VIDEO: Quakers – “Fitta Happier”

Quakers

Rap and Radiohead are not a new combination. The Jaydiohead mash-up hit the internet at the turn of 2008, and by all accounts it was pretty well received – if you haven’t heard anything from it yet, I felt “Reckoner’s Encore” was the clear standout of the project.

Quakers are a 35-piece (yes, thirty-five) hip-hop collective, and they’ve flipped one of Radiohead’s most memorable riffs on its head to rap some original verses over it. Quakers’ core is made up of producers Fuzzface (Portishead’s Geoff Barrow), 7-Stu-7 (Portishead’s engineer Stuart Matthews), and Katalyst (Australia’s very own Ashley Anderson). They’ve referenced the title of the bridging track of Radiohead’s OK Computer, and borrowed the main brass riff from Kid A‘s “The National Anthem” (and a bit of the riff from “Optimistic” too!). The track doesn’t reach for the messy, climactic heights of the latter, but that’s probably a good thing. It features rappers Guilty Simpson and MED, who both have a verse each.

Take a listen below.

Advertisements

VIDEO: Ultraísta – “Smalltalk”

Ultraísta

Ultraísta is the new project from famous Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, drummer and producer Joey Waronker (both of whom play alongside Thom Yorke in Atoms For Peace), and London musician Laura Bettison. Godrich has worked with artists like Beck, Pavement, and Paul McCartney, and Waronker has worked with artists like Elliott Smith, R.E.M., and The Smashing Pumpkins. Amidst all of the news surrounding this new band, it’s hard to find much on Bettison, but it appears she performed at the Godiva Festival in 2006. At any rate, they’re a talented bunch, but that’s about all anyone knows right now.

They have one song out so far (and a video for it) – “Smalltalk”. Full of lush electronic instrumentation, excellent percussion (presumably from Waronker) and Bettison’s warm vocals, it looks like Ultraísta could be a band to watch. It’s also interesting to note that the band’s website has a link to download an acappella of Bettison’s vocals, so if you’re into the remix side of things, there’s that too.

Check “Smalltalk” out below.

Photo via the above video.

FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2011

This is more a quick list of albums I’ve enjoyed over this last year than some kind of definitive I-went-through-my-entire-iTunes-library-and-ranked-everything-in-order list. I might have missed a couple of releases – all I know is I really liked all these ones. You might too.

So without further ado, Album of the Year goes to…

Los Campesinos - Hello Sadness

Los Campesinos!Hello Sadness

Hello Sadness sees Los Campesinos! trying to refine their output into a concise body of work. A structured and focused album. Gareth’s imagery is darker than ever, and hidden within the album are melodic hooks and intricacies that take a while to become apparent (the vocal crescendo in “To Tundra” is nothing short of beautiful). Brilliant, and another great release to add to their discography.

Other albums I enjoyed, in rough order of how much I enjoyed them, kind of. Just look.

Johnny Foreigner - Vs Everything

Johnny ForeignerJohnny Foreigner Vs Everything

A very close runner-up for AotY. Messy on the first few listens, it truly opens itself up after a few sit-throughs, and it gets better and better. Loud, fast, interesting, moving. Time will determine its longevity and significance in their discography, but it’s definitely a huge step in the band’s journey – hopefully one of many more to come.

Thrice - Major/Minor

ThriceMajor/Minor

Consistent and strong. Not one song feels under-baked. There are a lot of huge cathartic sing-a-long moments, and I don’t care whether or not you associate that as being a good thing or not with Thrice, but I think lyrically and musically this is an incredibly good album. Stunning. If you only listen to one song from Major/Minor, check out “Words in the Water”.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver

Intricate. Delicate. Evocative. This is a great album full of great songs, and they paint a picture unlike many musicians ever could. It’s easy to understand why it got Pitchfork’s Album of the Year.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

RadioheadThe King of Limbs

Arguably a step back towards their more experimental work, this was a tough album to digest. It’s entirely possible that this album takes even longer to appreciate and understand than a year, and maybe with more time I’ll enjoy it even more. It definitely has its high points, and it’s full of interesting textures – but I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. It still gets a place here though, ’cause it’s quite good.

Grieves - Together/Apart

GrievesTogether/Apart

With the help of producer, multi-instrumentalist, and beat-maker – Budo – Grieves has released a great album here. Criticised by many (unfairly so, I believe) for his consistently emotive lyrics, Grieves tells stories of girls, drinking, anxiety, and those monsters under your bed, amongst everything else, and while it can feel like a long haul at times, there are a pile of gems on this album. If you needed any more proof that the Rhymesayers crew were some of the best out there, this shouldn’t take long to convince you.

The Weeknd - House of Balloons

The WeekndHouse of Balloons

This particular instalment of The Weeknd’s trilogy of 2011 releases is making my list not because I believe it’s the best of the three, but simply because I haven’t been able to give Thursday or Echoes Of Silence a fair go yet.
That aside, this release is really interesting. I’ve never really been into R&B in a huge way, yet The Weeknd drew me in. And it’s interesting because it paints a picture of a world so foreign that I struggle to find any personal connections. It almost feels voyeuristic to listen to. It’s intriguing at any rate, and was well worth my time. It’s free too.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Foo FightersWasting Light

A great album from a rock band still going strong, after all these years. Consistent, full of energy, and another strong release from a band that really are going to stand the test of time.

These last few albums haven’t had as many listens as those above, but from the amount of time I’ve given them, I like them a lot. Very much worth mentioning here.

Example - Playing in the Shadows

ExamplePlaying in the Shadows

Slow ClubParadise

Phantogram - Nightlife EP

PhantogramNightlife EP

FEATURE: The King of Limbs – first impressions

This is not a review.

I know well enough that Radiohead’s records can take weeks, months, maybe even years, to fully take hold in my mind. Even then, I constantly hear new things. I’m constantly drawn into new elements of songs. Constantly entranced by the way that Radiohead can make music that truly rewards repeat listens. So it seems pointless for me to pretend to review it now, when my thoughts will have probably changed in a week.

The music press seem to have gone beserk in an effort to maximise the number of hits they receive on their websites – everyone wants to know what Rolling Stone, NME, or The Guardian think. It almost seems to jeopardise their integrity as music journalists if you ask me. I don’t honestly believe anyone can fairly review an album when it has been released for under twelve hours, especially a Radiohead album. Maybe it’s just me. But, I guess they’re getting paid and have to do as they’re told.

Anyway, as I don’t think I’ll be reviewing The King of Limbs anytime soon, I decided to give my initial thoughts on the album.

The King of Limbs is most definitely a return to the more experimental side of Radiohead’s music – especially the first half of the album. It’s all layered rather deeply. As obtuse and out-there as it may seem on first listen, the transition between the first and second half of the album shows the kind of diversity we’ve come to expect from Radiohead. The contrast created gives the album a life of its own – like much of their previous work. It’s not just a collection of songs, but an album. It’s easy to pick it apart and find very small, common threads with their back-catalogue, but the reality is that this is another re-invention of the band. It explores new ground.

I’m convinced The King of Limbs will reward repeat listens. It will throw new fans, and some established fans as well, but anyone who knows how Radiohead work will know that they have to give it time. I think, given time, this album will work its way into my head, and the heads of many other fans,  and will quite possibly climb up my list of favourite albums.

We’ll have to wait and see.

FEATURE: In honour of The King of Limbs, I present…

Radiohead: A Retrospective

On Saturday the 19th of February, Radiohead’s long anticipated 8th album will be released – The King of Limbs.

As such, I thought it appropriate to showcase a track from each of their albums. And as I’m doing this properly, yes, I’ll even include Pablo Honey. It won’t be easy to pick the tracks, but it’s something to blog about, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.

So, without further ado…

Pablo Honey – “Blow Out”

As a general rule of thumb, Pablo Honey is ignored by most fans when discussing Radiohead. That’s because most of the people who enjoy Pablo Honey adore “Creep”, and in comparison to the rest of Radiohead’s work, “Creep” really isn’t very good.

That said, I find closer “Blow Out” to be quite nice. I heard an acoustic rendition which sounded particularly cool as well (you can find it here), but for the sake of keeping things simple, I’ll focus on the album version. Featuring numerous blasting guitar fills, and a really laid back opening riff, “Blow Out” feels like one of the best tracks on the album. A sign of the type of work to follow on The Bends – plain, but top quality rock. Nothing experimental and weird, but everything a typically great set of songs need.

The Bends – “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”

This one wasn’t particularly hard to pick. Not because The Bends is bad, but because “Street Spirit” is just such an evocative and brilliant song. The cathartic build-up throughout the song culminates in Thom singing “Immerse your soul in love”, and it closes the album perfectly. It’s really quite a moving piece, especially after listening to the album in full.

If you have a bit of spare time, read about the song on Wikipedia here. It’s interesting to read Thom’s thoughts on fans’ reactions to the song. The meaning behind “Street Spirit” is very dark indeed.

OK Computer – “Paranoid Android”

I’ll admit, this was a tough one to pick. OK Computer is full of great tracks, and to not pick some like “Climbing Up The Walls” or “Let Down” seems criminal. Ultimately, I went with “Paranoid Android” because it manages to do everything a great song should do. It sets a high benchmark for bands everywhere. From the cryptic lyrics to the brilliant guitar melodies at the start, the song moves to the melancholic “rain down” section, and manages to pick it all up at the end with a rush of guitars. The movement in this song showcases Radiohead’s skill at creating something more than just a simple song – “Paranoid Android” feels like it could be three songs stuck together, yet also feels like neither part would work without the others.

Kid A – “Idioteque”

Again, like OK Computer, this was no easy decision. Mainly because the material on Kid A is so diverse, yet most of it is very strong. I, however, have a public confession: I don’t like “Motion Picture Soundtrack” that much. I love the lyrics but there’s something about it I just can’t connect with.

Anyway, back to “Idioteque”. The pace and rhythms in this song make it really stand out as something so insanely primal. Thom’s relatively fast vocal lines evoke a sense of urgency and that’s what really drives the song forward. Like most of their albums, Kid A really is very good, and brings something different to the table, but “Idioteque” really stands out for me.

Amnesiac – “Pyramid Song”

Amnesiac is like the twin to Kid A, but slightly more experimental. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it’s definitely an album worth listening to as a whole, and when you’re in the mood for it.

The live version of “Like Spinning Plates” is particularly beautiful, but as it’s not on the full length album, I’m going to go with the equally awesome “Pyramid Song”. The difficult-to-catch piano rhythms are, well at the risk of repeating myself – beautiful. This is one song I can connect with on an emotional level, and it’s hard to not sense the feeling running through Yorke’s lyrics.

“And we all went to heaven in a little row boat / There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt.”

Hail to the Thief – “Go to Sleep (Little Man being Erased.)”

Hail to the Thief has its ups and downs. It feels like a mix between some of the darker elements of Amnesiac and a more refined, left of center version of the rock on The Bends, thrown in with some electronic influences.

“Go to Sleep” focuses on a little acoustic riff that repeats, building up to include the full band, complete with Jonny’s fills and all. It brings HttT back from it’s electronic influences onto firmer ground, and stands incredibly well on its own. A top song from a pretty good album.

In Rainbows – “Videotape”

And here we are – at possibly the hardest decision for me personally. In Rainbows is my favourite album by Radiohead – everything just works. With the exception of “House of Cards”, which seems just a notch below everything else (although it is a very tiny notch), I can’t imagine the album being any better.

I want to stress that In Rainbows should be listened to as a whole. I’ve picked “Videotape” because I believe it to be one of the best album closers I’ve ever heard. About death and life as a whole, it some how captures the beauty and relief of accepting life as it is, especially in the final lines.

“No matter what happens next, you shouldn’t be afraid / Because I know today has been the most perfect day I’ve ever seen.”

The descending piano patterns, and the syncopated drumming rhythms near the end of the song bring it to life and give it a sense of finality. Best heard after listening to In Rainbows as a whole, but none-the-less, an incredibly beautiful song on its own. This is one of Radiohead’s tracks that never fails to pull at me emotionally (yeah I’m a sook, shut up).

So, there you have it. My favourite track from each Radiohead album. That might change every now and then, but these tracks listed will always be up there in my favourites.

I’ll leave you with a stand out b-side of theirs. It’s called “Gagging Order” and is a little acoustic number. It’s very subtle, but the instrumentation and lyrics make it one of their best in my opinion. You can tell a band is good when even their b-sides are brilliant. Another b-side that you should check out is “True Love Waits”, but I’ll leave that up to you.

NEWS: So, as I mentioned – Radiohead!

Wow. Just wow.

Last night, news reached me via Twitter that Radiohead had finally made plans to release their 8th full length – entitled The King of Limbs. They sure know how to keep a surprise! I’d been waiting for an announcement like this for quite some time, but didn’t expect it so soon.

Interestingly, Radiohead have dropped the “pay-what-you-want” model in favour of just asking for a bit of money. There are two packs available – a digital download, and a gigtantic-enormous-mega-super-deluxe package, which includes vinyl pressings, a CD, the digital download on the 19th of February, and of course a tonne of awesome sounding artwork! Personally, I’d like to purchase the latter, but I’ll have to see how it goes. I hope they sell CD’s invidividually later anyway.

The band have also come under minor scrutiny from other artists and figures because of their markup on the price of digital copies. You can buy the album digitally as .mp3 or .wav files, you see. And the .wav files are more expensive than the .mp3 files. That could be to compensate for the bandwidth costs associated with distributing the larger files, but many claim it’s a ridiculous markup. I think I speak for the larger proportion of the music-loving society when I say – really, who cares? THIS IS RADIOHEAD. They are going to make a bucket load of money off this anyway, I seriously doubt the markup was motivated by pure greed.

Anyway. 19th of February. Pre-order your copies now people. This is going to be awesome.

BRAND NEW: Thom Yorke/Radiohead songs!

This weekend just gets better and better!

Thom played these live at a solo gig last night (depending where you are). I think it’s fairly safe to assume they’re stripped down new Radiohead songs, considering they’ve been working on a new LP recently.

“The Daily Mail”

A stripped down piano rendition. You know, even though people always make jokes about Coldplay and Muse copying Radiohead (or some other variation of the joke), I’ve never seem the strong similarities there apparently are. Maybe the vocal styles of Matt Bellamy and Yorke are slightly similar. But I digress. If anything, these songs will probably be done up for the album and sound completely different recorded. But as a live rendition on the piano, I can see where a Coldplay comparison might originate from. Though I think this sounds better than a lot of Coldplay’s stuff.

“Give Up The Ghost”

Looped backing vocals bring out a delicate sounding track. Sounds like top-quality material.

“Mouse Dog Bird”

Great song dominated by acoustic guitar.

I’m sure these songs are going to sound infinitely better once they’re recorded with the full-band and put on an LP, but for now, these solo stripped-back versions are going to have to tide us fans over. And even at this level, they sound very good.