll. Greg notes that comparisons are often made to Bruce Springsteen, but the band also cites Nick Cave and Bob Dylan as influences. Jim explains to the band that he was not immediately a Hold Steady fan, and was only converted after seeing them live. Craig, Tad and Franz explain that they are happy to convert him. That, of course, is the power of rock.Go to episode 165
While the performer gets all the glory, sometimes it's the producer who shares the guts. This week Jim and Greg hear from anonther of rock's great behind-the-scenes men, Tony Visconti. Visconti has worked with everyone from The Moody Blues to Alejandro Escovedo, but is primarily known for the albums he did with glam rockers T. Rex and David Bowie. Visconti relays how he was lucky enough to meet both men shortly after moving from Brooklyn to the U.K.; both were relatively young and undiscovered. Marc Bolan of T. Rex was still performing hippy folk songs as a member of Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Bowie was beginning song writing but had no direction. Visconti established long-term relationships with both Bowie and Bolan and helped them carve out their identities. You'll hear Visconti discuss the making of such landmark albums as Electric Warrior and Heroes.Go to episode 143
Jim and Greg are joined next by the members of Grizzly Bear. The Brooklyn-based band started rather modestly in 2004. Now they've become one of the most talked about groups in indie music today. In addition to notable appearances at Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork Music Festival, the band opened for Radiohead and Paul Simon. Plus, they count Jay-Z and Beyonce as fans! Jim and Greg spoke with Daniel Rossen, Ed Droste, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear on a Sunday morning in front of a live studio audience at the House of Blues in Chicago. There the band performed songs from its latest album Veckatimest. Unfortunately Michael McDonald wasn't there to join them on "While You Wait for the Others."Go to episode 206
The Fiery Furnaces
This week Jim and Greg also speak with Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces. The Oak Park, IL natives formed their duo in Brooklyn in 2002. Their latest album, Widow City, is a favorite of both Jim and Greg's. It was an opportunity for Eleanor and Matt to indulge themselves in their 1970s upbringing. They recorded the album in a more traditional way, and used artifacts of the era like a Ouiga Board and vintage House and Garden magazines as inspiration. You can hear the classic rock influence on the tracks "Widow City," "Ex-Guru," and "Japanese Slippers."Go to episode 110
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Show Your Bones
Next up is Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This Brooklyn trio has released Show Your Bones, the highly anticipated follow-up to their debut, Fever to Tell. That successful album produced a hit single, "Maps," and made the band one of the poster children for the new-garage (or new-new wave) scene in New York City. Jim is always skeptical of this scene and of hype in general, but really liked Show Your Bones. He's not sure what lead singer Karen O is singing about, but loves her energy, which channels a combination of Siouxsie Sioux and Chrissie Hynde. Guitar wizard Nick Zinner is also back in top form. Therefore it's a Buy It for Jim. Greg, however, can only give this disc, which was produced by hip hop producer Squeak-E-Clean, a Burn It rating. He thinks there are a number of great tracks, but the songwriting just isn't there.
The Secret Machines Ten Silver Drops
The first album up for review is Ten Silver Drops by The Secret Machines. This is the second album by the psychedelic Dallas band (now based in Brooklyn). Their previous release, Now Here is Nowhere, earned quite a bit of praise and won them some impressive fans. In fact, Bob Ezrin, who produced Pink Floyd's The Wall, even offered to handle Ten Silver Drops. The band decided to go it alone, however, and Jim and Greg manage to agree on the results. For them the album is full of strong melodies, surprising harmonies, and Josh Garza's signature seismic drumming. Both critics believe they may have surpassed their debut album and give this go-around a Buy It rating.
The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams
Minneapolis-born, Brooklyn-bred Beat-rockers The Hold Steady have undergone a few changes since their 2009 visit to Sound Opinions. The band took a break after the departure of keyboardist (and moustache idol) Franz Nicolay, while frontman Craig Finn put out a solo album. Now the boys are back, with an extra guitarist, Steve Selvidge, and a sixth album called Teeth Dreams. It's their first venture with producer Nick Raskulinecz (best known for his work with Foo Fighters, Rush, and Evanesence), and as Greg points out, their sound is“slicker”than ever. Perhaps too slick — while the band can still rock, the album is bogged down with slow, melodramatic experimentation. Greg has to say Try It. Jim scoffs at the lyricist's literary bent — with Finn so obviously ripping off Raymond Chandler and Jack Kerouac, this host has to wonder if it's parody. Regardless, Jim prefers The Hold Steady live, in their bombastic, Springsteen-ian element — as for Teeth Dreams, it's a Trash It.
Parquet Courts Light Up Gold
Who knew Denton, TX was a rock capital? There's Midlake and Neon Indian. Sly Stone was born there! And now we have Parquet Courts. With its 2nd release Light Up Gold, the garage quartet has relocated to Brooklyn and is getting much wider attention. The album is a perfect combination of expert pop craftsmanship and slacker-punk attitude. Jim and Greg grinned through this review, so Parquet Courts gets a double Buy It.
Divine Styler Def Mask
R&B singer D'Angelo wasn't the only artist to emerge from an extended hiatus last month. Brooklyn rapper Divine Styler also returned with a surprise album in December. Def Mask is his first new dose of radical hip-hop in almost 15 years. The album steers clear of Styler's previous pseudo-psychedelic rhymes and rhythms. Instead, it charts a course for the stars joining the ranks of prominent musical Afrofuturists like George Clinton and Janelle Monae in creating a dense, sci-fi-laden sound. Styler's impressive wordplay takes a leery look at today's technology obsessed culture, but despite its dark, neo-noir tone, the album is able to maintain a certain amount of optimism throughout. Def Mask is an ambitious undertaking that is at times both unsettling and uplifting and it marks a celebrated return for Divine Styler. Both Jim and Greg say Buy It.
Yeasayer All Our Cymbals
Jim and Greg review Fragrant World, the third album from Brooklyn band Yeasayer. Yeasayer started gaining buzz in the indie underground shortly after their 2007 debut, All Our Cymbals. Critics praised their inventive merging of shoegaze and world rhythms. Fans couldn't get enough of the hooks. Fragrant World promised to be something a little different: band members said they were inspired by Aaliyah's work with Missy Elliot. Fragrant World would be their take on R&B. Greg says the new album isn‘t as immediately hooky as past efforts, but when it comes to taking R&B to an alien landscape, Yeasayer succeeds big time. It took him a road trip with the record to be won over, but now he says it reminds him of Bowie’s alien soul and funk in the seventies. Jim was a convert on first listen. The hooks are there, he says, but what really gets him is how the band downplays the novelty of their Eastern and African-tinged percussion, folding those drums seamlessly into electronic grooves. Fragrant World gets a double Buy It.
Antibalas, formerly Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, also has a new album out entitled Security. The Brooklyn-based band, who often plays in the same musical circles as TV on the Radio, modeled itself after Fela Kuti's Africa 70 band. Greg describes them as a true musical collective, and really enjoyed the fiery, polyrhythmic first half of the record. He thinks the second half is a little too subdued, and too controlled however, and can only give Security a Burn It. Jim blames that level of control and“sterility”on producer John McEntire, of Tortoise. He calls Security the coolest album that McIntyre has produced to date, but wishes it was a little more accessible, and a little less“skronky.”He also gives it a Burn It.
Parquet Courts Human Performance
Indie rock four-piece Parquet Courts formed in Brooklyn in 2010 with three of its members originally from Texas. They debuted with a limited cassette release in 2011, but it wasn't until they released Light Up Gold in 2012 that they really turned some heads. The record was reissued on a bigger label in 2013, and after releasing two semi-official albums, Parquet Courts is back with Human Performance.
Greg thinks Parquet Courts have captured what it's like living in New York City—isolating and overwhelming at once. This mood hangs over the whole record, even during what he calls the back-and-forth conversations between Andrew Savage and Austin Brown. Savage writes melancholy break-up tunes, and Brown responds with optimism. Greg thinks that while the record does not reach the masterpiece-status of Light Up Gold, it's a Buy It nonetheless.
Jim agrees that it's a Buy It, loving the jaunty piano, droning organ and sound effects. He recalls Parquet Courts being referred to by critics as slackers on their last album, sparked in no small part by the song "Stoned and Starving," but Jim clarifies that there's nothing lazy about their songwriting and thinks "Dust" is a brilliant track. Jim nods to the dialogue between Brown and Savage, but finds even more compelling the rapport between their guitars.
El-P I'll Sleep When You're Dead
Rapper and producer El-P's new album is I‘ll Sleep When You’re Dead. This is the second solo release for the Brooklyn artist, who made his dent as the founder of hip hop group Company Flow and indie label Definitive Jux. El-P prides himself on making hip hop that is in keeping with the genre's roots: two turntables and a microphone. But, rather than rely on beats and soul samples, El-P's collages are futuristic, and according to Greg,“skuzzy.”So much so, that he compares the rapper to Trent Reznor, who also makes an appearance on the record. As Jim explains, the dark, complicated soundscapes match the verses, which talk about violence and paranoia in the post-9/11 world. The songs are political, but not preachy, and Jim recommends them to anyone who is a fan of hip hop, or just a fan of interesting music. Greg praises El-P for being a classicist who can also look to the future. There's nothing stale or nostalgic here, but Greg warns that I‘ll Sleep When I’m Dead could be a little too challenging for some people's ears. With that small advisory, El-P gets two Buy Its.
The National High Violet
Brooklyn rockers The National released their fifth album called High Violet. Greg has been a champion of the band and its melancholic sound from the beginning. He's a“sucker”for their Joy Division-meets-Leonard Cohen songs. However, he wished they'd gone somewhere new on this album. High Violet is merely a refinement of what The National had done before, so Greg can only give it a Try It rating. Jim thinks Matt Berninger's lyrics of heartache are as original as ever. It's not groundbreaking, he admits, but it's a Buy It.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
After getting a lot of notice from their singles and EPs, Brooklyn quartet The Pains of Being Pure at Heart has released their full-length, self-titled debut. Jim admits the band has a formula – equal parts jangly pop and heavy bottom. But for him, it's a great formula, especially when combined with some of the twisted lyrics. He gives the album a Buy It. Greg is surprised to hear Jim say this. He doesn't hear anything fresh or unique here, and thinks there are better bands using this formula today. Greg gives The Pains of Being Pure at Heart a Try It.
TV on the Radio Dear Science
The final album up for review is by Brooklyn indie band TV on the Radio. Now on major label Interscope, they've become one of the most talked about groups. Greg even put their last album in the #1 slot on his Best of 2007 list. Jim was not as big a fan of that record, but admits this one is stronger. They have success with their up-tempo tracks, but Jim becomes skeptical when the group slows down. He thinks they set their horizons a little too wide, and gives Dear Science a Try It. Greg is more positive. Return to Cookie Mountain was like a soundtrack to such a dark period in the world. With Dear Science, he can almost hear the clouds parting. The album is“weirdly optimistic”to Greg and deserves a Buy It.
Grizzly Bear Veckatimest
The final album up for review is the third release from Brooklyn quartet Grizzly Bear. Veckatimest, named for an island off the coast of Massachusetts, is already getting hailed by many as one of the top albums of the year. Jim hears a lot of similarities to what bands like Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper are doing, but with the addition of synths, Jeff Buckley-style vocals, and lo-fi production. In other words, it drives him crazy. A few moments of beauty, but he gives it a Try It. Greg loves how the band creates its own space in the album. He can picture the room they made it in. The record is not accessible, but when you are in the right mood to be shut in, Veckatimist will hit you. Greg gives it a Buy It rating.
MGMT Oracular Spectacular
After gaining attention with their 2007 debut Oracular Spectacular, Brooklyn duo MGMT are back with Congratulations. They've expanded their synth pop sound and have looked to Jim's hero Brian Eno for inspiration. So, he wonders why he doesn't like their music more. He finds their vocal style irritating and the subject matter flimsy and can only give Congratulations a Burn It. Greg is impressed with what producer Pete Kember of Spaceman 3 has brought to the table, as well as their darker lyrics and gives the album a Buy It rating.
Yeasayer Odd Blood
The record review this week is of Odd Blood by Yeasayer. The Brooklyn-based band released their highly-acclaimed debut in 2007. And like Weezer, they faced the dreaded sophomore album pressure. But, Jim and Greg agree that they deliver. Jim has already nominated "Madder Red" for hook of the year. Yeasayer has upped the songwriting on Odd Blood, but Greg wishes they had maintained the mystery and allure of the last record. He hears some obvious references and hopes they don't go too far in the pop direction on their next release. That said, Odd Blood gets a double Buy It.
Vampire Weekend Contra
The first review of the new year goes to Vampire Weekend. Their album Contra is the follow-up to their 2008 debut—one that Greg explains had a backlash even before its release. The Brooklyn certainly seems to polarize. In fact, Jim absolutely hated the debut. But do they deserve such passionate hatred or praise? With Contra, they are trying to be more ambitious musically. There are elements of reggae, dub and even autotune. But, Greg still hears a perfectly nice pop band—nothing more, nothing less. He gives the record a Burn It. Jim admits Vampire Weekend has a terrific drummer and undeniable hooks, but he can't get past the preppy yacht schtick. He wishes they were more critical and thoughtful in their lyrics and gives Contra a Trash It.
TV on the Radio Nine Types of Light
After taking a small hiatus and dabbling in film projects, TV on the Radio is back with its fourth album. The Brooklyn art rockers are one of the best bands to come out in the last decade, according to Jim and Greg. Nine Types of Light is a more optimistic, ballad-heavy album, which normally Greg wouldn‘t say is the kind of record for him. But it’s so layered and substantive that he says definitely Buy It. Jim puts them up there with Radiohead, and compares the subtle rhythms on this release to that on King of Limbs. He also praises the singing. Nine Types of Light gets two types of Buy Its.
This week, Jim pays tribute to Sharon Jones, a huge figure in the neo-soul revival, who died November 18 after a battle with cancer. With her powerful voice and electric stage presence, Jones was, according to Jim, the true inheritor of the legacy of fellow Augusta, Georgia native James Brown. She moved to Brooklyn where she ended up teaming up with The Dap-Kings, the finest soul / R&B backing band since Stax. Their 2013 song "Stranger to My Happiness" exemplifies her bravery against her illness. Ostensibly a love song, the lyrics also find Jones reckoning with mortality. She didn‘t wear a wig after losing her hair from chemotherapy, refusing to pretend to be anything she wasn’t. You can see that in a powerful video Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings recorded for“Stranger to My Happiness,”which is Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.Go to episode 575
Mag & Patrick
Jim and Greg know that not everyone can spend all their waking hours studying and discovering music. So as The Rock Doctors, they can help listeners ailing in the music department. This week's patients are Mag and Patrick, a young couple from Brooklyn. This is Jim and Greg's first stab at couple's therapy, and their task is to find music both Mag and Patrick can enjoy. Mag favors classic rock, while Patrick is a huge fan of Dave Matthews Band and Green Day.
Jim is interested in finding a Green Day equivalent that Mag can stomach. He recommends Texas punk band The Marked Men. Greg's prescription, Blitzen Trapper, has bluesy classic rock elements that Mag loves, as well as the strong lyrics Patrick appreciates.
Both patients diligently take their course of pills and report back a week later. Both Mag and Patrick absolutely loved the Blitzen Trapper. Mag was less high on The Marked Men, but says she‘d be willing to listen again as long as it was with Patrick. It sounds like the healing has begun, and that’s all the Doctors can ask for.Go to episode 172