Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Last.FM Randomizer Challenge 3.14.17

The randomizer chose #46 which happens to be Band of Horses on my Last. FM list of most played artists of all time - haven't even thought about this band in a while!

I absolutely love this band's three first albums - Everything All the Time (2006), Cease to Begin (2007) and Infinite Arms (2010). Mirage Rock (2012) and Why Are You OK (2016) have been sleeper hits, at best, and I haven't been able to get into them the same way I got into the previous three. The songs on the first three albums just grabbed you and from my experience, songs on Mirage Rock and Why Are You OK seems to be more...mellow? Uninteresting? I hate to say it but, yes. Uninteresting.

This Americana folk rock band formed from Ben Bridwell's, formally of Carissa's Weird, (a band with a strong cult following,) vision of a pop version of folk adding elements of older Country and current alternative rock. Results from that have been "The Funeral," "No One's gonna Love You" and "Laredo", some of their best work to date. If you don't know any Band of Horses songs, you probably have heard "The Funeral" in a Grey's Anatomy promo commercial or even a 2008 Ford Edge advertisement during the superbowl (true story). If you couldn't tell, yes, they've sold out hard but has it really worked for them and I'm not someone who judges "selling out" harshly. It kind of depends on the circumstance, in my opinion. Now their blimps on the map and they can record in Asheville, North Carolina, be signed to SubPop and have a comfortable music career. And like Carissa's Weird, Band of Horses has gotten a loyal following but with that oompf they've received from using their songs from advertising, it's given them a leg up that will prevent them from stopping or founder any time soon.

Even though I wasn't into their last two albums, I can still hear that the talent is there - they just are experimenting with it in a different way that I'm not into. Hopefully (for me!), their next one will be more reminiscent to Everything All the Time or Cease to Begin.

Also, just a extra, special tip for you - "Detlef Schrempf" can make me weep like a baby when the timing is right. This is the verse that really gets me:
So take it as a song or a lesson to learn
and sometime soon be better than you were.
If you say you're gonna go, then be careful
and watch how you treat every living soul.

Highly recommend you listen and it's one of the instances that make this band pretty fantastic.

Remember Feist? She's coming out with a new album.

I couldn't be happier! This will be her first album and new music since 2011's Metals.

Check out the track listing on Stereogum. It is set to release Friday, April 28! Same date as Sylvan Esso's What Now - it's going to be a good day.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

5 Women who are Killing it in the Music Industry

In honor of Womens History Month, I decided to write something about the ladies in music I love...

-Natalie Prass
We need more of Natalie Prass. Her self titled debut, which released in 2015, was written in 2009 and recorded in 2012. Her record label had to delay the release due to Spacebomb Records being a small outfit and just not having the funds and manpower to release more than one or two albums at a time. “And I remember my stomach dropped,” Prass says in an interview when she was informed the record would be released in 2013 (and later on, had been pushed back even more,) , “I just pictured myself standing on that mountain again, a year later. That just seemed like an eternity to me at the time.” In between the date of her release however, she wrote more songs and went on tour with Jenny Lewis to play in her backing band. She writes and composes all of her own songs, hires her own musicians for tours and is as far as I can tell, in charge of her career and destiny. That's definitely killing it in the music industry.

-Valerie June
I might be a little biased because I just saw Valerie June in Philadelphia and she was insanely good. She has so much energy on stage and does the perfect amount of talking during songs (even though she thinks she talks too much). She dances like no one's watching, dresses however she wants and has total ownership of her career. Her songs are enigmatic and interesting but somewhat familiar – very reminiscent to 70's soul and Blues in its heyday. Her new album The Order of Time just came out yesterday (March 11) and it's pretty fantastic. Go listen to it!

-Margo Price
Like Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette before her, this midwest farmer's daughter is writing about her life in a sincere and relatable way. The Illinois born, Nashville, Tennessee transplant is keeping busy with touring right now (just found out she's going to be in Albany this Summer! Yes!), but I'm really hoping she'll get back in the studio soon.

This might be a controversial choice, but I really like Sia and dig her songwriting abilities, regardless of her weirdness just for being weird. She writes some of the catchiest, consistent and authentic pop songs of today. In a world of rap degrading women and saying the “n” word every other sentence that's sprawling all over pop radio, Sia is a breath of fresh air and one of the only surviving legitimate pop song writers who not only writes for herself and other people, but maintains a career that she takes ownership of.

-Jenny Lewis
Well, duh. Jenny Lewis is just the shit. She's honest and raw in her songwriting, her instrumentation is usually experimental with every album she writes and she's always collaborating with other artists, finding a sound that's their own. She's still riding pretty high on the success of The Voyager, released in July 2014 (it's a really good album, okay?), but like Price, I hope she comes out with some new music soon.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Albums I'm looking forward to in March

February was all about Prisoner for me, despite what Pitchfork said about it (but I guess for Pitchfork, this review is pretty good,) but March is up in the air regarding what album I'm going to be obsessed with. There are a couple contenders, but really I just want the new Sylvan Esso album to come out right now (but it's due out April 28).

Ed Sheeran, Divide: "Shape of You" is growing on me but I wasn't a huge fan of it when I first heard it. It actually releases today! (March 3,) and is Sheeran's third studio album. It's gotten pretty good reviews so far too.

Laura Marling, Semper Femina: Marling's follow up to Short Movie is released on her own label, More Alarming, and comes out March 10. It sounds like this is kind of a concept album for her. This is what she said in Pitchfork: "I started out writing Semper Femina as if a man was writing about a woman,” Marling said in a press release. “And then I thought it’s not a man, it’s me — I don’t need to pretend it’s a man to justify the intimacy of the way I’m looking and feeling about women. It’s me looking specifically at women and feeling great empathy towards them and by proxy towards myself."

The Shins, Heartworms: Just when you think the Shins are done and James Mercer is doing another Broken Bells album (which I really hope he and Danger Mouse do in the future,) he comes out with another Shins album. This is their fifth studio album but you would think it's their eigth or ninth with how much music they put out and how relevant their music still is in the media. I did think Port of Morrow was a little on the safe side but now that I keep listening to it, I don't think that anymore - they've been pretty consistent and I think this one is going to be just as awesome. They've released two songs from the album already - "Name for You" (my favorite of the two,) and "Dead Alive". The album also comes out March 10.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Stream Prisoner on NPR!

Listen to Adams' upcoming sixteenth studio album in full. It releases this Friday.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Grammy Awards are on Tonight!

I don't blame you if you don't care, no worries.

But if you're watching, I'll be live tweeting them again like I do every year: https://twitter.com/smpreston

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hey, I like Musicals too, ya know.

After watching the Golden Globes, I saw "La La Land" like many other people I'm sure, and I loved it! First of all, I had no idea it was a full on musical coming into it. I knew there would be music, but I didn't know it was like "no, we're not beating around the bush, we got songs to sing." Not only is the music great, the movie was also pretty damn inspiring, to me, at least. Here's to the ones who dream, indeed, Emma Stone!

After seeing this film, I started thinking about compiling a top 5 list of my favorite musicals for this blog because I feel like that's a form of music I haven't covered yet - and guess what? I like musicals. I mean, it has music in them, I'm going to be at least a little interested.

West Side Story (1957) I want to say this is probably my favorite musical OF ALL TIME. That's right. Caps lock. Not only is it based on a Shakespeare play, part of the reason I was interested in this musical in the first place as a 16-year-old, (Romeo & Juliet,) but the music is on point. Not to mention the whole forbidden romance thing, teenagers love that crap, right?! The harmonies and the way voices blend together due to the way alto, soprano and male parts were written by the amazing Leonard Bernstein (Where's REM when you need them to yell this out?) melting together but then breaking apart and coming back together again. One really good example of what I'm trying to explain comes from a song at the end, "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love" performed by characters Maria and Anita. Anita's part is alto, Maria's part is soprano. The entire song they've been going in different directions with their voices and then at the end of the song, they come together and drop the mic metaphorically: "When love comes so strong, there is no right or wrong. Your love is your life." The way they both sing that ending line - CHILLS. And speaking of alto's, this is another reason I love this musical. They represent the alto's! Sure, Maria is a soprano, who is the main female lead, but Anita is pretty up there too and normally, female leads in musicals are soprano's. It gave us lady alto's hope in high school chorus that we matter.

Chicago (1975) Everything about this musical is perfect - except for maybe Roxie Hart, but Velma Kelly totally makes up for it. Not only is this musical important for the songs and dancing (cause Bob Fosse, worship,) but I think the actual story really captured a brief time in history that shaped and changed some things that are even evident today in America. Just go ahead and YouTube search "Cell Block Tango" because I'm linking another one of my favorites below from the 2001 film adaptation, and tell me it's not bad ass. I'll wait.

The Music Man (1957) The Music Man is very nostalgic for me. It's one of my dad's favorite musicals and he played these songs a lot while I was growing up. Not to mention every time a company theater was performing it around us, we would go. Then, when I was a teenager, our high school drama club performed it and I rediscovered how familiarly quaint this musical is and I never stopped loving it after that. Plus, the female lead is a librarian! I also love that a lot of these songs really rely on word play as well as instruments that usually aren't common - since it's about a marching band. Bring out the trombones, tubas and the piccolos cause Harold Hill has got shit to do! Fun fact: Me and a couple of girls that were in the drama club rendition of this in high school, were supposed to be in this scene I'm linking here (probably my favorite scene from the musical) and I was so excited but then all the girls got cut because, I don't know, #patriarchy? If you're curious, I played a pick-a-little lady in the show. Their songs involve a lot of fast rhyming with "say that 10 times fast" lines. Even today at almost 30 years old, I can still recite some of the fast lines: "She had a golden glint in her eye and a silver voice with a counterfeit ring." The train scene I love because it doesn't only incorporate peoples voices into the song, they also use background noise to enhance this rapidly distressed chant from traveling salesmen complaining about people taking their business. It almost sounds like a train rolling onto the tracks, faster and faster until the next stop. It's like they did that on purpose or something...

The Sound of Music (1959) Where do I begin with this? Another very nostalgic musical/movie from my childhood. There were a few movies I used to watch over and over again when I was a kid: E.T., Now & Then and The Sound of Music. Although I do find it funny that right before all the nazi stuff goes down, is when I would turn the movie off or rewound it to the beginning. Like, right after the puppet show. Maybe coming from a German family, where my grandparents lived in Germany during WWII, subconsciously my family was like, "let's not watch that part". But I did sometimes fast forward for "Climb Every Mountain". I'm not a big fan of that type of soprano voice but damn that woman sang the crap out of that song! I couldn't find out who exactly sang the song in the movie, but I did find out that apparently the actress who played Mother Abbess, Peggy Wood, did not. I'm really bummed I can't find a video of "I Have Confidence" where Julie Andrews is running down the sidewalk with her guitar and two huge suitcases - it's my favorite part! But oh well, here's just the song.

Gypsy (1959) Probably the most unpredictable on this list besides The Music Man, I remember the movie version when I was a kid as well although, it was the newer one with Bette Midler. I think as a kid, I had no idea what was going on in terms of the sexual nuances but I loved Louise and I loved Rose. But when it all comes down to it, I realize, I love this musical because it's sad. It doesn't necesarily have a happy ending and that's something a lot of musicals are too scared to do. But Julie Styne and Stephen Sondheim gave no shits - although Sondheim not giving any shits is not anything new. No wonder why it's sad, to be honest. I couldn't find a video of the 1993 version of "If Mama was Married" so I'll post the original movie's version which is still pretty good.

Honorable mentions: Guys and Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun, Into the Woods and Bye Bye Birdie