So many great albums have dropped in the past year that I don’t know how to even make a list of the ones that I liked. How many can I list? Fifty? Sixty? More? Music blogs and magazines have already put out their top albums of 2013 lists. Some, such as Rolling Stone, have listed 50; NPR has 100 favourite songs and 50 favourite records; PopMatters lists 75 best albums of 2013; and many others have lists for every genre (tip: if you want to get a smattering of what was happening in metal last year, do check out Stereogum’s top 50 in that loud genre; I was happy when I took a peek there to see the only metal album of last year that I bought, Deafheaven’s Sunbather, was No.1). Read more
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Sometimes when you’re searching for new musicians you need look no further than the record label that publishes their work. Sub Pop is one such label. Set up in Seattle 25 years ago, it was a independent label that made a name when it signed up the vanguards of the Seattle grunge rock movement—Nirvana, of course, but also Mudhoney and Soundgarden. Those three bands may be legendary in rock music’s history but the list of great bands that have worked with the label is impressive—Sonic Youth, Death Cab for Cutie, White Stripes,  Modest Mouse, The Shins, Built to Spill, Foals, The Smashing Pumpkins…. It’s a long list of stellar musicians and bands. So, although Sub Pop is not really a kosher indie label any longer (Warner Brothers has a biggish stake in it now), many people trust the label so much as to blindly pick up albums by new artists that it signs on. I tried Wolf Parade, Vetiver, CSS (Cansei der Ser Sexy, a very agreeable Brazilian band) and many other bands that I’ve become a fan of now simply because they have worked with Sub Pop. Read more

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Last week, after a couple of quick listens to Radiohead’s The King of Limbs, I had gushed about that album. Now, after several more unhurried listens, I am happy to report that – despite the negative blah by some critics (no guitar riffs; nothing new; very short…. yada yada…) – it is a fine album that I’m going to keep going back to. In fact, what I did after the second, third and fourth helpings of the 37-minute TKOL was revisit the band’s back catalogue and get lost for a couple of days in all of their albums, particularly Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows, all of which came out in  the 2000s, but also the super ones that the band released in the 1990s – Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer. That’s what set me thinking about the Nineties. I know, I know, it’s been a while since that decade passed, but have you stopped to think how much great music was produced in those ten years? Read more

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I don’t know why I went into a sudden R.E.M. phase a few weeks back but it could have to do with the fact that a colleague had acquired their new box set of re-mastered (with bonus and live tracks) versions of their first three albums—Murmur, Reckoning and Fables of Reconstruction. I dusted off my old R.E.M. studio albums, all 14 of them, and began listening to them after ages. Then I tried buying that box set but I still haven’t located a music shop that has it. Read more

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My new friend Shazam and I are sitting in a tiny bar swigging beer and eating some not so healthy food (actually, I am drinking and eating; my new friend is not up for much of that, but more about him later). And listening to an eclectic playlist of songs that the bar’s DJ has lined up for the afternoon. The music is good so the afternoon turns out to be a long one. Several familiar tunes roll out. I hear a couple of Pearl Jam songs – Alive and Yellow Ledbetter. You feel good when you hear songs that you like or, even better, songs that you like but haven’t got around to listening to in ages, when someone unexpectedly plays them in a public place, like a bar or a restaurant. Read more

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Last weekend, I did something that is totally at odds with what Download Central is supposed to do. Instead of sitting at my computer and scouring the Internet for downloads or streams of new music, I actually went out and watched a rock band performing live. The gig was at Delhi’s kitschy Hard Rock Café (but then aren’t all HRCs meant to be kitschy?) and the band was Hurricane Bells who hail from Brooklyn, New York.

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I don’t know how many people read this column regularly (four, perhaps?) but ever since Download Central began a little over a year back, I’ve heard one common response: “Why do you write about bands that we’ve never heard of?” This has become such a refrain that I’ve often felt a twinge of self-doubt. Am I really writing about completely obscure bands that no one knows or cares about? If that was indeed true, what was the point of writing the column?
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Ever since last week when I first heard Pearl Jam’s Backspacer, their newest album, I’ve been obsessively listening to it over and over again. It’s a mighty fine album and if you read the review in last Saturday’s Rock ’n’ Roll Circus in Hindustan Times by my colleague Indrajit Hazra you’ll know what I mean. Backspacer is a whopper; a cracker of an album from the band. Pearl Jam has been around for nearly 20 years, much longer than what many bands take to burn out or become their own stupid caricatures—I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about.
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I first saw a few copies of Relix magazine in the 1970s when it was a hand-stapled fan-zine for the Grateful Dead. Swept off my feet by the band when I heard them first, I’d written in gushingly to their San Rafael PO Box and some kind tripper in their mailroom out there posted me a bunch of Relix copies free. It was an ‘insider’ kind of magazine then, aimed at hardcore Deadheads and tape-traders.

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