Review: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Like the rest of the world, I was taken by surprise when Radiohead released their new album recently. I waited a bit before buying it & listening. My wife prompted me, actually, when she mentioned how excited she was to hear it.

So early one morning I bought the tracks from Boomkat, burned a CD and surprised her with it in the car’s CD player when we drove to work that day. Bonus good husband points.

I listened to it a few times over the next several days. There were some obvious stand out tracks – the single “Burn The Witch”, “Ful Stop” … and the “True Love Waits” reprise at the end was a very nice treat.

Online reviews were calling it “their best album since Kid A” (Boomkat). And it was good, for sure, but the whole things sounded rather quiet and ambient. Many of the tracks sounded sort of lost, like there was something missing. And it confused me, because I knew the band put a lot of work into this album and the first track starts the album off so powerfully.

I put the album down for a few days and turned my attention to other matters.

This morning my wife said to me, “I figured out what was wrong with the new Radiohead album. You have to listen to it LOUD.”

Later in the car she put it on and turned it up and we listened to the whole thing over the course of the day.

Oh, there it is.

There is so much to this luscious album. It’s incredibly subtle and requires attention and deep listening.

Find yourself a nice, quiet, dark place. Turn up the music.

You will be richly rewarded.

Jesse Terry: Wild Mountain Thyme (traditional)

Since we’re on a folk kick right now, check out the new video from Jesse Terry for “Wild Mountain Thyme” a traditional tune that was also covered by James Taylor back in the day.

This live video showcases Jesse’s amazing voice in one of the many gorgeous venues he’s performing in.

Oh did we mention that he’s currently on tour?

Dates on his website:

Phoebe Bridgers: Ask Me To

Stumbled onto Phoebe’s music over the weekend. She has this classic Americana sound & a gorgeous voice to match. Strong lyrics, too.

“Ask Me To” is full of melancholy and wit. I hear she’s working on her debut LP now, currently there’s an EP available via her website (check the amazing URL name):

Also I hear she’s selling bootleg CDs at her live shows. Speaking of which, she’s on tour with the Violent Femmes right now! Details on her site.

KFlay: FML

K just released a gorgeous & haunting new track and video that hits real close to home.

FML is about waking up from the party late-night life-style to discover that your bad habits catch up with you.

I was going to say more about how some of the lyrics really hit home, especially for those of us deep in The Grind.

But YouTube has switched over to another recent single of hers, “Can’t Sleep”, and now I’m enjoying one of her tracks from Life As A Dog.

I can’t sleep
I hope to stay awake
Cuz I’ve been running, running, running all day…

More true words that hit home.


Elderbrook “Could”

Our friend Gigi Tsakiris wrote in with an older but still awesome stripped-down electronica track by Elderbrook.

“Could”, the first track from his debut EP that dropped about a year ago, highlights his minimalist aesthetic and well-crafted songwriting and production skills.

The video is also gorgeous. A constantly-shifting oil painting follows along with the song. It must have been filmed first live, then the paintings done over each frame.

Great track!

New web series: X-RAY

There’s a new indie music web series based in Portland, OR, but it’s not about hipsters or ambient post-punk bands.

Director Seena Haddad created X-Ray to resonate with those in Portland’s hip-hop community. It’s a realistic, ground-level view of what it means to “make it” in the rap game, where success is measured in increments, and the drive to be heard is balanced against everything else going on in an artist’s life: friends, family, romantic relationships, the work that actually puts money in your wallet. The first season, premiering online this week, follows an aspiring young MC whose goal is not to get in the ear of some mogul and score a multimillion-dollar deal: He just wants to get a mixtape out. Empire it is not. It’s an archetypal tale of starting from the bottom, one which looks, feels and, most crucially, sounds like Portland.

XRAYPOSTER_FOR_PRINT_11_25x17_25Getting those details right were crucial for Haddad. Expectedly, it took some trial and error to get there. After all, Haddad had only just returned to the area two years before he began writing the script. He left Beaverton in 2006, going to New York and then studying film at the American University of Paris, and is currently based in L.A. After completing his first draft, he reached out to Fahiym Acuay, founder of the Pacific Northwest hip-hop blog We Out Here, for an appraisal. “He didn’t capture the issues at hand,” Acuay says. “It could’ve been like any city.”

Acuay became Haddad’s de facto tour guide to Portland hip-hop, taking him to shows and introducing him to MCs. (He’s credited as an associate producer on the show.) One night at Kelly’s Olympian, Haddad witnessed a set by Michael “Fountaine” Stewart. He’d already cast his lead protagonist, a trained actor from Beaverton, but after seeing Stewart perform, he began to rethink his decision.

“The other actor had an idea in his head that he was playing this rapper. He came from the ‘burbs, and it seemed like he was playing into a stereotype that didn’t make sense,” Haddad says. “I wanted the character to be very cerebral. People think about what they say here. In real life, people aren’t trying to make a big show of things, they’re just putting their energy into music.”

In contrast to the bravado found in other rap-themed dramatizations, Stewart brings a quiet vulnerability to the role of Marcus Ray, a creative kid reeling from a personal tragedy who is just trying to get the wheels of his career turning. It helped that, during filming, Stewart was essentially on the same trajectory in his own career, releasing his debut last March. “At first, I didn’t believe in myself because I’m like, ‘I don’t act,’” Stewart says. “[Haddad] just said to be myself. The story he wrote was my up-and-coming story as an artist.” Haddad filled out the cast with other non-actors recognizable to local hip-hop fans, including Epp, Wes Guy and Maze Koroma, and also brought in producers 5th Sequence and Samarei to do the soundtrack.

After a year and a half of stops and restarts—a hard-drive crash in October forced him to re-edit several episodes—Haddad is finally ready to put X-Ray online. It will play out over 10 brief episodes, most under 10 minutes. It sounds modest. But for those who see themselves in Marcus Ray, who’ve scrapped to make hip-hop viable in a city where it’s often appeared to be outlawed, it’s a crucial depiction of just how hard they’ve fought.

Season one is available on Vimeo. Season two launches in April.