Daft Punk: Tron Legacy Soundtrack

RIYL: Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, James Horner

Highly anticipated by Daft Punk fans, the soundtrack to Disney’s nostalgia-driven sequel to 1982’s “Tron” is the latest from the French progressive electronic dance masters. Happily it turns out that their work on projects like “Irreversible” and “Electroma” has paid off, as Bangalter and de Homem-Christo prove they can manage to create both a true soundtrack in service of a film, and a powerful musical album in and of itself. Just don’t expect to dance to this one.

The “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack is full of the expected mood setting pieces a score is intended for. They utilize strident, driving string sections, pounding tympani and crescendos of dramatic brass, all of it layered with ambient electronic work that is perfectly measured and restrained. A casual listener is not going to hear Daft Punk at all in many tracks, and this might disappoint long time fans, but only because of outmoded expectations. Anyone willing to just listen and be swept up into the sonic world they create will not be disappointed.

The opening “Overture” is a classic work that would blend nicely into “The Grid,” a more techno-specific piece, if it wasn’t for the overt use of Jeff Bridges’ monologue. It isn’t horrible, but the music is so powerful that there is no need for forced movie dialogue to sell the story. Daft Punk also shows a deep respect for not only the original “Tron” score, but other ‘80s influences as well. “Arena” and “Rinzler” are back-to-back pieces that owe much to the original “Terminator” film (the distinct percussion in particular), while the exquisite “Arrival” follows the influences that Wendy Carlos seemed to take in the original, which adopted from Vangelis’ ultimate sci-fi soundtrack, “Blade Runner.”

This is not to say that Daft Punk rest on the influences of the past. At most, these nods to their forerunners serve as grounding points, allowing the rest of their work to soar in new and powerful directions. “C.L.U.” is one of the best modern classical pieces you’ll hear. Whoever might have pigeonholed Daft Punk into the realm of “just another dance band” will have to reassess now, as Bangalter and de Homem-Christo prove they belong in a much higher category of song writers and composers. (Walt Disney Records 2010)

Daft Punk MySpace page


Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer Ted Asregadoo’s picks

The days of getting lost in an album have passed me by. This year, I really tried to rekindle that lost listening art of playing entire albums – instead of compiling playlists in iTunes. It hasn’t been easy. I think the ease of digitally downloading albums has dried up the sense of anticipation that used to come with a purchase of a physical copy of an album at a record store. Now, the record store is just part of the millions and billions of distractions that await you on the Internet – much of it for free.

Now, I don’t mean to go on a diatribe against the devaluation of music because of the Internet, but one thing that has occurred because of the sheer plethora of music available with one click of your mouse is a kind of ADD when it comes to listening to music. My colleague both here and at Popdose (that would be Jeff Giles) has written about it more eloquently than I can, but the sentiment is very much the same: because of the volume of music that is available in downloadable form, it’s difficult for me to form a deep connection with an entire album. If we could flash back 20 years, it would have been a different story to feature 10 albums. Nowadays, it’s rare that an entire album can hold my attention.

But, never say never, right?

What you will find here are mostly my favorite songs of 2010, but occasionally you’ll find entire albums. I know, after all that “downloadable music is ruining my attention span” crap, I say that there were some albums that really captured my attention. But like I said, I’ve tried to rekindle the art of listening to entire albums, and while I feel I’m losing that battle, I haven’t entirely lost the war. So, here we go with my top 10 of 2010!

10. Paper or Plastic, “The Honest Man”
Every now and then a link arrives in my inbox that lives up to the hype. Case in point is the New York group, Paper or Plastic, who has a kind of Ben Folds thing going on with “The Honest Man.” The song is an example of some very lovely power pop, and you’ll find yourself humming the chorus after a few listens. The band is giving away their EP Ron Save the King on their website. Get it, if only for “The Honest Man.”

9. Somebody’s Darling, “Lonely”
In my review of this album, I was upfront about my allergy to country music – even if it’s alt-country. But Somebody’s Darling has enough rock-n-roll in them to make the musical waters safe for a guy with my particular affliction. “Lonely” is by far my favorite track on the album, and it’s not difficult to hear why. The song is just one big fireball of energy with a great driving beat and some wailing guitars. But it’s the full-throated vocals from Amber Ferris that takes this song from good to great.

Read the rest after the jump...

Midnight Juggernauts: The Crystal Axis

RIYL: Future Sound of London, Flaming Lips, Air

After an all-too-brief stay at Astralwerks, where they dropped one of 2008’s finest with their dizzying alt-dance debut Dystopia, Australia’s Midnight Juggernauts return from the desert – or whatever planet houses their recording studio – with The Crystal Axis, currently available in the States as an iTunes exclusive but should see the light of day on CD in September. The band’s philosophy has not changed between albums, though the approach this time around is a bit different. Kicking the four-on-the-floor Daft Punk beats to the curb, The Crystal Axis downplays the Gothic vibe of Dystopia in favor of some technicolor psychedelia. “This New Technology” reimagines Love & Rockets as an electronic act, down to singer Vincent Vendetta’s Daniel Ash-like breathy vocal. Then, just to be perverse, they finish the track with a Moog-kissed breakdown that Air would have killed for circa Moon Safari. “The Great Beyond” has a great honest-to-goodness jam in the outro (always nice to see synth-driven bands put musicianship first), but the album’s clear highlight is “Lara Versus the Savage Pack,” a driving pop track with an explosive finale that will send the club kids climbing up the walls.

The production isn’t as clean as it was on Dystopia (they paid for this one themselves, which might explain why they stopped trying to sound like Daft Punk), and the songs overall are a bit more challenging than instantly accessible Dystopia tracks like “Road to Recovery” and “Into the Galaxy.” But that’s part of growing up, isn’t it? Eventually you’re on your own, and you can’t afford to do the same stuff you could when you still lived with your parents. Think of The Crystal Axis as the Midnight Juggernauts’ first apartment out of school; even the most talented people live in pretty dingy places when they first strike out on their own. It will not be long before the band’s budget catches back up with their talent. (Siberia Records 2010)

Midnight Juggernauts MySpace page


Hey Champ: Star

RIYL: Daft Punk’s “Aerodynamic,” The Buggles, Bourgeois Tagg

There aren’t many bands that can speak to fans of Alphaville, Yes, Bourgeois Tagg and Tangerine Dream, yet there but for the grace of God go Chicago trio Hey Champ. Armed with only a guitar, a drum set and a couple of vintage keyboards, Hey Champ’s debut album Star is a strange blend of synth pop, rock and jazzy prog, and while that might sound like a band in the midst of an identity crisis, Hey Champ combines these elements quite meticulously.


The beauty of melding such disparate influences is that it yields a variety of sounds. “Word=War” channels Death Cab for Cutie at their most anthemic (much of that due to singer Saam Hagshenas’ uncanny impression of Ben Gibbard, thankfully relegated to this one song), while “Shake” blends New Order guitar lines with keyboard riffs that could have come from a Saga record. Some of their chord sequences are of the borrowed variety – the chorus to “So American” is not far removed from “Comfortably Numb,” and the end of the great “Steampunk Camelot” bears resemblance to Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” minus the pomposity – but these guys aren’t thieves; they’re musicologists, and Star is the work of one wildly diverse record collection. One of the smarter synth pop records you’ll hear this year, or any other. (Townie Records 2010)

Hey Champ MySpace page
Click to buy Star from Amazon


Me, Myself, and iPod: ESDMusic’s weekly free downloads

esd ipod

We receive roughly 6,000 press releases per week that include links to mp3s that we are allowed to post for your downloading pleasure. Why haven’t we been posting more than one or two a month, you ask? Quite simply, by the time we get through all of the press releases, we’ve received another 6,000 emails with newer, “better” songs to run instead. It’s the kind of thing that can get away from someone if they’re not right on top of it.

This is our attempt to rectify the problem. Each week we will run a list of songs for your DRM-free downloading pleasure. And in the time it took us to type that last sentence, 15 more songs just came in. Geez.

The Futureheads – Struck Dumb
The band’s second album This Is Not the World was a bit of a non-starter, despite the fact that it should have appealed to anyone who liked the band’s post-punky debut. “Struck Dumb,” from the band’s upcoming third album The Chaos, still showcases the band’s trademark angular pop, but the edges are smoothed out a bit.

Deluka – Cascade (Acoustic Version)
This synth-pop band’s debut is set to drop later in the year, and this acoustic take on their self-titled EP’s best song is damned good. Usually we wrinkle our noses at acoustic versions of electronic songs, but this one works, and works well.

SPEAK – Digital Love
Everyone loves a cover, and this ultra-sheen pop rock band (think Cash Cash) surprised the crowds at South by Southwest with a faithful take on a track from Daft Punk’s seminal Discovery album. Sure, the keytar solo could have been handled a little better, but we bet this was fun to watch when it happened.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round
Rare is the song that carries both a haunted, gothic feel (think Joseph Arthur gothic, not Bauhaus gothic) and a sunny, ’70s mellow gold vibe as well, but this song does just that.

In Tall Buildings – The Way to a Monster’s Lair
We’ll be honest: this is the first we’ve heard of either NOMO or Erik Hall. But one spin of this moody but driving track has us wanting more. Anyone looking for a good breakup song would be wise to check this out.

Kaiser Cartel – Ready to Go
Boy/girl duos: they’re the new animal band name. Still, as trends go, this boy/girl thing is a pretty damn good one (The Bird and the Bee, Mates of State, Codeine Velvet Club, Matt & Kim, She & Him, the Ting TIngs), and now that it’s become a movement of its own, perhaps Kaiser Cartel can seize the opportunity to jump to the next level. If “Ready to Go” is any indication, they are poised to pick up a lot more fans when their album Secret Transit drops in June.