Category Archives: Fresh

What’s cooking in the kitchen

Kanye West – Yeezus

Can well all just stop for a second and enjoy the music?

Everyone wants to over analyze and critique/praise Kanye. The quicker and faster, the better. But can we just digest the record for a minute?

Yeezus

I bought the record on Tuesday (no leak necessary). I listened to the album that morning on Spotify. More than anything, what struck me was excitement and wonder. Yeezus is truly unique and hence, will be emulated for years to come. Electronic synths, minimalist beats, uncompromising bravado—it’s a stew on Kanye could brew. For 2013, it’s perfect.

That doesn’t mean there are not flaws or that I’m a blind follower of Yeezus. It means that Kayne is in it and poppin’ a wheelie on a zeitgeist. Now hurry up with my damn croissants.

 

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Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Modern Vampires of the City is a fantastically enjoyable album. The songs are precise and meticulously crafted works of a band that is finally stepping out of the shadows of their influences. There is subtlety like on “Hanna Hunt” and bombast like on “Diane Young.” There is experimentation like on “Step” and familiarity like on “Don’t Lie.”

Vampire Weekend

Members of the band have said that this is the end of a trilogy. Their debut was fun and quirky; the follow-up worldly and ambitious. Modern Vampires feels like the best combination of both— a fully revised vision that is executed flawlessly. It is even more exciting thinking about where Vampire Weekend will go next.

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The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

I wasn’t completely sold on The Wonder Years right away. Then they made my Top Albums of 2011. It’s a testament to a band that works incredibly hard and puts all they have into their music.

wonder years

The Greatest Generation is a loose concept record in the same vein as Suburbia. The songs are personal, evocative and heavy. While I’m not sure any band could live up to the immense hype/expectations that fans have bestowed on The Wonder Years in the past twelve months, they have certainly not disappointed. My one thought is that the lyrics aren’t grabbing me as much as their previous records. I suspect that will change. But it could also be because I’ve changed and it’s harder for me to relate to the specific topics Soupy addresses in his lyrics (life on the road, relationships, family).

Irregardless, The Greatest Generation has spectacular moments of production and catharsis. It’s not a giant leap forward for the band, but sometimes that’s OK.

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Biffy Clyro – Opposites

Opposites, the new double album from Biffy Clyro is massive. The Scottish power trio is everything a rock band should be—heavy, ambitious and unapologetic. Opposites is packed with equal parts head bang and soaring sing-a-long melodies. They have built on their sound (and success) of Only Revolutions to deliver the most satisfying rock record of the year.

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Fall Out Boy Return

Fall Out Boy announced this week that they are returning from their hiatus with a new album and tour. Their reunion is to “Save Rock and Roll” they say, because rock music always sends out distress signals every few years. The pessimist in me believes that the members of Fall Out Boy are running low on money and because their personal solo projects never took off, they’re willing to put aside their personal differences for the sake of their bank accounts. We get it and most people expected this day to come.

Along with the announcement came a new song — “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up).” The video (below) features 2Chainz and some fine ladies literally burning the old Fall Out Boy image. Cliched, but effective. The song itself doesn’t blow me away. Patrick Stump sounds great, but the production and lyrics are overwrought and think they’re a much better than they actually are — another sign of a typical Fall Out Boy single.

I remember seeing Fall Out Boy open for Mest twice in one week back in 2003/4 (I think). I could see then that they were going to be the next big scene band. I didn’t think they’d achieve the crossover success that they attained with “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” From there, the band became huge and naturally, I hated them for it. I was young, jealous and thought other pop punk bands were more deserving of the spot light. I hated Pete Wentz for wanting to always be the front man and after seeing them again a few years later when they opened for Blink-182, I was happy to see that FOB had actually gotten worse as a live band.

For some reason though, once they went on hiatus after Folie a Deux, it felt safer to revisit their catalog a second chance, especially since songs like “A Little Less Sixteen Candles…” and “Grand Theft Autumn” were super catchy and fun songs. What I found were some really great album tracks. Fall Out Boy is a great studio band. This is mainly due to the songwriting talents of Patrick Stump. His songs and melodies paired with Wentz’s lyrics are pop punk gold. This is what gets lost in much of the Fall Out Boy hype. They are a polarizing band, but if you judge them on their albums, and more specifically their non-singles, it’s hard to deny their lightning in a bottle type genius.

This is why I want to wait until Save Rock and Roll is officially released to pass judgement. “My Songs…” is just one track on the record, similar to “I Don’t Care” or “Thks fr th Mmrs” — two ambitious and marginal songs, released as singles that pale in comparison to some of the other songs on their respective albums. So with that in mind, in honor of the massive-huge-OMG news, below are my top five deep cuts from Fall Out Boy’s catalog, followed by a more extensive playlist.

Fall Out Boy

[“The Take Over, The Breaks Over” and “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me” are definitely Top 5 FOB songs for me, but both were eventually released as singles for their respective albums.]

5. “She’s My Winona” – Folie a Deux
Pete Wentz grows up and writes an honest song about being a father. Stump’s delivery during the hip-hop inspired verses is brilliant. His vocal range and inflections are so beyond what everyone else in their genre is doing.

4. “Thriller” – Infinity on High
The big ‘f you’ song to their haters. Jay-Z (then head of Island/Def Jam) intros the track and then the band acknowledges its hardcore roots. They were way ahead of the social media frenzy: “Every dot com’s refreshing for a journal update.”

3. “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes” – Folie a Deux
The evolution of a pop-punk band. Stump is a beast on this track. “Detox to Retox” is the motto of a generation.

2. “Hum Hallelujah” – Infinity on High
“I can write it better than you ever felt it.” That right there is Fall Out Boy’s self-referential mission statement. Why write about your own experiences when you’re so in touch with your fan base that it’s easier (and better) to deliver what your core audience wants? Pete Wentz may be a douche bag, but he’s smart.

1. “20 Dollar Nose Bleed” – Folie a Deux
Listen to this song, then read this piece from The Atlantic on Benzedrine, then listen to the song again. Fascinating. The addition of the brass in the post-chorus puts this song over the edge for me. The arrangement is just on another level. (But seriously, the poem tacked on to the end of the track is lame).

The lyrics speak to Wentz’s ability to craft lyrics that don’t speak down to the audience. It’s also probably the most overt illusion to their impending hiatus. Wentz was burned out. Relationships were strained. The band needed a break. It’s probably time to also credit Fall Out Boy’s long-time producer Neal Avron for his outstanding work. Avron is a legend in the pop-punk scene but he has been able to harness Stump and Wentz and push them to heights never imagined (especially since Take This to Your Grave).

Listen to the essential FOB playlist below or on Spotify.

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Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

Good pop music seems like a dirty oxy moron. Pop music is style over substance, glitz over guts, computers instead of instruments. Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga—all have tapped into the formula and have ridden the wave of Top 40 radio and veiled sexuality to super stardom. Every agrees that those artists are talented, but in a drone-like coma. Sure the songs are catchy and you have fun dancing to them, but they don’t mean anything. Their music is plastic, cloying, disposable. I’ve long argued that the world is getting dumber and this is just one symptom. How did we go from Jackson 5, The Beach Boys and The Police to this? Pop music isn’t just for teeny boppers and Ryan Seacrest. Just because ‘NSYNC names one of their albums Pop doesn’t mean it all has to suck. So why would a group like Tegan and Sara willing and wantingly throw themselves into this world? Listen to Heartthrob.

Tegan and Sara Cover

Tegan and Sara have been around since the late 1990’s and their sound has evolved on each of their seven studio releases. The twins started as a Canadian folk-rock duo and have became alt-indie darlings with The Con and Sainthood. On both those albums you could hear the seeds of Heartthrob. The synth bridge on “The Con,” the dancey “Alligator” and its subsequent remixes. More recently, their work with club DJ’s Tiesto, Morgan Page, and David Guetta. Point being, Heartthob should not be a surprise to fans and should not be considered a musical departure. The Quin sisters knew what they were doing and intentionally are trying to make the leap from hipster favorite to mainstream powerhouse.

Heartthrob is the most intelligent and exciting pop record of the year. It’s slick, fun and a ready-made dance party. It’s also vulnerable, honest and empowering. Just because the music is shiny and perfect for your local KISS station doesn’t mean Tegan and Sara have dumbed themselves down in an effort to be more accessible.

“Closer” kicks off the record and is pure, innocent spin-the-bottle excitement. Two mid-tempo tracks—”I Was A Fool,” and “Now I’m All Messed Up”—all pack power ballad punch. “How Come You Don’t Want Me” feels like it was written specifically for the final scene and end credits of an episode of Girls. “I’m Not Your Hero” is an expert examination on the burden of responsibility. “Drove Me Wild” is a puppy love story that would make Cyndi Lauper proud.

Tons of credit should go to producers Greg Kurstin and Justin Medal-Johnsen for cultivating and curating the sound for Heartthrob. The mission was clear and the resulting collection is creative and cohesive; a powerful exhibit that in the right hands, pop music doesn’t have to be one note.

It’s no coincidence that Tegan and Sara decided on the title “Heartthrob.” This is their pop opus. They are putting themselves out there to be the next objects of our musical desire. If these songs don’t make your heart feel something, you’re a lost cause.

Tegan and Sara have swung for the fences. They crushed a hanging curve and the ball is on it’s way out of the park. It’s now up to the fans in the bleachers to try and reach out and grab the greatness of Heartthrob.

Listen to Heartthrob

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Highland Kitchen

You don’t need me to tell you that Highland Kitchen is awesome. The Somerville restaurant is constantly packed and they offer some of the best comfort food and cocktails in greater Boston.

But let’s take a look at the photo below. This was my recent order at Highland Kitchen. Let’s go around the table (from top left, clockwise):

  1. North African Dip Plate
  2. Fried Green Tomatoes
  3. Buffalo Fried Brussels Sprouts
  4. Creole Party Mix
  5. Jambalaya
  6. Lamb Tacos
  7. Potato Gnocchi with Braised Short Rib
  8. Deviled Eggs (not pictured)

Highland Kitchen

It was a diesel and rather ambitious order. Full disclosure, I had to bring most of the jambalaya home. My apatite just isn’t what it used to be. Anyways, the best thing on that table was the Gnocchi and Short Rib. The braise broth was packed with flavor and the potato dumplings were on point—not too heavy, sauteed lightly before incorporated with the sauce. The Lamb Tacos has a great yogurt tzatziki and I loved the sauce that accompanied the fried green tomatoes. The creole mix was spicy start to the meal and the dip plate went beyond the usual suspects. The Brussels Sprouts came highly recommended and they did not disappoint. They were a new and tasty take on the buffalo trend.

So basically, show up early and order half the menu. The staff is great and you’ll have an great time. But you already knew that.

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