Retro Chic

It’s the year 2016. Computer technology and digital mediative grown exponentially in a relatively short period of time. The Napster fiasco is thing of the past, and downloadable music is everywhere.

To this day Apple remains at the forefront for digital music players, but a new trend has arisen amount listeners. A trend that is all too familiar, and has two elements:

Vinyl and Cassette.

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By now, everyone is familiar with the “Vinyl Revolution” that has surged forward in the music industry. Perhaps it was spearheaded by the hipsters in an attempt to be unique and non-conformative, but it seems to have caught on as a mainstream media outlet instead.  I mean, you can’t walk into a Barnes & Noble Bookstore here in America without seeing a vinyl display rack front and center.

The cool thing about all this is, as my Instagram followers have seen,  that we now have access to high quality music productions of albums old and new alike. I’ve been a long time collector of vinyl records, and am glad to see them more readily available. Albeit, I’m not digging the prices I’ve seen on some of them.

Which brings me to the second part of this topic: Cassettes.

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They’re starting to make a comeback as well. While many punk bands have been actively releasing their music on cassettes for decades, a lot of modern artists are beginning to do the same. In fact, Emeniem will be re-releasing the Marshal Mathers EP on cassette, and the post-hardcore band Defeater has collaborated with their record label Bridge Nine Records to re-release their entire discography as a limited edition cassette collection.

Much like their vinyl record counterparts, cassette tapes have not only seen an increase in popularity, but in price as well. Which is starting to get frustrating, since a year ago you could walk into any given thrift store and pick up five cassette tapes for a dollar. Now I’ve seen some as high as ten dollars a piece!

Being the Music Junkie, I naturally have a few tapes in my collection already. However, I have yet to come across a decent player. Who knows? Perhaps if cassette tapes make the comeback that vinyls have, we’ll have access to high quality tape players as we do record players. That would be nice!

Well, it seems that history does in fact repeat itself. Who knows, maybe even mainstream radio will get it’s soul back and start playing real music by real artists again. Although I highly doubt it however. But I will refrain from getting up on my figurative soapbox about that subject again. For now at least.

Post-Pop Review

 What do you get when you combine a legend, an icon, and members of two of the best alt rock bands in modern music?  You get an album that has restored my hope for the future of rock music, despite it’s title.

 Iggy Pop, the “Godfather of Punk,” teamed up with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, Dean Fertita of The Dead Weather, and Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys to release “Post-Pop Depression.” This is an interesting album, because it is as unique as it is familiar. Confused? Allow me to explain.

 You see, the combination of Homme’s signature music production, accompanied by Helder and Fertita’s musicianship amplify Iggy Pop’s deep and distorted vocal styling, giving completely unlike anything this generation, or even the previous, has ever heard before. Resonating vocals accompanied by distorted guitar and a solid backbeat on the drums make for quite an enjoyable listening experience.

 So, where does the familiarity factor in? For any long-time fan of Pop’s, you’ll recognize the similarity in song writing and overall tone of “Post-Pop Depression” as it feels like the sequel to his 1977 album “Lust for Life.”

 Much like “Lust for Life,” “Post-Pop Depression” is a departure from Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power” sound, and focuses more on lyrical impact and musicianship. From the the echoing opening of “Break Into Your Heart” to the lyrically symbolic “Vulture,” all the way to the closing track “Paraguay,” the album holds strong the whole ride through.  At no point do any of the songs falter or feel generic, and that is a rarity in any generation of music. 

  
 “Post-Pop Depression” proves, undeniably, that over-produced, hyper auto-tuned, computer generated beats aren’t necessary to create an excellent album. It proves that genuine musicianship and sincere songwriter are still very much alive and well, which brings me to my earlier statement: it gives me hope for the future of rock music. 

The Ol’ Switcheroo

Sometimes a band makes it big, releases several albums, has a devout fanbase, and is on top of the world. Sometimes a member of said band wants to branch out and try some solo work, which can go either way. Sometimes it’s the opposite, a solo artist teams up with other solo acts  to form a “Super Group.” Let’s talk about that.

Now, as many of my readers may recall, I’ve already discussed Super Groups in a Previous Post,  so I won’t be revisiting that topic. No, instead We’ll be talking about “going solo.”

How about the case of Billy Corgan? Let me start by saying that I’m a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan, and have been for many years. I was not, however, a fan of his Smashing Pumpkins clone side project Zwan, which featured all the SP members except D’arcy. And then Corgan decided to release a solo album, which, to me, sounded just like a less angsty SP and more Zwan. Luckily, Corgan “got the band back together” and Smashing Pumpkins have been releasing new music and touring ever since. Albeit, the lineup isn’t exactly original.

Hmmm, a solo album sounding similar to the artist’s previous band? Sounds familiar doesn’t it? That’s because Serj Tankian did the same thing. I vividly remember hanging out with my friends when one of them put Tankian’s debut solo album “Empty Walls” on. Moments into the opening track, I had asked “Wait, did System of a Down come out with a new album?”Not only is Tankian’s voice very unique, but the music style he pursued with his solo work was the same as the band he left. Now, System of a Down has since played several shows and toured, but a new album hasn’t been released since 2005’s “Hypnotize,” however Tankian has continued to release solo albums.

What happens when the entire band wants to do solo work? It can work after all. I mean, after the Beatles split up, all four members enjoyed successful careers. It doesn’t always work out though. Case in point: ALL FOUR KISS SOLO ALBUMS. 

I’m referring to the four albums that were released at the same time back in 1978. Yeah, they’re iconic album covers, but that doesn’t make up for the train wreck  that the albums actually were. Sure each one had a decent song or two, I mean Frehley’s “New York Groove” is a pretty solid tune, but overall the albums were just “meh.” Nothing compared to the success that KISS gained as a whole, so even though solo albums continue to be released, KISS still goes strong.

So yes, going solo can be a failed move, but sometimes it works out. You can’t really blame an artist for trying, right?

What are some of your favorite solo disasters? Comment below!

First Quarter Check-in

Well, 2016 has proven to be quite the rollercoaster ride in the music world. We’ve lost Icons, Legends have returned with new music, and mainstream radio is…well, actually that’s still terrible.

Anyways, we’re not even a full three months into the year and there have been a lot of albums released already. It’s almost overwhelming, but they don’t call me the Music Junkie for nothing!

So, here are the albums I recommend checking out that have been released as of this week.

My number one pick goes to one of the more recent releases, “A Man Alive” by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.

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Singer Thao Ngyuen fronts this eclectic band of indie alt folk rock musicians, and they’re latest effort “A Man Alive” is both musically genius and confusing. Well, to newcomers that is. Jazzy riffs, hip-hop beats, classic folk guitar, and scaling vocals are abundant throughout the entirety of the album, and can be off-putting at first. I, however, found it to be very enjoyable, if not quite entertaining upon my first listen through.

If you’re looking for an album that will open you up to the more experimental side of music, or maybe you just want to impress your friends with random band to increase your hipster red, I highly suggest checking out Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.

Ok, how about something more familiar? Elton John, perhaps?

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“Wonderful, Crazy Night” was released in February, and is Elton’s THIRTY-SECOND studio album! That, in and of itself, is an amazing feat worth noting! While the album artwork looks like a  junior high schooler’s first Photoshop effort, the music itself is a return to form for Sir Elton. You won’t find another “Tiny Dancer” on here, but songs like the album’s title track are definitely fun and enjoyable.

Speaking of legends, country music icon Loretta Lynn came back with wonderful album entitled “Full circle.”

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Now, to me, this is how country music should sound.  Not this diet rock crap CMT tries to pass. The way country music has gone is the exact reason people say “I like all sorts of music, except country” now. “Full Circle” is the almost 84 year old Lynn’s FIFTY FOURTH studio album! Think about that for a moment. Her career has spend six decades, meaning she’s been making music for longer than some of my readers’ parents have been alive!

“Full Circle” emulates the classic country sound, and features wonderful collaborations thought. My favorite in particular features Willie Nelson. Anyways, if you want to hear what country music should sound like, check out “Full Circle.”

Finally, we have my personal favorite: “Backstair” by David Bowie.

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“Blackstar” was Bowie’s swan song. Released mere days before his passing, the album is heavy lyrically and symbolically, and the music is just on a whole other level throughout. Bowie recruited a jazz band he heard at a club to record the music, and he wrote songs like “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” that are  heavily introspective and thought-provoking. Out of all the albums in this list, I encourage you to check out this one the most. If you haven’t already, that is.

Now, there are still several albums I haven’t even mentioned yet, but I haven’t theme nor you the patience to go over them all. So, here’s a few worthy mentions that will suffice:

Anthrax “For All Kings”

Lucinda Williams “Ghosts of Highway 20”

Say Anything “I Don’t Think It Is”

Ray LaMontagne “Ouroboros”

M. Ward “More Rain”

Massive Attack “Ritual Spirit”

The Cult “Hidden City”

Hands Like Houses “Dissonants”

Santigold “99¢”

What albums have you enjoyed so far this year? 

 

So What Books Do You Like to Read?

I’d like to take a moment to switch gears. In addition to being completely obsessed with music, I’ve been an avid reader since…well since I learned how to as a small child. The mental stimulation brought upon by music and by written word are addictive to me, hence my name, and my personal book library is almost as expansive as my music library.

“What’s this have to do with anything?” SO glad you asked! My long-time favorite genre of written word is the music biography. Big shocker, I know.

What I would like to do is share with you some of my favorites that I’ve read throughout the years.

First up, my personal favorite, “Dream Brother” by David Browne.

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This book delivered wonderful insight to the life and times of not only my favorite singer Jeff Buckley, but that of his father Tim Buckley as well. While Jeff captured the very soul of the 90’s Singer/Songwriter genre, Tim was a heavy-hitter during the 60’s folk revival, and both lead very troubled lives. This was the first time I ever read a dual biography, and I think Browne pulled it off well. There was a good balance between Jeff chapters and Tim chapters, and and the switch back and forth was smooth throughout.

For something completely different, I present to you “Alice Cooper: Golf Monster”

Alice Cooper

Co-authored by Keith and Kent Zimmerman with Cooper, “Golf Monster” is another out-of-the-ordinary  biography, in th
at it’s half Alice Cooper’s reflection of his life and career, half golfing stories. I thought it was brilliant, to be completely honest with you. Being an almost life-long Cooper fan, I eagerly drank in the autobiographical chapters of the book. Reading about the times he would hang out with Elvis, Sinatra performing one of his songs at the Hollywood Bowl, and legendary Vaudevillian actor Groucho Marx considering him a close, personal friend, I was blown away with the incredible life Cooper has led.

Then you get to these crazy chapters about him getting sober by playing 18 rounds of golf a day! Which is intense, because I’ve only played, like, five 18 rounds in my entire life! Plus, he talks about playing these celebrity tournaments, as well as these super-exclusive country clubs. “Golf Monster” is, from beginning to end, one of the most interesting and captivating biographies I’ve ever read.

This next recommendation is actual a sort of series. Four books written by legendary Rush drummer Neil Peart: “The Masked Rider,” “Ghost Rider,” “Traveling Music,” and “Roadshow.”

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Now, the reason I decided to go with all four is due to the fact that each book is a captivating chronicle of this man’s incredible life. From growing up in Canada, to cementing his place as one f the most influential drummers of all time, Peart  expertly weaves the fascinating tale of his life. He talks about bicycling through the African country of Cameroon in “The Masked Rider,” about dealing with the deaths of both his daughter and his first wife and riding his motorcycle all the way across Canada in “Ghost Rider.” “Traveling Music” probably had the biggest influence on my, asI realized that, aside from drumming, Mr. Peart and I shared a similar trait, one he refers to as a “mental radio.” Constantly having songs playing in your head. Then there’s “Roadshow.” Riding motorcycles across the US while on tour with Rush is enough of a description to get any reader hooked!

Honestly, I’m keeping it to brief descriptions, because I’d have to devote a post for each book to fully explain the profound and inspiring work that Neil Peart has put out with them.

Finally we come to the last installment, “American Demon” by Jack Grisham.

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“Is that like, John Grisham’s brother?” No. No he is not. Jack Grisham is lead singer of the fantastic punk band T.S.O.L (which stands for True Sounds of Liberty). “american Demon” delivered the most entertaining, and sometimes disturbing, autobiography I’ve ever read. Between the fiendish humor and the masterfully written recollections, I was so enthralled with this book that, before I realized it, I had already read through half upon first sitting down to read it! Punk has always had a special place in my heart, with T.S.O.L being one of my all-time favorite bands in the genre (second only to Black Flag), so naturally I was eager to get my hands on a copy of this book upon discovering it’s existence.

Well, there you have it. These are my favorite music biographies that I’ve read. Well, so far at least! My personal library is constantly growing, and I’ve got a stack of books I’ve yet to read through, so we’ll see if there’s a part two to this in the not-so-distant future.