Friday, December 31, 2010
Arcade Fire's The Suburbs was a record that was very much about the world we live in today - a place where no one has time to wait and generic shopping malls spread across the land like mountain ranges. It was a concept album for a time that has no time for albums, much less concepts.
Like a Canadian, seven-piece, slightly physically awkward version of U2, Arcade Fire aren't afraid to make big, bold statements and shout them out to the world, and for that they are being justly praised.
For their musical and conceptual brilliance, and for sheer chutzpah, Arcade Fire is winning the highest of musical honors: Rock Turtleneck's 2010 Album of the Year. We look forward to more brilliance in the year and decade ahead.
Let's wrap up 2010 with two of my favorite tracks from The Suburbs, filmed live at their triumphant coming-out party at Madison Square Garden this year. Spoon opened. Wish I'd been there.
"We Used to Wait"
This song had my favorite lyrics of the year = dare I say they are profound?
It seems strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what's stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive
We used to wait
We used to waste hours just walking around
We used to wait
All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown
"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
One of the things I love most about this song is that it reminds me of Blondie's "Heart of Glass."
Sometimes I wonder if the World's so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there's no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights
Get The Suburbs on iTunes for a measly $7.99 here. (Remember when we used to wait for music?)
From all of us at Rock Turtleneck, here's to better things ahead for all of us in 2011. Happy New Year! Drink plenty of water tonight.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Despite never commerically releasing anything even remotely Christmas-related, R.E.M. has built up perhaps the largest catalog of Yuletide recordings of any modern supergroup.
Since 1986 or so they have sent out a 45 or CD to their Fan Club every December, and many of these have featured Christmas songs.
They've included earnest takes on Christmas standards, like "Silver Bells." Covers of rock Christmas classics, like Big Star's "Jesus Christ." Songs from beloved holiday cartoons, like "Christmas Time is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas. And even some rather demented seasonal originals, such as "Ghost Reindeer in the Sky."
Eleven of these tracks were packaged and made the rounds of the interwebs as Christmas in Athens. For a variety of reasons, Rock Turtleneck is feeling extra-Christmassy this year, and we are passing this wonderful record on to our dear readers.
Christmas in Athens reveals R.E.M.'s wide range of influences as well as their sense of humour, which is in full effect in the Out of Time-era "Christmas Griping":
You can download R.E.M.'s Christmas in Athens right here. (Link has been closed)
R.E.M. has given its fans another gift this year, in the form of a preview of their forthcoming studio record Collapse into Now, due for release in March.
You can download a new song called "Discoverer" at the band's official site here, and see a promo trailer below featuring many of the tunes on the record. I'll never have the same feelings for the band that I did back in the heady days of Document, but it actually sounds pretty promising.
Collapse into Now features a guest appearance from Patti Smith - hey, sometimes you get things for Christmas that you never asked for.
Season's Greetings from Rock Turtleneck!
(Note to R.E.M. organization: If you would like me to take this link down, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to oblige.)
Monday, December 20, 2010
Three years ago, in the relatively early days of Rock Turtleneck, we shared the complete collection of Beatles Fan Club Christmas Records with our nascent readership. It's time to re-gift the gift that keeps on giving. You can download a file of the complete collection at the end of this post, and read our original "Merry Crimble" post here.
As RT wrote back in the day:
"The Beatles’ Christmas Records are one of the few things in the Fab catalog that have remained completely unreleased. It’s actually surprising, since together they clock in at a tidy 43:42 and would make a surefire Christmas best seller.
These seven greetings are a fascinating slice of the Beatles’s off-the-cuff genius and comedic chemistry. And if you’re a Beatlemaniac it’s a thrill to hear something of theirs for the first time. It’s also interesting to see how these records (and their artwork) reflect where they were musically and spiritually at the time in their official LPs and 45s. So download ‘em all, whip up some egg nog and some 'cups of tea' and have a laugh with your Fab Friends."
Download The Complete Beatles Fan Club Christmas Collection right here. (Link has been closed)
(Dear Beatles Organization, if you would like me to take down this limited-time offer, let me know at email@example.com and I will be happy to oblige.)
From all of us at RT, Merry Crimble!
Friday, December 17, 2010
For Rock Turtleneck’s money, there’s no more enchanting singer on the planet right now than Zooey Deschanel. As the She in She & Him, she has been a bubbly, effervescent presence, but has seemed to grow more confident and interesting lately. (A steady stream of recording and touring will do that to a person.)
She & Him — Him being the supremely talented guitar svengali M. Ward — were on Conan O’Brien’s eponymous talk show last Thursday night and simmered the roof off the place with a truly stunning version of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic “I Put a Spell on You” (Also made famous by Nina Simone and Credence Clearwater Revival). Watching these two interplay here is really something.
Zooey used to live in the sunny streets of Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas, but her emotional investment in the song here recalls Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin or even Frank Sinatra. Conan seemed blown away as well.
She & Him just released “I Put a Spell on You” out as a single b/w a live in the KCRW studio version of "Lingering Still" from their excellent 2010 release Volume Two.
You can get this fine single for less than two bucks iTunes here.
SInce it's the Christmas season, let's flash back to the more nakedly innocent days of Elf, when blonde, bubbly Zooey showed off her shower-singing ability with Will Ferrell on the toasty chestnut "Baby It's Cold Outside."
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Everyone’s life has several of those awful where-were-you-when-you-heard moments. In my life they would include 9/11 of course and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. But the first I remember clearly was the death of John Lennon, 30 years ago tonight, when I was in junior high.
I was lying in bed listening to the New York FM station WPLJ with the lights out. The song “Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers was playing and about halfway through, the needle was violently pulled off the LP and the DJ Carole Miller (I think it was her) burst in to say John Lennon had been shot. As I recall it was another five or 10 minutes before they announced he was dead.
My brother Dave was in his room and he heard it on the radio too – he came in my room and we sat there and listened. Even for an adolescent who hadn’t seen how cruel the world can be sometimes, it was truly shocking.
I was a big Beatles fan even then but my knowledge went about as far as the Red & Blue hits LPs. I used to stare at them in disbelief that the people on the Blue cover were the same ones that were on the Red cover. I had yet to be completely blown away by their awe-inspiring combination of songwriting, harmonies, musicianship, arrangements, humour versatility and evolution.
That following Saturday I rode my Raleigh 10-speed to a friend’s house and we watched the silent vigil in Central Park on TV.
30 years later, the senseless death is still hard to process. And the music he created sounds more beautiful than ever. No doubt he would have kept putting out great music; I suspect that like Bob Dylan and his mate Paul McCartney, he would have addressed the themes of aging with insight and wit.
What is your story? What were you doing when you heard the horrible news about John Lennon 30 years ago this evening? Leave a comment below.
Let’s go out with the news that day. Oh boy.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
As an advertising copywriter, there are probably no more taboo words than “Merry Christmas.” Anything related to this time of year must invariably start with “This Holdiay Season…” lest we risk offending someone to whom the ad does not apply.
The Ivy-grad, multi-denominational young lads in Vampire Weekend have shrewdly turned this rule of political correctness to their advantage with their suddenly ubiquitous tune “Holiday” from this year’s wonderful sophomore release Contra. The lyrics of the song seem to have little to do with Hanukkah or Christmas, but it is certainly a festive tune and more than enough to get you into the Christmas — I mean holiday — spirit.
No wonder “Holiday” is being used prominently and concurrently by two major national advertisers. Honda is using it to push its similarly peppy, young-adult Civic - surprising VW didn't think to get a hold of it:
Aspirational prepster Tommy Hilfiger, meanwhile, is using it with an amusingly smug faux Hilfiger family that looks freshly plucked from the preppy-ironic Vampire Weekend fan base.
Two companies using the same tune for their ads at the same time is a big-time faux pas; the marketing equivalent of Gwyneth Paltrow and Anne Hathaway wearing the same Stella McCartney gown to the Golden Globes.
A few months back, Vampire Weekend put out their own film for "Holiday" as well, wherein they dress Versailles-style and cruise L.A. in what looks to be a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500.
It should be noted that Contra, the record from which "Holiday" comes, is one of 2010’s best releases and would make a fantastic stocking stuffer for lovers of quirky melodic pop with a charming afro-beat. Think Talking Heads meets Jonathan Richman, with a quick sojourn to Paul Simon's Graceland. Here are the boys getting in the “Holiday” spirit in the KCRW studios:
Which "Holiday" video do you like best? Vote in the RT poll at the top of this page.
Buy Vampire Weekend's Contra on Amazon: