Saturday, July 22, 2017

RIP Chester Bennington

As I'm sure a lot of you have heard already, lead singer of Linkin Park, among many other side projects, committed suicide on Thursday. He was 41 years old and is survived by his wife and SIX children. That's right. SIX. Anyway...

I could go on about how sad it is that he decided to take his own life and how if anyone feels the need to commit suicide, please call someone, here's the hotline number, etc. but I won't go on about that. What I will go on about in this blog post, is how unfortunate it is that people have been downplaying his music career and talent since he died. Since Thursday, I've felt compelled to testify about this.

Since Hybrid Theory and Meteora, I haven't been the biggest fan of Linkin Park, I'll admit it. Maybe it's because I'm 30 now and their music just doesn't move me as it did when I was a teenager, much like Korn and Limp Bizkit before them. But I have always respected Linkin Park as a band because guess what? They've always been good at what they do. They've written their own songs, produced their own albums and pretty much dance to the beat of their own drum regardless of what's popular. They've never compromised their sound because of some arbitrary music business bullshit. And they've been doing this FOR OVER A DECADE. And you might not know this, but they still sell stadium shows out, have still made some good music ("Castle of Glass" and "What I've Done" comes to mind) and still have always stayed true to what they wanted to do in their band. That's a bonafide musician, to me. Regardless if I'm into their music or not, I can't deny that they are artists and have continuously worked on their craft without any outside pressures - they've always just wanted to do their thing. And that's pretty commendable, to me.

When people have even dissed Linkin Park in the past, I've defended them. Sometimes, people have put them in the same sentence as Nickelback, a band who are pretty much at this point, a stadium rock band parody and just going through the motions. But people will see both bands on the same level, which has always been weird to me. Allegedly, both bands music is "terrible" so obviously, they're the same. I'm sorry but no. Linkin Park has never been on the same level as Nickelback. Even though your ears may not be pleased to listen to Linkin Park sometimes, trust me, they're better. At least they're artists and trying to progress and try new things as their SUSTAINABLE career continues. I mean really, even Limp Bizkit and Korn couldn't do it. None of the others lasted. Linkin Park have.

Sure, their popularity has significantly decreased but they still have a huge fan base. People still love the "no one understands me" schtick and Linkin Park have always done that well. I think we need to recognize that. Unfortunately, finding out about Bennington's passing, it seems like it's not as much of a schtick as we'd like to think.

So can we please respect Bennington and Linkin Park during this traumatic time for the remaining band members and their families as what they are, regardless if we don't like them? If you're a fan of music and the craft behind it, I'm gonna go there and claim you can't deny that they have talent and a passion for music. Whether or not you like what they do with that passion and talent, that's on you. If people still like it, great, good for Linkin Park, is what I've always said. All of the members have kept working towards making solid music, even after their 15 minutes in the early aughts, and even outside of Linkin Park (Fort Minor > Linkin Park. Seriously, Shinoda, get together with Skylar Grey and bring it back! You guys were good!)

This concludes my rant because I could probably go on more but that's just writing in circles and also, I've got other shit to do. I will ask you to listen to the two songs I've listed - "Castle of Glass" and "What I've Done" if you're not familiar. Perhaps then you might understand what I'm trying to say.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Last.FM Randomizer Challenge 6.26.17

The number generator chose #18...Arcade Fire! Which is a total coincidence that their fifth studio album, Everything Now, is coming out July 28, which will give me some shit to say about them!

I have a love - hate relationship with Arcade Fire. Like The White Stripes, Arcade Fire are the shit and they know it - just no shame or inhibitions in their hipsterness. But damn it, they're pretty good. They made The Suburbs - a perfect album. HOW CAN I NOT?!

Funeral and The Suburbs have been my favorites, with Neon Bible in a close third. They create their music almost entirely on their own - if all the band members put their musicologist noggins together, I'm sure they know how to play at least 1,000 instruments. As James Murphy said, he hardly had to do anything when he produced Reflektor for them in 2013.

Here are some of my favorites:

"Spawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" (The Suburbs)

"Neighborhood #2" (Funeral)

"Ready to Start" (The Suburbs)

Another really cool moment I think about when I think of Arcade Fire are the 2011 Grammy Awards. You know the Grammy Awards, that thing I hate watch every year and one of the only times I actually use my twitter account. They won the damn Album of the Year in 2011. Which really stepped up their hipster game which is a necessary evil, in this case. It was a powerful moment in the award show's recent history and kind of is what made Arcade Fire what they are today. And that is the shit. And it made me think, just for a second, that maybe the Grammy Awards could represent different genres of music. Maybe we can get a wide variety of music to expose to the masses and give gifted talents their chance to shine, not due to fame, but from their musical talent and abilities. When Arcade Fire won that Album of the Year, I had hope for the ultimate music awards show that always left me feeling jaded.

And then you know what won in 2012? Adele's 21. Business as usual.

Anyway - something positive - I'll be seeing them live for the first time in September in Boston! I'm so excited!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dan Auerbach's new album is dope, Sufjan Stevens comes out with a Solar System concept album because why not? Paramore however, falls flat...

So since I've posted, I've been sitting with Paramore's After Laughter a lot. I have to say, they really tricked me into thinking they were going to come out with something really ground breaking for their career and then when it actually came out, I was totally uninspired and bored. There are only four good songs on the album however, they are worth it: "Hard Times," "Rose Colored Boy," "Told You So" and "Caught in the Middle". All of these songs sound like the vibe they were going for on "Hard Times" and "Told You So" but the rest of these songs are dull and not too much going on. It's a bummer but I still stand by my post about Paramore previously.

Anyway, there have been some really interesting albums being released lately. The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach comes back with 1960s blues inspired awesomeness on Waiting on a Song. I have to say, after Turn Blue, I was skeptical. As some of you know, I have an affinity for The Black Keys and will fight to the death that they are one of the most important rock bands that has come out in the last decade or so, but I'm not a Pitchfork writer, so I critique when it's needed, even when it's reviewing a favorite of mine, and Turn Blue was a real disappointment. But it seems like Auerbach still has it and is making some really good music. His lyrics could be more varied - I've noticed that a lot of his songs at the end just repeat the same sentence over and over again.

Marika Hackman also came out with her second full length on Sub Pop Records yesterday, I'm Not Your Man which I have yet to listen to but it's on my radar. Bleechers and Halsey came out with their second full length's as well, Gone Now and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom respectively.

Bryce Dessner of The National, jazz drummer Nico Muhly, and Sufjan Stevens released a collaborative effort on Friday which I'm excited about. Planetarium is a concept album about the solar system! Because you know, Sufjan Stevens, basically. There are songs for every planet as well as songs inspired by black holes, Halley's Comet, the Kuiper belt, the Moon, and the Sun. Sounds like it will be weirdly interesting.

And that's it for new music! There are plenty more on the horizon but these are my current picks for now.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

HAIM is back with Something to Tell You

Same bass face, different songs.

HAIM is coming back after riding high on their debut album, Days are Gone in 2013. Their sophomore album Something to Tell You comes out July 7 and was produced by  Ariel Rechtshaid, who works with Adele a lot.

Here are their first two singles off the album, "Want You Back" and "Right Now" - they also played these on SNL last week (which was great! They are pretty damn good live, I've never seen a bad HAIM performance.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Let's Talk about those new Paramore songs

Every year when music journalists predict which bands are going to break up, I always say to myself, "Paramore." That's the first band I think of when this question is raised, since around 2011, when the Farro brothers left. But they surprise me every year and I think at this point, they're surprising themselves, judging from this NYT feature just recently published for the promotion of their fifth full length album releasing May 12, After Laughter. Hayley Williams is quoted saying, "There was a moment when I didn’t even want it [another album] to happen. Then it was like, I want it to happen, but I don’t know how we’re going to do it."

And now here we are, in 2017, with two new Paramore songs! That was kind of a surprise for me but I welcomed it, unlike other die hard fans who have been listening to them since Hayley was sixteen, yelling her heart out on All We Know is Falling, who embedded "Misery Business" in their MySpace profile in 2007, when RIOT! was everywhere. A lot of people abandoned them after their self titled in 2013 because they had to pull the sell out card from their back pockets. It was bound to happen - Paramore has been around for a while, so it's understandable that maybe they want to experiment a little bit. One thing I've discovered from writing my own (not as good) music is that sometimes as a songwriter, you just want to try it out - see if it works. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't but if it does, why not keep at it if that's what you want to focus on? Song writing is so personal not only for the songwriter, but for the fans as well and it can be hard to balance that. Regardless, I think the term "sell out" is so unfair. Especially after trying to write songs, I can see why professional musicians can struggle with this.

Paramore are so resilient, not only in their struggle to remain a unit with Hayley being the Gwen Stefani of the band, but in their songwriting too. Hayley Williams, Zac and Josh Farro were a songwriting team to be reckoned with. Nothing could stop their momentum of creating pop punk classic hooks with uniquely poetic and truthful lyrics. I've been listening to RIOT! more lately, the trifecta's masterpiece, and it really is a great album. It inspires me and makes me feel like I can do anything after listening to it. The way they say things through their lyrics is unlike any other band that's out there right now, in my opinion. It's more poetry and conveying a feeling rather than just saying stuff. And ten years later after RIOT! has released and many band member changes, they still haven't lost that momentum. Sure, their music has changed a lot but their lyrics still get you right in the feels! And because of that, Paramore still remain strong in a world of rap music that took 15 minutes to make on their Tenori-On (which I'm not necessarily knocking by the way, Tenori-On's are cool, but literally anyone can make a beat with it,) and Lorde and Taylor Swift owning the pop charts.

Some articles such as this one in Variety and this one in Spin, suggests that Paramore has actually gone to the dark side (pop,) and "never looking back," as the Spin headline suggests. I'm not so sure if that's true. Okay, Taylor Swift is going pop and never looking back, that I can get behind but if you go through Paramore's discography, every album is different! Literally every album. All We Know is Falling, RIOT! and Brand New Eyes have similarities, but I would say they're all different in their own ways. The self titled and probably After Laughter will follow suit. So don't assume things about Paramore, they're unpredictable but unpredictably brilliant.

It's funny, Paramore is a band I can ramble on about forever - there are a lot of assumptions about them due to their pop punk Fueled by Ramen background, their band lineup is always changing and always dramatic ("Oh, Zac Farro left, he's gone," "No, Zac is back in the band now, what are you talking about?!") and Hayley is of course, always being talked about, being judged. I can tell you one thing about Hayley though I think we all know is true - homegirl can sing. We should never over analyze that. I will however, judge her choices in men because I'm sorry, why Chad "I give out a sketch vibe and all my solo music is terrible" Gilbert? So anyway, After Laughter comes out on May 12 and I'm sure when it does, people are going to either say, "this is their best album yet," or "oh my god, I can't believe how hard they sold out," or "David Byrne called, he wants his big suit back...and now that you mention it, his entire music career too, give that back while you're at it."

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A lot of bands really like the date April 28

Yesterday while driving home from Ithaca, I had a lot of music listening time and what better day to do that than Fridays - now the day albums release in the United States. The following albums came out yesterday:

-Sylvan Esso, What Now
-Feist, Pleasure
-Gorillaz, Humanz
-Drake, More Life
-New Found Glory, Makes Me Sick

Among many others including Thurston Moore's new band, The Best Day, The Cranberries and Glee alum Lea Michele. Spring has sprung in more ways than one. Evidently, I have three picks from the variety of new music choices:

Gorillaz, Humanz
I have to say, I love Gorillaz very much - "Clint Eastwood," Damon Albarn's first single under the cartoon band creation and the band's first big hit, came out in 2001, which is when I started high school, so their prime continued throughout my teenage years. I have many good memories of "Feel Good Inc." playing at high school graduation parties - that came out in May 2005. But even their alleged last hurrah, The Fall in 2010 was not the best. Boring is a word that comes to mind but I think that's because the people making the music were also bored. Humanz is still not Gorillaz, Demon Days or Plastic Beach but it definitely seems like the guys behind this project are rejuvenated and ready to create again. The music on Humanz is fresh and if you've looked at their YouTube channel recently, they're releasing a lot of story line content about the band members and unique, plot heavy music videos, which is part of why Gorillaz are so awesome. The band is not only audio, they're also visual and they think about that aspect way more than other bands, probably due to the fact that they're people behind cartoons; an obvious conscious decision they made when starting this project. So it makes sense the visuals have to be on point with the music. It's impressive when you can still make music, have all these different characters/personas on screen and then you can go about your day and go to the bodega without being noticed in 2017. Damon Albarn might be the exception since he does have previous success from Blur. The last two things I will say about this revamped version of Gorillaz are:

1. I've noticed they're focusing more on the rap and hip hop elements of their music. I wish they wouldn't do that but it's not my decision, I guess. "Ascension," their first single off of Humanz, was like, 95% rap. That's okay. I guess.

2. Their animation game has gotten way more advanced! I'm not sure if I like that either. I liked the DIY, gritty feel to them.

Feist, Pleasure
I surprisingly absolutely love Feist's new album, Pleasure. Metals didn't do anything for me, so I thought maybe The Reminder was just a fluke. But Pleasure reminds me of a Feist album that is on quaaludes and I'm okay with that. It's slower than my usual liking but there are some gems on there - for example, "I Wish I Didn't Miss You," "Century" and "Any Party". Definitely recommended for some late night studying or if you're sick/need to rest in bed and want to listen to something mellow.

Sylvan Esso, What Now
I save my favorite recommendation for last - Sylvan Esso! I feel like there is a lot more pep to their songs on the self titled but regardless, What Now is a great sophomore album and there are still some really good songs on there like "Radio," "Die Young," "The Glow" and "Just Dancing." Out of all the albums that came out yesterday, this is of course, my favorite and most recommended choice. I'll be seeing them in Albany (they're playing at the mall, of all places,) at the end of May so definitely look out for a concert review of that.

Friday, April 14, 2017

In Defense of Girls. And Here's Why.

Since the beginning of Girls, I've always been intrigued by what was described at first as, "Sex in the City for a younger generation" and yes, it definitely is, but I think it explores friendship in very different ways than Sex in the City. The friendships formed in Sex in the City were shown on a surface level and nothing more. There were fights occasionally, ups and downs but it never felt as authentic. The four ladies in Sex in the City were so different from each other but somehow, it just "worked". Regardless of what they were going through in life and how they disagreed with the way they were living their life. And that never felt believable to me. In Girls, like Sex in the City, their friendship "worked" until it didn't after the first two seasons. And that's when I think it really deviates from Sex in the City quite a bit. When Hannah, Jessa, Marnie and Shoshanna start navigating life after college and actually figure out what they want to do and who they want to be (or maybe some of the ladies at least try to do those things and not succeed,) that's when it starts getting interesting. In Sex in the City, we were never able to see this stage in their lives and this is where Girls is not like Sex in the City at all. The show portrays pretty truthfully what it was like to be out of college right after the recession (that's what we're still calling it, right?), with no job prospects and an expensive liberal arts degree you can't even use if you wanted to. And not only that, but being entitled to boot! All four girls have been offered a privileged lifestyle since they've been born - Jessa, Marnie and Hannah all going to Oberlin College, a very old money institution, (where Lena Dunham actually attended college,) and have been able to get pretty much anything they've wanted.
          A lot of the negative feedback I hear from people about the show is "all those characters are terrible people" and yes, yes they are (except Ray and I will defend that to my death, he's just trying to make it in this world,) but that's kind of the point and every time someone says this to me, I twitch a little bit. Because yes, you're supposed to hate them but then they do something in an episode that makes you realize you know this person in real life. You know a Marnie. You know a Hannah. You know Elijah. Regardless of them being unlikable, you cannot deny the badass writing chops of Lena Dunham and her crew. To write characters that are relatable, but also so annoying and unlikable, you say "that reminds me of ____", is a pretty successful feat when you're a writer of the fiction variety.

       People aren't likable all the time. Your Charlotte's and Carrie's are few and far between. Women especially have been judged if they're having a bad day and aren't "on" 24/7. Girls challenges this concept that women always have to be fun, flirty and nice all the time. Women, like men, also have their moments. We sometimes don't like our friends either, but they're our friends and we understand when bad days arise. Most times in the show, the girls' suffer from a little more than just a bad day, but you get the idea. You know, like when the publisher who is releasing your e-book unexpectedly dies and now your book deal is kaput. Or when you broke up with your first love and want to have sex with a random hotel door man. Or when you connect with someone you never thought you would; who also happens to be very ill and asks you to end their life. There are a lot of feelings and emotions swirling around and they're not all going to be admirable.
          I also love the fact that these characters have changed and progressed throughout the show. Even if it's a change for the worse, (I'm looking at you, Marnie seasons 3-6,) the viewer can notice distinct changes in these characters and goes through their journey with them to continue learning. And that's something that happens in life that isn't depicted on television too much.
         For these reasons, I'm going to miss the show terribly but I also understand why Dunham has decided to end it. They're transforming into thirty-somethings, getting engaged, getting new job opportunities or maybe they're picking up the pieces from their mistakes and starting a brand new chapter. SPOILERS - I would like to see if Jessa will even survive her thirties, if Marnie will stop this nonsense with Desi and snap out of it, if Shoshanna's new fiance, Byron is actually deserving of such an individualistic and resilient woman (albeit, sometimes selfish, but aren't they all? Yes. The answer is yes.) And probably the biggest mystery of all - is Paul-Louis going to be involved with his child?! Because I kind of ship him and Hannah together. That first episode of this season was magical and you could totally see that he brought out a side to Hannah that normally doesn't show. I hope their story isn't over. Jessa and Adam deserve each other and at this point, Hannah is too good for Adam. And Jessa for that matter but I guess they're trying to cultivate their friendship again? I am hoping these questions get answered in the finale this Sunday but knowing Lena Dunham, there won't be closure. And I get it - people are constantly learning and changing. She has always wanted to convey that in the show. And because of that, their story won't be over until it's over.

Anyway...I will end this post with a sweet moment between ladies...something that seems so far away from a possibility, especially after watching last week's "group meeting" in the bathroom during Shoshanna's engagement party.