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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Auto-Tuned out, random thoughts on hip-hop

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So, apparently T-Pain can actually sing and is not hiding behind that abortive invention known as Auto-Tune:

Unfortunately, artists who use Auto-Tune have been stinking up their already mediocre songs since Cher first used it on “Believe” back in 1998, and hip-hop/R&B, with a few exceptions, is still producing music and videos like this that cater to every known stereotype and cliché about black culture in America:

Seriously, I can’t think of a time between 1995 and 2010 where this video and this song, with their well-worn, low-hanging-fruit-type themes — money, alcohol, partying in the club, etc. — wouldn’t be out of place. I don’t want to cast too wide a net here, but it’s almost as if the hip-hop genre — and I recognize there are important exceptions like Jay Z, Kanye West, Mos Def, etc. — hasn’t moved on or found anything else interesting to contemplate in 20 years. If that is true to some degree with hip-hop, it’s definitely true of R&B.

Questlove, in his essay series, “When the People Cheer: How Hip-Hop Failed Black America,” was on point in his critique of hip-hop, noting in particular that when the genre became mainstream, or “ubiquitous” as he dubbed it, the genre seemed to lose part of its identity and reverted back to the same themes in which, “The winners, the top dogs, make art mostly about their own victories and the victory of their genre:”

Twenty years ago, when my father first heard about my hip-hop career, he was skeptical. He didn’t know where it was all headed. In his mind, a drummer had a real job, like working as music director for Anita Baker. But if I’m going to marvel at the way that hip-hop overcame his skepticism and became synonymous with our broader black American culture, I’m going to have to be clear with myself that marvel is probably the wrong word. Black culture, which has a long tradition of struggling against (and at the same time, working in close collaboration with) the dominant white culture, has rounded the corner of the 21st century with what looks in one sense like an unequivocal victory. Young America now embraces hip-hop as the signal pop-music genre of its time. So why does that victory feel strange: not exactly hollow, but a little haunted?

I have wondered about this for years, and worried about it for just as many years. It’s kept me up at night or kept me distracted during the day. And after looking far and wide, I keep coming back to the same answer, which is this: The reason is simple. The reason is plain. Once hip-hop culture is ubiquitous, it is also invisible. Once it’s everywhere, it is nowhere. What once offered resistance to mainstream culture (it was part of the larger tapestry, spooky-action style, but it pulled at the fabric) is now an integral part of the sullen dominant. Not to mention the obvious backlash conspiracy paranoia: Once all of black music is associated with hip-hop, then Those Who Wish to Squelch need only squelch one genre to effectively silence an entire cultural movement.

And that’s what it’s become: an entire cultural movement, packed into one hyphenated adjective. These days, nearly anything fashioned or put forth by black people gets referred to as “hip-hop,” even when the description is a poor or pointless fit. “Hip-hop fashion” makes a little sense, but even that is confusing: Does it refer to fashions popularized by hip-hop musicians, like my Lego heart pin, or to fashions that participate in the same vague cool that defines hip-hop music? Others make a whole lot of nonsense: “Hip-hop food”? “Hip-hop politics”? “Hip-hop intellectual”? And there’s even “hip-hop architecture.” What the hell is that? A house you build with a Hammer?

Written by Jeremy

November 6th, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Yorke releases album on BitTorrent

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I’ve only heard the first track so far, but Thom Yorke continues to push the envelope, not only within the rock music genre, but in the music distribution market. Torrents as a means to share content has been a thing for years and years, but so far as I know, York’s new album and the aptly named, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” is the first album by a major artist to be released on Bittorrent as a method of distribution.

Here is Yorke’s justification for releasing the album on BitTorrent:

It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around. If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work. Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers. If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done.

In other words, it could provide a cheaper means for the consumer to get new music and for artists, it could serve as a workaround and alternative to distributing through a record company, which has its obvious drawbacks and limitations.

Written by Jeremy

September 26th, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Corgin: ‘The kids rule, the kids always rule, the kids win, and they should’

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Epic words from the head of the Smashing Pumpkins recently receiving the Alternative Press vanguard award. And here is another gem:

The kids should always kick motherfuckers like me out of the way. And I mean that.

Indeed, and I don’t doubt for a second that he believes that. Here’s the full acceptance speech:

CM Punk referenced one of his favorite Pumpkins songs, Cherub Rock, which is unmatched:

Written by Jeremy

July 25th, 2014 at 12:46 am

Space rock eargasm

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If you enjoyed the now-defunct band, Hum, check this out:

Click here to listen to more and download tracks.

Written by Jeremy

July 4th, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Top 50 alternative bands of all time: 20-29

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Click here to see picks 30-39.

20. The Flaming Lips

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face/Do you realize we’re floating in space/Do you realize that happiness makes you cry/Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes let them know/You realize that life goes fast/It’s hard to make the good things last/You realize the sun doesn’t go down/It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do You Realize/Do You Realize/that everyone you know/Someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes let them know/You realize that life goes fast/It’s hard to make the good things last/You realize the sun doesn’t go down/It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face/Do you realize

21. Weezer — Weezer blazed onto the scene as a band that still had that metallic punch of guitar distortion and fuzz, but without all of the angst or pensiveness of some of their contemporaries. While the self-titled “Blue Album” and “Pinkerton” are beloved fan classics, the band still enjoyed with acclaimed success the “Green Album,” “Maladiot” and “Make Believe,” selling a total of more than 9.2 million albums in the United States and about 17.5 million worldwide. “Make Believed” reached number two on the U.S. charts and number one in Canada. And, of course, all those accolades aside, they brought geek rock to the mainstream:

22. The Replacements  No top alternative list would be complete without The Replacements, and they just edge out Sonic Youth and the Meat Puppets for their sheer longevity and influence on the industry.

23. Depeche Mode  Not to overstate matters, but Q Magazine has listed Depeche Mode as one of the 50 bands that changed the world, and “the most popular electronic band the world has ever known.” At more than 75 million albums and singles sold worldwide, Depeche Mode is one of the most successful bands of all time. Enough said:

24. The Offspring  One of the highest selling punk rock bands in history, The Offspring’s third album, “Smash,” sold 20 million by itself, with the breakout tracks, “Self Esteem,” “Come Out and Play” and “Gotta Get Away.” After the mediocre offering, “Ixnay on the Hombre,” The Offspring enjoyed its greatest mainstream popularity to date with “Americana,” with the songs “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright.” The band had another standout track in 2012 with “Days Go By.”

25. Arcade Fire  With just four albums under their belts since the release of “Funeral” in 2004, Arcade Fire has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, basically skipping over the sophomore slump phase and going straight to cult status as one of the most innovative, diverse acts of this generation. Among their many accolades, the band won the Grammy of the Year award for their album, “The Suburbs.” Their most recent offering was “The Reflektor, which “Rolling Stone” named the top five release of 2013. Here they are performing the French cover, “Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son:”

26. Sonic Youth  Sonic Youth has been around for as long as R.E.M. and is an influential as any other band on this list. With their experimental and ferocious guitar style, they came to define alternative grunge before grunge was a thing, releasing five albums before 1990s. An idyllic photo of band member Kim Gordon walking across her bass tells the story of “disaffected youth” like no band before them could. And one only has to listen to the opening seconds of “Kool Thing” to hear the inspiration behind songs like Nirvana’s “Aneurysm” and many others.

27. Coldplay  To say that Coldplay has, at least temporarily, abandoned their roots is probably a mild understatement here in 2014 with the release of the squeaky clean, synth-pop, lovefest known as “Ghost Stories,” but the band was once an influential rock act in the same vein of Oasis, Radiohead and U2. While I personally enjoyed parts of “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends” (not the least of which was a tune that didn’t even make it onto the official cut, “Life in Technicolor II“), I view “X&Y” as Coldplay’s last true rock album. The rest of it — well, let’s just stick with classics: “X&Y,” “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and “Parachutes.” That’s really all the Coldplay you need to put them in the top 30 on this list.

28. Bush  Bush’s “Sixteen Stone” was one of a handful alternative rock albums in the 1990s in which almost half the record became a radio single. Off the strength of singles, “Everything Zen,” “Come Down,” “Glycerine,” “Machine Head” and “Little Things,” the debut album sold more than 10 million albums in the United States, although the band didn’t enjoy equal success in their native England. After 1996’s “Razorblade Suitcase,” the band fell out of the mainstream until 2011 when their new album, “Sea of Memories,” hit number 18 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.

29. Meat Puppets  Like Teenage Fanclub, Sonic Youth, The Replacements and The Flaming Lips, Meat Puppets influenced countless bands coming out of the early 1990s alternative rock scene, including Nirvana, Sound Garden and Dinosaur Jr.:

Written by Jeremy

June 25th, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Top 50 alternative bands of all time: 30-39

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Click here to see picks 40-50.

30. 311 — During a period in the early 1990s dominated by grunge and gritty distorted guitars pounding out teenage angst, 311 brought some diversity to the genre, fusing numerous traditions, including metal, rap, raggae, jazz and funk, into one surprisingly smooth sound and paving the way for bands, like the Gorillaz, to take alternative rock in new sonic directions.

31. Teenage Fanclub — Perhaps best known for the song, “Mad Dog 20/20″ on the “DGC Rarities: Volume 1″ compilation and their moderately successful album, “Bandwagonesque,” Scottish band Teenage Fanclub inspired numerous artists on this list. Kurt Cobain called them the “best band in the world.”

32. The Beastie Boys — Formed way back in 1981, The Beastie Boys were originally a hardcore punk outfit, but switched over to hip hop in the mid-1980s, much to their benefit, as 1986’s “License to Ill” achieved critical success, selling 40 million albums worldwide. With seven albums reaching at least the platinum level in their career, the band was still going strong through 2011. Sadly, Adam “MCA” Yauch died of cancer in May 2012. The vote is out on whether Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz will release more music.

33. Alanis Morrisette — Although Alanis Morrisette didn’t have continued commercial success after her classic album, “Jagged Little Pill,” that offering alone sold more than 33 million copies worldwide, more than Counting Crows have sold their entire career! Maybe she should be number 32. In any case, Morrisette, at 21 years old at the time of the album’s release in 1995, became the youngest artist to win a Grammy for Album of the Year.

34. The White Stripes — The White Stripes need only two people to captivate thousands of people with their innovative, minimalist approach to song writing. Plus, their melody to the song “Seven Nation Army” is known to sports fan across the nation and probably the world.

35. Silverchair — A band right at home in grungeland with a wall of sound and a scratchy, growling lead singer to boot, this Australian artist jumped onto the scene with the 1995 release of “Frogstomp, with notable singles, “Tomorrow” and “Israel’s Son.” Band members were just 15 years old when the album was released. The band continued to release albums through 2007. Daniel Johns introduces the following performance with, “This is that grunge song:”

36. Incubus — On alternative rock mainstay, Incubus is on the short list of bands are still making music more than 20 years after forming.

37. Beck — Beck has utilized so many styles since his first album in the early 1990s, from rock, country, folk, pop, funk and rap, it’s hard to pigeon hole him into any one genre, and perhaps because of his versatility, his albums have continued drawing solid sales from a devoted fanbase.

38. The Cranberries — Behind the wistful voice of Dolores O’Riordan that recalls her native Ireland, The Cranberries have produced four albums that have made it to the top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart. The band, another mainstay in alternative rock, formed in 1990 and released its last album, “Roses,” in 2012. Their 1994 album, “No Need To Argue” is a study in musical contrast, from a soft, smoky sound to the thundering protest song, “Zombie.” This video accurately captures the album’s beautiful bleakness:

39. Counting Crows — Full disclosure, Counting Crows is one of my two favorite bands on this list, along with R.E.M. That being said, I think the band deserves to be in this part of the list because of their commercial success after the release of the singles “Mr Jones” and “Round Here” and the album, “August and Everything After,” along with the follow-up album, “Recovering the Satellites.” They are also one of the few bands on this list that was formed more than 20 years ago that’s still making music and touring. The band also gained mainstream success again with their original song, “Accidentally in Love,” which was on the “Shrek 2″ soundtrack, and the Joni Mitchell cover, “Big Yellow Taxi,” which can still be heard in coffee shops across the country. Note: After more consideration, I actually dropped Counting Crows from number 32 to 39 because I felt The Beastie Boys should be higher on the list.

Written by Jeremy

April 29th, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Posted in Music

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Top 50 alternative bands of all time: 40-50

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These days, alternative music as a genre doesn’t have quite the same force as it once did. Most midsize towns that used to have dedicated alternative rock radio stations, where one could readily hear the latest from say, Ben Folds Five or the Gin Blossoms, either closed shop altogether or coalesced and transitioned into mainstream rock or some mix of mainstream and hard rock. Although many of the bands from the 1990s — and a handful from the 1980s — have continued making music, only a few of the major metro areas in the nation still have true alternative stations.

First, let’s take a look at what “alternative” actually means.

Wikipedia defines alternative rock this way:

The ‘alternative’ definition refers to the genre’s distinction from mainstream rock music, expressed primarily in a distorted guitar sound, transgressive lyrics and generally a nonchalant, defiant attitude. The term’s original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style, or simply the independent, D.I.Y. ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music.

Music fans, particularly alternative music fans, will notice radio waves have few bands like Weezer, Bush or Stone Temple Pilots anymore, that is to say bands that use a lot of distorted guitars, driving rhythms and power chords. The culture seems to have changed, and as such, much of alternative today, with a few exceptions, could be more described as alt-pop. Although artists and bands like Lorde, Chvches, Of Monsters and Men and Foster the People maintain the off-the-beaten-path signature sound of alternative music, transgressiveness and to some degree, the defiance, the sound is more infused with keyboards, computer effects and experimental guitar techniques and chords. Muse is one of the few alternative bands in the modern era still producing the big rock sound reminiscent of bands in the 1990s, while still experimenting (See this video) and offering an alternative sound that’s different from the mainstream.

While this list is will be inevitably subjective, I am going to base it on some criteria and try to remove my personal preferences as best I can.

Here are the criteria on which I am basing this list:

  • Impact on the music industry and influence on other bands
  • Commercial and critical success
  • Longevity
  • Versatility

If this was a list of my personal favorite alternative bands of all time, for instance, Counting Crows and R.E.M. would probably be number one and two, respectively, along with a bunch of bands only a handful of people have heard of, like this list. But no, I’m going to try to keep it as objective as possible, with the understanding that subjectivity will inevitably creep in on any list like such as this. I can already think of a few bands that I absolutely cannot stand (Alice in Chains comes to mind), but that will and must be on the list because of their impact on the industry. I am also going to deduct points for bands that did not really stay truly within the alternative genre throughout their careers. For instance, U2 certainly had an alternative sound in the early 1980s, but quickly adopted, purposefully or not, more of a mainstream rock or adult rock sound by the mid- to late-1980s, carrying into the 1990s and 2000s.

The quintessential difference between alternative and the mainstream was best put in a review of Radiohead’s song “You and Whose Army” comparing Thom Yorke and Bono:

The lyrics, which seem to taunt authority into cracking down on the rabble, could have been given a completely different meaning had they been set to more triumphant music. (You can practically hear Bono delivering a song like this without a shred of irony). But here, Yorke sounds defeated, as if even he’s not confident that an insurgency would succeed.

That is alternative in a nutshell.

Without further adieu, here are picks 40-50:

40. Garbage — Sci-fi pop with a female kick and a wall of sound to boot, Garbage was widely influential in the mid-1990s. Although Garbage didn’t have much commercial success after its first two albums, the band still managed to sell more than 17 million albums worldwide.

41. The Killers — The Killers are one of the best bands of the 2000s, with four albums, “Hot Fuss,” “Sam’s Town,” “Day Age” and “Battle Born” reaching number one in England and Ireland, with “Sam’s Town” and “Hot Fuss” selling a total of 12 million units worldwide. The band has been nominated for seven Grammys and 24 NME awards.

42. Blur — All you need to know is “Whoo hoo!”

43. Everclear — Not one of my personal favorites, but more than deserving of being in the top 50.

44. Rage Against the Machine — No band spewed defiance with more punch than Rage.

45. The Pixies — Influencing countless bands through the years, The Pixies will forever be etched in alternative history for creating “the blueprint for alternative rock that would be followed and embellished upon by everyone from grunge to Britpop,” according to YouTube user iConcertsTelevision.

46. Dinosaur Jr. — Forming in 1984, Dinosaur Jr. has also influenced untold numbers of bands through the 30 years they have been playing music, although the band didn’t enjoy the commercial success of some of its successors.

47. The Church — Once described as “dense, shimmering, exquisite guitar pop,” while The Church also didn’t enjoy widespread commercial success, the band has a distinctive sound that makes them a must for any fan of alternative.

48. No Doubt. No doubt.

49. Mazzy Star — Mazzy Star’s 1994 song “Fade Into You” has been featured in more than 20 TV shows and movies. Enough said.

50. The Lemonheads — Again, not a personal fan, but The Lemonheads’ influence alone puts the band on the list.

Written by Jeremy

April 24th, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Music

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‘Unbelievers’ cover by Lauren O’Connell

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Written by Jeremy

March 28th, 2014 at 12:06 am


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is a concept by which we measure our pain:

Written by Jeremy

February 9th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

20 years of ‘Dookie’

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Sometimes, we just need a pop-punk Fender-shredding eargasm. Green Day’s breakthrough album was released 20 years ago today:

Written by Jeremy

February 1st, 2014 at 5:11 pm

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