Sunday, July 18, 2010

Taken for a Ride

Some music stories are destined to be tragedies from the start.

"Pop" is a dirty word in most critic's circles. It evokes disdain and instant poor reviews. But what do you do with a band like The Cardigans? I mean, it's obviously Pop, but when you take in the fact that they're writing their own Pop, their own way, you can see why the jury is still out.

What I mean is Pop is usually written by a "machine"; expensive writers, producers, and guest vocalists/musicians all come together to force an artist on the general public. We are supposed to see just how amazingly "pop"ular that artist is. OMG, "insert Favourite Hip Hop/R&B star here" is on this track? Holla!

But the Cardigans have no guest stars, no guest writers, and no shame; They set out to write a hopelessly catchy and sweet album in "Life", and they prove they understand what real irony is. (Note to Hipsters: claiming to like something random from the 80's is not ironic, it's just annoying. Go back to playing with your iPhone. Now THAT's the ironic part).

Just one year before "Lovefool" would make the Corduroy Boys dance at the same time as the Crop Top Girls, "Carnival" came out. We didn't really embrace it in Canada, but we should have. And so should you.

"Carnival" by The Cardigans

Friday, July 16, 2010

Trapped. And I Like It.

Myself and Dave rarely disagree so sharply as we do about Blitzen Trapper. He can't believe I listen to this trash. Well, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

I found myself drawn back to the 90's when I heard them; You know, when "alternative" actually meant something. To me, it stood for(and still should stand for) artists that don't give a rat's bum about what might sell. It meant (and still means, and should mean) complete artistic freedom.

Blitzen Trapper runs the gambit; They don't care what's in, what's cool, or hell, they sometimes seem to not care about what sounds pleasing. They (in the immortal words of Big Audio Dynamite) just play music.

In "Wild Mountain Nation", we are treated to a journey down a southern gravel road. Smoking a joint on top of a hay bail in the back of a '68 F-100. Could we start a fire?

I don't give a truck. Just play music.

"Wild Mountain Nation" by Blitzen Trapper

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I Really Want

When the name "Muddy Waters" comes up, about 3 or 4 blues songs come to mind, and it seems that's the only thing the casual fan knows.

Well listen to this.

First, the scene opens on a poorly-lit, smoky jazz club in Chicago. That's right, Jazz. This is quite possibly the smoothest Blues you'll ever hear... The spotlight snaps on the trio of Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, and Fred Below. Little Walter's playing from the backroom, harmonica hauntingly echoing from down the hall.

The lights come up slowly on Muddy Waters, seated, with his guitar, at the front. This is a perfect moment for anyone who digs the history of blues, and it's all caught on a 10" 78.

"I Just Want to Make Love to You" - Muddy Waters

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Not Fade Away

I think sometimes there's a belief in the Singer/Songwriter genre these days that you have to be coffee-shop friendly... and that doesn't have to be an eye-rolling experience.

Julie Fader shows the modern, refined side of folk. Contradictory almost, I know. But eventually, we as music connoisseurs have to accept that our Sarah McLachlans and Alanis Morrissettes aren't "the bar" any more. They've been replaced with Julie Doirons and Neko Cases, and that's not a bad thing. We need to progress.

There's something about the warmth she brings; I hate the imagery of an oversized coffee cup being held in both hands, sitting on a fluffy chair in a big sweater, but I kind of understand that now... and that makes me shudder. But I'm okay with that.

Listen to "Maps" by Julie Fader

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baby, Nooo.

151 million views on Youtube. A writing and production team that includes The-Dream, Ludacris, and Christina Milian, so I guess if they were being paid $1 per view, they'd still need about 200 Million more views, but hey, gotta spend money to make money, right?

I understand criticizing Justin Bieber is like going to a 6-year-old's soccer game and saying that the skill level just isn't there... I know that the music wasn't supposed to be for me. I know it was supposed to appeal to the only people left with disposable income: Kids. I know they never set out to impress me.

"...You want my love, You want my heart
And we will never ever ever be apart...

And I was like
Baby, baby, baby ohhh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought you'd always be mine mine..."

All I ask is that we try a little. Try a little harder. Try to write a song again that appeals to young people and doesn't patronize them. Broaden their minds. This doesn't do that.

I know it doesn't set out to do that. But maybe, just maybe if our kids were a little smarter, they'd make the world a better place. And it starts with the music.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Greatest Pretender?

One thing that's never changed about music; The industry wants money. The only way to get that money? Churn out the hits.

Buck Ram saw what he needed in the Platters; flexibility and a desire to be successful... all he needed to do was encourage the enigmatic Tony Williams to join the band. The result? One of the greatest acts of the 50's, and the first black act of the rock 'n' roll era to top the charts.

For a disgustingly short time (they deserved more), the Platters made the hits Ol' Buck wanted. But doo-wop was just a style, and soon passed. But they left some great music behind.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sharon Learned the Hard Way.

When Sharon Jones last came through Edmonton, I heard heartbreaking news. She said that she wasn't sure she could tour with the band forever because her mom was ill, and needed her to take care of her.

This band tours in a van. No bus, no planes, no limos. The Dap-Kings are in huge demand because of their authentic sound. Do not call this a retro act. This is real, and this is what music is supposed to sound like.

When I ordered my first Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings album, It cost $45, and the staff looked at me like I was from Mars. When I bought my second Sharon Jones album, it cost me $20, and the staff jumped down my throat with "Isn't that a great album?". Yes. Just like the first one was a great album.

Don't pretend you know great music only after somebody tells you it's great. Form your own opinions, people. You don't like Sharon Jones? Fine. But she's real, and she kicks the crap out of any catchy pop or discordant indie band I've ever heard.

Hear it for yourself.