Tag Archives: Rolling Stone

“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

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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

The Experience: Part 2

How perfect is it that my first update day is exactly a week into January? I love it when things work out. This week, I bring you the JT post I’ve been promising for forever and a day, and it’s probably gonna be sub par but whatever.

Album: The 20/20 Experience (Part 2)                                    Artist: Justin Timberlake

JT

So let’s start off with a recap. The 20/20 Experience (Part 1) was JT’s third album, and it came a long while after his second. It received generally favorable reviews (and rightly so) and it had some wonderful songs on it (i.e. “Suit and Tie”). Well, apparently Part 1 wasn’t enough, because only months later, Part 2 was on the market.

Undoubtedly both parts are very similar; Timberlake manages to keep his experimental sound in Part 2, though if you listen back to back there are some pretty distinct differences in the albums ranging from overall beats to lyrics to emotions. According to critics, Part 2 wasn’t as good as it’s predecessor. Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork called it an “unwarranted glut” and claims that it “points to a much more stunted spectrum of creativity” (Find his review here!).

Harsh.

Imagine how people who didn’t like Part 1 felt. Personally, and this could totally be my naturally pessimistic personality, I like Part 2. Admittedly, it’s probably a little more offensive than its senior, but it’s also a little more angry (which is what I like). Even though Dombal thinks that anger doesn’t really fit JT, I disagree. If you go back to some of his older work, you can hear that same aggression in “What Goes Around Comes Around,” except it’s a little more angsty there. Regardless, I don’t think that The 20/20 Experience (Part 2) is just an album you can write off.

Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone seems to agree. He gave the album 3 and 1/2 stars out of five, but he seems to appreciate the overall work more than Dombal (his review is here).

But what do I have to say about the album?

I think the album originally won me over with “Only When I Walk Away,” a track that Dolan obviously appreciated as well. It’s seven minutes of a rolling guitar riff reminiscent of the 70s (think Led Zepp) and some heavy (and somewhat angry) beats provided by Timbaland. Admittedly, the laser show that JT performs the song with helped the track’s cause. Or maybe it was “Drink You Away” that originally hooked me. This song is distinctly different not only from the rest of the album, but JT’s work in general. The track merges Timberlake’s hip/hop roots with some obvious country influences. It’s much better than country music in my opinion, but obviously Timberlake is very familiar with his Tennessee beginnings.

The album also features some guest spots from not only Jay-Z (who was on Part 1 as well), but also Drake. Neither feature disappoints, though I don’t claim to know anything about rap music so maybe it does. Who knows?

Ultimately, the winning track is hand’s down “Amnesia” (in my opinion, at least). The opening string arrangement sets a wonderful start and it’s continued throughout the song. It’s lofty enough to capture the whimsicality of the album and impressive enough to leave the listener wanting just a little more.

Now, the album admittedly has a few busts, if you will. “True Blood,” while certainly interesting, just isn’t my cup of tea. It’s kinda fun but sorta weird and I could do without the howling. But hey, to each their own I guess. And, with regards to the singles, my feelings remain the same as they did for Part 1. They just aren’t the best the album has to offer. But they’re catchy, which is probably why they were chosen for the radio (I had to jab at it just once).

If I had to pick? Unlike most critics I think I’d pick Part 2. While I enjoy Part 1 and think the album was overall more innovative, Part 2 is just more listenable. I’m surprised that Pages just told me the “listenable” was a word. But my point is, despite the fact that Part 2 also continues the seven minute song trend, I think it just flows a little better. It’s a little more exciting. Sue me.

How was that for a post? Not only did I actually write about an album, but it was much better than my Part 1 post (but that isn’t saying much). Find that here.

Thoughts? Leave them here, Facebook, or twitter! And as always, keep listening!

Yeah, It’s Awesome

So that’s the last time I try to set a large goal for myself. Lesson learned. Truth be told I’ve written like three drafts for this post, but I just wasn’t feeling any of them. But alas, it’s Friday, and I really have to kick it into gear.

A lot of great things musically have happened to me in the past week: I bought the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1, I saw the Hobbit and coincidentally fell back in love with Howard Shore and Lord of the Rings, I saw Fleetwood Mac (and I cried because I was literally fangirlling so hard and it was amazing), and today I’m about to go see Justin Timberlake. Originally, the plan was to write about JT and Fleetwood Mac before last Wednesday to gear up for the concerts, but I had bought Awesome Mix and couldn’t get over that. Well, honestly I’m still a little obsessed so that’s what I’m going to write about. The other stuff can come later.

So as most of you know, music and movies go hand in hand. Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars without the Darth Vader theme, and James Bond wouldn’t be James Bond without the Bond theme. And that’s why Awesome Mix was so important. It characterizes the movie, the characters, and at the same time brought back some old favorites (or not so favorites). So, this might be excruciating for you, but I’m gonna get a kick out of it and I’m going to list every track and tell you just what makes it awesome. Don’t worry, I’m limiting myself on how much I’ll say here.

Album: Awesome Mix Vol. 1                                                                     Artist: Lots of em

mix

1. Hooked On A Feeling — Blue Suede, 1974
Originally, this song came out in like 1969. Blue Suede actually remade the song and added the famous “Ooga chaka,” which, to this day, has been sampled to death. However, Peter Quill and the gang brought it back to life. I mean, that brass is what makes it, really.

2. Go All The Way — The Raspberries, 1972
This is one of those songs that falls into “absolutely ridiculous,” but it’s so seventies you can’t turn it off. I’m sure back in the day it was one of those pretty popular (read: overplayed) hits, but the music itself is a little 60s remnant, and Eric Carmen’s croons can’t help but make you want to dance.

3. Spirit In The Sky — Norman Greenbaum, 1969
This is one of those songs thats always been awesome. Rolling Stone even agrees, ranking it #333 on their list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. What makes it awesome? It’s a psychedelic gospel rock anthem written by a Jewish guy. I’m pretty sure it was inspired by gospel song he heard on TV, but who cares? Listen to that guitar riff and tell me this song isn’t cool.

4. Moonage Daydream — David Bowie, 1972
Space and rock n’ roll. I’ll admit, I’m a little partial to David Bowie, but I could rock to this song all day. It’s a little weird, its a little rock n’ roll, and its a little psychedelic. Plus its about an alien rocker (which admittedly is perfect for Guardians of the Galaxy). So sit back, and “freak out in a moonage daydream.”

5. Fooled Around and Fell In Love — Elvin Bishop, 1975
My parents hated this song in the 70s. I’ll admit, I can’t really blame them, because honestly Bishop must’ve been one cocky bastard and this song must’ve gotten annoying quick. But here, it’s the perfect love theme. And thus, it’s awesome.

6. I’m Not In Love — 10cc, 1975
Man, 75 was full of em, weren’t they? This guy’s almost as bad as Bishop, but his lyrics are worse. Still, 40 years later (my god, the 70s were 40 years ago), it’s endlessly amusing — though, the British chick in the middle kinda freaks me out. What’s that about, anyway?

7. I Want You Back — Jackson 5, 1973
Ah, back into the early 70s, with some good music. As my mom so keenly observed “This is when Michael Jackson was a black kid.” And he was adorable. I mean, what’s cuter than a 9 year old Michael Jackson singling a catchy pop tune? And even cuter was that part in the movie with little baby Groot… you guys know what I’m talking about.

8. Come And Get Your Love — Redbone, 1973
And this is it. My favorite on the entire album. This song is great, and I’m actually serious when I say that. Who cares if you can’t actually understand anything Lolly Vegas is singing? It’s still awesome, and it’s great driving music. I could dance to this anthem all day.

9. Cherry Bomb — The Runaways, 1974?
So Wikipedia says this song came out in the early 70s, but for some reason I was thinking 80s. Regardless, it made VH1’s Top 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs Of All Time. I mean, it was written by an all female rock group (that included Joan Jett), so I can see why it makes it. It seemed a little out of place in Guardians, but hey, I enjoyed it.

10. Escape (The Pina Colada Song) —Rupert Holmes, 1979
I always associate this song with Shrek, but it was equally appreciated here. I love this song, despite the ridiculousness of it. Why is it awesome? Two people are just meant to be together, and a pretty late 70s guitar riff. That’s why.

11. O-O-H Child — The Five Stairsteps, 1970
This song is so inspiring. It makes me wish I listened to more soul. It’s another favorite of Rolling Stone, ranked #402 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The context it was used in the movie just makes it better here.

12. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough — Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, 1967
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I was born in the wrong decade. It’s another one of those that everyone knows, and it’s another one of those that makes me wish I listened to more R&B/soul. It’s almost been covered to death, but the original is just. plain. awesome.

So there you have it, probably the most awesome mixtape ever made, and it knows it. I really appreciate this mixtape because of what it adds to not only the movie, but modern expectations for music today. With these hits revived, there’s not telling what could happen.

Seriously, go listen to this one. And look, follow this link, because Marvel is making it easy for you. You’re welcome.

70s? Try 80s.

Wow. Long time no see, or rather read. Or write. Whatever it is. I know I promised The 1975 last week. I also know I went AWOL. You see, there’s a story behind that. Once upon a time, a girl started her first semester in college, and one of her professors assigned three things that she had all semester to do. So naturally, she waited until the day before they were due to start/finish them. That day was last Wednesday. In my defense, one of them was about The 1975 concert, so I kinda wrote my blog without actually writing my blog.

I also know that I promised some other music for this week. It will be coming Saturday. I’m setting big goals for myself. After crushing my finals in a frenzy of stress, caffeine, and last-minute-study regrets that involved very little sleep, I’m ready to return to the blogosphere with a new and improved vigor. Ha. Just kidding. I’m still waiting until the last minute to write these. Onto the music:

Album: The 1975                                                                            Artist: The 1975

The 1975

Almost every review I’ve read (and granted — it was only two that I read start to finish) began with a touching story of a band called something or other that was just about to make it before they fell off the face of the earth. That band was The 1975. I’ll give you the shortened version: The 1975 has gone through like a million and a half band names. Their latest (before The 1975, obviously) was just about to make it with their EP single “Sex,” and then they suddenly disappeared and the accompanying video was removed from the internet. Later, they reappeared as The 1975 and released a few EPs before finally releasing their debut album, The 1975, in September of 2013.

There — now you’re caught up. The 1975 was a pretty ambitious debut. Most bands don’t start with 16 songs on their first album. Of course, several of these songs were released on a few EPs before the album, but they were all revamped during the recording of the album. Now, in my opinion, this is one of those bands that you’ll either fall in love with, or blow off after one listen. To be honest, I was almost in the latter category, but Alexandra’s a little obsessed and thanks to the song “The City” I didn’t blow them off. Not to say that I didn’t think they were good, but they were just… unexpected.

Unexpected sounds like a bad word. It’s got a negative connotation. I guess what I meant is that I expected them to be darker, for lack of a better word. They film a lot of their videos in black in white. A lot of their pictures are in black and white. They wear leather jackets and have cool haircuts. Brit pop was literally the last thing I was expecting. But seriously, it’s like Duran Duran meets The Arctic Monkeys but Matty Healy’s accent is like Alex Turner’s on crack and the 80s sound is that of Boy George. Ok, maybe not that bad. But back to the accent — I actually had to google some lyrics for once, and it was an odd experience because let me tell you: the lyrics I made up did NOT match the ones on the page.

But before I talk about the actual music I want to talk about what other critics had to say. Some critics loved it. In fact, Ryan Gardner of absolutepunk.net called the album “timeless already” and gave it a 9.5. I mean, I liked it. But a 9.5? That leaves no room for improvement! On the other end, some hated it. Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone gave it 2/5 five stars and said that “The 1975 could use some enunciation lessons and an editor.” Harsh, really. I guess it’s not as bad as 1/5, though. (Links to reviews are at the bottom of the post).

I guess if you were to ask me, I’d fall somewhere in the middle but on the more positive end. I think I’ll go with a 7. Here’s why:

I’ll start with the good things about The 1975. For one, the band was incredibly ambitious and I think it definitely payed off. I think the album manages to keep it’s audiences attention despite the length, because their straight up 80s beats are incredibly catchy and make you want to dance in odd ways and Matty’s voice is wonderful. Yeah that’s right. I’m going to fangirl a little and call him Matty.

Secondly, I think Healy’s writing is pretty clever. Admittedly I can’t say it about all of the lyrics found on The 1975, but I would go with about 80%. The lyrical content mostly focuses on sex, drugs, and depression, but The 1975 knows exactly who they are. In “So Far (It’s Alright)” Healy sings “You just write about sex and killing yourself and how you hardly ever went to school.” I think it’s exactly what the band is going for though. A lot of their songs came out of their formative years and they’re very honest about where they came from and what they were doing back then.

I also think that the band is at it’s strongest when it goes for the more upbeat. Don’t get me wrong here, I love “Robbers” and other slower songs on the album. They’ve got a lot of emotion that I think is lacking from most music you hear today, but tracks like “Chocolate,” “Girls,” “Heart Out,” and “Sex” (among a million others I could keep naming) are where they seem the most comfortable.

But for as catchy and wonderful as this album is, there are some cons. Like I mentioned earlier, I think we can expect more from this band. The overall sound of the album doesn’t change much. For the longest time, in my head I would merge “Heart Out” and “Settle Down” in my head and realizing they weren’t in the same song was one of those earth-shattering moments. And that’s my point I guess — they all kind of run together (with a few exceptions of course). I also think that Healy has room to grow as a song writer, not that he isn’t doing a great job already. I admire their ambition and I’m excited to hear what comes next.

Until Saturday, keep listening peeps. Sorry I’ve been gone for so long 🙂

Honorable Song Mentions: It’s all good. I guess if I had to pick some, I’d go with The City, Sex, Girls, She Way Out, and Robbers (but only AFTER you’ve seen the music video — it’s sad).

Reviews:

What’s The Fuss About?

Once again, I’m cutting it close (and by close I mean late), but my suit mate has made it her personal goal to keep me on track despite the fact that she doesn’t read. Oh well. This week is kind of an important one, so if you don’t know any of these songs you probably should go listen to them now.

Album: Hot Fuss                                                                           Artist: The Killers

the killers

So lets talk about The Killers for a second. But before we do that, let’s pause for just a moment to appreciate that their name is The Killers because I like it. Like are they murderers, or are they just killing it all the time? (I know, I’m being so lame but it’s also midnight).

ANYWAY, Hot Fuss was The Killers’ first album, and was produced by a British record company called Lizard King Records. But what was that? They aren’t British? I won’t lie, I actually did think that The Killers were British for a long time (I mean, Flowers’ fake accent isn’t that bad) mostly because they played the UK seriously before the US and they record in the UK, etc… but they are in fact from Las Vegas. Not Los Angeles, Las Vegas. I know, I know. Not the stereotypical California you’d expect. I mean who would ever guess Nevada? But that isn’t the point.

A lot of this album was put together with Jeff Saltzman (who I do believe is a former manager for Green Day) as demos, but most of the demos from their earlier days made it onto Hot Fuss, which dropped in 2004. I think a lot of people my age and older certainly remember the singles “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” because I know I sure do. I actually really associate The Killers with my older sister’s swimming days because I remember these songs playing in the car when I was little and we drove her to and fro. Again, not the point though. The point is this is an excellent album, especially for a debut.

The album opens with “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine,” which is an upbeat, pop/rock funky mix that starts the album off pretty aggressively, but man is it a good song. The fist time I listened to Hot Fuss all the way through I remember getting about halfway through “Jenny” and thinking, “Yeah. This is gonna be a good album.”

The Killers’ sound is the perfect combination of that 90s rock n’ roll I love so much and everything that was good from the 80s. Between the funky bass, the 90s guitar riffs, and Flowers’ keyboard, it’s the perfect 80s/90s lovechild. There are heavy influences from the likes of Duran Duran and The Cure (to name a few), but also that late 90s sound of The Strokes and arguably the Smashing Pumpkins. And it just works. There’s a lot of talent in The Killers, and the members seem to mesh well together.

In fact, Hot Fuss actually makes for great running music. Most of it’s tempos are held fast, the best example of this being “Somebody Told Me.” The music seems to fly by, even as Flowers pleads “Pace yourself for me/I said maybe baby, please.” And overall, I find myself pretty impressed with Brandon Flowers’ lyrics. I mean, we can all admit it: some of them are kind of cheesy (example, “Smile like you mean it”), but then there are lines like “Save some face/You know you’ve only got one,” found in “Smile Like You Mean It” or the somewhat gospel-like anthem “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier,” found in “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

Hot Fuss has it’s slower moments though; “Andy, You’re a Star” opens with a somewhat raunchy guitar riff, but turns into a pretty impressive ballad and “Everything Will Be Alright” is a kinda creepy synthesizer anthem with strangely beautiful lyrics.

I guess what it all boils down to is this: Hot Fuss was kind of a big deal. It made not just one, but two of Rolling Stones’ top 100 lists (including Top 100 of the Decade and Top 100 Greatest Debuts). The Killers are the perfect example of how pop and rock can mesh together to make good, mainstream music that isn’t trash. If you ask me, we need another band like them now.

Any suggestions? Leave them here, Twitter, or Facebook! Until next week, keep listening 🙂

Honorable Song Mentions: Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine, Smile Like You Mean It, All These Things That I’ve Done, On Top, Midnight Show

Dream of Californication

Week 2 in the dorms. I’ve survived this long. And I’ve only gone home like what? Four times? …I just want my bed back. I know I’m late yet again, but let’s face it. The dorms don’t exactly channel creativity. Luckily, I have yet another 90s one to keep me comfort.

Album: Californication                                                   Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers

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So, lets start by clarifying: It’s Californication, a combination of (obviously) California and fornication. Not Californiacation. That’s like my biggest pet peeve.

This album was made by the ever so famous Peppers lineup of of course Anthony Kiedis, Flea (I don’t actually know his real name of the top of my head, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that), John Frusciante, and of course, Chad Smith. To me, this is the golden age of RHCP. Now, this particular band has suffered quite a few changes in lineup, so lets talk about it because it’s a little important (and this is going to be so abbreviated it’s not even funny).

The Peppers originally started with Kiedis, Flea, Hillel Slovak, and Jack Irons. Eventually, Slovak overdosed, and Irons left the band because of it. Long story short, they changed it up with quite a few people, Irons came back and left, etc… Finally, they ended up with the ever-so-sacred lineup mentioned above, but there was a problem. Frusciante did NOT handle the fame well and left the band after a few albums. Thus, the Peppers ended up with Dave Navarro. Fun fact for my brother-in-law Sam, Buckethead actually attended an open audition for the Peppers during this time (if you are not my brother-in-law Same and you don’t know who Buckethead is, google him or something). But cutting to the chase, Navarro didn’t really get the feel of the Peppers, Flea thought about quitting the band, and they brought back Frusciante.

And Californication was born.

Released in June of 1999, Californication was the Peppers’ seventh studio album and it was produced by Rick Rubin. I love that guy. He’s seriously worked with everyone from Tom Petty to Jay-Z to Aerosmith to Eminem to Johnny Cash and I think you get the idea. But — back on track now — Californication marked a serious change in sound for the Peppers. They managed to incorporate their classic funk/rock style with some renewed vocals from Kiedis and added a lot of depth. I’ll come straight out and say it, I credit most of this change to Frusciante’s return, as I do believe most do.

After rejoining the band, Frusciante approached his music differently I think. From what I know about the Peppers, I can confidently say he’s got the most musical knowledge and I think this album (and subsequent albums) really demonstrate what he contributes to the overall RHCP sound. He’s the kind of player that can tone it down, rip out a solo, or just go with the funk, and man does he know how to use a power chord. Not to mention, Flea works best with Frusciante. And that brings me to Flea himself.

Flea is an amazing bass player. It always makes me really mad when people trash Flea. First of all, he’s been a Pepper since the beginning, and even though he’s the jam-it-out type rather than the technical music theory guy, he’s got talent. I think it can honestly be argued that half of RHCP’s sound comes straight from Flea, and (not that I know him personally or anything) he seems like the kind of musician that always wants to become a better musician.

So I guess what I’m getting at is this: between Flea’s bass jams and Frusciante’s straight up talent, Californication could be good without Kiedis. But Kiedis is the only other Pepper that’s always been a Pepper, so we can’t just skip over him. Well, that and he write the lyrics.

A lot of people trash Kiedis too. That also peeves me, and here’s why. In the 90s, you didn’t necessarily have to have the best voice out there to make it — and yet that’s why people trash him. Like take Cobain for an example. I love me some Kurt Cobain as much as the next person (don’t even get me started on Nirvana), but he wasn’t Adele. And that’s the charm.

I think everyone can appreciate the improved vocals on Californication, though. And not only did he improve his vocals, he managed to churn out some really good lyrics in the meantime. The lyrical content ranges from the typical lust and California to topics a little more taboo like addiction and death. One of the more notable singles from the album, “Scar Tissue” is a perfect example as Kiedis croons lines like “scar tissue that I wish you saw/sarcastic mister know it all” and “with birds I’ll share this lonely view.”

But the (then) newfound lyrical goodness doesn’t stop there. The track “Easily,” features some excellent lyrics, if you ask me. There’s a kind of drama with lines like “the story of a woman on the morning of a war/remind me if you will exactly what we’re fighting for,” and “throw me to the wolves because there’s order in the pack/throw me to the sky because I know I’m coming back.” And the utter simplicity of the track “Porcelain” serves to remind you that even the funkiest rock bands can produce something simple and beautiful. Of course, tracks like “Get On Top” and “I Like Dirt” are reminiscent of that ever so funky rock n’ roll sound.

To be honest, I have a lot more to say about Californication, but I’ll stop here. This album marked the beginning of an era for the Peppers and it just added to the excitement of the late 90s. It’s got singles even some of my friends would remember (sorry guys, had to) and it does a pretty good job of showcasing everything RHCP really can offer. To those of you out there who don’t like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, all I can say is you really need to give them another shot. It’s not all about the frontman. It’s not all about the bassist. It’s not all about the guitarist. It’s not all about the drummer. It’s about the incredibly unique sound the Peppers make when they come together. There’s a reason it made Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (coming in at 399).

As always, requests are appreciated, and I swear that I will get to them eventually. As always, keep listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: Parallez Universe, Easily, Porcelain, Right On Time, Road Trippin’

Singles you might recognize from the 90s: Scar Tissue, Otherside, Californication

 

Also: quick add in. Check out @OlderBrotherSam’s website! He’s got an album listening club. It’s like book club. But better.

Listen, But Don’t Revolt

I want to start this weeks blog with a self congratulations: I made it one whole month with a post every week. I’m already beating the odds. Next, I want to say that 1) you all need to seriously feel loved or 2) I need to seriously work on my procrastination problem. I have way too much to actually be doing, but I either felt total love and obligation for you guys, or I just needed an excuse not to study. Right now I find myself too stressed to tell. This month’s album was a request (yes, I take those) so shout out to a kid named Matt from my calc class! (See? Participate and you get a shout out.)

Album: Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends                    Artist: Coldplay

viva la vida

So, like I said, this album was a request from a kid in my calc class (Hi Gibby!), and I’m really glad he suggested it.

You see, it’s not that I don’t like Coldplay. In fact I can name quite a few songs that I really like. It’s just that I feel like a lot of Coldplay’s stuff sounds the same. Like if a song by Coldplay comes on Pandora, I can usually tell you who it is before the words even start. So, even though I have a copy of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends on CD, I hadn’t really listened to it (with the exception of “Viva La Vida,” ‘cause everyone has heard that at some point).

Now, I won’t take back anything I’ve said about Coldplay in that last paragraph. But I will retract the statement with regards to Viva la Vida. While every song on the album still contains that “Coldplay sound” I was talking about, every song is distinctly different; it’s like every single song comes out of a different genre. Part of this may be due to their producer, Brian Eno (who has produced a few of U2’s albums, unsurprisingly); part of this might be their multi-national fan base. Regardless, the songs on  Viva La Vida move from easy piano, to full on orchestra, to distorted guitar, to even a techno sound. I can’t think of a word other than fun to describe the listening experience. It’s an album that makes you want to dance. The variety of sounds found on this album could easily be what makes it a good listen. But it’s not just the sound that makes it different from the rest of Coldplay’s work before VLV‘s release.

This album is sort of cool in that it cycles. I remember Matt telling me this in calculus, and I’m glad he did because I’ll be the first to admit that I missed it on the first few listens. Basically, the way the album starts is the way the album finishes (and if you go on to listen to the Prospekt’s March EP, it starts the way VLV begins if you’re even still following me). I know that sounds simple, but it’s so much cooler when you listen. And it gets even better when you really look at the lyrics, but I’m trying not to get ahead of myself.

The album opens with “Life in Technicolor” which serves as an intro of sorts to the next song on the album, “Cemeteries of London.” If you’ve listened to “Viva La Vida” (the song, for clarification), then I’m sure you can guess the subject matter of this album: revolution, religion, love. The good stuff, right? Well these themes, especially religion, are very apparent in “Cemeteries of London.” Lines like “Through the dark streets they go searching to see God in their own way,” make it kind of hard to miss. The religion theme is pretty major, making it’s way into “Yes,” a song dealing with sin, and “Violet Hill.”

Obviously the religious theme isn’t hard to miss; the theme of revolution is even more obvious. And, while I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about “Viva La Vida” the lines “Revolutionaries wait/for my head on a silver plate” couldn’t be a more perfect example. The lyrics aren’t just about fighting, though. Lines like “bury me in armor/when I’m dead and hit the ground” coupled with “I don’t want to be a soldier” seem to raise conflict between the need for revolution and the distaste for violence. This theme is literally the title of the album. Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends is almost verbatim (in another language) the artist asking himself, “Do I live my life to the fullest or follow death and all his friends?” Ultimately, the singer comes to a conclusion in the album’s closer, “Death And All His Friends,” with the statement “I don’t wanna cycle, recycle revenge;/I don’t wanna follow death and all his friends.” I find this line a little ironic, as the album itself cycles. So is your mind blown yet? Take a moment to process. It’s thought provoking, yes?

Nicely done, Coldplay.

There are a lot of interesting facts about this album, and I wish that I had the time to share them all. But I don’t, so I’ll start my conclusion with this: in preparation for my own review, I read a lot of what others had to say. The general consensus is that, yes, this was Coldplay’s greatest album at it’s release, and that yes, it’s got diversity and relatable lyrics. It appeals to quite a wide audience. However, that also might be it’s greatest criticism. Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends is obviously an album with a political statement. It just isn’t loud enough. Appealing to such a diverse group of people will without a doubt dilute any message. In the words of Rolling Stone’s Will Hermes, “Sometimes, to say what needs to be said, you need to risk pissing people off” (this quote was taken from this review, if you’re interested).

I guess the bottom line with regards to Viva La Vida is, no: it’s not going to go down in history as the best album ever created. But it is a work of art. You can hear the work that was put into this album, and it’s one of those albums that takes you to a different place. It’s an album that music junkies and non-music junkies alike can enjoy and have fun listening to. So I’m glad that one of my most devoted readers (Ok, last shout out to Matt right here) told me to listen to it. I’m willing to admit that I might have written off an album that didn’t deserve it.

Questions, comments, suggestions, snide remarks. They’re all welcome! As always, keep listening!

Honorable Song Mentions: Life in Technicolor/Cemeteries of London, 42, Lovers In Japan, Yes, Violet Hill, Death And All His Friends (And once again I manage to list almost the whole album. I think I have a problem.)

Fun Facts about Viva La Vida:
The cover to the album is a painting called Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix
Les Miserables was listed as an inspiration for the album
(This one was told to me today, actually) The unique piano sound from “Lovers in Japan” comes from an old piano with tacks pushed into the piano hammers — they were trying to create the same sound as a tack piano
On tour, the band played in French Revolution inspired outfits

One last thing – obviously the image used doesn’t belong to me. Just thought I might start throwing that in there.