Tag Archives: Rolling Stone

Top 10 Songs of 2013: #10 – “Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend

9 Dec

Vampire Weekend

And the list begins. Vampire Weekend released its third studio album in May of this year, and it immediately received laudation from many mainstream/underground music critics. Heralded as an ode to bildungsroman, Vampire Weekend certainly put out a comprehensive and potent release that played on themes of growth, religion, and relationships. The album, Modern Vampires of the City, has found its way into the top five of Stereogum and Spin’s end-of-the-year top albums chart and has reached number one on Rolling Stone’s top 2013 albums chart. It was a good year for Columbia-educated English major Ezra Koenig and his band of undead brothers.

While many who are familiar with the album might be surprised that I did not choose the effervescent Yahweh-inspired pop piece, “Ya Hey,” which pulsates with a taciturn MGMT rhythm, I hold firm that it is not the best song on the album, and thus not on this list. “Unbelievers,” the new album’s third single, is a bubbly track that effortlessly combines early rockabilly with cogent lyrics, and because of its musical diversity and thought-provoking lyric it earned a spot on the countdown.

The song was written by Koenig and produced by record producer Ariel Rechtshaid and vampire multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij. The persistent rhythm that carries the song sounds like a modernized version of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue.” The repetitive 2-chord verse follows a consistent 4-bar chorus that is carried by pounding percussion and classic Vampire Weekend harmonies. The strongest melody of this song falls at the ending diapason that combines the instrumentals into a crashing, harmonious 20 seconds that crushes listeners with a wave of indie-pop sound. It is a song that feigns simplicity and does it well. It also features some pretty top notch lyrics:

We know the fire awaits unbelievers
All of the sinners, the same
Girl you and I will die unbelievers 
bound to the tracks of the train 

Koenig goes on to question whether holy water contains “a little drop for me.” It’s a concise portrait of an individual who is bound to die an unbeliever (without religion). This explicit religious bent may serve as broad symbolism of an album-wide theme of relationship. Nice, philosophical words from Koenig.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/2_qKmTLbEPc” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

New to the Music Court’s annual Top 10 Songs countdowns? Check out the full-song in-review of The Top 10 Songs of 2010 and The Top 10 Songs of 2011. Tune in Wednesday for song #9.

Advertisements

1966 Revolves around Revolver

16 Apr

WINNER

#3 Seed: Revolver

Take the Rolling Stones top 500 albums list for what it is – a subjective list of “game-changing” albums culminating (like most all-time album charts) with Sgt. Peppers at top – but prior to discussing how a 3-seed defeated #1-seeded Pet Sounds handily in the finals, I want to talk briefly about the Rolling Stones list. After Sgt. Peppers, the list goes Pet Sounds (2) and Revolver (3). First, isn’t it extraordinary that three of the greatest rock albums ever released hit record stores in around a 13-month span of time? Secondly, perhaps I misjudged Revolver. I recognized it as an inspirational album that, like Pet Sounds, revolutionized the sound of rock n’ roll music and helped introduce a generation to psychedelic music, but perhaps I underestimated its true force and influence.

Revolver may be #3 on the Rolling Stone list, but, according to our poll’s small sample, the top two albums ever released should maybe go Sgt. Peppers followed by Revolver, which would be representative of how incomprehensibly talented the Beatles were. In 10 months the band released two of the greatest albums ever. This is unparalleled in music and it is tough to find an equivalent in any form of talent, creativity, or sport. Mozart in his prime. There is one!

I voted for Pet Sounds. So did three others. The Beatles won 8-4 after sliding through the entire competition. This means that they, according to Music Court viewers, released the best album in 1966 and 1967. So how did this 3-seed take down the uber-talented Beach Boys and their Pet Sounds. Both bands were experimenting with tape delays, creative instrumentation and recording techniques, manipulated vocals, and drugs. Both bands tapped into the minds of all band members to create a unified sound that translated into excellent music. What was the difference besides the roots of the bands (surf vs. bluesy beat)?

The answer is simple. Nothing. Yes, the songs do sound different because the two bands are, well, clearly different, but as for impact and experimentation, there is really no difference. Revolver and Pet Sounds are near perfect albums (I reserve the title of perfect for two albums – Sgt. Peppers and Dark Side of the Moon). The Beatles are more popular so they may have won because of that, but, supposing that is not the reason, I want to look at two songs that may have helped propel Revolver to victory.

“Eleanor Rigby”

“Eleanor Rigby” is one of the most known and popular Beatles songs ever released and I think one of the reasons for this (besides the fact that it is just an excellent song) is it is so different. The song is carried by the staccato rhythm of a backing orchestra that sounds like it is narrating a tense scene in a horror movie (at times – the orchestra was inspired by the compositions of Bernard Herrmann – “Psycho”). Besides this, the song is just Paul McCartney singing with the occasional harmony. The lyric, which was created in a conjoined band effort, is just perfect. It paints a sad and simple image of the “lonely” Eleanor Rigby and her life and death. It is an untraditional rock song, not featuring any other instrumentation, yet it is wonderfully melodic and incredibly popular. The Beatles were changing the ears of a listening populace.

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

This song is not anywhere near simple. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is an Indian-inspired composition that features several psychedelic effects like tape delay, oddly patterned drumming, reversed guitar, and droning vocals. The song features the psychedelic works. It is an LSD-influenced dreamy ending that leads right into Sgt. Peppers, an album that features even more of this musical experimentation (which is pretty much what this song is). But, because this is the Beatles, the song is excellent and highly listenable.

So what do you think? Does Revolver deserve the title? Do you want to see this game played next year (and with what year?) I’m eager to hear your opinions. Thanks for playing!

The Final Four – Beach Boys, Beatles, Dylan, Zappa

2 Apr

A poorly doctored image for our tournament needs

Why go all the way to New Orleans when you can just stay online and vote for the best album released in 1966? Oh, because March Madness and this Music Court tournament have nothing in common despite the intentional name and date similarities and the college basketball finals are enticing? Okay, I guess I understand. But wait! You can do both. So before the National Title game commences tonight at the unfairly late hour of 9:25 p.m. ET (seriously! I go to sleep at 10 p.m.), vote in the two Final Four matchups below!

#1-seed Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys vs. #4-seed Freak Out by The Mothers of Invention.

For the second straight year, the March Madness album pool has gone chalk. That does not mean that match-ups cannot be close. In a big surprise, Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme did not only give top-seeded Pet Sounds a run for their money, but also almost beat them. The two albums were only separated by two votes. This was not the case for Freak Out which took care of the Mamas and Papas with ease. Because of this, I am not ready to sail Pet Sounds into the finals just yet. There is a chance that Freak Out might pull off a Final Four update and compete for the title of best album of 1966.

#2-seed:Revolver by The Beatles vs. #3-seed: Blonde on Blondeby Bob Dylan

Revolver has blown out every opponent it has faced since the first round. Blonde on Blonde has pretty much done the same (with the small exception of the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath which it beat by three votes.) Both albums are looking quite strong and, well, are excellent albums. The winner gets the finals and, for the Beatles, a chance to win best album titles for 1967 and 1966.

Rolling Stone Helps Preview Fall Music

25 Sep

Fall is in the air. Well, right now it actually is not. It’s steamy out. Come on Binghamton, it is time to get cold and stay cold. Seriously, my body will thank you. Well, don’t get too cold. Okay, let me stop debating with myself. Tonight (it was tonight but wordpress bugged out on me) I would like to release from information that Rolling Stone was happy to share with the world here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/photos/28431/207313

Fall music previews are among us and as foliage takes over so does new music. This list has everything from new creations to freshly pressed goodies. Let’s explore some of my thoughts on these releases.

I knew it! Leon Russell is Santa Claus

Elton John and Leon Russell: The Union (Oct. 19)

Intriguing. Two piano men sharing the trade. I am interested. The 16-track record features some rock and soul and also guest musicians Neil Young, Booker T., Don Was and Brian Wilson. Man, this record is going to be oozing talent. Keep an eye out for this one…it may be very good.

Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Vol. 9, the Witmark Demos. (10/19)

There is a humorous video on the web that shows an actor portraying Bob Dylan, who wrote every song in the modern era. If the bootleg series is any indication, he may have wrote every song every written. The body of work this man has done in his career is just remarkable and these early recordings are just more examples. “This box set will be the first time that Dylan’s eight earliest albums, from Bob Dylan (1962) to John Wesley Harding (1967), have been released in their original mono mix in the CD format,” as reported by Variety and Wikipedia. The albums will also be released on vinyl. The set will include 47 studio versions of songs recorded between 1962-1964. Keep going Mr. Dylan.

Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger: Acoustic Sessions (10/26)

It figures that this would be the name of John Lennon‘s sons folk duo. Sean Lennon and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl pulled a John and Yoko and recorded songs for the LP in their apartment. That is keeping the family tradition alive. I am looking forward to hearing this combination.

Jimi Hendrix: West Coast Seattle Boy (11/9)

Rarities and live cuts will make up this album portraying Hendrix’s journey to fame in a four-CD set. It’s Jimi. How can it be bad?

I wrote about the upcoming Guster album here: https://musiccourt.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/the-weepies-and-guster-are-touring-and-releasing/

%d bloggers like this: