For the second part of my posts, Things That Go Thump in the Night, I am going over musicians and their tracks that can be best described as being of the “alternative” music category. For me, these musicians are not quite rock, do not fit neatly into electronica, and have great tracks and albums to accompany you through a productive work day. A big contender in this category is the British band Radiohead.
Radiohead is one of the musicians that I have been most loyal to over the years. Growing up in the Toronto suburbs, I was forced into years of classical piano training when all I wanted to do was listen to guitars and the beeps of electronic experimentation. Radiohead definitely fit the bill for both those musical elements, and despite their metamorphosis in style over the years I have loved almost every one of their albums. I also appreciate their newest album, last year’s The King of Limbs, which is the perfect album to play while plowing through work. The album has an ambient feel and the vocals merge with the instruments so that the words are almost discernible. Separator is my favourite track off the album and a great example of the British band’s versatility despite almost 20 years of existence.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE
The Toronto band, Broken Social Scene, now a truly broken scene of musicians, have a few instrumental tracks throughout their four albums for your more rock-friendly tastes. Pacific Theme is an easy-going track with a tropical taste, and you would never know it is from a Canadian band with indie cred. Other great instrumental tracks by Broken Social Scene include KC Accidental and Meet Me in the Basement from their last and final album.
GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR
The exclamation point-loving, Montréal-based band Godspeed You! Black Emperor is sparse when it comes to issuing new albums but epic when it comes to crafting each of their tracks. The shortest of their works is six and a half minutes long, but have released stretched out tracks as long as twenty-nine minutes, in the case of their first album F# A# (Infinity). Their new album released this year is the first in ten long years, but Godspeed You! Black Emperor have managed to maintain a loyal following of devotees of their saga-producing works. Storm is off of their second album, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, and is emotive, daunting, and inspiring for a long day of work.
YO LA TENGO
Yo La Tengo is another band whose tracks can also be of the epic length, though not as consistently and to the degree of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The Hoboken, New Jersey band loves both the soft and punkish aesthetic of a ruminating nature, and their track Let’s Be Still from their 2003 album, Summer Sun, is a great example of one of their eclectic styles. Although the tune checks in at more than twelve minutes, Yo La Tengo manages to engage the listener for the entirety of the song with a strong guitar accompaniment and horn leads. In contrast, All the Glitter is Gone from 2009’s Popular Songs is more thrashy, but remains playful and boisterous. Look out for their next album, Fade, to be released in January of next year.
Air has also been around for a good fourteen years and identifies as an electronic band, but I find their work quite complex that I feel more comfortable adding them into the “alternative” music category. The French duo’s newest album released earlier this year, Le Voyage Dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), is the soundtrack to the remake of Georges Méliès’ 1912 silent movie of the same name. This science fiction classic was restored and rereleased with Air’s soundtrack, and the visuals and musical accompaniment is just so well done, both separately and individually. Air’s albums are usually of a more atmospheric and stylish nature, and I find that just about every single one of their releases are great for work and study purposes. Their tongue-in-cheek poses and futuristic designs for their album art are also fun to discover and appreciate.
Next Things That Go Thump in the Night post: Jazz and Funk injections to your work periods.
See Part One of this series on electronic music.