Saturday, September 16, 2017

Trust me, I've been Writing this year

I just noticed that 2017 has not been a blogging content heavy year for The Preston Beat. To be honest, I've been trying (i.e. struggling) to write a fictional novel this year and working on my freelance career. I think that being a Journalism major and writing articles has reduced my ability to write a long fictional story. Every story I try to write just doesn't cut it for me. I think it's also because I'm so used to creating short, informational stories now, it's hard for me to switch for some reason. Anyway, I'm still working on it. It's a process, I guess. But this is why you haven't heard from me a lot. Every time I have time to write, I'm experimenting with this and working on getting my groove back.

"If you're losing your soul and you know it, then you've still got a soul left to lose." - Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Arcade Fire & Kesha...

First, let's talk about Arcade Fire.
Yeah, this came out of left field for me. Arcade Fire released Everything Now in very late July, I listened to it on a whim and was totally surprised by how much I liked it. I heard the song "Everything Now," their first single from the album, and it was alright but I wasn't too impressed. Come to find out, I might even like it just as much as The Suburbs. It was produced by Arcade Fire and Thomas Bangalter (I just found out), one half of Daft Punk, so no wonder why it's dance pop amazingness. It's definitely different from their normal sound but there have been hints of Everything Now within their past discography, specifically "Sprawl II" from The Suburbs. People liked it when "Sprawl II" came out, but for some reason this album is getting a lot of shade from the purists. "Arcade Fire is selling out." What an easy phrase to say without any other information presented to prove this! It seems that like The Suburbs, they really thought about this as an album, not song by song. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I love that. Here's one of my favorites on the album for your listening pleasure, "Signs of Life" (Disclaimer: I have not watched the video yet so I'm not sure what number it is on the "so hipster it makes me sick" scale. Judging from the screen cap, I'm guessing an 11. I digress.).

The pop music world is rejoicing - Kesha's back!
I'm so happy Kesha is back. After years of dealing with nasty court cases and not being able to record music, she finally is back with her third album Rainbow, that comes out this Friday, August 8th. She's already released four songs off the album along with videos - "Praying," "Learn to Let Go," "Hymn," and "Woman," which might be my favorite. People who have already heard the record call it a "powerful, emotional and strongly feminist record that is worth the 4-year wait." Sounds good to me. Honestly, I think this album is important not only to her fans and for her career as a sustainable artist, but for her as well. It's an extremely personal record, just listen to "Praying," it says it all what she's been going through for YEARS. And as a musician, especially someone like Kesha who was a rising star (and I guess still is?) and obviously loves making music to share it with the world, it must have been extremely heart breaking to be unable to record or release any new music for such a long time. Warrior came out in 2012, for gods sake! She's got a lot of things to say! She is still Kesha, but different. If you're looking for the next "Tik Tok," you'll be sorely disappointed. But hopefully "Woman," a song that has more of a deeper meaning than any of the songs on Animal, will suffice. This is a side of Kesha the masses haven't seen before - more serious about her music but other than that, her ideas and opinions on things seem the same. A little bit more reserved, which is understandable. Even if I hate this album, I'm still going to support her. This quote perfectly sums up the reasons I will: "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."- ee Cummings

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."