It's time for Tuesday Reviewsday, our weekly new music segment. This week, Shirley Halperin - music editor of Billboard Magazine and music journalist Chris Martins join A Martinez for a discussion about their favorite, recently released, albums.
Artist: TV on the Radio
Songs: "Happy Idiot," "Test Pilot"
Notes: It's TV on the Radio, on the radio. Can I tell you how delighted I am to get to say that? It's not just the how silly that sounds. This is, hands down, my favorite band. It was tough to narrow down the picks for the show, because I love them so much, and also, because every song on their new album could indeed be played on the radio.
The album is called "Seeds" and it's their fifth. TVOTR are an institution at this point, but of what exactly? They are a band without a leader, who make music without a genre. They sound like nobody but themselves, but each album sounds different from the last. Seeds has their strongest hooks, their least oblique lyrics, and it's not messy-sounding. Personally, I feel in love with their wild side, but these songs are beautiful and resonant.
These guys deserve to take a victory lap. It's been 13 years of blazing their own trail. They put David Bowie on an album. They have a song forever embedded in Breaking Bad, the greatest TV ever known. And Pee-wee Herman is in their latest music video. And shortly after their 2011 album, they lost a member to cancer. They absolutely will not talk about Gerard Smith publicly, which is hard for us fans. And those of us interviewing them. But I like to think he's in there somewhere, absorbed into the mix.
If you'd like to see my Spin.com cover story on the band, check it out here.
Artist: Mr. Oizo
Album: "The Church"
Songs: "Mass Doom," "Torero"
Notes: Mr. Oizo is a one man audio-visual department. And his fame is by far outpaced by a puppet he created 15 years ago. Listeners may recall the lil yellow fella named Flat Eric, a techno-loving Henson collaboration who appeared in a series of cult-adored Levi's ads. But dance geeks know Oizo's been busy since. And his fifth album "The Church" is out today on Brainfeeder, the label run by L.A.'s own electronic music guru Flying Lotus.
The thing I love the most about Oizo's music is the sense of humor you can hear in the mix. If you close your eyes, you can see a goofy cartoon bunny hopping through a field in the middle of a rave. I can at least. But that's by design. The man's also on the verge of releasing his fifth feature film in which he's writer, director, and scoring the thing. Moved here from Paris four years ago and has been on a tear. And his secret, he says, is that when he gets blocked up on a movie, he makes a song. So, back to the music. Oizo's "Flat Beat" sold over 3 million copies abroad in 1999. He had a second life with the same crew responsible for Justice - that's Ed Banger Records. Now he's getting increasingly, awesomely far out. Which is par for the course for a guy who made a slasher-flick about a homicidal car tire. That's 'Rubber,' if you care.
Artist: Nick Jonas
Songs: “Teacher,” “Santa Barbara”
Notes: With the Jonas Brothers, Nick Jonas released four albums that sold millions. On his own as a solo singer, he has to start over at age 22 which is exactly what he’s trying to do with his first proper debut.
But when you graduate from a boy band, that next step can be tricky. The JoBros weren’t quite bubblegum, they leaned towards the rock side, but that sound is kind of out of favor now. So what’s a Jonas to do?
If you’re Nick, the youngest of the three siblings (not counting the bonus Jonas), you start by taking a cue from Marky Mark and getting yourself a six-pack, then you follow the Justin Timberlake rulebook to the T.
Yes, the funk is abundant and mostly done well, but Jonas’ R&B doesn’t quite compare to today’s stars of the genre, and that becomes apparent on some songs that, quite simply, try too hard.
But then, I give Jonas credit for a song like Santa Barbara, which is really beautiful in its simplicity and downright wistful.
Artist: The New Basement Tapes
Album: "Lost On The River"
Songs: “Nothing to It,” “Liberty Street”
Notes: And now for an entirely different kind of idol worship. Bob Dylan is always in fashion, but this has been a particularly big month for him.
There’s the just-released repackaging of Dylan’s much heralded Basement Tapes bootlegs, which were recorded in 1967 and have circulated in many forms over the years and decades, and now comes a collection called The New Basement Tapes, featuring a supergroup of sorts taking Dylan’s unused lyrics and putting them to music.
This aforementioned supergroup is made up of the likes of Elvis Costello for starters. Marcus Mumford from Mumford and Sons. Jim James from My Morning Jacket. Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes, among others. The matchmaker here is T Bone Burnett, who spearheaded the project and is putting out the album, called Lost On the River, on his own imprint at Capitol Records.
The result of putting all these people together is nothing short of magical.
So to hear the musicians tell it, as they did, last Thursday night at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, where the New Basement Tapes performed in a concert organized last-minute, each was handed a sheets of certain lyrics and sent off into isolation to come up with a song.
In 12 days, they recorded almost 50 of them. Most have a distinct Americana feel, which isn’t surprising considering who the players are, but the melding of influences and generations makes this collection so delightfully diverse.
At the concert, there were two standouts even among special guests like Johnny Depp and the girls from Haim: Rihannon Giddens, an alum of T Bone Burnett’s Inside Llewyn Davis concerts who hails from North Carolina, and Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith from right here in our backyard.
He’s understated in the way he carries himself but you can’t say that of his vocals. Check out this song which he played practically unaccompanied at the Basement Tapes concert — you could’ve heard a pin drop.
In terms of lyrical themes, you can hear many mentions of travel and references to specific cities or regions. Which makes sense since he was always touring … and still is.
And that’s ultimately what makes this collection so cool and cohesive: it, like Dylan, bridges generations in music, the kind of songs where you can’t instantly tell what era they’re from. I think they call that timeless.