As a fan of local businesses and music stores, I would like to say that I am a consistent visitor of Newbury Comics. I don’t always go there to browse the back catalogue or search for new artists, but I always make it my stop when I try to pick up new music in physical form. The other day I found myself in the Faneuil Hall area and thought I’d pop into the Newbury Comics to pass some time. What I found was simultaneously jarring, discouraging, and regretfully understandable.
I think I know what Lana Del Rey is all about now. She had a heavy dose of hype heading into her Born to Die record (wrote about it here), had difficulty holding her own on Saturday Night Live. Then she flooded 2012 with the aforementioned album and two EPs. She has also been churning out some of the most consistently cinematic music videos I have ever seen from a single artist. Truth is, every time I click to watch one of her videos I have to brace myself for melodramatic production akin to Guns N Roses’ overwrought “November Rain.” Is Del Rey more about the music or the image?
Surprise! The Strokes just popped out a new tune called “One Way Trigger” as if we all knew it was coming. Well of course, the Strokes were about due for a tease since 2011′s “Angles” record. And yeah, there are still Strokes fans out there who remember the thrill of “Is This It?” and the excellent yet under-appreciated “Room On Fire”. So hey, even though the Strokes may now be considered rock veterans, predictably steady, or even old hat, when the Strokes release a new song lovers and haters are going to spin it at least once.
There’s a point when most young adults suddenly opt to listen to something that wasn’t force fed to them. If one doesn’t have an older sibling to get ideas from or a friend who has already stepped off the predictable music path, one has to just have to make an effort to dabble in music variety on their own. But where do they start? Do they just start downloading random songs or clicking on Youtube music videos with the most hits? It must be frustrating to feel lost and surrounded by the musically unknown …
So I want to prepare you, readers, in case you are that person they turn to after they have shed Ryan Seacrest’s heavy cape of popular music. Pretend that this person, in a daze of fear and excitement, timidly asked you what band they should start with to begin their enlightened path towards music fulfillment. You will be the one to apply the first color to their palette … which can be a bit daunting, eh? So what band would you choose to start them off with?
For me, it has to be the Pixies. You and I may know about them, but given that even their singles are on the fringe of memory (“Here Comes Your Man” miiiight get played once in awhile on an alternarock station) the group can still be considered as relatively unknown to the younger crowd. The Pixies also benefit from having two distinct phases: the quirky punk run from “Come On Pilgrim” to “Doolittle” and the more approachable phase for their last two albums. Depending on the young adult’s tastes, one can direct them to either “Doolittle” or “Bossanova” easily. Or, if the person needs more visual convincing, just show them the cover of “Surfer Rosa”. All of a sudden, there could be interest.
If the person can’t sit still for a whole album (yikes … but perhaps not too surprising given this day and age) one may have to just get them to listen to a few songs. With the Pixies it is a tough choice, but I would go with “Here Comes Your Man”, “Debaser” and probably “Gigantic”. Those are likely some of the more safer choices, but they have a little mix to them so that the listener can hear the allure of the band while getting a sense of the off-kilter elements here and there. “Here Comes Your Man” is a straight forward pop song that will appeal to most everyone, while “Debaser” showcases Black Francis’ penchant for shouting. “Gigantic” features Kim Deal on vocals, which tips the listener off that there are two vocalists in the band (albeit short-lived). Plus, the energizing ending to the song might win over a new fan if they’re more into Joey Santiago’s guitar and David Lovering’s drumming anyway.
Someday, you will likely encounter someone who needs a push in the right direction when it comes to music. Maybe they don’t know they need that push yet, or maybe they assume that your taste in music is tired or boring. Be ready to set them straight by having a go-to band ready, ideally more than one as well as spanning across different genres, so that they have a highly recommended avenue to follow. Hey, one can’t save the world in one stroke but one can possibly save another from living a life of aimless music listening.
You probably know that the Oscars are going on this Sunday night, but did you know that the Kendall Square Cinema is showing the animated and live short action films that are nominated? I highly recommend checking out 6-7 films at once, especially since some of them end just as you’re about to get bored of them. However, there was one animated short film that I thought was fantastic all the way through. Maybe it’s because the main character reminded me of a few people close to me, or that the underlying message reverberated so truthfully in my mind, but ultimately it’s an entertaining fifteen or so minutes.
If you can’t make it to the theater to watch any of the short films, maybe you might be interested in seeing just this one. Watch it full screen and without interruption if you can to get that movie theater feeling.
I know the usual bit is to rank the 2011 albums, from best to worst, because everyone likes a list. The fact that no one can really dissect why #9 is better than #10, (number of songs in b minor? cameos by rappers? vocoders and accordians?) is besides the point. If, in five years, someone wants to stock up on their 2011 albums that they missed then the list is the preferred reference point. So here’s my list. I didn’t rank a thing … but I couldn’t resist alphabetizing them.
The Blue Van “Love Shot”: Originally released in 2010 but imported in 2011, these Danes have come a long way. How this record hasn’t been included in some sort of top 100 list is beyond me. It’s an excellent bluesy garage rock record that Black Keys fans could appreciate.
Dum Dum Girls “Only In Dreams”: These ladies still showcase their excellent garage rock ability with summer tinges. I am still getting used to the lead singer’s latest penchant for sounding like Chrissie Hynde, but it’s a fun record overall.
M83 “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”: A double dose from M83 was wonderful to hear, especially given that I can’t seem to get enough of the chill out and adrenaline burst music that Gonzalez lays forth every time. It may not be the group’s best, but the record certainly has earned multiple listens from me.
Mastodon “The Hunter”: I like my metal once in awhile, but I like it especially if the band tries to hide it with creativity. The diversity of sound and approach on this record made it a really interesting listen throughout.
Stephen Merritt “Obscurities”: I wrote about it here. Not for everyone, but for Magnetic Fields fanatics, it could be the release they have been waiting for!
There’s a list for you 2011 list lovers! Have a nice New Year…
As I was digging around for MF Doom and Madvillain videos (love me some Doom), I guess Stones Throw Records had a contest for the best fan-made video a few months back. There are some great ones, including a couple versions of Madvillain’s “Fancy Clown” and a claymation wonder of “Strange Ways”. But the number one video is excellent. Check it out … and check out some J Dilla while you’re at it.
Guh guh guh guh …
The oldest tricks in the books still work. Take a drop-dead gorgeous woman, with a drop-dead gorgeous voice, and hype it up to the max. Lana Del Rey’s debut album hasn’t even been released yet (January 2012) but has gotten all sorts of recognition due to previous singles and videos. One could also argue that Adele has a lot to do with the increased anticipation of Del Rey; the sultry vocals of one of the more (pleasantly?) over-played artists on mainstream radio has set up all sorts of aspiring, powerful singers to succeed in the modern day.
Doesn’t hurt that Del Rey poses half naked early on in her “Born to Die” video. Or that every time she looks in the camera I think she’s looking at me. Or maybe she’s looking at you? Er, yes, she has a nice voice…
Do you know any true music fans? You know, those type of people you meet at a party that say “Oh, like, I like all types of music, yeah.” Suuuure you do. Slap some experimental noise in their face and you’ve already thwarted their self proclamation, yet that’s a bit drastic I suppose. Reggae is too easy thanks to Bob Marley and punk is so saturated with non-punk and punkettes these days that it’s a joke to even bring it up as a possible genre to identify with. Even country has become more widely accepted, if only because Shania Twain poppified it many years ago from its original roots form. By the way, if you’re a country fan please go listen to some Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, and Emmylou Harris.
What I’m getting at is, there is likely going to be some music genre that someone will balk at when you mention it. The best one to throw around is jazz. If someone likes jazz then they likely have a nice musical palette. If they don’t like jazz then they either haven’t heard enough of it or they don’t get it yet. Hey, that’s fine, as it sometimes takes time. I did not like jazz much at all when I was in my teens. I was too interested in Weird Al Yankovic and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince anyway. Er, let’s move on.
Jazz is a genre of music that you should get to know, but not too quickly. Jazz shouldn’t be rushed and ideally you should absorb it as if it’s another person in the room that is simply hanging out. Don’t expect anything out of this person at first, nor should you dismiss it if it doesn’t entertain you within five minutes. Like a good friend, sometimes the best way to spend time with someone is by simply being in their presence and enjoying their company. Jazz is that friend.
Before I roll on with why jazz is great to let flow into your ears, let’s address why people don’t like jazz. Usually people think it’s either boring, sounds the same, or is just old music like classical and blues. It’s true, one is most likely going to associate jazz with music with no vocals and many instruments that can be found at symphonies. Because there’s no dance beat, deep bass lines, or flashy gimmicks associate with much of jazz, many can’t be bothered with the quieter, autotune-less jazz music. It’s a pity, for jazz can enrich one’s life more than any of the modern day pop stars ever will as time rolls on.
Back in 2003, a roommate of mine told me that there was an actual band that only played old school Nintendo theme songs. This was equivalent to saying “Hey Evan, Alyssa Milano is in our living room” or even “These dentists want to pour vats of mustard all over your body!” (tmi?). I mean, a rock band and video game music? All people who are masters of the A and B buttons would certainly appreciate a group of men from Arizona who dedicate their skilled musicianship to make us headbang in 8 bits. This band is called the Minibosses.
Sometimes a level in a video game is a lot more appealing if the backing soundtrack helps to stir up the player. Did you ever find yourself feeling outnumbered against the machine gun guy (!!) at the end of “Double Dragon”? How about the countless times when you had no idea what fuzzily graphic’d creature was going to pop out of the darkness at you in “Castlevania”? The themes from those games, as well as ones from “Mega Man 2″, “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out” and even “Super Mario 2″, have been turned into fast, accurate rock ‘n roll renditions by the Minibosses. It’s like you’re in the game … except the game is going by more quickly and you really shouldn’t be taking those mushrooms that pop out of boxes.
Up to now, the Minibosses have released a full album and a live album. Unlike some of other bands that we recommend here on the WMFO blog, the Minibosses will allow you to listen to their entire first album for free. I highly recommend “Double Dragon” for a quick idea of what the band is about. However, for something more epic, check out ”Mega Man 2″. There’s tons of levels featured on that ten minute track, including my favorite of the Airman stage. Yeah, I know, I know … I have a favorite Mega Man 2 level theme. Get frustrated by dropping to your death 100+ times as a clumsy blue robot and you’ll get to liking such songs as well.
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