Girl Power

In this day and age, it’s very difficult to find quality music being played on over the radio, aside from “Classics” stations. Most of the music we’re subjected to is over-produced, and overtly sexual. That aspect isn’t new, but now it’s just blatant. Now, I’m certainly no prude, but it got me thinking: This is how MTV is portraying female artists, what kind of image does that set for the next generation? 

With people like Nicki Minaj on screen wearing next to nothing and “singing” about their butts, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for genuine female musicians to get any sort of attention. Plus, it kind of portrays a poor image for the next generation of musicians. So, not wanting to go on a preaching rant, I decided I would take the time to highlight some of my favorite women in music. Those that are truly talented, and putting out really good music.

First up is Kimbra.

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I’ve mentioned her in my previous post about essential albums, so it comes to no surprise that she’s first up on this list. The New Zealand native caught our attention with her collaborative work on Gotye’s dominating tune “Somebody That I Use To Know,” but her album “Vows” holds its own. She is an excellent singer, and she writes some pretty catchy songs. Her track “Cameo Lover” even has a Supremes-esq feel to it. Kimbra, in my opinion, is a prime example of a positive role model for aspiring pop artists.

Next, we have Karen O.

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Many of us know her from the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the fantastic work she’s done with them, but last year she launched her debut solo album titled “Crush Songs.” Karen O is a true artist, she’s been known to wear colorful, Bowie or early Elton John-esq outfits, she writes her own songs, and she’s an excellent vocalist. She dipped her toe into solo waters awhile back on the “Where the Wild Things Are” soundtrack, and even collaborated with Trent Reznor on a rather interesting take on Led Zeppelin’s classic “Immigrant Song.” After listening through “Crush Songs” a few times, as well as being a long-time Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan, I’m excited to see what the future holds for Ms. O.

Moving on, we have Santi White, a.k.a Santigold.

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I first heard Santigold (formally known as Santogold) while I was in a cell phone store. Her song “Disparate Youth” came on over the store’s Muzak, and I immediately went for my Shazam app. After my business was concluded at the store, I made for my computer the second I got home to look up as much of her music as I possibly could. I quickly became a fan of her music, and her vocal style. She even did a collaborative song with Pharrell and Julian Casablancas (of The Strokes) as part of a series of musical advertisements for Converse. If you’re unfamiliar with her, I definitely recommend checking her stuff out.

This list would be lacking if I didn’t mention the lovely Annie Clark, a.k.a St. Vincent.

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Now here’s a real talent. A soothing vocal style, artistic visuals for album covers, and she’s even a mulch-instrumentalist. Former member of the Indie conglomerate The Polyphonic Spree, Annie Clark branched into the Singer-Songwriter genre under the guise of St. Vincent, which has proven to be a very successful step for her career. She even released an album with David Byrne (of Talking Heads) which quickly became my favorite collaborative album. Her album “Strange Mercy” has been a regular on my playlist.

Next is the up-and-coming Sharon von Etten.

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Probably the very definition of the term “Female Crooner,” von Etten’s career has been on the rise since her 2009 debut “Because I Was in Love,” and has been entrancing fans of Indie and Folk genres alike ever since. When you can sway an established musician like Kyp Malone (of TV on the Radio) you know your future is bright. After downloading her song “Save Yourself” from iTunes’ free Indie download, I’ve greatly enjoyed her work, and am looking forward to seeing what lies in store for her.

Now, for time’s sake, I’ll end this post here, but I could definitely keep going. Instead, I leave you with some honorable mentions like Regina Spektor, Joan Wasser (a.k.a Joan as Policewoman), and Olivia Broadfield. I’d also like to mention the greats that paved the way like Nina Simone, Patsy Cline, Etta James, The Runaways (Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Cherie Curie, and Sandy West), and even Alanis Morissette.

Who is your favorite female vocalist? Let me know in the comments below!

The Anticipation is Killing Me

It’s a really exciting moment when an awesome band you like makes an announcement about their upcoming album, especially when it’s an Indie powerhouse band like Modest Mouse.

The band just released a link on Reddit to their iTunes page, allowing a sneak peek at their upcoming release. Don’t worry Junkies, I’ve got the link for you right…… Here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/strangers-to-ourselves/id949625576

Enjoy!

Family Feud: Grammy Edition

Man, Kanye West REALLY enjoys causing a stir at the Grammy’s doesn’t he? First it was Taylor Swift who fell victim when West rushed the stage, grabbed the award from Swift, and said that Beyonce had the superior video.

This time around, West runs his mouth about Beck, who is quite talented and well established artist, winning album of the year over, you guessed it, Beyonce. Now, Beyonce IS a talented singer, and Beck handled the situation like a champ, but I’m curious as to why West thought Beyonce was more deserving? After all, Beck put way more time and effort into his album.

Also, why is Kanye West so obsessed with Beyonce? That’s a little weird to me. I don’t pretend to understand celebrities, I’m just a dude who loves to listen to, and write about, music. I just wanted to congratulate Beck on his win, and hopefully the Grammy’s will continue to honor hard working musicians, without any further obnoxious interruptions.

The 20 Albums That Should Be In Your Library

This has to be, by far, the most trying post I have ever written. Obviously I had a great struggle with bias, as my personal favorite albums would not necessarily be yours. So, instead I took the academic approach and did my research. After spending hours skimming a seemingly endless amount of “Top 100 Albums of All Time” and “THESE ARE THE GREATEST ALBUMS EVER!” lists, I decided to do something a little different.

Instead of another top albums list to tire you with, I’m choosing to write a list of important albums that should be in your collection, from one music lover to another. So, here it is: The 20 Albums That Should Be In Your Library (with only minor personal bias).

1. “Grace” by Jeff Buckley. My friends and family alike know that Jeff Buckley has/had a huge impact on my life. Although he died almost twenty years ago, his words and his songs are still a profound source of inspiration to me. This album, to this day, still hits me hard. Especially his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

2. “Abbey Road” by The Beatles. Now here was a difficult task. How do you possibly pick a single album by arguably one of the best bands of all time? After multiple listens to their collective work, I finally settled on “Abbey Road.” Not only is it one of their most iconic album covers, but it also feature’s one of their greatest creations: “Here Comes the Sun.”

3. “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” by Ray Charles. I honestly don’t feel the need to go into a long-winded description for this one. It’s Ray Charles, do we really need to question it?

4. Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys. Ah, the innocent songs of the drugged-out Brian Wilson. From the opening track “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” to the endearing “God Only Knows,” I really feel that “Pet Sounds” was the Beach Boys’ best work.

5. “Highway 61 Revisited” by Bob Dylan. This was another tough one. I mean, Dylan is such an influential musician with an impressive discography, how could anyone just narrow it down? Ultimately, I decided on this album because it was the turning point in his career. While his previous releases were more folk-oriented, this one was his step into the rock genre. Starting off with that iconic snare hit on “Like A Rolling Stone,” this album changed the course of Dylan’s career forever.

6. “At Folsom Prison” by Johnny Cash. Yet another turning point piece (I’m beginning to see a pattern here), Cash recorded this FOR his incarcerated fans. A great deal of his best songs are on this album. Even if you’re not a Country fan (I know I’m not), you can’t deny The Man in Black.

7. “Turn on the Bright Lights” by Interpol. As oxymoronic a phrase as it is, “Turn on the Bright Lights” really is a modern classic. The debut album from the New York City based Indie-Rock quartet was a real honest effort, and is a personal favorite of mine.

8. “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. THE first Heavy Metal album. Geezer, Bill, Tony, and the madman Ozzy released this ground-breaking album back in 1970, and it features three of their greatest hits: “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” and “War Pigs.” This album is an absolute must for any fan of rock and heavy metal.

9. “Darkside of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. No list is complete without this masterpiece. Although Pink Floyd has an impressive discography of really great music, “Darkside of the Moon” is by far their most iconic, seconded of course by “The Wall.”

10. “Doolittle” by Pixies. The band that inspired Kurt Cobain and set the stage for the 90’s Grunge movement debuted this beauty back in 1989, a mere two months after my birth. This is always the album I use to introduce people to the Pixies, as it features 90% of my favorite works by them. Personal bias aside, “Doolittle” truly is a great album, and is a definite must-have in any music junkie’s library.

11. “Painkiller” by Judas Priest. Another metal masterpiece from the metal god himself, Rob Halford. A lot of music writers probably would have listed “British Steel” here, but I went with this one because it features the fast-paced, hard-hitting track “Painkiller” as well as “Metal Meltdown” which opens with and insane, face-melting guitar solo. If you really just want to rock out, put this record on and pop some headache medication because you’re about to headbang until you give yourself whiplash.

12. “It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” by Public Enemy. Here it is, one of the most angry, in-you-face, rap albums that called out government and police corruption. This is where rap really is at, not the over-produced repetitive nonsense uplifting partying and frivolous spending that gets spewed out of the airwaves. While Public Enemy left us with Flava Flav, they also gave us “Bring Tha Noise” which they later re-did with thrash metal outfit Anthrax.

13. “The Bends” by Radiohead. The sophomore release of the British alt-rock back fronted by the musical genius Thom Yorke proved that Radiohead didn’t fall victim to the 90’s list of “One-Hit Wonders.” While “Creep” from their debut release “Pablo Honey” remains their most iconic song, “The Bends” came out swinging with heavy tracks like “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” which helped establish Radiohead as one of the most original and influential bands of the last two decades.

14. “Remain in Light” by Talking Heads. David Byrne really is a genius, and his work with Talking Heads will always be my favorite of his. Featuring their classic hit “Once in a Lifetime,” this album proves to be a favorite of old and new fans alike.

15. “Vows” by Kimbra. Like me, most of you who know of Kimbra probably first heard her on Gotye’s radio-dominating hit “Somebody That I Use to Know.” However, the reason why New Zealand-born singer Kimbra made my list is due to the fact that she did something that this generation has never seen before. She released a pop album that was not only really good, it was also not hyper-sexualized and over-produced. From the toe-tapping opening track “Settle Down” to the Supremes-esq “Cameo Lover” to the groovy “Good Intent,” Kimbra really showed that she can make a solid album with “Vows.”

16. “OFF!” by OFF!. The follow-up release to the compilation “First Four EPs” is a true-to-self, genuine punk album. Fronted by Punk icon Keith Morris (of Black Flag and Circle Jerks), OFF! released this hard-hitting album with most of the songs clocking in at around 45 seconds. I love everything about this album, especially the Greg Ginn blasting track “I’ve Got News For You.”

17. “The 59 Sound” by Gaslight Anthem. Probably one of the most heart-felt rock releases of the past decade, Gaslight Anthem really channels images of black-and-white movies, classic cars, and heartbreak. They were even joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen himself to perform the album’s titled track. Mixing equal parts retro and alt rock, I really believe that Gaslight Anthem is the spiritual successor to Social Distortion.

18. “The Meadowlands” by Wrens. The best album by Indie’s most elusive group was released back in 2003. This is their third album, their first was released back in the early 90’s. Known for putting on intense, but infrequent shows, Wrens’ music is so good but so far in between that fans eagerly await news much like comic book lovers await Neil Gaiman’s newest Sandman Overture issue. I’ll admit, when they said they’ll be releasing new music this year, I went total fan girl mode for a few minutes. Take a listen to their song “Hopeless” off this album, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

19. “Dive” by Tycho. This has to be THE most relaxing electronic music I have ever heard. It stirs up images of relaxing on the beach while watching the sunrise, or floating on the waves without a care in the world. This album is an excellent addition to anyone’s music collection, and I can’t recommend it enough.

20. “The Airborne Toxic Event” by The Airborne Toxic Event. This is one of those albums that you can just listen to all the way through time and again. The Airborne Toxic Event is compiled of a group of the most talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. At any given point they’ll swap instruments, or randomly do an acoustic set mid-show. I saw them live at the Fox Theater in Pomona, CA. back in 2009, and that remains one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. And this is the album that started it all for them.