Tag Archives: Pitchfork

Right On Time

It’s 1:00 in the morning and I have to be up at 7:00 but I really wanted to get this out. As always, it’ll be edited once someone texts me my latest mistakes.

Teaser: something big is coming soon.

Album: …Like Clockwork             Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

Like Clockwork

So I’m sitting here reading Josh Homme interviews in preparation to write this, and I can’t lie about it. I knew there was a reason he’s one of my favorite musicians. He’s f***ing hilarious (sorry, being around recording industry majors has done a number on my language skills). The truth is, I’ve been out for awhile because sometimes school and life get in the way, but I’ve also been listening to this album nonstop for like two years months. I mean, two years later and it’s just as good as it was the first time. Better, even — because I wasn’t sure that I liked it the first time I listened.

…Like Clockwork was released in the good ol’ U.S. of A back in June of 2013. It was the band’s sixth studio album, and their first on indie label Matador Records after their time with Interscope. Actually, it was their first album since 2007’s Era Vulgaris. I guess 6 years seems like a helluva time between records, but Homme has been involved in several projects since (including Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures) so it’s not like I’ve missed him or anything.

But I did miss Queens. There’s something about their desert rock that welcomes me in every time — but that’s my dark and twisty side talking. QOTSA is a band that combines the sweet with the dirty and the raunchy with the emotional in a way not many bands manage, and …Like Clockwork embodies that better than any of their albums ever have.

This album is their return to the music scene, and boy do they come in with a bang. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart at number one after it’s release (the only QOTSA album to make it to the number one slot), and all of it’s singles placed on the Billboard Singles chart. …Like Clockwork had critics raving, and it got the band three Grammy nominations. It also landed itself on NME’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, coming in at #335.

And, if I do say so myself, there’s a reason. This is a band whose lineup has fluctuated over the years to the point of really only having one constant member (Homme), but they seem to have finally locked it in despite losing their drummer half way through recording. The album contains guest spots from everyone to former collaborator Dave Grohl (who rocks my socks, as I’ve said a thousand times before), to the Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner, to Elton freaking John — who volunteered as an “actual queen,” according to Homme. Former bassist Nick Oliveri even makes an appearance, though not on bass. Together with engineer Mark Rankin, the band has created their best album yet.

…Like Clockwork opens with the sludgy “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” a track that’s got a slow groove. Right off the bat, you can tell that this album is gonna be good. The song is just a preview of the vocal and instrumental experimentation that’s to come, though. The album really doesn’t kick off until “I Sat By the Ocean.” It’s a groovy song with a slide guitar that sticks with you for days, but not in a bad way. Homme croons “Time wounds all heals as we fade out of view,” while comparing a dead relationship to “passing ships in the night,” on the track, proving from the start that he knows his way around writing lyrics.

Really, the album shows a type of restraint that’s not typical of Queens of the Stone Age. Tracks like “They Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and “…Like Clockwork” balance the slow and tame with the hard rock we’re used to and elicit emotions about rock n’ roll  you didn’t even know you had. There’s a personality in the playing that hasn’t been there before.

But what would a Queens album be if there wasn’t a hard rocker? The uninhibited “My God Is The Sun” brings the desert rock right to the table and flies by — more like what we’d expect from QOTSA — and reminds us just what they’re capable of. Really, there’s no wonder it was nominated for “Best Rock Performance” at the Grammys.

And then there’s my favorite track on the album: “Smooth Sailing.” It’s a cocky strut of a song, but the arrogance is earned as Homme sings, “It’s all in motion/ain’t not stopping now/I got nothing to lose and only one way: up.” It’s a clever song that locks in and rolls, and the way Josh Homme plays with his falsetto just adds to the effect.

Really, everything about this album impresses me. The lyrical content is just fantastic — some of the best the band has put out, I would say. It’s very dark and contains Homme’s ever so infamous cynical sarcasm, but that’s what makes it so great. Lines like “To be vulnerable is needed most of all/If you intend to truly fall apart,” found in “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” are easy to miss on the first few listens, but once caught force you to think about their meaning.

While the album does lull a little in the middle during “Kalopsia,” it manages to hold your attention from start to finish. Even the six-minute “I Appear Missing” doesn’t feel so long. It’s an album that’s got talent and showcases it in the best way. In the words of Pitchfork’s Stuart Berman, …Like Clockwork is an album that “kicks like a mule even when it dresses like a queen.”

Like this album? Hate this album? Please, let me know in the comments below!

And as always, never stop listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: If I Had A Tail, Fairweather Friends, I Appear Missing, …Like Clockwork

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The Experience: Part 2

How perfect is it that my first update day is exactly a week into January? I love it when things work out. This week, I bring you the JT post I’ve been promising for forever and a day, and it’s probably gonna be sub par but whatever.

Album: The 20/20 Experience (Part 2)                                    Artist: Justin Timberlake

JT

So let’s start off with a recap. The 20/20 Experience (Part 1) was JT’s third album, and it came a long while after his second. It received generally favorable reviews (and rightly so) and it had some wonderful songs on it (i.e. “Suit and Tie”). Well, apparently Part 1 wasn’t enough, because only months later, Part 2 was on the market.

Undoubtedly both parts are very similar; Timberlake manages to keep his experimental sound in Part 2, though if you listen back to back there are some pretty distinct differences in the albums ranging from overall beats to lyrics to emotions. According to critics, Part 2 wasn’t as good as it’s predecessor. Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork called it an “unwarranted glut” and claims that it “points to a much more stunted spectrum of creativity” (Find his review here!).

Harsh.

Imagine how people who didn’t like Part 1 felt. Personally, and this could totally be my naturally pessimistic personality, I like Part 2. Admittedly, it’s probably a little more offensive than its senior, but it’s also a little more angry (which is what I like). Even though Dombal thinks that anger doesn’t really fit JT, I disagree. If you go back to some of his older work, you can hear that same aggression in “What Goes Around Comes Around,” except it’s a little more angsty there. Regardless, I don’t think that The 20/20 Experience (Part 2) is just an album you can write off.

Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone seems to agree. He gave the album 3 and 1/2 stars out of five, but he seems to appreciate the overall work more than Dombal (his review is here).

But what do I have to say about the album?

I think the album originally won me over with “Only When I Walk Away,” a track that Dolan obviously appreciated as well. It’s seven minutes of a rolling guitar riff reminiscent of the 70s (think Led Zepp) and some heavy (and somewhat angry) beats provided by Timbaland. Admittedly, the laser show that JT performs the song with helped the track’s cause. Or maybe it was “Drink You Away” that originally hooked me. This song is distinctly different not only from the rest of the album, but JT’s work in general. The track merges Timberlake’s hip/hop roots with some obvious country influences. It’s much better than country music in my opinion, but obviously Timberlake is very familiar with his Tennessee beginnings.

The album also features some guest spots from not only Jay-Z (who was on Part 1 as well), but also Drake. Neither feature disappoints, though I don’t claim to know anything about rap music so maybe it does. Who knows?

Ultimately, the winning track is hand’s down “Amnesia” (in my opinion, at least). The opening string arrangement sets a wonderful start and it’s continued throughout the song. It’s lofty enough to capture the whimsicality of the album and impressive enough to leave the listener wanting just a little more.

Now, the album admittedly has a few busts, if you will. “True Blood,” while certainly interesting, just isn’t my cup of tea. It’s kinda fun but sorta weird and I could do without the howling. But hey, to each their own I guess. And, with regards to the singles, my feelings remain the same as they did for Part 1. They just aren’t the best the album has to offer. But they’re catchy, which is probably why they were chosen for the radio (I had to jab at it just once).

If I had to pick? Unlike most critics I think I’d pick Part 2. While I enjoy Part 1 and think the album was overall more innovative, Part 2 is just more listenable. I’m surprised that Pages just told me the “listenable” was a word. But my point is, despite the fact that Part 2 also continues the seven minute song trend, I think it just flows a little better. It’s a little more exciting. Sue me.

How was that for a post? Not only did I actually write about an album, but it was much better than my Part 1 post (but that isn’t saying much). Find that here.

Thoughts? Leave them here, Facebook, or twitter! And as always, keep listening!