Shuffle Everything – Vol. 4

PJ Harvey came out on top last week with ‘Rid Of Me’ and after a week of pretty intense songs, there’s somewhat of a calmer week if you don’t count the storming ‘Starve The Beat’ by Screaming Females. Beck returns to compete with Blur for best post-breakup wallowing, it’s pretty hard to beat ‘No Distance Left To Run’ but he gives it his best shot, bless him.

Lost Cause – Beck

Sea Change is many people’s Beck album of choice and you can see most of his material since this album as affecting of what we think of Beck now – more of an acoustic singer-songwriter-type than the no-genre-slacker of the 90s. ‘Lost Cause’ is beautiful and sad and summed up in ‘I’m tired of fighting for a lost cause’. He tries to tear himself away from this person he’s broken up with, but their ‘sorry eyes’ and ‘wounds’ make it hard to ignore. I could just listen to the guitars on this track and the way they weave around each other, but the lyrics are front and centre.

Monday Will Never Be The Same – Hüsker Dü

A throwaway track from the full-to-the-brim Zen Arcade, led purely by piano in comparison to the hardcore punk that Hüsker Dü are famous for. In the context of the album I might have been kinder, but when you get thrown a bunch of interlude tracks you’ve got to remember how important the album format is, and how tracks like this can be welcome relief from full-on bands like this. I checked and ‘Newest Industry’ comes before this so maybe it was a good idea to throw in a piano interlude before getting into ‘Whatever’, which for the record is incredible.

Starve The Beat (Live) – Screaming Females

Live At The Hideout is one of my favourite live albums and is just as good as any of Screaming Females’ albums and has the added benefit of compiling some of their greatest songs prior to Rose Mountain together. It’s tragic that Screaming Females still don’t get as much credit as they’re due, seeing as they’re one of the tightest punk rock bands around. They have the bonus of having Marissa Paternoster on guitar and vocals, who works some guitar magic and screams like nobody’s business. The funny thing is how indebted to classic rock it is – listen to those guitar solos – but is imbued with DIY punk that everyone can get behind. Let’s applaud for King Mike for a second, and now let’s move on.

The Hook – Stephen Malkmus

On a completely random note, I found a CD single of ‘Jenny And the Ess Dog’ in my small town charity shop once, and I really wanted to know who in my town was in possession of Stephen Malkmus CD singles. Anyway, this is from the better Malkmus solo album, where he gets to play rock ‘n’ roll without having to attach the Pavement name and has plenty of fun with it. It’s a lovely, catchy pop song if you can ignore the lyrics about Turkish pirates and excruciating forms of torture. Then again, what do you expect from Stephen Malkmus? It’s the same guy that wrote that the Smashing Pumpkins have no function.

Gold Star For Robot Boy – Guided By Voices

still can’t get into Guided By Voices. I just couldn’t get around how short the songs were, and I’m not exactly sure why I have that problem. ‘Gold Star For Robot Boy’ sounds influential, you can hear a million indie rock bands in that song, in the middle of hyper-accessible pop-rock and horrendously lo-fi production. It’s surprising that Guided By Voices never got bigger than they did, especially in the healthy climate of the 90s they excelled in. Talking about gold stars is a fitting theme for Robert Pollard, he was a teacher at an elementary school at the same time as being a musical cult hero. Imagine all those kids telling people years later they got taught by Guided By Voices. I imagine the lessons would be interesting.

Best Of The Week?

‘Starve The Beat’s live rendition is staggering; six minutes of pure unfiltered punk that sings the praises of technical ability as well as a DIY ethic. The mixing is particularly good for a live performance, boosting those guitars way up and letting Marissa Paternoster go all out. The best rock band around?

New Music – Skeleton / Screaming Females

It’s a shame that ‘Skeleton’ didn’t make the cut for Screaming Female’s last album, Rose Mountain, but that’s ok, because now we’re getting it – and a bunch of other offcuts – in a deluxe version. As if you didn’t need another reminder that Screaming Females are a contender for best rock band in the world that not enough people have heard (Along with Pile), Skeleton comes along blurring the lines between the most technically proficient rock and punk. Then you’ve got Marissa Paternoster completely shredding up her voice for the chorus. The epic guitar solo is completely necessary. It’s scarily good that a song like ‘Skeleton’ has to be kicked off the regular tracklist.

The 25 Best Songs of 2015

Back in June, we did the best albums of 2015 so far, but not the songs. Which is a shame, considering that 2015 has had some particularly good songs (and some bad ones as well, but who need them?). So at the end of 2015, we’re not going to do a ‘list’ but a collection of our favourite tracks and singles from this year. Let’s begin.

Joke // Chastity Belt

Chastity Belt came back better than ever in 2015, improving on their debut No Regerts, in almost every way imaginable. One of the more experimental tracks that they toyed with was ‘Joke’, where they go beyond their typical tales of parties and indie-rock pop to tap into something more like lengthy meandering jams. The highlight of the track is Lydia Lund’s deep resonating guitar line that cuts right through the track and showcases a more introspective and serious side to Chastity Belt. An improvement in every way.

1d6b0ac6ee276114e0ba5cd5473f3612585f8dffREALiTi (Demo) // Grimes

Yeah, sure, the new version of ‘REALiTi’ feels more polished and is lengthier, but the original impact of ‘REALiTi’ in ‘demo’ form was hard to shake off. The instrumentation is less of a blur and Grimes’ singing comes on in leaps and bounds. It also pre-empted what Claire Boucher would perfect on Art Angels with her personal lyrics and also more pop-oriented sound. Don’t worry, an Art Angels cut makes the list later on.

let-it-happen-tame-impalaLet It Happen // Tame Impala

‘Let It Happen’ was like the stepping stone to the disco-infused psych that Tame Impala would make on Currents as there was still some remaining traces from their all-conquering Lonerism album: Muscular guitar riffs, obscured vocals and extended jams. However, the bassline was more muted and there was a dance-ability with ‘Let It Happen’ that hadn’t occurred before. Tame Impala were going to new, neon-lit pastures that were a long way away from the psychedelia revivalists they had been pegged as. Funnily enough, it was an excellent evolution which makes total sense and didn’t detract from their previous psych fame.

Mr Fish // Pile

Probably a more underrated track from the best rock band on the planet – Pile. Pile’s last album, 2012’s Dripping, was stupidly good but wasn’t exactly followed up too well when You’re Better Than This came out. Never fear, ‘Mr Fish’ is still a great song in the middle of a half-decent album. It has Pile’s stop-start rock machinery in play and Rick Maguire’s often hilarious but self-lacerating lyrics about fate being taped to his back and waking up in the middle of the ocean. One of the best rock bands right now on fine form with ‘Mr Fish’.

haveyouinmywildernessBetsy On The Roof // Julia Holter

Julia Holter struck gold on the ambiguous and open-ended ‘Betsy On The Roof’, a piano ballad where her vocals come front and centre. Unlike her previous records, where extra instrumentation could blur her voice, the simple team of Holter and a piano makes a timeless song which develops even more in the later half when extra instrumentation builds on the simple template with strings and wonky pianos pirouetting around the Holter as a pivot. We might not know Betsy or why she’s on the roof, but the less we know here, the more magical it seems.

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