For Emma, Forever Ago was self released way back in 2007, which seems like an age ago now considering that we are still awaiting the follow-up nearly half way in to 2011. Justin Vernon has kept himself pretty busy though, with side projects such as Gayngs and Volcano Choir along with high-profile collaborations with the likes of Kanye West. We also had the Blood Bank EP, which I personally think was underrated and often forgotten. Calgary is the first taste of the self-titled follow-up album due out next month (although if you’re in to the words, then the album lyrics are up on the Jagjaguar site).
That debut was always going to be a hard record to follow, partly due to its reception but mainly because of the unique circumstances in which it was recorded, and how integral that was to its appeal. Everyone loves an album with a back story but there’s no way that this guy was ever gonna go back to that cabin by himself and record a new batch of songs, for this reason there is going to be a portion of the hardcore fan base that might feel disappointed with the extra instrumentation and flirtations with electronica. Although none of this should come as a surprise to anybody, the entire basis of Gayngs is collaboration, and Volcano Choir was pretty experimental in terms of studio manipulation. Calgary eases you in slow though, a sombre organ introduces Vernons distinctive falsetto, the song dies temporarily before swelling louder around a similar refrain. The third time around, drums and a few synthesised melodies are added to the mix. The trick is repeated for a fourth time by which point the full complement of sound is present and the song feels fully formed with guitars audible for the first time. It’s a clever trick, taking a stripped back idea and repeating it each time building up the layers. It makes the final quiet passage of acoustic guitar and vocal all the more sombre and stark. I’m enjoying this song quite a bit, it’ll be interesting to hear how it compares to the sound of the rest of the album and how it fits in with the other songs. By itself though it stands up pretty well, hopefully the album will be able to exist outside of the shadow of that debut.
Listen through the video below or head over to Jagjaguar for a download.
So I set my laptop up to watch the countdown timer on the Strokes Website exactly one hour and forty-five minutes before ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ was due to be unveiled. Patiently I kept one eye on the screen, eye line flicking nervously in anticipation every thirty seconds or so. I watched my country go a goal down to Denmark and equalize shortly after, still one eye on the laptop. Roughly ninety seconds to lift off, due to sheer stupidity and impatience I hit refresh. That was it for the next torturous forty minutes. Clearly the site had been crashed by those more patient and less organised than I. During half-time as my country drew level with Denmark I managed to submit not one but two email addresses in exchange for a supposed MP3 download of ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’, as my country narrowly grasped a two one victory over Denmark, still no emails. This is getting ridiculous, since that point in time I have been playing on repeat the makeshift YouTube video that you can see below. I don’t see why I should have to wait until tomorrow to hear a song that I have been eagerly anticipating for not days but years. See, I love the Strokes, and not in an “I stopped listening after Is This It” kind of way, for me, all three albums are not necessarily equals but at least great albums in their own right. Even Casablancas solo effort ‘Phrazes For The Young’ was chock full of undeniable tunes, anyone who says otherwise was surely listening through earlugs clogged with backlash.
Happily ‘Under The Cover Of Darkness’ is classic Strokes, if not better. It has it all, the token high-pitched guitar and bass interplay, Casablancas signature drawl and a truly steaming guitar solo. In less than four minutes The Strokes have clean blown the competition away and announced their return in confident and cocksure manner. Honestly, if the rest of ‘Angles’ is half as good as this track we will be looking at easily their best effort since ‘Is This It’. This is why I love the Strokes now, and why I loved The Strokes back when I first heard ‘NYC Cops’, they just have an ability to lift me up out of whatever stupor I may find myself in and remind me of why drums, bass, guitars and vocals are the most effecting and devastating combination of instruments and sounds. This song absolutely deserves a nine, if it weren’t for the unknown as to what the rest of ‘Angles’ may deliver, it just might have been a ten. Get it HERE while you can.
And then the email arrived.
In slightly less dramatic circumstances I managed to catch a listen to a new track from J Mascis new solo album ‘Several Shades Of Why’. It goes without saying that this is a great track, in similar vein to previous solo material, ie less raucous and more acoustic than Dinosaur Jr. But what strikes me most is Mascis incredible voice, he manages to pack in feelings of regret, nostalgia, sadness and melancholy in to such simple and unassuming lyrics. I find it entirely impossible to feel unaffected listening to this guy sing, presumably he did too many bongs but either way he makes me feel better about being a slacker. Check it out below, second killer solo of the day inclusive:
J Mascis – Is It Done MP3 (Right Click / Saves As)