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10 Band Member MVPs (That Don't Play Guitar) Part One: Classics

Music ListAarik DanielsenComment
Flea, bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers (via Facebook)

Flea, bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers (via Facebook)

This is part one of a two part series. Don't miss Part Two: Contemporary.

Guitar players get all the glory. Aside from lead singers, they typically are the focal point in any band, and at their most prolific, guitarists can overshadow singers or even render frontmen interchangeable. The dynamic is understandable; The mythic power of rock is perhaps most fully alive in a great riff or solo. If we’re going to play “air” anything, we usually go for the guitar first.

That doesn’t lessen the significance of a band’s other members, though. Strong players on other instruments sharpen a band’s sound, make it more versatile, and make their running mates look even better. The best of these players don’t just keep the beat or meet minimum expectations, they find spaces of their own to express something intangible, to contribute moments of lyric beauty and sheer power. Here is a small sample size of those who’ve shouldered these roles, a team of most valuable players who don’t primarily play guitar. They might not be the flashiest players, but they make their bands better in important, sometimes nearly imperceptible ways.

First, an all-star group culled from legacy bands — acts that have achieved longevity and done most of their swimming in the mainstream.


Christine McVie
Role: Keyboards, Fleetwood Mac
Strengths: In a band full of big, unpredictable personalities, McVie was an anchor, an elegant, steadying force. She not only suited her playing to the band’s stylistic shifts, but had a serious hand in shaping them. McVie could create warm sound beds, accent all-out rockers or show off a surprisingly bluesy side.
Check out: “Say You Love Me” 

 

Benmont Tench
Role
: Keyboards, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Strengths: The classically trained pianist took a fork in the road to become a rock keyboard legend and the prototypical MVP. His Hammond organ chops and nimble piano playing brought a dimension to one of the truly great American bands. Tench is as important — on some songs, even more so — than Petty’s first mate, guitarist Mike Campbell.
Check out: “Refugee”
 

Steve Nieve
Role
: Keyboards, Elvis Costello
Strengths: Whether in Costello’s first band, The Attractions, or a later iteration, The Imposters, Nieve has been a regular presence alongside the English bard. Like any great rock keyboardist, Nieve can do a little bit of everything. But he established a unique voice, augmenting Costello’s particular neuroses with the jittery, kaleidoscopic sound of the Vox Continental organ.
Check out: “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”

Tina Weymouth
Role
: Bass, Tom Tom Club
Strengths: Weymouth and husband, drummer Chris Frantz, will of course always be better known for their integral roles in Talking Heads. But the band they formed in the midst of the Heads’ peak years, and the one that still remains, benefits from the still-bounding energy and lovely, strange persona Weymouth brings to the table.
Check out: “Genius of Love”
 

Flea
Role
: Bass, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Strengths: Flea is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. You can argue that without him, Anthony Kiedis would just be a shirtless surfer mumbling something about California. The bassist provides the Peppers’ manic energy, but also is its music historian, working from a great knowledge of jazz and funk.
Check out: “Soul to Squeeze”
 


Steve Berlin
Role
: Saxophone, flute and keyboards, Los Lobos
Strengths: Berlin is the consummate team player, bringing versatility and an edge to the Lords of East Los Angeles. Berlin plays the saxophone with a chip on his shoulder and a groove in his heart. His ability to move seamlessly between instruments and styles makes him a perfect fit for the multi-faceted band.
Check out: “Mas y Mas”

Jeff Ament
Role
: Bass, Pearl Jam
Strengths: Ament’s contributions can be lost to the two-guitar attack of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready and fevered singing of Eddie Vedder. A recent episode of Steven Hyden’s Celebration Rock podcast noted that Ament brought a bit of funk with him from stints in bands such as Mother Love Bone and Green River. Hyden and Co. were right on: Ament is an agile player, commanding in a relatively quiet way.
Check out: “Corduroy”

Phil Selway
Role
: Drums, Radiohead
Strengths: If it’s possible for a drummer to be a quiet force within a band, Selway is the embodiment of that notion. With whirling dervish Thom Yorke at the microphone and all the squalling noise coming from guitar and synthesizer, Radiohead needs a steady force behind the drums. That’s not to suggest that Selway is merely reliable; he is an incredibly musical drummer who, like the other members of his band, finds the fullest range of possibilities on his instrument.
Check out: “Bodysnatchers”

Charlie Gillingham
Role
: Keyboards, Counting Crows
Strengths: Following in Tench’s footsteps, Gillingham fits the man of mystery role for the Bay Area folk-rockers. All he does is put his head down and play resonant parts. Occasionally, Gillingham cedes the piano to frontman Adam Duritz, allowing him to paint from a different palette, moving to the organ or stepping away from his perch to play accordion.
Check out: “If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel is Dead)”

Kevin Hearn
Role
: Keyboards, Barenaked Ladies
Strengths: In a band that, at least on hits like “One Week,” can be a little up-in-your-face, Hearn has a beautiful, deft touch. Hearn glides across the piano, executing runs that, in some cases, make the song without ever drawing too much attention to himself. Set against their hits, the Ladies’ deep cuts exhibit a serious musicality, and often Hearn underscores and upholds it.
Check out: The live version of “Jane” from “Rock Spectacle”


Transverso's Guide to Lollapalooza 2016

Music ListTransverso MediaComment

Longtime staple of both the Chicago and music festival experiences, each year Lollapalooza earns their reputation as one of the premiere menageries the performance industry can offer. Lolla, as the kids call it, needs no introduction at all, in fact, but we’ve written one anyway to justify our staff compiling such a lengthy list of recommendations (and condemnations) for this year’s edition. So if you’re still building your schedule, torn between conflicts, or just don’t know much about the bands that’ll be there, this is the guide for you!


THURSDAY


Pinegrove (Petrillo Bandshell 12:15-1:00)

So you didn’t want to go to Lollapalooza. It’s too big, too loud, and way too crowded, but your friends talked you into buying a ticket and now you’re at a goddamn music festival at noon on a goddamn Thursday. New Jersey punks Pinegrove feel your pain. On their incredible new album Cardinal, singer-guitarist Evan Stephens Hall crafts antisocial anthems that thread the line between emo and country, alchemizing unease and isolation into universally relatable howl-alongs. (Standout single “New Friends” is a rousing power ballad about deciding to have more than three acquaintances.) Pinegrove specialize in songs that sound great screamed in a giant crowd or whispered alone in your room, and their festival-opening slot offers you a rare chance to choose the former over the latter.  (Julian Axelrod)

Autolux (Samsung 12:45-1:30) 

Coming off a delightfully peculiar and long-awaited return on Danger Mouse’s 30th Century Records with Pussy’s Dead, Autolux are uniquely melancholic in a captivating way. Despite their relatively under-the-radar history, you may know founding member and multi-instrumentalist Carla Azar as one of Jack White’s main studio and touring drummers. (Weston Pagano)

Lucy Dacus (BMI Stage 1:00-1:40)

Seeing a festival set based on one song is a risky proposition, but early Thursday afternoon is a prime time for experimentation, and when the song is as good as Lucy Dacus’s “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” it’s not much of a risk. The track is a deft, subtle breakdown of the ways women are pigeonholed into types – the Funny Girl, the Cute Girl, the Groupie. It’ll have you laughing as you cringe with recognition, a trick Dacus pulls throughout her strong debut No Burden. The record recalls sarcastic storytellers like Jenny Lewis and Courtney Barnett, but comparing Dacus to other women does her a disservice. Don’t come to this show to see a Type – come to see Lucy Dacus kick ass. (Julian Axelrod)

Hiatus Kaiyote (Petrillo Bandshell 2:00-3:00)

The Melbourne-sprung Hiatus Kaiyote lead off early in the festival, and is a standout performer among its peers. This is a must see act, particularly anyone trying to bend their knees and swing their hips. Coming off a salutary reprise of "Laputa” in collaboration with Taylor McFerrin and Anderson Paak in April, the psychedelic soul outfit is in top form. Lolla is the first stop on their lengthy North American tour, so they should be full authentic giddiness and energy. Whether you’re trippin’ hard on something good and need a deep groove or atmospheric musings to set your mind right, want to get down’n dirty with some dance moves, or just want to vibe with a beer in hand, Hiatus has got you covered. (Andrew Meriwether) 

Yeasayer (Lakeshore 3:30-4:30)

Despite their latest LP being named Amen & Goodbye (arguably one of the best and most under-appreciated records of 2016), Yeasayer will be saying hello to Chicago for the third time in as many months when they ascend the Lakeshore Stage on Thursday. Not that we could get tired of seeing them, though, as the psychedelic freak-folk rock electro-pop trio wear many hats and wear them exceedingly well. Don’t miss their aftershow-that’s-really-a-preshow on Wednesday, as their sound always conveys better indoors and their impeccably intriguing performance decorations that play with the Sgt. Peppers-esque album art direction motif will likely not make it onstage at the festival itself. (Weston Pagano)

Wild Child (BMI 4:30-5:10)

I first saw Wild Child after we interviewed them at SXSW. It was in a small church downtown in their native Austin, and every time the band swore - in a song or otherwise - they semi-jokingly cringed and asked “Can we say that in here?” They’re the cutest folk outfit, but now they can say whatever the fuck they want out in Grant Park as well. (Weston Pagano)

The Arcs (Lakeshore 7:30-8:30)

Once you listened to a couple Black Keys records, you’ve pretty much listened to them all, right? So why go see Dan Auerbach, the lead vocalist and guitarist of BK, when you’ve got the plenty of other artists who could punch your eardrums? Because The Arcs, Auerbach’s most recent solo project, are not a blues rock band, and because they kick a lot of ass. On 2015's very well received Yours, Dreamily, Auerbach delves into the psychedelic and macabre both musically and lyrically; a refreshing departure from his past productions. His time behind boards as a producer has also broadened his sound beyond riff-a-licious jams to include horns, synths, and a dizzying collage of other fantastic instrumentation. Fit this veteran into your evening schedule - you won’t be disappointed. (Andrew Meriwether) 

Lana Del Rey (Budlight 8:45-10:00)

Do people really still like Lana Del Rey? (Weston Pagano)


FRIDAY


Lewis Del Mar (Bud Light 12:45-1:45)

After surfing with MGMT convinced them to sign to Columbia, Lewis Del Mar burst onto the scene with a confident "Can you please sit the fuck down?" We assume they'll be asking - and getting - the opposite this Friday. (Weston Pagano)

Joey Purp (Perry’s 2:30-3:15)

There is a truly astounding amount of incredible rap coming out of Chicago right now, and the city’s vital scene is well represented on the Lolla lineup, from perpetually rising star Vic Mensa to Rick Rubin disciple Towkio. Joey Purp may not have the same recognition as his comrades at the fest (yet) but he’s making the most interesting music. His mixtape iiiDrops crackles with inspiration as Purp recounts his violent upbringing and with a dead-eyed mumble, somehow sounding sleepy and urgent simultaneously. And the man has an incredible ear for beats, from the throwback Neptunes funk of “Girls @” (with Chance the Rapper) to the dying elephant bounce of “Photobooth.” Whether you’re a Chicago native or a first-time visitor, don’t miss this preview of the city’s next big star. (Julian Axelrod)

Foals (Samsung 4:00-5:00)

Still on the road a year out from their fourth LP What Went Down, Foals bring one of the most aggressively exhilarating indie rock sets to the festival stage. The youthful hints of mathiness in their set have been all but drowned out in favor of their more mature, denser sound of late, but you won’t be able to analyze much of anything with Yannis Philippakis shredding guitar whilst splayed out on top of you. Look for “Inhaler” to turn the droves of calmly-swaying-white-guys into an animalistic frenzy as cries of “I can’t get enough SPAAACE” go from purely metaphorical to literal, too. (Weston Pagano)

Sunflower Bean (BMI 6:50-7:30)

Sunflower Bean finds themselves in the unfortunate predicament of being surrounded by heavy reputations: Future, Miike Snow, and M83 are all set to perform in neighboring time slots. But for the rock fan whose feelings on grunge-rock are more fond than ill, Sunflower Bean may be the band to see. Their post-punk is fast and aggressive and guitarist Nick Kivlen is a true virtuoso on the axe. If you’re swayed more by advocacy, the Brooklyn-based band stands opposed to the plethora of shoegaze that the New York borough’s music scene has been producing. So if you’re in the mood for aggressive guitars or feel like protesting the shoegaze genre, check out Sunflower Bean.  (Ezra Carpenter)

Miike Snow (Lakeshore 7:00-8:00)

Those of you who still don’t know Miike Snow probably are familiar with Britney Spear's "Toxic" and Bruno Mars' "Grenade," the world-beating hits the Swedish writers and producers were the masterminds behind. But for the rest of us, it's been a few years of waiting for them to tour again like they are now in support of their latest record, iii. After their hiatus the first few shows were noticeably rusty at times (frontman Andrew Wyatt nearly killed a girl with a mic stand when I saw them at SXSW in March), but they’ve almost certainly gelled back to their delightful old ways since then. Either way, their uniquely engaging brand of perfect pop that blends professional polish with indie edge make this a set you should see. (Weston Pagano)

M83 (Samsung Stage 6:00-7:00) 

Friends, family and fellow 2011 nostalgists: We are here today not to bury M83, but to praise them. (Or rather, him.) While many people populate the stage at an M83 show (including Dallas musician Kaela Sinclair, who joined the touring band after an open call for keyboardists) the project is the brainchild of Anthony Gonzalez. The French pop mastermind was thrust into the mainstream on the heels of hit single “Midnight City,” which you might know on the off chance you’ve seen a movie, TV show, or commercial in the past 5 years. This year’s follow-up album Junk seemed at first like a decisive (and divisive) left turn away from the epic, windswept pop anthems that cemented M83’s place atop festival lineups, filled with overtly cheesy synth struts and melodramatic strings that evoke the elevator music in an overpriced '80s hotel. But like a weird foreign soap opera you find on cable at 3 AM and end up watching until sunrise, Junk is packed with peculiar pleasures. Give yourself up to Gonzalez’s vision of a pop utopia – it is a world unlike any other.  (Julian Axelrod)

Radiohead (Samsung Stage 8:00-10:00)

No introduction needed for this Friday headliner, but the release of LP9 and the reintroduction of “Creep” to the band’s set has reinvigorated fan curiosity and interest. Firstly, Radiohead has consistently played A Moon Shaped Pool true to its tracklist until its fifth track: “Ful Stop.” The front end of the album has been well-received for its stoic and somber tone, so expect to get very intimate with the band from an early onset. Now onto the issue of “Creep.” We get it, the majority most probably despises the reinclusion of the band’s 1993 single. However, this majority is also likely comprised of fans who have followed Radiohead’s progression since the release of 1993’s Pablo Honey. So to the younger Radiohead fan: this may be one of the few times you will ever hear “Creep” performed live if you haven’t experienced it already. However one may feel about the song, it is undoubtedly a privilege to hear it performed live. EDM fans will be split between Martin Garrix and Major Lazer, so the Radiohead crowd should consist of a homogeneous set of genuine Radiohead fans. (Ezra Carpenter)


SATURDAY


AudioDamn! (BMI 1:00-1:45)

Fresh-faced and endearing, the up-and-coming German trio told Transverso all about their debut EP and subsequent first American tour in our interview not too long ago. Expect a playful show in which their clean suits do little to betray solid rock and roll chops. (Weston Pagano)

Big Grams (Samsung 4:15-5:15)

Though starting out as an unexpected pairing, the Big Boi + Phantogram supergroup have become staples of this year’s festival circuit following their self-titled debut, and we’re excited to see these #FestivalKillers supply their #JediRapShit at Lolla this year. Also look for Phantogram’s aftershow at House of Blues on Sunday which will be their first of many dates in support of their forthcoming record, Three - whether or not Big Boi will appear in that as well remains to be seen. (Weston Pagano)

Leon Bridges (Bud Light 4:45-5:45)

Saturday night offers a wide selection for those looking for vanguard of foundational genres. Whether it’s country’s golden boy Chris Stapleton, The Band-channeling Houndmouth, or the foot-stomping Nathaniel Ratcliff and the Night Sweats, one can easily get their fill of the horns, tube amps, and Rhodes organs. Carrying the mantel for classic Soul is Leon Bridges, whose career has skyrocketed since releasing a couple of tracks on SoundCloud two years ago. Bridges seems to be the walking definition of vintage. Everything from his tucked white t-shirts in high waisted jeans to the analogue tinged sound of his records is something out of another era, or perhaps a hyper real version of an era. You may not get anything “new” per se from this performance, as he essentially stays in the safety of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding type tracks. Nonetheless, Bridges ability spark that comforting feeling of nostalgia will undoubtedly delight audiences. So give yourself a break and go enjoy some smooth crooning. (Andrew Meriwether) 

Chris Stapleton (Petrillo Bandshell 5:45-6:45)

The country act - still quite the anomaly for well-established music festivals. Yes, Chris Stapleton is definitely a performance out of left field, yet his popularity is as unquestionable as his vocal talent. Stapleton’s voice is a rustic, molasses-smooth brand of country ballad that will resonate with fans of R&B, soul, blues, and traditional male vocals. He deserves the highest attendance for his allotted time slot (excusing Jane’s Addiction die-hards) and is sure to please anyone who can appreciate a good voice. If you find yourself undecided on who to see early Saturday evening, take a chance on Stapleton. (Ezra Carpenter)

Houndmouth (Pepsi 6:30-7:15)

One could make a strong argument that the market for alt-country bands is oversaturated. Fans may be burnt out on bemoaning lost love and rehashes of blues bar brawls, and genre is a reaching a breaking point and the whole edifice may come crashing down (which, I suppose, may end up being a decent country song). Luckily, one can take solace in a group like Houndmouth. The band is nothing if not earnest, which is hard to come by these days with acts like The Lumineers, whose one-trick-pony folk tunes have spawned a whole litany of saccharin imitators. Houndmouth is steeped in the Music From Big Pink and Basement Tapes rock, and they do about a good a job as anybody at tapping that raw emotional power found in the old masters. On a warm summer evening, on the cusp of rowdiness and love, you won’t find anything much better than Houndmouth. (Andrew Meriwether)

Grimes (Lakeshore 7:30-8:30)

When the Coachella organizers booked Grimes opposite Guns 'n' Roses, they made a clear statement: Give this artist three years (and one more great album) and they’ll be headlining every festival in existence. Listening to last year’s bone-crushingly sweet masterpiece Art Angels, it’s hard not to see Grimes as a global superstar from an alternate dimension who slums it on our planet as a critically acclaimed indie darling. Right now she’s in a weird limbo between the two, so this may be your last chance to see Grimes in any sort of intimate setting before she blows the fuck up. (Julian Axelrod)

Disclosure (Bud Light 8:30-10:00)

A lot of variety to pick from for Saturday’s closing acts: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hardwell, Vic Mensa, and Disclosure. Saturday’s closing action seems to offer something for fans of every genre to appreciate. Not to be underestimated is the hometown boy Vic Mensa’s performance of his new, politically-charged material. But if the headlining RHCP don’t quite pique your interest, Disclosure will surely be the most fun way to spend your time. The release of their latest Moog for Love EP promises a return to their old U.K. garage house style and though their second LP Caracal demonstrated a shift towards more accessible pop music, the transition hasn’t curbed the band’s ability to inspire dance. (Ezra Carpenter)


SUNDAY


Låpsley (Samsung 12:45-1:30)

It’s Sunday afternoon and somehow, you’ve found yourself back at the festival at way too early of an hour, still feeling the effects of Saturday night’s drinking. Låpsley may be the cure to your hangover. Coming off Long Way Home, Her atmospheric and minimalist pop/R&B is incredibly easy to listen to and exudes a sensational sort of spatial relaxation - Låpsley’s Sunday afternoon set would be a perfect way to ease yourself into the day.  (Ezra Carpenter)

FIDLAR (Bud Light 2:45-3:45)

This band turned heads when their “Cocaine” music video featured a montage of Nick Offerman public urination, but FIDLAR has more credit owed to them than just their ability to enlist star power in their visuals. For one, FIDLAR will definitely contend for the best moshpit of Lollapalooza. Their fanbase comes together in full energy and enthusiasm for each show. FIDLAR’s set is worth their cover of the Beastie Boy’s “Sabotage” alone. Stop by if you’re in the mood for some rough, high-throttle moshpitting, the Sunday mid-afternoon time slot is pretty slender anyway. (Ezra Carpenter)

Third Eye Blind (Petrillo Bandshell 3:45-4:45)

When I saw Third Eye Blind on the Lolla lineup, I laughed. Don’t get me wrong – I love “Semi-Charmed Life” as much as the next guy. But I couldn’t figure out why the ostensibly one-hit wonders were playing a major festival in 2016. Then the RNC happened. According to Cleveland.com, 3EB were scheduled to cover “several pro-America anthems” at a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame charity show during the convention. Instead, the band skipped most of their big hits, railed against the party’s anti-gay policies and quipped, “Who here believes in science?” to glorious boos. In summation: I love Third Eye Blind, “Jumper” is a fucking jam, and if you skip this set you hate America and science and the LGBT community. (Julian Axelrod)

Local Natives (Bud Light 4:45-5:45)

I once saw Local Natives from what felt like a mile away from the stage amidst a sea of melting people in direct sunlight at Bonnaroo. I distinctly remember feeling trapped and wondering if I put on enough sunscreen as it was 100 degrees and the midday sun was mercilessly brutal to our tired bodies. Despite this, it was still one of the most enjoyable sets of the entire festival, as Local Natives' power and poise reached out all the way to where I was, making me forget the pain. They’re thankfully a little later in the day this weekend (4:45), but it’ll still be hot. At least their new album is appropriately named Sunlit Youth. (Weston Pagano)

 

HAIM (Bud Light 6:45-7:45) 

Transverso recommends boycotting HAIM until they apologize to Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste for abandoning his friendship for Snake-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named(Weston Pagano)

Vince Staples (Pepsi 7:45-8:30)

Stage banter is an underrated art. By the time you hit day four of your 10th music festival of the summer, you’ve lost all patience for the “How’s everybody feelin’ out there?” and “We love you, Chicago!” bullshit you hear at every show. No one understands this better than Long Beach rapper Vince Staples, who has garnered a reputation as the enfant terrible of the festival circuit. The same dark humor and perceptive wit that made last year’s bracing Summertime ’06 an instant classic manifests itself onstage as Staples takes aim at the suffocating corporatization of every fest, like when he told off Spotify at SXSW while performing at a Spotify event. You should see Staples because he’s one of the best rappers out there, but the fact that he’s playing the Pepsi Stage makes this show even more enticing. (Julian Axelrod)

LCD Soundsystem (Samsung 8:25-10:00)

What hasn’t already been said about LCD Soundsystem’s reunion? The dance punk veterans are resurrected and they’re going to perform “Dance Yrself Clean,” and that’s all that matters. It’s worth the entry price alone, but it will also be joined by “I Can Change,” “All My Friends,” and “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” James Murphy is going to croon and howl and we might cry - there truly isn't a better set to end the festival with. If any Arcade Fire members make cameos we called it first. (Weston Pagano)

 

Radiohead Provoke Immense Sorrow on 'A Moon Shaped Pool'

Music ReviewEzra CarpenterComment
A Moon Shaped Pool.jpg
A rating.png

Chameleons of genre, icons of self-redefinition, dealers of some of the bravest decisions made in music history; the qualifications that reify Radiohead’s legacy are more than laurels upon which the band can rest, they are also the embodiments of character traits that have allowed the band to not only endure time, but claim it, and then redefine it. A Moon Shaped Pool serves to show that these impressive shows of ingenuity, as detrimental as they may potentially be, are still re-deployable in 2016.

On A Moon Shaped Pool Radiohead has demonstrated a mastery of their idiosyncratic approach to alternative music, doing so on the most sonically spare and lyrically provocative platforms of their career while simultaneously drawing upon the subtleties of their best work. The album features the minimalist electronic motifs of Kid A alongside the nimble guitar picking and understated riffs of In Rainbows, without negating its innovation. The album’s lead single “Burn the Witch” offers Radiohead at their most orchestral, while the ensuing single “Daydreaming” reemploys the band’s dichotomy of subtle instrumentals and paining vocals. Though this contrast may evoke comparisons to Kid A’s “How to Disappear Completely,” the song is a pivotal transitioning point into A Moon Shaped Pool’s most unexpected and most challenging material. The new album deals heavily with loss on a soundscape that is even more minimal than Kid A’s ambient tracks. But while the band has curtailed its complex instrumental layering in favor of isolated pianos and finger-picked guitars, the decision has resulted in an emotionally reductive listening experience.

Lyrics such as “Dreamers / They never learn / Beyond the point / Of no return” repackage the warnings of Radiohead’s signature doomsayers’ message with more consequential and permanent subjects such as hurt, regret, love, and longing. Paired with characters like those introduced in “Identikit," “Sweet-faced ones with nothing left inside / That we all can love… Pieces of a rag doll mankind / That you can’t create,” Yorke’s lyrical content offers a scathingly futile, yet beautiful message. His vocals vary between a soaring falsetto and an unembellished delivery; sometimes offering levity to weighty material and other times presenting disheartening scenarios straightforwardly. The latter is the perfect pairing for “Identikit"’s antagonistic guitar-riff – a palm-muted baritone melody teeming with attitude.

The shifts A Moon Shaped Pool takes between moods are noticeable, but not coarse. The piano arpeggios and trills of “Decks Dark” and “Glass Eyes” have a very secluding effect, though their background orchestration attributes a certain grace to the songs which yields an air of peaceful helpless, exemplifying the careful balance found in the pairing of lyrics and instrumentation and the selection of songs as well. The acoustics of “Desert Island Disk” and the dissonant synths of “Ful Stop separate “Decks Dark” and “Glass Eyes,” allowing listeners to shift between the various mental spaces these songs inhabit. It is the transitions made between moods, instrumentation, and lyrical content that allow songs such as “Ful Stop” and “True Love Waits” to coexist and help create one of the most unique Radiohead albums.

A Moon Shaped Pool is an album that may find some fans flat-footed. Those not expecting to deal with themes of loss and the fulfillment of love may find themselves either uncomfortable on occasion or dissatisfied. But if allowed to thrive past any initial sock, A Moon Shaped Pool will knock anyone on their ass and place them in the grips of an existential dilemma. But maybe “existential” is an inappropriate term for this album. It is modernist, as evidenced by details as spare and as fleeting as Thom Yorke’s buzzing background vocals. These droning and abruptly cutting falsettos provide the most succinct and holistic summations of what A Moon Shaped Pool offers: impressionistic whirs of pain and restraint, and a heart-hollowing sense of loss.

Watch Radiohead's "Burn the Witch" Music Video, Their First Release in Five Years

New MusicEzra CarpenterComment

Following their much discussed social media cleanse, Radiohead have finally released their first new content in nearly five years with music video, "Burn the Witch." The lead single builds upon pulsating strings, a croaking low-register vibration with drum kits, a light violin melody, and Thom Yorke's airy vocals.

The claymation visual depicts a town being investigated by an inspector who is eventually trapped in a giant wooden statue and burned alive, evoking images from The Wicker Man. While the song's visuals offer a grotesque illustration of cynicism, collusion, and cultural disdain, the song's balance of orchestral levity and weight, along with the chimes of its spattering violins and Yorke's soaring falsetto, make it awe-strikingly beautiful. Paired with lyrics dealing with a society oppressed by a superstitious culture, the song provides an accessible entry into an uncomfortable conversation on political scapegoating.

"Burn the Witch" has been a longtime project for Radiohead; renditions of the song appeared in the band's 2006 and 2008 touring campaigns and its earliest form has been dated to the Kid A era.

Watch Tears for Fears Cover Radiohead's "Creep" at Bonnaroo

Music NewsEllen WilsonComment
Sun-Times Media

Sun-Times Media

"I cannot tell you how excited we are to be here," Tears for Fears' Roland Orzabel said after the band opened its classics-laden set with surefire fan favorite, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World". But an unlikely highlight took place a few songs later, as the English 80's legends covered Radiohead's "Creep," which you can watch below.

"We have a word in England that expresses this joy - yabba dabba doo," Orzabel concluded in the most English deadpan imaginable before seeing out the set with a one-two punch of "Head Over Heels" and "Shout."


10 of the Best Musical Cameos on TV

TV/Film List, Music ListEllen WilsonComment
Jack White on Portlandia

Jack White on Portlandia

1. The Shins on Gilmore Girls 

Gilmore Girls is known for their fast paced dialogue and countless pop culture references, often mentioning numerous artists an episode, so it would make sense that Rory and co would stumble upon a hip new band playing in a club while on spring break. James Mercer and band play "So Says I" for an uninterrupted minute and a half, which is a pretty impressive amount of airtime for television. Rory and friends don't arrive until the last song, though, so we can assume they are the worst concert goers ever. Shortly after you can hear "The Laws Have Changed" by The New Pornographers while Rory and Paris uncomfortable try to fit in with the club-goers stating, "no one can sniff out the hip like we can." 

2. The Decemberists on Parks and Recreation 

The Decemberists get about 30 seconds of airtime playing "Crane Wife 3" at the Pawnee-Eagletown unity concert. While they might not have gotten as much airtime as deserved the entire episode was full of additional musical guest such as Jeff Tweedy, Ginuwine, and Yo La Tengo. 

 

3. Jack White on Portlandia 

Jack White magically appears on the Portlandia sketch "The Studio" in which Fred's character portrays a man who has a "top notch" studio with overwhelming similarities the studio used when recording the Beach Boy's album Pet Sounds. Jack White magically appears and silently watches Fred's character as he struggles to make sense of it all. The lack of dialogue from White makes his facial expressions even more hilarious and one of the best musical guest Portlandia has locked down. 

4. Britt Daniel of Spoon in Veronica Mars

Britt sings a karaoke version of the song appropriately titled "Veronica" by Elvis Costello. The Spoon song "I Summon You" was also featured in the same episode. You can read more about Britt's decision to do the show here

5. Death Cab For Cutie on The OC 

Death Cab was famously the favorite band of OC stud Seth Cohen, despite Summer's less-than-flattering analysis, "it's one guitar and a whole lot of complaining." When the band finally appears they play a show at the infamous fictional venue, The Bait Shop, and were featured on the official soundtrack. 

6. Prince on New Girl 

Prince, the majestic being himself, guest stars in an episode of New Girl. In the episode, he plays himself and gives Jess (portrayed by Zooey Deschanel) relationship advice. The highlight, though, is when the The Purple One asks, "Do you like pancakes?" 

7. Beck on Futurama 

After Bender is hospitalized he discovers Beck's disembodied head is occupying the bed next to him. Beck then loans Bender a set of neck-mounted robotic mini-arms, and the two go on tour together as Bender uses the arms to scrape across his mangled body and earn the position of Beck's washboard player. As the episode continues, Bender writes a song about broken robots, and the duo decide to put on a benefit concert in San Francisco to help all the disabled machines. While helping Bender write a song about his feelings, disembodied Beck explains how emotion is an important part of his musical process as well, saying, "When I'm upset I write a song about it. Like when I wrote 'Devil's Haircut,' I was feeling really... what's that song about?"

8. The Beach Boys on Full House 

The Beach Boys have a long standing friendship with the Tanner family, appearing in not one, not two, but three separate episodes. The most notable episode is the one in which DJ wins two tickets to the Beach Boys show but has the tricky decision of picking which family member to take. Naturally, The Beach Boys show up and invite the whole bunch along (except for baby Michelle) to the show where they sing and do some sort of a line dance on stage. 

9. Radiohead on South Park

In this particularly dark episode, Cartman vows to take revenge after being tricked by eighth grader Scott Tenorman. Upon learning that Radiohead is Scott's favorite band, Cartman writes a letter to Radiohead claiming that Scott is a victim of "cancer, in his ass" and the British rock band visits South Park just in time to watch Scott cry after hearing he ate his parents.  

10. Sir Paul McCartney on 30 Rock 

In one of these two brilliant episodes of 30 Rock, Sir Paul McCartney appears as himself to prove the point that "it's live TV, anything can happen." The look on Alec Baldwin's bewildered face as Paul McCartney grins and slaps Baldwin's face makes this one of the best moments of 30 Rock's entire seven season run.