TIME Music

REVIEW: Gaslight Anthem Switch Up Sound With Get Hurt

The Gaslight Anthem
The Gaslight Anthem, Get Hurt Island

Brian Fallon's band loses the Americana but keeps the lovelorn anthems

This post is in partnership with NME.

Singer Brian Fallon’s revelation that the Gaslight Anthem’s new musical direction was instigated by the 1975 set alarm bells ringing. Would the band known for its greasy heartland rock trade burly riffs for shiny guitar pop? Thankfully not. Rather than swiping the 1975’s style, they enlisted their producer, Mike Crossey, whose CV also boasts the meatier likes of Foals and Arctic Monkeys.

For all Fallon’s talk of a massive switch-up, his band’s fifth album doesn’t shift too much from their usual lovelorn, jagged melodies. That said, opener ‘Stay Vicious’ is as brutal as they have ever dared be. “I feel just a like a stranger / I feel just like a murderer,” growls Fallon, like he’s been gargling broken beer bottles. Here, he briefly recaptures the rawness of their 2007 debut Sink Or Swim, before the song slides into a delicate twinkle.

Get Hurt is stuffed with anthemic moments, but its crowning glory comes in the barreling, tortured chorus of “Selected Poems,” with major-to-minor chord shifts and Fallon’s fervent croak. Though not one of their most technically perfect songs, it emphatically stakes his claim as one of the most passionate singers in contemporary rock.

His dramatic vocals might be in full force, but conspicuous by their absence are the Gaslight Anthem’s usual lyrical canvases of Americana, save for a couple of brief glimpses of the old dive bar-dwelling, jukebox-thumping badasses in the pair of back-to-back weepies that close the album. During the harrowing acoustics of “Break Your Heart,” Fallon sings “If I played you my favorite song,” offering a flashback to the vinyl obsession that inspired “45” from 2012’s Handwritten LP. “Dark Places” is equally earnest, set in a car, with Fallon playing the role of depressed road hog and threatening to drive it into the sea.

In largely ditching diners, AM radios and the rest, the Gaslight Anthem have crafted a more universal album, mirroring Kings of Leon’s move from rodeo-stomping Southern pride to a more general take on love, relationships and shagging on 2008’s Only By The Night. Yet in doing so, they might just have lost something intrinsic to their identity.

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TIME Music

Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O Gets Intimate on Her Solo Debut

The lo-fi sounds of "Rapt" are disarmingly charming

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This post is in partnership with NME.

“Love’s a f-cking b-tch / Do I really need another habit like you?” coos Karen O over creaky acoustic guitar in this first glimpse at her upcoming debut solo album. “Rapt,” along with the rest of Crush Songs was written way back in 2006, a time when life, not just romance, was proving a “f-cking bitch” for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman. Following a failed tryst with film maker Spike Jonze (“I wasn’t sure I’d ever fall in love again,” she later explained), the New Yorker was also facing up the prospect of loneliness in other areas of her life: “I really contemplated quitting. Things had gotten pretty bad between us,” the singer told NME of her working relationship with YYYs guitarist Nick Zinner soon after the release of 2006’s Show Your Bones. “The future felt completely unwritten.”

All the uncertainty and melancholy of that period simmers noticeably under the hushed lo-fi sounds of “Rapt.” A heart-crushing vignette about trying to break up with a lover you know is bad for you, fans hoping for the post-punk grandeur of YYYs favorites “Maps,” “Gold Lion” or 2013’s “Sacrilege” will feel let down. Instead, this is Microphones-esque bedroom folk so intimate it’s claustrophobic and disarmingly charming. Remember “The Moon Song,” the stirring, stripped-back track Karen wrote for Spike Jonze’s 2013 Oscar winner Her? This is more of the same: a haunting, simple campfire ballad.

Why wait till now to release “Rapt” and the upcoming Crush Songs? It’s hard to say. With Karen now married to music video director Barnaby Clay, who shot the clip for the YYYs’ “Zero” as well as this song’s underwater video, maybe this release is a form of closure for the singer. Or maybe the tracks on “Crush Songs,” written during that period of uncertainty for YYYs, began life as demos for a big solo career launch when the NYC trio disbanded? Karen might have thought they were too good to sit at home on a computer hard drive after the group’s second wind following last year’s “Mosquito.” Or maybe it’s just a favour to the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, whose new Cult Records label is releasing the album and could do with a blockbuster name on their roster. Who knows and, frankly, who cares? “Rapt” is a warming glimpse at another side to the raucous, screaming figure Karen cuts in YYYs. It’s a side we’ve seen in short bursts via soundtrack work (Her, 2009’s Where The Wild Things Are) but never across a whole album. The future feels unwritten again for Karen O – but this time in a good way.

‘Crush Songs’ is released on September 8.

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TIME Music

REVIEW: Tom Petty’s New Album Hypnotic Eye Stays Red, White and Blue

Hypnotic Eye
Warner Bros.

The veteran's latest critiques modern America while embracing the heartland rock of their early years

This post is in partnership with NME.

For almost 40 years, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers have been channeling the red blood and blue collars of the USA into their radio rock. Yet Petty has rarely come across more overtly American than on this, his 13th studio album. Through the gritty rumble of opener “American Dream Plan B,” the honky-tonk blues of “Burnt Out Town” and the vigorous “Full Grown Boy” and “Shadow People” especially, these 11 songs see Petty harness the grand ol’ USA more than ever before. It’s not patriotic, though. Rather, this album critiques modern America while embracing the heartland rock of Petty’s early years. It won’t convert the unconvinced, but Petty sounds as inspired as ever.

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TIME Music

David Bowie’s Isolated Vocal Track For ‘Ziggy Stardust’ Will Give You Chills

Hear the iconic artist's vocal take

This post is in partnership with NME.

Thanks to Brain Pickings for posting the isolated vocal for David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust.’ It’ll give you goosebumps… and make you even more excited for the upcoming “new music” announced this week.

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TIME Music

REVIEW: 2 Chainz Returns to Form on Freebase EP

Freebase EP
The Real University

The rapper's new E.P brims with menacing swagger and ferocious beats

This post is in partnership with NME.

2 Chainz is back with a bang. Compared to his last two overcooked albums, 2013’s B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time and the 2012’s Based on a T.R.U. Story, Freebase is solid southern hip hop. ”I keep shitting on the competition, so I’m put me out a shittape” he brags on the title track; and the rest is equally hubristic. Though the themes are over-familiar hustler fare — “Trap Back” is about drug dealing, “Crib in My Closet” has him and A$AP Rocky boasting about their ”designer shit” and “Cuda Wuda Shuda” is a diss track to all his envious rivals — the EP brims with menacing swagger and ferocious beats. Lyrically 2 Chainz knows he’s no street Shakespeare, but as this EP shows, he certainly knows his way around an arresting tune.

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TIME Music

12 Amazing Songs With Just Three Chords

From "Rock Around the Clock" to "Judy is a Punk"

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This post is in partnership with NME.

Perhaps nothing epitomized the accessible DIY nature of punk more than what iconic fanzine Sideburns quipped in its first issue back in 1977: ‘This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. NOW FORM A BAND’. Both literally and figuratively, it shouted at a generation gripped by punk to give it a go themselves, and follow in the footsteps of bands such as the Ramones, the Clash and the Sex Pistols. Of course, it’s a misconception that everything punk was just three chords syringed with a whole lot of distortion and anarchy. But, it’s also true to say that swathes of songs from all genres have compressed an incredible amount of sonic goodness out of three chords, crafting anything from the most poignant to the most punchy of tracks. From the 1950s to the present day, here are 12 songs that wring the most out of a trio of chords or less.

1954 – ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and the Comets (E, B, A)

With frenetic instrumentation and oodles of slickness, ‘Rock Around the Clock’ propelled rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream, and ultimately changed music forever. Using just three chords (E, A and B major, with the odd 7th thrown in) in the simplest of structures, it squeezed-out a catchy-as-hell hook and a couple of fizzing solos. It’s pretty mind-blowing to think that it was released 60 years ago, considering it’s still one hell of a catalyst for unadulterated hip-swinging, showing that rather fittingly, it’s pretty timeless.

1965 – ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ by Bob Dylan (G, A, D)

Before The Byrds gave it a varnish and took the track to the top spot of the charts, Dylan released ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ in April 1965. Mixing three sparse chords and some brilliant but equally simple lyrics, it was one of several now-classic tracks on Dylan’s fifth studio album, ‘Bringing It All Back Home’. Apparently, it is Bruce Langhorne’s electric guitar countermelody that gives the track its wistful and nostalgic quality, elevating three simple chords into something special.

1967 – ‘Heroin’ by the Velvet Underground (Db, Gb)

Making Sideburns look like they were advocating full-orchestra symphonies, Lou Reed once famously said: ‘One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz’. By his standards, he was therefore pushing-it for ‘Heroin’ with its mere two chords; but for everyone else, it’s downright ridiculous to consider writing a track with only a two chord rocking-back-and-forth structure that lasts a whopping seven minutes. Somehow, with the pendulum-swinging beat that twisted-and-turned from tempo to tempo and the most visceral of lyrics (“Heroin, it’s my wife / And it’s my life”), ‘Heroin’ saw two chords being made into one of the most potent rock songs of all time.

1969 – ‘No Fun’ by the Stooges (A, E, D)

Sure, Iggy Pop may be making his dough now by flogging car and home insurance to the least punk of audiences, but fast-forward over 40 years ago and the Stooges were making some of the fiercest, gnarliest and snarliest proto-punk headbangers around. ‘No Fun’ was the standout track of their eponymous debut LP (with the toxic-waste headbutt of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ a close second), taking the three-chord rule years before it became the flagship technique for the budding punk-virtuoso, and running with it at a blistering pace.

1971 – ‘Get It On’ by T. Rex (E, A, G)

Undoubtedly one of the defining tracks of the 70s, ‘Get It On’ transported a devilishly simple blues riff into a glimmering masterpiece. The guitar solo manages to sound godly – even if it is just a few notes rather slowly executed – and the odd twinkling of piano gives a shimmering of magic to its star-spangled rock.

1976 – ‘Judy is a Punk’ by The Ramones (Eb5, Bb5, Ab5)

Who needs anything other than three chords? And, hell, while we’re at this, who even needs three notes in a chord when you can have two-note chords, eh? That was certainly the mantra of Johnny Ramone, whose arsenal was eternally filled with magazine after magazine of shotgun power-chords. ‘Judy is a Punk’ is stupidly simple in its three chord rhythm and fuzzed-out vocals, but it’s still nothing short of an absolute belter. Sure, complex can be good, but simple’s often best when you have barrels of distortion and enough leather to befall an entire herd of cattle.

1980 – Atmosphere by Joy Division (A, D, E)

There’s a damn good case for ‘Atmosphere’ being Joy Division’s best track. It exploits the accessibility of a few chords to create something universally anthemic, as well as a soundscape filled with empty space that lingers on the ear. It’s ineffably beautiful and moving in its poignancy – “My illusion / worn like a mask of self-hate / confronts and then dies” – and richness of tone; from Ian Curtis’ distinctive baritone vocals to the expansive synths that bridge the verses.

1985 – ‘Just Like Honey’ by Jesus and the Mary Chain (G#, D#, C#)

Twisting the expansive back-and-forth chords of ‘Atmosphere’ into something lush and lifting, ‘Just Like Honey’ is a pretty much perfect metaphor for the track: it’s viscous in its pools of distortion and fuzz and it’s swarm of sugary melodies create a killer pop tune.

1995 – Common People by Pulp (C, G, F)

Apart from the fact that ‘Common People’ is rib-achingly hilarious, its sonic structure is the perfect example of the perfect pop song. With just the three major chords in the simplest scale of all, Jarvis and co. squeezed out one of the most uplifting, funny and genuine songs that Britpop blessed us with.

2007 – ‘505’ by Arctic Monkeys (Dm, Em)

Acting as a rather neat precursor for the darker direction the Sheffield four-piece would take on Humbug, ‘505’ closed their second album on an ominous and brooding note. With only two chords – both minor – to its name, it is pretty crafty that such a catchy and (relatively) poppy track is the result.

2010 – ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ by The National (A, F#m, D)

‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ is an example of how nuanced indie-rock can be; even with the simplest and most laid-back of instrumentation. By having a minor chord as one of the three in the track – a different move to most three-chord songs – it’s given a new sense of poignancy, with minor and major chords playing off each other to create a swinging pendulum of emotions.

2011 – ‘If You Wanna’ by The Vaccines (C, F, G)

For as long as music exists and the human race has ears, they’ll always be an uppity group of critics that look-down on the old I-IV-V Three Chord Rule. Sure, it’s laughably simple. But frankly, who cares? Considering almost all of the Vaccines’ debut album consists of the same chord trick, they work wonders in creating distinct and infectious tunes brimming with more hooks than a pirate playing synth. ‘If You Wanna’ is the track that cemented The Vaccines’ status as indie-rock heroes, giving the Ramones punk-pop a good old scrub-up and polish with copious amounts of spaced-out reverb.

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