Tag Archives: Misc

2018 Year in Review: Discovered/Rediscovered Artists and Albums

A couple of years back I wrote a post about artists I had discovered or rediscovered that year. This year it seems that I have rediscovered my love of hip hop that had been hibernating for some time. I realized that two professions that focus so much attention on language is that of hip hop artists and stand up comedians. I wonder why there isn’t a lot of crossover between the two… Anyway, what follows is a list of albums and artists that I have rediscovered in 2018. 

The_Impossible_Kid_Album_CoverAesop Rock- The Impossible Kid

My friend Pat introduced me to Aesop Rock sometime about a decade ago but somehow I had completely forgotten about him until recently. While old gangster rap is fine to listen to and brings back a lot of memories, I found that these days I look for more from my rap artists than hoes, gats, cheese and cars. 

Aesop Rock is a nerdy “thinking mans” kind of rap. The lyrics are about everyday life around him, from interactions at an ice cream shop to a situation where a coyote was spotted in the neighborhood, this album he even has a song about his cat Kirby that is well thought out and executed.

Along with songs about everyday things, Aesop Rock also has a good musical taste about him. His songs arent full of various samples of other older songs or the borrowing of choruses but are well pieced together orchestrations that are as interesting as the stories told in the lyrics. 

If you have never heard of Aesop Rock he is worth checking out.


220px-Brother_Ali_-_All_the_Beauty_in_This_Whole_LifeBrother Ali-All the Beauty in This World

Keeping on my quest for more positive and content driven hip hop I managed to discover Brother Ali this year. Surfing videos on Youtube can often lead you down roads of rehashing your old musical tastes, but every now and then you discover something new worth checking out. 

Ali has a positive message while also talking about the everyday interactions he gets put through which is even more interesting considering he’s an albino. That’s right folks the whitest of the white rappers. He also does not rely on the regurgitation of old songs through sampling, but instead puts together well thought out beats and sounds that help progress the stories along. 


1920px-Everlast-14Everlast

Everlast has always been on the back of my mind and I seem to stumble across his stuff while surfing my iTunes library but I haven’t ever really sat down and just listened to his output of music. Thanks to Joe Rogan’s podcast I got to learn a lot about the dude and his life. He’s went through some crazy stuff since the House of Pain days and has managed to produce some great songs.

Slightly dissuaded by the hit songs like “What It’s Like” I never really dived fully into his catalog until this year. There are some great songs in there which cover the hip hop, pop, and acoustic rock genres. Everlast manages to blend a few different styles in his music but it always comes across as genuine and well constructed. 


220px-2PacGreatestHits2Pac- Greatest Hits

Back in the day I was never really a big 2Pac fan. Over the years with his legend growing and the hype of his posthumous albums, I kind of veered away from the mans work. However, this year I found myself actually giving his music a listen. It seems that time has not diminished the work as his songs still fare well in today’s world. I’m not sure if that is to credit his social awareness or if that is a detriment to society for not being able to progress and solve the same problems that were around almost 30 years ago.

At any rate, I can see that the hype that I so purposely avoided was well due as the man was great at his art. Not only was he able to flow, he was able to write stories that were meaningful and true. While there are some songs that are of their gangster rap time, they still sound fresh and are well thought out in their wording. 


Phantogram_-_ThreePhantogram- Three

This group I found out about after an interaction with my cousin Gary. We were discussing what music we were currently digging on and he brought up Phantogram. Their music is interesting and fresh and combines a few of my favorite off beat styles such as trip hop and electronica. This duo of musicians manages to produce great songs that are catchy, hypnotic, and poppy without sounding like every other group out there within these genres.

I listen to their album Three a lot at work because it helps me zone in on what I’m doing and helps me focus by having the upbeat tempos and hypnotic dreamy sounds much like trance and some chill step have. 

I highly suggest their music if you like any of the previously mentioned genre’s in this post.


rtjRun The Jewels

A group that has been suggested by my cousin Gary as well as my friend Pat. Having been out of listening to hip hop for a while I was also behind on learning about this group on my own. Composed of Killer Mike and El-P, they manage to produce some great hip hop with the slick and skillful producing of El-P. Having sampled a few of their songs on Youtube I got hooked. 

While not all of their songs are my favorites, they manage to produce enough good songs that they keep me interested. One of my favorites that I keep going back to is “Close Your Eyes (and Count to F**K)” featuring Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine. 

Original in their music and talented in their hip hop this duo put out enough content to keep people happy and manage to throw out some thought provoking songs along with a steady fare of boastful yet humorously worded tracks. 

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2018 Year in Review: My Favorite Books

I was going to do a list of movies for my second in the “Year in Review” posts but I realized going through the list that I made that I really did not watch a lot of new movies this year and I cant make a list containing all of the Marvel related movies and call it good. So, while I’m marinating on ideas for that post I decided to push my list of books to second instead of third in the series. I am much more of an avid reader these days than I am a tv watch or movie goer. 

This is a list of a few books I’ve read throughout the year that were both insightful and entertaining. 

Sons and SoldiersSons and Soldiers-Bruce Henderson

I inevitably pick up a book while at the airport even if I have two with me. So, this year on my vacation/pilgrimage back to the Gem State this year I picked up this historical book about the Jewish soldiers that left Germany just before the war and returned to fight the Nazi’s as part of a group of soldier translators on the Allied side.

This book is great because it never bogs itself down in the minutiae of the military and gives a very human side to the soldiers who lost their homes and families only to return to fight to free them and end the pogroms against the Jews in Germany and other Axis held areas. This is one of the sides to the war that has not received as much attention as it should, partly due to the classified nature of some of these soldiers activities, but also due to more attention being given to singular stories or more visible men of the time.

This is a great read for any WWII buff or anyone interested in real life human drama.


Accessory to War- Neil deGrasse TysonAccessory to War

I’ve been a fan of Tyson’s for a bit now but had never read any of his books to this point. After seeing a Joe Rogan podcast that he was on it made me want to read this book. Tyson has a very gifted way of getting you interested in physics and science with his personality. 

This book is great for both science and history buffs because it helps to bridge the gap in some areas regarding technology and the military and how the two both work together, though with different objectives, and have produced the technology that both kept the US from destruction but also ended the second world war earlier than it would have without science.

While the book does get bogged down in some long scientific explanations, there are enough interesting historical ties and stories that help to bring the point that the author is trying to make home in an easily explained manner. Definitely not for a casual reader, this book goes into some detail regarding astrophysics and other pretty heavy subjects. You don’t have to be a math or physics whiz to get the content of the book, however, you do need to have a little bit of stamina mentally to get through some of the more cumbersome parts.

Overall a great read and super insightful.


Everything All At OnceEverything All At Once- Bill Nye

Everybody’s favorite ‘Science Guy’ wrote this book to help drive home his “Everything All At Once” philosophy. The book combines both autobiographical bits from his life but also tangible life lessons that one can apply to their own to help focus your energies on your own projects. Insightful, funny, and warming Nye manages to hold your attention while teaching you lessons just like he does on his television programs. 

One of the strongest takeaways from the book is to remember to think about how all things are connected and how you treat people and your environment around you will ultimately effect your life and work. Another strong point of the book is to remember that nobody knows everything, but if you take some time to learn things that you don’t know from people who have different experiences than you it opens a whole new world of thinking. 


Sharp Objects/Dark Places- Gillian Flynn

These are actually two separate books, however, I put them together in a short reviewsharp objects because I read them pretty much back to back as well as they are by the same author. Those who know the book or movie Gone Girl should know this author as she wrote all three books. I went into both of these books with the hope that the twist was as good as Gone Girl’s was. I remember sitting up reading that book and was about to go to bed then I hit the twist and was up 3 more hours reading until the end because it was so out of left field that it hooked me.

Unfortunately, I was a little let down in this regard with both books. While the twists were still interesting in both they did not live up to that of Gone Girl but I was willing to let that go because both read very easily and the story did not wander around to where you grow bored. Flynn has a definite hold on pacing and characters that are flawed and in search of answers in their own lives.

In Sharp Objects the protagonist is in search of answers about a possible serial killer in her home town. That search leads her on a dark road in regard to her own past and family ties that she didn’t realize were connected to the present story. 

Sharp Objects was an interesting story and had a slow build to it. My only complaint is that she gave a little too much away too early which made me wonder if I was right about who the killer was until the end. This was a good hook but at the same time she included enough misdirection to make you question your instincts.

dark placesDark Places’ protagonist starts her story in need of money and her desperation for cash leads her down roads to her murdered family’s past that she dared not travel before. She gets put in fairly dangerous situations but ultimately gets a better understanding and finally answers to the mystery that has defined her since childhood. 

In Dark Places the hook is buried deep as you ride the wave of the story to a strange conclusion. In the end I felt like ‘huh, how did I miss that?’ As the end of the story unfolded it became less obvious as to who the killer was until the sharp left turn at the end which was good. Flynn made good use of timeline in this novel, going back and forth between present day and past to fill out the story. 

Both books are worth a read as they are well written and, as mentioned earlier, the pacing is just enough to keep you nibbling the cheese until you’re caught in the trap. 


Fear- Bob Woodward

I was a little hesitant to read this book, not because of subject matter but because I had fearjust finished reading “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff. Anyone who was around or is aware enough of the past knows who Bob Woodward is and his role in the Watergate Scandal of the Nixon administration. However, while I feared that this book would be a rehash to a lot of the content in “Fire and Fury” it actually did more corroborating in regard to the attitudes of people both in the administration but also the situations revolving around major events in the first two years of the Trump Presidency.

If anything, it will reinforce any anti-Trump person in their beliefs that he is a moron who should not have been elected president. Pro-Trumper’s will see this book as another in a long list of attacks on his character. However, looking at this material as objectively as possible, you see a man who was too used to getting his way through either shady business practices or having enough money to throw at the problem that he never had to deal with any real adversity and this has become the major Achilles heal of his time in office.

Without getting too much into my political leanings or attitudes, I can say that the book sheds a lot of light on the separate factions, overall unprofessionalism of the staff, and the obvious missteps of a man who thought he could do great things but ends up getting in his own way because of his hubris and inflated concept of self importance.

I think both “Fire and Fury” and “Fear” are great companion pieces to help people understand what is going on in the White House and a cautionary tale to future presidents about how NOT to run an administration.

2018 Year in Review: My Favorite Albums

I decided to spend the last week of the year doing some “year in review” type posts. This one is a little strange because it doesn’t fit into a specific musical genre and doesn’t fit into the ‘Top 5’ format (this list has 8 entries) that I usually keep these posts to. I wanted to put together a list of albums that I thought were great in 2018. It being an off year in regard to major act releases the releases that piqued my interest are varied in style and may not be ones that would be on your list, but these are the albums released this year that stood out to me.

APC_eat_the_elephantA Perfect Circle-Eat the Elephant

APC’s releases have been of varying quality and limit in quantity. Since their first release in 2000 they have only released two albums of original material and one album of reimagined cover songs. After 13 years they finally released an album of new material that is amazing in dynamics and served as a reminder of why this group is so great. I remember hearing “The Doomed” and couldn’t get it out of my head. The dynamics of the song itself build so well into the conclusion. 

Songs such as “So long, and Thanks for All the Fish” (which shares a title with one of Douglas Adams’ books) shows that the band can write something akin to a pop song with dark undertones. This album is strong from start to finish and keeps you interested sonically even through the slower more atmospheric songs.


GodsmackWhenlegendsriseGodsmack- When Legends Rise

Godsmack get a lot of shit for this album because its was not the standard hard rock fare that they have been serving for the last decade, but I think this is one of their strongest albums in over a decade. Even though this album isn’t over 40 minutes it still managed to cover the bases in regard to hard rocking songs such as the title track, “Take it to The Edge”, “Say My Name”, and “Let it Out” as well as mixing in more melodic or mainstream style songs such as “Unforgettable”, “Bulletproof”, “Someday”, and “Every Part of Me”.

This album shows a band that, after 20 years, did not want to keep rehashing their own sound. The writing shows a level of maturity that was missing from their debut album as well as the ability to keep enough of their signature sound to keep their fanbase happy while pushing their limits to a more commercial sound.


220px-Eminem_-_KamikazeEminem- Kamikazi

Like a lot of people I kind of lost track of Eminem after the first three albums. You would hear a song every now and then and see the humor and anger that made him a popular white rapper in the ’00’s but like most people I wrote him off as having lost his edge in middle age. 

The surprise release of Kamikaze proved everybody, including myself wrong. Shady is back with a vengeance and is showcasing the acidic and sarcastic raps while lashing out at everyone proving that even though he tried to venture out of his comfort zone with his last few releases, he is still capable of dressing down anyone who doubts his ability. 

Standout tracks are “The Ringer”, “Greatest”, “Not Alike”, and the title track. If you haven’t heard it yet check this album out because you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 


wfhopEverlast- Whitey Ford’s House of Pain

Everlast is an artist that doesn’t garner much attention outside of his fanbase, however, as an artist he manages to cover a lot of the bases musically to offer something for everyone. His 2018 release combines the styles and sound that made him stand out on his past releases. He manages to blend rap songs with acoustic rock, pop, and ballads into a coherent album that is good start to finish. 

It’s hard to pick out only a few songs on this album to mention as the entire thing is coherent and each song blends to the next well so I’ll just say that you need to check it out for yourself. 


light-the-torch-revivalLight the Torch- Revival

I was excited about this album for months before it’s release. Anyone who has listened to metal in the last two decades has to be a fan of Howard Jones. One of the best singer/screamers out there today his vocals are always a welcome portion of any song. Light the Torch’s first release under the new moniker (formerly Devil You Know) is heavy, melodic, and has enough sing-a-long choruses to keep you belting them out in your car. 

There are a number of great standout heavy songs such as first three songs “Die Alone”, “God I Deserve”, and “Calm Before the Storm” as well as one of my personal favorites “The Safety of Disbelief” and “Bitter End”. The strength is not just in the fast and heavy songs on the album but also in the more atmospheric and slower songs like “The Great Divide” and “Judas Convention” that allow HoJo to showcase his excellent singing voice. 

I recommend this album to anyone who loves melody in their metal and have an appreciation for strong singing and lyrics.


  thredRed Sun Rising- Thread

I first heard of this band when I saw them open for Sevendust on tour back in 2016 and have been a fan of their first album after listening to it. They managed to release a great cover of Alanis Morrisette’s “Uninvited” in 2017 that kept me interested in them. However, 2018 saw the release of the Ohio band’s sophomore album “Thread”. Their first single “Deathwish” did not grab my attention at first, however, after a few repeated listens the bridge/ending of the song would get stuck in my head and I gained an appreciation for the new material. 

Along with “Deathwish” songs like “Left for Dead”, “Stealing Life”, “Veins”, and “Rose” provide a good mixing of rockers and slower heart felt songs. The majority of the album is well written and sang and have enough hooks to keep the songs in your head days after listening to it. The only song I don’t like on this album is the closer “Evil Like You” which I feel is inferior to the other songs on the album and should have probably been better left off this collection of tunes.


SevendustAlliseeiswarSevendust- All I See Is War

Speaking of Sevendust… 2018 provided another solid release from the Atlanta metal holdouts. As I’ve mentioned in some of my other posts, I have been a fan of this band since for 20 years now and buy every release and try to see them on tour every chance I can get because they are just that solid of a band and group of songwriters.

While Kill the Flaw and Black Out The Sun did not offer as many great songs in my opinion as their 2010 Release Cold Day Memory, All I See Is War more than makes up for that in songwriting and listenability of the songs overall. There are still plenty of hard rockers on this album including the opening track “Dirty”, “Medicated”, “Unforgiven”, and “The Truth” there are also some surprisingly heavy slower songs. 

The band shows that their songwriting ability continues to grow with a more expansive sound of songs like “Sickness”, “Moments”, “Not Original” and “Life Deceives You”. There are so many great songs that I’m sure will earn a place in their already great set of songs they play live. Out of the many times I’ve seen Sevendust live they have never disappointed with their show, my only complaint is that they seem to disregard some of their deeper cuts and non-album work that is just as good as the hits they play at each show. 

All I See Is War is a hearty addition to their already great catalog of work and I hope to see them put out more quality albums long into the future.


ADyingMachineTremonti- A Dying Machine

I was looking forward to this album release probably the most this year. Mark Tremonti stands as one of my favorite guitarists out there today and his work with his solo band is not a lesser content than that he puts into his main band Alter Bridge. Tremonti is one of the few players out there that can write quality songs consistently but also shred with the best of them.

The lyrical content on this album was doubly interesting to me as this is the first concept album that Tremonti has released but it also has to do with AI and technology. While not a new concept (Fear Factory has been basing albums off of this concept for two decades) the story and the music give the album a great feel with music and storyline that move the songs along nicely. 

There are plenty of stadium rocker choruses as well as tasty solos to enjoy for the lover of heavy. There are also a few songs that are solid potential rock radio (does such a thing still exist) staples that given a chance could be popular. 

“From the Sky”, “A Dying Machine”, and many others on the album are solid rocking tunes. Tremonti manages to put a few well thought out slower songs on the album as well to temper the dynamics as well as show that his guitar abilities are not limited to heavy distortion and shredding. Of all the songs on the album the one that is the catchiest and strongest songs is the song “Take You With Me”. This song just kicks ass period. A great radio song as well as just a solid rocking tune that helps to grab your attention on the latter half of the album.

Punk: The Soundtrack to the Next Great Social Revolution

Music is more than a reflection of our own lives, it also serves as a reflection of society as a whole at a certain point in history. There have been great musical movements in the past which have often been in direct response of the opposing opinions between the counter culture and the mainstream. Rock & Roll was a response to social conditions between the races in 1950’s America. Parents didn’t want their white teenage children listening to music from black artists, so the musical community’s response was to put a pale face on black music with the likes of Elvis Presley and others.

Rock & Roll of the 1950’s and early 1960’s was called “The Devil’s Music”… hard to think that songs like “Love Me Tender” or “She Loves You” would be associated with Satan, but this argument/classification has been tied to whatever new forms of music that went against the mainstream’s opinion of what is ‘acceptable’.

Music has always been the vehicle for change. The hippies had the free love peace movement as a response to the Johnson, Nixon, the Warhawks and Vietnam. The decade of the 1960’s started with the hope of Kennedy and ended in the mire of Nixon and an unpopular war. Atrocious events both at home in the form of Kent State and the attacks on non-violent racial protests and the mounting issues abroad coming in daily from the battlefields of Vietnam provided some of the first truly socially active music.

Songs ranging from Country Joe and the Fish’s “Fixin’ to Die Rag” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Edwin Star’s “War” put both the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War in the consciousness of every listener. Through both increased civic participation as well as the popular music movement of the time, Civil rights laws were put in place to finally strip away the age of Jim Crow and the pressure from the masses finally brought about the end of the stalemate of Vietnam and the fall of Nixon.

Punk Rock in England spread out of the high rates of unemployment and growing social frustration of the youth at the time. Bands like the Sex Pistols flew in the face of the class norms in England that had been largely unchanged for centuries. Bands like The Clash brought about the imagery of the inherent class warfare and discrimination of youth that were the norm at the time, as well as putting world issues in the view of the masses as well.

Punk Rock in America was a direct response to the masses being tired of the overthought, high musicality that was the center of “Corporate Rock Radio” with bands like The Eagles, Journey, Steely Dan, and Boston. It was also an antithesis to the Disco movement of the late seventies. Bands like The Ramones proved you didn’t have to be pretty or over-skilled at your instrument to write good songs. And punk/glam bands like the New York Dolls pushed the boundaries of sexuality to a state that was no longer binary.

From the Greasers to hippies, punk rock to heavy metal, from Rap to dubstep. Anything not understood or considered outside the tolerated norms was considered evil. To conservatives this ‘evil’ music reflects the decay of societies morals. To liberals, (if used properly) music can be an instrument in which change is reached at a larger scale.

For years the establishment has tried to put limitations on free speech and prevent artists that they didn’t approve of from expressing themselves.The battle of the PMRC against the music industry in 1985 eventually put a label, literally, on music that they deemed offensive. Had they known what would come later in the forms of Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and many other groups less than a decade later they may have been truly horrified.

In the 1990’s the last great music revolution (in this writer’s opinion) happened. Again the mainstream was overrun by bands and music that was counter to what was acceptable. The counter-culture won in the Grunge and Rap movements which spoke of situations and social topics which were the reality of a majority of Americans. Popular music produced by record companies remained popular among the conservatives, but anyone who was not upper middle class or white were listening to the songs that reflected their reality.

The history lesson is over for now, but its purpose was to underscore the point that we are in turbulent times my friends. Public trust in government, the police, and the media are at an all time low. Racial tensions are higher than they have been in 25 years. There is the largest income gap between the classes since the Gilded Age and the feeling of being a united people is all but gone. Hate and mistrust are seeds that have been sown over the last 30 years and here receiving ample sunlight and water from the current administration.


We have been in this position before and yet we did not learn our lessons from the past. Many people today have no clue or care what happened 25, 30 or even 40 years ago but the fact remains that the old lessons are in a need to be retaught. Some may question if society today is too fractured to produce a united front against something. There are so many subdivisions of movements that they seldom last long enough to make an impact on a large stage. People may question the ability to unite but, I believe that it is only the spark that is needed to bring people together.

We should not wait for some great injustice to take place in order to act. Even as I write this our rights are being infringed upon by the ruling class and party in America. The bounds of decency are being crossed by the people that we elected and while it is not gaining as much attention now as it was a year ago, the racial tension in this country is still bubbling under the surface. We are indeed overdue for our next musical revolution… and I think it will come in the form of Punk Rock.

I believe that punk rock will be the vehicle for the next musical movement that spurs a larger social movement in America and my reasons are simple. To put it simply, Punk Rock is one of the very few forms of music that is still socially conscious. While Pop and Rock music are pre-occupied with being ‘artistic’ in their endeavors, Punk Rock is still putting the social and global issues up front in their lyrical content.

Bands like Bad Religion, Rise Against, and others continue to speak to reality, both locally and globally, and they aren’t the only ones. Both M.D.C. and Body Count continue to write songs about social issues and politics in America. Punk Rock statesmen like Henry Rollins continue to write and talk about social and political issues and provide world views to domestic issues.

While there are a very few Pop or Indie Rock acts that do write political songs, the Pop songs are generally on the establishment side. Indie acts like 30 seconds to Mars have done a good service of putting global warming and social issues into the mainstream but one voice is often drowned out by the crowd.

The more basic reasons for why Punk Rock will lead the social movement is because of factors that have been often overlooked by the majority:

  1. Punk rock has always been more cerebral than it has been given credit for. There are a lot of smart people that play Punk, people with doctorates and degrees not only play but listen to Punk. While often written off as buffoons, if one actually pays attention to the lyrics of a lot of Punk bands they would find a lot of satire and thought.
  2. Punk rock has always been anti-establishment. Born against the grain and proud of it, Punk rockers are more socially aware and politically active than people give them credit for. Even Punk in the 90’s provided a vehicle for social change in the new “Feminist” movement. Punk Rockers and their listeners often read and interact more with news and society.
  3. Punk Rock is DIY. This has been a badge of honor for a genre of music that the masses never wanted and the venues never booked. Shows, promotion, recording, and press were always done in a Do It Yourself fashion. From recording, packing and shipping their own albums at labels like Dischord to journaling their own scenes in ‘Zines’, to designing and manufacturing their own merchandise, Punk Rock artists have always been self motivated and producing individuals.
  4. Punk is one of the last forms of music that is still being cultivated by the youth and aged alike. While a large majority of youth are content of with being consumers, punk rockers (and even metalheads) are still the very few that write and play their own music. While it has never been a genre that is thought of as being filled with “skilled” musicians, this is what makes it one of the strongest forms of music for the socially conscious and politically active to start a band in.

Punk has never been as focused on the flair as it has the presentation and the message. You don’t have to be a guitar god to be able to write a punk song. Harlan Howard said that all you need for a great song is “Three chords and the truth”. Punk Rock took that to heart.

5.  Unlike a lot of other genre’s of music, Punk Rock is all inclusive in who can do what. The music is not male dominated nor has it’s voices always spoken to a specific masculinity or femininity. The thing that makes Punk strong is that it is a group and community effort and is not as fractured as other genres of music.

6.  Lastly, Punk Rock has never truly been “in style” so it is difficult to kill. With the exception of the mid-late 90’s Pop-punk movement, the genre has always been just beneath the surface. It is hard to fall out of fashion when you are never really the mainstream.

pr11

While I will admit that I may be wrong, history has shown us what the power of music and social movements can have if they are focused and working in tandem to institute change in society as a whole. We are due a great social and musical revolution and I strongly believe that Punk Rock will be the soundtrack that drives both.

Now is the time for we as a society and a brotherhood of ‘humans’ to come together and shake the pillars of the establishment. We must remind them that they do indeed work for us and need to remember what our concerns and interests are. Music, while the effects may be violent, is one of the most blatant forms of non-violent protest. Putting words of truth to powerful music has the ability to move mountains without raising a hand. Together we can change the world, and it will only take three chords and some truth.

Until Next Time, keep listening.

Questioning Music and Film’s Emotional Permanence in the Digital Age

At the beginning of the week I was watching an episode of Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show and the  guest that week was Ethan Embry (Empire Records, Can’t Hardy Wait, Vegas Vacation, Brotherhood). During the interview he spoke of music and movies in a way that germinated this article in my mind for the past week. He brought up the question of whether kids have the same connection to music that we did. I think this is a very important question going forward because technology will keep providing new ways for us to digest the art of music and movies well into the future.

This made me question whether the lack of a physical form in the digital world of today has changed the type of connection that younger people have to the music themselves. Looking at some of the wildly popular styles of music some could say the answer is yes, while, with the resurgence of vinyl collecting, others would say no. Either way it is an undeniable fact that the technology of the first two decades of this millennium have all but replaced those of the 80 years of advances that predated it in both the video and music.

The advent of digital media devices like the iPod, data capable cell phones, and tablets have helped to increase the mobility of how we consume media and art. Gone are the large CD cases stuffed with music or movies, gone are the book shelves and media towers that used to hold the books and VHS/DVD cases of our vast collections. Why take up the space in your place with all of those things when you can fit the library of Congress onto a device no larger than a pamphlet? In some ways this has made life easier because people with OCD like myself were always organizing and resorting these things, but has it removed the strong emotions that were tied to the music and film that seemed to go part and parcel with the physical form?

There are still remnants of the past lingering around. Albums and movies still have release dates that help to build anticipation, but unless you are of the nerdy vinyl audiophile crowd or an avid movie collector, you no longer have to leave your home to get a new album or movie. For me there was always something cool about going to the mall and buying the new cd that you were waiting and saving your allowance for. Taking it home and fighting with the plastic wrapper, opening the case, examining the album art and lyrics on the pages of the booklet, these were all of the things that made owning a new cd an ‘experience’. Now, you can just wait for the release date (if you legitimately buy and not illegally download) and just purchase the new album on your device and listen to it instantly.

You still get to have the experience of listening to the songs for the first time, but you don’t get to go back on the second listen and try to read the lyrics along with the songs unless you Google them (in most cases the digital booklet is included but other times not). For me, the physical contact with the media, the use of multiple senses, endeared me to the music more. You get to touch the cd and booklet, you get to smell the plastic, you get to see the art, words, and pictures, and you get to hear the music.

As I’ve learned by self studying the topics of learning and neuroscience, multiple sense stimulation helps to make memories stick better and be more vivid. Maybe this is why the generations prior to the ‘Millenials’ have a different concept of what defines music. It could be because most of us are rounding 40 and the generational differences take hold, or it could be that the multiple stimuli made the music mean more to us.

Throughout the history of music there has always been ‘throw away’ acts and cookie cutter Pop music, but it seems that over the last 17 years, the new music has had less permanence on the cultural landscape. Like bones left in the desert, the carcass of these acts quickly becomes sun bleached and eventually disappear into the surroundings. It could be that the music industry only pushes the ‘hot at the moment’ or ‘one hit wonder’ acts anymore, but there seemed to be a long void of music with content.

While both the songwriting (if you can call it that) and the music styles of the new millennium have become increasingly disposable, there have been some artists that have managed to get signed and become popular. Maybe they are the flowers that dot the bleak landscape of music today, but they are creating a new movement of songwriters that will hopefully build so that music becomes great again. Artists and groups like Elle King, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Fun., Lord Huron and Ed Sheehran have managed to make writing music on actual instruments fashionable again in a world where anybody can create music with just a computer.

Speaking of that…. Another thing that makes me question the lasting power of music are the kinds of music that have become popular in the last decade. Maybe I am grumpy and old, but I just don’t get dubstep and other forms of music that are mostly made up of sounds. It sounds like drills and chainsaws and I cannot distinguish one artist from another. It could be music for robots and automatons, who knows. I question whether the generation that is completely into that kind of music can truly endure itself to it. A large majority of the songs don’t have any vocals or lyrical content to connect to, so all that is left is the strange collaboration of sounds. Believe me, I have tried to listen and understand and find something, anything, in the form that I can like, but to me it is like looking at a blurred watercolor painting with no discernible point of focus.

The digital age also has reduced the amount of musical self discovery that once was available at resellers. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, they were places like The Music Exchange that were often downtown or in small strip malls where people could sell their used cd’s and buy new or used ones as well. I loved the one where I lived, where else could you buy a couple of used cd’s for the cost of one new one? I learned to love a lot of music just buying random cd’s and cassettes at the Music Exchange. Some of my favorite blues and jazz artists, as well as movie soundtracks I bought at a fraction of the cost thanks to this place.

Every now and then you could even pick up a hidden gem in these places. Foreign imports, bootlegs, and other rare items were still affordable. I distinctly remember that the first copy of Nirvana’s “Unplugged” album I owned was an import that was not the edited show that you bought at Sam Goody. It was cool to hear the conversation and people moving around between songs. Being able to find something that literally none of your friends had was one of the coolest things when you’re a teen.

To me, this reinforced the concept of the ‘experience’ amplifying the emotional attachment that came to be felt for the music. Having to physically go somewhere, pay visible cash for an album, and then taking it home and opening it in anticipation of the first listen… The first notes just seemed to mean more. Material possessions come and go, but the experiences are the things that you always hold on to and I feel that the experience made all the difference.

The same reasoning can be applied to film these days as well. I question whether the term ‘cult classic’ will be around much longer. It used to be that, sometimes, a movie that didn’t have a large audience in the theater could find a second life on rental. When I was growing up my family was very poor but the occasional times that I got to go to the Video Rental store was always an experience. Sometimes on Friday we would go to one or all three rental places and pick out a movie to watch over the weekend.

Again, the experience I think helped endure me to the little gems of film that I wound up loving but only found by chance at the video store. Going into the place and seeing the long rows of cases laid out on the shelves, smelling the free popcorn that was offered at Great American Video all added to the anticipation of picking something out to watch. Each cover was a swirl of pictures, words and colors.

Every now and then you would go to the store with a specific new movie you just ‘had to get’ and you hoped that you got to the store early enough that there was still a copy there. On the occasions where your first choice wasn’t available you often would search the racks for something that looked entertaining to fill the void until the next weekend.

I can say that this is where I found a lot of strange and terrible movies, but also a lot of the amazing movies that I watch over and over again and quote randomly to people. Movies like Empire Records, The Evil Dead 2, Medicine River, Clerks, The Usual Suspects and a majority of the Tremors franchise were found hidden in the rows of boxes. Again, this was an experience of discovery that helped develop my later tastes.

My Dad and I watched a lot of varied movie genre’s. Anything from sci-fi to B-grade action films were picked up, some were bad, some were worse but the beauty was, if you ended up not liking a movie you chose, you could always turn it off and return it never to be viewed again. If you found something surprising and that you ended up loving, you could go back and rent it again and again. This was always great with the less popular films because they were almost always available if the new releases were all gone before you to there.

Today’s ‘on demand’ digital landscape has made these experiences a thing of the past. There are no more Blockbuster’s or Sam Goody’s and the experience of buying a new album or movie is shifting largely away from the few places still selling physical product and more towards the digital market where you can get it at any time of day without having to get out of your pajamas (which, consequently, has been less of an issue since people started going out in their pj’s anyway, but this is a rant for another day).

There has been a resurgence of music collecting and artistry in recent years as mentioned above. However, in the case of vinyl there are two camps of collectors. The older people who appreciate the actual sound difference that records have compared to digital/cd, and the hipsters who buy vinyl because it’s the ‘in’ thing to do. I would think it’s obvious that I am of the former camp.

If you want to argue the sound quality between vinyl and cd I actually have one example to point out where the sound quality is superior on the older technology, oddly it is an album that receives a lot of ridicule, and that is Frampton Comes Alive. I might be mistaken, but I still have a copy of the dual album in my collection, but I later had purchased the digitally remastered version of the album on CD and the sound quality was just not the same on the digital remaster. There is a certain “fatness” to the sound of analog recorded and distributed albums that digital cannot match and this was the album that I noticed the most difference in the sound. Not bad for an album that Mike Myers once joked was packaged with free samples of Tide in the mail..

Will future advancements bring back the “Brown” sound of analog is yet to be seen, but I feel that the farther removed we become from the physical medium, the less attached we will be to the media itself. Don’t get me wrong, great music finds a way to grab hold and not let go of your emotions, but the experience of the first listen will be forever changed. There is no longer a process or any obstacles (physical or otherwise) keeping you from listening to the music and I think that this may cause a detachment to the songs that would not be possible without the invisibility of the actual product.

Music in the recorded age has always been vibrations connected to frequencies and conveyed over electricity, but the physical manifestation of the product helped someone absorb the material and embedded the electrical impulses into our neuro-wiring and translated them into our souls. The colors, smells, feels, and sounds are what created the deeper love and appreciation. At least that is my opinion of the matter.

I’ll end this old man rant here. Until next time, spin that record Mr. DJ, Be Kind, Rewind, and as always, keep listening…

Native Heart Album/Concert Review

Hello Grumpy fans! It’s time for my first every album/concert review here on this page. I tend to stay way from these types of posts mostly because I want to concentrate on the music and not the ‘show’ that goes with it, but in this case one of my favorite bands is involved and also this show had two first’s for me, 1. Hometown show and 2. Album release party. Well, I guess i should revise that to to state “that I wasn’t directly involved in in some way”.

So, as stated in an earlier article, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers is the band that formed out of the ashes of The Refreshments with Roger Clyne and P.H. Naffah, the primary singer/songwriter and drummer respectively comprising the core of the group with Nick Scropos on bass and Jim Dalton on lead guitar. Many Refreshments songs are played regularly in their sets and the new music is the natural evolution from where they started in the previous band.

I was one of the many people who were unaware that The Refreshments music that I loved as a teen lived on with this group until about 10 years ago when they played a show at The Knitting Factory in my hometown of Boise. My friend Pat and I went and fulfilled a dream of seeing the Refreshments live. Since then I have been to see the band at three additional shows in Boise, however; I had yet to see the Arizona band live since I had relocated to Phoenix last year. Until now.

The new album Native Heart was released the same day as the show. It is the group’s eight studio album and showcases the same great combination of country, rock, pop, and latin flavored sounds that have been melding in the bands’ music since their first release Honkey Tonk Union back in 2000. The album consists of 10 solid offerings that range from slow romantic songs such as “Sunday Driving” which is reminiscent of a 70’s rock radio hit to upbeat positive songs like “Every Kind of Lucky”. Each song is well balanced and contains Clyne’s signature blend of seriousness, sarcasm, wit, and the message of positivity and love.

Since it’s release I’ve had a chance to fully digest the album and I would have to say that it is probably my favorite album since their 2011 release Unida Cantina. Some of my favorite songs off the album are the opening track “Flowerin’”, which just a fun song altogether with a positive vibe to it. “Arizona Night” does a good job of summing up how the nights in Arizona have a feeling that is different very from most other places, almost supernatural, it’s almost always warm and there is fun to be had much like the music written by the band.  “Fun” is a good bar room rocker with a catchy pre-chorus, and “Barons to Break” which contains one of my favorite lines from Blazing Saddles ‘We don’t need no stinking badges’ is just a fun song about rebellion from the hum drum of everyday life.

The album also contains the first explicit song (as marked by iTunes) on a Peacemakers album. “Hello Tiger” does contain some profanity (two words) but it isn’t done in bad taste. The song is kind of an inner dialog with humor laced throughout. The last upbeat song song that I want to mention off the new album is “Shadyside” because it has a positive message about not judging people or places by their looks. They chorus lyric is spot on for convincing somebody to look past the first impression,

“C’mon and sit a spell, dear hot-headed fool. Rest your bones awhile where the best folks do…”

There are a few slower songs on the album, the aforementioned “Sunday Driving” as well as ¡Viva Love!, which shifts between a slow thoughtful song and a Mexican flavored celebration of ‘amore’. Another slower song is “So May You” which is the albums final track. The song is a fitting close as the lyrics are full of well wishes for an invisible person. Overall the feeling is atmospheric and its feeling helped by a very open lead guitar lick.

All of the songs on the album showcase the songwriting that you can come to expect with each new release from the band. Although, they have left behind the pirates, banditos and beach bums imagery of their earlier releases in the imagery there is still a great spirit of rebellion and positive vibes in each song. The chord base and lead parts intermingle well and as always the rhythm section is tight and nuanced. One of the great things musically about the band is that they are always understated in their playing in all the right ways.

I have to take a moment to mention the venue. Livewire was an amazing venue, clean, classy and really well planned. It was also the only live venue in Old Town Scottsdale. Situated in an area full of dance clubs and bars it was a pretty prime spot for a live venue. Unfortunately, after attending the show I learned that the venue closed a few days later to be turned into a dance club/bowling alley.

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The show’s openers Arizona locals Ryan Bexley and Jason Devore. Ryan Bexley is a transplant to Arizona who has a good mix of country/songwriter sounds to his music. I’m including a link to his EP on iTunes if you want to get an idea of his sound and for you to buy his music if you like it.

Jason Devore also had a similar music style and is also from Mesa, Az. His band consisted of himself, a percussionist, and an additional guitarist. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but Devore is the lead singer of the band Authority Zero as well. More country in style, the music is more upbeat and was a good segue to the main act. You can check out his music on iTunes as well.

I only had enough time to listen to the album once between getting home from work andleaving for the show, but enough of it sunk in to sing along when the songs were played live. The show’s set list included all of the new album’s songs as well as various hits from their earlier albums and from the two Refreshments releases. Oddly they did not play any songs from their three previous releases (2008’s Turbo Ocho, 2011’s Unida Cantina, and 2014’s The Independent), but there was enough of a variety that any fan would be happy with the show.

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The band also included two new musicians and a new horn section that have been added since I had last seen the band. The inclusion of a keyboard/accordian player and a female back up singer added some new dimensions to the bands sound and having the horns on stage made it easier for them to transition into songs like “Mexico” and “Lemons” (From Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy and No More Beautiful World, respectively). The show had a few comical moments that mostly had to due with sound/equipment issues but overall it was the kind of show that I’ve come to expect from the group.

The set list included such favorites from the Refreshments days as “Mexico”, “Meekong”, “Sucker Punch”, “Preacher’s Daughter”, “Down Together”, and of course “Banditos” and “Yahoos and Triangles” (the theme song from King of the Hill). There were also songs from the earlier catalog including “Americano”, “Counter Clockwise”, “A Little Hungover You”, “Switchblade”, “Jack vs. Jose”, “Lemons”, and “Maybe We Should Fall In Love”.

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Overall the band played for over two hours to a diehard and fun loving crowd. This was also the first show that my cousin had been to, so it was great to see the reaction of a first time Peacemaker. I had prefaced the concert by letting her know that the audience that goes to RCPM shows is a pretty varied cross section of people. She realized that it wasn’t going to be the type of show that she’s used to once she saw that a majority of the crowd were wearing sandals and flip flops. The crowd is always a fun and positive vibe kind of people, there were a few women with some entertaining head gear (one had a lighted cat ear headband and another a laurel in her hair).

The fans of the Peacemakers are just that, peacemakers. You never get a negative vibe from anyone. There is plenty of drinking, but you don’t have to fear a fight or some guy randomly bowling into you. Everybody sings and dances and is there to have a good time. At this show the crowd added to the environment. People on the second floor balcony dropped balloons that the crowd batted back and forth throughout the show, and some people even brought a giant inflatable guitar with lead guitarist Jim Dalton’s name written on it.

The night closed with the band playing the song “Flowering” from their new album and it was a great way to end the show. Clyne, sans guitar, worked the stage with a harmonica and the song was built up to properly end the night on a high note. After it was all over I asked my cousin what she though and her response is that “I’ve been taken to church”. Another successful convert.

A little more than a week removed from the show I can properly reflect on the night and the ringing in my right ear finally stopped (remember the importance of wearing hearing protection at shows people). The music and crowd reaction at the RCPM show proves to me that, regardless of what that windbag Gene Simmons says, Rock & Roll is very much alive and kicking. While changes to the music industry have not made it as apparent as it once was, the music is still very much alive. Roger Clyne and his compadres prove that you can write constantly good music and still make a living on the road as a touring band without major label support.

If you happen to read this and see that the band is coming your way for a show, find a way to go see them. You will never be disappointed with a Peacemakers show because you will witness what makes music so great. The band put the effort into delivering an amazing show and show an honest appreciation for their fans and the people who support them. An RCPM show is what I imagine seeing a Springsteen show is like (if only I could afford to go see the Boss). Anyway, I’m going to end this here by telling you to check out the new album Native Heart and to see the band live whenever you get the chance, you will not be disappointed.

Until next time, support local and independent music and as always, keep listening…

You can buy the Native Heart on iTunes here.

The 80’s: A Love Letter to Pop Culture and My Childhood

Over the course of these blogs I’ve mentioned a number of times that I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. I feel that having grown up in this time was beneficial to both my personal identity and my musical identity. I noticed in between my last blog and now that both series that I have been posting to regularly will be firmly planted in the 90’s going forward. With this realization I feel it is important to spend a side blog focusing not only on the decade that spawned me but also shaped my musical tastes for the future.

The days of youth always seem simpler, even when reflecting on them from years later, but I think it has to do more with the limited things that we focus on in youth as opposed to the billions of worries and distractions of adulthood. In many ways we as a society are ruining the childhoods of our kids simply by telling them to “grow up”. Small kids these days have more problems than we did because they aren’t allowed to be “just kids”.

the-goonies-movie-picture-7_0The rose colored glasses of our past always blocks out the harmful rays of the hard times, but at the same time, those days were simpler. You only had to worry about not breaking a limb and being home before dark. We drank from garden hoses with abandon. We rode our bikes without helmets or elbow pads and sometimes without using our hands. We built ramps to jump our bikes and skateboards off of and never thought about the landing, only how much air we could get. We would roll down or sled down huge hills for the fun of it.

While being poor and not having the things that other people did did not affect me as much back then as it does in adulthood, the richness in other things made up for all of the new toys and cool things that other kids had. We had imagination, we had the freedom to run everywhere, to ride our bikes two miles to the arcade to play games for 20 minutes. We had coloring books and poison red dyes on our toy cars. We had hard plastic halloween costumes and Styrofoam McDonalds containers. We ruined the planet in so many ways as a society, but really, just getting to McDonalds on time for breakfast or getting some cool toy in the Happy Meal was all that us kids gave a shit about. mcd6

The 80’s was the decade of new sights and sounds. The era of MTv. Well, the first incarnation that actually still showed music videos, and goddamned if that was not THE time to be watching. The VJ’s set style trends (yes, even Adam Curry with his terrible fucking mop/mullet) and introduced us to the latest music out in the world. Huey lewis

We had Dire Straits, Madonna, and a black Michael Jackson. We had “Money for Nothing”, “Like a Prayer”, and “Thriller” to dance and sing to. We learned our dance moves from Michael Jackson and New Edition. We learned how to “Dance on the Ceiling” and “Party All The Time”. Television and movie stars who had no business having music careers released albums and we bought EVERYTHING.

dlrThe music of the 80’s was strange and experimental. There was Post Punk, New Wave, Pop, Rock, Hair Metal, Heavy Metal and Avant Gard. Diamond Dave would jump on the screen, Cindy Lauper would dance and sing, and David Byrne would play guitar and wear and oversized suit. Men looked like women and women would wear almost anything.. and nothing.. I can’t think of any pre-pubescent boy in the 80’s that didn’t want to be the car that Tawny Kitaen was writhing all over in the White Snake video. (In the crazy coincidence of just having finished typing that sentence “Here I Go Again” started playing in my iTunes playlist.. fucking freaky..)

Music videos were a completely new canvas for artists and some really embraced the medium. Duran Duran made amazing music videos in the 80’s. The videos could have plots or just be concert footage, we didn’t care. Music was music and if it was good and catchy we would devour it like starving children at a North’s Chuck Wagon on their birthdays.

danger mouseAlong with music, television was so much better. Saturday morning cartoons were an event! You waited all week in school to wake up on Saturday morning in your He-Man Pj’s and watch the cartoon with a bowl of sugar cereal. He-Man and GI Joe, Real Ghostbusters and Transformers, Muppet Babies and Fraggle Fucking Rock! Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake, Danger Mouse and Inspector Gadget, Double Dare and Looney Tunes. Hannah Barberra cartoons for hours on the USA network every day. After cartoons were over you would put on your day clothes and go run off all of the sugar in the cereal by playing outside for hours. (Do kids these days even know what out-fucking-doors is?)

This isn’t to say that we didn’t spend hours on end watching television, it just happened to be after dark or on rainy days. I remember that we had aluminum foil on our TV’s rabbit ears and this was how we were able to watch Pee Wee’s Big Adventure the first time.. Even regular TV shows were better back then… or at least were more wholesome.

handy randyWe bought every action figure, movie tie in and style shown on TV. Madonna clones everywhere.. Red Thriller jackets.. hair spray and neon colors. Leg warmers and tennis shoes. Baseball and Garbage Pail Kids cards. We were consumer whores and the mall was the mecca of social gathering and money spending. The 80’s were a decade of excess in every shape and form.

IM2Movies gave us heroes and anti-heroes back then. Mad Max and Rocky, Murtaugh and Riggs, John McClain. Good vs Evil. America vs Russia… a rivalry so engrained in the American psyche that it is making a huge comeback. We had Goonies and E.T, Monster Squad and The Lost Boys, The Princess Bride and Big Trouble in Little China. Timeless movies that may be dated by the styles but not the performances or their infinite quotability.

Hell, even the candy back in the 80’s was awesome.. Candy cigarettes and Atomic Fireballs, Hot Tamales, Fun Dip and Pop Rocks, LEMON HEADS. I remember riding my bike down to the Rex-all Drug store and buying penny and nickel candy. We drank Cool Aid with two cups of sugar and when we didn’t have Cool Aid we would drink sugar water! Seriously… it’s no wonder why we have health issues now. candy cigarettes

In short I think my love of things from my childhood isn’t limited to nostalgia (even though Hollywood has been using that to cash in for a long time now) but really may be that things were made better. More effort was put into things as small as kids cartoons. Everything today seems as plain as the white boxes with the words “Generic Corn Flakes” printed in big black letters…I think maybe I should stop this now before I go too far and never come back..

Featured Image by: Brendan Corris @ Deviant Art http://brendancorris.deviantart.com/art/The-80s-161048271

Smothered and Covered- 30 Cover Songs That are just as good or better than the originals.

When it comes to music there are only a certain number of chords or melodies that can be created, so often times we hear songs that are new that have resemblances to ones of old. One good example of this is Sam Smith’s recent hit “Stay with Me” that sounded very similar to Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”. There is often a fine line between similarity and down right theft, take Vanilla Ice’s explanation of how the bass line on “Ice Ice Baby” differed from Queen’s “Under Pressure”. As you can see this is a pretty thin way to talk yourself out of copyright infringement.

However, within music there are instances where new bands cover old songs in their own style. Often this is used as a way for the record company to try to guarantee a hit on the record that they are otherwise unsure of. Regardless of the motivation for recording a cover song it is easy to say that within the realm of this particular musical endeavor the results are either completely disastrous or all together amazing.

As a music listener of pretty widespread taste and knowledge I tend to like cover songs that are done in a style different from their original genre. However, being a child of the 80’s and early 90’s, songs from this era tend to have a soft spot in my heart when it comes to being covered by newer groups. Below is a list of 30 cover songs which I think are some of the best. Some do cover songs within the same genre’s, however, I have tried to make the list more diverse in terms of original genres. I have included both the original and the cover for comparison. Comments are welcome.

Song: Boys of Summer

Original Artist: Don Henley (1984)

This particular song reminds me of my childhood and it is one that has just stuck with me. When The Ataris covered this song in the early 2000’s it gave me a new reason to like the song.

Covering Artist: The Ataris (2003)

Song: Who Wants To Live Forever

Original Artist: Queen (1986)

While covers of Queen songs are few and far between (for good reason, nobody can duplicate Freddie Mercury) there have been a few that have snuck out that sound pretty decent. This was always one of my favorite Queen songs from the 80’s.

Covering Artist: Breaking Benjamin (2005)

Song: Drive

Original Artist: The Cars (1984)

The Cars are probably one of the most under recognized bands from the late 70’s and early 80’s. I will be completely honest, this is bar none my favorite Cars song ever. The fact that the Deftones are covering it is just gravy.

Covering Artist: Deftones (2005)

Song: Midlife Crisis

Original Artist: Faith No More

This song was on the album that came out after the album that everybody listens to from Faith No More. That being said, a lot of people jumped ship on the band prior to the really good albums that they made.

Covering Artist: Disturbed (2008)

Song: Possession

Original Artist: Sarah McLaughlin (1993)

As a part of the “Lillith Fair” crowd, most people only listened to Sarah McLaughlin if they were trying to get some or impress a girl. However, as an artist Sarah McLaughlin managed to write some decent tunes. This is one cover that is probably the most different from the original.

Covering Artist: Evans Blue (2006)

Song: Cars

Original Artist: Gary Numan (1980)

Along with the Cars, Gary Numan was one of the musical geniuses from the “New Wave” movement that is seriously underrated. Fear Factory’s cover of this song remains faithful to the original while adding some edge, a plus to have the original artist guest on the cover.

Covering Artist: Fear Factory feat. Gary Numan (1999)

Song: (She’s Got) The Look

Original Artist: Roxette (1989)

I only remember Roxette being around for about three years and in total having about the same amount of singles. This cover version is a lot heavier than the pop original, but still a good listen.

Covering Artist: Candlelight Red (2011)

Song: Have a Cigar

Original Artist: Pink Floyd (1975)

Not many artist cover Floyd and for good reason, generally the songs have no room to improve because they are already great. This version by the Foo Fighters was included because it is a solid cover.

Covering Artist: Foo Fighters (2011)

Song: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Original Artist: The Beatles (1968)

Many people have covered this song over the years, but I think this version is the best one included on an album (see the Rock & Roll Hall of fame performance from George Harrison’s solo induction for the best live version, Prince is amazing). This version showcases the Canadian Bluesman’s bands solidness as well as his prowess as a soloist (even more amazing considering he was born blind).

Covering Artist: Jeff Healey band (1990)

Song: The Times Are a Changin’

Original Artist: Bob Dylan (1964)

While the original version by Dylan remains relevant in most recent times, let’s be honest, it was in need of an update. This version was recorded for the Chimes of Freedom tribute album. I think that the Irish jig provided by Flogging Molly gives the song a more upbeat feeling that is needed.

Covering Artist: Flogging Molly (2012)

Song: Ultraviolet (Light My Way)

Original Artist: U2 (1991)

For the longest time I was not a fan of the Achtung Baby album, but in recent years it has become one of my favorite U2 albums. This particular version, in my opinion, is a little bit of an upgrade on the original.

Covering Artist: The Killers (2011)

Song: Romeo and Juliet

Original Artist: Dire Straits (1981)

Surprisingly not a lot of people are aware of this song by Dire Straits. I blame it on this song being on an album prior to Brothers in Arms. While the original is still my favorite, the Killers manage to do a good version.

Covering Artist: The Killers (2007)

Song: Hallowed Be Thy Name

Original Artist: Iron Maiden (1982)

I know that I said that I tried to keep this list to cover songs from different genres, but I can’t not include this particular version of the Iron Maiden song.

Covering Artist: Machine Head (2008)

Song:Tainted Love

Original Artist: Gloria Jones (1965)

Marilyn Manson has proven that he is pretty adept at crafting good cover versions of songs. In this case, some songs are just good regardless of application. To many people’s surprise this is not the first time the song was covered. In truth, many people think that Soft Cell were the original artists.

Covering Artist: Marilyn Manson (2001)

Song: Dead Souls

Original Artist: Joy Division (1980)

There are few times when a cover song actually gets me into the original artist, however, with this song Nine Inch Nails managed to up the production value of the original while still maintaining the original feeling that Joy Division conveyed. This song is forever tied to The Crow  for many of my generation.

Covering Artist: Nine Inch Nails (1994)

Song: In the Air Tonight

Original Artist: Phil Collins (1981)

Few songs have the amount of urban legend attached to it as In the Air Tonight. Phil Collins wasn’t the first frontman from Genesis to prove himself as a solo artist, but this song lives in the mind of many 80’s kids. Nonpoint recorded a revamped version that is heavier and that serves as an anthemic song in some cases.

Covering Artist: Nonpoint (2004)

Song: Space Oddity

Original Artist: David Bowie (1969)

What can be said about Bowie that hasn’t already been said? Given the history of Powerman 5000’s music you would think that they would turn out a mediocre cover, but I think they did a pretty good job considering this is one of THE definitive songs from Bowie.

Covering Artist: Powerman 5000 (2011)

Song: Hallelujah

Original Artist: Leonard Cohen (1984)

Man.. Talk about a song that has been covered by pretty much everyone. Hallelujah is one of the biggest songs to be recorded repeatedly. While other versions are really good (Rufus Wainwright) I find that the Jeff Buckley conveys the most emotion to the song.

Covering Artist: Jeff Buckley (1994)

Song: Burning Inside

Original Artist: Ministry (1989)

Most people haven’t ever listened to a Ministry album, but those of us who have can appreciate the mad genius of “Uncle Al.” Having met Static-X once early in their career, their music has always been kind of special to me. Their version stays true to the original but adds the special elements that made Static-X a standout in the “Nu metal” pack.

Covering Artist: Static-X feat. Burton C. Bell (2000)

Song: Careless Whisper

Original Artist: George Michael (1984)

I have always loved this song and I’ll be honest, the first time I heard this cover I said “What the Fuck? Really?” out loud. However, over the years the cover has grown on me and I can say that Seether has done a good job revamping the song to service a new generation.

Covering Artist: Seether (2009)

Song: Jack the Ripper

Original Artist: Morrissey (1993)

Unlike a lot of my contemporaries I did not get into the Smiths or Morrissey in my teens so I came to the party late on this one. While I found the original to be one of my favorites, the cover I feel is a large improvement on the feel of the song.

Covering Artist: AFI (2006)

Song: Hurt

Original Artist: Nine Inch Nails (1995)

Very few artists take a song and truly make it their own. When Johnny Cash recorded this song he was in a renaissance of his career and turned this NIN song into a song that you feel was made for him.

Covering Artist: Johnny Cash (2003)

Song: Would?

Original Artist: Alice in Chains (1992)

Probably the most memorable song on an album full of memorable songs. Would? is always a song that can prop you up because it is just that good. Opeth services the song quite well while paying tribute to one of the great bands of the early 90’s.

Covering Artist: Opeth (2008)

Song: Eleanor Rigby

Original Artist: The Beatles (1966)

Beatles songs are some of the most covered tunes in musicdom (three covers show up on this list). However, sometimes good songs need a darker vibe put to them to match the lyrical content. In this case Godhead did just that.

Covering Artist: Godhead (2001)

Song: Across the Universe

Original Artist: The Beatles (1969)

George Harrison is my favorite Beatle. However, there are one or two Lennon/McCartney compositions that I actually do enjoy. Again, Seether does a pretty decent job of introducing the song to a new generation.

Covering Artist: Seether (2008)

Song: In Your Eyes

Original Artist: Peter Gabriel (1986)

People in the 80’s got sick of this song after it showed up in the movie Say Anything, but honestly it is hard to keep a good song down. An updated version with some rock grooves helps to bring this forward for the turn of the century.

Covering Artist: SR-71 (2004)

Song: Come on Eileen

Original Artist: Dexy’s Midnight Runners (1982)

Probably one of the most catchy but oft forgotten song from the early MTv era, this song is a staple on some pop and rock stations. Save Ferris did an excellent job of making a pop hit a pop/ska hit a decade and a half later.

Covering Artist: Save Ferris (1997)

Song: Hazy Shade of Winter

Original Artist: Simon & Garfunkel (1966)

While most people would gravitate toward the Bangles cover version from the 80’s, I prefer the more rock version provided here.

Covering Artist: Bodyjar (1999)

Song: Holy Diver

Original Artist: Dio (1983)

Dio.. What can you say? Every person who interacted with him can only say that he was the most talented and giving musicians and people on the planet. While the original is seen now as cheesy 80’s rock, HoJo and company managed to make a rocking song rock harder.

Covering Artist: Killswitch Engage (2007)

Song: Rainbow in the Dark

Original Artist: Dio (1983)

I had to include this song on the list. While the lyrics are nonsensical to the casual listener and the original music with synths was cheesier than Provolone, this version just kicks serious ass. Who better to service Dio’s vocals than the Great Big Mouth?

Covering Artist: Corey Taylor (2014)

Music That I’ve Discovered/re-discovered in 2016.

I thought I’d venture into different waters with this blog and write about some music that is a little more broad in taste. I know some people who have read my blog before may wonder what happened to the Metal and to that my response is that you can’t be the \m/ guy all the time. So here is a list of 5 albums or bands that I’ve been enjoying throughout the year.

  1. Lera Lynn- The Avenues

r-4938032-1420517218-9669Most of the world (myself included) were introduced to this artist by her appearances in the second season of HBO’s True Detective series. Sometimes an artist leaves an impression on you from the song you first remember them by, in this case “My Least Favorite Life” which she co-wrote with T-Bone Burnett and performed on one of the episodes, left enough of an impression to remember her name. There is something about her voice that is haunting and somber and the musical components leaves me in a closed-eyed foot tapping state.

The Avenues was released in 2014 so, while this isn’t her most recent work, I believe it is fully indicative of the artists talent. While her music is hard to place, often falling between singer/songwriter, folk, and Country, it is always emotional. While most songs are a slower tempo and the musical arrangements are simple and full of space, it manages to do the one thing that music is made for.. to make you FEEL something.

A few of my favorite songs on this album are “Out to Sea,” “Standing on the Moon,” “Letters,” and “Sailor Song.”Standing on the Moon” tends to be the one song that I lean towards as I sometimes wake in the middle of the night with the chorus stuck in my head.  Check it out.2.

Imogen Heap- Speak for Yourself

As a music lover and overall nerd, I often find myself watching documentaries about artists and just music in general. Recently, I found myself watching the Sound Breaking series. Imogen Heap is one of the artist that is interviewed throughout the series and there were a few scenes that displayed a little of her process of songwriting that intrigued me. Using looping pedals and a variety of instruments, she managed to create an interesting effect in the music that she was making.

I picked up this album at a local record store (yes they do still exist) and the owner asked if041c982efd2942e3815be4b8845db821 I had listened to any of her previous music with the group Frou Frou which she was a part of. Honestly, I looked at him a bit bewildered because I hadn’t research her as an artist prior to buying an album. I realized that I had heard at least one song from Frou Frou in the past, the cover of “Holding Out for a Hero” that they had recorded for the Shrek 2 soundtrack. While I liked the track (as I have an affinity for 80’s cover songs, which, may or may not come up in the future) I had never bothered to look into the artist who recorded it.

Overall, the Speak for Yourself album is really good. The music has a blend of the pop sensibilities that Imogen Heap had produced as part of Frou Frou, along with some singer/songwriter and avant-garde elements that shows that she has a style that is her own.

Some of the songs that stand out for me on this record are the opening track “Headlock,” “Have You Got it in You?,” “Clear the Area,” and “The Moment I Said It.” All of the tracks showcase the artists ability to blend musical styles and elements to create a very melodic and pop-y sound that works well as something to have in the background while cooking or as an album to sit back and chill to.

3. Leo Moracchioli

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Youtube has been both a blessing and a curse for music. While it allows us to view our favorite videos anytime (even more important that MTV and VH1 have completely given up on the medium they were built on) it has also produced some terrible “Youtube Stars” that really had no business being popular. However, stumbling through a Youtube chain that started god knows where I managed to find Leo.

Leo is a musician/videographer/producer who lives and works in Norway. Yes, I said Norway! Anyway, this guy does both metal and acoustic covers of songs and generally produces a new song and video on a weekly basis. The thing is.. every cover that I’ve found that this guy has done has been done very well. As far as I can find (with the exception where noted) this guy records and plays all the instruments and sings on ever song. While doing a cover may not be considered doing anything original, Leo manages to create solos and other parts of the instrumentation that is actually his own to put a new spin on the songs he covers.

As I mentioned above, Leo also produces videos and the ones that accompany his covers often show him jamming in his studio or goofing off around his house. While this may not sound very exciting, often times he does something fun in the video to keep it interesting including playing on children’s instruments, having puppets perform his songs, dancing with his daughter, or dressing up in full costumes. While this may sound gimmicky, again, the pure musicianship of this man is enough for me to check out the new song each week and pay for his music. I can honestly say that I’ve learned more of the newer pop songs from his covers than I have listening to the radio.

It’s hard to pick a favorite song from the many covers that he has done because they are so well done. Some notable standouts are “Hello” (Adele), “Shake it Off” (Taylor Swift), “Bad Romance” (Lady Gaga), “Feel Good Inc.” (Gorillaz), “All About that Bass” (Meghan Trainor), and lastly “Highway to the Danger Zone” (Kenny Loggins). Check him out on Youtube at Frog Leap Studios, I can almost guarantee that you will find one of his songs that you will like.

4. Red Sun Rising- Polyester Zeal

polyester-zealIf anybody reading this has read any of my other blogs then you know that I have an undying dedication to a band called Sevendust. What does this have to do with this band you may ask, well, Sevendust always manages to have an amazing bill when they tour, often including bands that are not quite stars yet, but have great music.

This last tour which I saw Sevendust live Red Sun Rising was one of the two openers that I really liked (the other being Gemini Syndrome). However, these guys stood out to me because they had a really good stage presence and the music to go with it. They blend some STP style rock and swagger with their own elements of good hard rock and melody. While there were technical issues (mics dropping out and even off stands) they took it in stride and played a pretty killer show. I bought their album on iTunes the moment they left the stage I was so impressed. If these guys don’t become huge in the next few years I will be seriously surprised.

Some notable tracks off of the album are the radio friendly singles “Amnesia” and “The Otherside,” “Emotionless,” and “Bliss.” However, the song that stands out to me and is my personal favorite from the set is “Worlds Away.” I’m not sure what it is about this song (possibly the groove, the lyrics, or just the overall mood) but I can’t help but sing along with it, which is always a good thing for music to be memorable.  Give it a listen and tell me that it doesn’t just have something to it that makes you like it.

5. Big Head Todd and the Monsters

bhtWe all have an artist that we listened to a long time ago but sometimes forget about because either our tastes change a new artist takes their place as the one we listen to a lot. For me, BHTM was one of those bands that I just kind of forgot about. Every now and then “Bittersweet” (their big radio hit from the 90’s) would come across the radio and I would remember how great a song it was, but that would be the extent of my thoughts.

However, this year I had a few pretty big life changing experiences and oddly enough I ended up re-discovering the band and caught up on the music that they have created since the 90’s. Looking back, I realize that a lot of non-alternative bands actually got lumped into the genre for no reason other than
that they became popular at the same time the movement was popular in the post-grunge landscape. Along with The Refreshments, Big Head Todd was one of those bands. Decidedly not alternative, but a blues rock band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters have kept producing albums and touring pretty successfully in the midwest for the duration. Each album they have written maintains a core of solid songwriting and blues solos that any good music lover can find enjoyable.

Along with “Bittersweet,” “St. Vincent of Jersey,” and “Please Don’t Tell Her,” one of my favorite songs of theirs is “Broken Hearted Savior.” Mentally, this is as close to a ‘Friend Zone’ anthem as you can get. It displays the broken-heartedness of being so close, yet held at a distance from someone that you care about. I could be way off base about the lyrical content, but that is what I get out of it. Here is a particularly good version recorded at Red Rocks.

2016 was a difficult on many levels for most of us, be it the death of musicians and actors or just on personal levels, but music is always a good place to find solace. The music I’ve written about above are just the newest additions to a large library of music that I find peace within. I hope that at least one of these artists help either inspire you to find new music or to rediscover some that you haven’t listened to in a while.

Anyway, that’s if for this time. As always, comments are welcomed.