Tag Archives: japandroids

The Year in Music Ahead (hopefully)

It’s safe to say that 2013, as far as music is concerned, is over. For the better part of a month every music blog has been writing about their favorite albums of the year, producing list after list after list of best song, best album, as well as separate lists for every genre under the sun. I’ve done my best to avoid it, choosing instead to do full album reviews of albums that I feel are worth talking about and that I had missed during the year. I thought that a better thing to do might be to write about some of the albums that I am hoping to see in the year ahead. There are a lot of artists that were silent in 2013, some of which haven’t produced in album in several years, which could be surprising depending on the artists. Here’s what I hope to hear in 2014:


When “Transference” came out in 2010 Spoon had felt like that reliable band that churned out album after album, with solid results. It’s not that they were predictable, per se, as much as they were completely dependable. Going back as far as “Girls Can Tell,” not just a classic Spoon album, but a classic album in general, Brit Daniel and Jim Eno have been turning out unshakably poppy, tuneful albums. From what I remember “Transference” seemed to take a step back from all that, not reaching to the heights of their previous, fantastic, ridiculously named, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” Though I think that “Transference” is a fine album, it’s not necessarily my go-to when I pull a Spoon album off the shelf. Brit went off and did an album with a newly formed band, The Divine Fits, which was actually really good catchy retro-synth pop (can we consider music that is reminiscent of the 80’s retro now?). Here’s to hoping that Spoon returns to the fold in 2014 and that their nearly 4 years away from the studio allowed them to rest up and re-group to record some great new tracks.

Titus Andronicus

Speaking of indie-rock stalwarts, Patrick Stickles’ New Jersey based punk rock band has three absolutely perfect albums under their belt. “The Airing of Grievances” is about as good as a debut album can get, and then they put out “The Monitor,” one of the best albums that I have ever heard. “Local Business” stripped back some of the high concept of those first two albums and delivered some straight ahead riff-based rock that shows the band easily churning out a full album’s worth or singles. Seeing the band this past September and accosting Stickles at the merch table (ok accost is a strong word, but I did talk to him when he clearly did not want to talk) he said that they would have a new album “ready to go in 14 months.” I remember this specifically because that was a strange number. Anyway, I hope that’s true, and I look forward to a new Titus album in November 2014.


I’m a huge Shellac fan. I’ve written about Albini’s casual mention earlier this year of a new album being ready to go (and then I went on to write about something completely different, but trust me it’s in there somewhere). Who knows what the hell will happen though. It’s not like the band needs the money, or is even in it for that reason. Whenever they put it out they’ll put it out and then probably tour a little bit behind it and then lock themselves in the studio again to work. I know that this is probably an unpopular opinion, as their fans are pretty fanatical and unmutable in their view of the band, but I really didn’t like their last album “Excellent Italian Greyhound,” so I’m especially looking forward to the next one. Here’s to hoping that it is closer in sound to “At Action Park,” or whatever.


If you’re going to release albums that are barely a half hour long, I’m going to want more than one every few years. I know that they have said repeatedly that they hate being in the studio, but unfortunately it’s a part of life. Both of their releases have been stellar so far, and I’m sure that whatever they come up with next will not be disappointing, so I hope that they get on it.

Twin Peaks

My favorite album of 2013. But I have the same complaint as with Japandroids. I mean, the album was EP length at best. I hope that this group of young kids has another great album in them because “Sunken” was an enviable debut and if they can pull off another album that good I think their status will be solidified as a force in the music world, whereas right now they are just hopefuls.

of Montreal

Of course I’m going to say of Montreal. I’ve loved everything that they’ve done, and sure “Lousy With Sylvianbriar” just came out barely a few months ago, but Kevin Barnes has been on a good run, releasing a lot of music year after year and constantly taking his writing to new and exciting places. With every twist and turn I’ve been on board, so let’s see how much farther he can take it.

That just about sums up what I am hoping for in the coming year. Of course I’m also looking forward to the unexpected, the bands that haven’t released anything yet and therefore aren’t on the radar. That is always the most exciting part of writing a blog, the getting new stuff dropped into the mailbox, or linked to on soundcloud. So here’s to another year of new sounds by bands new and old, the expected and the unexpected.


Pitchfork Music Festival 2012 Preview Pt. 1

As is tradition for me around this time (almost) every year, I take off to Chicago to catch the Pitchfork Music Festival that has been happening every year since 2006 in Union Park. Though I didn’t have a chance to go last year, due to an expensive cross country move that I was going to be partaking a month after the festival, I am excited to return to the tradition again this year. Just as I did in 2010 I’m going to break the weekend up into 3 posts, one for each day of the fest, detailing each of the acts that I am looking forward to catching and hopefully helping you to discover some new acts even if you aren’t going to the festival. With any luck I’ll be able to update after each day of the fest to inform you as to what exactly went down, with links to any pictures and video (of at least reasonable quality) that I can find.

Friday July 13, 2012:

Tim Hecker, with the release of “Ravedeath 1972” in February 2011, blew pretty much everyone away with his expansive ambient drones. For me, as someone that doesn’t normally sit and listen to ambient music, there is something very intriguing about the sound of this album. It’s dense, complex, gritty, it may seem simple on the surface but there is a lot to dig in to. It’s an album to which I keep returning. I’m looking forward to his performance on Friday, but I’m also a little bit nervous that his brand of atmospherics may get lost to an outdoor venue. There’s a lot of subtlety to his music that may be hard to grasp in an open air venue. Typically the crowd at the festival knows (I’m making an assumption here based on my own personal feelings after years of attending) the music fairly well so I’m sure it will go as well as it can, but there is still a chance that it will end up like the disastrous (and BORING!) Panda Bear set from 2010.


Japandroids, are definitely not ones to disappoint. After the release of their first album “Post-Nothing” this Vancouver duo played the side stage of the festival in 2009. The energy of their songs and the catchiness of their hooks seemed to endear them to everyone. Every shout along chorus seemed familiar and inviting even to those in the crowd that may have only come to know the band that day. Not much has changed in the 3 years since that album was released. They have a new LP out, the aptly titled “Celebration Rock”, that is perhaps the best release of the year so far. The new one is even more exciting than the last, and that Japandroids have spent the majority of their time on the road has certainly helped. There is no question that this set will be fantastic, though I can’t hide my disappointment and frustration that Pitchfork has decided to once again relegate them to the smaller stage.

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/07.-The-House-That-Heaven-Built.mp3|titles=The House That Heaven Built]

Dirty Projectors seem to be in step with Japandroids. The last time we heard from Dave Longstreth and company was the same summer that the Vancouver duo released “Post-Nothing”. Both albums fought for my attention that summer, and neither one surpassed the other in listens. I loved (and still do love) “Bitte Orca”, and being that a stream of the latest Dirty Projectors album, “Swing Lo Magellan”, was just released yesterday (and it sounds fantastic) I’m sure this will be another hard fought battle for the summer. The official release date for the album comes just before the festival (July 10 on Domino Records), and may push Japandroids around for their spot as “best release of 2012 so far”. But all that is ok. This will also be a repeat performance, as they played in support of “Rise Above” in 2009 just before the official release of “Bitte Orca”. That was my first ever introduction to the band, and now that I am more familiar with their stuff (as is everyone else) I’m sure to get a lot more out of it.

As for the rest of the performances on the first day of the festival, I have never really been the biggest fan of Feist. I found “The Reminder” quite boring and because of that I haven’t even bothered checking out her new one, “Metals”. Perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised.  Though earlier in the day I am going to have to check out The Olivia Tremor Control as they have been in the back of my mind forever as a band that I definitely need to check out. All that I know about them is that they are one of the original bands in the Elephant 6 collective. That alone is enough to get my attention. I also realize that I lose about a million hipster cred points for not checking them out sooner.



Album review: Japandroids – "Celebration Rock"

(Originally posted to Tympanogram on June 12, 2012)

Japandroids - "Celebration Rock"
Japandroids – “Celebration Rock”

When a band sort of falls off the radar for a little bit it’s natural to feel worried. In today’s musical climate a band only stays relevant for as long as they can pump out song after song and album after album. It’s even more worrisome when a band like Japandroids – a band so exciting, energetic, and original, and with such a talent for writing catchy, shout-along choruses – seems to be puttering to a standstill.  The Vancouver pair seemed to be disappearing into memories, stretching themselves thin touring 475 days a year, and leaving us hanging with spare singles and cover songs to tide us over.

The problem with such an approach is that the expectation for something truly epic, something that will exceed all previous efforts increases exponentially. And this is the part of the post where I let you know what you are hoping: they have.

On Celebration Rock Brian King’s voice is a little bit more crackly and weather-worn, no doubt the result of all of the aforementioned touring, but all of the energy and shouts are still there; not only are they still there, they are surprisingly better, more earnest, and more filled with joy. After Post-Nothing I think we all figured that it was safe to assume that there was no way this band could continue on in the same manner. In order to remain relevant, they would have to try to do something different, branch out, and add things to their sound. Well, here’s Japandroids proving us wrong.

Celebration Rock is comprised of 8 songs that fly by in a frenzy, never letting up for a second. The album opens and closes with the sound of fireworks, and every song is propelled forward like it’s been shot out of a cannon. The steady drumbeat of “The Nights of Wine and Roses” fades in, and King can hardly contain his excitement as the guitar enters the mix, swaying a bit against David Prowse’s solid backbeat. Things pick up from there, building until the bottom suddenly falls out, and the pair’s most jubilant string of interjections is extended over the following thirty seconds.

Usually I would say that a good album needs to have a shape to it – the ups, the downs, the entire emotional landscape, you know. Albums need to take us on a journey and allow us to get lost as listeners. But with Celebration Rock, there is absolutely no room for complaint. Japandroids is rocking harder than ever before; they are clearly excited by their music, and they are unapologetic for it. Every single song is comprised of hooks that seem so effortlessly strung together. Between the energy, the hooks, and the nostalgic impact of the lyrics, it’s easy to get lost in Japandroids’ oeuvre. The songs sound new and familiar, capturing the fleeting idea of reminiscence that we all find ourselves feeling from time to time.

The album also features one of the most fantastic one-two rock punches in recent memory, placing “Younger Us” and “The House That Heaven Built” one after the other, the latter of which is a standout track among an album of standout tracks.

The pair is currently on tour, but from what I have heard tickets are selling incredibly fast, and with good reason. Seeing a Japandroids show is a great experience, and one that comes highly recommended. Check their website to see if they are coming to a town near you, and to order the album for yourself.

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/07.-The-House-That-Heaven-Built.mp3|titles=The House That Heaven Built]

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UPDATE: The album is currently (TODAY!) available as a $3 download on Amazon. Go get it!


A few cover songs

I’m not going to say anything overbearing like that these are the best cover songs, or that these are my top 5 cover songs of all time. Instead I just want to share a few that I have enjoyed recently. Some of them are more familiar to me and closer to my heart than the originals, and there’s one that I didn’t even realize was a cover until not too long ago. Check them out below.

Japandroids – “Racer X”

Japandroids - "Art Czars" single
Japandroids - "Art Czars" 7"

Vancouver’s Japandroids did something interesting when they didn’t have time to get into the studio because of a relentless touring schedule. I swear that they have played 300 shows a year for the past 2 years. They are insane. Their energy comes through in their music, that much is evident. Anyway, in lieu of putting out another full length album they opted to release a series of limited edition 7″ singles. The A side would be an out-take from their “Post-Nothing” sessions and each B side would be a cover song. A great PR gambit, because the steady release of singles means that they never really go away, which will buy them some much needed time to write and record another album, and, of course, tour some more.

Their cover of Big Black’s “Racer X” captures all of the sneering aggression of the young Steve Albini. These two guys can make as much noise as any band and they really capture the energy of this track. The robotic drumming of Roland, the famous Big Black Roland 606 drum machine that was used by Albini and Co., is brought to life by David Prowse, while the brittle, ringing guitar tone faithfully reproduced by Brian King.

Japandroids – Racer-X

Matthew Good – “Moon Over Marin”

Matthew Good - "Hospital Music"

It’s actually kind of funny to me that I came to know Matthew Good’s version of “Moon Over Marin” before I knew the original. I was a fan of the Dead Kennedys long before I ever even heard of Good.

This track originally appeared on DK’s “Plastic Surgery Disasters” and featured their signature sound of East Bay Ray’s surf-rock inspired, yet still undoubtedly punk rock, ultra-distorted guitar and Jello Biafra’s warbly half spoken, half sung vocals. The lyrics speak very matter of factly about the pollution problem in the Marin area of California. Naturally Biafra’s lyrics go a little bit over the top, bringing attention to a problem by exaggerating, though that kind of extrapolation is what makes punk rock fun. You need to have something to fight about.

Good’s version, though leaving the original lyrics untouched, takes a different angle. The album that this track appears on, “Hospital Music”, are all very heartfelt songs written after a dark period in Good’s life following a nervous breakdown. He takes a gentle, slower approach to the song that still fits the lyrics as well as remaining true to the general spirit of the album. His rendition gives the effect of someone that is sort of detached from their surroundings, realizing that all of these terrible things are happening around him and almost willing to accept it. Though, knowing Matthew Good’s politics, I know that he is not willing to accept these things. This is an interesting look at how the world’s problems feel through someone that wants to do something, but is temporarily powerless. Sometimes taking care of yourself is more important than any problems around you.

Moon Over Marin

The Flaming Lips – “(What a) Wonderful World”

The Flaming Lips - "In a Priest Driven Ambulance"

Before they were able to fill arenas with their over the top stage show they were a really noisy psych. rock band that sounded like they took more acid than Syd Barrett on a bad day. Before they really solidified their sound with milestone albums like “The Soft Bulletin” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” they were a cult band that sounded like a 2nd rate Butthole Surfers. Freak rock for the freaks.

I realize that I am disregarding the fact that they recently released a cover album (yes, an entire album) of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”. It’s an ok album. Worth a listen, for sure, but I wanted to bring to your attention something a bit more obscure. If it wasn’t for Wayne Coyne’s very recognizable voice, you probably wouldn’t realize that this is the same band. Wayne and Louis Armstrong share a certain characteristic of singing voice….that is to say Wayne has always sounded like he was on the verge of losing his voice and Louis Armstrong probably should have stuck to the trumpet. But, I realize that is really unfair of me to say. The honesty in their voices is really what makes this track work. Something is lost if someone is to sing this song with a pretty voice, polished and “nice”. This song truly speaks with an honest, untrained voice. Of course, all the noisy guitars and feedback certainly helps bring this song up to date for a much younger audience. It’s a great cover if you haven’t heard it before, take a listen.

(What A) Wonderful World

James Husband – “We Can Work It Out”

James Husband

James Husband, multi-instrumentalist for of Montreal, released his solo debut “A Parallax I” late last year and packaged with it an EP of covers, “Smothered in Covers”. He does a great job with all of the tracks, including this one originally by, obviously, The Beatles.

It is rather daring to attempt to cover The Beatles as the songs are so familiar to everyone. So much so I think that all of their songs are pretty much in our collective subconscious. I think that covering a Beatles tune is a very delicate process because of this. You need to do something original, but nothing too crazy. You need to stick to the original song, but you don’t want it to sound exactly like it, otherwise what would be the point? There is very little room for error. You don’t want to make it sound like you are trying to improve on it because Beatles songs are, quite honestly, perfection.

That being said what Jamie does here is about as good as it gets when covering The Beatles. He leaves room for little silences and lets the song breathe a little bit. What is really effective though, in my opinion, is the way that he plays with the timing of the song. There is this very subtle rubato in place that seems to keep leaning back in the beat. He relaxes the tempo quite a bit, but he doesn’t swing it. It’s really what the song needs. That is saying something, for sure. He managed to keep everything in place and create a little something new. It’s one of my favorite covers for sure, and I think that it is almost as effective as the original track. If you only listen to one of these, listen to this one.

We Can Work It Out

The Dillinger Escape Plan – “Jesus Christ Pose”

The Dillinger Escape Plan - "Plagiarism"

This track is the reason that I even wanted to write this post. I was listening to my iTunes “5 star” playlist and this track came up. I then proceeded to listen to it 6 times in a row as I walked around town doing all the stuff that I needed to do. I was thinking to myself, “Wow, this track is what Soundgarden was trying to do!” This version adds some balls to the guitars, thickens up the distortion and really drives everything home. The vocals are right on, the drummer out drums Matt Cameron. Everything is just perfect here. They really don’t try to do anything new with the track, they are just covering it and happen to be able to do it better than the original. Phenomenal. I can’t really say anything else about this track. I hope that my enthusiasm gets you to give it a listen.

Jesus Christ Pose (Cover of Soundgarden)