Tag Archives: Alex Turner

Understated Indeed

Oh, New Years. Last year I’m pretty sure I made the resolution to keep up with my blog, and that went fantastically unwell. So I’ll make the same resolution this year, but honestly, I can’t promise anything cause I’m taking 18 hours next semester (because obviously I must love stressing myself out).

Honestly, this post was originally going to be about Oasis. I’ve been feeling hella nostalgic for the 90s lately and sometimes when I need a good cry I listen to “Champaign Supernova” and just eat my feelings. But plans change, and I decided to write about The Last Shadow Puppets instead,  because 2016 is the year of their return and I’ve been a little obsessed with The Age of the Understatement lately.

I’ve literally been working on this post for like a week now. It was tough to write so cut me some slack on this one.

Album: The Age of the Understatement
Artist: The Last Shadow Puppets

TLSP

The Last Shadow Puppets are undoubtedly one of my favorite supergroups — if you can call them that. The project is something Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner and his bestie Miles Kane (of The Little Flames at the time) threw together after both bands toured together in 2007. While both of them are members of successful groups, I have a hard time classifying TLSP as a supergroup honestly. I just don’t think of them like I do, say, Them Crooked Vultures. I sort of like to imagine Turner and Kane are just BFFs who like to rock out together — sort of like me and my bestie, if we had musical talent.

While Turner and Kane initially started writing for the project in 2007 while touring together, the project didn’t really come together until 2008. Most of The Age of the Understatement was recorded with producer/drummer James Ford at Blackbox Studios in France, and with the help of Final Fantasy (AKA Owen Pallett) and the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the album became the best compilation of music you didn’t realize you need in your life.

The Age of the Understatement dropped in April of 2008 on Domino Records and the band embarked on a brief tour. A few shows were played with a 16 piece orchestra, which is just hella cool. The project has such a unique sound — like James Bond come to life — and seeing them with an orchestra would just be magical.

Speaking of the sound though, the duo list their main influences as Scott Walker (the musician, not the politician) and early Bowie, but the cunning lyrics found on the album are obviously influenced by John Lennon and several other late 60s artists as well. Ultimately, the album comes together to sounds like something you’d hear in a spy movie. The sweeping strings coupled with that 60s rock band sounds remind you of secret agents, long dresses, big jewelry — the kind of glamour and suave style that you’d find in a 60s film. It takes you on an adventure to another place, but as Heather Phares put it in her review, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome. Most of the tracks on the album fall short of the three-minute mark and it ultimately makes for a short listen.

To start, The Age of the Understatement kicks off with its title track. There’s a kind of urgency to the album — it begins with a fierce tympani roll and the forceful vocals you’d expect from Alex Turner. But the whole album isn’t like that, though it maintains its rigor. The album lightens up with “Standing Next To Me,” but the sweeping “Calm Like You” reminds the listener of just how awesome Alex Turner is at his vocals. Lines like “Accidents and toffee drops/And thinking on the train,” keep the 60s dream alive with the addition of a great horn section, and Turner handles the vast chorus like it’s nothing.

And let’s just be honest for a moment here. Sam Smith, you can step aside. TLSP would school you in a 007-off any day, despite having never actually written a Bond theme. In fact, the ever so suave “My Mistakes Were Made For You” could probably even hold its own against Adele (blaspheme, I know). The elusive femme fatale that seems to haunt many of the songs on the album seems like she would fit in perfectly as a Bond Girl. As Turner sings “And in the backroom of a bad dream she came/and whisked me away enthused,” you can just imagine the type of girl she is. Lines like “And it, the fame that put words in her mouth/She couldn’t help but spit them out/Innocence and arrogance entwined, in the filthiest of minds” only add to the picture. Add in a few harmon mutes, toss in the strings, throw in a key change. It’s all there: the perfect Bond theme.

Admittedly, some tracks such as “Separate And Ever Deadly” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore” sound like something the Arctic Monkeys might play, but The Last Shadow Puppets manage to separate themselves from the other members’ separate projects. The album manages to keep up it’s tempo but varies stylistically in a way that keeps everything interesting. In short, it’s a work of art.

No wonder everyone is so excited for their return. They’ve only been teasing us for 8 years now.

I’ll attach a video below for those who are interested in the band. Until next time (because who knows when that will be), keep listening. And watch out for The Last Shadow Puppets’ new album, coming soon!

Honorable Mentions: The Chamber, Black Plant, The Meeting Place (or just Meeting Place, depending on where you live), Time Has Come Again (or The Time Has Come Again, depending on where you live)

 

*This post contains a link to Heather Phares’ review of the album, found on AllMusic.com

 

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Your Best Nightmare

Ok. I know this is going to be late. I didn’t start writing until 10:45 because I had to take a cat nap before I started writing. And then another one after. But without further ado, one of my favorite artists —

Wait, what is this? Another repeat artist??

Album: Favourite Worst Nightmare                                       Artist: Arctic Monkeys

FWN

So I’ve talked about the Arctic Monkeys’ rapid rise to fame before, but I’ll leave you with a refresher. Basically, this band is here because of the internet. Their first album went nuts, and over the years they’ve managed to keep their sound and yet always bring something completely new to the table. They started out as these weird looking indie kids and now they’re these clean cut, 50s suave style rockers, but the talent is the same.

AM then
Arctic Monkeys pre-AM
AM now
Arctic Monkeys now

See the difference?

Now last time I wrote about Arctic Monkeys, I wrote about their album AM, which is straight up a masterpiece. People hate on it because of the new image of the Monkeys that came with it, but those people just can’t appreciate a good thing. Favourite Worst Nightmare is totally different from AM, though. In fact, Alexandra and I have had this conversation a few times. Both AM and Favourite Worst Nightmare make the list of top Arctic Monkeys albums in our opinion, so its fitting that we compare the two. You see, if you listened to AM (which you should have and if you haven’t you should NOW) you know that the album is strictly about the lyrics. The instruments compliment and almost spin the words for you as Alex Turner does what he does best, because the lyrics are the song. FWN is not like that. In fact, it’s almost the opposite.

FWN is loud. In fact, you could argue that that was the point. It isn’t about the lyrics, its about the background. But what makes the Arctic Monkeys’ second release so intense is the kind of influences that are apparent throughout the whole album: Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, Sublime, (and as one critic thinks) Red Hot Chili Peppers among many others. I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have picked out the last one on my own, but I totally see where Mark Beaumont is coming from. But what kind of loud you ask? Well, it’s got bass playing that makes the rock gods smile, a very “Strokes” approach to the guitar, and “a 12-armed psychopath” on the drums (another one I got from Mark Beaumont — check out his review here). Whereas AM is about the lyrics, FWN is arguably about the drums. Like Matt Helders just goes nuts, and Nick O’Malley just has to keep up (which he manages quite well).

And those lyrics though. I know I just said that Favourite Worst Nightmare isn’t about the lyrics, but I think the Arctic Monkeys’ lyrics are what they’re known for. I mean Alex Turner is just incredibly clever. He manages to sum up Bowling For Soup’s “1985” in just two lines: “You used to get it in your fishnets/Now you only get it in your nightdress,” found in “Fluorescent Adolescent.” And the album’s opener “Brianstorm,” a go-nuts rock out about some (apparently) creepy guy they met on their adventures is equally as astute. Lines like “And I wonder are you puttin’ us under/Cause we can’t take our eyes off the t-shirt and ties combination/Well see you later, innovator” show just the kind of backhanded way they feel about the guy.

Now, the whole album isn’t loud. There is one ballad (that’s right, I said ballad) found on the album. “Only Ones Who Know” carries a bit of a sad tone and a hint of slide guitar that seems a bit regretful. But there’s just that versatility I mentioned earlier. Their first ballad found on one of their loudest albums. Deceivingly,  “505” opens in a similar way, but turns out to be more of a spy theme than a slow dance.

Regardless of what you find on this album, though, there’s no denying that the Arctic Monkey’s didn’t lose anything on their second album, which is a notable accomplishment for a band. There’s a pretty stark contrast from FWN to where they are now, but they still have the sound that makes the Arctic Monkeys the Arctic Monkeys. I really encourage you to listen to a track or two from both of their albums that I’ve talked about because there is a notable stylistic difference between them, which only makes me love the band more.

Until next week, keep listening!

Honorable Song Mentions: Brianstorm, D is for Dangerous, Flourscent Adolescent, If You Were There Beware, 505

That Album I CAN’T Stop Listening To

Hello Internet! I would like to begin this week’s post by informing you that, while I took a LOT of videos at the Local Natives Concert with every intention of posting them, I got lazy and didn’t post. Sorry guys. Maybe at some point. Now, on to this weeks review!

Album: AM                                                   Artist: Arctic Monkeys

AM_Arctic Monkeys

The Arctic Monkeys were one of those bands that seriously took off. In the past (what is it, eight?) years, they’ve gone from teenage indie kids to clean cut rockers. And boy do they have a devoted fan base. I can say with 100% assurance that, at the past three concerts (none of which were for Arctic Monkeys, I might add), I’ve seen at least one person with an Arctic Monkeys band tee. My exposure to the band has been more recent, however. While I’ve heard people rave about how great this band was, I always told myself “I’ll get there,” but never did.

Now the very first time I listened to “Do I Wanna Know?” I remember thinking that it was a good song — but I wasn’t overly familiar with Arctic Monkeys, and, even though I really liked the song, I didn’t listen to the rest of the album. To make a long story short, I realized that the Arctic Monkeys had collaborated with a band I was familiar with — Queens of the Stone Age — on their last album (for those Guitar Hero fanatics out there, “3’s and 7’s” might be something you might recognize). And as I followed that rabbit trail through the magical Internet, I came across an interesting piece of information. Josh Homme, frontman for Queens, had produced Arctic Monkeys’ album Humbug. There’s more of a partnership there that I’ll touch on later.

With this new knowledge lodged inside my brain, I clicked on my Spotify icon and proceeded to listen to all kinds of Arctic Monkeys music. I can’t say I heard anything I didn’t like. I can say that they haven’t tucked themselves into one specific genre though. It’s kind of refreshing to see that kind of experimentation with an artist. I admire how they’re willing to try different styles.

But then there was the first time I listened to AM all the way through. It was awesome. These guys know what they’re doing, and Alex Turner can really write a song. So needless to say, when I came across this album on vinyl for the low price of $9.99, I splurged (despite the fact that I told myself I wouldn’t buy any more vinyl for the rest of the month) — and I haven’t stopped listening since.

It’s hard to really describe the “genre” to throw this album into. The first few times I listened I couldn’t decide if it was more 90’s R&B or 70’s rock. To me, AM is what would happen if Dr. Dre (a listed influence by Alex Turner himself) and The Rolling Stones had a lovechild. That’s right – its legendary. What could be better than a mix of insane beats and classic rock?

AM is actually a very interesting album. If you listen to it all the way through, you can hear the raw emotion of this guy singing about some girl that he just can’t get over. Lines like “Do I wanna know/if this feeling flows both ways?” and “Maybe I’m too busy being yours to fall for somebody new,” make that more than apparent. Honestly, the album had me wondering what girl had Alex Turner so hung up.

Really though, I love the lyrics on AM. I love the crowded lines that have internal rhyme and specific rhythm, that almost seem just too long for the allotted space (think Eminem – but a little slower). I love the cleverness, found in songs like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” And I love the admitted John Lennon influence, so apparent in the line “Arabella’s got some interstellagator skin boots/ and a helter skelter around her little finger…” found in “Arabella.” Actually, “Arabella” might be my favorite song on the album. If I had to pick one song to be that Dre/Stones lovechild I mentioned, this would be it. The song has an excellent beat reminiscent of that 90’s R&B, but a catch riff. It’s like a stoner band covering a Beatles re-write of TLC. Too complicated? Probably.

But it’s not just the lyrics that make this album so awesome. The band really embraces a style of low beats and riffs with falsetto vocals (think Bee Gees). In fact (going back to the Homme-Monkeys thing I was on about earlier) its a similar style to that of Queens of the Stone Age (but Queens do it dirtier). I think that this is super cool. Why? Because its just one instance of how musicians can be influenced by other musicians. And what’s cooler? Josh Homme actually guests on the album, filling in backup vocals on both “One for the Road” and “Knee Socks.”

What’s really clever about AM, though, is it’s last song: “I Wanna Be Yours” wasn’t even written by the band. It’s actually a poem by John Cooper Clarke with a bridge and a chorus added. Now, John Cooper Clarke did it pretty well (I listened to his recorded version from 1982 on YouTube), but the Monkeys turned it into something a little more sexy. Regardless, it finishes the album with a simple sentiment: “Ill be at least as deep as the Pacific Ocean/I wanna be yours.”

AM is a really good album. This album is what, as one critic put it, gives the Monkeys license to do whatever they want from here on out. I’m not saying this album is a 10/10, but I am saying it cuts it pretty close. It’s just the story of a guy who really can’t get over this girl, which seems kinda sad really, but the lyrics really grab the listener; you almost begin to feel this guy’s pain and frustration all rolled into his “3am thoughts” (a phrase I totally just borrowed from this review). And what makes this album even better is the sound. The guitars, the drums, the bass. It’s like its created purely from the emotions found in the vocals and it sucks you in with it.

So do I like AM? I think the answer is pretty obvious. I can’t wait to see what Arctic Monkeys do next. Until next week, keep listening!

Honorable Song Mentions: Do I Wanna Know?, R U Mine?, One for the Road Arabella, No. 1 Party Anthem, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, Snap Out of It, I Wanna Be Yours (Yeah, that was the entire album, with the exception of like only three songs)