You can take a band out of France, but you can’t take French out of a band. Any foreigner who has interacted with a lot of French know precisely what I mean by that. It’s one of the many things Americans and British share knowing looks over. (Or conversely how foreigners share knowing looks over me and my fellow Americans.)
And I only mean that in a slightly derogatory way. I love the French and that’s not a backhanded compliment. I love that they invented modern democracy, cooking, and Daft Punk. Everyone outside of Paris are easily the most warm, welcoming, and endearing people on the entire European continent. I know because I backpacked through their rural towns for a week. Heck, I even like Parisians as much as I do New Yorkers, and that’s a lot.
But for many of us, there’s something slightly off-putting about the French and New Yorkers. In this case, after reading Phoenix: In Their Own Words, there’s a foreign arrogance, seriousness, and overly romantic way in which some of the band members tell their story.
The story is this: the band gives an album by album account of their life from their early years, into their successful years, and onto the recent years where they’ve still churned out incredibly catchy indie melodies. Published just before pandemic started and filled with candid photos, I really enjoyed the account, minus the aforementioned, albeit brief, encounters with foreign arrogance.
The vast majority of the book, in fact, is totally endearing. While I wish there was a little more inside music information, I quickly read the entire thing as an avowed fan and lover of both music and French culture. My favorite part is after being dropped by their label since their first three albums failed to achieve mainstream success, the thirty-something members doubled down, paid for their own fourth album, and turned it into their greatest success to date, both commercially and artistically. Later that year while headlining Coachella, Beyonce and Jay-Z were at the side of the stage belting the lyrics of not only their lead singles, but deep cuts from that album.
What an honor. What a story. What a band. ★★★★☆
SAVE THE DATE: My cover band will premier its first live YouTube show on New Year’s Eve at 4pm local time (6pm Eastern). Hit that bell and join the live chat during our 31 minute performance. Hope you can make it. Please tell your friends.
It’s been a superb year for new music so far. Along with a strong finish of releases last year, these are the albums worth writing home about—and ones I hope you’ll consider in your search for new, inspiring songs from new or rejuvenated blood.
Gone Now by Bleachers
Behold: this is art. From front to back, singer/songwriter Jack Antonoff (aka Bleachers) channels brilliant beats, catchy choruses, and melodic instrumentation in classic stereo. If this masterpiece doesn’t finish as album of the year, I’ll be delightfully surprised. Continue reading…
Courtesy Puerto Rico tourism
Excluding non-bylined stories written for commercial clients (i.e. the bulk of my work these days), here’s what I published last month:
Looking back, I won’t remember 2013 as a particularly strong year for music. But I did enjoy a handful of new and retro albums and have fond memories of listening to all of the below, ordered by most played to least played. Continue reading…
2013 might be to the ’10s what 1991 was to the ’90s — a monstrous year for name brand music.
Phoenix already released their 4-star keeper. Vampire Weekend releases their third album next week to rave reviews (and another really great song). An all analog Daft Punk album follows a week later, which is also garnering favorable reviews and has a catchy summer single.
Then, Empire of the Sun, makers of one of my favorite albums of 2008, releases their second album in June. The first single is good stuff (and shot, by the way, in Bryce Canyon, Utah). And if the first five months are any indication, even more good vibes could crop up in the second half of the year.
As someone who likes to sing, dance, and play air guitar, I’m excited by the prospects. Calendar years are more memorable with good music.
I heard an advance preview of Phoenix’s upcoming album, Bankrupt. It does not disappoint. Overall, it rivals the must-own quality of their last three albums, and runs circles around their forgettable debut album.
While Bankrupt doesn’t charter new territory, it’s undeniably fun. It will make you want to dance and sing. It’s like eating a perfectly ripe peach in August after waiting a really long time to indulge in the familiar sweetness.
For all the people with good taste who plan on adding this album to their library, here are five essential tracks I suspect you’ll be humming most: Continue reading…
After much mental torment, I’ve decided to name the best new bands of the last decade. For one to qualify, they must have met the following criteria: 1) be awesome; and 2) formed in the year 2000 or beyond (which excludes Spoon, Muse, and The Strokes for example).
With the power vested in me, I hereby announce the winners. Continue reading…