The Uberpop


10 Albums That Shaped My Decade

Posted in Uncategorized by theuberpop on January 5, 2010

Here they are in all their glory, 10 records that spoke to me in one way or another in the last decade.  Why, because every good American loves some nostalgia and slightly less than objective listing and ranking, and maybe I’m feeling a little nostalgic and slightly less than objective.  Disclaimer: I’m going to try to avoid buzz records that typically occupy these lists like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Kid A.  I love both of those records and hold them in very high esteem, but this list is more about my journey than my indie cred…it’s not like I had any to begin with.  I started the decade as a teen (exactly 13) and I’m wrapping it up at 23, so I obviously had quite a shift in mentality and maturity about halfway through.  So, here they are:

1) Foo Fighters, There is Nothing Left to Lose (RCA, 1999): I realize that this record was released in October ’99, but it almost hit the turn of the century and that’s close enough for me.  Possibly the most overlooked and underrated Foo album, this record was likely such because it was the followup to The Colour and The Shape, which honestly was impossible to follow up.  I was in the developmental stages of my guitar playing when this record came out, and these songs and the sounds on the record greatly shaped my musical perspective.  Who cares if it was a more organic sounding pop record that sounds like the polar opposite of its predecessor, it’s a really good pop record.

2) Coldplay, Parachutes (EMI, 2000): Let’s forget about the sea of backing tracks and the copyright infringement lawsuits, Parachutes is still a great record.  Johnny Buckland’s guitar work is inspired and the songs are solid.  Tracks like “Shiver” and “Don’t Panic” set off a shockwave of imitators still being felt today.

3) Saves the Day, Stay What You Are (Vagrant, 2001): I went through a breakup around the time that I bought this record (long after its release) and this record definitely helped me through a lot of that.  Melodramatic at times, wordy at times, but quite good nonetheless.  If only we could get rid of all the bands that this record inspired.

4) Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American (Dreamworks, 2001): One of the best pop/rock records I’ve heard to this day, the story behind the record is equally as inspiring.

5) Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism (Barsuk, 2003): Sonic landscape isn’t the right word, but it’s the first one that comes to mind.  At this point it seems that Gibbard and co. had honed their brand of pop song-ery and Chris Walla had perfected his studio craft; it was a perfect storm, an indie-rock miracle of sorts.

6) Matt Pond PA, Several Arrows Later (Altitude, 2005): This records lilts, jaunts and occasionally bounds through an indie pop candy-land that just makes you smile on the inside.

7) Switchfoot, Learning to Breathe (Rethink, 2001): It’s not the best sounding recording ever, but the songs on this record really spoke to me.  That, and apparently it’s cool to be super into the record before a band’s big major-label abomination.

8) The Killers, Sam’s Town (Island, 2006): I know, I know…but I really liked this record.  There’s no denying that “When You Were Young” has the makeup of an epic jam that will be playing on rock radio for the next 30 years, and that’s quite an accomplishment.  Is it a concept record?  Not really, but I’d be willing to bet that when future generations ask what rock music sounded like in the mid 00’s, they’ll put this record on.

9) Radiohead, In Rainbows (XXL, 2007): There’s been some trash talk about Radiohead recently, and though there is a bit too much hype surrounding these guys, they still make incredible music.  Though it’s not the “return to form” that critics keep clamoring for, it’s a more raw, visceral record than its three predecessors, with tracks like “Bodysnatchers” and the band’s 10-year-pressure-cooked “Nude” proving that Radiohead still understands how to best serve the song itself, something that most other musicians should take note of.

10) Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (Warp, 2009): Simultaneously cerebral and dreamy, this record will make you think as well as render you sleepy…it might even make you think in your sleep…wait…  An obvious product of extreme attention to detail in every facet of the songwriting and recording, Grizzly Bear actually lived up to some pretty serious hype…which is far too uncommon these days.  Hopefully they’ve set a precedent that musicians will be following in this new decade.

So, this was my decade musically.  Am I super proud of all the records on this list?  Well, some more than others, that’s for sure.  With that said, I’m optimistic and overall very excited about what is to come in this new decade.

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Weekly Mixtape 12/13-12/19

Posted in Weekly Mixtape by theuberpop on December 16, 2009

Christmas is less than two weeks away, and I’ve about had it with Christmas music.  Over the last 10 days, I have spent four of them playing “Christmas Gigs” (various gigs at which some form of Christmas music is played…depending on who you’re playing with and where you’re playing the arrangements of these songs can range from good to detestable.)  So I’m going to pretend it’s January for a minute and suggest you listen to something else:

1) “Dig a Pony” The Beatles, Let it Be…Naked (2003, Capitol): For whatever reason, I associate this record with this time of year (I think I got it for Christmas one year) and though it’s not considered the post-fab four’s best work by most, I feel that this remix does better justice to the songs and performances on this record than the original reverb and string-laden mix.  The stripped down mix draws a more raw, visceral tone from the songs.  That and, for whatever reason, I can’t get this song out of my head.

2) “Atoms for Peace” Thom Yorke, The Eraser (2006, XL): In the years between Radiohead’s Hail to the Theif and In Rainbows, the esteemed Mr. Yorke released this fine collection of bleeps, bloops and simultaneously frenetic and beautiful vocals.  In true Radiohead fashion, most of these songs fall carefully into a solid groove and perform some kind of sonic hypnosis on you and “Atoms for Peace” is no exception.  The rather unusual groove starts as unsettling and unstable but makes more and more sense the longer you listen to it…so…listen to it.

3) “Centennial” Tokyo Police Club, Elephant Shell (2008, Saddle Creek): Unrelentingly catchy, oddly syncopated, self-assured yet self-conscious and synth heavy…nope, it’s not The Killers, not even close.  On Elephant Shell, Tokyo Police Club honed their craft into a quirky pop sensibility that is absolutely undeniable.  This record is fun, lots of fun, and this track (the album opener) accurately sets the tone for the rest of the album.

4) “Just Like Heaven” Dinosaur Jr., You’re Living All Over Me (2005 [reissue], Merge Records): Legendary band, this track would be a more than viable candidate for best cover ever.

5) “Tombstone Blues” Bob Dylan, Highway 61 (1965, Sony): No explanation needed.

6) “Does He Love You?” Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous (2004, Brute/Beaute Records): Not quite a Beatles rip-off, although it comes close, this song is a painful kind of beautiful.  Following the two female ends of a love triangle and the fallout that ensues, but the track avoids the stereotypes of traditional “cheater songs” by dealing with the victims and consequences of infidelity rather than directly addressing the perpetrator.

7) “Flowers (Lullaby)” Jason Harwell, Rebuilt Family Sampler (2008, Rebuilt Records): Honest, understated, beautiful.  You win, Mr. Harwell.

The Problem with Musical Institutions

Posted in UberArticles by theuberpop on December 7, 2009

“The GRAMMYs are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.” (GRAMMY.com)  I’ll give you a minute to process that.

Everybody ready?  Excellent.  So, let’s discuss this year’s nominees (for the sake of everyone’s sanity I’ll focus on the big prize, “Album of the Year”.)  And the nominees are (thanks again to GRAMMY.com):

Album Of The Year
(Award to the Artist(s) and to the Album Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s)/Mixer(s) & Mastering Engineer(s), if other than the artist.)

  • I Am… Sasha Fierce
    Beyoncé
    Shondrae “Mr. Bangledesh” Crawford, Ian Dench, D-Town, Toby Gad, Sean “The Pen” Garrett, Amanda Ghost, Jim Jonsin, Beyoncé Knowles, Rico Love, Dave McCracken, Terius “The Dream” Nash, Radio Killa, Stargate, Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, Ryan Tedder & Wayne Wilkins, producers; Jim Caruana, Mikkel S. Eriksen, Toby Gad, Kuk Harrell, Jim Jonsin, Jaycen Joshua, Dave Pensado, Radio Killa, Mark “Spike” Stent, Ryan Tedder, Brian “B-LUV” Thomas, Marcos Tovar, Miles Walker & Wayne Wilkins, engineers/mixers; Tom Coyne, mastering engineer
    [Music World Music / Columbia]
  • The E.N.D.
    The Black Eyed Peas
    Apl.de.ap, Jean Baptiste, Printz Board, DJ Replay, Funkagenda, David Guetta, Keith Harris, Mark Knight, Poet Name Life, Frederick Riesterer & will.i.am, producers; Dylan “3D” Dresdow, Padraic “Padlock” Kerin & will.i.am, engineers/mixers; Chris Bellman, mastering engineer
    [Interscope Records]
  • The Fame
    Lady Gaga
    Flo Rida, Colby O’Donis & Space Cowboy, featured artists; Brian & Josh, Rob Fusari, Martin Kierszenbaum, RedOne & Space Cowboy, producers; 4Mil, Robert Orton, RedOne, Dave Russell & Tony Ugval, engineers/mixers; Gene Grimaldi, mastering engineer
    [Streamline/Interscope/Konlive/Cherrytree]
  • Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King
    Dave Matthews Band
    Rob Cavallo, producer; Chris Lord-Alge & Doug McKean, engineers/mixers; Ted Jensen, mastering engineer
    [RCA Records / Bama Rags Recordings, LLC.]
  • Fearless
    Taylor Swift
    Colbie Caillat, featured artist; Nathan Chapman & Taylor Swift, producers; Chad Carlson, Nathan Chapman & Justin Niebank, engineers/mixers; Hank Williams, mastering engineer
    [Big Machine Records]

There they are in all their glory, the top songs and albums of 2009 (according to the Recording Academy) listed “without regard to album sales or chart position.”  Now, let’s take a quick look at the top selling albums of 2009, thanks to The Chattanooga Pulse:

Top Selling Albums

1. Taylor Swift – “Fearless”
Sales in 2009: 1,316,000

2. Miley Cyrus – “Hannah Montana: The Movie”
Sales in 2009: 1,177,000

3. Eminem – “Relapse”
Sales in 2009: 1,169,000

4. Lady Gaga – “The Fame”
Sales in 2009: 976,000

5. Various Artists – “Twilight Soundtrack”
Sales in 2009: 971,000

6. U2 – “No Line on the Horizon”
Sales in 2009: 939,000

7. Nickelback – “Dark Horse”
Sales in 2009: 912,000

8. Rascal Flatts – “Unstoppable”
Sales in 2009: 825,000

9. Beyoncé – “I Am… Sasha Fierce”
Sales in 2009: 809,000

10. Dave Matthews Band – “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King”
Sales in 2009: 689,000

Notice anything?  Four of the five nominees are found on this list (#9, #4, #10 and #1 respectively), and the odd album out (“The E.N.D.”) has spent 25 weeks on the Billboard 200 album charts (debuting at #1 and bottoming out at #28 last week.)  One doesn’t remain on that list for that long without selling a serious number of records.  It would take a very naive individual to believe this to be mere coincidence.

If the Recording Academy wants to host a ratings-driven celebration of mediocrity and celebrity worship resembling a rerun of the MTV Video Music Awards, with preference given to the top of the top-sellers, that’s fine.  There’s likely enough money in the budget to stage another Kanye West/Taylor Swift bout.  I understand the critical condition of the recording industry and I’m sure some people in this crowd are having trouble paying the mortgage on their million-dollar homes, but I think many of us would greatly appreciate it if they would just be forthcoming with their intentions and dispense with the pretense of “artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence.”

Not to say that there wasn’t some incredible talent involved in the engineering/mixing/mastering of the nominated records (you know, the technical stuff that 13-year-old girls don’t care about), but the artistic achievement is in short supply here (I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure it takes a little more than a diamond-encrusted glove to create an “alter-ego.”)  Even the offering from the Dave Matthews Band is a bit of a soft choice.  Yes, I understand and appreciate that all musicians involved qualify at the virtuoso level, but this record – although better than much of their material released during this decade and certainly a more legitimate artistic offering than the other nominees – certainly wasn’t on par with some of the other “artistic achievements” of this year.

Where are the “buzz” artists who got all that “critical acclaim” in 2009: ie. Grizzly Bear, Phoenix, Wilco, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, even Jay-Z (although these artists are still very much a part of the “machine”)?  All of these artists released albums with far more artistic merit than the previously mentioned nominees.  Wait, you can find most of these artists…further down the page in the haystack of awards ascribed to an endless list of sub-genres that seem to exist solely as a means to placate people who don’t listen to top 40 radio.  As I scroll and scroll through this mess of oversimplification and, in some cases, complete misunderstanding of genre, a tiny thought breaches my consciousness and the longer I scroll, the more it makes sense: is it possible that we live in an era in which we are incapable of making bold statements like “these five artists made the best records of the year”?

I’ve addressed the issue of genre-disintegration before and the longer I sit with it, the more I feel, that because of the increasingly broad scope and subjective nature of what qualifies as “popular music” at this point in time, it is practically impossible to have a truly objective view of what would even begin to qualify a release as worthy of the title “Album of the Year” without glancing at chart position or album sales.  That’s how you know something has mass appeal, right?  But wait, we also live in a day and age where advertising and marketing dollars play more of a role in selling records than the artistic value of the product itself, which (in a very real way) discredits the correlation between artistic merit and album sales.  Also, the current financial state of the music industry being what it is, it is not lost on me that all five albums represented in the previously mentioned category are products of the major record labels (or subsidiaries of said labels) who hold a major stake in the Recording Academy, so it comes as no surprise that these labels are well represented in the nominations.  After all, the only way to save a billion-dollar industry that suffered a hemorrhage of $22 Billion+ in the last decade is through shallow pop songs and forced trends…not bold, artistic statements or music that may cause you to think a little.

So, what am I implying?  I suppose that the point of all this is to say that perhaps there was a time when the GRAMMY”S were a viable medium for commending musicians, composers and producers/engineers for outstanding work in their respective genres, but that institution seems to have lost sight of its purpose (if it ever truly lived up to it) due to the heavily commercial nature of the music industry and the splintering of musical genres into hundreds of different sub-genres.  Should we do away with the GRAMMY’s, or even the Recording Academy itself, altogether?  Maybe…maybe not.  What I do know is that what there is a notable discrepancy between what the GRAMMY’s propagate and reward and what their “mission statement” implies.  If this institution’s actual purpose is to honor those artists with more commercial value than artistic value, that’s fine.  Let’s just call it what it is.

The only Christmas Record worth buying…in my humble opinion.

Posted in Album Reviews by theuberpop on December 2, 2009

A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965, Fantasy)

Courtesy of Charles Schulz/Peanuts/CBS/Fantasy Records

The year was 1965, and although I wouldn’t be born for another 21 years, I was still heavily affected by arguably the greatest Christmas special and resulting soundtrack ever conceived by man.  You know what I’m talking about, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Not only is the the TV special the epitome of American Christmas Classic (the sucker still airs to this day and most kids still know about it or have seen it more than once), but the soundtrack (which will be the focal point of this review) created a holiday aesthetic that is absolutely timeless.

The legendary group behind the soundtrack, The Vince Guaraldi Trio, captured holiday classics like “O Tannenbaum” and “What Child is This” in arrangements that feel incredibly natural, it almost feels as if they couldn’t see playing the songs any other way (which causes these particular versions to feel definitive in a way, without being imposing.)  The recording exudes such excellence and attention to detail that it leads me to believe that the trio likely enjoyed the project and took great pride in each performance.  The performances themselves are incredible, all three musicians play very tastefully and fall gracefully into their respective roles in the ensemble.  Guaraldi, the west-coast based pianist and composer, did an excellent job of creating a clear cohesiveness between his arrangements of Christmas classics and the original pieces he composed for the cartoon, including “Skating” (which is my current ringtone), “Christmas is Coming” and the ever-popular “Linus and Lucy”.

To me, this album’s greatest achievement is that not one note seems forced, fabricated or cheesy.  The risky addition of a children’s choir on “My Little Drum” and “Christmas Time is Here” adds to the overall aesthetic without overdoing it.  Yeah, it’s kitschy, but it’s not over-edited (or under-edited…thank God) or overwhelming.  It just sounds like some kids (who have pretty good pitch overall) gathered around a piano singing their favorite Christmas songs, and it fits perfectly with the cartoon…which was the point, after all.  Overall, the presence of the kids adds a youthful, playful “vibe” to the record, it keeps it relate-able amidst the musical prowess of the trio (which at times seems a touch restrained for the ease of the listener, but that’s likely more appropriate for this setting.)  In my mind their voices are imperative to the success of the arrangement of “My Little Drum”, Guaraldi’s placement of the kids choir as part of the rhythmic backbone of the song is part of what makes that particular arrangement work.  Even the “Christmas pageant-ish” version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, the most pitchy (but not too pitchy) and troublesome track for the listener, earns its place on the album on the merit of its realism, the bare bones instrumentation of the kids singing the chorus accompanied solely by organ feels very much like something you’d encounter at your local Christmas Pageant (let’s be real, even I think that’s cute and I’m a 23 year old male).

I realize that this probably isn’t the most objective review ever, so we’ll say that I’m either exercising an increasingly trendy knack for nostalgia in an attempt to generate traffic or merely expressing my gratitude to a record that has been a huge part of my upbringing and has remained part of the national holiday consciousness for 44 years now, you be the judge (spoiler alert: it’s probably a bit of both.)  No, it’s not a perfect record, as if that’s even possible, but it is a great Christmas record (and you could count great Christmas records on one hand) that deserves to be part of everyone’s holiday tradition.  If timeless isn’t the right word, it’s not far off.

If you don’t own it already, do yourself and your family a favor and buy it on Amazon

-Justin (December 1, 2009)

Courtesy Charles Schulz/Peanuts/CBS

Weekly Mixtape for 11/22-11/28

Posted in Weekly Mixtape by theuberpop on November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  Here’s some Non-Christmas music for you…enjoy.

1) “Radio Radio” Elvis Costello, This Year’s Model (1978, Elvis Costello): Why not, right?  This guy is arguably one of the best songwriters of the last 30 years, was responsible for one of the best moments in any era of Saturday Night Live and married jazz/easy-listening piano cutie Diana Krall (but don’t be deceived, she can play circles around most of her contemporaries)…what’s next on the “bucket list” Elvis?  Swimming with 17 of the rarest dolphins and a talking whale in a pool of the world’s finest ginger ale?  Probably.

2) “Fight Test” The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battle the Pink Robots (2002, Warner Bros.): This selection achieves a tongue-in-cheek sonic landscape of pseudo-alt-country swagger with vibrant synthesizers bouncing in and out and lyrics about learning “to be a man” and how “to stand and fight” all in the presence of a studio engineered “live crowd.”  I’ll bite Mr. Coyne, I’ll bite.

3) “How To Be Dead” Snow Patrol, Final Straw (2004, Polydor): I understand that artists have to grow beyond what people expect of them, and I understand that sometimes this means tailoring your sound into something more commercially viable…this seems to be the way of the world.  It appears (from an outsider’s perspective) that Snow Patrol has taken the later route with the albums following their mainstream breakthrough, Final Straw.  I’d like to submit that the track (and album) in question are Snow Patrol’s creative peak [to date], blending post-Coldplay Brit-pop snark and the electronic savvy of producer Jacknife Lee with an end result that simultaneously had undeniable pop sensibility and real sonic grit without being overblown or pretentious.  It’s not quite lightning in a bottle, but it’s a more interesting pop record than most “Top 40” records cranked out since its release.

4) “Quiet Houses” Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (2008, Sub Pop): Beautiful, hypnotic, pastoral…maybe don’t get to invested in this song – or the record in its entirety, for that matter – while driving.  I’d love to think that people still know something well-crafted when they hear it, and this band’s recent blip on the national attention screen (ie. a performance on Saturday Night Live) last year did more than blow me away, it gave me hope for all humanity.  I’m psyched for the followup.

5) “Stars” Hum, You’d Prefer and Astronaut (1995, BMG): Cadillac commercials aside, this song is much bigger than the riff that launched a thousand imitators.  Dynamically, this song explores the extremes of “quiet-loud-quiet-loud” almost to a fault.  It’s refreshing to sit back and listen to something that demands a little effort to listen to, something that jumps out and scares the pee-pee out of you with the click of a distortion pedal.

6) “Bad” U2, The Unforgettable Fire (1984, Island): Yep, this record is 25 years old.  We can’t go back.  Because of this record and it’s followup The Joshua Tree every commercial on television and every song in the “Contemporary Christian” canon features a digital delay-ridden guitar and some hack trying to own Bono’s strained high C#.  I can’t bring myself to listen to it very often anymore (mainly because of the previously mentioned imitators), but it’s worth revisiting for the sake of reminding oneself why they’re the “biggest band in the world”…even after that record they put out in March.

7) “Maps” Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell (2003, Interscope/Geffen): The final note in this end-of-playlist string of startlingly good songs that will continue to be imitated for the next 20 years is a sensitive moment from 2003’s smart and abrasive (and I mean the best kind of abrasive) Fever to Tell, which boasts more soul and pure longing than any current pop starlet could ever halfway exude.  I’d encourage you to kick back, relax and forget that a certain “American Idol” (rather the people who wrote for a certain “American Idol”) flat out stole the bridge to this song and just enjoy it for what it is.

Gear Geekout Vol. 1: Session Arsenal

Posted in Gear/Technology Reviews by theuberpop on November 13, 2009

So…I’ve been a little busy recently.  This past week I played a session for a friend of mine, Sam Helig, and applied for a ton of jobs (such is the current climate of the music industry).  But hey, you’re not here to listen to me whine about that…let’s talk about some GEAR!!!  For the Sam Helig record (which I think is due out Christmas 2009/Early 2010-ish) we ended up running everything though my Goodsell Custom 33 head (the back of which is pictured below…please disregard my hair, I had yet to bathe) and THD 2×12 cab (not pictured).

Sam Helig Session Still 1

Guitar-wise, I relied heavily on my ’72 Telecaster Custom Thinline, but I also used my Fender Jazzmaster and Stratocaster.  We plugged in my ’02 Gibson Les Paul Standard, but it didn’t quite fit the vibe of the songs.  Between producer/engineer Paul Reeves and I, we had quite the selection of pedals to choose from.  I’m pretty sure every track I recorded was run through a vintage [Electro-Harmonix] Memory Man for depth of field.  Overdrive pedals included the awe-inspiring Greer Burning Goat and the Fulltone Twin-Drive.  There was a [Line 6] DL4, a Boss Phase-Shifter and a Tremolo pedal rounding out a few tracks.

Sam Helig Session Still 3

Overall, these were pretty straightforward sounds, but that’s what the songs called for.  We were mainly aiming for warmth and richness in all of sounds, and I think we hit that pretty efficiently, but you’ll have to wait ’til Sam’s record comes out to find out for sure.  OUT.

UberNews for 11/11

Posted in UberNews by theuberpop on November 11, 2009

My Morning Jacket to appear on American Dad, get a glimpse of it on Stewie’s Playground. (SPIN)

Death Cab for Cutie play Twilight mall tour (Stereogum)

Paste counts down the top 10 Food TV Shows of the decade, yum. (Paste)

Weekly Mixtape for 11/8-11/14

Posted in Weekly Mixtape by theuberpop on November 11, 2009

1) “Selfless, Cold and Composed” Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen (Sony BMG, 1997): Before Ben Folds was conducting ringtone orchestras on Myspace and covering Dr. Dre (which is a great cover, by the way) he made piano-pop hip in the late 90’s a prominent third of Ben Folds Five.  This particular record featured the single “Brick”, which garnered considerable commercial success…but that’s not what I’m concerned with right now.  “Selfless, Cold and Composed” stands out to me as a moment of real beauty on an already beautiful record (save for tracks like the abrasive “Song For The Dumped”).  Folds’ playing is reminiscent of Bill Evans or Vince Giraldi and although this may seem like a hackneyed format, there’s something about his juxtaposition of such depressing subject matter in such a vibrant musical setting.

2) “Shiver” Coldplay, Parachutes (Parlophone, 2000): This record was really important for me, and I still think this is one of the best songs in the Coldplay canon.  Do yourself a favor and forget about the overblown (and overrated) live shows and the law suits and sit back and remember why we fell in love with this band in the first place.

3) “Aurora” Foo Fighters, There is Nothing Left to Lose (RCA, 1999): This isn’t the record that most people think of when they think of the Foo Fighters, and that’s understandable.  It’s a very different record than its predecessor, 1997’s The Colour and The Shape, and the backlash associated with branching out heavily affected the band’s following effort, 2002’s One by One.  This song in particular is a more interesting diversion from Grohl and co.’s previous course, a delay-laden pop song about remembering possibly simpler, better times.  The outro, although pretty daunting, features some interesting noises that you’d only hear from a big-riff rock band stretching itself a little, and honestly I think that’s something worth commending.

4) “Here Comes Your Man” Pixies, Doolittle (4AD, 1989): Hopefully we all saw this band’s triumphant performance of this song on The Tonight Show last week…if you missed it, you can check it out on Pitchfork.  After that, you can find this song (or better yet buy this record) and embrace this heavily influential band.

5) “I’m a Loner Dottie, a Rebel” The Get Up Kids, Something to Write Home About (Vagrant, 1999): Don’t judge me, this song is awesome.  It’s loose, raw and devoid of any auto-tune, giving it more soul than most of the records in this genre that would follow.

6) “Believe Me Natalie” The Killers, Hot Fuss (Island/Def Jam, 2004): This is a particularly deep cut from the Vegas natives’ debut album, seeped in Brandon Flowers’ synthesized goodness and driven by Ronnie Vannucci Jr.’s pseudo-African drum line and Dave Keuning’s arena-ready guitar parts.  To me it’s the only Killers song to date that actually deserves the uber-Vegas horn parts stacked on top at the end.

7) “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” The Postal Service, Give Up (2003, Sub Pop): There have been rumors surrounding a possible follow-up to Give Up since they released it, but do we really need one?  This record spawned more imitators than you could shake a stick at (I’m talking to YOU Owl City) and generated so much hype that any follow up at all would likely be considered forced and inferior by most critics.  Granted, if anyone could rise above such lofty expectations it would be the members of this “imaginary band.”  While there is still hope, we should probably just pop this record in and enjoy this groove laden bit of emo-tronica we’ve been given.

Food for thought: Does Genre still exist?

Posted in UberArticles by theuberpop on November 10, 2009

For quite a while I’ve heard a number of people (musicians and not) bring up this notion of styles eventually “coming back around again” like fashion has trends that are in and out of season.  This was definitely true for a while, and I think this is at least in part due to both timing in the youth culture and technological developments in the field of musical equipment and recording tactics (there would be no Rock and Roll without electric guitars, no New Wave without synthesizers, no Hip-Hop without turntables and sequencers, etc.)  However, we now live in a world where you can find any genre of music created anywhere by anyone with a Macbook and a Myspace page.  I’m pretty sold on the idea that we live in a world where musically it’s all been done and now we’re left with subtle variations of genres and genre bending and blending (vis-a-vis bands like Vampire Weekend and The Roots).

I’m not at all debating or attempting to debunk the fact that musical genres are born out of a sort of “cross-pollination” with other pre-existing genres.  For instance,  jazz owes its roots to “field hollers”, “spirituals”, early blues and (to an extent) classical music (or “art music” to those with music degrees and that lovely sense of entitlement that only studying music at a collegiate level can bring).  The same is true of rock and roll (in the broadest sense of the term “rock and roll”, I’ll get into the whole “sub-genre” thing later), which owes its roots to the blues, folk and country music (these are broad generalizations here, don’t shoot me yet).

In this way one could argue that genre is cyclical in an evolutionary sense, genres adapting and breeding and evolving into other genres, although some genres and “factions” of music have fairly directly resurrected themselves, although much of this seems to be rooted in “sub-genre” – case in point the “British Invasion” of the 1960’s and the “Britpop” revival of the 1990’s.  In this particular instance you had bands of the later era (ie. Oasis, Blur, Suede, The Stone Roses, arguably early-Radiohead) more directly imitating their predecessors (The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who)…some bands’ imitations being more blatant than others.  Keep in mind that most of this is occurring just before the advent of the internet on a large-scale,  consumer-based level.

I truly believe that history will show that the dawn of the internet, more specifically music-based sites and applications like Napster, itunes, Rhapsody, etc. (basically any development taking control out of the hands of record labels) heralded the death of the old divisions of musical genre and the notion that a specific genre remains dominant in the marketplace ’til another is developed and takes its place (from Jazz to Rock to Hip-Hop, now that’s some bold generalizing if I’ve ever seen it).  We live in an era in which anything is possible in terms of musical experimentation – once again due to advances in technology, specifically the development of consumer-based recording technology readily available on most computers right out of the box, as well as the shift in culture that followed said changes (ie. social networking sites allowing musicians to promote their music without the machinery of a record label or PR agency).

Just look at the current landscape of popular music.  The top ten highest selling albums on itunes at this moment (1:10pm on October 31st 2009) include Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, Creed, Rod Stewart, Owl City and the New Moon Soundtrack (which is the smartest move that current indie-rock royalty including Death Cab for Cutie, Thom Yorke, Grizzly Bear and a slew of others could make in terms of making some serious bank…those 12-year old girls may only listen to that record once and hate it because it didn’t come from Disney, but by God they bought eight copies of it because Robert Pattinson was on the cover – I digress…).  This has to be the most random collection of artists I’ve ever seen.  You couldn’t possibly look at that list of artists and believe that we still live in a world in which a few broad genres dominate the musical landscape.

I realize that there are a number of what would be considered “rock bands” on that list, but I’d like to submit that “Rock” as a genre has splintered off into so many “sub-genres” that you couldn’t possibly argue that they belong in the same basic category.  If we were honest with ourselves we could say that the same applies to most other genres: Hip-hop/Rap, R&B, Country, Folk, Jazz, etc…you’re likely to find a smattering of elements from all of those genres, both in the general sense and on the level of “sub-genres”, on any single album released these days.

I’m not attempting to start a war here, just a discourse.  I think that this is a subject that should breach the consciousness of any musician, or any music fan for that matter, and that it’s worth pondering, fleshing out and discerning what that means for you and your “musical journey”, as it were.  I will say that it is absolutely true that certain genres sell better than others at any given point, but I honestly think that we live in a world where there is a market for any genre (granted, not all markets are as vast as Miley Cyrus’) but there’s definitely a niche market for just about anything conceivable out there.  What do you think, interweb?

UberNews for 11/6

Posted in UberNews by theuberpop on November 6, 2009

SPIN talks with drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. of The Killers about the band’s new live DVD, a possible cover album and singing in a basement with Tom Jones and Prince Harry. (SPIN)

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin to host the 2010 Academy Awards.  Fingers crossed that Martin’s band plays…seriously, they’re great. (Paste)

Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy to have a cameo in third Twilight film, think they’ll reunite to do a song for the way-cooler-than-the-film-or-the-story-itself soundtrack too? (Stereogum)

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