Predicting bands a user is going to like isn’t easy. But surely Spotify, Pandora and iTunes can do better than this.
I’m a freak for new music. Always have been. In a given day I’m usually listening to whatever cool stuff I have discovered recently, backtracking and catching up on bands I haven’t listened to lately, and trying to find new artists to fall in love with and suggest to my friends.
Finding new music is a different challenge than it used to be. Once upon a time you could turn on the radio and hear the latest and greatest. It’s been a long time since that worked, though – now radio is the last place you look for cool tuneage. Continue reading →
Normally I try and show you “official” videos when I write about bands, because that’s where you get the best audio fidelity. I think you’re going to see why I opted for the live vid in this case, though.
Today it’s time to ask WTF Rush was thinking when it decided to sell out to one of the most egregiously anti-working man corporations on the planet.
First off, let’s get some perspective on the claim. The ad says that in the next 10 years they’re “pledging $250 billion to products purchased from American factories.” That’s a lot of money. However, this is a company with 2013 revenues of nearly $470 billion, so the ad shouldn’t be construed as a commitment to go all-in on the American worker. Continue reading →
A few days ago I offered up volume one of stuff that should have been in my best CDs of 2013 note, but wasn’t. So now we arriveth at volume the second, whereupon I apologize to Adam Marsland.
Adam has been one of my absolute favorites for a long time. I’m a sucker for the sub-genre we call Power Pop, and he’s among the best. His last studio disc, 2009′s Go West, made my intensely fantastic super-platinum list, and was one of the best PPop CDs I have heard in years. Continue reading →
On the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, perhaps it’s time to clarify what we mean when we say “The Beatles…”
Tonight will be the 50th anniversary of the advent of what most people think of as “The Sixties.” The avalanche of commentary that has accompanied this anniversary ranges from the hagiographic to the asinine, much of it driven by the political ethos that infuses every aspect of our lives these days. “If only these white guys hadn’t spoiled everything, other artists (implied: more worthwhile) would be more appreciated and influential”; “Without The Beatles no other artists (implied: no matter how clearly brilliant and innovative they were/are) could have accomplished the task of changing the culture.”
None of them spend much time on trying to discover and understand the simple truths of The Beatles as part of the American experience….
Happens every damned year. It gets to be December and you formulate an idea in your head about the best music of the twelvemonth (I always wanted to use that word in a post). Up through 2012 this resulted in a fairly detailed and often multi-part review of the year’s best CDs. As I noted a few weeks ago, though, I’m retiring from that. Still, I did list what I thought were the top albums of the year.
Then January hits and you start tripping across CDs from the previous year that are fantastic and that would definitely have been on your list had you heard about them before you wrote and posted the damned review. What do you do? Continue reading →
It’s easy to see how the mid-1980s Roots revival could have shaped Nashville into something completely different than the wasteland it is today.
Not long ago I was lamenting the embarrassing state of Country & Western music, and if you track down through the comments of that post you’ll see a couple folks, including our boy Otherwise, recommending that I investigate The Hangdogs. So I did, and they were right – Matt Grimm and Co. could flat out bring it.
It turns out that Otherwise actually knows Grimm and he introduced us, which led to an interesting e-mail exchange and my discovery of his latest solo disc. More on that in a bit.
This whole sequence set me to thinking. There was a moment, back in the mid-1980s, when something really interesting was happening in the music world. There was Lone Justice, based in LA, also home to Dave Alvin and The Blasters. Boston had the Del Fuegos. New York had the Del Lords. Wisconsin gave us The BoDeans. Continue reading →
If I had been anywhere near the northeast past of the US last week, snow or no snow, I would have been heading for New York, or Baltimore, or Washington, or Philadelphia, on one of the nights that the Gene Clark No Other Tour hit town. So, what is this? It’s a tour put together by members of Beach House, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and The Walkmen—and even Iain Matthews, from the early days of Fairport Convention. I even know one or two of these groups. And it’s in honor of an album by the late Gene Clark, songwriter extraordinaire, called No Other, issued in 1974. I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves this album. Here’s the description of the tour in Pitchfork; here’s the generous write-up in The New York Times; here’s a review of the Washington show. Sounds like a great show. Too bad they’re not coming to London. Continue reading →
Post-production takes all the fun out of the process, and most bands can’t afford to hire Phil Spector like The Beatles did.
As I write this, I’m sitting at my computer and thinking about working more on finishing my band’s new album. Unfortunately, for the last couple of months “thinking about it” is all I seem to be capable of doing.
If I were to break down the workload in terms of percentage, we’re probably about 80% done. It’s been a long road to get here. In the last two years, the band and its immediate family has endured a writer’s block, a couple of job changes, added a new member, celebrated a fantastic wedding, and dealt with a successful breast cancer treatment. Business has been far from usual.
Every writer wants a “Big Book”; the question is – why…?
One of the phenomena of the last 30-40 years of publishing has been the “Big Book.” You know the language that is associated with such works: “Must Read!” “Stunning!” “A Triumph!” These “career making” successes have been, for the most part, mixed blessings for the writers lucky? talented? deserving? enough to catch the zeitgeist of the reading public. Some writers have used these as springboards to great commercial success; others, usually the literary fiction types like Michael Ondaatje, the subject of this essay and the author of The English Patient, have found them helpful (Mr. Ondaatje has had a long, distinguished career in literary work as both a poet and novelist before and after this novel found great success) – at least, I assume he found it so.
I’ve chosen a few “Big Book” selections for my 2014 reading list and its update. The English Patient is the first of these and in both its iterations it reflects the classic characteristics of the “Big Book” phenomenon…. Continue reading →
In 2007 I subscribed to a magazine called the Oxford American. It calls itself “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing,” and you might wonder why I subscribed to it, bein’ a Yankee and all, but that’s a tale for another time.
Anyway: The back cover of one issue was a full-page ad with a photograph of what looked like a rock band. The ad contained a two-word phrase—The National—and the word Boxer. Every now and then, I’ll buy an album on a whim, even though I’ve never heard of the band and never heard a single note of their music. So I figured out the band was called The National, the album was called Boxer, and I bought the record. Continue reading →
As a famous man once said, “simmer down, Beavis.” Comparing Newman to 27-Clubber Winehouse is a whole lotta hype, especially for a guy I haven’t even heard of yet. But I’m old and sometimes the latest and hippest doesn’t make it out here to the home as fast as I’d like. Regardless, dude Amy Winehouse is a claim that must be investigated, yes?
So I sat down, got the old Technics headphones out, and gave the kid a spin. Here’s what I concluded. Continue reading →
To paraphrase Jimi, there are writers – make that readers – I do not understand…
The Discworld Graphic Novels (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic) by Terry Pratchett (image courtesy Goodreads)
I admit readily that I am no fan of science fiction and fantasy. I like Tolkien fine, but having read the Rings trilogy in college and The Hobbitmy first year out of undergrad school for my first teaching job, I have felt absolutely no urge/desire/itch/yen to read those works again. During that same period of my life I read the Asimov Foundation trilogy, Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and Frank Herbert’s Dune, all at the behest of friends whose intelligence and taste I respect deeply. I found them interesting, as I find any well told story interesting, but I was not been inspired to read more by Asimov, Heinlein, or Herbert. See first sentence of paragraph.
Around the time that I read The Hobbit, I stumbled upon Phillip K. Dick (remember, I am not an activist sci-fi reader). I enjoyed Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – yet I have read no other Phillip K. Dick.
Later on younger friends whose intelligence and taste I respect pushed me to wrestle with one of sci-fi’s cousins, cyberpunk. I dutifully read Gibson’s Neuromancer and a story or two by Bruce Sterling. Interesting stuff – but, as you’ve guessed by now, I’ve read no more. Continue reading →
If C&W had a soul Jason Isbell would be the biggest thing in Nashville.
Keith Urban is a judge on American Idol. Blake Shelton is on The Voice. Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and the rest of these prancing pinup models are the stars of the moment.
Meanwhile, down in Alabama, Jason Isbell has produced as good a set of back-to-back records as anybody in country (C&W, alt.Country, Thunder Country, you name your sub-genre) history – maybe as great as any consecutive albums in any popular music genre – and Nashville treats him like something it scraped off its diamond-spangled distressed ostrich boots. Continue reading →
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” applies not just to Lord Byron but to every writer…
An Insider’s Guide to Publishing by David Comfort (image courtesy Goodreads)
David Comfort’s latest book, An Insider’s Guide to Publishing, is not the “nuts and bolts” sort of a book you’d expect from its title. Instead, Comfort has written a longish (nearly 300 pages) compendium of anecdotes, explanations, analyses, and observations on writers and writing, the publishing industry past and present, and the role of technology in that past, present, and future of literature.
The book is alternately charming and churlish, funny and depressing, and, well, engrossing. Unlike most books in this genre, Comfort doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to convince the reader that “if you do this, you’ll be the next E.L. James” (the author of the mega success Fifty Shades of Grey). Instead, he delves into the story of E.L. James and explains – carefully but tongue firmly in cheek – how a writer who can’t write worth a damn can make $1 million per week from sales of what is popularly called “Mommy porn.” Continue reading →
For a very long time I have ended the year with my annual best CDs list. I listen to a lot of music and have always enjoyed being able to pimp the great stuff to my readers.
The tradition ends here, though. Over the course of the last couple of years I have worked to unclutter my life, to clear out the things that aren’t paying dividends (in one way or another) so that I might focus on what does matter. Sadly, the past few series have felt like more and more work with fewer and fewer people giving a happy damn. Looking at the stats for the Best of 2013 series was just gut-wrenching. Never have so many people cared so little about a guy with so much to say about so many incredible artists. Continue reading →
Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens (image courtesy Goodreads)
The Dickens Christmas Song Remained the Same…
After finishing A Christmas Carol, I continued with a few of Dickens’ Christmas short stories. “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton,” “A Christmas Tree,” “What Christmas is as We Grow Older,” “The Poor Relation’s Story,” “The Child’s Story,” “The Schoolboy’s Story,” “Nobody’s Story,” and “The Seven Poor Travelers” cover a range of Christmas – and Dickensian themes.
Some of these – “A Christmas Tree,” “What Christmas is as We Grow Older” – are more personal essays than short stories. Both have a creakiness and a rambling quality that sometimes plagues Dickens’ work. When one was as successful and avidly read a writer/celebrity as Dickens in his time, the tendency was, for good or ill, to capitalize on that popularity with hastily done work. These “recollections/reflections/anecdotes,” unfortunately, reveal some of that haste. Continue reading →