FT5: Modern Rock Stars

0115top5coverWe really live in a day and age when the idea of being a rock star is just about gone. Gone are the days of the lead singer who gets mobbed by fans everywhere they go or sleeps in hotel rooms full of strange women.  We don’t even get a lot of musicians with drug and alcohol problems anymore or who quite obviously don’t give a shit what anyone thinks.  You know, those people who were just way cooler than you ever hoped to be?  Dylan, Jagger, Plant, etc.  We all know the names.  That’s what makes them rock stars.  So today I wanted to create a list of those “modern rock stars” who have carried the torch of debauchery and coolness into a new age.  These guys (and gals) represent all the great things about being a rock star: alcohol/drug rehab stints, celebrity girlfriends, trend setting, don’t give a shit attitude, members of popular bands, and decent music all earn you a place on this list.  As a disclaimer I’ll say that all these artists rose to fame in the last decade so this means you won’t see a Dave Grohl or Eddie Vedder on this list because they have long been in the halls of the greats.  I’ll also make an attempt to compare each artist to who they most closely resemble from years past.  Please don’t assume that I’m comparing anyone artistically, I just wanted to give you a  frame of reference.  Follow the jump for the full list.

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FT5: Album Covers of 2009 (So Far)

1120top5coverAt a time when we are all witnessing the CD’s imminent demise and the convenience of digital files running rampant, thankfully from an art perspective, a vinyl re-emergence is upon us. While sound quality is obviously seen as the most important reason why we are seeing audiophiles jumping back on the vinyl bandwagon, album artwork is also getting a much deserved close-up. With the vinyl album requiring more elaborate artwork packages, bands are re-thinking the overall aesthetic and producing some great work, which only enhances the overall music experience. 2009 has been a great year not only for the ears, but for the eyes as well and below are my picks for the Top 5 album covers from 2009 (so far). Honorable mentions go to Animal Collective’s cover for making me dizzy from staring at it too long and Neko Case for badass picture of the year. Obviously art is about as subjective as subjectivity can get, so give us some feedback. Who’s your number 1?
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Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

yeah_yeah_yeahs_-_its_blitz_-2009Rating: ★★½☆☆

In the year 2002 and 2003 the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hit the indie scene with a certain verocity and vitality that kept us all on the edge of our seats, seething with anticipation for future releases.  Fever to Tell, for the most part, lived up to the expectations, though it still felt a little clean in comparison.  Jump seven years ahead, and we have It’s Blitz, the latest effort from the band.  The distance couldn’t be greater.

One of the first elements that you will notice upon listening to the first track “Zero” is that frontwoman, Karen O, seems to have lost a bit of her animalistic prowess, as if she has been caged in a zoo.  The ferocity in her voice on the opening track, and the entirety of the album is rather lacking.  Where we once lauded her for her passion and energy, we’re now left confused by what seems a sort mild indifference.  Still, she does demonstrate her ability to carry a note here, but we saw such abilities on “Maps.”

Much will be made in the press for this album about the entirely new sound the band has come to take upon themselves.  The brashness and angular guitar work from previous efforts has completely disappeared; electronics samples and tired beats have replaced the fervor that once existsed as a tractor beam for listeners everywhere.

Mellow songs, such as “Skeletons” do show the band willing to explore that sonic range outside of their traditional forays, but such moments don’t seem as well mapped out this time around.  It’s difficult when listening to such tracks to figure out where the band was going, which loses some listeners, encouraging them to skip ahead to the next track. “Runaway” is another such song, and the piano structure just isn’t enough to psuh the song in any new direction.

“Dull Life” is one of the few songs on the album that seems to recall the past greatness of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Still, even when this song picks up the pace, where are those demonic guitar licks from Nick Zinner? It’s as if the man traded in his trusted axe for a child’s hatchet, a bejewled one nonetheless.

All in all, the album has some moments that every listener will most likely enjoy, but it doesn’t seem like this is really enough to warrant repeated listens.  The band shows their maturity as a group, but they discard everything that made them abrasive and frightening, exchanging them instead for a bunch of furry rabbits that you keep in a cage behind your house.  Sure, electronic moments make for great sound, but this band isn’t the one that was supposed to be giving those to us.  We asked them to break us down with passion and voice, but instead they just want to hold hands and walk along the beach.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/yeah_yeah_yeahs_-_zero.mp3]

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero