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First Listens

Monday, May 4, 2015

We Are Hard Left: A First Listen to the Debut LP by Oakland's Newest Communist Oi! Band

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2015 at 2:49 PM

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Hard Left is a hard mod band featuring members of Lunchbox, Boyracer, and Black Tambourine. The band wears their politics (the leftist kind, obv) on their twin-tipped sleeves. Last weekend, surrounded by clinking pints of beer and people calling each other "comrade," the band released their latest record, We Are Hard Left

Listen and read along as we experience the band's debut LP for the very first time, and buy it here



"New Year"


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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Atoms for Peace's Amok: A First Listen

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 10:14 AM

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Who's the audience for Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, and Flea's stutter-skip project Atoms for Peace? Well, me, probably. Preferring the contained chaos of Yorke's 2006 solo bow The Eraser (and his incredible cover of Miracle Legion's "All for the Best") to anything his Noted Rock Band has done over the last 10 years, it's probably up to me to like this thing better than most things, though the only song that's grabbed me in advance so far, "What the Eyeballs Did," isn't actually on the record. Fun fact: these first listens all started with one very (un)special eight-song album. So let's see how this goes.

"Before Your Very Eyes"

First things first: this sounds like the theme from Ren & Stimpy. Yorke's done a lot of funky things in Radiohead (what's up, "Where I End You Begin"?), but he's never opted to swing before and well... this is what we get. There's distinct guitar, some kind of background klaxon that sounds like the midpoint between a glass breaking, and a phone ringing, and some downright "Lust for Life" bass. Yorke himself is actually the most indistinct thing about it. I could only make out something about "keys to the kingdom," and his ultra-high held notes could actually vie with Dave Longstreth's in Dirty Projectors more than anything Chris Martin's harrumphed out at a grand piano. At 2:21 some actual Skrillex synth pads pick up the stuttering groove, but there's little actual forward motion. Better it rocks out than rocks back and forth, though.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

My Bloody Valentine's mbv: A First Listen

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 12:51 PM

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This'll be a bit perverse, but so will every review. I'm not My Bloody Valentine's No. 1 fan but I do love them, and not just the timeless pyramid Loveless. More so than any other critics' band, I've never thought their legend annoying enough to feel the temptation to backlash. Their singles and EP compilation was a scream, every bit on par with the two proper albums. And they disappeared for what seemed like good reason: insurmountable pressure to scale higher heights than the majestic guitar effects they bankrupted England's biggest indie label with. So reviewing mbv, the album Kevin Shields all-but-randomly just dropped on the world, is kind of like reacquainting oneself with a child who was abducted 22 years prior. It feels weird and creepy to have no insight into the development of then to now, and then to push this poor defenseless thing up against an unconditional love that's stood the test of time. But welcome to the Internet, let's gut the bastard.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

The First Listens of 2012: What We Got Right, What We Got Wrong

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Yep, still terrible.
  • Yep, still terrible.

As evinced by my initial take on Tyler, the Creator's Goblin and my final opinion, a lot happens between one's first listen to an album and their final conclusion after taking it in several times. What I love about writing these features is that you get to read my pure, unvarnished thoughts about a record as they're forming, before any outer influence or inner readjustment can take place. Nevertheless, I still trust my first instincts a lot of the time; with all respect to my editor, I won't be checking back to see if Kreayshawn is still the worst thing I heard all year. (Hey, I at least thought "Left Eye" was innovatively tasteless). So here's the best and worst quick cuts of the year, the stuff I got wrong and the stuff definitely I got right.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Big Boi's Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors: A First Listen

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 11:03 AM

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Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is the title. Why? Does Big Boi even have any enemies? Has anyone ever beefed with him...ever? Who is he referring to, disgruntled Idlewild ticket-buyers? Or is he increasingly in denial that Outkast -- his meal ticket artistically and commercially -- is over? It's not hard to feel for him. Luckily his last album, Sir Lucious Leftfoot, wasn't just great music on the Outkast level, but a creative resurgence. Still, I'm worried about this one, which has come with far less advance hype.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Ke$ha's Warrior: A First Listen

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 3:00 AM

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A quick scan of the titles on Ke$ha's second album means it better be her pop masterpiece -- nothing looks as hilarious or striking as "D.I.N.O.S.A.U.R." or "Party at a Rich Dude's House." But even those of us who wanted to love her found that debut fucking annoying. I was finally converted by the follow-up EP Cannibal, with its small-dose masterpieces "We R Who We R" (universality that beat both Taylor and Gaga), "Blow" (video of whatever year that was) and "Grow a Pear" ("But I just can't date a dude with a vag"). These look less promising even though the single's automatic wildfire. So let's see if she's possible to love yet.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Aerosmith's Music from Another Dimension!: A First Listen

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2012 at 9:08 AM

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It's gonna suck. But contrary to popular belief, Aerosmith is new to sucking. At its best -- "Cryin'," "Janie's Got a Gun," "Dream On," "Love in an Elevator" -- American rock has never been better, bawdier, or more maximal. Aerosmith is like if New York Dolls grew up on Thriller (or helped invent it). And I posit the theory that "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" was somewhat necessary in that Kanye/"E.T." way to refuel the creative resolve after breaking the bank (and why wasn't "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" huge anyway?) But American Idol drains anything it touches. For one thing, the band's last album was called Honkin' on fucking Bobo, a made-up Tyler rap-phrase. This title could be a Bowling for Soup album. Mostly just wanna to know if there's any entendres still left in there on Aerosmith's first album in eight years.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Taylor Swift's Red: A First Listen

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 8:59 AM

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Imma let you finish Kanye, but Taylor Swift made one of the best albums of 2010. While indeed beautiful, dark, and twisted, Kanye's forbidding masterpiece didn't get stick it to abusers like "Mean" or "Dear John," get laid like "Sparks Fly," bare its teeth like "Better Than Revenge," marry in style like "Mine," or dance euphorically like "Story of Us." Or stick it to Kanye himself like "Innocent." Speak Now is, suffice it to say, untoppable. But how will Red, the follow-up, be? Shall we see?

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Green Day's ¡Uno!: A First Listen

Posted By on Fri, Sep 21, 2012 at 11:33 AM

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Green Day broke my heart. American Idiot I can forgive -- it exists for the right reasons, even if it got too famous and made them think they could conceptualize, and its half-good tunes are still half-good. Plus they snuck Kathleen Hanna into a would-be Broadway musical. But 21st Century Breakdown was the worst album of whatever year it was, with the single "Know Your Enemy" earning the dubious distinction of the worst Green Day song, something so offensively facile and instantaneously annoying that it deserves to be classed with such rightfully banished properties as Fatboy Slim's "Slash Dot Dash." A plea for simplicity answered, I'm told that Uno! is a return to form, nothing but quick little pop songs to be followed by two more albums of same. But I'm skeptical. Let's see if my childhood favorites still have what it took to make Dookie and Insomniac flawless.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kreayshawn's Somethin 'Bout Kreay: A First Listen

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 9:18 AM

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Kreayshawn's contribution to Western culture is one classic line: "One big room/ Full of bad bitches." It's still awaiting its hot song. Her success is somewhere between William Hung and Jesse Camp and the 8th Street Kidz. She's an eliminated contestant without a reality show. From her phenomenally ugly name to her phenomenally ugly album cover, I only wish her tastelessness was a joy. I wish she could prove heads wrong about white and female rappers. I wish she had merit. But this album stands as much of a chance of being good as Spike Lee stands a chance of endorsing V-Nasty.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"