Chris Martins



  • Radiohead, 'The King of Limbs' (Ticker Tape)

    Radiohead, 'The King of Limbs' (Ticker Tape)

    In a 2009 issue of the literary magazine Believer, Radiohead main brain Thom Yorke said he was tired of the "creative hoo-ha" of releasing full-length albums. This was after 2007's In Rainbows, which famously found the band untethered from a career-long relationship with EMI -- freer than the visionary group had ever been, in terms of not only what they could release, but how they could release it. In Rainbows was hailed on both counts. In fact, it was Radiohead's best reviewed record in a decade, since their 1997 monolith OK Computer. And yet, as Yorke concluded his thought in the interview: "We can't possibly dive into that again. It'll kill us." The King of Limbs is a different beast. With only eight songs and 37 minutes, it's Radiohead's shortest album to date. It emphasizes percussion and low end over scrawling guitar and possible singles. The quiet stuff over the loud.

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    Next Big Things 2011: Odd Future

    Hide the family, hip-hop's latest scourge is an obscenely talented gang of skateboarding Wolves raised in the wilds of Los Angeles. Rapping about unspeakable things, inspired by a certain Shady antihero, they just don't give a f--k! Except about a Grammy. [Magazine Excerpt] Tyler Haley is ecstatic. It's soundcheck at the Echo in Los Angeles and Odd Future are preparing for a homecoming of sorts. The volatile, controversial ten-member posse -- rap's most outrageously subversive newcomers -- just played two sellout shows in New York and London.

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    Wavves, Best Coast Kick Off Tour in SoCal

    Wavves and Best Coast kicked off their co-headlining tour on Friday night with an intimately raucous gig at San Diego's Soma, a dingy old theater converted into a 500-capacity, all-ages punk club. The bands' coupled-up leaders, Nathan Williams and Bethany Cosentino, dubbed their joint winter outing, presented by SPIN and MTV, as the "Summer is Forever" tour, which alone should have been proof enough that they are, indeed, the First Couple of Surf-Soaked, SoCal Indie Rock. But if that didn't do the trick, the double dose of playful, bratty, pop-fueled, sun-damaged tunes certainly did. No Joy had the stage first, however. The lady-led Montreal band was hotly tipped by Cosentino on Twitter last year, and have since become her labelmates on Mexican Summer.

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    Notable Newcomer Lissie Wows Crowd in L.A.

    Saturday night in Los Angeles, rising indie folk-pop singer Lissie seemed surprised that so many people had come out to see her play. "For the longest time I knew every single person who came to my show. I could count them on my hands," the L.A.-based, Illinois native said toward the start of her band's set. "Now there are so many new faces." Those faces may have belonged to strangers from Lissie's point of view, but she was hardly unfamiliar to them. The packed-in crowd swayed, stomped and sang along throughout the performance, topping the evening off with a fist-pumping chant of "LIS-SIE! LIS-SIE!" that made the singer-songwriter blush as she stepped back onstage for an encore. The night began with a cover of Hank Williams' "Wedding Bells," a clever country classic that in Lissie's hands becomes a gossamer, reverb-soaked celebration of sadness.

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    Live Show of the Year: Gorillaz

    Imagine witnessing hip-hoplegends De La Soul trading rhymes over the jabs and swells of a live string septet. Or Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori bopping around with the Clash's Paul Simonon and Mick Jones. Or the gaunt, sage face of Snoop Dogg, four stories tall and waxing philosophical from a massive screen suspended above a blazing brass section, plus the string septet, plus Simonon and Jones, and plus countless other joyous onstage noisemakers. "It's like a juggernaut once it starts," says Damon Albarn, musical mastermind behind Gorillaz. The peculiar pop project he and illustrator Jamie Hewlett founded 12 years ago in a shared London flat has grown from a virtual band of comic-book characters to a traveling spectacle of Barnumesque proportions. "There's no stopping it," says Albarn. "The magic is in the way it mesmerizes, brings you into its world." He's not exaggerating.

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    Florence, Pumpkins, Black Keys Rock KROQ Xmas

    For 21 years, Los Angeles' alt-rock radio stalwart KROQ has thrown the holiday ball to end all. Set at the Gibson Amphitheater, which itself is seated within the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, the annual two-day gala is a destination trip for some and a local holiday for many. Perhaps unique to Almost Acoustic Christmas, festival organizers are, well, organized, turning talent around, quite literally, at an amazing pace thanks to a huge rotating stage. Set lists are kept tight and just about everyone's a potential headliner -- with 19 bands playing in less than 12 hours total, beer and bathroom breaks at strictly at your own risk.

  • Kanye West, 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' (Roc-A-Fella)

    Kanye West, 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' (Roc-A-Fella)

    After recording an album-length, Auto-Tuned sigh, Kanye West is ready to celebrate again, but not in the way we've come to expect. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy isn't idly titled. It's a sinister, orchestral, hugely grandiose affair that owes as much to the artist's self-aggrandizing ego as to the voracious id that would destroy it publicly. Exhibit A: West to album cover portraitist George Condo: "Look, I'ma let you finish, but can you make me look even douchier?" A princely narcissist among narcissists, West has never been afraid to marvel at, pose questions to, or generally bask in the inner folds of his psyche, but there was only one way to interpret the early message sent by "Runaway." He was calling himself an asshole, in the chorus of an epic, piano-driven, ear-worming single. Fantasy is filled with similar moments, as if West is working from a checklist of his faults.

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    Breaking Out: Das Racist

    Some groups want to be loved. Others aim to split public opinion. Das Racist take a third path. "We strive for alienation," says Himanshu Suri, a.k.a. Heems, the Brooklyn rap trio's talkiest member. "If we're just polarizing, then we're not very good at what we're trying to do." Exactly what it is Das Racist are trying to do has been debated since early 2009. That's when the goofily magnetic "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," Heems and fellow MC Victor "Kool A.D." Vazquez's track about dudes struggling to figure out which fast-food joint they're in, became an online sensation. The song inspired myriad covers and the video racked up more than a million YouTube and Vimeo plays.

  • The Russian Futurists, 'The Weight's on the Wheels' (Upper Class)

    The Russian Futurists, 'The Weight's on the Wheels' (Upper Class)

    On new single "Hoeing Weeds Sewing Seeds," Russian Futurists leader Matthew Hart swears "to repair things that are broke," and indeed, the song tunes his lo-fi to hi, stripping down the usual bedroom symphonics and cuing up the power synths. It's the sugary stuff that the Ontario popster has always aimed for, but it's not the only sound on his fourth album. There's Books-like cut-and-paste on "Walk With a Crutch" and a mix of AM radio glaze and new jack swing on "100 Shopping Days 'Til Christmas." Hart continues to experiment, ensuring that his wide smile never gets tiresome.

  • Blank Dogs, 'Land and Fixed' (Captured Tracks)

    Blank Dogs, 'Land and Fixed' (Captured Tracks)

    Brooklyn's Mike Sniper completes a proper metamorphosis with his third album, shedding the cocoon of skronk that enveloped his past to become, well, something quite beautiful. Opener "Goes By" gets right to it: an upbeat sound built from a bubbling bass line, handclaps, crisply rattling guitars, and sunny synth sequences. Sniper's voice still sags and drags, but Land and Fixed is remarkably feel-good, even when channeling the Cure via the Breakfast Club bounce of "Blurred Tonight" or Joy Division on cold-wave throbber "Collides." Simply put, another noisenik gets his wings.

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