2011: The Year Alternative Rock Died October 17, 2011Posted by Matt in music.
Tags: alternative rock, eulogy, R.E.M., Sonic Youth
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Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great sadness and heaviness of heart that I stand before you today, lamenting the loss of our dear friend, Alternative Rock. Yes, for some 30 years you have regaled us with discordant phrasings and sometimes indecipherable lyrics, with atonal musings and nose-driven angst, but alas, all good things must come to an end.
Though we hoped for the best and wished that things could be different, we all knew this day was coming. When R.E.M. disbanded a few weeks ago we gathered around your bedside, whispering encouragement, holding your hand, praying for a miracle, but over the weekend, with the breakup of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon after 27 years of marriage, we knew it was the end. As you spirit flew from this world and into the great nether, we stood side-by-side, struck with the realization that it was over. Things would never be the same.
So, we say goodbye to the nasally, sometimes mumbling voice of Michael Stipe over Peter Buck’s jangling, arpeggiated guitar. We bid adieu to Sonic Youth’s atonal, noise-riddled beauty.
Rest in peace. Thank you for giving us an alternative.
Maybe the 80′s Weren’t So Bad After All August 26, 2011Posted by Matt in music.
Tags: 1980's, Beastie Boys, Prince, public enemy, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, top 50 albums
Helping my daughter put together a 1980’s playlist for her birthday party caused me to take a few moments to reflect on the music from that much-maligned decade. It’s a time that can be easily discarded (believe me, I’ve done it) for being full of frivolous pop music, a label it most certainly deserves. But, at the same time, there were a multitude of great things being done below the surface, where weirdness and creativity thrived. So, I decided to put together a top ten albums list for the 80’s, but that proved to be quite difficult when I considered the sheer volume of tunes, so I soon discarded that as well as a top twenty, before finally settling on a top 50 albums of the 1980’s list. At this time, I don’t have time to tell what attracts me to each of the choices on this list, so I’ll have to leave it up to you to listen to them and make your own decision.
50. Living Colour – Vivid (1988)
49. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1982)
48. Anthrax – Among the Living (1987)
47. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton (1988)
46. Nirvana – Bleach (1989)
45. Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood (1989)
44. Pixies – Doolittle (1989)
43. Sonic Youth – Evol (1986)
42. Husker Du – Zen Arcade (1984)
41. Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)
40. Iron Maiden – Powerslave (1984)
39. Grateful Dead – Reckoning (1981)
38. Dinosaur Jr. You’re Living All Over Me (1987)
37. The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)
36. Bad Religion – How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (1981)
35. The Police – Ghost in the Machine (1981)
34. U2 – War (1983)
33. Dwight Yoakam – Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. (1986)
32. Eric B & Rakim – Paid in Full (1987)
31. Joy Division – Closer (1980)
30. Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil (1983)
29. Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine (1989)
28. Steve Earle – Guitar Town (1986)
27. Metallica – Ride the Lightning (1984)
26. Peter Gabriel – So (1986)
25. Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Oz (1980)
24. Prince – Purple Rain (1984)
23. Megadeth – Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (1986)
22. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA (1984)
21. Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)
20. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
19. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)
18. R.E.M. – Murmer (1983)
17. Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom (1982)
16. Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)
15. Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986)
14. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985)
13. Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
12. The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (1986)
11. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)
10. Jane’s Addiction – Nothing Shocking (1988)
9. U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)
8. Guns N’ Roses 0 Appetite for Destruction (1987)
7. The Clash – London Calling (1980)
6. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982)
5. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988)
4. Prince – Sign ‘o’ the Times (1987)
3. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
2. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
1. R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
What would you add to the list?
Ten for Tuesday: 1990 July 13, 2010Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: alice in chains, Black Crowes, Firehouse, Garth Brooks, Jane's Addiction, MC Hammer, Megadeth, Nelson, Pantera, Pixies, Poison, public enemy, Sonic Youth, top ten, Uncle Tupelo, Vanilla Ice
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Are you ready for a new series of sorts? Welcome to the top ten time machine.
Today I thought that we could take a step back in time for our list, a leap of 20 years in the past to 1990. In 1990, I was 13 years old, in the seventh grade at Beebe Junior High, and already had one of the largest cassette tape collections of any of my friends. To commemorate this year bridging the gap between the big hair of the 80’s and the sullenness of the 90’s, we will be taking a look at the music released during that 365 day period. Later on I’ll do the same with movies.
Top 10 Albums Released in 1990
10. Alice in Chains – Facelift
A precursor of the grungy early 90’s, Jerry Cantrell’s sludge-rock guitar riffs fill up whatever space is left over from Layne Staley’s growling vocals. Though this work is not up to the same level as 1992’s Dirt, it is still good and contains some of their best known songs like “Man in the Box” and “Bleed the Freak.”
9. The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker
Chris Robinson’s band takes the hazy, reverb-drenched rock sounds of times past to a new era, channeling the Stones and countless others in their rumble to the top. Over the past twenty years, the Crowes have proven themselves to be among the standard-bearers of the classic rock sound and that is no more evident than on this work, with songs like “She Talks to Angels” and a great cover of “Hard to Handle.”
8. Pixies – Bossanova
When music historians look back at the most important bands of alternative rock, one of the names high on the list will no doubt be the Pixies. Their stamp is all over the boom of bands in the early 90’s and you can see why on this work with tunes like “Velouria” and “Dig for Fire.
7. Pantera – Cowboys from Hell
Dude, when it comes to metal guitar there was nobody like the late Dimebag Darrell. This album still amazes me today and there is a good possibility I’ll be listening to it any time you come by my house when I’m working out. “Cemetary Gates” may very well be my favorite heavy song of all time.
6. Megadeth – Rust in Peace
Dave Mustaine is the king of making metal with a social conscious, and that is no clearer than it is on Rust in Peace, which may be the magnum opus of a long and fruitful career. I had the chance to see them perform this entire album live last year and believe me, it is still awesome.
5. Garth Brooks – No Fences
How can you possible be a country music fan in the South and not mention this album when talking about the early 90’s? You could not avoid this 20 years ago, but with songs like “Friends in Low Places,” and “The Thunder Rolls,” why would you have wanted to?
4. Sonic Youth – Goo
Another band that will no doubt appear on the aforementioned list of the most important bands of alternative rock, Sonic Youth blew it out of the water with this, their follow-up to 1988’s classic Daydream Nation. With loud guitars, curiously strange tunings, and great songs like “Kool Thing” and “Dirty Boots,” the bands influence goes far beyond album sales.
3. Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
Some movements are started with bombastic writings and some with angry mobs and pitchforks – Uncle Tupelo mixed a together a banjo with a distorted guitar and created a genre, alt-country. The dual genius of Jay Farrar (Son Volt) and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) was destined not to last, but at least we got great songs like “Graveyard Shift” and “No Depression” out of it.
2. Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual
It is a shame that the career of Jane’s Addiction was so short and tempestuous, but the small amount of music they did release was so incredible and so far beyond its time, that it’s almost a good thing they weren’t around to disappoint. “Stop” is one of the best opening tracks ever.
1. Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet
Forget the cartoonish reality television star that Flavor Flav has become in recent years, 20 years ago he and Chuck D set an incredibly high bar in the world of rap music, one that few have reached in the two decades since. “Fight the Power” still gets me riled up today.
In addition to that, here are five albums released in 1990 that I owned back then, but wish I could say I didn’t.
5. Poison – Flesh and Blood
This was the point where Posion first tried to transition, at least partly, from being a good times hair band of the 80’s to something more serious. No thanks, it makes me want to pull out Look What the Cat Dragged In again…
4. Firehouse – Firehouse
Yes, I did own this piece of garbage. In my defense, though, I was only 13 or 14 at the time!
3. MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em
Seriously, everybody within a few years of my age owned this one in 1990, so leave me alone while I try to make myself forget it…
2. Nelson – After the Rain
Why did I own Nelson? I have no idea, except that maybe the girls in junior high liked them.
And, of course, number 1 has to be…
1. Vanilla Ice – To the Extreme
Wow, this was so bad it was beyond comprehension, but again, who didn’t own it in 1990? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Next: Movies in 1990
Best of 2009 in Music – The First Ten December 29, 2009Posted by Matt in Best of 2009.
Tags: Blakroc, Dave Matthews Band, Jason Isbell, Metric, neko case, Sonic Youth, The Decemberists, The Raveonettes, U2, Wilco
2009 was quite a year in the music world, one that was filled with superb high profile releases and great recordings by artists toiling under the radar. I purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 new albums over the past year, most from either emusic or Amazon, and I have whittled that list down to 25 that I will present now as the best of the year. Yesterday we looked at five honorable mentions and today we will delve into the first 10 albums, those ranked 11-20 on our list.
20. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
I first came into contact with Jason Isbell’s music during his tenure with one of my favorite bands of the past decade, the Drive-By Truckers, so it goes without saying that I have also followed his solo career closely. This time around Isbell ratchets up the southern rock another notch, to a level that almost rivals his former band. It’s another great work from a real up-and-comer on the scene.
Download: Seven-Mile Island, However Long
19. The Raveonettes – In and Out of Control
The last album from The Raveonettes, 2007’s Lust Lust Lust, seemed to make the female-lead band an heir apparent to the shoegazing movement, that genre best defined by bands like Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Like the aforementioned bands, their sound was an atmospheric blend of loud guitars and ethereal vocals that worked well and was a bit nostalgic to those of us who came of age in the 90’s. For their latest release, the band has taken a slightly different turn, making songs that can stand alone and do not need the album context to be recognized as good. To me this album sounds more like the band Garbage than it does pure shoegazing, and that’s a good thing.
Download: Bang!, Last Dance
18. Sonic Youth – The Eternal
These legends of noisy alternative rock have been relatively quiet over the past decade or so. Long gone are the halcyon days of the 80’s with their wild musical experimentation and the 90’s with their MTV video rotation, but after nearly 30 years Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon continue to plug away. This album marks a remarkable return to form for these oft-lauded figures, now well into middle age, and we are all better for it.
Download: Sacred Trickster, Leaky Lifeboat
17. Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King
Throughout the decade, DMB continued to be one of the greatest live acts around, regularly performing to sold-out crowds around the world, but, despite this popularity, the quality of their studio recordings took a hit. It seemed as though they would never again capture the magic of their albums from the 1990’s, at least it did until they released this gem. Big Whiskey was recorded following the death of longtime saxophonist Leroi Moore and though that cloud of sorrow hung over the band, their creativity must have been rejuvenated because this is, without a doubt, their best album in a decade.
Download: Shake Me Like a Monkey, Why I Am
16. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
If there is a more unlikely success story than that of the Decemberists, I don’t know what it is. Their style is nothing like most mainstream artists and they have just released a second consecutive concept album telling a very strange story. Their last work, 2006’s The Crane Wife, was one of my favorites of that year and this later work, while not quite as good as Crane, is still very interesting and different. The Hazards of Love tells the story of a woman named Margaret who falls in love with a shape-shifting forest creature named William. It should also be mentioned that the best song on the album, “The Rake’s Song” is probably the catchiest song ever written about infanticide.
Download: The Rake’s Song, Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
15. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
I know it is cliché to say that you could listen to someone sing the phone book, but I truly feel as though I could listen to Neko Case, with her soaring vocals, take on anything and love it. I first began listening to her following the release of 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and quickly fell completely in love with her voice. This album continues in the tradition of her other solo albums, telling dark tales with a Southern kick while employing her huge, room-filling voice. I had the chance to see her earlier this year at a show here in Memphis and let me tell you, this woman is amazing.
Download: This Tornado Loves You, People Got a Lotta Nerve
14. U2 – No Line on the Horizon
I’ve been listening to U2 for a long time now and I would definitely count myself a fan of their songs. But while I love several of their individual songs, I have usually found their complete albums lacking. I mean, even The Joshua Tree is terribly front-loaded. Now that that is out of the way, No Line on the Horizon is, without a doubt, their finest work since 1991’s Achtung Baby. There are some truly great songs on here, some that nearly rival the best of their past works.
Download: Magnificent, Moment of Surrender
13. Blakroc – Blakroc
The collaboration of rap and rock music has a spotty history. On one hand, you have a great genre-bending band like Rage Against the Machine or an inspired team-up like Anthrax and Public Enemy or an accomplished rapper like Jay-Z who seamlessly blends rock guitar into his compositions. On the other hand you have Limp Bizkit. Blackrock continues the tradition in a good way, this time teaming blues-rock aficionados The Black Keys with an assortment of rappers, including Mos Def, Q-Tip (from A Tribe Called Quest), Ludacris, and an assortment of Wu-Tang Clan members like ODB, Raekwon, and RZA. Some of the tracks may be better than others, but the great ones are truly great.
Download: Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo), Hope You’re Happy
12. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
With their latest release Wilco continues to hold their position as one of the best and most interesting bands in the music world today. There has been no greater voice in the alt-country world over the past 15 years than that of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. This latest release harkens back to their first few albums, with happier, more joyful sounding songs than any we’ve heard since the release of their magnum opus, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Download: You and I, You Never Know
11. Metric – Fantasies
This Canadian indie rock band made a few waves this year with songs that ended up on the soundtracks of various television shows and movies. Their synthesizer-driven rhythms and danceable beats mix with vocalist Emily Haines in such a way that their music is irresistible. You definitely need to check them out. Between this band and government-run health care, Canada has a lot going for it.
Download: Help I’m Alive, Sick Muse
Stay tuned for the top ten…
Free Music Friday – The Eternal Sonic Youth July 31, 2009Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: music video, Sacred Trickster, Sonic Youth
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I’ve been a fan of Sonic Youth’s brand of experimental rock for some time and was pleasantly surprised that their latest release, The Eternal, was an excellent return to form for the band. After more than 25 years they’re still going strong.
Ten For Tuesday: Music to Play LOUD! July 28, 2009Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: albums, Beastie Boys, Black Keys, Green Day, guns n roses, Jane's Addiction, loud music, Pantera, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Sonic Youth, The Hold Steady, volume
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What is it that makes us want to turn some types of music up loud, raise a fist in the air and rock out? There is just something about it that makes us want to blast the decibels to an extreme, eardrum-bursting level and lose ourselves in a cloud of crowd-pleasing power chords. Some albums are just that way and, despite the fact that they will no doubt contribute to me needing a hearing aid by the age of 40, I’m glad to have them. Below are ten albums, in no particular order, that I love to blast out loud. Enjoy.
10. Beastie Boys – License to Ill
I thought about including my favorite Beastie’s album, Paul’s Boutique, but their testosterone-fueled party anthem-filled debut seemed more applicable in this instance. Just try to keep the volume low on classic songs like “Rhymin’ and Stealin’,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” “Brass Monkey,” or “Fight for Your Right,” it can’t be done.
9. The Black Keys – Rubber Factory
You can’t go wrong with this loud and crunchy blues-rock duo, whose Jimmy Page-like blues riffs can knock anybody flat on their back. From the opening track, “When the Lights Go Out” (If you’ve seen “Black Snake Moan,” you’ve heard it) through the rest of this great collection, they hit as hard as anyone in the business today.
8. Pantera – Cowboys from Hell
This one will take you back. Pantera burst on the scene with this blast of aggressive metal in 1990 and it still resonates today. Dimebag Darrell was one of the most distinctive guitarists of an era and Phil Anselmo’s vocals are rife with unbridled fury. I put this album, with great songs like “Psycho Holiday” and “Cemetary Gates,” on when I’m tired at work. It perks me right up.
7. The Hold Steady – A Positive Rage
The Hold Steady have been called the greatest bar band in America and this live collection displays them in all of their ragged glory. Songs like “Stuck Between Stations” and “Massive Nights,” are meant for playing in noisy bars with amps turned up loud.
6. Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking
There are few songs from the past 20 years that are more mind blowing than “Mount Song” turned up as loud as it will go. Just try it out and thank me later.
5. Radiohead – The Bends
The first of Radiohead’s incredible trilogy of albums from 1995-2000, this strongly rivals OK Computer as the best work by the greatest band in the world. The intricacies of this album cannot be heard at low levels, just pump it up loud and lose yourself in the sonic goodness of “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees.” It is an experience not to be missed.
4. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
I admit that I didn’t always appreciate the artsy noise-rock of Sonic Youth. Today I don’t know what I would do without them. This breakthrough album from 1988 is a blast from the beginning with “Teenage Riot” to the 14 minute “Trilogy” at the end.
3. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine
This debut from everyone’s favorite rap-rock Marxists is violent, rage-filled shotgun blast that took the country by storm in the early-90’s. “Killing in the Name Of” is, without a doubt, one of the greatest, loudest anti-authority anthems ever put down.
2. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
What do you get when you mix 70’s stadium rock, punk sensibilities, and a good dose of sleaze, drugs, and debauchery from the streets of L.A.? Guns N’ Roses. And this is definitely their best work. “Paradise City” is one of the greatest rock anthem ever recorded and it cannot be played at low levels.
1. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
Not the best collection on the list, but it is my favorite from the current year and I happen to be listening to it right now, so this incredible concept album definitely needs a spot. Like many others on the list, this album is meant to be experienced as a whole, so I would encourage you to eschew the Itunes-fueled idea of downloading individual songs and get the entire thing. You won’t be disappointed.
What about you? What do you like to turn up to 11?