Everyone has to start somewhere. Every artist and every band you love has a genesis story. Some bands played bars for years before they made it. Some have had to totally reinvent themselves, and some were doomed from the start. I’ve been pretty cynical of new music, but most of our “new music” is determined in Hollywood behind closed doors. Wanna hear the real pulse of your city? Take a walk downtown on a Friday night, pop into a bar, and see what’s going on. You’ll also tend to find music at its purest in (and on) this stage; music created by people in love with their songs, and the art form. This is my plea to remember to support local music, and an introduction to the next phase of our saga. Enter The Implications: a band that’s dusting off an impressive list of accolades with their freshly pressed EP, Songs About Last Night. Let’s check it out!
Welcome to this week’s installment of “Dom finally listens to albums the world has been raving about for years.” I don’t think it’s possible to have avoided The Arctic Monkeys. I can almost promise that someone you know is fascinated by them. I had a sense of their popularity, but I didn’t realize that what I was about to experience is the fastest selling British debut album of all time. Whatever People Say received a moderate yet impressive reception in North America, but across the pond, Whatever People Say was a smash, selling 1.5 million copies as opposed to 300,000 in the US. The only introduction I can offer this album: it may be the most British thing I’ve ever heard!
Have you heard of this one? We’re gonna wrap up our rap foray with an album that needs no introduction. Everyone knows Kanye. Everyone knows Stronger. Most purposed music listeners will know of Graduation. There isn’t much of an excuse for not having heard it by now. I’ll tack this up to a self-indulgent week on my part, but there’s a bit more to this album. There’s a reason that (almost) triple platinum #1 albums sell as well as they do. Why did this one?
Sometimes life happens, and sometimes E3 happens. But while we’re waiting for Fallout 4, we’ll take it down a notch and settle into a selection from Gregory Alan Isakov. Sometimes the best way to change things up is to dive in head first – no preconceived notions. Such was my introduction to The Weatherman, but I wouldn’t say it affected my experience of the album. If anything, it caught me off guard, and taught me lessons beyond the music.
FLOCKA! What am I doing listening to gangster rap? I had a good time this week. We’re going to continue the rap trend and diversify all whilst recognizing success and accomplishments. Waka Flocka Flame’s ridiculousness drew me in. I’m a suburban white kid. I don’t identify with the music. I was audibly laughing at the absurdity of these songs long before I decided to start reviewing albums. I’m sure I’ll get you laughing too, but there has to be more to it, right? Flockavelli, Waka’s initial offering, debuted at #6 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums. This isn’t an unpopular album. The challenge to myself was to find out why, and as mentioned, I had a lot of fun doing it. BOW!
The Donald Glover hype train is real. I just hadn’t hopped on board yet. The man is already prolific across multiple mediums: an actor on the TV show Community, a stand-up comic, and now with his music career under the Childish Gambino moniker. Not only that, but he’s also been a TV writer, and contributor to Derrick Comedy, a popular YouTube channel. Donald has been sought after for one reason or another. I’ve only had a brief look at the 31 year old’s resumé, and I was surprised at how far his reach extended. So I figured it was about time to dive in and find out why.
I’ve been pretty partial to punk music recently. There’s something about the medium that honestly and transparently communicates sincerity. Sure, to the untrained ear, it’s raw aggression and rather sloppy noise. But there’s more depth than that. Although not exclusively, punk can be an incredible vessel for getting your thoughts and ideas out to the world. But The Distillers are a bit different. Well, there’s one obvious difference: Brody Dalle leads this female-fronted assault of energy. There’s a weird disconnect in the punk scene where the seemingly inclusive can quickly turn unwelcoming to change or adversity. I was anxious to see if The Distillers could toe that line. And I definitely found out.
I’d hope this man needs no introduction. Pop music has started to meld with the new age of EDM that’s cropped up in the past decade or so. One of the many benefits includes the exposure of regular Joes to a new genre of music. Along with that, it unearths an entirely new culture, aesthetic, sound and scene, and gives well-needed exposure to an art that’s matured greatly with the advent of digital music production. That’s where Deadmau5 slots nicely. I’ve always thought of him as a stepping stone of sorts: Joel’s music is by no means pop, but his brand of House lends itself to the mainstream with its simple structure and accessibility. But until last week, I’ve been shy to it. I’ve managed to go this long without hearing a single song of his from start to finish. That changed. And so did my opinion of Deadmau5.
If you don’t recognize the significance of the Blues on today’s music, you’re a few pieces short from the puzzle. I admit, I was a stubborn teenager. I didn’t get the Blues (which is not a good thing as a guitar player). These guys manage to pick up the same chords, same structures, and same notes, and recycle it. And recycle it. I felt like I’d heard it all before. That’s… not exactly wrong from a classical perspective, but it omits a key element: the human feel. Blues is about more than the notes on the paper. The structure of the Blues opens the door to freedom of improvisation and expression. Blues is easy to play, but hard to feel. You won’t find anything more raw, natural, and transparent than the New Orleans sound. Enter Allen Toussaint, a man who’s career helped shaped the sound of New Orleans. And this one hits deep.
Put two people in the same room. Musicians, engineers, or even your regular Joes. Pick a song. Play the same song twice. The second time, turn it up by just 1dB. Now, tell everyone you made some changes, and ask them which track sounded better. Almost always, the response will be that the louder track sounded better. Why? Without getting into the science, our ears are tuned to recognize sound more evenly across the frequency spectrum at higher volumes (up until the point of causing damage and hearing loss). Record execs realized this a long time ago. Ever listen to a song from the 70’s and notice it’s a fair bit quieter than modern music? We’ve been making music louder and louder over the past few decades, but we might have plateaued – for better or for worse. Hopefully for the better.