Chasing Tail

Well it’s been awhile hasn’t it? I’d like to say I have an excuse — like taking 18 hours of intensive writing courses and doing publicity for more than one artist — but really those don’t hold up in court because I’ve been out of school for over a month. Honestly, it’s been so long that when I logged onto WordPress I was surprised to see that my blog was still getting steady views.

The truth is, I work a shit ton and I’m just tired and these posts take time. But I’m back, and I’m here to stay (but you’ve heard that before, haven’t you?).

For my millionth debut, I bring you yet another from The Bottlemen.

Album: The Ride
Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen

The Ride

Since all of you have been longtime readers, you know that I’ve written about CATB before, sometime in early 2015. They had released their album only a few months prior at that point and were touring the States for what I believe was the first time.

My how times have changed.

Now they’re back in the States and they’re bigger and better than they were last time, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This isn’t a live review. This is an album review.

Catfish and the Bottlemen released their sophomore album, The Ride, just last month on May 27, this time with Capitol Records. It’s another short album — only about 40 minutes long — and it managed to peak at number 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart. Here in the states, it peaked at 28 on the Billboard 200, which is about a hundred places higher than their debut.

All in all, I’m not totally sure what I was expecting from CATB the second time around, but somehow I think they managed to both deliver and disappoint at the same time. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, but things have certainly changed.

I feel like this is a good point to mention that Dave Sardy produced The Ride. This small tidbit of information honestly confused me a little. Sardy has worked with everyone — including The Bottlemen’s heroes, Oasis — but this particular piece of production was actually quite disappointing.

Catfish, for their part, delivered quite well I think. Lyrically, The Ride doesn’t quite stand up to The Balcony, but gems like “7” hit you with classic Van McCann lines like “I don’t think through things, I never get time cause I don’t think things through.”

The best songs on the album can hold up to the CATB we’ve grown to know and love, but the rest seems like filler. Musically, every song manages to catch the audience’s attention, especially with the soaring riffs found in “Twice” and “Postpone,” and softer, acoustic tracks like “Glasgow” and “Heathrow” keep the album from sounding like more of the same.

But what about that production element I spoke of earlier? Well. Let me tell you.

The production was honestly what upset me most about the album. It just wansn’t up to par. Catfish’s sound hasn’t changed for the worse, but The Ride comes across as too clean cut. It lacks a rougher element that The Balcony brought to the table. Musically, they’ve leaned towards The Strokes but cleaned up their sound like they’re trying to hide something. It’s an odd combination, to say the least.

In short, it’s an album that was meant to be performed live, and Van McCann will tell you that himself. The Ride’s tendency for live performance only becomes more evident when you hear it in person. In fact, I didn’t decide that I liked the album officially until after I saw them in St. Louis Tuesday night. The way The Bottlemen play together only reinforces how good the material actually is, and boy can they put on a show. It was even better than the last time I saw them.

In short, The Ride is a pretty good listen — if you’re willing to listen with an open mind. It’s not The Balcony, but then again, I’d be disappointed if it was.

Honorable Mentions: 7, Twice, Emily, Red, Heathrow

2016-grammys-logo

We Need To Talk About The Grammys

I feel like this post is obligatory, given the weight of the award show that took place last night. As always, I had some major problems with the award show, but if you kept up with my live tweeting (@notreallyindie — I know you didn’t), you know that overall I was actually very pleased with the show.

So let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Holy sh**: Kendrick Lamar. I will be the first to admit that I don’t listen to Kendrick Lamar on a regular basis. Hell, I don’t listen to rap on a regular basis. But Kendrick Lamar has unmistakeable talent that even someone who lives under a rock could recognize.

That’s why I was so happy when he took home the Grammy for Best Rap Album. It’s why I felt a new faith in the award itself when he won Best Rap Song for “Alright.” It’s why he definitely deserved to win for Best Rap Performance. And it’s why I was fully expecting him to take home Album of the Year. Especially after that performance.

For those of you who didn’t see it, it was FIRE. Literally, there was fire on the stage. But the fire wasn’t the most important part. Maybe it was the way he came out on stage — in chains — that made the biggest statement. Maybe it was the way his spoken-word-influenced track “The Blacker The Berry” flew from his lips. Maybe it was the bonfire that raged behind him. Maybe it was the word “COMPTON,” written in black text against the blank continent of Africa. His message wasn’t easily missed.

 

 

So. Can someone PLEASE explain to me why he lost to Taylor Swift? Nothing about The Grammys has pissed me off more. I thought I was mad when they cut off Queens of the Stone Age at the 56th Awards, but this takes the cake.

Those of you who know me know exactly how I feel about T-Swift. I don’t exactly try to hide my feelings about her. But I don’t think my opinion would be different if I loved her. 1989 just didn’t deserve Album of the Year. It wasn’t even close to being the best album in the category. Not against Chris Stapleton, not against Alabama Shakes, and definitely not against Kendrick Lamar.

And as much as I loved her dig against Kanye (though she seemed a little self-righteous when she accepted the award, in my opinion), I maintain my hope that one day just being Taylor Swift won’t be enough for Taylor Swift anymore.

Kendrick Lamar wasn’t the only one who got snubbed either. As far as Best New Artist, well — it was a loaded category to say the least. I really think Cmeghan-trainor-could-barely-get-through-her-best-new-artist-acceptance-speechourtney Barnett should have taken it, but I don’t feel as offended with Meghan Trainor’s win as I do Swift’s. Trainor does have talent, and her acceptance “speech” made me cry (I’m a sympathetic cryer, what can I say?).

Now, as far as the things The Grammys did right, well, even I’ll admit there were a few. Lady Gaga’s performance, for one. Between the Oscars last year, the national anthem last week, and now her David Bowie tribute, we know that we can expect something from Gaga. And it’s going to be big. No one can deny she’s talented anymore and she no longer needs to show up to award shows in an egg. The Bowie Medley was perfect for her, and her work ethic and dedication to the music really showed last night.

The 58th GRAMMY Awards - Show
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 15: Recording artist Lady Gaga performs onstage during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage)

Brittany Howard also killed it when Alabama Shakes performed their Grammy-winning “Don’t Wanna Fight.” The category for best rock song was absolutely packed, but I can’t help get the warm fuzzies when I think of their win. I’ve been with them from the beginning, after all. And “Thunderbitch” proved that rock isn’t dead when she screeched into her microphone — something I’m sure gave the audience chills.

Christ Stapleton also had a successful night, picking up two Grammys. He deserved both, if not more. It’s nice to see a great artist like him emerge. I really think he’s bringing country back to where it should be.

Some other highlights? Well, Skrillex plays guitar like a badass and so does Johnny Depp, and Adele still made everyone cry despite the major sound issues during her performance. Also, she is so classy. I love how she took the moment after her performance to shoutout to Kendrick. I bet she thinks he got snubbed too.

So, what are your thoughts on The Grammys? What were your favorite moments? Share here, Facebook, or Twitter! I’d love to know everyone’s opinions on Album of the Year. I mean, I can’t be the only one who’s mad about this, right?

“The Wonderwall Album”

Happy Almost February! I hope you’re not stressed out to your eyeballs like I am! I made a New Years’ resolution to post once every 2 weeks at least. I’m pretty sure this doesn’t hold to that, but at least this is #2 for January, right?

I’ve got a good one for this week. It was supposed to be my last post but I scrapped it for TLSP and rewrote it anew for today.

Album: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Artist: Oasis

Oasis_-_(What's_The_Story)_Morning_Glory_album_cover

Why am I writing about Oasis? Good question. I guess I like a challenge. But what can you say about Oasis that hasn’t already been said? Nothing, if we’re being honest.

But I like to think of myself as a one stop shop for album information, so maybe if you’re reading you’ll learn something you didn’t know already.

Oasis was obviously a staple of the 90s. They’re one of those bands that makes me cry every time. Their albums have been hailed as record-breakers, they’ve made it on too many “greatest” lists to count, and they were one of the greatest acts in Britpop ever. They were big from the beginning — they formed in 1991, and their debut album, Definitely Maybe, was the fastest selling debut album in the UK at the time of its release.

Now, a little history about the band’s members: The band was initially formed by Liam Gallagher as “The Rain,” but eventually they invited his older brother Noel to join. Noel came on as lead guitarist with the agreement that he would do all of the writing for the band. Both brothers were big partiers and they had quite the reputation for their sibling rivalry, and one brother or the other was constantly leaving the band for some reason or another. The band swapped several drummers over the years, but more people were concerned with the fights Liam and Noel would get into.

Oasis also had a reputation in the media for their rivalry with Damon Albarn’s band Blur (see also the Gorillaz), since both bands were heading the Britpop movement. From what I understand, Noel and Albarn have put aside their differences since the 90s.

Eventually, the band broke up in 2009. Liam went on to form Beadey Eye and Noel went on to form Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (who happen to be playing at the Ryman on my birthday, hint hint Mom and Dad).

Also, for the purposes of discussing Oasis’ music, I feel like I should mention that Noel Gallagher and Oasis have successfully been sued at least once for plagiarism.

But on to what you guys really want to hear about, right? The Wonderwall Album.

Just kidding. It’s called (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and it’s awesome. It was released in October of 1995 (I mean, how 90s can you get?) on Creation Records and it sold over 300,000 copies in it’s first week. In fact, as of 2014, it was rank as the fifth best-selling album in the UK, and at the time, it was the third fastest-selling album in the UK. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 and made it in the top 10 all over the world. Now that’s just impressive. Rolling Stone even included it on their 100 Best Albums of the 90s and their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time lists.

The album included many of the band’s most well-known singles, including “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” “Some Might Say,” and “Champagne Supernova.” I’d argue those are the only four Oasis songs a lot of people know. They aren’t the best on the album though — not to say they aren’t good, because they are.

I really find the material on WTSMG? fascinating. I can’t help but feel incredibly nostalgic every time I listen to it. Maybe it’s Noel’s lyrics — “Where were you while we were getting high?” — but there’s something about them that always captures your attention. Of course, Noel himself says most of the lyrics on the album were gibberish, but Liam disagrees. Even if they don’t mean anything to Noel, they still mean something — but let’s be honest, no one’s really sure what that meaning might be.

Regardless, his writing style mimics that of John Lennon better than anyone I’ve ever seen (and that might be because he’s ripped off a few of his lines here and there, but I digress). Lines like “Slowly walking down the hall/faster than a cannonball,” found in “Champagne Supernova” are exactly what I’m talking about. And he’s so consistent. “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” undoubtedly a tribute to John Lennon’s “Imagine” (it opens with the same piano chords, after all) does it best with lines like “So I’ll start a revolution from my bed/Cause you said the brains I had went to my head.” I’m pretty sure Noel got that one from Lennon himself, actually.

As AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine put it: “This is where his genius lies: He’s a thief and doesn’t have many original thoughts, but as a pop/rock melodicist he’s pretty much without peer.”

And he’s right. Noel might not always be completely original, but he’s easily one of the best songwriters of his generation. He brings the best from the artists he idolizes and mixes them together to create a movement. His soaring melodies and clever lyrics combine to give the album so much variance, and it all culminates into these feelings you’re left with as a listener as image after image is painted for you with words. There’s a ring of sadness to a lot of the material that I know I’m not imagining.

It definitely means something.

And while I generally think Noel Gallagher was the better vocalist (who doesn’t love the chorus in “Don’t Look Back In Anger”?), I’ll be upfront and say that without Liam’s vocals this album wouldn’t be the same. He’s forceful when he needs to be, cheeky when it’s called for, and his voice adds to the nostalgia I feel every time I listen. He brings something different to the words than I think Noel would — and that’s the beauty of it.

Oasis had a tumultuous run, but I think that’s why they rock with the best of them. Liam and Noel both have a lot of passion for the music and they both poured their hearts and souls into it. And I think that’s the reason for the nostalgia — their feelings take hold of yours. And that’s the genius found in (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

 

What are your thoughts on (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Love it? Hate it? Comment here, Facebook or Twitter! Until next time, keep listening.

Honorable Mentions: “Cast No Shadow,” “Some Might Say,” “She’s Electric,” “Morning Glory”

Information pulled from Oasis’s band page, AllMusic.com, and Billboard.com

Understated Indeed

Oh, New Years. Last year I’m pretty sure I made the resolution to keep up with my blog, and that went fantastically unwell. So I’ll make the same resolution this year, but honestly, I can’t promise anything cause I’m taking 18 hours next semester (because obviously I must love stressing myself out).

Honestly, this post was originally going to be about Oasis. I’ve been feeling hella nostalgic for the 90s lately and sometimes when I need a good cry I listen to “Champaign Supernova” and just eat my feelings. But plans change, and I decided to write about The Last Shadow Puppets instead,  because 2016 is the year of their return and I’ve been a little obsessed with The Age of the Understatement lately.

I’ve literally been working on this post for like a week now. It was tough to write so cut me some slack on this one.

Album: The Age of the Understatement
Artist: The Last Shadow Puppets

TLSP

The Last Shadow Puppets are undoubtedly one of my favorite supergroups — if you can call them that. The project is something Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner and his bestie Miles Kane (of The Little Flames at the time) threw together after both bands toured together in 2007. While both of them are members of successful groups, I have a hard time classifying TLSP as a supergroup honestly. I just don’t think of them like I do, say, Them Crooked Vultures. I sort of like to imagine Turner and Kane are just BFFs who like to rock out together — sort of like me and my bestie, if we had musical talent.

While Turner and Kane initially started writing for the project in 2007 while touring together, the project didn’t really come together until 2008. Most of The Age of the Understatement was recorded with producer/drummer James Ford at Blackbox Studios in France, and with the help of Final Fantasy (AKA Owen Pallett) and the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the album became the best compilation of music you didn’t realize you need in your life.

The Age of the Understatement dropped in April of 2008 on Domino Records and the band embarked on a brief tour. A few shows were played with a 16 piece orchestra, which is just hella cool. The project has such a unique sound — like James Bond come to life — and seeing them with an orchestra would just be magical.

Speaking of the sound though, the duo list their main influences as Scott Walker (the musician, not the politician) and early Bowie, but the cunning lyrics found on the album are obviously influenced by John Lennon and several other late 60s artists as well. Ultimately, the album comes together to sounds like something you’d hear in a spy movie. The sweeping strings coupled with that 60s rock band sounds remind you of secret agents, long dresses, big jewelry — the kind of glamour and suave style that you’d find in a 60s film. It takes you on an adventure to another place, but as Heather Phares put it in her review, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome. Most of the tracks on the album fall short of the three-minute mark and it ultimately makes for a short listen.

To start, The Age of the Understatement kicks off with its title track. There’s a kind of urgency to the album — it begins with a fierce tympani roll and the forceful vocals you’d expect from Alex Turner. But the whole album isn’t like that, though it maintains its rigor. The album lightens up with “Standing Next To Me,” but the sweeping “Calm Like You” reminds the listener of just how awesome Alex Turner is at his vocals. Lines like “Accidents and toffee drops/And thinking on the train,” keep the 60s dream alive with the addition of a great horn section, and Turner handles the vast chorus like it’s nothing.

And let’s just be honest for a moment here. Sam Smith, you can step aside. TLSP would school you in a 007-off any day, despite having never actually written a Bond theme. In fact, the ever so suave “My Mistakes Were Made For You” could probably even hold its own against Adele (blaspheme, I know). The elusive femme fatale that seems to haunt many of the songs on the album seems like she would fit in perfectly as a Bond Girl. As Turner sings “And in the backroom of a bad dream she came/and whisked me away enthused,” you can just imagine the type of girl she is. Lines like “And it, the fame that put words in her mouth/She couldn’t help but spit them out/Innocence and arrogance entwined, in the filthiest of minds” only add to the picture. Add in a few harmon mutes, toss in the strings, throw in a key change. It’s all there: the perfect Bond theme.

Admittedly, some tracks such as “Separate And Ever Deadly” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore” sound like something the Arctic Monkeys might play, but The Last Shadow Puppets manage to separate themselves from the other members’ separate projects. The album manages to keep up it’s tempo but varies stylistically in a way that keeps everything interesting. In short, it’s a work of art.

No wonder everyone is so excited for their return. They’ve only been teasing us for 8 years now.

I’ll attach a video below for those who are interested in the band. Until next time (because who knows when that will be), keep listening. And watch out for The Last Shadow Puppets’ new album, coming soon!

Honorable Mentions: The Chamber, Black Plant, The Meeting Place (or just Meeting Place, depending on where you live), Time Has Come Again (or The Time Has Come Again, depending on where you live)

 

*This post contains a link to Heather Phares’ review of the album, found on AllMusic.com

 

Ships Have Sailed 1

Interview Series: Will Carpenter on Ships Have Sailed and the Upcoming Year

I love how social media connects people with similar interests. If there’s one thing we can thank it for, it’s that right there. It’s especially great for music. There have been so many bands I’ve discovered lately just because of social media.

One of these bands is called Ships Have Sailed.

Ships Have Sailed is an indie pop duo based out of L.A. I’d liken them to Snow Patrol meets Walk The Moon. They’ve got an upbeat sound and a really positive outlook for their project, which while not unusual, is still very refreshing.

The official duo themselves consists of Will Carpenter on vocals and guitar and Dan Hange on bass. They’ve had a few lineup fluctuations since the project started, but currently they are touring with a drummer named Art Andranikyan.

The band’s initial release was an EP titled Someday, and their full length album Moodswings was released in March 2015. They’ve picked up a lot of steam on social media recently and their fans can be found in L.A. to Australia and everywhere in between. Not to mention, they’ve been making waves in the festival scene, playing South by Southwest in Texas, Canadian Music Week in Toronto, an CMJ Music Marathon in New York City. They really are very passionate about the project, which was evident when I spoke with Will Carpenter about his music, the band, and their ambitions for 2016.

 

Maddie: Well just to start, can you go ahead and introduce yourself?

Will: Yeah, my name is Will and I front an indie pop project from L.A. called Ships Have Sailed. I sing, play guitar, do our songwriting, do our production. We’re just building our following, making some music, having a good time.

Can you tell me a little about your band mates as well?

W: Yeah, absolutely. So as a permanent fixture, it’s just myself and our bass player Dan, who’s been a good friend of mine for a really long time. Dan plays bass; he also sings backing vocals live. And in addition to that, when we play live, we also play with another very good friend of ours, Art Andranikyan, who is a session drummer. We started playing with him earlier this year and we’re just letting that relationship develop naturally. We don’t want to pressure anybody into becoming a full time member but we love playing with him. He’s a great guy, great friend, and super super talented.

Great! Can you tell me how Ships Have Sailed got its start?

W: It might be a little bit of a long story, but I’ll try to condense it a little bit — CliffNotes version. Basically, Dan and I were in another band, and it was a rock/hip hop project. Very very specific genre wise, and I’ve always been a songwriter. I’ve written in all sorts of different styles of music all my life. So I found myself with a growing group of songs that were not a fit for the current project, and I also didn’t want to let them go. I didn’t want to shelf them, I didn’t want to pitch them for other artists. I kinda wanted to sing them myself. So I just started some preproduction in my home studio and Dan was one of the first people that I called over, and showed him the rough sketch outlines of the songs to gauge his reaction and his reaction was basically, ‘Okay, cool, they sound great. What are we gonna call it?’ And so that was pretty much it — that was the start of it.

Let’s talk about the Someday EP for a minute. What kind of attention did it get when you first released it?

W: So my goal with the Someday EP was really just to put some songs together — obviously there was another motive for me, I just really connected the songs and I really just wanted to do them and get them out there into the world — and it was just kind of like, ‘Okay, let’s see how this does. Let’s see who likes it, who doesn’t, let’s see if somebody hates it. Let’s just see how people react.’ And I was really pleasantly surprised to find the reaction was really, really positive overall. From there, we started noticing that our social following was growing. Honestly, at the time we hadn’t even played a live show yet, so we put this together, worked on the production, got it out there, and we started getting fans on Twitter and Facebook and whatever. Journalists started taking notice and reviewing the EP and we started selling a few units. It was a really nice surprise and it kind of pushed us into the next phase of the project, which was ‘Alright, well we need to be able to translate this to the stage, so that if people come out and see us it doesn’t seem like it’s our first day.’

So what was your inspiration for the material on the EP? I’ve listened to both the EP and the album and I feel like the EP is a little bit different.

W: The EP kinda does have a theme to it. I feel like at the time I was sensing an oncoming transition in life, and I was kinda speaking to that and the different types of conflicting emotions that come along with a transition — any transition, good or bad. Even a good transition can be scary. It can be nerve wrenching and whatever. So even if it’s the best type of transition, you’ll have some negative feelings that go along with that because it’s a change and a lot of people don’t really do all that well with change all the time. So I feel like the EP was sensing that coming before it really even happened. Like a premonition almost.

Well how would you say your actual, physical sound has changed between the two?

W: Honestly, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m working a lot more on my production. Moodswings — I’m 100 percent happy with how that record turned out. If I was able to go back in time, and recreate Someday, I probably would have done some things differently. With Moodswings, it’s exactly how I envisioned it. That’s the big difference. When you really invest the time to hone your craft, that’s when you start being able to execute things exactly the way you want and not having to compromise. I guess from a short perspective, I would say that the difference between tMoodswingshe two sonically is that Someday is a little bit more rough around the edges and Moodswings is a lot more polished. But that being said, I think that that was an organic progression where we just honed in a little bit more on the direction we wanted to go creatively, and really spent the time to beef up our production chops. I think that is the distinguishing difference between those two records from a sonic perspective.

Who would you say are your musical influences? Who did you listen to growing up?

W: This is an interesting question and I feel like I have to give a different answer every single time because both Dan and I have really, really wide musical tastes. Everything from classical and jazz all the way through to melodic death metal and everything in between. Classic rock, The Beatles, 90s grunge, the poppier side of 90s music to a certain extent, and then moving through into the 2000s, theres a lot of really really great emerging artists right now. Some of my favorites on kind of the less huge monumental side, some of the ones that are emerging that I really like are Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, who just came out with his debut EP this year, and then CHVRCHES have been around a little bit longer.

I love CHVRCHES!

W: Yeah, so it’s a really good time for music right now. So, I don’t like to give the same answer to that question because we have so many influences, it’s an easy one that I can just give a different answer every time and it’s always truthful because we like a huge span of art over time, over decades, and genres. That’s the cool thing about being musicians is that you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself into listening to one thing or playing one thing. If you like it and if it sounds good, then you like it and it sounds good.

Well let’s move on and talk about where you guys have been playing. If my readers wanted to see you live, where could they go? What kind of shows are you playing?

W: Again, we are doing this on the indie track right now, so we book our own shows… The one thing that we did notice over the past year, trying to get out and about nationally, it really made it difficult for us to focus on studio work. And so I think this coming year we may actually — I don’t want to say the word hiatus, because that’s not exactly what this is — but I think we may be focusing a little bit more on some local shows and really getting back into writing and creating some more music because one of the things about your following starting on the internet is that your fans are everywhere.  And litShips Have Sailed 2erally for us now it’s impossible for us to get everywhere that our fans are. It would just be physically impossible. So Dan and I have been talking about this a lot because we really do value the people that value our music and we don’t want to say that we’re not gonna play live if festival opportunities come up and the numbers make sense and the logistics makes sense we definitely will travel for those. But we also don’t want to short sell the folks that are across the world and waiting for us to release new music. So we’re trying to figure out the balance for that and I think 2016 is going to be a little bit lighter on the live shows and especially the ones that we have to travel for, and a little bit heavier on getting back into the studio, writing some new music, releasing some new music, maybe doing some online live performances.

 

“We’ve been trying  very, very hard to figure out the balance between being out on the road and being able to be productive in the studio.”

 

What has been the biggest challenge the project has faced so far?

W: Honestly I think I just touched on that. We’ve been trying very, very hard to figure out the balance between being out on the road and being able to be productive in the studio. And so it’s an ongoing challenge and I would say that’s the biggest one to date. And then obviously lineup changes and that type of thing. That’s always a little bit of the struggle as well. But I think that’s more of a typical challenge whereas this challenge of balance is an interesting one. It’s a new one for me specifically, so it’s been interesting trying to find a solution for that.

But your single “If Only” has seemed to have attracted a lot of attention worldwide. Last time I researched you back in October, there wasn’t nearly as much out about you guys but now it just seems like you’ve taken off!

W: Yeah, I mean we have to be really thankful about that and I think it comes down to songwriting at it’s very basic form. Like if you can write a song that connects with people on an emotional level, that’s what you’re looking for. That’s what — as an artist — that’s what we’re all looking for. We’re looking to connect to people on that emotional level and we’re looking to speak our own feelings the way other people kind of feel their own feelings, if that makes sense. And so yeah we’re really fortunate that so many people have been connecting with “If Only.” And actually a lot of the other tracks on Moodswings as well. But you’re right, “If Only” definitely is the standout, has the most streams on Spotify, et cetera. We’re really thankful for that.

Have you noticed the pick up in attention or has it been more gradual?

W: Honestly within the past few months there’s been a really noticeable uptick. Up until that it’s been very gradual. When you’re looking at this stuff everyday, it’s kind of like — so I used to go to the gym a lot in college. And I’ve always been rail thin and really, really it’s hard for me to put on weight. I was always the scrawny kid in high school and so in college I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna put on some muscle.’ And so I went and I started working out every single day. And when you’re working out every single day, regardless of how you try to see the change from a day to day basis, you never see it. It’s only when you look at a photo of yourself from like six months ago and compare it side by side with a photo of today that you’ll notice that difference and it will be a huge difference, but day to day you won’t notice it — and that’s kind of how it’s been for the past couple of years. It’s been a really slow, steady build, which I think organically that’s you want. From a day to day perspective it hasn’t been as noticeable until the past three months and then we really have been noticing our numbers on social media going up and it’s been really a pleasure to see.

 

“Sometimes it’s all about the energy and the vibe that you can create in the room and it doesn’t matter if there’s 20,000 people in that room or 20.”

 

Well what has been the best experience you’ve had since you started Ships Have Sailed?

W: It’s a two part answer: …We made it up to Canadian Music Week this year, which is a really big deal and was a great conference. That being said, our showcase ended up being at exactly the same time as the Death Cab for Cutie show, so that’s a little bit of a hard act to compete with. We wound up with maybe about 20 people in the crowd at our show. As an artist going onto a stage in a room that can hold like 200 people, and seeing 20 people in the crowd, it’s not always the best thing for your ego, let’s just say. But at the same time, you have to go up there. Every single one of those people is just as important as if there were 200 in the room. That’s always been my take on the matter. So we got up there and we played an incredible show and towards the end — we have a song called “Summertime”… — we started playing it and the chorus hit and everybody in the room came up to the stage and started dancing with us. It was just so incredible and it just goes to show that numbers really aren’t always everything. Sometimes it’s all about the energy and the vibe that you can create in the room and it doesn’t matter if there’s 20,000 people in that room or 20. If you’re all having good time and you’re playing a good show and they’re enjoying what you’re doing, that is what it’s all about.

Exactly. Well, just a few more questions to wrap up. How have your attitudes about the band changed since you started?

W: It’s interesting. I think the biggest struggle for me in that area is managing my own expectations. Because at first, this was really just like hey I want to put these songs together and I’m just going to throw them out into the air and then see if anybody likes them and see how people feel. And there’s not a whole lot of expectation that goes along with that. Then once people start to react, then you’re like, ‘Oh, this is going somewhere,” and then you get swept away into these expectations around goals and milestones and what you should be doing. You know that can be dangerous. It’s a little bit — it’s easier to get disappointed that way, it’s easier to feel a level of frustration about the project. I guess what I’m trying to do over the course of how this project has developed, is manage that feeling of expectations, and just let myself — I mean it’s ok to have some expectations and it’s ok have goals — but it started out as purely about the music and so over time I feel those expectations getting heavier than maybe they should, I just try to remind myself that it really is about the music… To me I guess it’s less about how the attitude has changed; it’s more about trying to make sure it doesn’t change too much, if that makes sense.

So you’re starting work on another EP correct?

W: Yeah.

Any idea when we can expect that?

W: Again, a tough questions because I don’t want to set expectations… Internally we had some milestones we wanted to hit for this EP, and we are woefully behind, I’ll just tell you. Myself, I wanted the EP to be basically production all done by now so that we could release it in February, but that unfortunately is not a reality at this point. And it has a little bit to do with the amount we traveled for live performances last year… But definitely, I would say safely sometime in the first half of 2016.

Alright, last question: where do you think you’ll be this time next year?

W: Okay, well you know that thing that [Facebook] started doing where they show you your memories and it’s sometimes a little weird and and little awkward and you’re like, ‘Holy crap, that was only 12 months ago!” and now life is totally different. Ya know what I mean? So I am nervous to predict where I’ll be in a year but what I can say is that I will still be making music in twelve months from now. I’m not looking to stop. There’s no clock on this project. It’s not like, ‘Okay if we don’t sell a million records by 2017 we’re done.’ That’s not what we’re about. While selling a million records would be amazing, it’s not our primary goal. We’re here for the music and we love what we’re doing. We have no intention of stopping. We’ll still be releasing music and annoying our fans online twelve months from now, guaranteed.

 

Ships Have Sailed can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Will is great about interacting with his fans!

They also have their own website in which you can sign up for their mailing list if you’d like to stay updated about the band’s upcoming projects.

Be sure to check out the band on iTunes and Spotify!

*All photos were pulled from Ships Have Sailed Facebook page. They do not belong to me.

 

Right On Time

It’s 1:00 in the morning and I have to be up at 7:00 but I really wanted to get this out. As always, it’ll be edited once someone texts me my latest mistakes.

Teaser: something big is coming soon.

Album: …Like Clockwork             Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

Like Clockwork

So I’m sitting here reading Josh Homme interviews in preparation to write this, and I can’t lie about it. I knew there was a reason he’s one of my favorite musicians. He’s f***ing hilarious (sorry, being around recording industry majors has done a number on my language skills). The truth is, I’ve been out for awhile because sometimes school and life get in the way, but I’ve also been listening to this album nonstop for like two years months. I mean, two years later and it’s just as good as it was the first time. Better, even — because I wasn’t sure that I liked it the first time I listened.

…Like Clockwork was released in the good ol’ U.S. of A back in June of 2013. It was the band’s sixth studio album, and their first on indie label Matador Records after their time with Interscope. Actually, it was their first album since 2007’s Era Vulgaris. I guess 6 years seems like a helluva time between records, but Homme has been involved in several projects since (including Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures) so it’s not like I’ve missed him or anything.

But I did miss Queens. There’s something about their desert rock that welcomes me in every time — but that’s my dark and twisty side talking. QOTSA is a band that combines the sweet with the dirty and the raunchy with the emotional in a way not many bands manage, and …Like Clockwork embodies that better than any of their albums ever have.

This album is their return to the music scene, and boy do they come in with a bang. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart at number one after it’s release (the only QOTSA album to make it to the number one slot), and all of it’s singles placed on the Billboard Singles chart. …Like Clockwork had critics raving, and it got the band three Grammy nominations. It also landed itself on NME’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, coming in at #335.

And, if I do say so myself, there’s a reason. This is a band whose lineup has fluctuated over the years to the point of really only having one constant member (Homme), but they seem to have finally locked it in despite losing their drummer half way through recording. The album contains guest spots from everyone to former collaborator Dave Grohl (who rocks my socks, as I’ve said a thousand times before), to the Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner, to Elton freaking John — who volunteered as an “actual queen,” according to Homme. Former bassist Nick Oliveri even makes an appearance, though not on bass. Together with engineer Mark Rankin, the band has created their best album yet.

…Like Clockwork opens with the sludgy “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” a track that’s got a slow groove. Right off the bat, you can tell that this album is gonna be good. The song is just a preview of the vocal and instrumental experimentation that’s to come, though. The album really doesn’t kick off until “I Sat By the Ocean.” It’s a groovy song with a slide guitar that sticks with you for days, but not in a bad way. Homme croons “Time wounds all heals as we fade out of view,” while comparing a dead relationship to “passing ships in the night,” on the track, proving from the start that he knows his way around writing lyrics.

Really, the album shows a type of restraint that’s not typical of Queens of the Stone Age. Tracks like “They Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and “…Like Clockwork” balance the slow and tame with the hard rock we’re used to and elicit emotions about rock n’ roll  you didn’t even know you had. There’s a personality in the playing that hasn’t been there before.

But what would a Queens album be if there wasn’t a hard rocker? The uninhibited “My God Is The Sun” brings the desert rock right to the table and flies by — more like what we’d expect from QOTSA — and reminds us just what they’re capable of. Really, there’s no wonder it was nominated for “Best Rock Performance” at the Grammys.

And then there’s my favorite track on the album: “Smooth Sailing.” It’s a cocky strut of a song, but the arrogance is earned as Homme sings, “It’s all in motion/ain’t not stopping now/I got nothing to lose and only one way: up.” It’s a clever song that locks in and rolls, and the way Josh Homme plays with his falsetto just adds to the effect.

Really, everything about this album impresses me. The lyrical content is just fantastic — some of the best the band has put out, I would say. It’s very dark and contains Homme’s ever so infamous cynical sarcasm, but that’s what makes it so great. Lines like “To be vulnerable is needed most of all/If you intend to truly fall apart,” found in “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” are easy to miss on the first few listens, but once caught force you to think about their meaning.

While the album does lull a little in the middle during “Kalopsia,” it manages to hold your attention from start to finish. Even the six-minute “I Appear Missing” doesn’t feel so long. It’s an album that’s got talent and showcases it in the best way. In the words of Pitchfork’s Stuart Berman, …Like Clockwork is an album that “kicks like a mule even when it dresses like a queen.”

Like this album? Hate this album? Please, let me know in the comments below!

And as always, never stop listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: If I Had A Tail, Fairweather Friends, I Appear Missing, …Like Clockwork

Overrated — Or Maybe Just That Good

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? This one has been a long time coming but the unfortunate thing about college is that you spend so much time wasting time that when you actually have something you want/need to get done, you can’t get it done because real life gets in the way.

For those of you that don’t already know, I’m no longer studying at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville — I’m now at MTSU. So if I’ve got any readers in the Boro, let me know! I’m missing way too much live music just by virtue of the fact that I hardly know anyone out here and I need someone to go to shows with.

But on to the music, right? That’s what you came here for anyway I’m assuming. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Album: OK Computer                                                                                 Artist: Radiohead

OK Computer

OK Computer. One of the greatest albums of the 90s? One of the greatest albums ever? The album that made Radiohead? Some say yes, others no. While Radiohead might be the music gods of the 90s to some, they’re simply an overrated band to others.

Let me explain how I moved from the latter category to the former:

I used to be really into Muse (I swear this is related). In fact, I’m still into Muse (despite how weird they’ve gotten), and my Muse Pandora station has been a favorite for years. I’m pretty sure it’s been a favorite since I was like 11 or 12 (because of course I lied about my age to create a Pandora account). Anyways, on that Muse Pandora station, I heard a lot of Radiohead. Of course, I knew about Radiohead — or at least I knew of them, and I knew that they were hailed as this amazing revolutionary band. In short, I was completely underwhelmed. I thought they were weird, I hit skip, I moved on.

As I got older I came to appreciate the big Radiohead hits out of the 90s: “Creep,” “Karma Police,” “Paranoid Android.” Again, I never really listened and while I thought they were good songs I failed to really see the significance.

THEN I read an article about how Dave Matthews is a huge Radiohead fan. Actually to be honest, it didn’t change my opinion of them, but it maybe it did make me listen closer — so thanks again, Dave Matthews! — because now I finally realize what Radiohead did and why everyone should listen to them.

And so here I am, at age 19, having finally gotten the memo, and hoping to give you some insight. Which is why I chose this album to write about, rather than their debut or their sophomore efforts.

So, for those of you who were like me and wrote Radiohead off the first time, let me introduce you to the band. Radiohead is a five-piece, post-Britpop, experimental rock band out of Abingdon, Oxfordshire. They actually formed in the ‘80s while in school, but they didn’t really make it on the big stage until their first album debuted in the early 90s. Most of you might recognize their hit single “Creep” which was one of the singles off that album.

While I would give both of their first two albums positive reviews, many view OK Computer as Radiohead’s most important album and I think I would be inclined to agree — this is the album that made them artists rather than just another 90s band. The album was released in May of 1997, though it didn’t hit the States until July. Though this was only their third album, the band elected to self produce with the help of Nigel Godrich, who has worked with artists such as U2, Beck, and R.E.M. The album was released by Parlophone Records in the UK and by Capital Records in the United States. Their previous album, The Bends, was super successful in the UK, so OK Computer was met with a lot of anticipation — it debuted at number one in the UK and held that position for a couple weeks.

But now that we have the cold hard facts out of the way, let’s talk about the music. Radiohead’s sophomore effort was sort of the melancholy, personal and emotional material you’d expect from a tortured artist — it was the bands way of coping with the stresses of their newfound fame. But OK Computer was more of a reaction to the material found on The Bends. It would have been really easy for Radiohead to churn out the same material that was found on The Bends — it would have been good, even. But maybe not great.

Instead, the band set out to produce a new album that had different material — so different that the labels were a little nervous with the finished product. Most of the album was recorded in and old mansion known as St. Catherine’s Court; the band didn’t have a deadline for this production so they took advantage and went creative ham on it. Recording in an old mansion allowed the band to use different acoustic styles and I think that OK Computer wouldn’t be the same if it had been created in a studio.

But I think what makes OK Compter so fascinating is the material on the album. The lyrics are highly impersonal but very emotional. Thom Yorke himself described the lyrical content as snapshots of what was going on around him — reactionary almost. Subject matter ranges from highly political statements to aliens to schizophrenic social climbers, while the overall sound is almost celestial in nature. I would say this album is what launched the sort of electronica era, though all the sounds on the album were made with guitars and synthesizers. It’s a montage of layers and layers and layers, played with undeniable skill, that peel back to reveal Yorke’s tortured falsetto. It’s pretty impressive, really, because it sounds like there should be too much going on.

Take for example the lead single from OK Computer, “Paranoid Android.” It’s not your typical single in that it’s six-and-a-half minutes long and involves about three distinct changes, but several people have regarded it as the “Bohemian Rhapsody” of the 90s. While I wouldn’t necessarily go that far (and neither would the band, since it was sort of a gag song), I would say it’s a pretty good sample of what the album has to offer. Lyrically it explores the mind of someone who’s clearly insane: lines like “Please can you stop the noise/I’m trying to get some rest/From all the unborn chicken voices in my head,” start the song off on an interesting foot while layers of both acoustic and electric guitars combine with synthesizers, a voice box, and Yorke’s haunting vocals.

OK Computer takes it’s listeners on a musical ride. Tracks like “Karma Police” and “Climbing Up The Walls” are constantly building tension and others like the hard, political “Electioneering” release it in a way that makes the album flow like one continuous piece of work. All the while, lines like “For a minute there, I lost myself,” found in “Karma Police,” and “Show me the world as I’d love to see it,” found in “Subterranean Homesick Alien” leave the listener empathizing with the singers sense of solitude and loneliness. And to tie it all together, the track “Fitter Happier,” found in the middle of the album gives the listener the sense that the world is fast-forwarding before his or her eyes while the voice of a robot rattles off life advice.

Sure, it’s not a concept album, but OK Computer has a concept. Maybe I wouldn’t describe it as “positive” — though I think that’s the comparative vibe the band might have been going for in relation to The Bends, but in 1997, Radiohead released an album that was way before their time. Hundreds of bands have tried to go for the same thing, but Radiohead pulls off the chaotic layers and sci-fi sound with an artistry that hasn’t been matched in a long time. No wonder critics loved it.

Requests? Leave them here, Facebook, or my Twitter page! I lost my list of suggestions, so seriously throw some out there. Who knows when I’ll write again, but until then, keep listening. And seriously, listen to this album. It’s excellent.

Honorable Song Mentions: Airbag, Subterranean Homesick Alien, Electioneering, Lucky — just listen to the whole thing really. It’s that good.

Wasting Light, But Not Time

Well then. It’s certainly been awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve been planning this update for almost over a month, but between work and moving and school and life — let’s just say writing hasn’t been my priority. Sometimes I really just want to put it off, even though I always have a good time actually doing it. I’d also like to point out that it’s very hard to write when you’re listening to music that doesn’t inspire you.

Oh well. I’m back, and I’m bringing rock n’ roll with me.

Album: Wasting Light                                                       Artist: The Foo Fighters

Wasting Light

I talk about Dave Grohl and what a badass he is all the time, but ironically I don’t think I’ve ever written about a Foo album which is really quite a shame. I mean, the Foos really are a staple of the 90s, and with a rock god like Grohl fronting the group they really just can’t be ignored.

Now, who are The Foo Fighters? Long story short, Dave Grohl (formerly known as the drummer from Nirvana) set out to start a band that he would front after Nirvana and everyone was excited and some people were angry and all in all it turned out to be awesome. I don’t really want to go into the band’s history too much because I think most people are somewhat familiar with them (I mean they sold out Wembly, for pete’s sake). If you aren’t, I suggest looking up “Everlong” and “My Hero” and then maybe you’ll realize that you have heard of this band.

And since that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the album — or more specifically, why I’m writing about this one today. Wasting Light was The Foo’s seventh studio album and it was released in April of 2011 by RCA Records. So you might be asking at this point, “Gee Maddie, why would you write about the seventh album first?”

Well let me tell you what makes this album awesome.

There are a lot of things that make Wasting Light as amazing as it is, but to me I think The Foos did something so incredibly cool when they made this album: it was recorded analog. In Dave Grohl’s garage. At his house. With his kids running around (or so I imagine). So what does that mean exactly? Well I’m sure most of you know, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. The Foo Fighters went old school on this one. Not a single computer was used to make this album. That means what you hear is exactly what the band recorded. Every imperfection was captured as they rocked out in Grohl’s garage. There was no computer to cut and paste, or to edit, or to smooth out. This is how it was supposed to be done. It’s raw and it’s beautiful.

But there are other amazing things about this album. Not only was it recorded analog in a garage, but Wasting Light was also produced by Butch Vig who had previously worked with Grohl during the Nirvana days on Nevermind. Pat Smear also rejoined the band officially for the first time since The Colour and the Shape. With his addition, Wasting Light is a shredder with three guitars. I know that sounds like much, but the layers and the chords are so well done that the album just rocks, exactly like it’s supposed to.

Overall, Wasting Light is about more than just rock n’ roll. It’s about reflections on the past and hopes for the future and it’s about returning to where they came from. Krist Novoselic, the previous bassist for Nirvana) even guested on “I Should Have Known,” a track that makes a few unmistakable references to the late Kurt Cobain. Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü also made a guest appearance on the album, as well as many others.

I think what makes this one of the best Foo albums since the 90s is that you can really tell the band is proud of it. Dave Grohl himself said he wanted this album to encompass their entire sound, regardless of whether or not it would be their best. And I think that the goal was met and was surpassed, if reviews tell you anything.

Wasting Light was not only nominated for six Grammy Awards, but it took home five and wowed critics everywhere. Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and NME’s Rob Parker agree that it is easily the best Foo album since The Colour and the Shape in 1997. With the edgy opener, “Bridge Burning” and subsequent single “Rope” — which is only the second single to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Rock Songs — it’s hard not to get sucked in and as Parker put it, “drive just that little bit faster…”

And where do I stand? Personally, I think this is my favorite album from The Foo Fighters. It’s the kind of album that you don’t get to hear often anymore. It’s the kind of album the artists really poured everything into, just for rock n’ roll’s sake.

But let me know what you think. You can comment here, Facebook, or Twitter, and until next time, keep listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: Rope (I mean that cymbal though), White Limo, Arlandria, Miss The Misery, I Should Have Known

I really encourage you to check out Perker’s NME review here. I think it’s very well written and the guy really likes the album and it’s cool that there’s a critic out there that doens’t shy away from it.

The Rolling Stone article by David Fricke can be found here

Me & Ms. Winehouse

Alright. It’s been a pretty crazy week, but I’ve got a good one for you this week so I’m gonna cut straight to the chase.

Album: Back To Black                                                                      Artist: Amy Winehouse

Album cover featured on the American release
Album cover featured on the American release

I would like to preface this album with a few things first. I think this might be the first female artist I’ve written about (someone check me on that???) and I’m not sure why because I’m actually quite the feminist. Second, I don’t think I can say anything about Amy Winehouse that hasn’t been said before. Not only was she an amazing artist, but the media decided to turn the poor girl into everyone’s entertainment source and I don’t think that’s what she deserved. I feel like I’m contributing to that a little, however, a movie titled Amy was just released, and in the spirit of honoring her voice I’ve decided to hopefully at least introduce some of you to the amazing girl behind the media sideshow.

I would also like to note that the album I’m writing about is the American release, and instead of including “Addicted” as the eleventh track, a remix of “You Know I’m No Good” was included and I will not be including either in my review.

So where should I even begin? I think everyone knows Amy Winehouse because of her hit song “Rehab,” but she was actually popular in the UK before that song even got to America. She only released two albums before her death of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, but she is widely regarded as one of the most amazing female artists of her generation. Her death procured a lot of interest in the ever so famous 27 Club (if you don’t know what it is, click the link to find out) and she became even more famous posthumously. During her fame, her struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism, her on again off again relationship with her husband, and her frequent outbursts in public were under constant scrutiny by the media and she struggled with both her fame and her body image, as well as bipolar. I guess in some way, her experiences only prove that sometimes the most talented people are the ones that struggle the most.

And talented she was. Amy Winehouse is listed as number 26 on VH1’s Greatest Women in Music, she won countless Grammy awards, and the album I’m about to tell you about is rated number twenty on Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Albums of the 2000s and number 451 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Back To Black was released in the United States in March of 2007. The album had 5 singles: “Rehab,” which was arguably the most famous at least in the States, “You Know I’m No Good,” “Back to Black,” “Love Is A Losing Game,” and “Tears Dry On Their Own.” This album was heavily influenced by the girl groups of the 50s and 60s, and Winehouse would often list several artists from this era as her inspirations. She grew up with a lot of jazz and blues, and she captures it pretty perfectly in her music. The album was produced by Salaam Remi (who had produced her previous album) and most notably Mark Ronson. I don’t think he was lying when he referred to her as his musical soulmate. The two did fabulous work together, combining old sounds with contemporary ones to create a sound that was all Winehouse’s own.

Back To Black, while still bluesy, is less of a jazz album, however. This album was a departure from her first album, Frank, in that is was both more forceful and had heavier blues and R&B influences. I think this album is much darker in both content and sound and I think that’s what I like about it.  The album was recorded with the Dap-Kings, a group that specializes in soul and R&B reminiscent of the 60s, which complements Amy’s voice perfectly.

But we all know that it wasn’t just Amy’s sound that was so distinct. Even though she sounds like something straight out of an old time music club, her lyrics aren’t as innocent as she sounds. Winehouse made no attempt at being indirect. Lyrics like “What kind of f***ery is this?” found in “Me & Mr. Jones (the song was originally supposed to be titled “F***ery”) and “He left no time to regret/Kept his d*** wet/With his same old safe bet,” found in “Back To Black” demonstrate that perfectly. But she’s not profane just to be profane. I think there’s a fine line between unnecessary profanity and the kind of profanity that carries a meaning that can’t be captured otherwise. Winehouse was characteristically aggressive, but she was also a poet. Her lyrics would be amazing without her voice, but when she sings lines like “Memories mar my mind,” found in “Love Is A Losing Game,” it’s like she’s putting a spell on you.

Her vocals range from the ever so sweet “Just Friends” and “Love Is A Loosing Game” to the forceful and determined “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.” The control she has over her voice is also notable — there aren’t a lot of artists that can manipulate their vocals the way she can. And of course, the album wouldn’t be complete without “Tears Dry On Their Own,” a self-power anthem set to the chords of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Critic after critic praises her wit and her ability to be simultaneously classy and absolutely profane. She’s also praised for her tributes to her influences, as she manages to both incorporate but not copy them in her own style (see the Pitchfork article below).

And now I’ve written 900 words on the subject. Honestly, I feel the same about this album as I do few others. There just aren’t enough words. I can’t completely tell you via this blog post how amazing this album is, or just how beautiful her vocals are, or just how tortured her soul was, and I can’t tell you how amazing her lyrics are. That is for you to discover. Every song on this album is good.

So there you have it. If you listen to any one album on this blog, listen to this one (which I’ll probably say again, let’s be honest). You won’t regret it. I like to think that she and the rest of the 27 Club are up there still writing great music, which I know is kinda stupid, but it makes me feel better. Go listen to Amy Winehouse, and until next time, keep listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: You Know I’m No Good, Back To Black, Tears Dry On Their Own, He Can Only Hold Her (my personal favorite on the album)

Joshua Klein’s Back To Black review

One for America

So, how many weeks am I behind? I literally printed out my annotation page for this and it’s just been sitting on my dresser, staring and making me feel guilty for putting this off. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing this, it’s just doing it well requires some research. I guess maybe I could just make stuff up, but that wouldn’t do me or you any good. So here we are. I’m bringing you an American classic for the Fourth. Or… you know. The fifth.

Album: American Fool                                                             Artist: John “Cougar” (Mellencamp)

JC_American_Fool

Before I say anything about this album, I’m going to not only give you background, but also share what critics have to say because I think it might help you understand Mellencamp a little better.

American Fool was actually John Mellencamp’s fifth album. It was released in 1982 on the label Riva Records (which also produced Rod Stewart and not much more), and Mellencamp and Don Gehman produced the album. American Fool was the first Mellencamp album to be clearly successful — it managed to hit the number one spot on the Billboard 200 and both of it’s singles (“Hurts So Good” and “Jack & Diane”) were both wildly successful. I mean, what’s more American than two American kids growing up in the Heartland? (That was terrible, and I’m sorry).

But you see, critics weren’t exactly in love. Mellencamp had previously released albums under the name “Johnny Cougar” and “John Cougar,” and from what I understand he didn’t find himself to be very sincere about his music and critics felt the same way. I really think that he was one of those artists who just had the unfortunate luck of running into some pushy people who wanted to market him a certain way, and artists who are just starting out usually find they have little say if they want to actually put out their music.

So, in light of his previous music, critical reception to American Fool was mixed to say the least. Many critics already held too much of a grudge and some found it hard to believe Mellencamp could be anything but a sellout. Rolling Stone’s Ken Emerson claimed that Mellencamp’s voice “oozes insincerity” on the whole album, and basically called him a Springsteen/Petty knockoff.

Overall, I think a lot of critics agreed this was a better album though. Emerson even admitted “[Cougar’s] rock n’ roll [was] becoming more convincing.” All Music’s Thomas Erlewine agreed; he said the album was a good kind of “shock” and also admitted that Mellencamp was getting better.

I’m pretty sure Mellencamp himself agrees with the critics. I know he doesn’t find some of his old stuff to be good music, and he said himself American Fool has about “three good songs” and “the rest is just filler.”

My review?

I agree one hundred percent. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love to put this record on but I find that more than half the songs on the album are formulaic and I lose interest. The album opens with “Hurts So Good,” which is definitely a strong start, and that track is followed up with “Jack & Diane.” I think anyone would agree those are the two strongest songs on the album. I have to hear “Jack & Diane” maybe twice a shift every time I work at my second job and I still love that song, so obviously Mellencamp did something right there.

The album has some great riffs — the acoustic on “Jack & Diane” and the electric on “Danger List” are classics — and Mellencamp’s band plays pretty well on the album. I think this particular brand of “Heartland rock” was sort of a new twist at the time and I think that’s why everyone liked the album so much. There’s some great (and very 80s) drum beats and the overall ensemble just really comes together, and I think the lyrical content is just really relatable.

In sum, it’s a good album. It’s fun to listen to. It’s just not a great album. The first few tracks are the best though, and by the time you get to the end of “Weakest Moments” you’re definitely ready to move on because that’s a terrible song. But in general, it’s good, and it’s an American staple.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and I’ll post again before another month rolls around. Until then though, never stop listening!

Honorable Song Mentions: Hurts So Good, Jack & Diane, Danger List, China Girl

***EDIT: reviews mentioned can be found at the links below

Rolling Stone — Ken Emerson’s review of American Fool

AllMusic — Thomas Erlewine’s review of American Fool