Radiohead’s first new album since 2011’s The King of Limbs is both dazzling and extraordinary. It’s been a long time coming. Back in October of last year people started speculating that a new Radiohead album was in the works when the band created a new company, Dawn Chorus LLP, something they had done before independently releasing both In Rainbows and The King of Limbs. In February, they established a second company, Dawnnchoruss Ltd., which suggested to fans that the new album was imminent. And then finally, on May 8 (Mother’s Day), after a short rollout with two singles released in the previous week, they gave us A Moon Shaped Pool.
A Moon Shaped Pool is quite different from the Radiohead albums we’ve become accustomed to since the early 2000’s—post-Kid A. In many ways it’s a return to the earlier stuff, and particularly the Kid A sessions, which produced both Kid A and the following year’s Amnesiac. For one, this album is bookended by two songs that have been floating around and teased by the band for over a decade: the unsettling and politically timely “Burn the Witch,” and the heartbreaking “True Love Waits,” which first appeared on 2001’s I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. “Identikit” is another rarity that the band have been playing live for a number of years, and is a definite stand-out. However, there are lots of great new songs here as well that fit seamlessly together with the older stuff.
This album all but abandons the drum machines and electronic music that Thom Yorke was beginning to gravitate towards on Hail to the Thief, In Rainbows, and, most notably, The King of Limbs, as well as his solo albums The Eraser and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and his Atoms for Peace project with Flea, which released their debut album, Amok, in 2013. Instead, it’s a return to the earlier, more guitar-based music of the Kid A sessions and the even earlier albums that made Radiohead the biggest band to emerge out of the 90s. In December 2015, Thom Yorke played an acoustic concert for Pathway to Paris, a climate change benefit held at Le Trianon, at which he showcased the new direction with acoustic performances of “Desert Island Disk” and “Silent Spring” from the new album, perhaps its most powerful new song, which has since been renamed “The Numbers.”
The performances at Le Trianon also showed us a more political Yorke, and one who has perhaps finally found his cause: climate change. The father and musician got emotional talking about his son asking him about global warming and what he feels is his responsibility to the planet and to future generations. “Silent Spring,” which appears as “The Numbers” on A Moon Shaped Pool, is a kind of folk-protest song in the vein of Patti Smith, taking the line “People have the power” and giving it a new significance for the modern crises facing us in 2016. The orchestral arrangements on the album version give it an even greater power, as the strings grow in intensity alongside the track’s most inspiring call-to-action lines. “The numbers don’t decide / Your system is a lie” sings Yorke in a moment of clarity, a rallying cry against the lobbyists and special interest groups that currently control the political system.
A Moon Shaped Pool is perhaps Radiohead’s most ambitious album to date, coalescing songs that have been floating in the ether for more than a decade with new and politically-informed material. What’s striking about it is the way it harnesses the old and the new to create something that’s both timely and socially conscious as well as deeply personal and intimate; reviewers have already speculated that the inclusion of “True Love Waits” as the album’s conclusion is a result of Yorke’s recent divorce, and that he’s laying it all bare for us here—although in typical Radiohead-fashion it’s through a cryptic reference in a 15-year-old song. However, A Moon Shaped Pool is noticeably darker than Yorke’s most recent solo work, a fact Nigel Godrich was alluding to when he suggested that part of his soul lives in it as a result of his father’s recent passing.
It’s a difficult album to listen to at times—both emotionally raw and deeply complex. There are vocal parts played backwards, massive orchestras and choirs, and hidden references for fans that know the back catalogue inside out. But as always, it’s worth the time getting to know, as an increasingly rare release from what remains the most exciting band in the world. On A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead remind us of how they got there, and lend their uniquely political voice to a challenging and uncertain time, and the result is both unsettling and deeply cathartic.
Revisit “Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., and the Politicization of Popular Music,” which features Thom Yorke, here.
Summer has officially arrived. In the past week, some of the biggest artists in the world released new music: Beyonce, then Drake, Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Blake… and relative newcomer Kaytranada. Kaytranada is a name you should get to know fast. A frequent Major Lazer collaborator and astonishingly well-established producer, 99.9% is Kaytranada’s debut LP. A jazzy, electronic tour de force, Kaytranada and his onslaught of special guests combine for a trippy album that is perfect for summer patios and the sun-soaked hip-hop playlists of bars and clubs.
Ready for some more name dropping? Kaytranada’s first album features Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, The Internet’s Syd, Little Dragon, BADBADNOTGOOD, AlunaGeorge, Goldlink, Karriem Riggins, River Tiber, Phonte, Shay Lia, and Graig David. That’s right. This thing is stacked. And yet Kaytranada himself stays at the absolute forefront, blending his instrumental tracks with guest features in a way that really draws attention to the production. And Kaytranada’s production is fire: a varied mix of club, hip-hop, and electronic production with elements of jazz and soul and the occasional world sample.
…And funk. This album is incredibly funky and so so fresh. Check out “Lite Spots” coming in at track 13 for a little taste of Kaytranada’s musical sensibilities when it comes to sampling and production. This shit is almost better than Jamie xx (but what is that sample??). Kaytranada arrives on the scene sounding like he was made to make beats for people; as though he should be producing albums for rappers like Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, and Goldlink, all of which he’s brought in here. “Glowed Up” is .Paak’s best feature to date, and he’s done a lot of them, from Snakehips to Domo Genesis.
Vic Mensa’s feature on “Drive Me Crazy” is similarly some of his best work to date, as he only has a handful of singles out, the most notable being “U Mad (feat. Kanye West) and “Down On My Luck.” Goldlink and AlunaGeorge similarly shine on “Together,” and River Tiber and Karriem Riggins sound phenomenal on “Bus Ride,” probably the album’s jazziest and most experimental instrumental track. “Weight Off (feat. BADBADNOTGOOD)” is another fantastic jazzy interlude (and a rare but pleasant appearance of real instruments on an electronic album).
99.9% is a goldmine. This is just a taste of what Kaytranada’s got to offer here, from tracks like “One Too Many (feat. Phonte),” “You’re The One (feat. Syd),” Leave Me Alone (feat. Shay Lia),” and “Bullets” (feat. Little Dragon).” The features on this album showcase some of the best emerging and established artists in the hip-hop and electronic music communities. Kaytranada’s debut is a force to be reckoned with, and you should soon expect to hear these songs in hipster bars and clothing stores. This week’s barrage of new music has provided a perfect start to the summer, and Kaytranada is poised to rise up like the sun.
Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) recently stopped by “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” to play a frenzied version of “Flesh Without Blood,” the lead single from her brilliant art-electro album Art Angels. Watch the performance here.
Everything is happening this week. It’s been five long years, but both Radiohead and now the Red Hot Chili Peppers have returned with brand new songs. “Dark Necessities,” unlike Radiohead’s virtual disappearance before the release of “Burn the Witch,” comes with little fanfare. The album will be available on iTunes and has a full tracklist and album art (above). Die-hard Chili Peppers fans: keep in mind, this is only the first single. “Dark Necessities” is the second song on The Getaway, and is a radio-friendly, instantly-catchy Chili Peppers hit, akin to “Dani California,” or “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” off their last album, 2011’s I’m With You.
The track begins with a very modern sound, an indie-rock build of sorts (Danger Mouse is the album’s producer). But it quickly breaks down into a classic Chili Peppers funk line with the help of Flea’s one-of-a-kind bass-slapping style. The big, bright hand claps add a mod-80s feel, but Anthony Kiedis’ voice remains a defining feature of the anthemic stadium-rock the Chili’s have been crafting since their early days as a 90s funk-punk band. “Dark Necessities” uses piano effectively to create a more expansive sound that Kiedis and co were beginning to move towards on I’m With You, and Josh Klinghoffer’s guitar work here is exceptional, proving that he can not only fill Frusciante’s shoes but take his signature guitar tone to new places. If “Dark Necessities” is any indication, there’s lots to expect from the Red Hot Chili Peppers first album in five years, out June 17.
The Getaway tracklist:
1. The Getaway
2. Dark Necessities
3. We Turn Red
4. The Longest Wave
5. Goodbye Angels
6. Sick Love
7. Go Robot
8. Feasting on the Flowers
10. This Ticonderoga
12. The Hunter
13. Dreams of a Samurai
In a perfect tribute to the late Prince, Mac DeMarco has covered “It’s Gonna Be Lonely” at his home in Rockaway Beach, New York. The video features an asian man in a leather sex mask with some very questionable dance moves. “Although it’s sad, I’m sure he’s ripping a hot solo right now in the next dimension. RIP,” said Mac. Watch it over at The Scene.
Mac DeMarco is the latest in a number of musicians to pay tribute to Prince. One of the most touching was D’Angelo’s cover of “Sometimes it Snows in April” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Watch it here.
After a lot of waiting, Radiohead have finally released new music. “Burn the Witch” is the first single from their upcoming album (which has been rumoured to be coming in June). The track has been teased by the band for more than a decade. Last week, fans in the UK received mysterious leaflets in the mail that said “Sing the song of sixpence that goes / Burn the witch / We know where you live,” the final lines from the song. Over the weekend, Radiohead’s Facebook and Twitter accounts began to disappear, profile pictures and cover photos being replaced by blank images. Their website slowly faded until it too was completely blank. Last night, a teaser appeared on their Instagram of a claymation bird, and then this morning we got a full video to accompany the release of the song.
“Burn the Witch” is a churning, building, absolutely massive Radiohead song. Backed by an orchestral string arrangement, the heavy bass line when it comes in allows Thom Yorke’s voice to take flight. “This is a low-flying panic attack,” he sings before the song’s ominous chorus: “Burn the witch / Burn the witch / We know where you live.” The song’s political undertones are evident in lines such as “Do not react / Shoot the messengers,” and interestingly, the ‘witch’ burned in the video is a man with a notebook who has come to inspect the claymation town. Johnny Greenwood’s impressive arrangement (he’s been performing with symphony orchestras for the last few years) alongside Yorke’s impeccable songwriting reaches its startling conclusion as the song escalates into noise—something Radiohead have always been good at—as the ‘witch’ in the video is set ablaze.
Underneath Victoria, the sleepy island city known best for its plethora of all-day brunch spots, its thriving beer and medical marijuana industries, and its booming tech sector, there is a new trend bubbling up that is a little, er… less progressive. The 2000s are over, CDs are dead—and people are buying used records again.
Records have been coming back for a few years now. Particularly in smaller cities, people take life a little slower, and tend to have more time for their hobbies and collections. Most importantly, people actually want a physical form to listen to music, whether its CDs or old cassettes to play in their car or a slab of vinyl on the record player at home. With the majority of music going to online streaming services, more people are turning to vinyl because they want a tangible form to enhance the experience of listening to music—and to have their own collections to show off and share with family and friends.
Michael Cline is the owner of Vinyl Envy, Victoria’s newest record store, opening one year ago on April 1st, 2015. Cline has capitalized on the upward trend of record sales, opening a niche-market store in a year where people were once seemingly all going to go digital. “There’s people that gave it up, and sold all their vinyl or gave it away 20 years ago because they weren’t playing it and [the industry] changed over to CDs, and now they go, ‘I kind of miss the whole vinyl thing and I want to get back to where I was before,’” he says. “And so they come into the store buying their old collection all over again.” In fact, 2015 might have been the biggest year for record sales since its resurgence, with more people buying used records than ever before.
Gary Anderson is the owner of The Turntable in Fan Tan Alley, a local vinyl institution that will have been in the same location for 30 years this September. “I’d say [record sales] have gone up 15 or 20 percent for me in the last year,” he says. “What we’ve seen is basically the demise of vinyl through the 80s and 90s, watching that die out, and then watching CDs grow, the popularity of that, and now watching records [come] back, watching vinyl, so that’s pretty big in the industry to be around long enough to see those items go in and out of favour,” he says. Anderson reckons that last year was the biggest peak he’s seen in 20 years of selling records. “From 7 years ago we started noticing a slight increase in people buying [records], he says. “I think last year could have been a peak, because this year’s not the same as last year.”
Ernie Brach is Anderson’s right-hand man, and handles most of the sales, and he disagrees. “I can’t say it has [levelled off], it is at the moment,” he says. “Last year was busier than this year was, but it’s also this time of year. I’ll be able to say later in the summer, but I don’t think it has,” he says. The vinyl craze sweeping the city is evident in The Turntable’s small store, which is packed with customers browsing the impressive collection on a Thursday afternoon.
The vinyl resurgence is further exemplified by record events such as International Record Store Day, which happens every year on April 16th, and features specialty releases and one-offs. A more locally-focused event is the semi-annual Vinyl Supernova record fair at the Fernwood Community Centre, which draws stores like The Turntable and private collectors alike from all over the island. I caught up with the event’s organizer Ryan Wugalter ahead of this year’s first event on March 26th to discuss some of the changes he’s made this year in response to its increase in popularity in 2015.
“The vintage market was an idea I’d had for a while as a way to attract even more people to the event,” he says. “I’m not sure if it’ll be a permanent change, but I wanted to try it at least once because I have a bunch of contacts in the vintage world. Next time, instead of the vintage market, I might fill the upstairs space with records too and see how that goes,” he says. Hundreds of people flooded the Fernwood Community Centre on the Easter long weekend to browse the predominantly classic rock vendor collections, or to search out specific rarities missing from their own collections.
As Michael Cline says of the experience of opening a brand new store, “that’s the fun of the store, is getting people the collections that they want.” Cline says he’ll often do research and hunt down specific records for regular customers if they can’t find what they’re looking for in the store. “My niche is kind of being able to get people what they want in a collection, but also turn them onto things that they might not have heard of before,” he says. Though he carries many genres including indie, hip-hop, and electronic, he says he tries to buy based on his own knowledge, and carries a lot of classic rock and deep catalogue jazz and blues.
Even with newer records, there aren’t nearly as many being made as there were back in the 1960s and 70s. “Led Zeppelin records, they made millions of them,” says Brach, “so a certain number have survived to be in good shape, [but] now they’re only making thousands of [popular new records].”
“The industry is very healthy, as long as the major record labels don’t get too greedy,” says Cline. “At this point its being done in about 25 or 30 presses around the world, and they’re running at probably 85 or 90 percent capacity,” he says. “There’s also no new equipment being made—[so] they’re making their own machine shops inside of their pressing plants because they have to make new parts. It’s crazy,” he says.
Anderson agrees that the prices of new records are at a point of becoming dangerously high. “It’s greed,” he says. “Unfortunately the record companies seem to be hell bent on blowing up the industry again.”
“As long as vinyl has been around, people have been collecting it,” says Wugalter. “Digital music is more convenient but it definitely isn’t as fun as vinyl. People of a certain generation like “things,” they like to hold them and look at them and buy them. I think that as time goes on and that generation dies out, less people will be interested in vinyl, but not because it’s vinyl, but because it’s a “thing,”” he says. “This is sort of a hey-day for people who never stopped collecting LPs through the years of cassettes and compact discs. They are cashing in big-time and I’m pleased to have created an event that can help them along in that.”
“Last year we were in uncharted territory monetarily,” says Anderson. “I actually have a bank account now. I’ve never had one before, because I just fly by the seat of my pants,” he says. “Sometimes you have to think outside of the box in order to stay alive.” But what he says he doesn’t understand is how new reissues of old records are now being sold for more than the originals themselves.
“Actually the money’s in the old records,” says Cline, who sells both new and used records in his store. “We all make roughly the same margin on the new stuff, it’s all in the same ballpark because we have to be competitive,” he says. “Everybody knows their records well enough and there’s not that many [record stores] in town.”
“We can’t tell what this year’s going to be like because unfortunately more stores have opened up that are selling vinyl,” says Anderson, referring to Cline’s Vinyl Envy and the vintage clothing stores that have started selling records in the past year. He says it will be fine “as long as the big box stores don’t start threatening to sell vinyl,” though.
“Whatever gets more people talking about [vinyl], thinking about it, and doing it more is beneficial to all,” says Brach. “It’s the hot thing right now, and we’ve been through good years, bad years, all sorts of years,” he says. “Last year was a very good year for us, and if this year’s even just 90 percent of that it will be a good year again.”
“I started [Vinyl Supernova] in November 2013 and I’ve just seen bigger and bigger crowds attending,” says Wugalter. He says that the resurgence of vinyl in Victoria has only helped to get more people interested in the event.
Cline, who’s relatively new to the industry by comparison, is just having fun with it. “I’m lucky that I can purchase what I want and play it in the store,” he says. “I don’t see it as a sales job at all, it’s more like, you need to hear this, this is really good!”
The vinyl resurgence in Victoria is having an impact on everything from used record sales, which are up by more than 15 percent, according to Anderson, to independent live music in the city, which is showcased at weekly concerts in Cline’s Vinyl Envy store on Quadra. And while a few major record labels currently control the production of vinyl, the future looks promising with new technology being developed that could allow bands to press their own records cheaply at home. “I think we can see another 8 or 10 years here of records being sold,” says Anderson.
Certainly, the vinyl craze in Victoria doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.
“By doing this, I’ve learned that it isn’t really that complex,” says Wugalter. “The people who come to record fairs want one thing: records, lots of records, more records than they can possibly browse through! I’ve learned that as long as I continue to fill the room with records, the people will continue to come. At least for now…”
Click here for more info about Record Store Day 2016