5 TRANSISTOR Writers On Their Favourite Music Videos

thumbnail and intro fae liam menzies (@blinkclyro)

While music is *shock* for your ears to enjoy, it was only a matter of time before it branched into a medium that could stimulate most, though maybe not all of your senses (only Spy Kids 4D can offer you that).

It’s been almost four decades since the first music video aired on MTV in 1979, aptly titled Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles, but since then, we’ve been blessed with experimental, haunting and evoking pieces of visual spectacle that have only gone to add to our enjoyment of certain music. Here are just five of these pieces, chose by none other than the writers of this very site – enjoy.

Isabella McHardy (@izzmchardy): Oblivion by Grimes

Oblivion is pretty simple in comparison to Grimes’ other more theatrical, character-based music videos. But somehow delivers the strongest message. Grimes puts herself in male-dominated spaces, reclaiming her body after sexual assault. Although such an intense topic, she manages to bridge the gap between her and the men in the video.

She breaks down the intimidating reputation sports arenas and male locker rooms have, as well as flipping the male-gaze on its head. The start shows her cautiously navigating unfamiliar places but the video ends with her standing tall amongst her male counterparts.

Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc): Lost Little Boys by Fatherson

The way this video follows two best friends dealing with the loss of one of their wives is beautiful – it shows the fun the three always had and the heartache of the man who’s lost his lover.

The feeling when we find out the best friend had an affair with the wife tears apart the viewer but when the two come together at the end and makeup, the emotion felt is unreal. Put together with a strong song, this music video is a real treat to watch.

Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro): Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin

While the videos so far have been about evoking empowerment or sadness, there’s one feeling we haven’t quick chatted about yet.

Seeing as it’s appeared on various “100 Scariest Moments of TV” lists, it should be no surprise that this one is a bit creepy. Filmed in the same estate that Stanley Kubrick’s classic A Clockwork Orange was, the video includes a gang of small children with Richard D James’ face wreaking havoc while an evil spirit emerges who’s face is very much nightmare worthy. Watch this one with the lights off.

Ewan Blacklaw (@Ewanblacklaw): Sabotage by Beastie Boys

The video for one of the NYC trio’s biggest hits really speaks for itself. The Beastie Boys took a much different approach to their videos in comparison to some of the more glamorous productions that became popular in the 90s. With that being said, the videos of the Beastie Boys were often just as extravagant, but took a less serious approach and implemented their unique style just as they had done with their music.

The video sees basically comes off as an 80s-cop movie, with plenty of moustaches and bad special effects. As their popularity increased, their music video budget seemed to stay the same as the video for Sabotage looks like a video made by the class clowns of a film class. This all plays into the Beastie Boys charm and makes for one of the funniest and most memorable music videos from the 90s.

Will Sexton (@willshesleeps): Sweetheart What Have You Done To Us by Keaton Henson

Keaton’s haunting musicianship alone is always enough to bring you to tears but the sheer vulnerability and simplicity of this music video bring it to a new level. The spacey guitar and vocals compliment the image of the open sea and staring straight into Henson’s eyes aren’t easy considering the pain and anguish expressed in the lyrics.

However, the climax of the song where it physically gets too much for the musician and he walks off set is hard to watch without feeling something at the very least. Whether it was scripted or not (knowing about his chronic stage fright and anxiety issues we would presume not) it doesn’t matter as the closing scene of him crying offset breaks your heart.

Parquet Courts get “woke” on their latest LP ‘Wide Awake’

words fae Ewan Blacklaw (@EwanBlacklaw)rating 9

Wide Awake is the sixth full-length studio album from the unique voices of modern punk, Parquet Courts. This newest release shows that the band have by no means run out of ideas, and continue to improve on their already impressive track record. Ever since bursting on to the alt-rock scene in 2012 with Light Up Gold, the native Texan band have been releasing a pretty consistent stream of great records, apart from a couple of stranger moments such as 2015’s Monastic Living or their more recent collaboration with Daniele Luppi. Apart from these blips in the band’s discography, Parquet Courts have produced some of the standout indie rock albums of the past few years, hitting out with a sound that no other band is currently bringing to the scene. The combination of the guitar-based stoner garage rock and the abstract song writing from the minds of Andrew Savage and Austin Brown has seen the band gain critical acclaim over the years, with much anticipation for each of their past few releases.

Since moving to Brooklyn and being signed to Rough Trade, the sound of Parquet Courts seems to have evolved from their Texan origins. On their last record, Human Performance, there seemed to be more slow moments contemplating different subject matter, showing personal growth from within the group as well as a habit of switching up musical stylings between albums. This growth has continued, and with Wide Awake they have yet again switched up their style.

While the new sound is definitely not a massive change for fans of their older material, it brings a fresh new approach to the unique sound they’ve built on so far. The new album is often driven mainly by the drums and bass, rather than by the catchy guitar hooks like on some of their earlier work. This is not to say that the album isn’t guitar heavy, as some of the most punk-influenced tracks from Parquet Courts can be found on this record. Tracks such as Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience, Normalization and NYC Observation take clear influence from 80s punk, particularly the New York scene, which makes sense considering the new setting for the band.

Wide Awake is also the most focused and concise project from Parquet Courts to date, with fewer rambling tracks that sometimes feel as if they overstay their welcome on some of the bands older albums. The subject matter and lyrics also feel like this, with less personal, small-minded issues being discussed; instead, it features more punk-influenced social commentary. The commentary doesn’t come across as whining and complaining or preaching to the listener, but rather feels like a discussion that doesn’t treat you like an idiot. The opening two tracks speak on American issues, setting the pace for the rest of the album. Topics such as national identity and gun control are touched upon in a very Parquet Courts way, infusing witty anecdotes and pop culture references to form great tracks.

In the past, some of the songwriting felt reminiscent of bands such as Pavement, but could occasionally come off as random. On this record, though, it feels that Savage and Brown have reached a new high point with their lyrics, and have found their true identity as musicians. In particular, Andrew Savage seems to take the lead on the record with his signature style but has started to decode some of his cryptic lyrical habits in order to speak out on issues, which gives the album more of a sense of purpose.

To contrast with the punk side of the album, there is also a distinct feature of funk and soul that feature more prominently than any other Parquet Courts album. Numbers like Tenderness and title track Wide Awake bring a completely new dimension to their music, which feels like yet another advancement for the band. This new side hasn’t been seen on any of the previous albums, at least not to this extent, and it really does work incredibly well. The new ‘punk and fun’ approach has allowed Parquet Courts to create their most in-depth album yet.

The commentary offered on the current state of the USA feels like a breath of fresh air to the music world, just when it seemed that it kept getting worse. The punk spirit of the album is as prominent as Andrew Savage’s brilliant songwriting and the infatuating instrumentals from the rest of the band that are about as catchy as any other album in 2018 so far. The album really doesn’t have a dull moment, which has been an issue on some of the earlier releases from the band, showing that the band just keeps on improving. Parquet Courts continue their growth and continue to impress with the latest and greatest addition to their discography.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra swing effortlessly between genres on ‘Sex and Food’

words fae ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)rating 8

On their newest release, Unknown Mortal Orchestra hone in on the best aspects from each of their previous projects and produce some of their best work yet. The album swings from 80s pop to the psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s so effortlessly and constantly applies a modern spin to each song, whether it be from the lyrics or production. On ‘Sex and Food’ an excellent mix between a vintage sound and modern ideas if found, as UMO refine their sound and deliver a cleaner than usual selection tracks that may be some of their best yet.

One of the songs that stands out from the project, and could very well be the best song released by the band so far is ‘American Guilt’. The track is one of the heaviest sounding in all of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s discography, featuring that simple yet powerful riff and Ruban Nielson’s distorted vocals, which have become a UMO staple after the previous three releases. The song sound like a track from earlier in the band’s career on steroids, as both the delivery and production have been refined and perfected from earlier projects, as well as taking inspiration from the likes of psych rock icon, Jimi Hendrix. On the opposite end of the spectrum, ‘Honeybee’ sees Neilson calm things down and draw inspiration from artists such as Prince to deliver a beautiful song about his daughter. This track is one of the most innocent and joyous tracks from Unknown Mortal Orchestra, offering some emotional diversity to the album, as well as musical diversity with funk and soul inspired instrumentals carrying the track.

On this record UMO mastermind, Ruban Nielson speaks out on anything from world issues such as the general political distrust and uncertainty felt nowadays to some of his more personal matters such as family and his love life. It is, however, the way that he speaks about these problems and concerns that we as a society can face that makes the songwriting on this project special. Nielson puts a personal touch in his lyrics, even when speaking on a more general issue, like on ‘Ministry of Alienation’. This, combined with the way that he handles the issues, trying to see the good and bad in everything provides a fresh outlook on songwriting. This also saves the album from feeling preachy and crazily pessimistic which could be a criticism of other songwriters when talking about similar issues. Despite this, Nielson also keeps quite a hopeful feel to the album and doesn’t come off as portraying the stereotype of another millennial complaining about everything for no reason.

One criticism of the album could be that is a little bit top heavy, as there are less memorable moments towards the end of Sex and Food, but that is not to say that the tracks are worse. If anything, the latter part of the album is just more subtle and really plays into that funk and soul aspect of UMO more so than the more heavy side that is seen on tracks like American Guilt. Despite the fact that many of the best moments on the album happen within the first couple of tracks, or mid-way through, the ending still feels cohesive and offers a more introspective sound, which wraps up the record very nicely. Featuring some bittersweet lyrics of Ruban Nielson’s stories of relationships the ending tracks act as a sombre yet optimistic final touch to a great record.

The brilliant songwriting and interesting production of Unknown Mortal Orchestra are sounding as good as ever with this latest project. Sex and Food sees new inspirations emerge and blend with the signature sound of UMO to continue the great track record that the band have formed since 2011. The album also finds more of a cohesive and clean sound than some of the distortion-heavy releases prior to this, which works well with the grooving baselines and beautiful melodies that can be heard throughout the project. Overall, it seems that Unknown Mortal Orchestra have matched, if not exceeded, the quality of Multi-Love, and continue to add to their already intricate and unique sound with a great album that continues to impress.

The Garden continue to search for the perfect balance on latest LP ‘Mirror Might Steal Your Charm’

by ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)rating 6

The Garden, two twins from Orange County, California, have to be one of the most unique musical acts performing today. In the past, they have made an album of very quick, basic and catchy punk rock songs and created their own genre that they have titled ‘Vada Vada’. On their previous album haha, the duo took a different approach to their music that featured more synths and drum machines, adding a new dimension to their songs which had previously been largely just bass guitar and drums. Whilst the simple approach was catchy, it did not provide much substance; however, on haha it paid off and resulted in one of the most interesting albums of 2015.

Since then, The Garden have been releasing strange singles as well as an EP titled U Want The Scoop? which, for the most part, sees them take on the persona of jesters. This is reflected in much of the single artwork and music videos, as well as their ever-evolving sound which seems to become more theatrical with each release. These releases built up anticipation to see what direction their next record would take. In short, they have followed the over-the-top and theatrical direction and seem to be continuing to play the role of jesters. The experimental and unique tone of haha does shine through every so often and reminds the listener of the musical talent and potential possessed by the twins, as well as the occasional punk moment crashing through the theatrics, such as the second half of the track ‘😦‘ which sounds like a weird Black Flag cover.

Lead singer Wyatt Shears is known for having a very animated vocal style, fairly uncommon in other music releases in recent years. It’s not for everyone – at times, it can become a bit tiresome and overly cartoon sounding like on Bad News, but this is nothing new for a Garden track. Those who have listened previously will be acquainted with the style and will have decided if it is for them or not. On Mirror Might Steal Your Charm, the vocal performances are at their most animated and can range from sounding great to overly-animated whiny shouting, which is one of the inconsistencies heard throughout their albums. The same could be said for the lyrics, which can blend in with the quirky instrumentals but do sometimes come off as ridiculous and over-the-top.

This album is also the most electronic of their releases so far, with songs like Banana Peel and A Message For Myself featuring electronic beats that sound inspired by drum & bass. While the combination of genres is great to hear and has been executed in a new and interesting way, there are moments on this album where it begins to sound excessive and overly indulgent. A prime example of this is the first half of “😦“ where some of the puerile sound effects are comparable to silly keyboard effects used in high school music classes to annoy teachers; this is where these effects should be left. Sometimes, though, the addition of synths and other electronic sounds can create a more atmospheric and moody tone like on Make a Wish or Shameless Shadow, in which the electronic sounds and synths add another dimension to the song rather than side-tracking the listener’s focus.

Some of the better moments off this album come from The Garden twins finding the right balance of old and new. Using their punk roots and experimental drive they can create some great songs that sound nothing like anything you’ll be able to find anywhere else. On opening track Stallion, The Garden put their spin on an old punk sound that works really well. They sound as though they are truly in their own genre of ‘Vada Vada’, where they have no contemporaries and embrace their differences to create unique music. This can be heard on tracks like Who Am I Going To Share All Of This Wine With and the closing track No Destination, which both use a punk-sounding aggressive baseline and the great drumming of Fletcher Shears and combine it with the more theatrical side of their personalities. These tracks also provide examples of where the lyrics and vocal performances reach their peak, such as the chorus of No Destination where the vocal effects perfectly complement the tone of the track, merging well with the instrumentals.

Mirror Might Steal Your Charm sees The Garden continue to push themselves out into unknown territory, risking losing fans of their old material and coming off as gimmicky. Luckily for them, their musical talent is enough reason to still listen to their music, but there are times where they can sound over-the-top and seem to focus on excessive weirdness rather than quality, as well as coming off as all over the place and lacking a cohesive structure. The albums often feels closer to being a collection of show tunes than the punk rock that got the band their start, however it is interesting to see where this direction will continue to push them and, indeed, if it is sustainable. Whilst this newest release may not strike a chord like haha did, there are still some good tracks and solid moments throughout the album. Hopefully with their next release, The Garden can hone in on the special moments from this album and search for the perfect balance.

I Feel Fine are doing well with an EP wrapped in emo influences

words fae ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

The debut EP from up-and-coming Brighton indie/emo band I Feel Fine acts as an rating 6attempt for the band to start gaining some real recognition for their efforts. The release features five tracks, with the opening being an introduction as opposed to an actual song. At this length, you get a real feel for what this band is all about, which is hard and fast songs that are also catchy enough to stick in the listener’s mind. The inspiration for I Feel Fine is fairly apparent from the get-go with the all-American emo punk rock sound taking its place front and centre on the EP. Popular bands such as Modern Baseball and Remo Drive can be heard in moments throughout the release, which makes a nice change from the regurgitated sounds that many promising British bands seem to take on.

One highlight from Long Distance Celebration is the playing and instrumentation. Nearly every aspect of the instrumentation is solid, with the band playing both loud and quiet equally well and going back and forth between the two effortlessly. The songwriting on the project is good enough but doesn’t stand out, in part due to the vocal performances. The vocals on this EP are one of the major issues, with the mixing occasionally leaving the vocals feeling lost and washed out. The whole group shouting thing also gets a bit repetitive and generally feels distant, not offering a personal feel during the songs, for the most part. Exceptions to this do occur, as sometimes the vocals do work, like at the beginning of Everyday Safari, where the vocal almost give a Modest Mouse type effect, which is obviously great.

The closing track, Pan For Gold also has that more personal feel, but it would have been nicer to have that kind of sentiment on other tracks. That is not to say that the tracks that feel less personal are bad at all, in fact, they are good, upbeat and catchy indie rock songs. Already mixing catchy melodies and transitioning between different intensities shows the talent from I Feel Fine, which is impressive considering this is the band’s debut EP. In terms of the tightness of the playing on the EP, there aren’t any bad moments and it would be hard to tell that this was the first release of any band, with some moments sounding like cuts off of albums by well-established bands that have likely provided inspiration for this project.

Overall Long Distance Celebration is really good for a debut EP but could really use a more personal touch. While I Feel Fine sound different from many of their British contemporaries, in the grand scheme of things they do blend in amongst other up-and-coming emo/punk indie bands and their inspiration maybe shines through a bit too bright sometimes. However, managing to blend into a sound and holding your own is great for a first release and provides a solid foundation to improve on. With such a solid collection of songs released on a debut, it’s clear that this band have potential: now they just need focus on what they’re strongest at and incorporate it to make their own personal sound, whether it be switching up the vocals are adding more interesting features to the instrumentation and production.

Looking Back At… Antidotes by Foals

by ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

Foals’ debut album, Antidotes, just turned 10 years old, providing an excuse to revisit this British indie staple. Today it would be hard to argue that Foals aren’t one of the best British bands of the last decade, consistently impressing release after release and garnering critical acclaim. In the past ten years the band have gone from playing local clubs in their hometown of Oxford to playing main stages of festivals around the world. All of this success stemming from one of the best debut albums to come from the indie scene.

Foals are often being referred to as being in the genre of “Math Rock”, which peaked as a musical style in the late 80s; it could be said that Antidotes is a Math Rock revival album. With the style of the album feeling very different from its contemporaries, who all began to sound increasingly similar since the success of bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks and Franz Ferdinand. The album perfectly managed to keep an upbeat post-punk sound whilst creating something new in the UK indie scene, which at times was just plain boring and predictable.

The tracks are consistently catchy throughout the record, sounding cohesive as a project yet switching up tempo just enough to keep listeners guessing from song to song. The dreamy, intricate instrumentals on the album range from atmospheric and subtle to memorable moments that would go on to be an essential to any house party in the late 2000s. The vocal performance from Yannis Philippakis is also another standout feature of Antidotes as he takes a different approach to song writing compared to many other indie acts from the same time, and it really pays off. The lyrics are simple yet abstract, often repeating over the tight, upbeat guitar and groovy baselines found throughout the album.

This new approach to up-tempo catchy songs definitely shook up the British music scene, providing an important alternative to some of the more popular bands and going on to influence bands such as Two Door Cinema Club and Everything Everything. The versatility that was displayed on Antidotes, which sees the band regularly switch from soft spoken and delicate to shouting and abrasive, sets the foundation for what Foals have further explored on later releases, continuing to improve and make such great albums as Total Live Forever and Holy Fire. These records brought them to the mainstream and have gained fans from all corners of the globe, allowing them to sell out headlining tours and feature as highlights of festival lineups across the world.

Ultimately, Antidotes kick-started the career of one of the most exciting and charismatic bands to come out of the UK in recent years. The album really struck a chord with young fans that saw through the surface level indie rock replica bands, who were searching for something different and new. Many of these people will now look back fondly on Antidotes as a classic indie album, as well as acting as an introduction to Foals, whose reputation as one of the most exciting acts to see live is well earned.

Gig Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard @ Olympia Theatre, Dublin

written by ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw), photos by Laura Rai (@AuralAir)

Following their previous year of madness, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have hit the road: with five-full-length studio albums dropped in 2017, the band have plenty of new material to play, as well as larger crowds to play to after their rise in popularity following the mammoth year of releases. They are currently doing a lap of the UK and Ireland before making their way through Europe and then on to North America. After sold out shows at London’s Brixton Academy and the Manchester Academy, King Gizzard powered on to Dublin, to play yet another sold out show.  

Prior to the gig, a packed house of excited Gizz fans, reaching up to the two balconies of the Olympia Theatre, waited patiently for support band Mild High Club. The two bands collaborated on Sketches of Brunswick East which saw a more jazz-focused sound emerge that had also been heard on 2015’s acoustic album; Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. This, merged with Mild High Club’s dreamy chilled out sound, made a very laid back, yet well carried out and produced album which no doubt lead to a symbiotic relationship that resulted in fans of one becoming fans of the other – in other words, they were the ideal act to set the stage for tonight’s proceedings. 

When the American alt outfit came on and plaid their dreamy brand of jazz-infused indie rock, they did not disappoint. The performance made for some laid back, easy listening, with some of their better, more well know tracks such as Homage, Kokopelli and Tessellation really sounding great live. The only issue with the performance was some questionable mixing which, while not an issue for most of the set, did cause an abrasive synth sound on Windowpane, a real shame considering it’s one of their best tracks. Thankfully it didn’t put a dampener on what was an overall positive experience, kicked off by a smashing opener in the form of Skiptracing which got the reaction it truly deserved from a crowd who was now more than ready for the rest of the night.

The post Mild High Club break saw excitement rise, as well as the noise level inside the venue, as fans grew anxious in anticipation of King Gizzard. This excitement was released gradually as members of the band came on stage to do soundcheck themselves, which took away some of the drama, but did create some nice moments of interaction between the fans.


Then it was time; the audience was pumped up and raring to go as the seven members of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard made their way on to the stage, with some abstract digital imagery behind them providing an intense visual experience. The intensity was broken with frontman Stu’s back and forth with the crowd, before starting the opener, Digital Black. Whilst sceptical at first about the choice of song, any doubts were quickly eradicated by the heavy vocals and screeching guitar plunging the audience back into chaos, with the crowd reacting as hoped – by going absolutely wild. The heaviness of the opener was carried on, as the band played two more tracks from their most metal-inspired album, Murder Of The Universe. Whilst some of the spoken word sections from the album broke this up, Lord of Lightning quickly mustered up another fluster.

After performing Greenhouse Heat Death, the band stopped momentarily to switch to their microtonal instruments which pointed to only one set being played, instead of splitting the show in two like they had done in London and Manchester. This was meant that there may not be as many songs played, which was obviously not ideal for the Irish fans. This was not seen as a downer though, as King Gizzard powered on, playing some of their hits such as Nuclear Fusion and Sleep Drifter which continued to ramp up the crowd. The band then slowed things down with Stu swapping for Ambrose and hopping on the keys and Alex from Mild High Club reappearing to grab the Flying Microtonal Banana guitar for The Book off of the collaborative album. This was then followed by one of the peak moments of the set, which was repeatedly demanded by a voice in the crowd, as Rattlesnake was belted out by Stu, Joey and Ambrose. The song summed up everything good about the performance; from the consistency of each member to play continuously, seldom making a mistake. The pounding beat coming from both sets of rums, the hypnotic baselines, melodic guitars masked behind some wild effects and the vocals that seem to fill every venue that they play.

After a brief break, the performance then took a step into the more prog-rock side of the band’s discography, playing tacks off of Polygondwanaland. From this section of the performance, Crumbling Castle was a major highlight moment (or ten), as well as the brilliant transition into The Fourth Colour that brought a new appreciation to the song. The Gizz then went on to play three tracks from their 2016 release, Nonagon Infinity, which is known to be a favourite of fans and critics alike. This provided yet another highlight to an already spectacular performance, with the crowd going crazy for Robot Stop in particular.

To finish off the band played The River from an older album of theirs, Quarters. Whilst this song is great, it feels as though a track such as Head On/Pill would have been that extra bit special, as well as being a classic Gizz track in the eyes of fans. The ending was nonetheless great, also featuring a surprise performance of God is in the Rhythm, from the same album, which was apparently the song’s full band live debut, even though it was released back in 2015. Despite not being as well known as some of their other tunes, it was a pleasant surprise that went down well.

The intensity of the performance made time fly, with a great Irish crowd providing the atmosphere needed for King Gizzard to deliver such a legendary performance. Looking back, the gig was a hyper-rollercoaster through the band’s various sounds and personas, morphing from metal to 70’s prog-rock to jazz and then back to the psych-rock that the band is most well-known for effortlessly. Although there are some tracks that fans may feel they missed out, it would be impossible to fit all of their best into one gig after such a prolific year. After seeing a performance like that, it would be hard not to get excited for what the band has in store for 2018, as well as gaining a new appreciation for each of the album released by King Gizzard, whether it was last year or some of their older records.

The Ten Best Strokes Tracks

by ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

The Strokes are one of the first bands that come to mind when thinking of bands from the 2000’s. With their debut release Is This It, they created a potential album of the decade that gained mainstream attention, as well as a huge fan base stretching across the world. The band became the epitome of cool, like other New York artists before them, and inspired many other bands to follow the indie rock path. It could be said that without their first album there may not be so many indie bands over saturating the genre today.

Moving forward the band continued releasing good quality records, but never quite matching their initial effort. With different members working on different project, and some poor rating from critics, fans may not have had as many releases in recent years as they would have liked. However, with new material being a possibility next year, it is worth looking back at all releases and reflecting on some of the best moments from the NYC rock outfit. Also, with critics scores damaging reputations on some of the later albums, it wouldn’t be fair to say that the Strokes haven’t made some great songs released since 2001, in fact, narrowing down their discography to ten tracks was no easy task.

10 – Chances

Kicking the list off is an admittedly controversial choice, however, this track is from the band’s last full-length album Comedown Machine, the album that faced the worst reception upon its release, and is a bit of a hidden gem. While this album takes a different approach than some of their earlier work, it shows their growth into new genres and their desire to experiment with different sounds. Chances stands out as an example of the new sound gone right, the result of this experimentation is a synth-induced ballad that keeps the charms of Julian Casablancas’ vocals even through all the effects. This one may be an unpopular opinion but it feels wrong writing off Comedown Machine completely.

9 – Electricityscape

Next is a standout moment from First Impression of Earth, their third album which signals a massive transitional phrase for The Strokes. Coming three years after their sophomore record, and creating a five-year wait until the next time we’d hear any new material, this album often sounds conflicted. The one definite moment of clarity on the album comes with Electricityscape, which sound like the band not catering to anyone. With this track, it doesn’t feel like they are pushing a new sound too far, or trying to create something that feels safe, it seems that this is the balance of old and new that they were looking for, but could not quite grasp throughout the album.

8 – Reptilia

Reptilia is The Strokes’ most commercially successful song and it is easy to see why. All of the ingredients of a Strokes track are here; a catchy riff and baseline, a gravelly vocal performance and, of course, an intricate solo courtesy of Nick Valensi. This one is on every indie kid’s playlist and will always seem to have that reputation. The overplaying of the song may have taken away some of the initial joy of listening to the track, but it still stands out as one of their best. Combining Casablancas’ signature charm with a very tight performance from every other member of the band makes for one of the most memorable moments from The Strokes, as well as an easily identifiable hit that shows musicians in their prime making a hit to be remembered.

7 – Hard To Explain

Moving forward from Reptilia, there was a tough choice. While Last Nite is the other most easily recognisable and commercially successful song released by The Strokes, it misses out narrowly to Hard To Explain. Both are great tracks from a near-perfect album, however, Hard To Explain just has that X-Factor that really makes it stick in your head, without risking being overplayed, which cannot be said for Last Nite. The track offers a bit of variety within Is This It, with a quick beat from a drum machine creating a different sound, accompanied by some great confrontational lyrics to top it all off.

6 – Meet Me in the Bathroom

An underrated track often overlooked by Reptillia and 12:51 which appear on the same album. The track presents an easy going and optimistic approach, with Casablancas at his most cool and relaxed, telling stories of the past over a signature Strokes setup of quick-paced drums and rhythm guitar. Standing out as a fine example of how The Strokes can create a mood on a song, as well as a memorable melody and also switching it up from other tracks enough for it to stay on your mind. It’s no surprise that Elizabeth Goodman’s all-encompassing book on the New York rock scene during the noughties shares the same name.

5 – Automatic Stop

Another pick from Room On Fire, a great follow up record to their debut, that sees The Strokes sound amazing as always. The two guitars intertwining with some powerful vocals, all being kept grounded by a solid baseline and simple and steady drum beat. Automatic Stop makes for great music to reminisce to, filled with lyrics looking back at a relationship, or maybe just what could have been. It takes a lot for a track to stand out on an already solid album, but Automatic Stop nails it and stands out not just from the rest of the album, but from all releases from The Strokes.

4 – Barely Legal

One of the band’s best track that is sometimes forgotten about, Barely Legal draws on common themes from their debut project, such as romance and nostalgia and really amplifies them. This makes for a dreamy moment of reflection in the midst of a band in their prime making great songs one after another. Depicting a relationship in a truly Casablancas way, unlike most songwriters, still feels confrontational and undecided. This makes for one of the most relatable tracks from The Strokes, writing about personal experiences in a way that allows the listener to paste it to their life, acting as a soundtrack to a certain time in their life. This highlights one of the thing that makes Is This It retain its position as one of the classics from recent years.

3 – Under Cover of Darkness

Into the podium places we have a first and only appearance from Angles. That is not to say that the album is bad, in fact it’s one of their better releases, but as far as individual songs go the competition is tough. Leaping forward a decade from Is This It, this track sounded like one of the more distinctively ‘Strokes’ moments on the album, following that old reliable formula that produced some of their other great hits. Under Cover of Darkness uses this formula to its advantage but also adds to it, showing a different side of The Strokes that would be continued to be explored in years to come. Throw in a more raw performance from Casablancas and you’ve got yourself a well-polished indie rock hit.

2 – Someday

This song is one of the few that you will hear, from any artist or band, that captures such an inexplicable nostalgia from its opening seconds. Someday feels like a classic from the first time you hear it, without sounding like a recycled sound from some band before them. This feat alone would earn a spot on the list, but paired with some of the most iconic lyrics ever produced by The Strokes, the song really captures the ethos of the band; a casual level of cool that rank them with some of the great bands from the past.

1 – Soma

The number one spot goes to the essential track from the entire discography. Soma shows a band in their prime, and while often overlooked, this gem is everything that a Strokes song should be. This track features arguably the best vocal performance that Casablancas has given in his musical career and takes references from Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World and modernises them in a way The Strokes do in an original and interesting way. Soma plays a key role in cementing Is This It as one of the best albums of the decade, cementing The Strokes as one of the great indie rock bands and earning a spot on top of this list. This song truly epitomises the originality that was brought to rock music with Is This It and is everything good about The Strokes. The catchy tracks, the personal yet distant lyrics, the raw performances, the effortless cool- it’s all front and centre on Soma; the best song by The Strokes (so far).

Yup – Car Seat Headrest’s Twin Fantasy remake is better than the original in pretty much every way


words by ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

The new release from American indie rock outfit Car Seat Headrest isn’t quite as new as you’d expect: originally released back in 2011 by Will Toledo, Twin Fantasy was the sixth self released album by the act and showcased Toledo’s knack of crafting brilliant songs via a certain tone, witty (often controversial) lyrics or some mish mash of the two. The personal, somewhat handmade feel that Twin Fantasy evoked made it one that was definitely worth revisiting despite it’s crude lo-fi aesthetic meaning it wasn’t quite as accessible compared to the studio releases that would follow.

2016’s Teens of Denial was one of said studio releases and while it was far from bad (it received widespread critical acclaim which ended up further expanding CSH’s fan base) it did see Toledo take a bit of a different approach to his songwriting, keeping with his relatable millennial themes but making them less personal, often feeling like generalisations.

With new found popularity means that the chances your entire discography will be getting inspected which no doubt terrified Toledo: “listen to his first attempt, recorded at nineteen on a cheap laptop, and you’ll hear what Brian Eno fondly calls “the sound of failure” was part of the third person statement released upon the announcement Twin Fantasy, now subtitled (Face to Face) to avoid confusion with the 2011 original, wouldn’t so much be getting a touch up as opposed to a complete redo.

This remake truly feels like an instant cult classic that will be looked back upon as a staple of 2010s indie rock. The album has been regenerated from a lo-fi diary of a teenager’s inner thoughts to a masterfully concocted soundtrack of a time in the life of someone who is growing, constantly learning about themselves. The lyrics show the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with growing up, in an especially transitional time, turning from teenager to adult. This is one of the main themes that makes the album so familiar and comforting, writing songs that create this feeling of relatability takes a level of skill that few can achieve.

It appears that with this remake Will Toledo has fully grasped the production and instrumental capabilities that were perhaps not available to him back in 2011 and has come back to some of his finest work. This decision is commendable as it may have been a tough choice between moving the sound of Car Seat Headrest forward, continuing in the path of albums such as How to Leave Town and Teens of Denial, which have brought success to the band, or going back to an old release that many may have forgotten about by some. This decision has paid off immensely, fusing the distinct indie rock sound that has been created by Car Seat Headrest with their past few albums with the fantastic, raw lyrics that were written before any major success.

The album ties in synthesizers to the prominently guitar-based sound of Car Seat Headrest, adding an extra layer to the texture. Will Toledo’s vocals sound as good as ever, with his almost whiny tone being overlaid so that he is both the lead and back-up singer on most tracks. This self-harmonisation works very well to create an atmospheric sound that ties in really nicely, particularly on some of the longer ballads on the track listing. One thing that can be heard in the vocal performance on the album is that it feels more raw and emotional than some on some previous releases.

This could be due to the more personal subject matter, and can be heard immediately on the opening track, “My Boy (Twin Fantasy)” as well as throughout the album. The spoken word segments present in some tracks can break up the tacks nicely, keeping anything from getting stale-sounding, as well as offering a deeper insight into some of the lyrics, like on the closing tack, Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)”.

It is also worth noting that the lyrics about depression and the struggle of expressing your sexuality on “Beach Life-In-Death” are some of the best approaches to such sensitive issues within any indie rock song. These stories that are told do not only express the emotions of an individual, but allow outsiders a window to relate and understand the issues that the individual is going through. This is something that could be said is often missing in the discussion on sensitive, personal issues such as mental illness and sexuality, often just focusing on one viewpoint or the other. The combination of these viewpoints is one of the things that really makes the album feel special.

Twin Fantasy is the best release from Car Seat Headrest so far. It is up there as one of the best rock albums of the past few years and should be looked back at as an indie essential of the decade. Last year it may have seemed near impossible task to outdo Teens of Denial however, equipped with resources such as better production and band-mates, Car Seat Headrest have yet again surpassed expectations.


Twin Peaks’ new compilation is a great soundtrack for reflection


by ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

Last year, prominent Chicago rock outfit Twin Peaks announced that they would be releasing two singles every month until the end of the year. The band had previously released three full-length albums, each one straying further from the overly tried-and-tested garage rock sound that was heard in Sunken back in 2013. The decision to release music using a different method last year resulted in a total of twelve songs being released over the course of six months, titled the Sweet ’17 Singles. Whilst singles themselves, as a concept, have been around since music was first commercialised the idea of releasing a series of planned singles as opposed to releasing a full-length album is rare, especially recently.

Due to the nature of this ‘recent’ release, there are no new songs to be heard. If anything, the release of this collection is a good chance for fans to purchase the vinyl or just an easy way to group half a year’s work together though this is not to say that the singles don’t feel at all like a cohesive piece of work. Each single follows the same general tone without feeling stale for the most part, that tone being nostalgia. The 60’s was an incredibly influential time for rock music and many bands still take inspiration from artists of that era but what Twin Peaks does differently is recreate the sound, wearing their influences on their sleeves for everyone to see.

This has been the gradual direction that the band has taken since their garage rock beginnings, with each release sounding more folky and dreamy than the last. With sounds of The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground creeping into their last album, Down In Heaven, as well as their live shows, it is clear that Twin Peaks know how to adapt this sound and still appeal to a younger audience.

This assortment of tracks does not feel like a cop out, which was a potential outcome when the band announced that they would be working on singles rather than on a full studio album. Each of the singles has a beautiful organic sound that creates an instant sense of nostalgia, with catchy melodies and well-polished instrumentals. It is clear that the band and their sound are growing; this growth is perfectly captured with each month that went by, and in turn with each single.

It seems that Twin Peaks, for the most part have shed their garage rock shell and have blossomed into this new sound. That’s not to say that the band are creating cutting edge tracks, or making an exclusive never heard before sound – they are just creating feel-good music with melodies that will stick in your head and lyrics that will make you miss a time before your own. Some of the stand out tracks include Blue Coupe, Come For Me and Tossing Tears, not to mention Shake Your Lonely, which seems to have become a fan favourite at recent live shows.

It is clear that Twin Peaks aren’t trying to blow anyone’s mind or challenge sonic capabilities, but with this series of singles the band continue to make catchy, easy listening tunes sprinkled with some insightful and nostalgic lyrics throughout. The band have moved forward by looking back for influence, and finding it in many great folk and rock ‘n’ roll stars of the past. While their fans may have to wait a while longer for another full album, this collection of singles should be enough to keep them going, as well as being an interesting concept for a relatively underground band to create. Overall, Twin Peaks, with their Sweet ’17 Singles, have made an interesting collection of tracks that make a great soundtrack for reflection.

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