1. Scott Walker (no, not THAT Scott Walker)
Scott Walker was born to German parents in Hamilton, Ohio, and before he was much older than 20, he was singing number one hits to British crowds and headlining shows with the Walker Brothers that Jimi Hendrix would open. But he didn't want to be a star, and he quit the group to pursue tortured artistry. He put out 4 exemplary but increasingly alienating records in the later '60s, then spent much of the next two decades playing covers of T.V. show theme tunes before really getting weird.
He's probably another example of someone who found their audience much later in life, mostly thanks to the internet. His voice is simultaneously beautiful and haunting, a mixture of lounge charm and a seedy sense of dread. I'm pretty sure he gave Radiohead the idea to use dissonant strings for atmosphere, and Pulp probably owes him more than just a producer's credit.
Above is a needle drop of "Jackie" from Scott 2. It was one of many songs he took from the Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel. Scott took these simpering Flemish ballads and sang them like a Greek god. An additional shout out is in order to his producer, who is a woman who had to use a man's name, even as she outclassed almost everyone else in the game.
2. The new Radiohead record, "The King of Limbs"
I mean, anyone who knows me knows I couldn't pass up this opportunity. The band returns for their eighth studio record, and I like it. Shocking.
I think it might alienate a few more fans who've jumped on board since In Rainbows. It's weirder. There aren't easy verse-chorus structures. The bass plays a more prominent role than anything else, save for, perhaps, percussion, and the whole thing is covered in reverb. That shouldn't really surprise anyone who's heard "These Are My Twisted Words" or Thom Yorke's reworking of an earlier track last year--the band seems to be on a kick of turning their stadium rock songs into electro-acoustic enigmas.
I think my favorite thing about the new record, though, is what I haven't yet seen: the deluxe package. Stanley Donwood, who has been doing the art since at least OK Computer, described the packaging as something "designed to decay." He contrasted the packaging with that of In Rainbows, which was very sturdy and together, like that album itself. This one has at least 625 pieces of small artwork included, and the package is all played a bit looser. Finally, a band whose album packaging looks a lot like the album sounds.
Above is the last track, "Separator," which has one of my favorite guitar lines Jonny Greenwood's ever done.
3. Prince's "Welcome 2 America" tour
This is the first time the Purple One has crossed the amber waves of grain since 2004, and he's brought along Janelle Monae, Mint Condition, Esperanza Spalding (I guess he's heard of her), and Cassandra Wilson. Janelle Monae probably recorded last year's best album, but it wouldn't really matter who he brought with him. It's Prince. Even in his latter excess, he's larger than life.
Expect a show that's out-of-control, yet refined, which is sort of a mirror of the man himself. That isn't a joke. It's just so easy to like him if you let go of inhibition and purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
You can pretend the video above is what it's like when he plays "Purple Rain" nowadays, but it's actually from a legendary Super Bowl performance.
4. Cloud Nothings
I don't know much about him at all. I know he's from Cleveland, I know he's just a kid, I know I'd like to book him for Lobster Fest, and I know that I didn't care when I heard "Understand It All" and realized he ripped the vocal harmonies from "You Still Believe in Me" by the Beach Boys. I'm not usually that forgiving of someone who probably didn't go through what Brian Wilson did to record a record, but I can't help but feel better when I listen to Cloud Nothings' debut, out now on Carpark Records.
It's a little bit of the late great Jay Reatard, it's a little bit of Totally Michael, and it's produced without any artifice at all. It's just effortless pop, and I defy you not to get some song of his caught in your head.
5. "The Mission, Part IV (The Pulse of Events)" by John Williams
It's also known as the theme to NBC's "Meet the Press" since 1985. You've got to be pretty self-assured to admit this one on a blog where, in perpetuity, people will be able to point out how you once told everyone you loved an NBC theme.
I love politics almost as much as I love music. Enough that I want to commit the rest of my life to it, probably. I'm not sure if I'll have a better time than I had working for "Meet the Press with David Gregory" as a Research Intern. Well, no, a better time would be if they hired me. This is also probably the best, most epic news theme I can think of, and when you spend a lot of time consuming news and hoping to one day be on the providing end in addition to the receiving end (oh, look what I did there), that counts for a lot. It just amps me up, and there were a few times when the other interns and myself caught ourselves whistling it in the hallways on Sunday morning.
Plus, I can't dissociate it from Tim Russert, who's the man. That's more of a fact than an opinion. Even John McCain thought so.
So, in closing, I accept any and all barbs at my expense, but forget all of you. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.
--Jake Derr, Music Director