2016 has snuffed another brilliant light.
Sharon Jones, one of the icons of the neo-Soul revival in the last decade, is dead of cancer at the age of 60. Scholars & Rogues honors the heart and soul of Daptone Records.
Life is a jest; and all things show it/ I though so once; but now I know it. – John Gay
It’s just words, folks, just words…. – Donald Trump
Friends ask me with some regularity why it is that I spend so much of my free time reading and contemplating and writing about literature. I forswore writing about politics several years ago. (I think it was about 2010 that I gave up trying to say anything useful on the topic. I may have let slip the odd veiled or not-so-veiled reference in the essays I write about literature, but my active days as a critic of this, that, or the other political activity or politician are over.)
Great days – or if the Chinese curse is more apt, interesting days – are upon us, however, and while I can and do find comfort at times in Lord Byron’s flippancy:
I would to heaven that I were so much clay,
As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling—
Because at least the past were passed away—
And for the future—(but I write this reeling,
Having got drunk exceedingly today,
So that I seem to stand upon the ceiling)
I say—the future is a serious matter—
And so—for God’s sake—hock and soda water!
I find that as I contemplate the changes likely to be wrought in my country with the election of the author of one of the epigraphs that begin this essay, that I must find more – and healthier – consolations than the one the 6th Baron of Newstead Abbey proposes.
And so I turn to literature. Continue reading
2016 took Leonard Cohen, one of popular music’s true iconic geniuses, from us this week. I have said before that I think “Hallelujah” is perhaps the greatest popular song in history, and as evidence I would simply note that it has been covered countless times by an array of brilliant musicians. And nobody, I have learned, recognizes and respects musical genius like another musician.
Today for SVR we offer you some of the very best takes on that amazing song. Some you have probably heard. Some are likely new to you. All are the soul of reverence for one of the most compelling talents who ever walked among us.
We start with Jeff Buckley. Most people I know regard this as the definitive version of the song.
Some years ago Sean Kelly of The Samples penned what has to be the election day anthem. It acknowledges what we all know, it notes the reasons we have to abandon hope, and still it insists that we carry on.
It’s Election Day 2016. What choice will you make about the world you want to live in?
Carry on. (Lyrics below.)
I’ve been watching anime since before I knew what anime was, starting with Star Blazers and Robotech on US television when I was a kid. Ever since college, though, when I was “officially” introduced to anime via subtitled versions of Ranma 1/2, Tenchi Muyo, Bubblegum Crisis, et al, I’ve watched and generally enjoyed anime. Now that I’m in my 40s, my kids have joined me in watching anime, and thus far they’ve enjoyed what they’ve seen.
Given how much time I spend watching anime these days (sometimes you just need a few hours of pure escapism), I decided a while back that I wanted to start writing reviews on anime I’ve been watching. Anime that was fun or not, anime that was binge worthy or not, anime I couldn’t watch past the first episode or two because it was so lame, and so on. I’ve also invited my fellow anime watching Scrogues to contribute their own Anime Binge reviews as well if they are so inclined. If you have feedback for making Anime Binge better or you want to go deeper into the anime I reviewed, please comment and I’ll see what I can in the next review. Continue reading
It’s that time of year again, when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (aka, the Mistake by the Lake, part 2) reminds us of the depth of their corruption and irrelevance.
That’s right – the annual list of nominees is out. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Part 2 of a series.
“Life is more or less a lie, but then again, that’s exactly the way we want it to be.” – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature and I have been struggling with how I feel about that. Like many, my first response on being told the news was astonishment. It felt to me momentarily as if it were 1967 again when The Times of London gave a full page, serious, and respectful review to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and in an editorial in that same newspaper William Rees-Mogg, less than a month later, excoriated the British criminal justice system for its heavy handed treatment of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to maximum sentences for a minor drug bust in a now classic editorial titled “Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?”
It felt, then, like the counter culture was winning, that finally, to use a truly quaint term, “the establishment” was seeing the world as my g-g-generation saw it. Mick and Keith should be set free by “The Man” to make more music and Sgt. Pepper was great art.
Zeitgeist is a helluva drug, isn’t it? Continue reading
Part 1 of a series.
The Nobel Committee today awarded American folk icon Bob Dylan its annual prize for Literature. Not surprisingly, reactions have been mixed.
I’m a bit torn myself. There is no questioning at all the immensity of Dylan’s artistic accomplishments, and there’s perhaps even less argument to be had over the influence he has wielded not only over popular music, but over the larger culture. It is simply impossible to imagine what the US would look like today had he never been born, but we can start by considering his role in the anti-war movement of the ’60s. In truth, you could look at his centrality to the revolts that eventually led to the end of that war and make a case that he deserved the Peace Prize.
And what about the who’s who of musical artists who followed in his steps? A very small catalog of those who owe their souls to Dylan would include these names, and if there’s nobody on here that you love and admire you just don’t like music. Continue reading
Yabba dabbo do, bitches. It’s beer:thirty.
by Amber Healy
The Supreme Court of the United States will hear the case of The Slants, the Portland, Ore., pop band that has spent the better part of the past six years trying to trademark its name.
It’s unlikely the court will hear the case before 2017, with a decision to come without prior notice months later, but it’s a huge win for the band to make it this far.
If you’re late to this dance-pop party, here’s a little recap. Continue reading
With the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle asserted itself as the city that invented the future. Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle, Key Arena, the Pacific Science Center and other Jetsonesque architectural wonders, gave us a stunning Mid-Century Modern vision of our presumed technotopian future. In 2000 the EMP Museum opened, inserting a postmodern generational overlay in the form of Frank Gehry’s gripping postmodern architectural style. Ever upward, ever forward.
For #HopeTuesday today, I offer you a metaphor. Let’s rekindle our dream of a clean, sustainable, prosperous future with opportunity for all – a true and attainable American dream. I took this shot of the World’s Fair monorail, which connects the EMP and Seattle Center with downtown, in November of 2013. What could possibly be more optimistic, more hopeful, for Americans than a train destined for a technological Utopia?
We live in an era, sadly, where all too often our greatest talents never find the sort of broad audience their genius deserves. Once upon a time, back in the age of mass media and record labels committed to artist development, back before the Internet nichified music almost to death, back then Jeffrey Dean Foster would have been a massive star. Way too famous for a guy like me to have even met him, probably.
But that’s no reason for us not to appreciate him, is it? Let’s celebrate his day by listening to a few of his tunes. We’ll begin with my favorite Foster tune ever, “Summer of the Son of Sam,” which earned the highest praise I have for an artist: I wish I had written it.
“…we were… part of the rhythm and blues and rock and roll revolution…. we found ourselves by sheer coincidence or exceptionally good fortune, smack dab in the middle of the action.” – Mike Stoller
My Aunt Mary Ann, my mother’s youngest sister, was only eight years older than me. What that meant was that she was a teenager in the later 1950’s. Like any teenager of the period, she had a portable record player and a huge stack of 45’s. I spent every visit to my grandmother’s house when I was six-seven-eight listening to those records. I heard Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, The Drifters, The Coasters, and, of course, Elvis.
I don’t know how many other kids my age were falling madly in love with rock and roll and rhythm and blues. But I did, and I’ve never fallen out.
“I didn’t like ‘Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie.…'” – Jay Proctor, Jay and the Techniques
So my sister gave me this book for my birthday….
Somehow, my sister has the impression that I might like the fusion of R&B, soul, rock, and dance pop that is known in the Southeast as “Beach Music.” Well, I love music, so she was half right. For anyone who grew up in the Carolinas over the last 60 years or so (both North and South, though perhaps SC has the greater claim to the genre since they have all the relevant beaches name checked in beach music songs [chiefly Ocean Drive and Myrtle Beach]), Beach Music (and it really should be capitalized, I suppose), is a regional genre that, while well past its peak, persists even now. Its roots lie in classic R&B, though it has incorporated elements of rock, soul, and dance pop in its long history.
Rick Simmons, a historian at Louisiana Tech (and a native South Carolinian) has written two books on the genre, Carolina Beach Music: The Classic Years and Carolina Beach Music: The New Wave. My sister’s birthday gift this year was a copy of the latter, so I’m going to talk about that here. But first, as I am wont to do, I’ll share an anecdote…. Continue reading
Because it’s a Power Pop Saturday and I can, that’s why.
FYI, Rick didn’t cease to exist at the end of the 1980s.
When they first hit in 1997 with “MMMBop,” I remember Hanson being dismissed by my music intelligentsia friends as some kind of put-up job, a prefab kiddie novelty act. Thing is, it wasn’t true. At all. The brothers Hanson – Taylor, Isaac and Zac – were legit talented, their shiny, radio-friendly sound underpinned by a rich sense of Chicago R&B rhythm and Gospel-inflected harmony. (It’s fun trying to write in hipster-reviewer speak, init? Hey, I’ve been telling you for years I ain’t no reviewer.)
Now, nearly two decades on, they’re better than ever. Let’s kick today’s #SVR with a recent acoustic performance of that hit, one that strips down to the naked essence of a worthy pop gem.
Dotsun Moon was rolling in the wake of 2011’s outstanding 4am, but a couple years later singer Mary Ognibene departed the band, leaving songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rich Flierl wondering what to do next. An extended search for a worthy replacement proved difficult – understandable, given how perfectly Ognibene’s talents meshed with Flierl’s dark, brooding vision. 4am wandered the borderlands between trip-hop, shoegaze and the lush, cinematic alt.Americana we might associate with The Lost Patrol and The Blueflowers. (Flierl describes it as “DreamBeat Noir,” which is as good a tag as anything I can come up with.) It was a seductive amalgam, and it’s hard to imagine easily replacing any element of the collaboration.
Flierl auditioned a number of singers, but no one really panned out. Continue reading