February Music: Not Radiohead

February 24, 2011


I’m not going to write about Radiohead.

I like Radiohead, you might like Radiohead. So far, I really like King of Limbs; there’s some good stuff there.

But everyone’s talking about Radiohead. And, truth be told, I was excited about some recent music before I even knew there was a new Radiohead album.

If we’re talking about my favourites from the 1990s, Radiohead would be there. But so would PJ Harvey. And if you think Radiohead has made some challenging artistic choices since their altpop heyday, god knows what you’d think of Polly Jean. She made a fairly mainstream rock album with Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – on which she got Thom Yorke to sing a straightforward love song – but also released White Chalk, a spooky ghost album.

Let England Shake is about war, and the death and horror that comes with it. It’s more upbeat than White Chalk, but still dark and haunting.

I love The Dears. I was understandably disappointed when they almost kind of broke up, and also by the fact that Missiles just wasn’t that interesting an album. But Degeneration Street is exactly the sort of album I’ve been waiting for: It’s big, emotional, and totally rocks. I saw them play it live at The Garrison in the fall, and I’ve been waiting for it to come out ever since. See them live if you have the chance – they’re one of my favourite live bands.

Shara Worden can really sing. I first heard her on The Decemberists’ Hazards of Love as the evil queen, then heard her cover of Feeling Good on the highly excellent Dark Is The Night compilation. (There’s also an awesome video of her impersonating Whitney Houston at a karaoke barPenelope is a collaborative album about a woman’s husband returning from war. Shara Worden sings it, and it’s an absolutely beautiful piece of music.

Mogwai can play their instruments really loudly. They play them quietly, too, and they play them quite well, but it’s when they crank the volume that they really get your attention. And then you realize they weren’t playing loud at all, and they crank it up again. They’re at their best live – if you can’t make it to a show, listen to Special Moves, their live album – but their albums are always worth a listen. They also have some of the best album and song titles going, which I suppose you can be flexible about when most of your songs lack lyrics. Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will is another strong album.