4/16/2022

Sad But True: Music Is All About Falling In Love

Recently, the CEO of a well-known music services company posted a video on YouTube in which he addressed an incident with a disgruntled client. Said client, according to the CEO, was enraged about spending a few hundred dollars on an ad service the company offers, which yielded no results in terms of further exposure for the client’s music. The client was livid and accused the company of all sorts of things. The CEO countered this with an analogy: treat your career like you would your body and health. Take the proper steps, have discipline and determination and you will have a better outcome. All of which sounds to me like “Get a job, work hard, save money and buy a house”. Duh. No one is hiring an ad service as a mundane, practical step but a way to get a leg up. And if it can’t deliver that…

But that’s not even it.
 
The sad, undeniable truth that no one wants to admit is that there is no formula or guarantee when it comes to your music. Spending nothing/a little/a lot is not really the key, because luck is the only factor involved when it comes to the music business. Luck may be important in everyday life but in the music business it’s the only thing.
 
You can have the catchiest, best produced songs, performed by a talented, visually appealing artist, spend millions on advertising and have it go nowhere. Meanwhile, somebody uploads their goofy little song to YouTube and/or Spotify and it goes viral without spending a penny on any kind of advertising. Some artists do exactly what the aforementioned CEO suggests above and are successful. Others have also done exactly what he says and have little or nothing to show for it.
 
Why?
 
Because contrary to current popular opinion, music is not a product that you can sell like a hammer or a screwdriver, for instance. When you need a work tool such as those, you find the best one you can afford and simply buy it. Music doesn’t work the same way. Acquiring music is like falling in love: it’s about feelings. It’s about how you feel about a certain kind of music. And they can thrust this particular artist or album or song in front of you via advertising and if you don’t connect with it you won’t acquire it. Even if it’s a style of music that you enjoy or even love. Because it’s about feelings. And, of course, luck.

3/18/2022

Welcome To The Machine

JOSTABERRY
Hello Turbine

[Tangy Citrus - 2022]

 

On Jostaberry’s 2020 debut album, Greener Grass, the band (essentially the musical playground of multi-instrumentalist Bruce Hamilton) delivered an intoxicating mix of accessible yet interesting art pop that both challenged and delighted the ears, weaving through different elements and permutations of avant garde, prog and straight up rock and roll.

Album number two further delves into its predecessor’s spiritual allegiance to A Wizard A True Star-era Todd Rundgren, bursting with engaging melodies and idiosyncratic left turns that just seem to make sense regardless of context. But interesting arrangements and sympathetic production can only amount to clever trickery if the underlying songs aren’t up to snuff. Hamilton, as he’s demonstrated before, is not one to fall into that trap. Everything here sounds like it has meaning and purpose, yet the beating heart at its core is far from silent. This is music made with a purpose but anchored with emotion. Those expecting a sophomore slump can move along—nothing to see here. But if you want more of the tasty Jostaberry experience, or have yet to be initiated, dig in.

 

Highlights: “Roots”, “Connecting”, “The New Savannah”, “Tree Line”, “Planet”, “6 or 7 Miles After”.


2/25/2022

After The Hurting

TEARS FOR FEARS
The Tipping Point

[Concord – 2022] 

The question of relevance in popular music is a tricky one these days. And is surely a significant point when taking into account the standing of a band whose so-called glory days were decades ago. But despite the obstacles of chronology often sidelining artists of similar vintage, these gentlemen have managed to maintain an admittedly less prominent, but continued presence within the popular landscape, not only with the enduring popularity of their songs, but also the inclusion of these in beloved movies, as well as nods by current artists such as Drake, Lorde and The Weeknd. And so, almost 20 years after their last album—the critically acclaimed return to form ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’ [Universal - 2004]—a new collection of songs by the Bath, England duo has returned them to the spotlight.

 

The rekindling of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith’s long-standing but often interrupted friendship coupled with the overwhelming grief from the former’s beloved wife of 25 years passing in 2017, led the two old friends to reconvene in Smith’s Los Angeles home armed with acoustic guitars and not only purposely write some songs, but attempt to capture some of that old magic. Mission accomplished.

 

While Orzabal’s ruminations on his late wife and his new life without her inform these songs, it’s not a dour experience in the least, but one in which the cathartic balm of letting it out reflects a sense of peace and hope that dovetails with the band’s most uplifting moments. And while their trademark sonic palette is slightly less panoramic this time, it’s still imbued with the feel good nature of their big choruses and engaging melodies.

 

Welcome back, gentlemen. You have been sorely missed.

 

Released February 25, 2022.

Here We Are Now

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN
The Nineties: A Book

[Penguin Press – 2022]

To approach this tome as an exercise in nostalgia would be a mistake. What Klosterman does here is attempt to both explain what the last decade of the 20th century was about from a cultural/social/political standpoint and, in doing so, place that chronological span in context. But because he’s made a name for himself absorbing, studying and commenting on pop culture, it becomes the lens thru which his observations and conclusions are refracted. Hence, his analysis equally explores in that manner the significance of the Nirvana/Kurt Cobain phenomenon; sports; the political implications of Ross Perot and his 1992 presidential campaign; and the rise of the internet, for instance.     

 

And while Klosterman is uniquely suited for a book of this nature, one that acknowledges and mostly focuses on how the youth of the time—aka Generation X, of which he is a member—were perceived and perceived themselves, he comes across here not so much as a participant but more like a well-sourced observer who knows the lingo, understands the vibe but isn’t really that attached to any of it. At least not as closely as one would expect. However, this approach, as it turns out, was Klosterman's deliberate intention to remove himself from the narrative as much as possible, for fear of turning the book into a memoir and thereby compromising his original mission in this case.

 

Regardless, in the end, this was the book that Klosterman was meant to write. The Nineties is an interesting and, at times, fascinating look at not just what mattered to a generation of young adults of that time and place, but also the way they processed the world around them, and how particular views and stances adopted by Gen-X were brought on by circumstances surrounding them that could not or would not be duplicated today. (The concepts of authenticity and "selling out" come to mind.) 

 

Klosterman has argued that the ‘90s are the last decade in American popular culture to have clearly delineated characteristics and identity, as opposed to the foggy interchangeability of the first couple decades of the 21st century. For many of us, who have lived through these last three decades as adults, that murkiness rings quite true.

12/06/2021

And Now For Something Different…

JONATHAN HEAGLE QUARTET

MURDER HORNETZ

PAT O’SHEA

Freddy’s

Park Slope, BKNY

12/4/21

 

Considering that Even Twice drummer Pat O’Shea was a comedian in a previous professional life, it’s not a stretch to ascribe a certain humorous vibe to the proceedings, although this evening's lineup was no joke.

 

O’Shea opened the evening at the legendary Brooklyn institution with an acoustic set, accompanying himself on guitar as he wove through parts of his band’s catalog, as well as covers and a song improvised on the spot. It a was a nice change of pace to hear the drummer in a completely different setting but not a foreign one, seeing as O’Shea had been a guitarist in Boston’s ‘90s rock scene.



 

He was back behind the kit for the debut of Murder Hornetz, a local quartet borne of remote recording at the height of the pandemic last year. Featuring guitarist Jonathan Heagle, bassist Josh Machlin (Les Sans Culottes), and guest Russell Crane on keyboards, along with the aforementioned O’Shea, the foursome’s originals may have tongue-in-cheek titles and references to Star Trek (“Herd Impunity”, “Prime Directive”) but they bring a rock sensibility to their blend of early ‘70s electric Miles Davis circa Jack Johnson with a touch of Wired era Jeff Beck. An auspicious start for a band not to be missed.

 

Heagle leads his own quartet (which features Crane on keyboards) but his is a modern jazz ensemble despite the presence of upright bass. The four piece execute Heagle’s compositions with a combination of conviction, dexterity and sensitivity that befits a high caliber jazz outfit such as this one. A pleasure, indeed. 

 

Not your typical Saturday night at Freddy’s—which leans heavily on the straight up rock and roll side—but sometimes those are the best ones.  

4/23/2021

Over The Moon

FIELD MUSIC
Flat White Moon
[Memphis Industries-2021]

Starting with their fifth album, 2016’s Commontime, Field Music added some indie funk to their angular, prog-informed but highly melodic pop/rock, resulting in their most accessible record to date. 

On this, album number eight, they have weaved together all the elements that have previously characterized their sound in a possibly even more welcoming mix. 

Once again the brothers Brewis (multi-instrumentalists David and Peter) have put together a collection of songs that sounds inviting and familiar while openly displaying their influences without slavish devotion to any which one in particular. 

Highly recommended.

4/22/2021

ANNIVERSARIES: 'Around the World in a Day'

PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION
Around the World in a Day
[Warner Bros]

Perhaps sensing—and rightfully so—that the follow up to the monumental ‘Purple Rain’ [Warner Bros-1984] would not fare as well no matter how great it turned out to be, the Purple Monarch requested that his label keep promotion at a minimum for this one and only release a single after the album had been out for a month. 

Not a bad move considering album number seven was indeed a musical change of pace and ‘Purple Rain’ was still a current record, having been released almost 10 months prior. But despite the precautions anticipating the mixed reception it eventually got, the album did go double platinum and produced two of his biggest hits: “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life”, the former a Billboard #2 that once again become a Top 40 hit (#33) in 2016, in the wake of the man’s death. 

Released April 22, 1985

4/18/2021

Field Music: The First 15 Years

Fronted by British singing/multi-instrumentalist siblings David and Peter Brewis, along with a rotating cast of musicians that includes members of The Futureheads (Peter was their original drummer) and Maxïmo Park, Field Music is a heady mix of XTC, Todd Rundgren, Split Enz, Squeeze, a smattering of the Beach Boys and Yes, and a lyrical nod to the Ray Davies songbook. The much-esteemed singer/songwriter Graham Brice turned us on to their second album Tones of Town a while back and we’ve since gone down the rabbit hole. 

So, in anticipation of their eighth album being released this upcoming week, we're sharing brief individual impressions of the studio albums they've released over the band's first 15 years [2005-2020]. (All have been released on their own label, Memphis Industries.) Here we go… 

Field Music [self-titled - 2005]
A solid debut featuring their angular yet sophisticated pop, the Brewis brothers are joined by keyboardist Andrew Moore and Maximo Park drummer Tom English, and come across as a fully-formed act right out of the gate. 

Tones of Town [2007]
It’s no surprise that this talented outfit managed to avoid the proverbial sophomore slump, but this one is actually even more impressive. Plenty of hooks and delightful twists and turns abound here. Highly recommended. 

Measure [2010]
The Brewis boys announced they were going on hiatus after completing their promotional commitments for Tones of Town, citing a desire to explore other musical avenues but making clear they were not breaking up. True to their word, they returned with a 20-song double album divided between the siblings’ respective approaches—David’s is artier/experimental; Peter more of a pop craftsman—but complement each other wonderfully. 

Plumb [2012]
Proggier than Measure but mostly consisting of songs under the 3-minute mark, the album’s 15 tracks explore such themes as loneliness, nostalgia, economic instability and life in an industrial town in that context. Plumb struck a nerve: it was met with rave reviews and was nominated for the Mercury Prize, which is awarded every year to the best album released by a British or Irish artist. 

Commontime [2016] 
David and Peter let their respective children's love of Hall & Oates inform album number five and got funky—for them, anyway. But a certain Purple Monarch took notice, tweeting his approval of first single “The Noisy Days Are Over”. The nod from the President of Paisley Park undoubtedly helped boost media presence for Commontime, which is considered their most accessible record. The band even went out on a brief US tour, their first American jaunt since 2010. 

Open Here [2018]
Although they had explored such themes before, Open Here is regarded as their political record, with lyrics inspired by their anger and dismay over Brexit and particularly their hometown of Sunderland being among the first supporters of the measure. Not a dour listen by any stretch, tho, as it leans a bit more than in the past on a slightly orchestral sound and is likely their most diverse record. 

Making A New World [2020]
Inspired by World War I and how its consequences affect history in diverse ways a century later, the music for this album was originally commissioned for a museum exhibit. And while their angular art pop (think of XTC circa Black Sea recording Apple Venus) is still present, it might not be the best introduction to the band, as it can seem at times more like a soundtrack and less like an album. But a satisfying listen, regardless. 

Field Music’s most recent album, Flat White Moon, will be released on April 23.

4/17/2021

ANNIVERSARIES: 'McCartney'

PAUL McCARTNEY
McCartney
[Apple]

Recorded mostly at home as his first formal post-Fabs musical statement, it was the recipient of scathingly negative reviews but managed to reach and stay at the top spot of the charts for three weeks in the US. (It peaked at #2 in the UK.) The passage of time, however, has been kind to this one: these days it’s remembered as the first of his lone-man trilogy of solo albums and has earned much critical re-evaluation in the decades since it appeared, not to mention being regarded as an influence on the lo-fi/DIY movement. (It’s considered the first “indie” album by the man himself.) And while it comes across, undoubtedly, as a sometimes ragged and somewhat unfinished affair overall, even at his shaggiest and carefree the man was capable of bringing the magic, as evidenced by “That Would Be Something”, “Every Night”, “Junk” and the timeless “Maybe I’m Amazed”. 

Despite being the antithesis of the, in comparison, elaborate and ornate Abbey Road [Apple-1969] (which was the bulk of the negative critiques this one garnered), the homespun charm of this collection of songs has caught the ear of quite a few of his musical peers and descendants, who have voiced their fondness for it over the years, including the likes of Neil Young and Paul Weller. (Even the shit-stirring grouches at Pitchfork like this one!) In late September 2020, the album got a deluxe 50th anniversary reissue three months before the release of III [Capitol], the third installment of his solo trilogy. 

Sadly, while its release date coincides with the death of his beloved wife—who passed away on this date in 1998—I like to think the album’s airy and delicate opening track, “The Lovely Linda” and the aforementioned “Maybe I’m Amazed”, of course, are wonderful reminders of the anchor who kept him from going adrift at this time in his life. And for many years to come.  

Released April 17, 1970.

4/05/2021

Today in Music History (April 5)

1923 - Joe Oliver and King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, featuring a young Louis Armstrong, make the first jazz recordings by an African American band at Gennett Records in rural Richmond, Indiana. 

1961 - On The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet episode "A Question of Suits and Ties," Ricky Nelson sings "Travelin' Man" in what some consider the first music video. 

1964 - The Beatles film the famous opening scene from their first movie, A Hard Day's Night, running away from rabid female fans at London's Marylebone train station. 

1967 - Monkees fans march in London in protest of band member Davy Jones' announced induction into military service. The teen heartthrob is eventually exempted from duty for being his family's main provider. 

1968 - With tensions high the night after Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated, James Brown goes ahead with his concert at the Boston Garden, agreeing to televise the show to help keep calm. It does. 

1969 - The Guess Who's "These Eyes" enters the Billboard singles chart. 

1971 - Chicago is the first American rock band to perform at Carnegie Hall. 

1975 - Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You," with arguably the most famous vocal high note of the '70s, is the #1 hit in the US. 

1977 - David Bowie and Iggy Pop perform together on Dinah Shore's daytime show on NBC. 

1978 - Duran Duran play their first live gig, in Birmingham, England. Singer Stephen Duffy leaves the band two years later and is replaced by Simon Le Bon, shortly before the band are signed to EMI Records. 

1984 - Marvin Gaye's funeral takes place in Los Angeles, with Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Berry Gordy in attendance. 

1985 - Thousands of American radio stations play "We Are The World" simultaneously at 10:50 a.m. EST. In the next few weeks, the song goes to #1 in the US and the UK. 

1987 - Jazz drummer Buddy Rich's funeral takes place in Los Angeles, with Frank Sinatra, Artie Shaw, and Johnny Carson in attendance. 

1988 - Tracy Chapman's self-titled debut album is released. 

1994 - Kurt Cobain of Nirvana dies of an apparent self-inflicted shotgun wound at age 27. His body isn't discovered until three days later when an electrician enters to install an alarm.
On the eleventh anniversary of his death, his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington adds the phrase "Come As You Are" to its welcome sign. 

1998 - Prolific rock drummer Cozy Powell, who did time in Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and ELP with Keithe Emerson and Greg Lake, dies at 50 when he crashes his car on a highway near Bristol, England. 

2002 - Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley dies after overdosing on heroin and cocaine. Having lost much contact with the outside world, the 34-year-old singer's body wasn't discovered until two weeks later, when police enter his apartment on April 19 after his parents were notified that his daily bank withdrawl had ceased for 2 weeks. 

2006 - Rock and roll singer-songwriter Gene Pitney dies of a heart attack at age 66 while touring the UK. 

2008 - Leona Lewis hits #1 in the US with "Bleeding Love", her first American hit. 

2011 - Folk musician Gil Robbins of The Highwaymen (and father of actor/director Tim Robbins) dies of prostate cancer two days after his 80th birthday in Baja California, Mexico. 

2012 - The Philip Lynott Exhibition opens at the 02 in London, celebrating the legacy of the Thin Lizzy frontman. 

2017 - Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill is found dead in a Tampa, Florida hotel room. The band announces the 61-year-old rocker died from a chronic illness.
That same day, at the age of 73, Barry Manilow comes out as gay. 

2019 - The Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace is finally released in theaters, 47 years after it was filmed in 1972. 

Today’s Birthdays include…vocalist Allan Clarke of The Hollies (79); tropical artist Willy Chirino (74); Abba’s Agnetha Fältskog (71); a couple of drummers: Les Binks, formerly of Judas Priest and Everett Morton of The English Beat (both 70); a couple of singers/songwriters: Peter Case, and Stan Ridgway of Wall of Voodoo fame (both 67); Christopher "Kid" Reid, of Kid ’n Play (57); Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready (55); singer/songwriter Paula Cole (53); Miho Hatari of Cibo Matto (51); Mr. Happy himself, Pharrell Williams (48); and How To Destroy Angels vocalist Mariqueen Maandig Reznor (40).