Here’s To Never Growing Up

Switching from the Blues last week to the pop skater punk style of Avril Lavigne for this week was a weird transition for me. I had to listen to Avril Lavigne’s music twice to get in the groove of it.

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This is one of those things that I felt I had outgrown. Music like that of Avril Lavigne’s is something I listened to as a teenager and haven’t really looked back on as an adult until now, associating it with other aspects of that time period that I’ve moved on from.

The early 2000’s found me as a young teen branching out my musical tastes and looking for something I could attach myself to. While I never adopted the skate punk style of musicians like Avril Lavigne, I did enjoy her music. I remember having a copy of her first album Let Go and keeping it near my CD player in my room. This type of music is, in my opinion, geared specifically towards teenagers though that could be becauae I was a teenager when I listened to it. It could also be because when Let Go came out Avril was only 17 years old.

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Avril Lavigne has been pursuing music since a young age. She was lucky enough to be supported by her parents in this endeavor throughout her childhood. She signed a record deal in late 2000 at age 15 shortly before her career really took off. Her first album, Let Go, was released in 2002 and threw her right into the spotlight. The album reached pretty high on the Billboard charts in the US, but she also became the youngest female artist to have an album reach number one on the UK Albums Chart at the time. That album had multiple hits on it such as “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi” which still play on the radio occasionally. Pretty impressive for a 17-year-old.

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I ate up the angsty, emotion-fueled, self-empowering, suburban teen girl rock as a teenager, and listening to it again makes me realize I have a lot of good memories attached to those songs. I didn’t listen to her next album that came out in 2004, though I liked the single “My Happy Ending” that played on the radio.

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The 2007 album, The Best Damn Thing, came out when I had gotten more into music videos. I distinctly remember watching the music video for the single “Girlfriend” on VH1 or MTV (whichever one had actual music videos on at any given point was usually my TV channel of choice). That song became a bit of a guilty pleasure for me as I moved on to other things musically. I think I eventually bought that CD on a whim as well, though I never listened to it much and the only other song on it that stuck out to me at all was “Keep Holding On”

Avril Lavigne fell off my radar almost completely after that, and I haven’t heard anything off of her last two albums until this past week.

Avril’s sound has mostly stayed the same, though overall she has grown a bit as a musician. Not much, but a bit. I’ll never really get into her music again like I did as a teen, though I did quite enjoy the track “Give You What You Like” off her eponymous album, and I’m glad to include it in my library.

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I’m not going to post a top tracks list, but I will say that her first album will always be my favorite; I have good memories of that album. Have I grown out of Avril Lavigne’s music? Yes, but I will always enjoy listening to it and remembering how I felt at that point in my life. To me, this is an important part of my musical history and I would never want to forget it.

That’s all I have for you today, but watch put for my next post featuring Bachman-Turner Overdrive!

 

P.S. Has anyone noticed how she seems to wear more and more eyeliner as time goes on? Check this out:

2002:

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2004:

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2007:

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2011:

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2013:

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That last one. I know it’s specifically a photo shoot for the album, but still. Ridiculous.

I also found some pictures of here without the eyeliner, and she looks completely different. It’s super weird.

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Also, this. This is my favorite:

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Soundman

I am a sucker for blues guitar. Really, there’s nothing like it for me; that raw, heavy, and grinding sound of a funky blues solo being wrenched out of the amp. I am enthralled every time I hear a blues song that really drives it home. Anytime I listen to it, I just want to crank up the volume and let it wash over me.

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There are way too many sub-genres in the blues. Blues is more categorized by the type of scale and arrangement patterns used than anything else, which means it’s a little all-encompassing. For example, the following artists are all known for having songs categorized as blues: Albert King, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, The Black Keys, ZZ Top, John Mayer, Etta James, Jack White, Led Zeppelin, etc. That’s just a small sampling, and some of those are not anything like another.

Here is a link to a list of blues genres if you’re interested. The page also has a list of blues-like genres at the bottom.

For the sake of the rest of this post, I will be talking about what has been called Texas Blues, the gritty kind of blues-rock I would stereotypically picture being played in a bar on the edge of town frequented by a couple of biker gangs. It is characterized by jazz-influenced improv and single string electric guitar accompaniment. It’s been around since the early 1900’s but really began to flourish in the American south in the late 60’s and 70’s pulling influences from country as well as other blues-rock sounds.

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It is really hard to stand out in a genre that has so many masters. Stevie Ray Vaughn, B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Freddie King, ZZ Top, Eric Clapton, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you can stand out in such a genre, more power to you. Most often when I’m listening to blues, I do so via internet radio stations and don’t actually know what artist I’m listening to at any given time. Occasionally, if I’m listening via Spotify, I’ll save a good song I like to my music library.

Which is exactly how I found the artist that inspired this post. Aynsley Lister is a good guitarist, and I enjoy his compositions. Despite how hard it is for contemporary artists to measure up to the famous blues artists of the past he does an admirable job. I had just one of his songs on my Spotify to start with, called “Soundman”. This song tickled my fancy since I have worked in the live performance industry and with various sound guys in my career; I found the lyrics relatable and humorous, and the guitar style enjoyable.

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Aynsley Lister hails from England and started playing guitar at the ripe old age of 8, performing his first concert at age 13. His guitar work is great, though I admit I find his voice a little annoying at times. Overall, kudos to him for finding something he loves so early on in life and continuing to work on it throughout his career. He’s been performing as a solo artist since 1995 and is still going strong. Well done, sir!

My top 5 tracks for Aynsley Lister are as follows:

“Soundman”

“Crazy” (a fantastic Gnarls Barkley cover)

“Inside Out”

“Upside Down”

“Always Tomorrow”

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Aynsley Lister is a good blues artist, and I’m glad he has inspired me to listen to so much Texas blues this past week or so, I have really enjoyed it! Makes me want to go find a blues bar to just hang out and listen to live music.

Check out some blues music this week! If you have any blues artists you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear it!

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And here’s a bonus: a clip from the movie Adventures In Babysitting which is where I derived the name of my blog from. Enjoy!

Distraction #74

A few years ago I had a roommate who was an absolutely huge Avett Brothers fan. I am very sad to report I did not take that opportunity to check out their music.

However! I have made up for the lack of The Avett Brothers music in my life since then. I can’t remember when I first actually got into it, but I am very glad I looked a little deeper the last couple of weeks. These guys are fantastic musicians as well as excellent storytellers. I would be so excited to go see one of their shows, everything I’ve heard from their live albums indicates they would be a great band to see perform.

For those that have never heard of The Avett Brothers, let me give you the run down. The band is made up of Scott and Seth Avett as well as Bob Crawford and Joe Kwan. They also have a few other members for live performances. I won’t give you a history of the band here like I have for previous posts. Instead, I’m going to focus on the music.

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This music belongs in the genre of Americana, though it can also be classified as Bluegrass, Folk, Folk Rock, and Indie Folk. For me, Americana music is light and fun, and I feel that reflected in The Avett Brothers songs. They also have some more somber or serious tunes as well, and those are just as good. I can definitely appreciate a band who knows how to balance having ballads and emotional tracks with more uptempo exciting numbers, and The Avett Brothers balance that perfectly.

Their instrumentation is classic Americana most of the time, though they don’t let anything as trivial as genre labels put them in a box. You’ll find that their lyrics are often more similar to alt and indie rock than bluegrass, and their arrangements are fairly a-typical as well. In fact, one of the reasons I love their music so much is that I don’t always know what to expect from them. They always sound like themselves, but their songs don’t sound the same at all; each one of them unique and well-thought out.

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Their most recent popular song “Ain’t No Man” has had quite a bit of radio play, drastically expanding their listener base. It’s a great song and I quite enjoy it, though it has potential to be overplayed so I don’t listen to it much on my own. Another popular song is “I And Love And You” which while distinctly a ballad in it’s tempo and style, also has interesting and visual lyrics that keep you hooked.

The Avett Brothers have many songs I truly enjoy, but none tickled me quite as much as “Distraction #74” which has the most fun vocal arrangement I’ve heard in a long time. These guys are quite good at harmonies and vocal arrangements. Seriously, go listen to that song all the way through. You won’t regret it.

I would like to give you a top 5 songs to listen to by The Avett Brothers but bear with me here. It’s gonna be hard to narrow it down to just 5, so I’ll exclude the songs previously mentioned to thin it out (but those ones are awesome too, go take a listen).

“Kick Drum Heart”

“Satan Pulls The Strings” – this one has a distinctly different instrumentation and is an interesting change of pace.

“Murder In The City”

“Bella Donna”

“Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise”

And just cause I can’t help myself, I’ll add another one:

“Slight Figure Of Speech”

Oh, and here’s a great music video for “Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise” that I really enjoyed.

This is just a really fun band to listen to. They’ve gained a fan for life in me, and I would encourage anyone to listen to their music. Go check them out!

 

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Frontier Psychiatrist

One thing I love about local radio stations is they don’t play by the rules. You won’t typically tune into your local community radio station and hear the same 40 songs that air on all the other stations. Instead, you hear new music. You hear local artists and international artists. You hear deep cuts and B-sides. You hear genres you never would have tried listening to otherwise. You hear older tunes that don’t get airtime anymore. You hear DJs who want to share things with you, not sell things to you.

I know, I know; that is a romanticization of community radio and a rather naive look at how they work. However, I believe that is what those stations should aspire to. Yes, you will hear repeat songs, sometimes multiple times a day. I got pretty sick of Portugal. The Man for a little while when my local station played “Feel It Still” 5 times a day over the summer, but I still prefer that to standard radio.

Commercials.

Enough said.

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I occasionally find songs from my local high school station, KOHS, and my local community station, KRCL, that push my musical boundaries. For example, I had never been into club music/electronica most likely due to my exposure to that style being limited to the basic beats you hear on standard radio stations and at dance parties (not my thing either). To me, it just sounded like an overdose of dubs, wubs, and wahs that get old really fast. Especially when you start getting headaches, and… Just, no thanks. It’s not for me.

However, my eyes have been opened somewhat. I believe that epiphany began with a song I heard a few years ago on KOHS, “Frontier Psychiatrist” by The Avalanches.

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The Avalanches are a group from Australia who is fairly hard to describe. Their first album has a supposed 3,500 different audio clips sampled into it. After listening to that album, I believe it. The things these guys do are amazing, weaving hundreds of separate samples together to create one cohesive song is a ton of work. I couldn’t do it, though I can certainly appreciate it. And they even do live performances of their music; at one point they had 4 sets of turntables onstage at once along with other various instruments.

I looked up the Wikipedia page for the group as well as read a few blurbs describing them, and I can’t say I have ever found a band before whose genre has been described as Plunderphonics or Neo-Psychedelia before. They also hold the labels of Electronic and Hip-hop, and while I can hear that in their music, that description doesn’t do justice to the complex and nuanced sounds produced by The Avalanches.

Here’s the video for “Frontier Psychiatrist” if you’re interested. It was a runner-up in the Soho Shorts Film Festival in the UK; it’s pretty weird, but it fits the song really well.

This music has a groove to it that is persevering. Something they do really well are transitions between tracks. If you listen to their first album, Since I Left You, the transitions are completely seamless. It’s pretty hard to tell when one song ends and another begins. That makes picking out favorite tracks kind of difficult, so I recommend listening to the album straight through if you feel like giving this band a shot. And if you like that album, make sure to check out Wildflowers as well. It has less of a continuous feel, and they feature a lot of other guest artists that amplify the music deftly. All in all, an excellent follow up to the first album.

If you would like my top 5 tracks instead of listening to an album, here they are:

“Frontier Psychiatrist”

“Because I’m Me”

“Going Home”

“Since I Left You”

“Colours”

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Who knows if we can expect another album from this group. I would like to hear more of their music, but it did take them 16 years to put out a second album. It might take longer for a third, or maybe there just won’t be another one.

In the end, I’m still pretty picky about electronic and club music (frequently the only thing I get out of it is a headache). But I will always at least give it a shot, I never know when I might end up really liking it.

Im glad I found this group, it is completely different than anything I was listening to previously and I feel it illuminates the boundless ways we can pursue music. I hope I continue finding new musical innovations for the rest of my life as well as try to keep a more open mind to new things, even the ones that give me headaches.

A Rose Is Still A Rose

First off, let it be said there is no shortage of Aretha Franklin music out there. I mean, holy crap, there are more than 40 albums on Spotify alone and that’s not counting the singles and compilations. Actually that’s why it took so long for me to post again; I was busy listening to that massive library of Aretha Franklin music.

And she’s still going, by the way. Her most recent album was in 2014, and she still tours and performs.

It was interesting listening to the different styles and recording qualities as I listened backwards through time. Current era Aretha’s voice shows her age just a little bit. If you want an example, listen to her cover album Sings the Great Diva Classics.

00’s and 90’s era Aretha left me a little tickled. It sounds just like the rest of the R&B/soul music of that time that I remember. Recommendation: listen to the songs “Wonderful” and “A Rose Is Still A Rose”

80’s Aretha was par for the course (but don’t be fooled, par on this course is fantastic) though I would note she recorded a jazz album in 1984 that stood out. It’s called Aretha’s Jazz, and it shows off her voice in a beautiful way.

Classic 60’s and 70’s Aretha will probably always be my favorite. Her voice is and always has been incredibly beautiful and strong. There are so many amazing songs from this period, I would recommend all of it. Really, just check it out. If you want specific recommendations, I will include a list of some of my all time Aretha favorites at the end of this post.

When you get back into the early 60’s she was mostly recording Gospel tunes. As with many famous soul and gospel artists, religion was a huge part of her upbringing. Her father was a well known pastor and she had been singing in churches since she was a little girl. There are some excellent tunes there as well, a good collection of which can be found on the album Amazing Grace.

All in all, Aretha Franklin has earned her title as Queen of Soul ten times over. She is extremely talented and skilled. If you like soul music at all, you are probably already quite familiar with much of her music, but I would suggest checking out some of the deeper cuts.

However; if you want to just listen to a good sampling, there are many great compilation albums available that have the best of the best of her music.

Fun fact! She famously stepped in at the Grammys one year for an ill Luciano Pavarotti, singing the famous opera tenor piece “Nessun Dorma” and absolutely nailed it. Here’s a video clip: https://youtu.be/5PONptwUo-Y

She shaped a genre, her music moves people, and her legacy will last for a long time to come.

Happy Listening!

As promised, here is a short list of some of my favorite Aretha tunes:

“Today I Sing the Blues”

“Think” *

“See Saw” *

“I Say a Little Prayer”

“Chain Of Fools” *

“The Weight” *

“Fool On The Hill”

“Respect”

“I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You” *

“(You Made Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”

“A Song For You”

“A Rose Is Still A Rose”

“Wonderful”

“Rock With Me”

“Son of a Preacher Man”

“Love For Sale”

Well, that turned out to be longer than I intended. I starred my top 5, if you want a shorter list. They are all great songs, though. And there are many more! Go check it out!

Do I Wanna Know?

I don’t exactly recall the first time I heard Arctic Monkeys, but they have such a recognizable sound I can always identify their music when I hear it. While they can be categorized as indie rock or garage rock, they have a very distinct British punk influence and a just altogether dark sound that is not often found in popular groups.

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Don’t they look like they could have opened a show for The Clash or Buzzcocks back in Britain’s punk rock heyday?

If you’ve been following my blog, you are probably aware I’m a big fan of music videos, and honestly, that’s what stuck out to me about this band in the first place. The main imagery of their music video for the track “Do I Wanna Know” is distinctively an animated sound wave pulsing to the beat of the song, only to transform into a hypnotic and very strange animation centering around a black and white sound wave. It… gets a little weird at the end. However, that returning image is also incorporated into the album cover for AM as seen here:

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I wouldn’t say that one is my favorite video by them, but it is memorable, and it is an amazing song as well as a surprising earworm. That guitar riff in infectious.

My favorite video is the one I will post under this paragraph, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” It has a minute and a half intro, playing a part of “Do I Wanna Know” before it gets into the actual song. It’s a slightly unusual video, and instead of trying to explain it I’ll just let you watch it. Note the Parental Advisory warning, please.

Those are two well-known hits by Arctic Monkeys, both of which are from their most recent album, AM. As far as I can tell, that is the album that really took off in the U.S. though they had been popular in their home country of England before then.

Arctic Monkeys have that iconic British punk sound influencing most of their stuff while still adding a flair all their own and pulling little influences from other contemporary artists. All together, they really make it work for them. While they haven’t produced another album since AM in 2013, they are reportedly back from a two-year hiatus and are working on another studio album in L.A. I certainly will keep an eye out for it, and I hope they make more music with their distinct style while also breathing some new life into it.

Other songs I recommend: “Arabella” “R U Mine” and “I Wanna Be Yours” all from their AM album (my favorite, obviously), and “Love Is A Laserquest” and “She’s Thunderstorms” from the album Suck It and See, and “Fluorescent Adolescent” from Favorite Worst Nightmare.

If you like classic punk rock or garage rock, you should definitely give Arctic Monkeys a try.

Thanks for reading!

Choice Kingdom

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this band. I have been looking forward to this post for a while.

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alt-J released their first record in 2012 and I seriously regret that I didn’t become aware of them until about a year ago. The odd name comes from the band’s symbol, the greek letter for Delta: Δ, which can be typed with the keyboard shortcut of alt+J on a Mac computer. This symbol is an indicator of change or difference in scientific equations, which I think it is an apt description of the band.

It was once mentioned to me that no other band sounds like alt-J and I have to agree, they are very unique. This is most evident in the style of their vocals and the way they use common instrumentation that has been arranged in a different and strangely hypnotic way. The almost ethereal sounds on their tracks are really something else. The internet tells me their genres are Indie rock, Indie pop, Art rock, and Folktronica. All of that is accurate, and I had no idea how much I needed art rock and folktronica in my life until now.

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There are a few standout tracks on both of their albums, some of which you may have heard if you listen to alternative radio stations. The ones I can think of that you might know include “Breezeblocks” and “Left Hand Free” If you like intense and well-made music videos, you should check out this awesome video for “Breezeblocks”

I can be found listening to this music at any time, and while listening to individual tracks is fine and good, it really hits home when you listen to an entire album at once. Their albums as an entire piece are impressive and flow really well. I especially like their second album, This Is All Yours, which ends with a bonus track I consider to be my favorite, “Lovely Day.” It is just trippy enough that I tend to close my eyes to tune out of other sensory input to focus on the music just that little bit more.

On that note, I will say that some of their stuff that doesn’t get radio play is a bit more psychedelic than most popular music and many people will likely find it difficult to listen to. However, for me, it hits just right. The way they layer and build sounds together is truly brilliant. If you want a good example of that, check out the track “Intro” from This Is All Yours.

These guys are true artists. They know how and when to add, subtract, or intensify the textures they incorporate into their music. It’s subtle and almost seamless the way they weave together the many small strands of sound into a cohesive unit. Rarely do they include a sound that overpowers another without purpose. Similarly, the sounds they include in each track have a purpose and reason. There are many artists, good artists whom I love, who never quite achieve that level of cohesiveness whether it be due to long or loud solos or vocals that seem to command sole attention. Sometimes those things are exactly what you want, but I always find it fascinating when the instruments don’t immediately identify themselves to me and I have to think a little more about what exactly I am hearing.

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One thing that especially impressed me while I was perusing their music was the quality of their live tracks. I have heard many bands who sound fantastic on a recording but are less than stellar live. Based on the styles alt-J has, I would have expected them to have a difficult time recreating their music in a live setting. I must emphatically say this is not the case. Every song I heard from the live EP they released was fantastic; they stayed true to the songs as they are meant to be and still imbibed the feeling and necessary energy required for a live show. I would jump at the chance to go see them perform.

Overall I am so very pleased to have found alt-J, they are one of my absolute favorite bands to come out of this decade. They have a new album coming out in this summer, and I for one am looking forward to seeing what they come up with for it.