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).

TRACK REVIEW: The Strokes – Oblivius

New York’s finest return with a satisfying end to their three year absence

The Strokes have now returned with a new track which will appear on their forthcoming EP ‘Future Past Present’, which is due to be released on the 3 rd June on frontman Julian Casablancas’ own Cult Records label. For many fans, the release of new material has been a long wait since the band’s 2013 album ‘Comedown Machine’ which was seen to be a fairly divisive album with both critics and fans.

The album seemed to keep distance from The Stroke’s signature sound which fans fell in love with on albums like ‘Room on Fire’ and of course the seminal ‘Is This It’, and rather pottered into experimentation with other genres. This resulted in many fans praying for the band to return to their raw sound which we heard on their first two albums; despite the fact that the Strokes seemed to have no interest in doing this.

However, when listening to this new track, it seems The Strokes have in fact done this (which is quite a pleasant surprise). Right off the bat, ‘Oblivius’ feels reminiscent of the catchy guitar-pop and radio-friendly hooks we heard on the band’s earliest records. The harmonizing guitar leads accompanying Casablancas’ sleazy vocals would have in fact fitted quite snuggly somewhere on ‘Room on Fire’.

Although there is a certain familiarity with the track, the Strokes are in no way playing it safe with the direction they have taken; creativity and elements of their last record are sprinkled throughout. ‘Comedown Machine’ had a number of odd yet fun moments very similar to the screechy, squealing guitar solo and howling vocals from Casablancas’ towards the end of this new track.

The burst of fuzzy guitars at the beginning of the track’s chorus paired with Casablancas’ fiery voice crushes any doubt that this track would be a disappointment to fans. This moment somehow serves as a way of reminding us that The Strokes were at one point the most important and coolest rock groups on the planet, and although this status may have faded over the years, this track proves that they can certainly still pack a punch.

-Calum Thomson (@caluuumt)

~

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Favourite Album Artwork (Part 1)

Album covers were originally just flimsy bits of paper to try and protect the shiny goods underneath but they have since evolved into something that musicians can use for their artistic expression. Although many artists tend to go for a bland picture of themselves with an equally as bland background, some musicians have produced some iconic and fantastic artwork. Just so my list doesn’t come across as too bias I’m going to only put one album cover per artist, also this is just some of my favourites so if you don’t agree or don’t see any of your favourites then just drop a message in my ask.

Biffy Clyro – The Vertigo Of Bliss

download (5)

With erotic titled tracks like “Toys,Toys,Toys,Choke,Toys,Toys,Toys”, it should be no surprise that the cover, which was created by prolific comic book writer and artist Manera, for the cult Scottish rock band’s second album was equally as erotic and controversial.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

download (6)

A testament to how simplicity can be equally as cool, the New York band’s cover for their critically acclaimed third album is egg-cellent.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Unknown_Pleasures_Joy_Division_LP_sleeve

It wouldn’t be an artwork list without mentioning one of the most iconic album covers of all time, one that features neither the artist’s name or the album name. Undoubtedly cool as well as simple, the set of successive pulses are from the first pulsar ever discovered,PSR B1919+21.

The Strokes – Is This It?

download (7)

Even on their debut, the New York band manage to cement their place as one of the coolest bands around. If it wasn’t their music, haircuts or names that done it then it had to be the album cover, one that’s become an all time classic and is instantly recognisable.

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

download (8)

EMI have stated that after Atom Heart Mother’s artwork that they knew working with the band would be difficult to work with. Although their previous album Dark Side Of The Moon’s front cover is far more recognisable, Pink Floyd’s artwork for their ninth album is equally as impressive. The image of two men having a handshake whilst one’s on fire is one that any music fan will recognise.

Nirvana – In Utero

download (9)

Cobain reportedly wanted to call Nirvana’s follow up album to Nevermind “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die” but thankfully bandmate Novosellic convinced him to change it. Although it would have made for some very odd artwork, In Utero still managed to have some equally as absurd artwork with a toned down title. It might not have the same cult status as Nevermind’s but In Utero still has one of the most odd yet captivating pieces of artwork for an album.

Top 10 Anticipated Albums of 2016

With my first video telling you all about my favourite albums of 2015, here’s a list of all the albums I’m excited to listen to this year!

 

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Favourite Album Covers (Part 1?)

Album covers were originally just flimsy bits of paper to try and protect the shiny goods underneath but they have since evolved into something that musicians can use for their artistic expression. Although many artists tend to go for a bland picture of themselves with an equally as bland background, some musicians have produced some iconic and fantastic artwork. Just so my list doesn’t come across as too bias I’m going to only put one album cover per artist, also this is just some of my favourites so if you don’t agree or don’t see any of your favourites then just drop a message in my ask.

Biffy Clyro – The Vertigo Of Bliss

download (5)

With erotic titled tracks like “Toys,Toys,Toys,Choke,Toys,Toys,Toys”, it should be no surprise that the cover, which was created by prolific comic book writer and artist Manera, for the cult Scottish rock band’s second album was equally as erotic and controversial.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

download (6)

A testament to how simplicity can be equally as cool, the New York band’s cover for their critically acclaimed third album is egg-cellent.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Unknown_Pleasures_Joy_Division_LP_sleeve

It wouldn’t be an artwork list without mentioning one of the most iconic album covers of all time, one that features neither the artist’s name or the album name. Undoubtedly cool as well as simple, the set of successive pulses are from the first pulsar ever discovered,PSR B1919+21.

The Strokes – Is This It?

download (7)

Even on their debut, the New York band manage to cement their place as one of the coolest bands around. If it wasn’t their music, haircuts or names that done it then it had to be the album cover, one that’s become an all time classic and is instantly recognisable.

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

download (8)

EMI have stated that after Atom Heart Mother’s artwork that they knew working with the band would be difficult to work with. Although their previous album Dark Side Of The Moon’s front cover is far more recognisable, Pink Floyd’s artwork for their ninth album is equally as impressive. The image of two men having a handshake whilst one’s on fire is one that any music fan will recognise.

Nirvana – In Utero

download (9)

Cobain reportedly wanted to call Nirvana’s follow up album to Nevermind “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die” but thankfully bandmate Novosellic convinced him to change it. Although it would have made for some very odd artwork, In Utero still managed to have some equally as absurd artwork with a toned down title. It might not have the same cult status as Nevermind’s but In Utero still has one of the most odd yet captivating pieces of artwork for an album.

CLASSIC REVIEW: The Strokes – Is This It

Whether you like to call it the 2000’s or the noughties,there’s no doubt that the decade was a very exciting time for music as not only were applauded albums by former well praised bands released, Radiohead’s Kid A as an example, but the new wave of bands not only surprised critics but intrigued them as well with bands like Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys releasing some of the best albums to be released in the past 15 years.

One band that can proudly admit to being a part of this new wave are The Strokes, an American rock band that hail from New York, who came out of nowhere to not only release one of the most exciting pieces of music in the past couple of decades but also change the face of modern rock as we know it.

Throughout this album, there’s an ever present mood and atmosphere that are wonderfully brought to life by various aspects of the band, be it Casablancas’ hauntingly mesmerising voice which narrates the 11 tracks on this album, the dexterous and dazzling guitar performances by Valensi, Hammond Jnr and Fraiture or Moretti’s consistent flow that he provides on drums.

The songs on this album are of a very high standard and observe the life and times of living in a metropolis such as New York City. A song which represents this very well is the opening track Is This It? that tells of the manipulation that relationships can be a victim of with Casablanca’s voice hovering gracefully over the sound of quiet drums and a calming choir of guitars and this same theme continues over to Last Nite. This track gained the band a lot of initial hype and tells of the disappointment and aggravation that relationships can provide over time with a very upbeat tempo which will stick in your mind long after the album is finished.

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New York City Cops is clearly a not so sly hit at the city’s police department with a tongue in cheek snort at the end that adds to the album’s unique charisma. Take It Or Leave It is the concluding track and what a send off it is with Casablancas shouting over a hyperactive clash of drums and guitars that provide a brilliant album for the band’s debut.

What else can be said about an album that hasn’t been said by the hundreds of thousands of people that have listened to it? The album not only provides an insight into life in New York City but also provides the kind of character and charm that most albums can only dream of having. The album is a milestone is music and it’s no surprise that the album is regarded as one of the best albums ever made and the thing that makes me appreciate the album is even though the themes on this album were initially to give an insight of a life in a metropolis, it’s oddly relatable and explains why the album is cherished by music lovers all around the world as well as showing why this album is the greatest record produced during the noughties.