The Hit List | The National (re)discover that rock thang

And more! Bully blast us back to '92, HiRSH and Jackie Highway freak us out and Chelsea Cutler tells us why she wants to be the female Odesza

Pop sucks (right now).

An alarming indictment, especially from the folks at Popdust. But if you've read one post-VMA write-up, you've read ten of them: pop music is failing us. Maybe it's the churn of T-swizzle's robo-whine greeting us into a new media cycle or maybe it was that photo of Katy Perry looked dazed by a fidget spinner aimlessly instead of singing about her devotion to our lord and savior. Even Fifth Harmony feels dampered by fake news; come on guys Fourth Harmony has such a ring to it.

Is all of that really what we need, now more than ever?

Which is probably why we've found ourselves collectively cheering on grumpy white dudes with guitars and miles north of thirty. Last week, grown-up New Jersey emo-belters Brand New hit the top of the Billboard 200 for the first time in their career, with the arrival of their warmly-received fifth album, Science Fiction (Procrastinate! Music Traitors), their first (and supposedly final) album in eight years. And there's a solid chance that it's spot this weekend will be taken by another comeback machine: James Murphy spent much of the past year selling out mid-size Brooklyn venues by the week-load and finally has something to show for it, LCDSoundsystem's big number four, American Dream (Columbia). It's a relative slow-burner compared to 2010's This Is Happening (there's no "Dance Yrself Clean" for the Spotify mix) but with enough subtly gorgeous moments to keep the scaplers in their nefarious business for years to come.

The National - "Day I Die"

The next week will also bring the return of another aging indie rock institution who has found surprising popularity in today's frantic clime: The National, who made their first number one on the Adult Alternative chart with "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness" earlier this year. It's no coincidence that the album attached to, Sleep Well Beast (4AD) also happens to be their strongest in a decade, a coherent arrangement of the band's best parts: complex, layered, string instruments brought together only to be blasted through by frontman Matt Berninger's gravely baritone, a sound that's midway between Morrissey and the howling wind that rages on late-nights in Bushwick between refurbished warehouses.

The record's latest single, "Day I Die" both underlines this aesthetic with a sharpie, a sort of thesis statement of what the band can do when they're whatever the indie rock version of flexing is. This is important: if the National are America's Radiohead, they have to burn a few witches too: "Day I Die" lights the dry brush hoarded in the silo all summer long, the kind of antic, particularly crashing indie banger that most bands whip out once and never quite recapture, see: "Wolf Like Me" or "Maps." It immediately brings to mind the propulsive material of their 2007 breakout Boxer but it also fits in a way that, say, TV on the Radio's "Winter" or anything on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Mosquito didn't. Just listen to how tight guitarist and primary songwriter Aaron Dessner holds back the chorus, waiting until the perfect, most well-thought second to let Berninger's grovel explode.

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Two Rap Kings and Kanye's DJ: Your Guide to Meadows

FESTIVAL | Future! Weezer! Gorillaz! Lizzo! Festival season strikes in the Fall

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Something for oldheads, newheads and indie rock fiends

The rock critic Zoe Camp reckons the competition between Live Nation and AEG for New York music festival domination to an arms race for geographic hegemony, to be the Woodstock in the mind of the east coast set. Last year, in reaction to the warmly-received debut of AEG/Goldenvoice's missile silo, the Panorama Music Festival (they had bathrooms that could flush! oy!) and a dispiriting turn of events at their own Governor's Ball—the third day had been canceled due to fears of a thunderstorm that never ended up happening--the Gov Ball people (a company called Founders Entertainment, now a division of Live Nation) announced that they were going to have one up on those invading Californians and pull off what so many festival organizations couldn't: a New York music festival that you didn't require an obnoxious ferry line. Put together in a rush and settling for a parking lot in Queens, last year's Meadows Music & Arts Festival was a bit of a mess. Headliner and ostensible raison d'etre, Kanye West, who was among those who were supposed to perform on that ill-fated third day, ended up dipping midway and the festival's second headliner, the reliably chartopping Toronto crooner The Weeknd, didn't even make it and had to be replaced with the vaguely polarizing J. Cole.

This year's festivities promise to be different. Extended into a traditional three-day spread, The Meadows is marking a flag on new terrain for the slowly expanding festival season. Competing for attention this month in the Big Apple will be smaller fare: the return of the Village Voice's Seaport Music Festival, which used to run in the early naughties until it was supplanted by something called 4Knots which, itself, mysteriously disappeared this year and Pitchfork Media's plunge into the New York scene, something called Octfest, which has something to do with their AnBev-funded offshoot of a similar name. Both are old school rock events, headlined by Ted Leo and Guided By Voices, respectively, Meadows is, correspondingly, using their newfound Live Nation weight to bring some of the big names in hip hop over to Queen's Citi Field.

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