Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory

Bombastic, high-speed, energized, and strained (in a good way) the Cloud Nothings' newest album Attack On Memory captures the potency of punk with a more refined, jam aesthetic that feels at times, nearly Hendrix-ian. Gone though, are the lo-fi tendencies that marked 2011's Cloud Nothings. Where that album felt like it could have been a basement recording, generated by a talented up-and-comer, Attack feels like a full embrace of production and a battle cry onto the rock scene. The sound here is full, lush, and ear-fucking in its power. But what remains are the grainy vocals and lost-but-not-directionless lyrics of Dylan Baldi. The changes between the debut and this album are for the most part good ones. Lo-Fi as an aesthetic can only do so much, and it became a band-wagon way of recording in recent years that sometimes gives an impression of artistic spareness, even if the material didn't really warrant it. But, it served Baldi well on those first two releases. On Attack it is somewhat of a mixed bag. The physical, punishing nature of the music, so well mixed, is beautiful, but sometimes feels like a late-'90s power-pop group, especially on "Stay Useless."

The opening track "No Future/No Past" is excellent, but sets a precedent that's different from much of the album. It's a slow, loping, heartfelt track that seems like a funeral march or a stay in Purgatory. Baldi cranks up the power on "Wasted Days" a nearly nine-minute track that breaks down into a brutal, overpowering jam in the final minutes. "Separation" is phenomenal, falling in at track 5. It's a speeding, somewhat Jimmy Eat World-esque song loaded with crashing and splashing cymbals, and a brilliant hook. It also has no lyrics, but doesn't need them because it feels like a sort of impromptu big of rocking out. That gives way to "No Sentiment" a screaming, straining flex of muscle. The somewhat brighter and lighter "Our Plans" follows, again with a perfect hook and a lot of charm. It feels sadness, but sounds like promise, and that's a powerful thing for any song. And the closer, "Cut You" has a similar mellowness that's almost more pleasing. It's a track about worry and the future and what things will be, and our respect for patience and our respect for ourselves. A gorgeous track to close the album, and it's all about fear in regards to love. Listen to Attack On Memory below, or check it out on Spotify here.

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SOPA, PIPA and the Internet

It's all black today. Dozens upon dozens of websites are shut down to protest SOPA and PIPA, two wanna-bills that could fuck the internet, users of the internet and this country for a long time in the name of whiny conglomerates. You can still go to Wikipedia today and look them up, but that's it. Luckily, lots of congresspersons are backing out of their support for the bill already, but here's the thing, and here's what should really be said, aloud, in fiery language.

1. If the United States is a free-ish market economy, then companies like the record labels, NewsCrap (sorry, Corp) and so many others need to LEARN HOW TO COMPETE AGAIN. Just because your model is broken, because there are tools now that allow certain aspects of your materials (and I'm a writer, and I write a comic, and it sucks having material used without payment) to be misused, then change the way you distribute. If a film company realizes that off-shore sites steal their movies, well, that will ALWAYS happen, but they can take action to release the film online for a reasonable price in a safe, consistent, well-designed online venue. If I have the option to go to a shitty, pop-up laden site to watch new movie for free, or the option to pay $2 to see it on my browser, I'd pay the money. Not everyone wants subscriptions, not everyone likes iTunes, so please guys, take some initiative and become competitive in a new way instead of crying that the world changed and left your dinosaur ass with mouthful of rotten fern. Look at Louis CK.

2. Whether you believe it or not, various lobbying industries, people who link, even to sometimes questionable content, are providing you free press and free marketing. If I talk about an album in this space, and I offer people tracks that were uploaded somewhere, there's a better chance that they'll buy the album. The same goes for links on message boards, comment streams and all of it. Assuming that one pirate makes a slippery slope where no one will ever buy your shit is stupid. I mean, Adele's two albums topped the sales charts this year... and you know those are free tons of places.

3. If you want people to respect your industries, engage them instead of litigating against them. You can't change the minds of the population by telling them they're wrong and punishing them. Guess what, that just makes people think you're an even bigger dick. People don't like being told what to do. We all have a conscience. We will pay for things if you treat us like people instead of wallets.

4. Just make better shit. Part of the reason that people steal movies and music and other media is because there's a pretty heavy consumer risk involved. If I go to some terrible new release film like Anonymous, I'm out $15, plus 2 hours of my life, (which if I'm working is another $40). That makes me not want to take chances on movies because they more often than not SUCK. Music is similar. And even while I listen to a lot, I wouldn't if I had to drop $15 for every risk. You guys realize that a lot of people don't have money right? Maybe if you designed your system to entice buyers by giving them the option to buy into something, we'd trust you more. And hey, if we pay for it once, and our computer breaks or we lose it for some reason, how about you guys take the initiative to give us what we paid for again.

5. More than that, the internet isn't some magical territory that requires magical new laws. It's an extension of the world that already exists. People were lending each other records and CDs and VHS a long time ago. People were recording movies from TV and pirating that way too. It's unfair, yes, but you can't just brutalize your way out of the changes in the world. So, really, let's get smarter, not more litigious. If you don't want people to experience your art, don't put it out there. If you don't want them to steal it, don't put it out there. If you want people to see it, then expect it to be stolen, but count on the fact that if you do great work it will motivate more people to pay a little instead.

That's all I have to say about that. This rant is meant only to create new positive relationships.
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Thoughts on Lana Del Rey's SNL Performance

Yes, Lana Del Rey was far less than good last night on Saturday Night Live. She warbled, often seeming to forget how, yes HOW to sing her songs. And while some places have said she was pitchy or off-key, it was more that Elizabeth Grant seemed unable to sing the songs the way she had on the YouTube videos for both "Blue Jeans" and "Video Games." Her stiff stage presence has come under fire, but I don't care about that nearly as much. SNL has a small stage despite its vast reach, so Del Rey's stillness is fine. The problem really was the singing. And it wasn't that she was even that bad, you see, she just wasn't anywhere near the hype that had built over the entire preceding Summer of 2011. Is that okay? Yes. If we each thought about it, we'd probably be just as nervous and stage-frightened to have been thrust suddenly into the live spotlight after months of harmless web-based fame. But, here's the thing that IS troubling. I think I, yes, me, could sing her songs more to the exact tune of the videos than she did. And that's all she had to do. She didn't need to take chances, or try vocal histrionics, or bust out Rhianna-style dance moves. All Del Rey had to do last night was sing the songs the way they are on YouTube.

She did not. She lost the melody multiple times. She garbled words. She seemed almost drugged to the point of disaffection. So, it brings to mind the greater Lana Del Rey issue: Is she any good... really? Her inability to perform either song well, or even just warm up by the end and rock on, is troubling because she is an internet phenom artist. Is it possible that she can't sing these songs? She did it once. Or. She succeeded in creating the pieces once. That's my main question. Can she do this or is she strictly a studio, carefully produced artist? The bigger issue, though, is what she really is and what she really wants to be. Grant (again her real name) released an album in 2010 called Lana Del Ray (with the "a" instead of the "e") that was bank-rolled by her father, and after being available for a short time, completely disappeared. By all accounts it was a fairly non-exciting pop album, but even I can't be sure. Then, one year later, "Video Games," a new image, a new style, a new persona (potentially) and lots of pseudo-indie-web-cred.

Who is Lana Del Rey really? Is she this new iteration, or is she a more traditional pop artist? (Videos from her new album would point to latter.) I'm starting to think that she's the musical equivalent of a Barbie Doll. She's poseable, but not very. You can dress her up in lots of pretty costumes and you can put her in lots of interesting settings wherein she, too, becomes interesting. But, I don't mean to rag on her either. She has put out at least 2 great songs. And whether she's the Second Coming, or just a flash in the pan, "Video Games" made my best songs list for last year. Still, if she's an entirely fabricated creation, who would let her go out and do so little, so seemingly doped up and unsure? I mean, the least she could've done is tear in half a picture of the pope. Especially if you're nervous... MAKE IT A JOKE. At least then, people can say, well, she wasn't too good, but she sure can cover her ass with more than a jig. <= Because Ashlee Simpson is once more briefly relevant!

We will see how Lana Del Rey bounces back. My guess is that she'll be fine, but her album will meet with mixed reviews here in the States. And with time, she'll hone her live performing skills, and she'll decide how to sing her songs, and she'll own this. Because, here's the thing, if she can really sing, if she really loves music, then she's earned this. And if not, then she may just be a repackaged attempt to sell some records and make some rich asshole richer. It's a tough call, but considering that most of SNL is as inconsistent, it seems unfair, at least, to lambast her right now. And if you haven't seen them, take a look at the videos below.

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The Shins - "Simple Song"

Wowsers we've got to welcome the Shins back into our arms warmly! A couple days ago, we were graced with the release of a brand new track, one that is as creative, delightful and fucking incredible as anything the band has ever done before. It's called "Simple Song," but it's far from that. This new sound, one that's more generally rocking, with hints of warbling madness and goofiness, retains the same old love we remember from Chutes Too Narrow and Oh, Inverted World! with catchy-as-hell riffs, and true and earnest lyrics. Plus, it's a song that flies forward despite being one of the longer songs in the band's ever-growing repertoire. Bottom line, "Simple Song" is perfect and teases you with every lyric and note. Now, who else (other than me) can't wait for their new album? Oh, I see hands... so many raised hands.

Another point of accolade: The site for the song, linked here, uses such a wonderful reel-to-reel player graphic in place of the traditional timeline for the track time tracking. (Confused yet?) It's a sweet and simple design point that really speaks to the Shins' fans and to a certain '70s nostalgia that is evident within the track. Dig on this. And happy Friday the 13th... Muwahahaha.

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2011's Top 50 Songs by Kellen O'Brien

With great joy and feelings of gratitude, we at Gas Lantern Media would like to thank guest writer Kellen O'Brien for his Top 50 of 2011 song list. You can find a Spotify playlist of Kellen's great countdown here. If a song isn't available through the Spot' then it will be linked in the list. And this is a fantastic list. - Ed.

As the first few categories of this list will show, I was less than satisfied with the overall product of new music in 2011. Very little merited purchase and in the aftermath of 2010 it was that much more disappointing. Only three or four 2011 albums would compete for 2010’s Top 10. Most of my music comes from recommendations and free blog mp3s so maybe I missed something.

Stuff Others Liked That I Didn’t Like As Much: The Throne, James Blake, Bon Iver

MGMT-Style Kiddie Electronica That Fights For The Earspace of MGMT Apologists Like Myself
50. Starfucker – “Bury Us Alive”  I consume candy synth like Mitt Romney consumes hair gel.
49. Foster the People – “Helena Beat”  There are 64 words in “Pumped Up Kicks.” Way to stretch yourselves guys.
48. Cults – “You Know What I Mean”  They’re like Sleigh Bells. But soft. So they got rid of the best part of Sleigh Bells.

Stuff I Like (Maybe Just Me)
47. Childish Gambino– “Freaks and Geeks”  I like my rap lewd and literary: “The beat is witches brew/but beware this shit is potent/ee cumming on her face/now this poetry in motion.”
46. Amos Lee  - “Windows Are Rolled Down” It’s catchy. It’s dorky. It’s adult-contemporary-friendly.  But it puts a smile on my face.
45. Robert Plant – “Angel Dance”
44. Walk the Moon – “Lisa Baby” The bass line tastes like sharp gouda.
43. Elephant Revival– “Old Rogue River”  Up-and-coming bluegrass band from Nederland, Colorado. They will make early afternoon music festival sets a little bit dancier this summer.
42. High Highs – Flowers Bloom Soaring melodies perfect for a slow-motion summer drive through the mountains.
41. April Smith – “Terrible Things”  School girl sea ballads.
40. Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”  You say everyone likes Adele? Really? Nice to see the new pop superstar made it entirely on her talent.

Sitting On The Couch Music
38. Washed Out – “Far Away”  The title says it all. Washed Out did an admirable job translating their sound into a live setting when I saw them open for Cut Copy. On record, their songs are best when they slowly drift into soothing nothingness.
37. Toro y Moi – “New Beat”
36. The Hood Internet– “VCR” with Jamie XX and Freddie Gibbs  XX has been around for a while, but I really started liking them this year.
35. Painted Palms – “Canopy”  Painted Palms won’t be flying under the radar much longer.
34. Radiohead – “Morning Mr. Magpie”  This sounds like the title of a late-era Beatles song. Even though it continues to transmogrify with the remix project, King of Limbs was a bit of a disappointment.

Peppy, Fun Stuff
33. Man Man – “Knuckle Down”  Perfect for a Mentos commercial.
32. Tennis – “Marathon”  Slightly annoying, but wow what a back-story!
31. Alabama Shakes – “You Ain’t Alone” Transparent knockoff, but she hits the high notes and her band knows how to jam.
30. The Go! Team – “Apollo Throwdown” (Star Slinger remix)  Heavily involves black panthers.
29. Feist – “How Come You Never Go There” (Clock Opera remix)  Feist has pipes.
28. U.S. Royalty – “Equestrian”
27. St Vincent – “Cruel”
26. Lightouts – “All I Want/Heroes”  Did you ever wonder what a cover-style mashup of Bowie and James Murphy might sound like? Wonder no longer. The singer pulls off a solid Murphy too.
25. Chain Gang of 1974 – “Undercover”

Americana Interlude
24. Fleet Foxes“Grown Ocean”  BEARDS!
23. Decemberists – “Down by the Water”  I was an English major.
22. Head and the Heart – Rivers and Roads I liked it the first times I heard it. Then I stopped liking it. Then my girlfriend and radio station started liking it. Now I like it again. 

Dance Party Standbys
21. Ford and Lopatin – “Emergency Room”
20. Nerves Junior – “As Bright As Your Night Light”
19. Chromeo – “When the Night Falls” (Hercules Love Affair remix)  This song is like a threesome with two bands I once flirted with at a bar.
18. Yelle – “La Musique”  Sultry French singer purrs and coos over cylindrical synth and percussion beats.

Just Missed The Cut
17. The Strokes – “Under the Cover of Darkness”
16. Dodos – “Going Under”  They would be happier in a basement rocking out until their hands turn blue.
15. New Villager – “Rich Doors”  Super catchy, but no one in the band looks like Adam Scott so I’m not sure how they will market themselves.
14. Rosebuds – “Woods”
13. Architecture in Helinski – “Contact High”
12. Battles – “Ice Cream” If the Red Hot Chili Peppers were never a band and the original members had indie sons that formed a band and that band had the same imagination and energy RHCP had in 1984.
11. Girls – “Vomit”  I haven’t skipped this song since it found its way onto my iPod. It starts off all moody, goes quiet/loud, and then melts into one of the finest guitar solos of the year.

Cream Of The Crop
10. m83 – “Midnight City”  This song would make driving in circles in a giant Suburbia mall parking lot seem exciting.
9. Lykke Li –  “I Follow Rivers” (Dave Sitek remix)  Moods! Horns! Metaphors!
8. Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”  Greasy riff.
7. Wilco – “One Sunday Morning”  The prettiest song of the year!
6. Tune Yards – “Gangsta” (Ad Rock remix)  A fresh jolt of energy! 
5. Cut Copy – Need You Now Did LCD Soundsystem officially hand them the title belt for best dance band or was it something they had to go to Brooklyn and retrieve.
4. Beirut – East Harlem Beirut proves you don’t need guitars if you have harmonies coming out of your pores.
3. TV on the Radio – “Second Song”  Other musicians have caught up to TV on the Radio, but that just makes their songs more triumphant.
2. Holy Ghost! – “Wait and See”  I don’t know why people aren’t more ecstatic about Holy Ghost. Their songs spill hooks like a bait shop.
1. My Morning Jacket – Holdin’ Onto Black Metal I love that my favorite band still knows how to have fun.
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The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence

Echoes of Silence opens with an explosion of energy and emotion, signaling immediately that it is an album of a much more volatile nature than Thursday. And Abel Tesfaye croons like before, but now without the weeping overtones. Instead, there are some distinctly Jacksonian dance and R&B beats that do more than merely ask for your poetic attention, they now demand it. "D.D." is a powerful and instantly catchy cover the Michael Jackson original is laden with pop sensibilities, but one that still tells the truth in that traditional (after 3 records I think it's fair to use that term) in The Weeknd way even if its not Tesfaye's. That's not to say that Echoes of Silence is all drive, surge and power compared to the previous two albums, but the theme here seems to be a healthy dose of slapping, metallic, sampled drums. Sometimes it sounds distinctly 1980s, but the vocals and lyrics remain straight shots from the hip, refreshing in their honesty and lucidity. Tesfaye remains completely uncompromising in his urgency and ability to wail effectively and overtly sexually.

"Montreal" and "Outside" recapture and re-emphasize the brokenhearted undercurrents throughout The Weeknd's previous tunes, too. With healthy doses of sensual French, "Montreal" is a mood piece that's also all about the girl thinking of the other guy, and Tesfaye, quite resilient and rebellious, stating that it doesn't matter because he wants her. "Outside" has more of a subtle, echoing, vaguely-Asian Traditional quality. But the large part is Tesfaye telling his object of affection what he plans to do to her, namely, sex her up, and eradicate all memories of her previous man in the process. "XO/The Host" with its party dynamic and clear visualizations of the party lifestyle's fallout is an epic, sprawling song that impresses, especially with its intricate layering of samples and tracks. The marching, speeding, rambling and energized "Initiation" is haunting and artistic, enjoyable, but a little rape-y and claustrophobic. But "Same Old Song" has a bluesy vibe, and in thoughtful fashion, recaps the same old songs of love and loneliness.

Essentially, Echoes of Silence is, for fans of The Weeknd, essential. It's a great third part to the arc Tesfaye began with House of Balloons, showing increasing experimentation, quality lyrics, excellent vocals and an ever-growing awareness of the darker sides of life, love and music. It's almost documentary. In the best way. Most of the tracks are below, but you can just download it for free, from the-weeknd.com.

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