Best of 2011 Lists

It’s December! You know what that means? ‘BEST OF 2011’ LISTS!!! If you’re worried that you might have missed something great this year, check out any of these lists.

PS: I’ll alphabetize these once the new year hits. I’m adding to the bottom of the list as I find new stuff.

Nine Inch Nails – Lights In The Sky (over Seattle)

Last night at the Key Arena in Seattle, WA, I witnessed a legendary rock band at it’s finest. While I haven’t been listening to Nine Inch Nails (NIN) from its Pretty Hate Machine days (come on, I was 3 months old), I have been listening for quite some time now. After I went through my industrial phase a few years ago, NIN was one of the few bands I kept with me. Trent Reznor has been one of the outspoken artists when it comes to digital rights management, and to still be relevant twenty years after releasing a 5-star album is incredible.

This is the first of a two part post/review on NIN’s starting and ending dates (Seattle & L.A.) on their Lights In The Sky Over North America 2008 tour.

a fairly glamorous photo of crystal castles
a fairly glamorous photo of crystal castles

Crystal Castles

I’ll admit that I’m into indie music, but not THAT into indie music. I still enjoy some pop music, hip hop isn’t all bad, and I can appreciate classical and jazz music. That being said, Seattle’s NIN fans made me look like the most hipster of all hipsters when Crystal Castles came on stage. How does no one in this city know who the biggest name in rising indie/electro/8-bit/screaming music is?

As you might be able to tell, I love Crystal Castles. I saw them for the first time about a year ago at the Neighborhood Festival, and I loved what they brought to the table. Since then, they have released their self-titled LP and have been touring around like crazy.

Obviously, I loved them at this show. Though their set was pretty short at about 25 minutes, they are just an opening band, and they fit in all the greats. For me, the standout song was Crimewave. I know it’s not an entirely original song and that Alice sings the same chorus over and over, but when the opening synths start up, nothing else really matters. Of course, I also loved Courtship Dating, but I wish that she had actually sung the song instead of screaming and whispering it all (it kind of goes back and forth).

nine inch nails front man: trent reznor
nine inch nails front man: trent reznor

Nine Inch Nails

I’ll admit that I looked at the setlist from the NIN show the night before the Seattle show, but it was just so that I could prepare myself for the amazingness that I knew I’d be in front of. I didn’t watch any videos, and didn’t try to find any bootlegs. I don’t think that knowing the setlist beforehand is cheating, and I didn’t really want to spoil what I knew would be come insane visual effects.

To say that I wasn’t let down would be a grave understatement.

This show was what I consider to be the epitome of what a electronically infused rock show should be. First you have the music. NIN has been around for almost twenty years and has seven LPs worth of music to pick and choose from as a result. This set is nothing short of a best hits compilation fused with the key parts of NIN’s more recent releases; songs from each and every album were present. But while the songs played are important, they are nothing if they don’t sound good.

Trent Reznor has consistently written songs that fit his voice. He doesn’t stretch it in the studio to hit those high notes that everyone know could only be hit once. As a result, his live vocals are always on point. In addition, this NIN lineup is arguably the best in history. It consists of Trent Reznor, Alessandro Cortini, Robin Finck, Josh Freese, and Justin Meldal-Johnsen. Aside from Trent, the standout here is Robin Finck, who has been playing with Guns ‘n Roses as Slash’s sporadic replacement for the past twelve years. It’s great to have him back, and his dred-hawk is pretty damn sick. Every musician is spot on, and the only hiccups all night where technical ones, not musical mistakes.

So the music was great, what about these visuals that everyone has been buzzing about? I read an interview with Reznor from the New York Times that reads:

“What I’m trying to do is use the stage as an interactive instrument,” Mr. Reznor said. “I’m in the world of science fiction now.”

Trust me, NIN delivers, and here’s what I gathered from the Seattle show. There are three massive dot screens (the ones made up of tons of tiny round lights that work like a TV screen). They are all at different depths of the stage, so they can all be layered on top of one another. There is one wall of 112 lights that rotate around and change color. There are a ton of hanging fluorescent lights that flash on and off during a portion of the show. Finally, the massive dot screens have some sort of light/heat sensor to tell when the musicians step up to them and dynamically change what they show depending on where the musician is. So how is this an instrument? For the Echoplex encore, one screen is used as a drum machine. Yes, a drum machine. It is one of those scream-out-loud-because-this-is-so-amazing moments. This is why I payed for presale tickets to get on the floor.

So if you can’t tell, I loved this concert. NIN was able to combine stunning musicianship with brand new high-tech visuals to create one of the best rock shows I’ve ever been to. Remember, this is only part one of two. Don’t expect part two to be this long, but I’ll be back to mention if the show gets any better on the last North American tour date (L.A.).

Here’s a rundown of the 28 (!!!) song setlist:

  1. 999,999
  2. 1,000,000
  3. Letting You
  4. Discipline
  5. March of The Pigs
  6. Head Down
  7. The Frail
  8. Closer
  9. Gave Up
  10. The Warning
  11. The Great Destroyer
  12. 1 Ghosts I
  13. 25 Ghosts I
  14. 19 Ghosts III
  15. Piggy
  16. Wish
  17. Terrible Lie
  18. Survivalism
  19. The Big Come Down
  20. 31 Ghosts IV
  21. Only
  22. The Hand That Feeds
  23. Head Like A Hole
  24. Echoplex
  25. The Beginning of the End
  26. The Good Soldier
  27. Hurt
  28. In This Twilight

Also, that sick picture of Trent is from laura musselman‘s flickr account.

SebastiAn’s Rage remix is pure joy to my ears

SebastiAn DJ

Please, before you read anything here, click on that link below and listen to the song. It is a remix of Rage Against the Machine’s Killing In the Name Of by SebastiAn.

Now that you have been blown away by yet another artist signed by Ed Banger Records, let me elaborate on my feelings/reactions to the song. Let me begin by saying that I love Rage Against the Machine (RATM). You probably know this if you have read any other stories here about RATM (notably at Coachella). Secondly, I love SebastiAn. Ross Ross Ross is a record that I can listen to start to finish and love every track on it.

In no way, shape, or form is turning a funk metal track into a dirty electro track an easy task. But somehow, SebastiAn does exactly that without compromising the track’s original style or his goal of making an amazing electro song. Even though the lyrics are replaced by different sources (there are only 6 lines of lyrics in the original song anyways), the sources he uses are very fitting, complementing the track throughout. The distortion is appropriate and calculated. Thank you SebastiAn for making one of my favorite metal rebellion songs into a great electro track. I hope to hear it played at the Daft Punk/SebastiAn/Kavinsky concert I will be going to in LA next month.

Linkin Park – Minutes To Midnight

Linkin Park - Minutes To Midnight CoverYou ask for my guilty pleasure, and I will respond Linkin Park. I have loved them since Hybrid Theory; although I admit that I didn’t get “Crawling” the first time I heard it. This “nu-metal” sound wasn’t something that I was hooked on. Korn and Limp Bizkit were nowhere to be found in my music collection. Looking back at a time when pop music was *NSYNC or Britney Spears, Linkin Park offered me my first taste of what breakbeat or turntablism or metal or anything in between might be. In no way am I saying that they are the epitome of any of these styles, but with tiny bits thrown in here and there, teen angst and a tad of electronica struck a chord in my musical soul.

Now to this album, or how it compares to LP’s previous two. Let it be known that I had high expectations for Minutes to Midnight. I loved the complexity of Meteora when compared to Hybrid Theory, but Hybrid Theory‘s raw edges drew me in too. Alongside the many critics and fans of LP, I believed that the rapping needed to find a different place after Meteora was done. Here, it has done just that. It is only featured in two or three tracks (but only one of those benefit from it).

Let’s start with my favorite tracks: “Given Up”, “Bleed It Out”, “No More Sorrow”, and “Shadow of the Day”. If you have listened to the album, you will know that all but “Shadow of the Day” are fairly heavy, fast paced songs. “Bleed It Out” is the above-all winner on this CD. It does feature Mike’s rapping (with profanities, see the PA sticker?); it is a showcase of what LP is. It has a very long buildup, but the slow addition of instruments as the song builds makes the climax even better. “Shadow of the Day” is the track that I feel shows the maturity of LP the most. It is slower, and its calculated nature is impressive to say the least.

The pacing of the album seems to have some rhyme or rhythm until the pattern of fast song/slow song goes on one too many times (around track 7: “Hands Held High”). Then we hit “Valentines Day”, and any hope of another fast-paced hard rock song is lost forever; this track sucks. The biggest disappointments are “Hands Held High” and “The Little Things Give You Away”. Why would anyone pick this song to close their “mature” album? It’s slow, cliche, and boring.

As to the criticism that LP has diluted their material with ambient electronic landscapes, I have no idea where those ideas are coming from. Meteora was the electronic album. Minutes to Midnight is the rock album. Minutes to Midnight is a good album, but I don’t feel that it is the best album that LP could have put out right now. It’s a tad disappointing, I really wanted my next guilty pleasure album…

Coachella 2007: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers Heads

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been a staple in my music collection from as far back as I can remember (not of my own volition in the beginning.) Their great amalgam of funk metal, punk, rap, and pop makes a sound unique from anything around them throughout their current 24 year career. While their first two records didn’t do too much regarding chart success, from Mothers Milk on, success has followed them wherever they go.I want to spend the most time on album #5: Blood Sugar Sex Magic. My favorite album, and judging from chart success, may other’s as well. Having been produced by Rick Rubin, it almost seems obvious that it would be an amazing record, and having sold 12 million copies worldwide, there is no doubt that this is one of the greatest rock albums (of all time). This album is pure energy and fun. Heavy bass emphasis puts funk at the forefront of the record with Anthony Kiedis’ rap sharp and powerful lyricism. “Give it Away” and “Under the Bridge” are two amazing singles that showcase the creativity put into every song on the record.Moving on to the following albums, Californication was an even larger chart success than its predecessors with singles like “Californication”, “Scar Tissue”, and “Parallel Universe”. To date, it has sold 15 million copies. Californiation allowed RHCP to basically clean up at the 2000 MTV VMAs (and win a few Grammys at the same time.) Skipping past By the Way, which is another great record, we arrive at Stadium Arcadium.So much hype surrounded this album that I didn’t think that it could live up to what it was supposed to be, and in my opinion, it didn’t. There is no denying that the amount of awards that Stadium Arcadium has garnered speaks volumes about its success as a pop album, but I feel that RHCP left their sound behind them and replaced it with some cotton candy and bubblegum. I don’t feel that it’s a bad album, I just hope that they play more than Stadium Arcadium at Coachella…

Coachella 2007: Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine Band PictureAnyone remember one of the biggest political bands of all time? Rage Against the Machine left the scene in 2000 due to Zach de la Rocha’s (lead singer) announcement that he didn’t feel that he could stay honest to himself and be in the band. After the breakup, the rest of the band (Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk) joined together with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell to form Audioslave (which recently broke up.) Forgetting their complicated history, Rage is reuniting to play at Coachella and three more shows as a part of the Rock the Bells concert in New York and Northern/Southern California later this year.Rage plays amazing funk metal infused with very politically charged lyrics. Everyone of their albums is sure to punch you in the face and leave you on the floor bleeding. Tom Morello’s strong guitar sounds go hand in hand with de la Rocha’s emphatic style of writing and execution. Another characteristic of Rage’s music (common to funk metal) is the way that they push the bass to the front many times. It’s very heavy music with a message.I have been in love with Rage for about five or six years now. Yes, this means that I wasn’t into them while they were a band (I was only in 3rd/4th grade when they broke up), but their music hasn’t diminished in meaning as time has passed. If you want to check out what they sound like, I recommend checking out the songs Calm Like a Bomb, Bullet in the Head, and Killing in the Name. If you don’t like those, oh well, those are just my favorite songs. Read more to see the video for Sleep Now in the Fire. Rage Against the Machine will be the headliner for Sunday of Coachella.