The Julie Ruin, Live
Published on April 3, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about Kathleen Hanna's latest band, The Julie Ruin.

Here's an excerpt:

"On Tuesday I headed to Easthampton, Mass., to catch the band The Julie Ruin at the Flywheel Arts Collective, an old church that has been converted into an all-ages venue.

The Julie Ruin is not especially well-known, although it should be: Their frontwoman is the legendary Kathleen Hanna, who founded the hugely influential punk band Bikini Kill, was a big part of Riot Grrl, the underground feminist punk movement of the 1990s, and later formed the electronica/rock/punk band Le Tigre. Full disclosure: Though I’ve long been aware of Hanna, I hadn’t listened to her music very much until recently, and I became more interested in her after watching the very good 2013 documentary 'The Punk Singer,' which tells her story. The Julie Ruin concert was announced around the time I saw 'The Punk Singer,' and I immediately bought tickets.

The Julie Ruin has one album, 'Run Fast,' and it’s very good — hard-charging, lyrically inventive, noisy yet surprisingly poppy and extremely danceable. At times, the band sounds a little like the B-52s, but with a rawer, punkier edge. Much of Tuesday’s show consisted of songs off the Julie Ruin’s album, as well as older Hanna material, such as the song “Radical or Pro-parental,” off her criminally unknown 1997 solo album, also titled the Julie Ruin."

Click here to read more.

Jonathan Richman, Live
Published on March 19, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about Jonathan Richman's recent concert in Albany, which was fantastic.

Click here to read all about it.

Power Ballads: An Addendum
Published on February 23, 2014 by Sara Foss

In response to my post on power ballads, my friend J.K. Eisen has put together his own list of favorite power ballads. Here they are:

“Here I go Again” by Whitesnake – A classic power ballad with a classic video. It’s hard not sing along. You know it’s a serious power ballad when the video shows three band members playing keyboard. “Is This Love?” also deserves an honorable mention.
“Forever” by KISS –I’m sure you guessed I’d get a KISS song in here. This was written by Paul Stanley and Michael Bolton. Yes, that Michael Bolton. They played this song at my very first KISS concert in 1990. It was all lasers and lighters as they played.
“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison – This one set the standard in the 1980s. We should all thank singer Bret Michaels’ girlfriend for breaking his heart and inspiring this song.
“Home Sweet Home” by Motley Cure – This song also comes to mind whenever I hear the term “power ballad.” When I saw them in concert two years ago, it was hard not to be impressed by the audience singing along to every word.
“Heaven” by Warrant – It’s only within the past few years that I began to appreciate this song. Warrant seemed to be aimed at teen and tween girls in the late 1980s. I believe it was seeing the song used in the “Rock of Ages” musical that made me take another look. The lyrics are vivid and memorable.
“Fly to the Angels” by Slaughter – There aren’t many power ballad videos with Amelia Earhart. Slaughter was among the few good pop metal bands to hit the scene in 1990 before grunge. Solid song here. Though, if I tried to sing along and hit Mark Slaughter’s notes, I’d end up in the hospital. Also, have you noticed how many power ballads mention driving?
J.K. Eisen writes about entertainment and the world around him. He lives in the Deep South. He also blogs at
Previous Posts By This Author: Nine Inch Nails Hesitates

My Favorite Power Ballads
Published on February 23, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I discuss some of my favorite power ballads.

Here's an excerpt:

"I didn’t become familiar with the term power ballad until college, when my roommate introduced it to me. Whenever one of her favorite power ballads came on the radio, she would turn it up and passionately belt out the lyrics. Her enthusiasm helped teach me that there’s no shame in liking power ballads, and that it’s great fun to shout along with them. And I do mean shout.

Anyway, the other day I came across an essay on the pop culture site Badass Digest making the case for Guns N’ Roses’ 'November Rain' as the greatest power ballad of all time. 'That’s a pretty good choice,' I thought. I’ve always loved 'November Rain,' especially all that crashing piano at the end.

But then I got to wondering whether I agreed with this assessment. Sure, 'November Rain' is a great song. But is it the best power ballad OF ALL TIME?

Now, the definition of power ballad is a bit nebulous.

According to the Badass Digest writer, Henri Mazza, 'There are several definitions, usually used to help sell different compilation albums and Time Life CD collections, but for the most part a power ballad is what happens any time a hard rock band slows it down a little bit and shows their soft underbelly so they can sing about love, heartache and emotions.'

This is actually a pretty helpful definition, as it helps distinguish power ballads from ballads, and explains why songs such as George Michael’s 'Father Figure' and Bette Midler’s 'The Rose' are generally left off power ballad compilations and lists — they’re too soft rock-y for inclusion. Of course, there are exceptions to the basic rules of power balladry: Many people consider Tina Turner’s 'We Don’t Need Another Hero' a classic power ballad, even though Tina Turner is hardly known for fronting a hair metal band, or singing hard rock."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Also, my friend J.K. Eisen has put together his own list of favorite power ballads. Click here to read it.

Five Songs
Published on January 29, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about five songs I'm really enjoying.

Click here to see what they are.

Favorite Albums of 2013
Published on January 14, 2014 by guest author: Eric Perkins

I'm foregoing a traditional Top 10 list this year and going for some completely made-up categories instead. I thought 2013 was a decent year for music. Nothing blew my mind, and judging by the look of other Top 10 (or however many) lists out there, there didn't seem to be much of a consensus about what was great. Anyway, here's some stuff I really liked:

Judith Hill, in Concert
Published on December 17, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about Judith Hill's concert in Hudson last weekend.

Click here to read it.

Five Songs
Published on October 31, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list five songs I'm totally enjoying at the moment.

Click here to see what they are.

Favorite Underrated Albums of the 1990s
Published on October 15, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my favorite underrated albums of the 1990s, such as "God Fodder" by Ned's Atomic Dustbin and "Star" by Belly.

Click here to read more.

Richard Thompson at The Egg
Published on September 30, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Richard Thompson/Teddy Thompson show at The Egg ... and list some bands/musicians I wish would visit the Capital Region.

Click here to read it.

Oneohtrix Point Never, Live
Published on September 16, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Oneohtrix Never Point show at EMPAC, which was pretty good.

Click here to read about it.

Nine Inch Nails Hesitates
Published on September 15, 2013 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

After Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails won the Best Metal Performance Grammy for 1992’s brutal and profanity-laced “Wish,” he jokingly said that his tombstone should read: “Said ‘fist fuck,’ won a Grammy.”

If the reviews for NIN’s latest album, “Hesitation Marks,” are any indication, he might want to add one more sentence: “Didn’t scream for almost an entire album, received critical acclaim.”

A lot has been made about the more mature, restrained sound that Reznor offers on “Hesitation Marks,” NIN’s first album in five years. When you’re a successful 48-year-old musician, a father and an Oscar-winning composer, it’s not convincing when your latest album rages about your misery.

But despite the accolades for “Hesitation Marks,” many of the songs tread familiar territory with less-than-compelling delivery. Some may say that Reznor is showing restraint, but the album’s title sums up much of the performance, which seems hesitant. It sounds as if Reznor’s attempt to avoid any sign of immature angst on the album excised some of the passion as well.


In Praise of Big Audio Dynamite
Published on August 27, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I sing the praises of Big Audio Dynamite II.

Click here to read the piece.

John Henry at Mass MoCA
Published on August 4, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the excellent John Henry-themed classic music piece "Steel Hammer."

Click here to read it.

Americanarama at SPAC
Published on July 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

What's it like to see Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Bob Dylan in concert?

Pretty darn cool, in my estimation. 

Here's an excerpt from my write-up at the DG:

"I’ve been out of the office and now that I’m back in the office, I’m swamped with work, which is why you haven’t heard much from me. But I did want to jot down some quick thoughts on Sunday’s Ryan Bingham/My Morning Jacket/Wilco/Bob Dylan concert at SPAC.

First of all, this is a killer line-up. And I really wanted to see Ryan Bingham, the young singer-songwriter with the weathered voice that provided some of the most haunting music for the film 'Crazy Heart,' for which Jeff Bridges won an Oscar as a down-on-his-luck country singer, and Bingham an Oscar for best original song. I got to SPAC pretty early, and caught all of Bingham’s set, which was great — I’d love to see him play a full set in a more intimate venue, such as Valentine’s or Linda.

Next up was My Morning Jacket, one of those highly-acclaimed bands that I’ve never been able to get into. For the most part, I find their music dull and somewhat droning. However, they played a pretty fun set, opening up their songs in interesting ways and experimenting in interesting ways. My Morning Jacket is really a jam band, and although jam bands tend to irritate me (you’d never catch me at a Phish concert), I found that an hour of My Morning Jacket was a pleasant way to pass the time. Some of their songs are surprisingly bouncy and upbeat; 'Off the Record,' a song I’m apt to change immediately if it ever comes on the radio, struck me as a feel-good summer anthem when performed live. (Sample lyric: 'Sorry ‘bout the things that I had to say/And I’ll make it up to you right now at the penny arcade.')"

Click here to read the whole thing.

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