Monday Mixtape: Jonas Brothers, Bat For Lashes, Silversun Pickups & More!
Every Monday, I make myself a playlist of (mostly) new songs. It gets me in the habit of hunting for new music and hopefully gets me embracing fresh trends. This is the Monday Mixtape.
Silversun Pickups, “Neon Wound”
In 2005, I attended my first CMJ Music Marathon in New York. The now-defunct event was part festival, part trade show, and part label showcase for a multitude of music labels. (This was before South By Southwest essentially cornered the market on such a thing, including the CMJ idea that you can get people to come out to shows if you put big artists in small venues.) I was in heaven: I was 23 years old and had a media pass that allowed me into any show I wanted. I’ve never watched so many live bands over such a short period of time. Of the nearly 100 acts I saw over the course of that week, the one that sticks out the most is Silversun Pickups. They were on a bill with a band called the Vacation that was supposed to be the next big thing (they became nothing), and I remember thinking, “These guys will be pretty big!” It’s one of the few times I’ve been correct in such a prediction.
I also remember writing about them and comparing them to Queens of the Stone Age, though the band their early albums most closely resemble is peak period Smashing Pumpkins. Their new album Widow’s Weeds still has that fundamental cinematic fuzz, but they’ve come a long way from ripping off “Rocket” wholesale. “Neon Wound” has that Corgan snarl but also drops in the sort of psychedelic left turns that Billy always thought he was putting on his records. (Arrested Development narrator voice: “He wasn’t.”)
Cave In, “Shake My Blood”
What started out as a hardcore band has morphed into a metalcore act, a more straightforward alt-arena outfit, a space prog combo, and have long settled into a noisy shoegaze experiment. Cave In’s 2000 album Jupiter remains a favorite; right when I thought I was getting bored with modern metal, they arrived to re-configure the genre boundaries and add some twists I was not expecting. (You can also draw a straight line from Jupiter to the monstrous sunny black metal titans Deafheaven, one of the great bands of the 21st century.) Final Transmission is not just a clever name—it actually represents the final recordings by longtime bassist and vocalist Jacob Scofield, who died in a car accident last year. It’s not explicitly an album about mourning, but Scofield’s passing hangs over it without weighing anything down. It’s heavy without being heavy, you know?
Jonas Brothers, “Don’t Throw It Away”
Once upon a time, Nick Jonas went on tour with a bunch of members of the New Power Generation (they referred to themselves as the Administration on that run), and they managed to coax out the latent funkiness and rock-solid virtuosity of Nick’s 2010 album Who I Am. Since then, I have heard a little bit of Prince in just about everything he has touched since, including most of the best tracks on the JoBros comeback album Happiness Begins. There’s a bit too much post-modern pop dross weighing down what should be a much looser release, but “Don’t Throw It Away” catches a light summer breeze that chills a melancholy core.
Neil Young + Stray Gators, “Out on the Weekend”
Back in 1973, Neil Young went on tour with the Stray Gators. The shows were supposed to have been sublime, but the ever-cantankerous Young wasn’t happy with them and abandoned the idea of a live album centered around the tour. (That initial recording, titled Time Fades Away, was supposed to come out at the end of ‘73 but didn’t get an official release until 2017; it was heavily bootlegged in the intervening 34 years.) Tuscaloosa is another capture from that same tour, which finds Young deep in the pocket with his minimalist backing band, having found a way to make the largely acoustic tunes from ‘72’s Harvest into full-throated anthems. I’ve always loved “Out on the Weekend,” and this is merely the latest best version of it.
Bat For Lashes, “Kids in the Dark”
Bat For Lashes’ debut Fur and Gold was my favorite album of 2006, and I loved it because it took the faerie mysticism of Tori Amos and crossed it with Bjork’s adventurous sonic weirdness and topped it with the sort of garage grime that was slathered on everything on alt-rock MP3 blogs at the time. Natasha Khan has put out several records since then, and while none of them have matched the pocket universe majesty of Fur and Gold, she has also admirably never made the same album twice. She just announced a new one (out in the fall, titled Lost Girls), and the first single feels like a callback to her forest goth origins.
Stone Temple Pilots, “Lounge Fly”
In the years following the collapse of alternative nation, and particularly since the passing of Scott Weiland, there has been a mass critical re-evaluation of Stone Temple Pilots. Dismissed as Pearl Jam apes back in ‘92 when Core was blowing up the charts, STP are now heralded as a band who made a bunch of really interesting albums and had some killer singles. One of those singles was “Interstate Love Song,” a tune from their second album Purple that came out 25 years ago this week. That’s one of the five or six best songs of the entire decade of the 1990s, but you’ve heard it a million times as it has wedged its way into most rock radio formats for the past quarter-century. Instead, let’s celebrate Purple with the trippy “Lounge Fly,” a slinky bit of filth that sounds like the end of the world and also acted as bumper music for MTV News breaks. (Every time I hear that slippery intro, I assume Tabitha Soren is about to give me some knowledge about the Red Hot Chili Peppers.)