Archive for July, 2011

Some Great Upcoming Releases

Posted: July 23, 2011 in News Updates

I am looking forward to the release of the following albums:

Neighborhoods by Blink-182:  Neighborhoods will mark Blink’s first major release since their 2003 self-titled album and is expected to be released on September 27, 2011.  The first single off the new record, “Up All Night” hit iTunes on July 14, 2011.

Up All Night – Single (I do not own this image)

Sky Full of Holes by Fountains of Wayne: Rolling Stone gave the New Jersey quartet’s upcoming release, expected to hit the shelves on August 2, 2011, 3.5/5 stars.

Sky Full of Holes (I do not own this image)

I’m With You by The Red Hot Chili Peppers:  This will be the Chili Peppers’ first album since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium and their first with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and will hit the stores on August 30, 2011.  The first single, “The Adventures of Raindance Maggie” was released on iTunes on July 18, 2011.

I'm With You (I do not own this image)

Watch the Throne by Kanye West and Jay-Z:  This collaboration will hit the stores on August 1, 2011.  The first single, “H.A.M.“, was released on January 11, 2011.  Another song, “Otis (feat. Otis Redding)”, is available on iTunes. Also, keep an eye out for Kanye’s new solo album, which should arrive before 2011 comes to a close.

Watch the Throne (I do not own this image)

The Black Keys 7th Studio Album: The duo from Akron, Ohio have completed their new album and expect to release it by the end of 2011.  According to guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach, unlike 2010’s Brothers, which was largely blues-based,  this album is filled with mostly rock ‘n roll tunes.

The Offspring’s 9th Studio Album:  According to Offspring band members, the group has been working on a new album and expects to release it sometime in 2011.

Queens of the Stoneage’s 6th Studio Album: According to singer and guitarist Josh Homme, the album will be released before the end of 2011.

Coldplay’s 5th Album: Now, I,personally,am not a fan of Coldplay.  However, I can respect them as a band and understand that many are fans.  So, with that in mind, Coldplay’s new album will be released on October 24, 2011.  The first single, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”, hit iTunes on June 3, 2011.

I did not include every upcoming album;  I only discussed some of the releases that I consider important.  Let me know if I’ve missed anything good in the comments section.

(I do not own any of the photographs of album arwork.  All of these images are owned by the respective artists, record labels and websites from which I retreived the images.)

The Rolling Stones (singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, guitarist Ron “Ronnie” Wood, and drummer Charlie Watts) have gained immortal recognition after first surfacing in 1964 with their debut album, The Rolling Stones.  Nearly fifty years later, The Stones are still active and after releasing countless more classic albums and amazing hit singles, are credited with being one of the greatest Rock and Roll bands of all time. Despite this status, fifty years is a long time, and music buffs are starting to wonder is it time for the Rolling Stones to close up shop?

Charlie Watts (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

During a recent interview, Keith Richards mentioned an upcoming Stones tour in 2011 and the possibility of a new album the following year.  There is no question that these shows will sell out quickly, though, because of the band’s former glory as opposed to the band’s more recent achievements.  People want to see the stones for what they were in their earlier years, not what they are today. Is this upcoming tour going to bare many resemblances to past tours?  Probably.

Keith Richards (photo uploaded to Flikr by Julius Cruickshank)

In recent live performances, the Stones have continued an old tradition of performing sloppily on stage, as clearly showcased by the Martin Scorsese documentary, Shine a Light.   We are all familiar with Mick Jagger’s stage persona as he marches across to the stage, knees high, arms flailing, pointing at the crowd with pursed lips.  Additionally, like many other older artists, namely Bob Dylan, Jagger’s voice is losing its former appeal. His most recent live performances have shown him accompanied by younger, smoother singers to balance out his more gravely and now aging voice.  This is exemplified by his performance of Gimme Shelter with U2, Fergie, and will.I.Am. at Madison Square Garden, in 2009.

Mick Jagger (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

However, as important as the fans’ approval is the question of whether the band members themselves can still stand each other.  Many more weathered bands have experienced inner turmoil, which, if they do not break up, negatively affects their work and image.

Towards the end of 2009, Ron Wood was arrested for abusing his girlfriend while under the influence.  The Stones threatened to fire Ron unless he ceased his alcoholic habits as his actions were threatening the bands’ insurance for the planned 2010 tour, which was quickly canceled.

Ron Wood (uploaded to Flikr by Maxi del Campo)

Recently, Wood released a solo album entitled I Feel Like Playing, suggesting that the guitarist has not been satisfied with the minimal amount he and the Stones have recently worked.

Adding to the talk of inner turmoil, Keith Richards recently published an autobiography Life, accompanied by an album highlighting his solo career.  In Life, Richards makes negative remarks regarding Jagger, “swipes” rumored to have ‘flared up’ the ‘long-dormant feud’ between the bandmates.  This is in light of the media recently exposing internal conflicts between members of Aerosmith.  Are the Rolling Stones following in “The Bad Boy’s of Boston’s” footsteps? Some might say that, yes, the Rolling Stones are collapsing, more slowly than Aerosmith, but they are falling apart.

It would appear as though the members of the Stones have moved on and thus the band should not desperately hold onto a formerly stupendous connection that no longer exists.

If you want to simply see the Stones for the sake of seeing the Stones, then by all means, buy those tickets.  However, if you want to see a band perform at the height of its career, then avoid this tour.

The Deal with Music Reviews

Posted: July 19, 2011 in Editorials

Photo from Flikr.com by "asgw"

First published on The Daily Dodger

“The Foo Fighters confront the ghost of Kurt [Cobain]” writes David Fricke in a review of the newest Foo Fighters album Wasting Light from an April 2011 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. Throughout the article, Fricke touches on the lyrical and musical themes of the album, rarely stating a blatant opinion that could explain his 4/5 star or “excellent” rating. The closest the writer comes to doing so is “with eleven tracks of fuzz-box brawn, mosh-pit-hurrah choruses and iron horse momentum, Wasting Light is the best Foos album since the first two.” However, various questions come to mind: does the fuzz-box brawn make the album good? Was the album not granted five stars because it is worse than the band’s first two? Do the lyrical references to Kurt Cobain add or detract from the album? Of course, it is important to recall that these reviews are not necessarily directed at readers unfamiliar with the artists work. Fricke may assume that his readers will more or less understand the points he is making without having to intricately explain himself. Furthermore, his word choice indeed gives the review a positive feeling and thus the reader believes Wasting Light to be a quality product.

Dave Grohl, frontman of the Foos, is known for his exuberant performances (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Other prestigious music-related publications such as Spin Magazine and Pitchfork Media, an online magazine lightly pepper their reviews with hints of bias, like reviews of Rolling Stone. When asked about this pattern, journalist, baker and yoga instructor Simon Apter, who has written for NPR, (formerly National Public Radio) The Nation, Sports Illustrated and many other publications says, “the more fancy the magazine, the more formal their articles and standards will be. Some magazines are more open to personal voice. But people who have been working [in journalism] for a long time have a sense about what they want: they want what’s good [because] what’s good SELLS. Journalism is a business.”

David Kaminsky, a freelance writer from New York City who has written multiple award-winning commercials and advertisements, receives reviews in the most literal sense of the word. He understands that they should act as mostly unbiased overviews of the album. Kaminsky explains: “readers should not be influenced in their opinion of the album solely based upon the review.” They must contemplate the reviewer’s discussion of the album and decide for themselves whether the album is good.

Ryan Kearney, formerly of Pitchfork Media opposes David. He considers all music reviews somewhat biased by nature. “It cannot be considered criticism otherwise,” Kearney concludes. Of course, ‘review’ is an incredibly broad term and is subject to countless variations.

Online bloggers and vloggers (video bloggers) find ways rant to for hours on end about their personal preferences and observations.  However, some vloggers such as Sami Jarroush of the Rock it Out! Blog and Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop do more than simply complain about or compliment an album.

from Rock it Out! Blog

Says Jarroush “I feel that if you are a true fan of a band, you should be able to recognize when your favorite band does good work and not so good work.” Essentially, the vlogger is not afraid to criticize or compliment when necessary. His review of Radiohead’s King of Limbs is thus not overwhelmed by opinion, but does explain his rating of Thom and Co.’s most recent LP (long play record).

Similarly, Fantano, coined “The Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd” constantly posts album reviews that resemble the style of a professional review layered with clear opinions regarding the album’s style, the overall sound, the lyrical themes and whatever else he considers important. One must realize that vlogger is not only reviewing the music with words but also with expression, as he or she utilizes video. When reviewing the Beastie Boy’s first single, Make Some Noise, off their new LP, The Hotsauce Committee Part 2, Fantano describes the track as having “some extremely buzzing, distorted synthesizers, big, fat, massive bass frequencies, these crisp drums…and that’s not the only track that’s just a plethora of different sounds.”

Fantano reviewing 'Hotsauce' (screen shot from The Needle Drop)

Fantano’s excited, boyish facial expressions and constant hand gestures further emphasize his love for the ‘B-Boys’ release. Throughout large chunks of the video, Fantano avoids actually saying words such as “good,” “bad,” “annoying,” “great,” “well-done,” etcetera. There is something to be said about the ability to send a vibe to the subscribers without having to blatantly state one’s opinion and both Jarroush and Fantano possess such a talent. Furthermore, many other everyday people publish “Customer Reviews” to the iTunes store. These short posts are often equally if not more helpful than the ‘iTunes Notes,’ blurbs submitted by hired professionals using a similar format to that of Spin, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork reviews. As Sami Jarroush perfectly put it, a die-hard fan can often be the best judge of an album.

This logic also applies to the writers of comments of videos on Youtube. On the page of Justin Bieber’s “One Time” video, users debate the quality and impact on society of young Justin’s songs. Robertangeles0427 says “I bet you [J. Beibz] have a voice recorder inside your throat that has a 14-year old girl voice am I right?” On the other hand, true Bieber fans or self-dubbed “Beleibers” such as BelieberSarah1 declares that “Calling him FAKE won’t make you REAL, Calling him DUMB won’t make you SMART, Calling him WEAK won’t make you STRONG, Calling him UGLY won’t make you BEAUTIFUL, Calling him MEAN won’t make you NICE, Calling him GAY won’t make you STRAIGHT, Calling him RUDE won’t make you POLITE So why bother? He is a true inspiration for people who think they can’t follow their dream! All the haters should just be quiet! THUMBS UP IF YOU AGREE!”

Beiber performing in 2010 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But it’s these kinds of comments that shape an artist and are in fact quite helpful to those looking to purchase new music. So, when reading a review, keep an open mind because as Starre Vartan of Eco-Chick articulates, capturing the essence and emotionality of music in words proves difficult. “Reviews are personal,” says Vartan. “It’s important to find someone whose review you trust. I’ve felt disappointed in the past when I’ve disagreed with a reviewer with whom I usually agree. But the point of a review isn’t to appeal to everyone,” she decides.

So, don’t be afraid to refer to various reviews and take risks. If you don’t like the music, stop listening.