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Pitchfork Music Festival 2017: Friday Recap

Day one of Pitchfork is done, and boy was it a lot of fun. Apologies for that rhyming introduction – I immediately regretted it after I had typed it, but still liked it enough to not delete it. But yes, on the whole it was a delightful day and a great start to another year of the festival. The primary lesson that I learned – well, rather had reinforced on me – was that the best performances always had genuine passion and respect behind them from both the artists and the crowds. There are some examples of the good, the bad, and the middling peppered throughout this recap, so join me on the other side of the jump for a chronicling of all that went down from a musical perspective on the first day of the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2017: Friday Preview

Slap on some sunscreen and hose yourself down with bug spray, because Pitchfork Music Festival is starting early this year! Well, a couple of hours earlier than usual. In past years, the opening Friday has always been a shortened day, typically kicking off around 3PM. I’m not exactly sure what the point of that was, beyond letting some people take a half day of work and still make it in time, or perhaps working a full day and not missing too much. Maybe it was also a budgetary concern, as the cost of booking another 3 or 4 artists to fill out the lineup might have been just a touch more than they wanted to spend. Whatever their logic, it seems like the organizers have stopped kidding themselves and are finally ready to extend the overall festival experience by a couple of hours. Gates on Friday open at Noon, and the first artist takes the stage at 1PM.

Of course just because we’re getting a full day on Friday doesn’t mean there are more names on the lineup to help fill that extra time out. Instead, a number of artists at the start of each day will perform unopposed, meaning you’ll have the choice to either watch one specific performance, wander around Union Park and explore other areas of the festival (/drink more/hang with friends), or simply show up late. The choice is yours, but I would strongly recommend arriving early all three days. You’re likely to discover something truly great as a result. There is at least one set starting before 2PM each day that has the potential to be among the best of the entire weekend, and it’d be a shame for you to miss out! Then again at Pitchfork, just about every set is a must-see. Navigating the weekend filled with such great music can be a little challenging, which is why this day-by-day preview guide is here to help! Join me after the jump for a breakdown of Friday’s lineup and schedule, where I’ll do my best to point you in the direction of exciting, fun, and amazing things to do, see, and hear.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2017 Lineup Playlist
Saturday Preview Guide
Sunday Preview Guide

Pitchfork Music Festival 2017: Lineup Playlist

Welcome to the beginning of Pitchfork Music Festival Week 2017! It’s become tradition here on Faronheit in the last few years to spend a full seven days celebrating the three day blissful orgy of music that descends upon Chicago every July in the form of the Pitchfork Music Festival. In my opinion, you won’t find a better curated or more diverse festival lineup anywhere other than Pitchfork. They put their brand and reputation on the line to celebrate great and innovative artists across backgrounds and genres. If you’re unaware or ignorant of the festival, perhaps a glance at some past coverage will provide an accurate impression of how things go each year. We couldn’t be more excited to bring you a complete festival guide all week long on Faronheit, which includes day-by-day previews, day-by-day recaps, plus a whole bunch of photos and other media along the way. Whether you’re headed to Union Park this weekend and are unsure about what bands to see, or are interested in the lineup and are looking to vicariously experience the festival without actually going, the hope is you’ll make this site one of your stops for key information and on-the-ground reporting. It’s a pleasure to put this guide together every year, and I hope it’s reflected in the content posted.

Let’s get started by providing a proper introduction to all of the artists set to perform at Pitchfork Music Festival 2017. After the jump you’ll find a Spotify playlist featuring two songs from every single artist on the linup, along with individual links to websites, music videos and more. The Spotify playlist is ordered by day and set time, while everything else is sorted alphabetically. There are plenty of ways to get to know these artists, but obviously listening to their music is the most important of all. So click some links, stream some songs, and begin your education!

More Pitchfork Music Festival 2017 coverage:
Friday Preview Guide
Saturday Preview Guide
Sunday Preview Guide

Album Review: Neon Indian – Era Extra├▒a [Mom & Pop/Static Tongues]

Of the many chillwave/glo-fi acts to emerge out of that hype cycle a couple years ago, Neon Indian was easily one of the most unique. Sure, the Alan Palomo-fronted project had that distinctive 80s washed out bedroom electronica feel to it, but there haven’t been a lot of artists that incorporate 8-bit video game noises and distorted guitar lines. Throw Palomo’s overly soft-on-the-ears vocals in as well, and Neon Indian’s debut “Psychic Chasms” turned him into a proverbial indie star. Last year he did a one-off single for Green Label Sound called “Sleep Paralysist”, and a couple months back he recorded a psychedelic freak-out EP with The Flaming Lips. Both of those things marked shifts in direction for Palomo and Neon Indian, yet none of those things quite encapsulate what is going on with his second long player, “Era Extra├▒a”. Then again, if you’ve been paying attention to how things are going with other chillwave artists these days, you’re surely aware that like any hype cycle, it’s lifespan is running short. Changes are all but required to survive, and it’s fascinating to hear how the artists within the genre are reacting individually. If you’re Palomo, you go to Finland by yourself and see what sorts of batshit ideas fly out of your head. Rather than putting him in a straightjacket though, “Era Extra├▒a” actually winds up bringing a greater focus to his unique sound.

As it has played out with a number of other chillwave artists, “Era Extra├▒a” boasts a marked step forwards in production style. “Psychic Chasms” was crafted and recorded primarily in Alan Palomo’s bedroom, and you could pretty much tell that from the way it sounded. Now utilizing an actual studio and with actual producer Dave Fridmann, the new album sounds cleaner and bigger than ever before. There are still a handful of woozy, fully retro-fied moments, in particular the 3 instrumental “Heart” interludes, but while the era remains firmly entrenched in the 80s, we’re now dealing in technicolor rather than something paler and more faded. If this were the last record, a track like “Hex Girlfriend” might otherwise have vocals buried in the mix and filled with so much lo-fi reverb that the lyrics border on indecipherable. Now better produced and devoid of any vocal effects, the vocals come across as clear and dominant, a positive when placed among shoegazey guitars and woozy synths. In almost direct opposition to that, the album’s title track features highly polished synths and strongly driven bass, a combo that feels markedly M83/New Order-ish, but then the vocals wind up lowest on the totem pole and oozing with so much reverb that they’re nearly pointless. A huge positive is that the song is paired next to “Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow)”, a track that is a spiritual and sonic cousin but does a far more interesting job blending textures and pulling off the M83 style. In fact, the sequencing on the entirety of “Era Extra├▒a” is rather inspired, as the grungy, guitar-heavy shoegaze numbers “The Blindside Kiss” and “Hex Girlfriend” wind up neighbors, while there’s an almost LCD Soundsystem-like quality to “Future Sick” and “Suns Irrupt” even if neither track ever quite gets to that level of brilliance. Palomo even has “Arcade Blues” tacked onto the very end of the record with the word “single” in parentheses because he wanted to include it as a bonus track even though it didn’t fit in stylistically with the rest of the record. He’s right about that, and it makes for a great little addendum to everything that came before it.

Palomo also shows off his expanding skills as a composer, building more creatively stimulating and intricate melodies than ever before and utilizing an army of sound effects to accent increasingly complex choruses. First single “Polish Girl” experiments a little with verse structure, namely by placing a bit of instrumental space between the chorus and verses that serves as its own hook. It’s not noticeable unless you’re really looking for it though, which is one of the reasons why the song works so well. In other spots, it’s little moments that make you sit up and take notice. The static-filled, bubbling synth open to “Hex Girlfriend” and the twinkling synths that bring the title track to its conclusion are just two of the more soberingly beautiful bits that bring an extra dose of charm to songs that are far more expansive and party-oriented than most of Neon Indian’s earlier stuff. Yet it never wanders from the singular path it appears to be on, streamlined and to the point more than ever before. And while some of the textures and approaches to most of the songs have changed on “Era Extra├▒a”, the lyrical topics stay within the ballpark. Yes, there’s the inevitable topic du jour of relationships, primarily failed ones, that Palomo gets down about from time to time. That comprises much of the first half of the album, while the second half is more about distancing yourself from the world at large primarily through disconnection. “Future Sick” is all about falling behind the times technologically, while “Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow)” is about the need to carve your own path in life or risk being left in the dark. The melodies themselves may be uplifting and danceable, but by no means do all of them project positive messages.

If there’s one thing “Era Extra├▒a” lacks, it’s a more lighthearted approach. It’s a big part of why “Arcade Blues” doesn’t fit within the solid structure of the rest of the record. Not that “Arcade Blues” is a single overjoyed moment on this album – from the title alone you can tell it’s not a happy song. What it does right though is through the smart and liberal use of video game samples, remind us of those afternoons after school or weekends in which we’d go to the arcade with friends and have a blast pumping those machines full of quarters. Palomo may have preferred another method of distraction, but there was a certain satisfaction to be gained from everything as classic as Pac Man to putting the pedal to the floor in a driving game or knowing that your parents didn’t want you playing Mortal Kombat. That he only finds sadness in an arcade while simultaneously exploiting video game sound effects is almost counterintuitive. This, coming from a guy that used to perform in his early pre-Neon Indian days while wearing a Nintendo Powerglove. It’s that uncertainty, that push towards something darker as the music itself sounds lighter than ever, that makes “Era Extra├▒a” weaker than its predecessor. For all the advances Neon Indian has made sonically, verbally and psychologically Palomo has run the other way. He’s retreated into this more pessimistic and serious place but can’t even be bothered to try a little sarcasm on for size. The record is still a success, but not nearly what it could have been had the outlook been a little brighter. With big, fun-sounding music, you want to have the artist reflect that back at you with their words. LCD Soundsystem had their fair share of sadder songs (“All My Friends”, “Someone Great”), but those were often balanced out with silly numbers (“North American Scum”, “Drunk Girls”). Once Alan Palomo is able to find that same dichotomy, Neon Indian will truly hit the big time.

Neon Indian – Polish Girl

Neon Indian – Hex Girlfriend

Neon Indian – Fallout

Buy “Era Extra├▒a” from Amazon

Album Review: LCD Soundsystem – London Sessions [EMI/DFA]

A few weeks back, my good friends in LCD Soundsystem threw me a birthday party. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the intention when they booked their Chicago tour date on my birthday, but I turned it into a birthday party anyways with 4,500 of my closest friends. In my review of the show, which was double billed with Hot Chip opening, I pretty much called it the best show I’d seen in 2010. That’s an endorsement you can take to the bank. It marked the second time I saw LCD Soundsystem within a 6 month period, and over the course of three records they have become an extremely tight knit live force to be reckoned with. There are few bands I can recommend more these days. Naturally then, interest in an LCD Soundsystem live album should be met with a nearly equal sense of enthusiasm. Even if you can’t afford a ticket to see James Murphy and his merry band of misfits perform in a city near you, at least you can get a recorded document of what the show is like. So we have the “London Sessions”, a live record available now on iTunes that was recorded this past June at Pool/Miloco studios in South London, shortly after the band’s performance at Glastonbury.

Yes, there is a certain visual component that goes into your LCD Soundsystem live show that can only be rendered on DVD, but the audio benefits alone would seem to make a live album worthwhile. The band tends to throw a little extra into their sets, carefully planning and arranging them for the best transitional effect. Each individual album is sequenced so carefully, but when you perform, you need to put on a catalogue-spanning set. There’s a reason why the LCD Soundsystem set is exactly the same for almost every single show, and it’s for maximum effect. “London Sessions” unfortunately doesn’t feature that exact set that they’ve been doing these last few months. There’s nothing in the way of transitions here, as every song is neatly capped on both ends. The songs are spread pretty smartly across the band’s albums, with special emphasis on their latest, “This Is Happening”. In the form of an extra special treat, the live record closes with the rarity “Yr City’s A Sucker”, something that few crowds have had the privilege of bearing witness to. If there was ever a time to do it, when you’re being recorded is probably one of them.

So we have the singular issue that plagues these “London Sessions”, and that is the use of a recording studio. In most situations, you get a live album from a band that has been pristinely recorded via the soundboard at a show they played, and while it often sounds good, depending on the situation the crowd noise or overly loud singalongs can get a bit bothersome. That’s the issue with legitimate live albums, though all that stuff goes ignored when you’re right there in the crowd with everyone else. The benefits of playing your songs live in a studio are mostly in audio fidelity form, and LCD Soundsystem’s songs are pretty pristine for these “London Sessions”. It’s very possible they did multiple takes of each song and only chose the ones they liked best. It also stands to reason that though they’re noisy, crowds serve a huge purpose when it comes to pushing a performance on stage. People go to shows to get amped up over live performances of their favorites. Bands play live shows not just for the cash, but because of the love and passion their fans give back to them. This exchange of energy tends to take almost every live performance up a notch. You may be recording your songs 100% live and using no samples in a studio, but without that screaming, singing along and relentless applause, there’s just a little bit of edge missing. The “London Sessions” come remarkably close to capturing exactly what you’d see were you to actively attend an LCD Soundsystem show, but subtract that audience and a certain vitality or the mere possibility of everything going completely off the tracks gets taken away too.

The value, or the real reason why “London Sessions” is important enough for you to purchase is that you’re offered a different perspective on LCD Soundsystem than you get from their records. When the rhythm section goes completely nuts in an extended jam session at the end of the live version of “Get Innocuous!”, that’s something you can’t get on the original “Sound of Silver” version. The funkier and guitar dominant live rendition of “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” shows just how much careful sampling went into the final album cut. The grand point is that the small little changes that happen between non-live and live editions of songs provide new insights into things you’re already familiar with from one angle or another. Given LCD Soundsystem’s prowess as a live act, this takes on additional importance. The conditions may not be ideal, but they’re about as close as you’ll get from this band. Of course after all this waxing poetic on the virtues/drawbacks of this “London Sessions” album, in the last week the band decided to make their November 10th show at Alexandra Palace in London available for purchase. That gives you the full LCD Soundsystem live audio experience, complete with crowd noise and a killer set list. Links to purchase that and the “London Sessions” are below. As James Murphy says himself in the song “Pow Pow”, there are “advantages to both (advantages! advantages!)”. Make your choice, or buy both – you’re getting quality either way. Now if only they’d do a live DVD…

Buy “London Sessions” from Amazon MP3

Buy the “Live at Alexandra Palace, London” November 10, 2010 record

Show Review: LCD Soundsystem + Hot Chip [Aragon Ballroom; Chicago; 10/25/10]

Three albums apiece, each of which is critically acclaimed. Two bands, both strongly representative of everything that’s right in modern dance music. One night, with one mirrored disco ball hanging overhead. This is the setup for one of the biggest double bills of the year, and if you’ve caught Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem on this tour prior to now, consider yourselves very lucky. They made their way to the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago on Monday night for a show that sold out so fast they added a second date tonight at the smaller Riviera (for which a limited number of tickets are still available). Both artists had already stopped in the Windy City earlier this year, with LCD Soundsystem headlining a night of the Pitchfork Music Festival and Hot Chip putting on an early evening set at Lollapalooza, but naturally, the thought of seeing these bands outside of an outdoor festival setting was more than enough to draw plenty of people in. So on a surprisingly balmy October evening that many might regard as the “calm before the storm” given the severe weather that has now struck the city, a massive crowd strapped on their dancing shoes ready for a hot and sweaty party.

As the opening band, Hot Chip was only given an hour for their set, which apparently had to be carefully timed due to somewhat strict curfew laws regarding weeknight 18+ shows. It’s a good thing they made the most of that time, blasting through songs at a remarkably fast pace while working to maximize the BPMs and keep bodies moving. Starting with “And I Was A Boy From School” was a smart move given it’s one of the strongest songs in their catalogue and is just barely quick enough to rev up the crowd for what’s to come. As one might expect, the set leaned heavily on their latest album “One Life Stand”, and about half the songs they played were from it. Earlier this year I lamented the lack of dance floor hits on that record, but the band brought new life to those songs and proved they can work just as well as the older material. So when the song “One Life Stand” was surrounded by “One Pure Thought” and “Over and Over”, there wasn’t a noticeable difference in quality, and the same goes for the 1-2-3 punch of “Shake A Fist”, “I Feel Better” and “Ready for the Floor” to close things out. It’s been three years and two albums since I last saw Hot Chip perform, and in that time they’ve only improved as a live act. The songs are tighter than ever and there’s rarely a moment when somebody doesn’t have an instrument in hand, be it a guitar, keyboard or tambourine. If that wasn’t enough to get feet shuffling, there was also Alex Taylor’s odd dancing on stage, which tends to look a lot like he’s jogging in place. He’s not exactly your stereotypical rock star, but then again neither is James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.

So with the crowd completely warmed up both figuratively and literally, a plaid-clad, scruffy-looking Murphy came out with his band as they launched straight into “This Is Happening” opener “Dance Yrself Clean”. The song itself is a carefully considered exercise in restraint, slowly bubbling up under more intense heat until finally exploding under the pressure. As soon as that dam burst open, the entire Aragon went nuts in the best way possible. Limbs flailed, fists pumped, and the stage lighting added an extra dose of bliss to the entire thing. Moving from that into the single “Drunk Girls” only slammed things harder and everyone that knew the words sang along at the top of their lungs. If those early highlights weren’t enough, the rendition of “Get Innocuous” built to a startlingly intense conclusion that had Murphy attacking a pair of snare drums like they had just threatened his life. The guy has taken less of a role on stage fiddling around with instruments and electronic elements in order to focus on his vocals, but it was moments like when he went nuts on the drums that really stood out in a show filled with stand out moments. The triple combo of “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”, “I Can Change” and “All My Friends” works well together, which is seemingly why they’re on every set list that way. It was during “All My Friends” though that the notoriously poor sound at the Aragon actually struck for a couple minutes, as the song headed towards its conclusion the mix got progressively muddier to the point where the entire thing was one big white noise mess, vocals included. There was only one other moment like that during the set, and that was for the intensely loud “Movement”, where the guitars rip through the head banging chorus. Outside of those two briefly annoying audio blunders, the rest of the show was surprisingly glitch-free. LCD Soundsystem chose to close their set with “Yeah”, another slow burner that builds until Murphy is screaming at the top of his lungs in dramatic and exciting fashion. And because the lyrics basically consist of repeating the song title over and over again, everyone started to yell in between jumping around like crazy. It was a pretty perfect way to wrap up the night, and had there not been an encore most everyone would have walked away satisfied. Not that the encore took away the intense feeling of satisfaction, but the band did play three songs that aren’t the most dance intensive in their catalogue. Still, songs like “Someone Great” and “Losing My Edge” are classics, so it remains a delight each time they’re played. And as a bit of a change up, the band is choosing to close out most encores on this tour with the song “Home” rather than the previous staple “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”. The positive to that is that “Home” is a more upbeat song with a relatively healthy beat that may not inspire dancing but feels less like the band is going gently into the night. So as each band member exited the stage with a wave or a bow, the stage lights shut down one by one until just the mirrored disco ball overhead spun and the last few beats of the song faded away.

James Murphy has gone on record saying that he plans to “retire” the LCD Soundsystem moniker once he’s done touring to support the latest album “This Is Happening”. Well, that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be another LCD Soundsystem album or a handful of singles, really for all intensive purposes he means that he doesn’t want to have to tour anymore. Depending on who you talk to, that means this Aragon show could have been one of the band’s final two dates in Chicago. Of course since this isn’t being billed as a “farewell tour” and there’s talk of the band playing dates until next summer before officially calling it quits, there’s a high likelihood LCD Soundsystem will be back through at least once more in 2011. That is a great thing, because for a supposed “old man” and non-rock star, Murphy and his band put on a show that’s not only top notch, but seems to get better with age. The jumps in live show quality between 2007 and earlier this summer when the band headlined the Pitchfork Music Festival were huge, and even in the 3 months since then they’ve strengthened even further. If you love this music, along with an occasional dance party, you owe it to yourself to see LCD Soundsystem at least one more time before it’s all over. Given that they’re currently touring with Hot Chip that’s an added incentive to go see the show. Together they make up what’s probably the best double bill of 2010 with what just might be the best live show of 2010 as well. To my fellow Chicagoans, if you’re reading this in time, drop your plans for tonight and go see these two bands at the Riviera. Everyone else, I wish you the best of luck with tickets to a show near you if there is one. The main purpose of going to see these bands might very well be to have a great time dancing and rubbing up against other hot and sweaty bodies, but it’s also important to note that there’s a deep well of emotion hiding just beneath the music’s glossy surface and intense light show. Even if you’re the kind of laid back person that refuses to do anything more than simply tap a toe to the beat, this show has more than its fair share of wonderful moments for you as well. Let’s hope this whole retirement thing is just a momentary lapse in judgment.

Buy Hot Chip’s “One Life Stand” from Amazon
Buy LCD Soundsystem’s “This Is Happening” from Amazon

LCD Soundsystem Set List:
Dance Yrself Clean
Drunk Girls
Get Innocuous
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
I Can Change
All My Friends
You Wanted A Hit
Someone Great
Losing My Edge

Live Friday: 9-3-10

Oh what a great Live Friday this is set to be. Let’s kick off your Labor Day weekend right with a great set of jams from LCD Soundsystem. This is practically appropriate for the holiday weekend given that once he’s done supporting the latest LCD record James Murphy says he’s going to pretty much retire from music. Actually, he does clear that up a little bit in the interview (which is you can stream via the link below). Essentially he doesn’t want to feel that cyclical pressure that comes from making an album, touring around it, then doing the whole thing over again. Expectations keep rising with each new album and he’d rather go out on top than on the decline. Murphy also says that while he plans to stop touring completely, there may be more LCD Soundsystem music in the future, such as some singles or even another album – just don’t expect it soon or under any sort of timetable. He wants to work at his own pace.

So, about the music. The band plays 3 songs off the new album “This Is Happening”, and one classic otherwise known as “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”. The session was recorded in a London studio while the band had a little down time this past June, and in most cases these versions of the songs sound as good or better than they do on the album. “I Can Change” is just a little disappointing to me, mostly because there’s an echo vocal effect applied to James Murphy’s voice that I find off-putting. Otherwise though, everything is fantastic and more than worth a download.

(Note: Due to some bandwith issues, I had to downsample aka lower the quality of a couple of the mp3s in this session. The original, higher quality versions are available via the alternate links below. Sorry if that’s an inconvenience.)

LCD Soundsystem, Live in London, 6-29-10:
LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change (Live in London) [Higher quality: ZShare]
LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls (Live in London)
LCD Soundsystem – All I Want (Live in London) [Higher quality: ZShare]
LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk Is Playing At My House (Live in London)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “This Is Happening” from Amazon

Album Review: LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening [Virgin/Parlophone/DFA]

Expectations can be a tricky thing. Whether you’re talking about a star athlete, a band or simply your co-workers and family, the more familiar we get with a person, the easier it is to place expectations on them and anticipate they’ll be met. When that guy in your office went ahead and made back-up copies of all those important files just to make sure they were safe in the event of a catastrophic disaster, it creates an expectation. When Michael Jordan would hit that game-winning shot at the last second, that created expectations. They don’t always work out – that co-worker I just mentioned might get busted sleeping at his desk a week later – but when somebody does perform in line with however much we expect of them, there’s a certain pleasure we can take from the results. In the case of LCD Soundsystem, expectations are high. James Murphy, the singular man with the plan behind the moniker, has released two albums worth of dance music with indie rock pastiche so far, and both are critically acclaimed and beloved by those who have heard them. The last official LCD Soundsystem album, 2007’s “Sound of Silver”, was so highly regarded it not only wound up atop many publications’ “best of the year” lists, but it also tended to place quite well in the “best of the decade” lists. Crafting an equally compelling follow-up to that album has to be a near impossible task, but as Murphy has already shown us, near impossible is what he does best.

“This Is Happening” is largely cut from the same thematic cloth that “Sound of Silver” was. Murphy may craft a number of intense dancefloor beats, but lyrically speaking he’s an intense realist, choosing to make his subject matter about some of the sadder things in life, be it losing touch with your friends or ending a romantic relationship. The words may betray the tempo, but that’s part of the brilliance LCD Soundsystem brings to the table. It’s also something that many great artists have done before, in particular Brian Eno on many of his records. Of course Murphy isn’t always deadly serious, as on the first single “Drunk Girls”, which lampoons the differences between the genders when both have had too much alcohol. And though it may essentially be an angry rant against sell out, major label artists, there’s also plenty of humor to be found in “You Wanted a Hit” (which, coincidentally, clocks in at over 9 minutes long and has 0 chances of becoming a hit). Perhaps my favorite line on the entire album though comes from the funny but eventually darkly-themed “Pow Pow”, where Murphy exclaims “Eat it Michael Musto/You’re no Bruce Vilanch”. For those who don’t know, Michael Musto is a writer for the Village Voice, Bruce Vilanch is a comedy writer best known for scripting award show presenter banter. Murphy and Musto are in a pseudo-feud after Musto called Murphy a douchebag for “pulling a Kanye” (twice) at an awards show. So there’s some insider info on the insult.

When it comes to the really serious stuff though, “This Is Happening” tends to focus on romantic issues. “I Can Change” finds Murphy waxing poetic about how we’ll sometimes make personality adjustments to make a relationship work, while at the same time calling love a “murderer” and a “curse” and “an open book to a verse of your bad poetry”. The somber “Somebody’s Calling Me” is about the desire for a relationship with a girl, but all the lines of communication are shut down. The excellent and highly emotional “All I Want” laments a break up, with Murphy acknowledging his sorry state and begging her to come back by saying “All I want is your pity/And all I want are your bitter tears”. Nothing quite packs the same resonance as “Sound of Silver”‘s big moment “All My Friends”, but there’s plenty of relatable and highly effective highlights across this album too.

What makes “This Is Happening” a truly great record is that James Murphy makes it crystal clear that he’s working as hard as possible to try and top himself yet again. Though he doesn’t completely succeed, that he comes extremely close is nothing short of admirable. Where other artists might use the opportunity to take a few chances and try something experimental or simply forego putting up as much of an effort, Murphy refuses to take such success with ease and candor. The drive to consistently make strides forward in the face of immense pressure and opposition is the mark of a true champion. What this new album lacks in an expansion of the overall LCD Soundsystem sound, it more than makes up for with stronger writing and vocal performances from Murphy. And of course if words and emotions aren’t your thing, there’s also plenty of classic beats to keep you happy on the dancefloor. In a year already filled with excellent albums, chalk up another great one from LCD Soundsystem. We’re less than halfway done with 2010, but mark your calendars and anticipate hearing much more about “This Is Happening” when year-end listmaking season comes around.

Buy “This Is Happening” from Amazon

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