Writing on the Wall

Bear’s Den is another in the category of great-bands-you’ve-never-heard-of. If I remember correctly, I found their song “Dew On The Vine” from an internet radio station. A fantastic find, and one I was very excited to more thoroughly dig through.

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This is a band that has toured with groups like Mumford & Sons and Daughter, as well as lesser-known but equally awesome bands like Nathaniel Rateliff, Ben Howard, and The Staves (if you love beautiful female harmonies please check them out – at the rate this project is going I won’t get to them till I’m in my 50’s, so I have to plug them now). That should give you an idea about the genre, but if not, let me break it down for you: Bear’s Den, according to Wikipedia, is described as folk-rock and alt-rock. They are definitely more in the folk-rock category according to their instrumentation, with a certain ambient style brought on by the vocal effects used by the singer, with a little Americana thrown in for good measure. I would describe them as Mumford & Sons crossed with Iron and Wine.

Here’s a video to give you an idea of their sound:

This music is awesome. It’s soothing and well-written, with a certain atmosphere building quality that is typically absent in more poppy tunes.

When I listen to Bear’s Den, I think of road trips through the Cascade mountains and foggy roads that cut through a forest. It may be possible I’m a little homesick for the pacific northwest as I write this, but that’s honestly what I picture. I keep meaning to make a playlist based on an image like this one:

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This music makes me feel at home, calm, and relaxed.

Bear’s Den is a great band to listen to in calm moments, maybe curled up with a cup of tea and a good book or on a rainy day. That said, I would absolutely still go see them live, and I’m happy to listen to them anytime they pop up wherever I listen to music.

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So, all that aside, what are their top tracks? In no particular order, I recommend:

“Dew On The Vine”

“Magdalene”

“Above The Clouds Of Pompeii”

“Isaac”

“Sophie”

“Broken Parable”

“New Jerusalem”

“Red Earth & Pouring Rain”

Those are just a few great songs, and if you like any of them please go check out more music by this band. I really like it and they got me on a huge kick of listening to other great bands like the ones I mentioned above, as well as groups like Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, and Peter Bradley Adams.

In fact, here are more recommendations: if you like this band, check out Admiral Fallow or Bootstraps who I will hopefully be getting to sooner rather than later.

All I can say is go listen to this band. See if you like what they have and explore something new!

Happy listening

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Good Grief

An indie band out of London, England, Bastille came into popularity here in the States with the release of their debut album Bad Blood which featured a number of singles, “Pompeii” being the one most people are familiar with. The album came out in 2013, though it became much more popular the following year. That song was everywhere for quite a while, you could hardly go somewhere without hearing it.

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“Pompeii” is a great song and is noteworthy in and of itself, but Bastille really got my attention when I heard “Good Grief” a couple years later. This track has a fun and infectious beat and includes a few key audio samples from the 80’s movie Weird Science. I am a bit ashamed to report that I didn’t actually pay attention to the lyrics until just recently. That said, they tell a very different story than the upbeat-major key-danceable instrumentation would lead you to believe. It’s about the grief felt from the death of a loved one, and the moments of happiness found in the midst. The pre-chorus lyrics are “what’s gonna be left of the world if you’re not in it?” Read through the lyrics some time, it’s an interesting juxtaposition between lightheartedness and the rather depressing business of going on living when someone you love is dead.

A band who can write a song that way definitely has my attention, so I went ahead and listened to the rest of their work on Spotify for this post. All of their lyrics are smart and fascinating, including the ever-popular “Pompeii”

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They also look like a group of guys who have fun together. I mean, just look at them! They seem like the kind of people I would like to just hang out with sometime.

Overall, I was impressed with all their stuff. They have a good sound and are great lyricists. They keep things fresh, and while his voice is very identifiable, they haven’t let themselves get pigeonholed in just one style or genre. They mix up their instrumentation and use a number of different effects at various times, as well as write their lyrics to be poignant and subtle. For Bastille, anything goes for their songwriting and I really like that.

So, do I recommend Bastille? Absolutely I do. They are a great addition to my music library and my ever expanding musical tastes. Here are my top tracks in no particular order:

“Pompeii”

“Good Grief”

“Power”

“Blame”

“Daniel In The Den”

“World Gone Mad” (Explicit language in this one, kids)

“Of The Night”

If you like these songs, for sure check out their albums.

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I want to close with a great quote from the band’s founder and lead singer, Dan Smith, who said “the whole labeling of music culture is so tired and kind of irrelevant now. Everyone’s music tastes are so broad, and everyone likes a bit of everything now.”

So true, and I won’t try to add anything to that.

Happy listening and I hope you find something new and fun to listen to!

The Attractions of Youth

Barns Courtney is a name I only became somewhat familiar with a year ago. His song “Fire” has had quite a bit of radio play here in the US and I liked it enough to add it to my music collection, but that’s as far as my knowledge went. Turns out he is fairly new as a solo musician, his first and only solo album having been released in 2015.

Barns was born in England, but spent his early years (from 4 to 15) in Seattle and I believe that influenced his overall sound enormously. He isn’t grunge at all, but there’s just something I can’t put my finger on that reminds me of it. Maybe it’s the weathered and heavy vocals? I don’t know, and if you have thoughts on this, let me know.

Wikipedia has Barns Courtney listed under blues rock and folk-pop, though I don’t really agree with that second one. His sound features a gritty, world-weary type of voice, reverb effects that make me feel like he recorded in a tunnel, and an overall gritty production style that is becoming increasingly common. I’m all for it, though I’ll be the first to admit it can get a little old after a short time. I wasn’t sure if I would find anything else he has released that I would like. I am happy to report that I did.

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Not every track on his only album caught my interest, but a few of them did. Honestly, since he is fairly new to the scene there isn’t a lot for me to try and digest so that’s all I really have to say. But I’m not stopping there; I’m taking advantage of the shorter post to get into detail on what I like and don’t like about individual tracks.

Shall we go through them one at a time? I’ll add a Youtube link to each one if you’d like to hear it.

First up, “Fire”

This song is well structured. The chorus has a nice build and energy that grows naturally and dramatically from the calmer verse. The instrumentation is simple as it needs to be, emphasizing the vocals and effects while remaining interesting. The bridge brings to mind images of old western movies with a whistled countermelody put to great effect along with vocal exclamations running underneath. It’s a great song, and I am completely unsurprised at its popularity.

“Golden Dandelions”

With a higher tempo and a more melodic vocal line, it’s set apart from “Fire” though this track still has his signature sound. The thing that stands out the most is the heavy reliance on drums throughout the song, but especially in the verse. He seems to continue his structure pattern of ABABCB that is so common throughout pop music, but that’s not a bad thing. Overall, I really like this track, and it has an interesting music video.

“Hellfire”

The first thing he did right with this song was having the intro set the tone before a dramatic pull back for the first verse. Like in “Fire”, he has a natural and dramatic build up from the verse to the chorus. The beat is infectious, not in a danceable way, but rather in a head-nodding way. His gritty sound is amplified with this one.

“Hobo Rocket”

This song starts with some random spoken words from a “hobo” that made it stick out a bit. There is a rhyme scheme in the verse that makes me think of 90’s rock pretty strongly, but all of the elements blend together very well. One example would be the background vocals with a chorus effect put to excellent use alongside the main guitar line. It transitions into the next track on the album titled “Hobo Outside Tesco, London – Interlude” This track is pretty much an extension of “Hobo Rocket” with spoken rhyme audio from what I expect was a hobo outside of a Tesco in London. It’s different and was a nice break in the middle of the album.

 

“Champion”

This is an anthem for conquering something. I imagine it being used in a car commercial or a movie montage about someone becoming stronger for whatever sport or fight they need to face. Really, it’s a little like this generations version of “Eye of the Tiger” Please note I am not comparing the two songs, just pointing out that’s the general feeling inspired by this song. I mean, the chorus lyrics are literally “champion, I can take a beating, I’ll rise again, burning through the jungle until the end” If that doesn’t spell out the storyline to every sports movie that came after the original Rocky, I don’t know what does. I quite like it, though for some reason I want that movie montage to take place in a corporate office featuring someone sweating over powerpoints, sales calls, and coffee breaks… Anyway, his voice and the effects they put on it are ideally suited to a song like this.

“Kicks”

Another great song for a movie montage, the chorus is something you can really rock out to, the pre-chorus is the perfect change in style leading to the chorus, and the verses are nicely short to make the whole thing move at a good pace. Now that I think about it, he seems to have mastered making his songs short enough to never get really old. If they were longer tracks I probably wouldn’t like them as much. There isn’t a single track that exceeds 4 minutes on this album.

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And that’s it. If you like his style, please check out the whole album. I was pretty glad to have an artist that didn’t have hours upon hours of music for me to listen to, this project is a little tough sometimes.

 

Get In Line

 

Barenaked Ladies are fairly universally liked. They are fun, energetic, clever, and their music is frequently uptempo and fun to sing along to. Add in excellent arrangements and instrumentation, and you have a pretty decent recipe for a band.

When someone mentions Barenaked Ladies the first thing to come into your head is likely their song “One Week” or possibly “Pinch Me” followed by “If I Had $1,000,000” or “It’s All Been Done”

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As a rock band, they are kind of in the novelty category, since many of their most popular songs are kind of random or silly with subjects that are humorous or sung about in a comedic way often showcasing rapped lyrics in a style nearly devoid of hip-hop or R&B. Personally, I love it, as I feel it’s always a good idea to mix things up and be unexpected in music.

They’re not entirely lighthearted though. Barenaked Ladies have many songs that deal with heavy topics in a poignant manner. I would especially point out “War On Drugs” which is about suicide and mental health issues. It’s a very powerful song centered around a bridge in Toronto where people would go to jump. Honestly it kind of stopped me in my tracks, and I think that coming from a group I viewed as fun and carefree made it strike home harder than it might have, had it come from a more typically somber group.

And that’s certainly not the only serious song they have. Before I began listening to their discography I was familiar with the song “Call and Answer” which is ultimately about the reconciliation of a difficult relationship. Which when you think about it, is not a common take on love songs, is it? More often you hear about love-at-first-sight, true love, breakups, cheaters, moving on, etc. It’s interesting to hear one that focuses on not just the difficulties of a relationship, but overcoming them as well.

Anyway, it is a beautiful song, the overlapping vocals and harmonies add a lot of power layered on top of the chiming guitar background. That is actually one of my all-time favorite songs by this band, and anytime it comes on I will absolutely sing along the entire time. There was a really nice version of this song on one of their live albums featuring Alanis Morissette that I found quite enjoyable.

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I wouldn’t neglect their upbeat and fun songs though, as that is arguably what makes them so well loved. They run a gamut of topics from the mundane to the serious to the outright ridiculous. Who else would write a song about getting unsigned postcards featuring chimpanzees? Weird, but a delightful and catchy song.

I’ll list all my favorite tracks at the end of this post, but if you want an album to check out I recommend either Grinning Streak or Stunt. They released an album this past year called Fake Nudes but I found it lacking their usual vim and vigor and wasn’t overly impressed by any of the songs.

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One thing about their discography, at least on Spotify, is the absolutely massive amount of live albums. They aren’t part of their official discography, but they are there nonetheless. From what I can figure, they released recordings of every live performance for their tour promoting the album Everything to Everyone, mixed and released as-is by the end of the show. I did not listen to all of these, as there were just too many and they were all essentially the same. If you don’t count those live recordings, since 1992 they have made twelve standard studio albums, one holiday album (which has some fun tracks), one kid’s album, a Shakespeare themed album (which is not on Spotify and I haven’t listened to yet), and a handful each of live albums, compilations, and E.P.’s. That’s a pretty solid career.

Based on the live albums I did listen to, I would definitely want to go see them live. They would be a fun show and great showmen, I’m sure of it.

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Well, I suppose it’s time for my “Top Tracks” list.

“One Week” “Another Postcard” “If I Had $1,000,000” “Get In Line” “Pinch Me” “Call and Answer” “Never Is Enough” and “It’s All Been Done” are the songs I knew well before this post, and they are all fantastic.

As for new discoveries:

“Bank Job” Probably my favorite find in this post. Absolutely hilarious.

“Odds Are”

“Easy”

“Testing 1, 2, 3”

“Did I Say That Out Loud?”

“Boomerang”

“Toe to Toe”

“Duct Tape Heart”

I added way more than just these to my Spotify, but they are the cream of the crop as far as I’m concerned. An overall good mix of fun and heartfelt, Barenaked Ladies is just a great band who puts out great music. If you haven’t given them a chance before, please do so now, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, here’s the video for “Odds Are” just for you:

I think I need to watch that one a couple times to absorb all the stuff going on.

Enjoy your listening, and if you have any new music you want to share with me, send me a message!

Casual Party

A few years ago I had a roommate who I bonded with over music. She has fantastic taste, and I was really excited when she burned a CD for me with a mix of recommended music. One of the tracks soon became a favorite, “The Funeral” by Band of Horses.

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It’s a great song and a great intro to the band. Band of horses has a number of fairly popular songs, depending on what kind of music you follow. I would categorize them as indie/folk rock, though an argument could be made for alt-rock as well. I have heard some of their songs on the radio when I’m listening to the community stations or the community alt-rock station. Since I’m living in Utah, I assume their song “Great Salt Lake” gets played here with more frequency than other areas.

There are a couple songs I want to highlight here before my usual top tracks list. Firstly, “Dumpster World” which when I first heard it made me think heavily of the band America, specifically the song “Horse With No Name” because that’s probably the song by them I’m most familiar with (I’ll need to do a separate post about America somewhere down the line). The resemblance is pronounced at the beginning of “Dumpster World” and I haven’t been able to find out if the similarity is intentional or not. I can’t imagine it isn’t, though. The vocal harmonies and instrumentation style is ridiculously similar. In fact, I’ll add a couple links so you can compare the two songs.

What do you think? Purposeful?

Secondly, I want to point out “No One’s Gonna Love You” which is definitely one of their most popular songs. It’s a fantastic song, one that I think anyone can enjoy, but even more interesting to me is the Cee Lo Green cover version. I know a lot of people have strong opinions about cover songs. Some people claim only the original version of any song is best, though I disagree. For example, Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower” is much more well known at the very least, if not arguably better than the original by Bob Dylan. Or another example, “Hallelujah” originally by Leanord Cohen. My own personal opinion is that if a cover version adds something or changes the song in some way then more power to them.

That’s pretty much how I feel about the Cee Lo cover. It’s a great version of the song, and his voice is so unique it lends itself to new interpretations easily. Here are two more links for you to compare them:

Wrapping up, here’s my top tracks list for Band of Horses:

“No One’s Gonna Love You”

“The Funeral”

“Casual Party”

“Dull Times/The Moon”

“Dumpster World”

“Compliments”

“A Little Biblical”

“The General Specific”

So that’s pretty much all I have to say about Band of Horses. They are a great band, and if you like groups like The Shins, Fleetfoxes, The National, The Decemberists etc. you will probably love Band of Horses too. They are right up that alley, and a band I would be excited to see live if I ever got the chance.

Lucille

Before we get started, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I adore the blues. You can reference my post on Aynsley Lister as well and you’ll see what I mean so I’ll try not to rhapsodize about the many virtues of Blues again. Wouldn’t want to be redundant.

On with the post…

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It is a well-known fact that B.B. King’s guitar is named Lucille.

B.B. King said Lucille was a reminder for him, both not to brawl over a woman and never to run into a burning building. There’s a great story there, and if you listen to his song “Lucille” you’ll hear it in his own words. Playing guitar was B.B. King’s life. It was such a part of him and his style seems to have a personality all it’s own, so I’m not surprised in the least that his guitar had a name. Lucille’s sound is very identifiable, and it was strongly linked to King’s singing voice as well. He would essentially sing duets with Lucille, trading off lyrics in his voice and soulful expression from Lucille.

B.B. King is the prototypical blues guitarist, and the way he plays that lovely guitar Lucille is something that guitarists have striven to emulate for decades. I myself am primarily a bass player, but one day I hope to be proficient enough on the guitar to play delta blues like B.B. King, though I know I’ll never achieve his level of skill.

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B.B. King (whose name was Riley, actually) was heralded as the King of the Blues, along with Freddie King and Albert King, and rightly so. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, and boy was B.B. an expert at the Blues. Something I don’t think a lot of people realize is how much work is involved in being a professional musician. B.B. King wasn’t a great guitar player because he was just naturally gifted. He wasn’t just “discovered” one day – he set out to make it happen. He was a phenomenal musician because he dedicated his life to being so, even at the cost of other things. For example, his two divorces have been attributed to his heavy work schedule, something like 250 performances a year. In fact, in 1956 alone he had 342 performances and three recording sessions. He played and performed until he died, just as he said in his song “Riding With The King”

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B.B. set the stage for blues artists for decades. And let’s be real, if your career is playing a genre of music spans 60-odd years, you probably have had some influence over a lot of musicians.

In fact, B.B. King has more albums on Spotify than Aretha Franklin, more than 70, and I’m not ashamed to admit I lost count. He led an incredibly long career, spanning from 1949 to 2015 when he died. He was a dedicated musician as well as a philanthropist. He was very public about being diagnosed with diabetes, and ultimately it was consequences from his diabetes that led to his death.

If you want to know more about B.B. King’s life and career, I really recommend the official BB King website, there’s a great article on the main page that gets into it a bit more.

I fell into a Youtube rabbit hole in getting ready for this post, and there were too many great videos for me to share. Please feel free to check out some of it, there are tons of amazing videos of him playing with other renowned guitarists. For this post, I’ll stick with this simple version of “Sweet Sixteen”

There are obviously a lot of great songs and albums in his repertoire, though a number of them have repeats and a number are live albums. If I were to suggest any of his Albums, I would first suggest his collaboration with Eric Clapton, Riding With The King, it is now one of my favorite albums ever. I would also suggest Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. B. B. King, as a fantastic collection of all his best tunes. Don’t disregard his earlier work either, I was jamming out even when I made it back to his albums from the 50’s and 60’s.

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As far as individual songs go, I now have 26 of his songs in my own music library, though I could easily add more. I’ll spare you the whole list and just give you my top 10 favorite tracks. This doesn’t include his collab. stuff, by the way, so feel free to check that out on your own if you’re interested, especially the album Deuces Wild.

Top 10 tracks:

“The Thrill Is Gone” – this song alone has something like 50 versions by B.B. King on Spotify.

“Lucille”

“How Blue Can You Get” It took me a while to realise this was a song sampled in a super chill song I know called “Standing Outside A Broken Phonebooth” by Primitive Radio Gods.

“Ghetto Woman”

“Caldonia”

“Alexis’ Boogie”

“To Know You Is To Love You”

“Sneakin’ Around”

“Is You Or Is You Ain’t (My Baby)”

“Sweet Sixteen”

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Seriously go listen to some B.B. King. Right now. Don’t let this important part of your personal music education get away from you!

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.