Friday, October 31, 2014
"October" performed by U2
"The Fall" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Sometimes" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"Scarborough Fair" performed by Simon and Garfunkel
"Sunshine" performed by World Party
"Fearless" performed by Pink Floyd
"I'm In Need Of Love" performed by Ace Frehley
"Coming Down Again" performed by The Rolling Stones
"What If I Do?" performed by Foo Fighters
"Am I Getting Through Parts 1 & 2" performed by Sheryl Crow
"Portrait Of The Knight Of Wands" performed by Suzanne Vega-WSPC PREMIERE
"Knights In Shining Karma" performed by XTC
October 2, 2014
"Inside Out" performed by Phil Collins
"Time Is Running Out" performed by Steve Winwood
"No Way" performed by David Gilmour
"With A Little Luck" performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
October 3, 2014
"Give Up The Ghost" performed by Radiohead
"Shattered" performed by DOE EYE-WSPC PREMIERE
"Tape 2 Tape" performed by Aqualung-WSPC PREMIERE
"Yellow Gold" performed by Andy Allo
"Johnny Stew" performed by Lindsey Buckingham
"Say What!" performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
"Harajuku Girls" performed by Gwen Stefani
"State Of Grace" performed by Talib Kweli
"Am I Wrong" performed by Keb Mo'
October 4, 2014
"Saturday Night" performed by Bay City Rollers
"I'm a Cadillac/El Camino Dolo Roso" performed by Mott The Hoople
"Fading Into Obscurity" performed by Sloan
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" performed by Paul and Linda McCartney
"Can The Can" performed by Suzi Quatro
October 5, 2014
"Even Deeper" performed by Nine Inch Nails
"Eye" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"She" performed by Elvis Costello
"The Ghost In You" performed by The Psychedelic Furs
"Deeper And Deeper" performed by The Fixx
October 6, 2014
"All You Need Is Love" performed by The Beatles
"Everlasting Love" performed by Howard Jones
"L-O-V-E" performed by Joss Stone
"Long Live Love" performed by Sandie Shaw
"Love Is The Answer" performed by Utopia
October 7, 2014
"Marie Provost" performed by Nick Lowe
"Upstarts" performed by Johnny Marr
"Kalendar" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
"Where's The Line" performed by General Public
"You've Got A Lot On Your Mind" performed by Sloan-WSPC PREMIERE
October 9, 2014
WSPC 74TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE TO JOHN LENNON
All songs performed by The Beatles or John Lennon
"I'm Only Sleeping"
"I Dig A Pony"
"Stand By Me"
"(Just Like) Starting Over"
"Bring On The Lucie (Freda People)"
"Old Dirt Road"
"Well Well Well"
"The Ballad Of John And Yoko"
"You've Got To Hide Your Love Away"
"Power To The People"
October 10, 2014
"Someone Like You" performed by Living Colour
"Public Servant" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Easy Money" (live) performed by King Crimson
"Pigs (Three Different Ones)" performed by Pink Floyd
October 11, 2014
"Let It Be" performed by The Beatles
"TIME" performed by Prince with Andy Allo-WSPC PREMIERE
"Who's Gonna Stand Up?" performed by Neil Young-WSPC PREMIERE
"She Wolf" performed by Kawehi-WSPC PREMIERE
"Xhalation"/"Xcogitate" performed by Prince
"Evidence Of Autumn" performed by Genesis
"Sentimental Lady" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"Cedars Of Lebanon" performed by U2
"The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey" performed by Joni Mitchell
"Underture" performed by The Who
October 12, 2014
"Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)" performed by David Bowie-WSPC PREMIERE
"Conversation In Scat" performed by Ella Fitzgerald
"Devil's Blues" performed by Charles Mingus
"Memory" performed by Tony Williams
"The West Side" (live) performed by Phil Collins and his Big Band
"Firth Of Fifth" (live) performed by Genesis
"The Remembering" performed by Yes
"Rubycon Part 1" performed by Tangerine Dream
October 13, 2014
"Everyday Is Yours To Win" (live in studio) performed by R.E.M.
"Wish" performed by The Fixx
"N.E.O." performed by Thomas Dolby
"It's Deafinitely" performed by David Gilmour
"The Futurescope Trilogy" performed by Weezer-WSPC PREMIERE
October 14, 2014
"I Must Be Dreaming" performed by Cheap Trick
"Heavy Metal Drummer" performed by Wilco
"Meanwhile Back At The Ranch" performed by Badfinger
"Starlight" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Spyder" performed by Imperial Drag
October 15, 2014
"Flowers" performed by New Radicals
"This World Over" performed by XTC
"Mirror People" performed by Love And Rockets
"Crystal" performed by New Order
"Kid" performed by The Pretenders
October 16, 2014
"Not Wrong Long" performed by Nazz
"Love Goes Underground" performed by Pezband
"Merry Go Round" performed by The Replacements
"The Other Man" performed by Sloan
"I'm Ashamed Of Myself" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
"Your Love" performed by Supergrass
"Supercollider" performed by Fountains Of Wayne
"Something For Nothing" performed by Foo Fighters-WSPC PREMIERE
October 17, 2014
"Dirty White Boots" performed by Lenny Kravitz-WSPC PREMIERE
"Emotional Rescue" performed by The Rolling Stones
"Step On" performed by Happy Mondays
"Secret Agent" performed by Tony Allen
"Power Of Soul" performed by Jimi Hendrix
"Misty's Beside Herself" performed by Sloan-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Affiliated" performed by The Dukes Of Stratosphear
"Muswell Hillbilly" performed by The Kinks
"Shelia Take A Bow" performed by The Smiths
"A New England" performed by Kirsty MacColl
"Man Of Spells" performed by Tony Banks
"I've Had It Up To Here" performed by Weezer-WSPC PREMIERE
"They Put Her In The Movies" performed by Jason Falkner
"Memory Lane" performed by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
"Set Me Free" performed by Utopia
October 18, 2014
"Soulful Strut" performed by Young-Holt Unlimited
"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)?" performed by Jr. Walker and the All Stars
"It's A Shame" performed by The Spinners
"Dirty Ol' Man" performed by The Three Degrees
"Me And Mrs. Jones" performed by Billy Paul
"Jack And Jill" performed by Raydio
HAPPY 88TH BIRTHDAY TO CHUCK BERRY
"You Can Never Tell"
"Brother Wolf, Sister Moon" performed by The Cult
"Someday?" performed by Concrete Blonde
"Crystal Palace" performed by The Bible
"Standing In The Hallway' performed by The Bangles
"Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore" performed by Sloan
"Destroyer" performed by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
"The Ledge" performed by The Replacements
"The Trap" performed by Johnny Marr-WSPC PREMIERE
October 20, 2014
"Being Beige" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins-WSPC PREMIERE
"(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone' performed by The Monkees
"Pull Up The Roots" performed Talking Heads
"Kidney Bingos" performed by Wire
"If I Don't Have You" performed by NRBQ
"You Should've Been There" performed by Marshall Crenshaw
"Too Much Passion" performed The Smithereens
"Frivolous Tonight" performed by XTC
October 22, 2014
"You Are Here" performed by John Lennon
"When The Night" performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
"Behind That Locked Door" performed by George Harrison
"Walk With You" performed by Ringo Starr
October 23, 2014
"Eulogy For A Rock Band" performed by Weezer-WSPC PREMIERE
"U Mass" performed by Pixies
"Nobody Dies Anymore" performed by Tweedy-WSPC PREMIERE
"That's All For Everyone" performed by Tame Impala
"If Trouble Was Money" performed by Gary Clark Jr.-WSPC PREMIERE
"Forty Eight Portraits" performed by Sloan-WSPC PREMIERE
"Clocks All Stopped" performed by Kasim Sulton-WSPC PREMIERE
October 24, 2014
"One Look Up" performed by The Fixx
"Us And Them" performed by Pink Floyd
"Triple Concerto" performed by William Orbit
"The Family And The Fishing Net" performed by Peter Gabriel
"Mama Told Me Not To Come" performed by Three Dog Night
"Spooky" performed by Classic IV
"Halloween" performed by The Dead Kennedys
"Halloween" performed by Japan
"Scary Monsters (and super creeps)" performed by David Bowie
"The Great Pumpkin Waltz" performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
October 25, 2014
"Only A Fool Would Say That" performed by Steely Dan
"It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" performed by Todd Rundgren
"More Today Than Yesterday" performed by Spiral Staircase
"A Roller Skating Jam Called Saturdays" performed by De La Soul
"Only A Fool Would Say That" performed by Ivy
TRIBUTE TO JACK BRUCE
"Waiting On A Word"
"Follow The Fire"
"Vuelta Abajo" performed by Spectrum Road
"Apostrophe'" performed by Frank Zappa
"Tales Of Brave Ulysees" performed by Cream
"Lives Of Clay" performed with Robin Trower
October 26, 2014
"Dreaming Of You" performed by Sloan
"Dreamin'" performed by Cliff Richard
"Dreaming From The Waist" performed by The Who
"Dream All Day" performed by The Posies
"Do You Sleep?" performed by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories
"Storm" performed by Soundgarden-WSPC PREMIERE
"Scarecrow" performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees
"Lullaby" performed by The Cure
"Theme From 'Halloween'" performed by John Carpenter
October 27, 2014
"Empty Room" (live rehearsal) performed by Prince and 3rdEyeGirl-WSPC PREMIERE
"For Jack" performed by Eric Clapton-WSPC PREMIERE
"Zombie" performed by The Cranberries
"Bermuda Triangle" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"Full Moon" performed by The Kinks
"Her Ghost" performed by Jon Brion
"Ghosts" performed by Michael Jackson
October 30, 2014
"Ghosts 25" performed by Nine Inch Nails
"That Ol' Black Magic" performed by Ella Fitzgerald
"Witchy Woman" performed by Eagles
"Halloween" performed by Kirsty MacColl
"The Wobblin' Goblin" performed by Rosemary Clooney
"Night Of The Vampire" performed by The Moontrekkers
"The Vampyre Of Time And Memory" performed by Queens Of The Stone Age
"Swamp" performed by Talking Heads
"Somebody's Watching Me" performed by Rockwell
"Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea" performed by Genesis
October 31, 2014
"Monster Boogie" performed by Laurie Berkner
"Wolfman Jack" performed by Todd Rundgren
"A Nightmare On My Street" performed by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
"Boogie Monster" performed by Gnarls Barkley
"Purple People Eater" performed by Sheb Wooley
"Thriller" performed by Michael Jackson
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Released October 30, 1971
Released January 9, 2007
Released June 1980
Released June 17, 1978
Released March 10, 2010
TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS
Released September 28, 2010
Released September 25, 1990
Released March 1972
Released August 19, 2003
"PARALLEL PLAY" SLOAN Released June 10, 2008
"HIT & RUN" SLOAN Released November 23, 2009
Released November 20, 2001
Released February 1979
Friday, October 24, 2014
Produced by Jeff Tweedy
Released September 23, 2014
Sometimes music is just not meant for a band.
Three years after Wilco unleashed "The Whole Love" (released September 27, 2011) to the world Wilco mastermind Jeff Tweedy returns but not with either Wilco or even with a purely solo project. "Sukierae," is the debut album from Tweedy, a musical duo comprised of Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer Tweedy on drums and entitled after a nickname given to Jeff's wife and Spencer's Mother, Sue Miller Tweedy.
The 20 track double album is indeed a family affair (if you haven't already guessed) but it is one made all the more intensely personal as Sue Miller Tweedy has been diagnosed with, and has continued to battle, a rare for of non-Hogkins lymphoma. "Sukierae" is a sprawling, expansive, shape-shifting, sometimes drowsy, and often near hypnotic album that is as warm, intimate and as troubling as the latest U2 release but please be assured that it is not presented as some sort of an elegy and also, do not allow the mostly quiet nature of the album fool you. These songs are emotionally turbulent.
Certainly taken out of context, the noisy guitar freak out of the album's abrasive opening track "Please Don't Let Me Be So Understood" or the gentler sunshine acoustic pop of "Low Key" and "Summer Noon" could fit perfectly upon a proper Wilco release. But taken within the context of "Sukierae," we have a palate that sometimes suggests music that is purposefully unfinished or at least songs of a sparser, rambling quality, especially when Spencer Tweedy's Ringo-esque drum fills and patterns extended themselves to become the songs' foundation, as in the dark psychedelia of "Diamond Light Part 1" and "Slow Love," and the evening pastoral landscape of "New Moon" and "Where My Love."
But it is on songs like "Nobody Dies Anymore" where the album's haunting quality appears at its height as Tweedy create a musical landscape that sounds like a cross between John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" (released December 11, 1970), Fleetwood Mac's still ahead of its time 'Tusk" (released October 12, 1979) and even a dash of Radiohead's more somber, disquieting moments.
This is music not designed for the full spit and polish and overall sense of completeness that the full six member band of Wilco could provide. This is an elastic album, one of ongoing emotion and unfinished sentiments, the very kinds that exist in the most intimate relationships...in this case, the Tweedy family.
GARY CLARK JR.
Produced by Bharath "Cheex" Ramanath and Gary Clark Jr.
Released September 23, 2014
For those who felt that Gary Clark Jr.s major label studio album debut "Blak And Blu" (released October 22, 2012) was perhaps overly slick and therefore slightly dulled the sting of his scorching guitar fireworks (not to my ears, btw), then please allow me to direct you to this new album as your antidote.
"Gary Clark Jr. Live" is exactly as described, a double live album that showcases precisely why Clark Jr. is heralded as being the new guitar hero to leave your jaws agape and your mind blown apart due to the amount of sheer power, dexterity, force and deliverance his two hands and six strings are able to unleash.
Stripping back the studio gloss for a raw, rough yet superbly proficient collection of performances, Clark Jr. and his crack band blaze through the Chuck Berry styled "Travis County" as well as various tales of the blues from the eight minute opener "Catfish Blues," Next Door Neighbor Blues," and the stinging "Three O'Clock Blues." Most impressive is how Clark Jr. has redesigned his studio tracks for his liver performances as he eschews the hip-hop rhythms for a straightforward and purely solo guitar performance of "Blak and Blu" plus also transforming the studio old school soul croon of "Please Come Home" to one of the album's finest showstoppers.
Produced by Johnny Marr and Doviak
Released October 7, 2014
For a completely different kind of guitar hero, I turn your attention to the legendary Johnny Marr, who arrives with his second solo album just a year and a half after the release of his excellent debut solo venture "The Messenger" (released February 25, 2013).
Marr's specialized brand of nostalgic yet forward moving six string dreams continue in high energy throughout the briskly paced and performed album that features the one-two-three opening punch of "Back In The Box," "Easy Money" and "Dynamo" all of which propel the album terrifically. Yet, it is through songs like "Candidate" and the marvelous "The Trap" that further confirms that The Smiths would have been absolutely not worth listening to for a moment without Marr's immensely gifted presence.
Simultaneously lush yet fueled with loud, melodic rock and roll power, Johnny Marr's "Playland" is yet another impressive addition to this musical figures lengthy musical resume. After two very strong albums released in such quick succession, why wait any longer? I'm ready for album #3!!!
Produced by Ric Ocasek
Released October 7, 2014
Just like the creature that adorns this album cover, Weezer's latest album is a MONSTER!!
Dear readers and listeners, I refuse to add my voice to the choir of Weezer fans who solely desire that the band only release music that adheres to the sonic landscapes set by the band on their debut album, the beloved "Weezer" or "The Blue Album" (released May 10, 1994) and the originally maligned but now revered "Pinkerton" (released September 24, 1996). I firmly believe that Weezer bandleader/singer/songwriter/guitarist Rivers Cuomo and his faithful bandmates, guitarist Brian Bell, drummer Pat Wilson and bassist Scott Shriner should follow their collective muses wherever they should happen to lead them and therefore make whatever music they wish to make. If I happen to like what they have emerged with in the process is another story but I certainly would never begrudge them for any musical curve ball or directions that I may initially question or not even like at all. What I will add my voice to, however, is to the choir of Weezer fans who have proclaimed that this new album, the band's ninth, is unquestionably the best music they have released in a very long time.
Much like the two new albums Prince has just released to the world "Everything Will be Alright In The End" marks a true return to form for Weezer. It finds the band completely revitalized, refreshed and renewed with a passionate vigor and venom to blast apart any and all naysayers with this collection of spectacularly focused and realized songs beautifully produced by the iconic Ric Ocasek, who returns to the Weezer fold for the first time since 2001.
This is an album that will push your speakers to the limit as the wall of guitars arrive in what feels like surround sound and Pat Wilson's drums kick like the proverbial mule all of which are set to the stunning, surprising melodies and rich vocal harmonies that flow seamlessly from song to song throughout the entirety of the album.
From the crunching opening track "Ain't Got Nobody," the roaring yet elegiac "Eulogy For A Rock Band," the amplified Everly Brothers styled "Go Away," the expert power pop of "Cleopatra," "Lonely Girl" and "Da Vinci" and the audaciously straightforward "The British Are Coming," over and again, Weezer have crafted a set of material whose melodics and musical hooks will stick like glue upon first listen.
And then, there is the seven minute plus, three part, mostly instrumental finale "The Futurescope Trilogy," which finds the band in prog rock mode, albeit with more Metallica styled fury than the esoteric landscapes created by Yes, is truly a tour de force signalling to listeners that the band has not remotely begun to dry up creatively, feelings that are addressed pointedly as well as satirically in two of the album's highlights, the soaring and petulant "I've Had It Up To Here" and the self-deprecating to the point of parody first single "Back To The Shack" where the band "apologizes" for their musical "transgressions" and promise to rock it out "like it's '94."
Weezer's latest is nothing less than a triumph from beginning to end as it musically looks backwards and forwards and glowingly discovers new beginnings within the songs of endings.
Friday, October 17, 2014
All music and lyrics by Sloan
Jay Ferguson: Vocals, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Drums
Chris Murphy: Vocals, Bass Guitar, Piano, Drums, Guitars
Patrick Pentland: Vocals, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Keyboards
Andrew Scott: Vocals, Drums, Guitars
Gregory Macdonald: Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
Produced by Sloan and Ryan Haslett with Gregory Macdonald
Released September 9, 2014
Ooooh! I really hope that I am able to convince you to give this one a try!!!
"Commonwealth" by Sloan, the highly celebrated Canadian power pop band, yet severely unknown here in the United States, is far and away one of the best album releases I have heard in 2014. It is a work that can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the best efforts that I have heard this year from the likes of Beck, The Roots, Prince, Pixies, Meshell Ndegeocello and Ryan Adams yet it is also a collection of songs that serves as a healthy reminder of a songwriting tradition, performance and craft that seems to be largely forgotten in our extremely homogenized and increasingly plastic musical age of the 21st century.
Sloan is indeed as described as they are definitely a "power pop" band, much like what you would hear if you listened to Badfinger, Dwight Twilley or Big Star. They are heavily Beatles influenced as you can easily hear through the lushness of their sound, their choirboy vocal harmonies, their strong lyrical wordplay, the sheer energy of their musicianship and their ability to pack as much actual music into concise two to three minute or so packages, and sometimes even less than that! And furthermore, as well as to describe the "power" aspect of the band, Sloan can excitedly bash it out like Cheap Trick, making for an album experience that is as highly charged as it is beautifully melodic.
I truly have known nothing of Sloan aside from one track that was included on the film soundtrack of Writer/Director Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides" (1999) and even then, I wondered if Sloan was indeed a lost band from the early 1970's instead of a group born in the 1990's as the sound of the group just reached exquisitely backwards, forcing me to recall a certain musical tenor that existed during my childhood. That very same yet elusive and incredibly unique sound reached me again just last month when I was visiting B-Side Records to make a purchase and the store's proprietor Steve Manley just happened to have Sloan's latest album blaring through the store speakers. As Steve and I spoke while I made my purchases, I found my end of the conversation stopped on two occasions due to what I was hearing, this luscious amalgam of The Beatles, Brian Wilson, garage rick, psychedelia and 70's AM radio bubblegum. After leaving the store, I could not get what I had heard out of my brain and I just needed to go and get it as soon as I was able. If my words can inspire you to seek out this band and this particular album, then I have performed my job to the very best of my abilities.
"Commonwealth," Sloan's 11th album, and quite possibly titled after an especially bizarre and still unreleased Beatles track, finds the band operating at what has been deemed their most ambitious offering to date and that even includes one previous (and terrific) album, the humorously entitled "Never Hear The End Of It" (released January 9, 2007) on which they delivered a whopping 30 songs!
Keeping in tune with some perceptions of the hodge-podge, jigsaw puzzle nature of "The Beatles" (released November 22, 1968) as also with the four simultaneously released KISS solo albums (all released September 18, 1978), "Commonwealth" is a double album on which each member of Sloan takes one side of the "deck of cards" themed album as sole lead singer and songwriter, making for an experience that sort of sounds like four solo albums in one yet also stands firmly as one grand statement from the veteran band. Since all of the band members are multi-instrumentalists, it is unknown if each section features each member working completely independently or if they utilized their bandmates as session musicians. But no matter the means, the overall effect of the album is as exhilarating as it is staggering.
Side One, the "Diamond Side," belongs to guitarist Jay Ferguson. Utilizing the second half of The Beatles' "Abbey Road" (released September 26, 1969) as a template, Ferguson crafts a seamless McCartney-esque suite of five songs that opens with the Mott The Hoople glam rock stomp of "We've Come This Far" which then effortlessly segues into the instantly catchy and nearly Bay City Rollers candy cane pop display of "You've Got A Lot On Your Mind" and then glides beautifully into the slow jam "Three Sisters," complete with elegant guitar solos abound and all presented in precisely 8 minutes. The jaunty "Cleopatra" quickens the pace as it also re-introduces musical themes from the previous selections before settling down peacefully with the gentle and acoustic driven "Neither Here Nor There."
If Side One displayed the sugar coated pop, then Side Two, the "Heart Side," finds bassist Chris Murphy bringing in more of the amplified power. "Carried Away," a cautionary tale about an open relationship gone very wrong just soars with its killer chorus that augmented by the lovingly displayed Mellotrons and driving beat. The mournful sounding "So Far So Good," is an album highlight as it features the very type of melodic and harmonic progressions that, to my ears, have not been heard in quite this fashion since the days of Queen and also contains lyrics of sly pop cultural wit ("Don't be surprised when we elect another liar/Did you learn nothing from 5 seasons of 'The Wire'?"). "Get Out" percolates vigorously and shows exactly how a band can make a complete song in just 1 minute and 40 seconds. "Misty's Beside Herself" remains the album's finest, warmest ballad, which also possesses a perfect sing-a-long chorus and Murphy saves the very best of his side's material for last as the high flying "You Don't Need Excuses To Be Good" throws the electric guitars, propulsive drumming and swirling vocal harmonies to the forefront, ending the side with a perfect punch.
By Side Three, the "Shamrock Side," guitarist Patrick Pentland updates the classic pop sound to more of a darkly psychedelic set as the metallic sheen of the tracks vaguely reminded me of Love And Rockets' self titled album (released May 1989). "13 (Under A Bad Sign)" and "Take It Easy" sound like two sides of the same motorcycle music coin whereas "What's Inside" possesses a more ghostly palate and the closing "Keep Swinging (Downtown)" returns to the more 70's AM radio hit single vibe.
Leave it to the drummer to create the most audacious sequence found on "Commonwealth," Side Four's "Spade Side." Like Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma" (released October 25, 1969), another album where the band's individual members each crafted a suite of their own songs, drummer Andrew Scott's "Forty Eight Portraits" is quite the undertaking. Beginning with nearly three minutes worth of ambient sound consisting of dogs barking, knocking and click-clacking percussion and airy, free form piano cords, Scott launches us through a nearly 18 minute pastiche where the sprawling melodies and movements feel as if they have all been sprung from a musical patchwork quilt. References to The Beach Boys and The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" flow directly alongside strings, horns, and even children's choirs and damned if the song somehow holds together masterfully and miraculously.
Sloan's "Commonwealth" is yet another album released this year that truly serves as a much needed reminder of the value of hearing real musicians playing real instruments as well as existing as an antidote to the completely disposable pop music that has littered the airwaves from radios to television stations and the internet itself. In fact, if Sloan has performed anything so heroically is to release such a splendidly sublime album that re-educates us all to the artfulness of pop music, a genre that has never received terribly much respect but at its best houses the likes of not only The Beatles, but also someone like Frank Sinatra. The skill and discipline it must have to be able to conceive and construct pieces of music that convey concise themes, stories and messages of such universality is a gift I truly believe that we should cherish as much as any piece of literature, painting or sculpture and with this album, Sloan has delivered the goods, a collection of songs that should be plastered throughout the radio airwaves...if we could only reclaim a certain sense of cultural taste and wrestle the lowest common denominator pap of anacondas to the ground.
"You know I hear in terms of colours," sings Andrew Scott during "Forty Eight Portraits," and for me, my special brand of synesthesia has received a thorough workout via Sloan's "Commonwealth," an album I sincerely urge you to seek out. I guarantee that you will be flying as high as the music itself if you give it an honest chance.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Composed, Produced, Arranged and Performed by Prince
Released September 30, 2014
Welcome home, indeed!!
"ART OFFICIAL AGE," Prince's 34th album, is one of the best albums of 2014 and furthermore, it is the best full length album he has released in nearly 20 years! The work not only finds Prince with his most fully realized artistic vision in quite some time, he has never sounded so committed as well as completely rejuvenated, reinvigorated and revitalized creatively. It sounds as if he is comfortable within his own skin again as well as his tremendous legacy which has at times threatened to dwarf any new material he chose to release to the world.
Face it, Prince couldn't release an unlistenable album if he tried and frankly, even his weakest material is better than most artists' best material. That being said, there has just been this sadly persistent question lurking at the seams, the question if Prince's best days as a recording artist were behind him. And it would not be a stretch if Prince quite possibly feared that very possibility for himself. But, now, we have "ART OFFICIAL AGE," the first Prince album in ages that I have played front to back over and over and over again in anticipation, wonderment and excitement, feeling awed at every single sound that flows through the speakers into my ears and even deeper into my soul. For Prince fanatics like myself, this is the album we have been waiting for. For those of you out there who have long departed Paisley Park, this is the album to woo you back.
"Welcome home, class!" Prince announces at the start of the album with the track "ART OFFICIAL CAGE," a whirlwind of an opening statement that somehow packs EDM/hip-hop beats, mock operatic vocals, Middle Eastern touches, a multitude of rapidly spoken foreign languages, angular rock guitar, references to water boarding and the presentation of spiritual desires to transcend the "Ghettos 2 the left of me, malls 2 the right" to reach "A place in Heaven somewhere in the future." And all of this is heard and experienced in a mere three and a half minutes, thus beginning the album long odyssey, which finds our hero caught groggy and awakening in the future after a 45 year sleep in suspended hibernation and with a lovely female British computerized voice as his guide and eventually telepathic companion.
Yes, I do realize how baffling the album is already beginning to sound but bear with me when I express to you just how accessible "ART OFFICIAL AGE" actually is, and therefore extremely easy to follow and that is entirely due to the immediacy of the actual songs. The frenzied opening track seamlessly segues into the summertime soul of "CLOUDS," which not only further explains the album's plot but most importantly serves to show that Prince has not lost even one solitary step in crafting expertly produced and performed pop songs, especially when he instructs us to rub a flower on our lover's back whenever we hear them singing in the shower.
Unlike the live based sound from the simultaneously released "PLECTRUM ELECTRUM," his debut album with the female power trio 3rdEyeGirl, "ART OFFICIAL AGE" find Prince in his classic one-man-band mode where the studio itself is his greatest instrument. With "CLOUDS," every single instrument and sound is perfectly in place and every sound is essential to its brilliant delivery. Just listen to how the harmony vocals coo over the supple guitars, the nimble crispness of the acoustic guitars, the bounce of the bass and the neck snap that happens after every drum beat. Lyrically, Prince showcases laser like precision as he just nails our cultural decay where "Everybody stars/reality so boring."
Singer Lianne Le Havas joins the track to express the following lament:
"When life's a stage, in this brand new age
How do we engage?
Bullying just 4 fun
No wonder there's so many guns
Maybe we're better off in space"
The album continues with "THE BREAKDOWN," a powerhouse ballad in the vein of "The Beautiful Ones" and "Condition Of The Heart" where Prince is able to show off his vocal athleticism, which remains as towering as it has ever been. Addressing our current sense of obtaining a wealth of material riches at the expense of spiritual fulfillment, Prince informs us that we're about to hear "the saddest story ever been told," a story filled with pain, loss and regret at the realization that the gift of life has been wasted on nothingness. The line "give me back the time, U can keep the memories" really packs a punch and does indeed make me wonder if we are glimpsing a rare peek at the wizard behind the curtain.
Over the following three tracks, Prince weaves a sonic playground that actually had me laughing out loud out from the sheer delight of having the ears toyed with the obvious pleasure and creative abandon that was evident during each song's creation. "THE GOLD STANDARD," almost feels like the lost track from the infamous "The Black Album" (from 1987 yet officially released in 1994) with its tight chicken scratch guitar, skeletal beats and the return of that amazing growl of the electronically altered voice Princes used for his most infamous track "Bob George."
Again, Prince leaves us no room to breathe before segueing into the electro-psychedelic "U KNOW," whose groove is propelled by swirling keyboards, a head bobbing beat and percussive female moans and a repetitive "Uh-huh, Uh-huh." Sticking closely with the album sci-fi setting and themes, Prince's voice sounds nearly robotic as he delivers a rapid fire set of lyrics that philosophizes, "If U really wanna find the answer 2 this cancer then U must rewind," and then brilliantly, the song does indeed rewind and returns to the exact beat right on point. DAMN! Then, he offers the following:
"2 run this game requires fame, your soul and name
And nothing gained unless it's sacrificed my dear
Its only plan 4 this dominion
And any question of the deal is met with another demand
2 kneel, reprimand concealed allegations of your sinning
That's why eye'm
Feminine rising, not surprising
Recognizing that the power of the breasts is just a test
That U'll be winning"
THAT'S Prince, y'all!!! THAT'S Prince!!!!
Song after song throughout "ART OFFICIAL AGE" are backboard shattering slam dunks. "THIS COULD BE US," supposedly inspired by an on-line meme featuring a "Purple Rain" era film still of Prince and Apollonia Kotero, is a finger snapping slow jam that already sounds like a soul classic.
The so odd yet so perfect "WHAT IT FEELS LIKE," the first of two duets with musician Andy Allo and featuring a delicately plucked acoustic guitar figure that sounds like a throwback to 1979's "When We're Dancing Close And Slow," features a melody that will instantly stick to your brain. The nearly seven minute finale "TIME," also with Allo, contains those classic, dreamy warm synths that flow like ocean waves plus Prince's unbelievable and downright MEAN bass playing.
The titanic "FUNKNROLL" (which also appears in a different form on "PLECTRUM ELECTRUM") contains the return of Prince's "Camille" voice set to a track that offers nothing less than salvation through music, that is, if we can only put our phones down long enough to just become one with the music. And the previously released "BREAKFAST CAN WAIT" is a splendidly arranged ode to early morning love that boasts the hysterical line that begs, "U can't leave a Black man in this state." Sho' U right!!!
Through all of the songs, which are augmented by the futuristic storyline that exists in a world without time and a some well placed "affirmations," the core, meaning, full intent and emotional centerpiece of "ART OFFICIAL AGE" arrives with the track "WAY BACK HOME."
In the entirety of Prince's career, he has performed a masterful job with inventing his own enigmatic persona so thoroughly that it is never fully clear when he is indeed revealing aspects of his true self or not. With "WAY BACK HOME," the songs feels like a confessional to the point of being naked and the effect is disarming due to its uncharacteristic openness.
"Never wanted a typical life
Scripted role,Trophy wife
All Eye ever wanted was 2 B left alone
See my bed's made up at night
'Cause in my dreams Eye roam
Just tryin' 2 find my way back home
So many reasons why
Eye don't belong here
But now that Eye am
Eye'm gonna conquer with no fear
Until Eye find my way back home"
And that is the heart of this album and frankly, of our existence itself. What is "home"? What does it mean and what is our purpose in trying to discover or better yet, re-discover what home actually is. By the album's conclusion, "home" is defined and it is something that could be applied to Prince's comfort within himself and his art and how that relates to any sense of his higher self. Therefore, we are also obliged to dig deeply and attempt to discover or own concept of "home" so we all may ascend to our potential higher selves. In doing so, Prince's "ART OFFICIAL AGE" is music designed to speak to the soul, much needed when music is currently treated as disposable trash.
"ART OFFICIAL AGE" is weird and wonderful, dazzling and dizzying, bizarre and beautiful, artistically esoteric and commercially accessible, a work that utilizes the album format with purpose and is yet filled with singles that radio should openly embrace. Never in our lifetimes ha there ever been an artist like Prince and to celebrate his presence, let us not just wallow in his past glories.
Let's live here in the NOW as he has given us two new albums to pour over again and again...
...until the next albums!!!
Sunday, October 5, 2014
PRINCE & 3RDEYEGIRL
Composed, Produced, Arranged and Performed by Prince & 3rdEyeGirl
Prince: Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Hannah Ford Welton: Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Ida Nielsen: Vocals, Bass Guitar
Donna Grantis: Vocals, Guitars
Released September 30, 2014
Nearly a year and a half ago, I speculated on this site that perhaps the artist forever known as Prince just might have some very special musical gifts to bestow to us after an extremely lengthy spell. In fact, it has been four very long years since His Royal Badness has released an album, and even that album, "20Ten" (released July 10, 2010), given away for free in European Sunday newspapers, never saw the light of day here in the United States (aside from some inevitable internet leaks). For an artist who has been notoriously prolific and more than famous for constantly writing and recording new material all to be stockpiled in the mysterious vault in his Paisley Park compound, four years away honestly feels more like forty, especially for a Prince fanatic like myself.
Over this past year or so, Prince has been dropping a few hints of his activities as heard through the release of a few particularly strong internet singles as well as the formation of his new all female band, 3rdEyeGirl, a combo that has been receiving deliriously ecstatic reviews throughout their European live performances. All the while, Prince has also been teasing audiences with the potential of releasing new recorded material with 3rdEyeGirl and now, at long last, the results have arrived and it is a MONSTER!
"PLECTRUM ELECTRUM," the debut album from Prince & 3rdEye Girl, is far and away one of the very best albums that I have heard in 2014 and for a Prince fanatic like myself, it is precisely the album that I have been just waiting and waiting and waiting for him to make and just knew that he could pull off if he only set his mind to it. The album is highly reminiscent of his classic period from the 1980's not in sound but in regards to how this music is created and performed. Prince and 3rdEyeGirl roar through the album's 12 tracks with a wild, walloping abandon, spectacular musicianship and most importantly, a complete disregard for all musical trends that may surround it on the radio and in the record stores. For the first time, in an extremely long time, it sounds as if Prince is not only having fun again but he is creating the very full length works that would please his artistic soul first and foremost. And when he pleases himself, I feel that's when we hear the very best material he has to offer.
Unlike the bulk of our Auto Tune, Pro Tools culture, "PLECTRUM ELECTRUM" was recorded live in the studio to analog tape, save for some minor overdubs. What this means is that we are hearing music realized in its own universe, performed by four extremely agile, spiritually in tune and powerfully focused musicians facing each other down and just bashing it out triumphantly. It is as if the band sort of made a garage rock album although within the state of the art "garage" of Paisley Park.
You will undoubtedly hear the influences of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Cream throughout the album but I would also add in the massive influence of Funkadelic at their heaviest. Even so, this is indeed Prince we're talking about and this music is the very type that only he could make and he is clearly thrilled with collaborating and surrounding himself with a trio of younger and female energy. The effect has reinvigorated his musical spirit tremendously as his singing has delivered more urgency than it has in far too long and his peerless guitar heroics still showcase why he remains one of the very best guitarists on the planet. His six string fireworks on this album can pierce the clouds in the sky and blaze as brightly as the sun.
"PLECTRUM ELECTRUM" opens with the appropriately titled "WOW," and that word is truly what you will say to yourselves when this track explodes through your speakers. But first, it starts with a bit of a tease. "Hello/How R U?/U're lookin' so fine/No, it's true," Prince begins towards either an old flame which just may be all of listeners. "Remember the time we 1st met?" he continues and then builds upwards with, "Think that was good?/U ain't seen nothing yet..."
And then, Prince and 3rdEyeGirl take their guitars, bass and drums and ferociously scorch the sky and part the Red Sea.
After that explosive opening, "PLECTRUM ELECTRUM" continues over the course of the stomping swagger of "PRETZELBODYLOGIC," the feedback drenched "AINTTURNINROUND," and the jaw dropping instrumental title track during which Prince and flamethrower guitarist Donna Gratis trade blistering leads over a jazz/funk/fusion backdrop superbly held together by the sensational rhythm section of the fluidly liquid bassist Ida Nielsen and John Bonham-esque drummer/vocalist Hannah Ford Welton,
Those very dynamic rhythms come into play during the more musically diverse selections on the album which arrive in the slinky slow jam of "STOPTHISTRAIN" and deep funk hip-hop of "BOYTROUBLE," featuring the raps and vocals of Lizzo and Sophia Eris and Nielsen's rumbling, hip rolling bass guitar. On first listen, those two tracks sounded a smidge out of place and possibly even a tad slight to my ears, but subsequent listens have found me anticipating those two selections excitedly as they showcase the flexibility and versatility of the members of 3rdEyeGirl, necessary qualities to have in one is to ever attempt to play with Prince.
But please allow me to assure you, that despite all of the rock and roll volume and guitar hero fury, this is not an album without a certain substance for within all of the flawless flash, Prince and 3rdEyeGirl definitely present a propulsive collection of songs designed with messages of empowerment, salvation, and that specialized paisley injected positivity.
"WHITECAPS," a dreamy and more acoustic based song that is very reminiscent of Prince's collaborations with former bandmates Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman from The Revolution, utilizes the watery imagery as a metaphor for overcoming the obstacles of life, whether external or more importantly, internal. The equally tranquil "TICTACTOE," where the guitars reminded me of the shimmery sonic landscapes created by the Cocteau Twins of all bands, presents a lyrical conundrum as the band philosophizes, "Like a buncha blind people playing tic tac toe/Who knows where the zeros and the X's go?"
The roaring "FIXURLIFEUP" addresses sexism ("A girl with a guitar is 12 times better than another crazy band o' boys/Trying 2 B a star when u're just another brick in the misogynistic wall o' noise") and the importance of blazing one's own path regardless what the majority has to say. And the purple punk rock of the under two minute "MARZ," tackles the social ills of the 21st century with palpable fierceness ("Lost my job at Mickie D's/4 giving away 2 much food 4 free/But eye couldn't watch another Black child go 2 school.../With nothing 2 eat").
"PLECTRUM ELECTRUM" is gritty and glorious as it is an album that celebrates the communicative power that occurs when real musicians are playing real instruments together, joyously lost in the beauty of collaboration. Throughout the entire album, Prince graciously makes room for his bandmates and special guests as all of the women often trade or downright take the lead vocals from the man himself...something that he seems to be more than happy to allow as his musical partners have obviously given him a renewed sense of artistic purpose.
When Prince sings "Eye'm the greatest living soul u'll ever know" before launching into another downright EPIC guitar solo on the blazing "ANOTHERLOVE," we are all reminded of why we all fell in love with him in the first place as he is truly one whose mold will never be re-created. And drear readers and listeners, as terrific as "PLECTRUM ELECTRUM" is, it did not even begin to truly prepare me for what arrived next.
Friday, October 3, 2014
All music and lyrics by Lenny Kravitz
except "Sex," The Chamber," "Dirty White Boots," "New York City," and "I'm A Believer"
music by Lenny Kravitz and Craig Ross lyrics by Lenny Kravitz
"Ooh Baby Baby" music and lyrics by Smokey Robinson and Warren Moore
All vocals and instruments performed by Lenny Kravitz
Craig Ross: Acoustic and Electric Guitars
Harold Todd: Saxophone
Ludovic Louis: Trumpet
Dave Baron: Synthesizer programming
Produced by Lenny Kravitz
Released September 23, 2014
Believe it or not, dear readers and listeners, Lenny Kravitz is 50 years old. And believe it or not once again, Mr. Kravitz has now officially entered his 25th year as a recording artist as his classic debut album "Let Love Rule" was released to the world on September 19, 1989 and confirmed him as a musical force to be reckoned with. He has long outlasted many of his musical peers of the same era as well as his longtime detractors and with "Strut," we now have Lenny Kravitz's 10th album, an album that sounds like a well deserved victory lap and he has invited us to celebrate right alongside him.
While Kravitz's genre hopping and sprawling previous album, "Black And White America" (released August 30, 2011), seemed as if he had created his own version of Stevie Wonder's "Songs In The Key Of Life" (released September 28, 1976) as it featured political commentary and utopian anthems alongside his ballads and rave ups, "Strut" straddles the musical worlds of the slick and the sleazy. As Kravitz presents his trademark songs about the intricacies of love as well as celebratory anthems of affirmation and uplift they are all filtered through a musical gumbo that is equal parts glam rock, sweaty rhythm and blues, flashes of swaggering metal and the glittery excess of disco. "Strut" is not a deep experience, not it is remotely meant to be. It is just one big bash from start to finish.
In recent interviews, Lenny Kravitz explained that for this new album, he devised of the song titles first and did not change them, forcing himself to write to whatever emotions the titles invoked and also keeping the music infused with a certain immediacy. With "Sex," the album's stomping, propulsive opening track, we are given an intoxicating rush into Kravitz's carnal desires but we have to have our foreplay on the dance floor. By the album' second and third tracks, "The Chamber" and "Dirty White Boots" respectively, we arrive at Kravitz's full intent and purpose; to create a sonic palate that suggests a hybrid of The Rolling Stones' late 1970's era, the music of Blondie, whose classic "Heart Of Glass" is openly referenced, plus all manner of bar bands and stadium roof raisers designed and ready made for the stage.
It is a vigorously performed as well as a beautifully produced and mixed album that, once again, showcases Kravitz's musical aesthetic of keeping the digital technology to a minimum and stressing the priceless glory of hearing real musicians playing real instruments. Lenny Kravitz remains at the tip top of his chosen field as his multi-instrumental skills can still trick your ears into thinking that you are hearing an entire band when it's often Kravitz all alone. You can feel the drums just pop through the speakers, Kravitz's exuberant vocals from beginning to end, and blasts of guitar that will make you wish to play alongside him. But, for me, it is Kravitz's stellar bass playing throughout the album that will make you involuntarily perform the act contained within the album title for the entire duration, and even if you are in a seated position!!
The low rider, pimp stroll of "Frankenstein," the runway groove of the devotional "New York City," the go-go dancer garage rock tinged with rock gospel of "I'm A Believer" (incidentally not a cover of the classic track by The Monkees), and the bluesy R&B sway of the celebratory "Happy Birthday" all represent the "all killer-no filler" velocity and overall energy of this new release as we can easily hear just how much ecstatic fun Kravitz is having. Even his cover of Smokey Robinson's classic soul heartbreaker "Ooh Baby Baby" is presented as a euphoric sing-a-long. Only "The Pleasure And The Pain" and the country influenced "She's A Beast" give us space to catch our breath and even then, Kravitz hold us within rapt attention as each selection provides a slow burn that builds to triumphant emotional peaks.
Granted, Kravitz is not always the finest of lyricists and to my ears, I always feel that he is much stronger with words the more personal and deeply he probes his subject matter. But in the case of "Strut," this album is not meant for deep thinking, so to speak. It is an album of movement, of attitude, of confidence and style, and therefore the discovery and sense of self and communal adoration we can all find once we commit ourselves to meeting the world with the fullest command to perform the act of the album's title. Kravitz wants for us to leave all of our inhibitions and insecurities aside, to take life's minor keys, wrestle them to the round and rise higher than we ever could have hoped for ourselves--a sentiment and feeling that has been Kravitz's objective for all of us from the very beginning and the outpouring of his undeniable commitment to his material is grandly palpable.
Lenny Kravitz's "Strut" is not an epic artistic statement but it is also not disposable pap either. This is a superbly winning album of accomplishment and if we can utilize his unique spoils as fuel for ourselves to reach our individual plateaus, then I have a strong feeling that Kravitz himself would be more than proud if we did just that using his music as our personal soundtracks.
Dear readers and listeners, I feel the need to prepare you for a photo that will appear just under these words. Are you ready? Here it is...
Look...I am writing somewhat with my tongue planted firmly within my cheek but also with more than a share of irritation. The internet rage and increasing vitriol against U2 and their release strategy for their latest album "Songs Of Innocence" (released September 9, 2014) has gone far beyond existing as a purely "first world problem" (thanks "Weird" Al) to something that I feel is quite indicative of our 21st century culture regarding our relationship with music: there isn't one.
In all fairness, I certainly did not mean that last statement with any sense of hyperbole but it does seem to recognize that people are not only not buying music like in generations past. People are not even listening to music in the same ways than in generations past, leaving the music in the relationship with music as something of an afterthought. Now, music is a fashion statement, an superfluous accessory, or innocuous background fodder. It's nothing to get passionate about in and of itself, especially when perceptions and the cult of personality get in the way.
A band like U2 certainly has no need for someone like me to defend them and that is not the purpose of this opening entry for the month. But, my question to all of the detractors (and to a degree the supporters) of "Songs Of Innocence," I have to ask if any of those people have really taken the time to listen to the music and not have some ready made knee jerk reaction to the cultural shifts of the moment, which has found itself from National Public Radio all the way to "Saturday Night Live" taking swipes at the band for their latest album. In fact, the album had only been in the world for not even one day before media outlets were lambasting it for being the worst piece of tripe the band has ever released (ah...Pitchfork, you are so predictable in your self-congratulatory hipster "wrath") or even praising it as a masterpiece (I'm looking at you, Rolling Stone). And then those that solely exist within the comment thread fields began to strike with a variation of the statements that opened this posting and after a while, I really began to wonder just how many of them, from critics to internet trolls, actually even heard the album in the first place. Or were they all just piling on in a reactionary pose against the idea of the band and a misplaced anger against a corporation (in this case, Apple) that I am certain most of them actually benefit from and will not discard anytime soon?
What made matters even worse to me was when the official cover art for the album, a stark black and white photo of shirtless drummer Larry Mullen Jr. embracing his 18 year old son, was released. The vitriol was simply depressing to see, to say the least (I really need to stay away from comment threads and chat rooms).
As for me, I have heard "Songs Of Innocence" perhaps a dozen times or so now and I stand by my original assessment, even moreso. I like the album. Very much. No, I do not think it is one of their great albums and there are several albums that I have heard this year from other artists that I have enjoyed even more. But that said, I think it is a strong one and filled with a warmth and intimacy that is uncharacteristic for U2 and therefore, more than welcoming as it did disarm me. But who cares about anything like that because we now live in a world where Auto-Tune, committee songwriting, faceless producer driven singles and Nicki Minaj shaking her ass to an awaiting anaconda merits more credibility than the presence of one of rock and roll's great bands, who actually write songs and are able to actually sing and play their own instruments and have crafted a work of an unprecedented autobiographical openness. To me, this reality reduces the concept of "credibility" to nothingness because we also live in a time where music itself is disposable. And when art is treated as being disposable, how is one to recognize it when art does indeed arrive?
These problems also exist on the other end of the spectrum. For here is another photo...
Even so, I wanted to test out my own internal theory regarding Yorke. I again visited some comment threads and just browsed through some internet music sites and wouldn't you know that Yorke has received near universal praise where U2 has received nothing but scorn and for an album you didn't even have to pay for to boot! "That's how you do it, U2!" screamed one comment and so it went from there, with anonymous individuals celebrating Thom Yorke and BitTorrent while crucifying U2 and Apple to varying degrees. It was as if these people were just tripping over themselves to see who could come up with the best quips the fastest and again, did any of these people even hear the album yet?
Furthermore, it also felt to be this self-congratulatory hipster exchange debating the values and legitimacy of Apple Vs. BitTorrents, aspects that have NOTHING to do with the actual songs themselves. Nobody has even mentioned one song from Yorke's album (at least on the few threads I visited) which just led me to feel that what I was witnessing was the cult of personality in action as the debate was not about the music itself but the perceptions of who or what people think Thom Yorke and U2 actually are. Again, making music itself disposable.
The cult of personality truly continued within the music press, and frankly, just as expected as Radiohead and Thom Yorke have habitually existed as critical darlings whose every recorded note is treated as gold. One review (I think it was from either Stereogum or Consequence Of Sound), which also arrived after the album had not even been in the world for 24 full hours, committed the confounding statement of the album being simultaneously a "minor work" but also one that was a "masterpiece." Huh...what????
I love Radiohead, believe me, I LOVE Radiohead but I also know that for all of their greatness, everything they have recorded and every album they have released, is not gold. I really believe that if fans wee truly honest with themselves they would at least pose the question if the band has released a top flight GREAT album since the days of "OK Computer" (released May 21, 1997) and "Kid A" (released October 2, 2000). Or at least "Hail To The Thief" (released June 9, 2003).
To my ears, and even despite the fact that I think it is impossible for Radiohead or any of Thom Yorke's side projects could deliver anything unlistenable, there are some shortcomings and questions to ponder. First of all, it feels as if Yorke has fallen a little too in love with his laptop, especially as the Atoms For Peace album did feel to be a bit too synthetic for its own good and even a tad interchangeable with recent Radiohead albums and even Yorke's solo music, this diluting any sense of individual identity for that band. Secondly, and delving backwards in time, didn't anyone else wonder if the universal praise for Radiohead's "In Rainbows" (released October 10, 2007) was more due to the "pay what you want" independent release strategy rather than the actual music? Didn't anyone other than myself seem to think that Radiohead's last album "The King Of Limbs" (released February 18, 2011) was a bit incomplete or slight as a whole piece? And really, would it kill Yorke to take his beautiful voice and enunciate once in a while? None of those questions ever enter the conversation because Thom Yorke is a figure and Radiohead is a band who can do no wrong in the perceptions of the public, from critics to internet comment threaders, as they all try to keep that "industry of cool" alive--an industry I think that Radiohead themselves would scorn.
What I am getting at with all of this is to urge each and every one of us to keep the music in focus. To keep our ears and hearts open, truly open to the sounds that are being delivered to us and just listen as purely as possible. To listen without prejudice. To listen without the noise of impersonal release strategies and vicious internet chatter getting in the way.
This month, I am hoping to post features about new 2014 music that will inspire you to go out and listen like you used to, never have before or always will forever and ever. Keep listening to the music for the music is all that matters.
And remember, as always...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!