Tag Archives: Coldplay

Peter Gabriel: Songs To Listen To In An Empty Room

Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel, the former lead singer of Genesis, is putting out a new album. It happens to be his first in seven years. It also happens to be contain covers (or “song-swaps”) of some of the most varied big-name artists. Here’s the full track list:

01 “Heroes” (David Bowie)
02 “The Boy in the Bubble” (Paul Simon)
03 “Mirrorball” (Elbow)
04 “Flume” (Bon Iver)
05 “Listening Wind” (Talking Heads)
06 “The Power of the Heart” (Lou Reed)
07 “My Body Is a Cage” (Arcade Fire)
08 “The Book of Love” (The Magnetic Fields)
09 “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” (Randy Newman)
10 “Après moi” (Regina Spektor)
11 “Philadelphia” (Neil Young)
12 “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” (Radiohead)

Most of those names are familiar, I’m sure, but some may not be. Elbow is a British band – heavily influenced by U2 – that sounds like  a stripped down Coldplay. The Magnetic Fields come out of Boston. As a point of reference, both bands have been about for 20 years.

Album Art for Scratch My Back

Starting his musical career as a drummer, Peter Gabriel was drawn into music by its craftwork. In an interview on his website, Gabriel says that he’s alway had interest in doing “the dreaded covers album”.  But he wasn’t about to go about it in any old fashion. He reflects, “I thought, ‘If I’m going to do that, I’m going to do something different with it.”

Gabriel wanted to create self-imposed rules to rein in the creative process, stating that “giving an artist total freedom is castrating them”. At first he toyed with the idea of using homemade instruments, but finally decided that a strict no guitar, no drums policy would be the way that Scratch My Back would go.

John Metcalfe

And in the absence of guitar and drums, Peter Gabriel has turned to New Zealand composer John Metcalfe, who has written string arrangements for The Cranberries and The Pretenders. But the compositions on this record have strayed far from the beaten pop path into the realm of minimalist and classical music. Gabriel himself says that Metcalfe had Steve Reich and Arvo Part in mind when composing the music.

This has led to the creation of songs that deserve to be listened to with your full attention. These songs create in my mind a white, unadorned and simple room where the empty space is filled in by the beautiful textures of Metcalfe’s compositions.

But enough talking, take a listen and decide for yourself. First up, “Heroes”, originally by David Bowie.

A fantastic string section adds a dramatic edge to the song, especially in the context of Gabriel’s recent contribution of the track in an effort to support Haiti.

His cover of the Bon Iver song, “Flume”, starts with somber piano and then slowly brings out french horns and coronets to back the haunting lyrics, “Sky is womb and she’s the moon”. Take a listen, and if you like it, you can download the song here.

But the pinnacle of the album, or at least the songs I’ve heard so far, is his cover of The Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage” – an incredibly original and dynamic song to begin with.  The song explodes two and a half minutes in, and is the only song on the album to feature a full chorus.

By contrast, his cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” is surprisingly disappointing. Barely choking out the words, or just grumbling at times, it’s simply not pleasurable to listen to.

But in the end, Peter Gabriel really has accomplished a great deal with this album. In his own words, “working with the negative” of the songs allowed him to set his album on a different plane than where the “positives” lie.

To see some footage from the recording, check out  this interview. And get all the info about the upcoming album on his website www.petergabriel.com.

~Josh

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PEAK KEYWORD: GABRIEL

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10 Categories, 10 Albums – 100% Awesome: The 2009 Record of Records

As the holiday season is coming to a close, the last throes of Christmas music are making their way over the airwaves. I heard a whimsical song yesterday called “Merry Christmas Baby, Please Don’t Die” (a joint effort by Crocodile and the Dum Dum Girls) and it put me in a great mood, something good tunes often do. So as you’re ringing in the year, I hope some of these records, and the tunes on them, jangle something in your aorta and make you excited about great world class rock. So here are ten whimsical categories, in no real order, and ten great albums that fit ’em. Ok, enough said. Let’s get started.

10. Peak Pick: Chris Herrmann’s Fav

Album: Wilco (The Album)
Band: Wilco
Why: Ok, so I haven’t talked to Chris on this one, but as the Peak’s Program director, he deserves a spotlight. He’s said to me that he wants to be remembered as the guy who brought Wilco to the Peak. And Jeff Tweedy & Co. are making it easier and easier for him to do that. They’ve come a long way since some of their rawer albums, broadening their sound and reaching a huge audience. This album’s a great step up from their last Sky, Blue Sky – and definitely one to check out from this year.
Starter Tracks: “You Never Know”, “One Wing” and “Wilco (The Song)”

9. Best Sound


Album: The Satanic Satanist
Band: Portugal. The Man
Why: The first track on the album, “People Say”, has got everything you could want from a solid rock song – a great hook, tight guitar, organ, and it only gets better from there. “Work All Day” sinks into a subterranean world of soul. And later on, “Do You” almost outshines the rest of the album with it’s burning intensity. The drum and guitar tracks and the vocals and well, pretty much everything sounds great on this album.
Starter Tracks: “Work All Day”, “Do You” and “The Sun”

8. Greatest Expectations

Album: Them Crooked Vultures
Band: Them Crooked Vultures
Why: With great names comes great responsibility. And few names hold star power like John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme do. That being said almost everyone who was waiting for the release of this record held almost impossibly high hopes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great record, but people were going to be disappointed if it fell anywhere short of Led Zeppelin II or Nevermind. But a sick record nonetheless, that finds a great rock ‘n’ roll groove and holds it’s own from start to finish.
Starter Tracks: Three great songs in a row: “Elephants”, “Scumbag Blues” and “Bandoliers”

7. Funnest

Album: I Think We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
Band: The Brighton Port Authority (The BPA)
Why: Yes. You, me and everyone knows that “funnest” is not a word (and OK, “You, everyone and I”). But there’s not a better way to describe this Fatboy Slim project. With each song on the album featuring a different artist, this record is fun times from start to finish. Sure some of the songs may not be “good” (see psych pop singer Connan Mockasin’s track “Jumps the Fence” – mostly because he sings the same seven words for a whole minute) but all are poppy and catchy and most importantly fun to listen to.
Starter Tracks: “He’s Frank” (feat. Iggy Pop), “Toe Jam” (feat. David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal) and “Seattle” (feat. Emmy the Great)

6. Smallest Size, Biggest Punch

Album: Our Living Funeral
Band: Zombie Season
Why: The resurgence of Lo-Fi + An inventive take on the Arcade Fire’s sound + zombies = the essence of awesomeness. Zombie Season is a small, nearly unheard of band (compare Zombie Season’s 14,400 views on MySpace to Coldplay’s 34 million, Aimee Mann’s 1.4 Million or even Black Taxi’s 120,000). ZS was created only last year by Ali Jafaar out of the University of Minnesota. But don’t mess with them just because they’re small. They’ve got a powerfully dark sound, and a solid two records out. Our Living Funeral is a great follow-up to their 2008 EP, “Life is Tragic”. So they’re definitely worth a listen.

Starter Tracks: “Evil Heart” off of Our Living Funeral and “Slow Out” and “Heart Attack” off of “Life is Tragic”

5. Most Over-the-Top

Album: The Resistance
Band: Muse
Why: For most people who’ve heard this album, this one is pretty self explanatory. For those who haven’t, I think their over-the-topness can be best portrayed by a walkthrough of their song, “I Belong to You (+ Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)”. So, 0:00 to 0:13 – poppy piano and sensuous crooning from Matt Bellamy. 0:14 – cue the full chorus and bell tree. 0:22 – a full showtunes-y glissando on the piano leads into the first verse. 2:08 – the song fades into an aria from the French opera, Samson and Delilah, sung in full voice by Bellamy 3:13 – the drums come back in and an orchestra joins the chorus as Bellamy’s voice spirals upwards. 4:35 – the glissando marks the return to the main song with a bouncy bass clarinet solo. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The first time I heard that part I laughed out loud. Only Muse could pull it off, and only Muse deserves this category.

Starter Tracks: “I Belong to You (+ Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)”, “Uprising” and “Exogenisis: Symphony, Pts. 1-3”

4. Indiest

Album: THREE WAY TIE: Veckatimest, Merriweather Post Pavillion, and xx
Bands: Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, and The xx respectively
Why: This year, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective have dominated indie charts and minds. Stereogum ran an article back in January pre-empting Merriweather Post Pavillion as the best album of 2009, and Veckatimest has been hot on the trail ever since its May release. But the sleeper here is the London-based group, The xx, a band so cool that they don’t need to move in their music videos. Their first record, xx, placed above both other bands on Rolling Stone’s 25 Best Albums of 2009, reaching the 8th spot. Take a listen, and you’ll be drawn in by the quiet intensity held in every pause in their lyrics.
Starter Tracks: Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks”, Animal Collective’s “My Girls”, and The xx’s “Crystalised”

3. Most Innovative

Album: Agressively Humble
Band: Chll Pll
Why: “I’ve never experienced a man like you.” “That’s because I’m not a man I’m a [blowing noise that sounds like a rainbow]”. This is how Chll Pll (formed by Zac Nelson of Hexlove and Zach Hill of Wavves), starts off their debut album, Aggressively Humble. But there’s not a lot of humility to be found here. The album is subtitled “Ten Rips by Chll Pll”, which is certainly more accurate. The Zac(h)s tear their way through distortion, polyrhythms, and plenty of electronic effects. It’s out there for sure, but that’s no reason to not embrace a band that’s too cool even for vowels.
Starter Tracks: “Dick Moves”, “She Owns”, “Pass Out”

2. NY’s Best Backyard Album

Album: Things of That Nature
Band: Black Taxi
Why: ’nuff said.
Starter Tracks: “Up Here For Thinking, Down There For Dancing”, “Pretty Mama” and “Shoeshine”

1. Most Likely to Be Compared to a Meteor: 2009’s Record of Records

Album: Wolfgang Amadeus
Band: Phoenix
Why: A few reasons. First: just months after Wolfgang Amadeus was released, a remixes album was put out. Second: artists who contributed this remix album include Animal Collective, Chairlift, and Passion Pit. Third: It is Time Magazine’s 5th best album of the year, Rolling Stone’s 3rd, and it generally placed between 10 and 1 on other charts, usually on the 1 side of the spectrum. Now, I’m not a huge phoenix fan (disclosure: on their track, “1901” I thought the hook  was “balling” instead of “falling” but it makes much more sense now) but I can appreciate catchy music when I hear it. And they’re the first French band to click over here in a long time. So when I watch ticket prices for their sold-out shows rising steadily, I can tell you that next year is only going to be better and bigger for this band.

Starter Tracks: “1901”, “Lisztomania” and “Love Like a Sunset Pts. 1 & 2”

So that just about wraps up this decade. As always, check back here for news about bands, records and of course, the station bringing you World Class Rock, 107.1 The Peak. Have a safe and happy new year.

Best,

~Josh

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PEAK KEYWORD: 2010

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Concert Watch November 2009

…And the horseman roams the streets at night… restlessly searching for his missing head.

That of course, is from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow – one of my favorites, although no one knows how the ghostly Hessian soldier actually lost his head. I’m going to go out on a limb right now and say that maybe if he had known about all of the great concerts going on in November in his own backyard, he could have found some solace.

Segue!

I think he just saw the Horseman!

Pete Yorn

November starts off with a bang – Pete Yorn, who performed live for the peak in 2006 will be playing at the Ridgefield Playhouse TOMORROW the 1st. He just released his fourth record Back and Fourth this past June and if you look at the fine print, you’ll notice that Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes helped produce it. What’s more, Yorn put out another album right after that, with Scarlett Johannson this past September – Relator. And coming off touring with Coldplay throughout the summer Mr. Yorn is doing quite well for himself – make sure to catch him in Connecticut!

Too bad harmonicas aren't semi-automatic.

Popper visiting the troops

On November 4th, Blues Traveler is rolling through town. They’ll be playing a show at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza in the city. They’ve been going above and beyond recently in an effort to support the troops in any way they can. For instance they are offering a free download of “Forever Owed” – the first track of their 2008 record North Hollywood Shootout. This song was written for the troops, and they ask that in lieu of paying for the track you make a direct donation to the USO. Blues Traveler visited the troops in 2004, and in a letter to the men and women of the Armed Forces, John Popper writes,

“… you who serve are not only a part of us but the best of us. I will carry my meager taste of honor with me for the rest of my life.”

In addition to the free download, they have been giving away free tickets to their shows for servicemen and women through the USO. So support this noble band by seeing them next wednesday.

"Alone, we are just your average indie-folk superstars... but with our powers combined, we form: THE MONSTERS OF FOLK!" (theme music plays - some light guitar strumming)

The Monsters of Folk

Going back to Mike Mogis for a sec, the indie-folk supergroup, the Monsters of Folk, are playing at the United Palace Theater up in Washington Heights next friday, November 6th. These monsters include Mike Mogis and Connor Oberst, both prominent members of Bright Eyes; M. Ward – well known from his partnership with Zooey Deschanel called She & Him; and Jim James the singer from My Morning Jacket. I know, it’s a lot of names for one band. But it’s going to be a great performance. If you do miss them Friday, it wont be too late – they’re playing again at the Beacon Theater on Nov. 8th a week from this Sunday.

Is Nils Lofgren floating on the left?

Bruce Springsteen with the E Street Band at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 2003.

In the end, however, no one compares to the Boss. That’s right, Bruce Springsteen is blazing through town after his tour de force performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week. Brucie and the E Street Band will have two performances at Madison Square Garden on Saturday and Sunday, the 7th and the 8th.

Yes, we do have a Grammy award winner behind that window.

Rob Thomas Peak Performance at ACME studios on Sept. 5th, 2009.

That should tide you over for a few days, at least. We return then to the Beacon Theatre, where Rob Thomas will be performing a series of three shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the 12th, 13th, and 14th respectively.  You may know that Rob Thomas came into the studios this past September, and he’ll be one of the featured artists on the Peak Performances Vol. 2 that’s coming out this December.

And there’s so much more! The Cranberries will be playing at Nokia Theater on the 18th. After that, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones will be performing at the Community Theater at the Mayo Center for the Performing Arts on Friday the 20th, and the Smithereens will be following tham at the Community Theatre the on the 21st.

Also, Ani DiFranco will be playing at Town Hall on the 21st as well. New York’s backyard will also be graced with three shows from the Pixies on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

Pianos suck.

Guster's "Lost and Gone Forever" 1999

 

Then November goes out with a bang, too, with two sold-out shows from Guster on the 27th and 28th back at the Beacon Theater. They’re touring right now for the tenth anniversary of their ’99 album Lost and Gone Forever. They’re playing two sets each with one set being the record in its entirety. That album has some truly great tracks like “Barrel of a Gun” and “Fa Fa”.

So happy concert-hunting, and if you do seem to have misplaced your head, then let some great world class rock steer you home.

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Peak Keyword: ICHABOD

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