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My Band Bucket List
Published on January 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my band bucket list - the bands I want to see before I die (or they die).

What inspired this post? Jane's Addiction's recent concert announcement, that's what. When I saw it, I almost screamed like a girl.

Click here to read about my band bucket list. 


My Jam Band Problem
Published on January 16, 2012 by guest author: Brian McElhiney

Disclaimer: The following is a rant that I’ve had in conversation with many friends (and enemies) over the past decade. I’ve never tried to articulate it in writing until now. I don’t mean to offend anyone, though I imagine this might offend someone. If you’re a fan of jam bands, I invite you to comment.

I’ve always been quite omnivorous when it comes to music - heavy metal, punk rock, “alternative,” classic rock, country, hip-hop, modern pop, blues, electronic music, jazz and classical all have representatives within my record and CD collections. And I always dread the question, “What kind of music do you listen to?” Because inevitably, I have to say, “Everything,” and that is one of the biggest cop-out answers ever. To me, that answer suggests that what you’re really saying is, “I’m too lazy to develop my own tastes in music so I just listen to whatever’s on the radio and hope for the best.”

And really, it’s not even accurate in my case, because there’s one genre of music that I absolutely cannot wrap my mind around — jam bands.

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There Are No Guilty Pleasures
Published on January 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the whole concept of the guilty pleasure, and why I've decided it's time to get rid of it. I also discuss the Bee Gees, Dirty Dancing and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

Here's an excerpt:

"I’m often quite strategic when putting together my Christmas list for my mother.

I always try to select a few serious items that she’ll be happy to buy for me, because of how reasonable and necessary they seem and because she knows I’m unlikely to buy them for myself. For instance, this year I asked for a new sleeping bag, to replace my old, tattered sleeping bag with the broken zipper.

I also like to pick out a few CDs for my parents to buy, and I consider Christmas a good time to get classic albums I wouldn’t ordinarily rush out to buy, but should probably have in my CD collection. My theory is that my parents are more likely to buy CDs by people they’ve heard of than CDs by alternative rock bands with strange and often unwholesome names, and in past years I’ve requested 'Pet Sounds' by The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash’s 'At Folsom Prison' and Rachmaninoff’s 'Piano Concert No. 3.' These are great works, and I’m happy to own them.

This year, though, I was a little embarrassed by my Christmas list CD pick.

I even contemplated omitting it from my list and asking for something more respectable, just to save face.

But in the end I decided to follow my heart, and that’s how I ended up asking my parents to buy me the two-disc Bee Gees greatest hits set, 'The Ultimate Bee Gees.'"

Click here to read more.


New Magnetic Fields
Published on January 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

The new song "Andrew in Drag," off the Magnetic Fields' forthcoming album "Love at the Bottom of the Sea," makes me think I need to get some music by this band as soon as possible.


I See Dead People
Published on January 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

This cool website takes famous album covers, and removes the images of musicians who have died. For instance, the famous "Abbey Road" album cover only features Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr - John Lennon and George Harrison have both been removed.

 


Winter Concert Preview
Published on January 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I preview the winter concerts I'm most looking forward to.

Click here to read it.


Not the Best Albums of 2011
Published on January 8, 2012 by guest author: Tony Are

This is the time of year that lots of folks attempt “best of” lists, but I think we've reached the point in the development of popular music (at least as a business) that this is pretty tough to do. The weird consolidation of the music “industry” into only three “majors” (you can read about how that happened here) and an almost infinite number of “independents” - many of which consist of a guy, a computer, and a website - now prevents any sweeping analysis of “the year's direction” and how albums and songs fit into that. Today it's pretty much all genres and subgenres, and I guess you could do a “best of the year list” for each one of those, but who has the time?

I was recently going back and reading some old Crawdaddy, Creem, and Rolling Stone magazines, and it's amazing to look at the differences between then and now. For one thing, music made just two or three years earlier was considered “old.” But in terms of “best of” lists, the most important difference was how “taste” was defined and codified. Early rock criticism was mainly about developing the music, exploring new directions, and finding better ways to articulate the cultural ferment going on in the country and the world, especially among younger people who in those days were the main audience for rock as popular music. Rock “critics” felt they had a different role than film or classical music critics. They did not think of themselves as “arbiters of taste” or a “buyer's guide,” because it was assumed that you had already bought the album. People reviewing "Sgt. Pepper's" in 1967 were not telling people whether it was “worth buying.” They were trying to get inside its head, and you were there, too, because you bought the album the day it came out. Everybody did.

But back to 2011. Nowadays reviewers do have to be a “buyer's” (or “downloader's”) guide. As opposed to a core of musicians and bands and ideas and everything radiating out from that, now you have, in the words of the Felt Letters' 2009 song, “600,000 Bands."

And all of them, it seems, are recording music and either distributing it through the three major labels (if it is deemed “commercial” enough) or distributing it in some way on their own (as exemplified by the Felt Letters themselves). And each band seems to exist in a kind of vacuum - there are exceptions, but generally you can't imagine an established modern band saying, in the way that '60s bands often did, “once we heard that Deerhunter (or Beach House or Vampire Weekend, etc.) album, we realized we needed to change everything we were doing.”

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Patrick Wolf is Awesome
Published on January 5, 2012 by Sara Foss

I just discovered British pop singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf, and have been listening to his music on YouTube. Wolf is known for combining electronica and classical instruments, and his music is so catchy and rich that I'm baffled as to why he isn't better known.

Check him out:


Chewbacca Sings "Silent Night"
Published on December 14, 2011 by Sara Foss


Five Songs
Published on December 14, 2011 by Sara Foss

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

None of them are by Coldplay.

Or Adele.

Click here to found out what they are.


Congratulations, Phantogram!
Published on December 12, 2011 by Sara Foss

Saratoga Springs, N.Y., band Phantogram has made Paste magazine's list of the 20 best new bands of 2011.

Check out Phantogram's new song, "Don't Move."


Giving Up On Reissues: When My Favorite Band Played Me For a Sucker
Published on December 11, 2011 by guest author: Brian McElhiney

As an unhealthily obsessed Nirvana fan, I often find myself feeling like a teenager with an unrequited crush. Not only that, but the object of my crush totally knows I have a crush on her, too, and she’s playing me for all it’s worth.

Back in the early 2000s, former Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl began hinting at an all-inclusive box set that would finally compile the band’s heavily bootlegged rarities in one place. Not only that, the set would include the final song the band ever recorded! I was ecstatic. No, scratch that. I was screaming, squealing — my little 15-year-old heart was doing somersaults and my stomach churned with the anticipation of what could be.

(Finally, she noticed me!)

And then Courtney Love, ex-wife of late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, decided she didn’t like that idea, and promptly sued Novoselic and Grohl to stop the set, and the new song, from being released. The two parties eventually settled, and a stopgap best-of, including the new song, “You Know You’re Right,” was released in 2002.

(OK, so she toyed with my heart, but hey, she did smile at me! There’s hope! Right …?)

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Christmas Music -- WTF?
Published on December 7, 2011 by guest author: Tony Are

I live in a large city (so large, in fact, that it is the largest city in the U.S.) and at this time of year every store, restaurant, outdoor vendor, elevator loudspeaker, subway busker and group of faux military-clad musicians on street corners are all playing Christmas music. In my immediate neighborhood on the main shopping strip, they have rigged up an outdoor speaker system that plays the stuff 24 hours a day at near heavy-metal volume. It has become a sort of surreal backdrop with different versions of the same song coming from a variety of sources as you walk down the street. It happens pretty much the same way every year, starting sometime after Halloween and ending rather suddenly on January 2nd.

Obviously, the point is mainly to get us in the mood to shop, and to create some patina of “Christmas Cheer” on the increasingly depressing daily grind that passes as a lifestyle for most people. But I have to admit I kind of like Christmas music. Certainly not all of it — in fact, not most of it. But there is just so much of it that even narrowed down to my very absolute favorites, it still would take about seven and a half hours to play all the way through the songs in my “Xmas Favorites” playlist in my itunes.

What has always intrigued me about holiday music is that it is kind of a challenge to songwriters and musicians. It's a very limited subject matter with a pretty specific set of rules, both sonic (more sleighbells, anyone?) and lyrical (it's better if you mention snow no later than the second verse). And unlike any other genre of music, no one holds it against you if you record the same song that hundreds of other people have already recorded.

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Black Keys Day
Published on December 6, 2011 by Sara Foss

In honor of the new Black Keys album "El Camino," here's the single "Lonely Boy."


Video Games Live
Published on November 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

Pianist Martin Leung plays the Super Mario theme song while blindfolded.


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