The The – Soul Mining (’86)

“How could anyone know me, when I don’t even know myself?” Oh there’s upbeat delivery in The The’s first studio LP, but it’s certainly not a happy message being conveyed. Frontman Matt Johnson’s solo release two years earlier, Burning Blue Soul (which is commonly mistaken as a The The release), was so negative both lyrically and sonically he was practically moving backwards in emotional development. Soul Mining sees, on the whole, Johnson lightening up a bit, or at the very least shrouding his lyrical negativity in upbeat music. The first track spells the end of Johnson’s overtly dour attitude, a la his solo work, […]

Continue Reading

Art Tatum – Piano Starts Here (’68)

You hear a lot about blind musicians – Amadou and Miriam, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder – yet none can claim such incredible ability and artistry as pianist Art Tatum. (Although he wasn’t completely blind, but close enough.) He pioneered a distinctive piano style, combining stride, jazz, and classical influences to create an incredibly diverse and well rounded sound – something unmistakably Tatum. If you watch him play, he stays entirely calm and controlled, yet performs with such immediacy and technical ability – it’s mind boggling. I mean, if there were an Olympic medal for fastest, most accurate piano playing, Tatum […]

Continue Reading

On Music: The End (?) of Major Label Rule

The 1970s; a time where people had lasting attachments to the music they listened to. Where conscious decisions were made to buy an album out of the thousands available. Where your record collection actually reflected your taste in music. Albums were investments, if you bought something that wasn’t immediately enjoyable, you listened to it enough times so it became enjoyable. Albums were with you for years, and the ones you loved the most were the most beat up, the most scratched. You know the exact lyric that scratch on your favorite LP obscures. If it wasn’t your copy, it just […]

Continue Reading

The United States of America – Self Titled (’68)

  “And the price is right, the cost of one admission is your mind” The United States of America were signed to Columbia Records before putting out material, or even playing a live show. Soon afterwords, they released this self titled psychedelic LP, their only album. They split mere months after its release. What is truly surprising about this album, is the electronic sounds (not to be confused with electronic music). As Joe Byrd, (vocals/effects) once said, “The only available functioning keyable synthesizers were Robert Moog’s, at +$20,000. We were left with whatever functioning sounds I could squeeze from three […]

Continue Reading

Prog Rock: It Still Exists, People Still Listen

Prog rock. A genre that has so many unappealing stigmas associated with it, often times I wonder if it’s even possible to escape them. Somehow, the younger generations think that prog rock is something to be scoffed at, and to be discounted as “old” or “tacky.” At the time, the genre was trying to accomplish a new level of musical credibility, of artistic credibility in music. Commercially, this completely backfired, and was often seen as pretentious. Yet to some, it was an idea that was embraced with open arms. Oh there were some commercial successes, of course. For instance, Yes. I […]

Continue Reading

Sparks Require Your Immediate Attention

Since the late 60s the Mael brothers have been releasing music together under the label of Sparks. They played the LA club scene in the early 70s, weren’t very popular, toured England, and were huge in Europe. Pioneers of glam rock , pop, power pop, and electronic dance, they are constantly reinventing themselves. Well into retirement age, they have not slowed down. They are known for their quirky approach to their lyrics and music, both of which are provided by Ron, and sung by Russel in an incredible falsetto. Their work explores the absurdity in rock, pop, and popular culture. […]

Continue Reading

Nostalgic Listening, and The Process of Association

Whenever you listen to music you are playing a game of association. Constantly. Listen to Pulp, relive an experience, listen to Talk Talk, relive another. A specific key or tone might elicit an emotional response whenever you hear it. Perhaps on first listen, you enjoyed the music for the sake of the music, but associations are bound to happen, irregardless. If you view an album as your favorite due to nostalgic reasons – memories – is it possible to see beyond the memory to the music? Can you obscure your perception of the album to the point where it is […]

Continue Reading

The Police – Synchronicity (’83)

You’ve been letting your feelings show, are you safe Miss Gradenko? I don’t know much about The Police. In fact, I don’t really want to. I find Sting to be unbearably arrogant and his solo work needlessly sappy. (And honestly, what the fuck is he singing about anyway? See, here). But good god, Synchronicity is amazing. Synth-y. Heavy on the bass, with some jungle beats thrown in for good measure. Cheesy yet fitting harmonies. Basic pop song structure. Miss Gradenko is phenomenal. Repetitive but phenomenal, and surprisingly written by Stewart Copeland rather than Sting. If you omit Every Breath You Take […]

Continue Reading

Bert Jansch: In Memoriam, 1943-2011

On a bus, far too large for the winding alpine streets of Switzerland, my music player of choice shuffled, and for the first time I heard Bert Jansch, his self titled release. A master of acoustic guitar, he created haunting melodic phrases eerily fitting for the blanketing blizzard outside. His rough vocals as he describes his loafing, rambling lifestyle complement the almost sparse instrumental pieces. There is no better acoustic folk than Jansch. He pioneered the medium, or at the very least heavily influenced it, and is credited with being one of the most revered and respected folk musicians of […]

Continue Reading