Many many people love metal. It often gets dissed and slighted when it comes to uptight music circles, but it’s actually one of the more difficult styles to master. It’s fast, driven, and precise in ways that other music doesn’t have to be.
This post won’t be long, but I wanted to share my plan for March. March Madness is a thing loved by many, and when planning for the coming year, i had the idea to do entire month dedicated to the severely under appreciated genre of metal. Over the next four weeks, you’ll see articles written about Pantera, Black Sabbath, the best Albums of the 2000’s, Converge, Black Metal, and few other things.
We start Monday with the hellish stylings of Slayer. See you Then.
This band gets plenty of smack thrown it’s way, but honestly, there’s way way worse out there, at least in my opinion. The album, released during the tail end of the “Nu Metal” craze of the early aughts, not only was a huge success, but it somehow escaped the death nail of the genre for the most part. Linkin Park has since become a giant act, and defied expectation and managed to not be one dimensional, but if this album hadn’t had the impact it did, we might never have gotten more records. Today we add another record to the Albums of My Life Series, with Linkin Park’s debut, “Hybrid Theory.”
When the album opens, initially you think this is going to be the same thing you’ve heard over and over again. The rapping starts, and you’re thinking “Oh yeah this is typical,” but what you forget is before long a more focused, singing oriented voice comes through, and shortly after that you’re in the world of “Hybrid Theory.” As the opening track “Papercut” navigates through record scratching, catchy harmonies and clear and clean instrumentation, you realize this album isn’t just another disposable album from an ever increasingly disposable genre. The second track though, is a juggernaut, and was the first massive release from the band.
“One Step Closer,” even after all these years, still is a good song. I’m gonna get tons of shame for this blog, but I really don't care. There’s a certain charm to me in going back to music you haven’t listened to in years and years, and understanding that you’ve since moved on, but that at one point this album was a huge part of your life.“One Step Closer,” is a song that everyone can relate to because we’ve all felt pushed around, made to feel unimportant, and it’s overall just a high energy song that get’s the good ole’ blood pumping. That’s probably why so many people gravitated to it.
Song after song on “Hybrid Theory” hits more and more, and you get the sense that these guys had a very precise idea of where they wanted this record to go. Take a song like “With You.” It’s one of the best tracks on the entire album, and the electronic effects on the song, courtesy of Joe Hahn really give the song a little something under the hood that helps the track build a strong pace. The bridge at the end with Chester singing is one of the highlights of the song, and it’s really easy to sing along to. That’s important, especially for the type of audience they were going for.
While “One Step Closer” was an initial big hit, as the album progresses, the stature of the singles grows and grows. The next super recognizable track hits us at number five with “Crawling.” The track opens with a cold, electronic beat, but before you have time to adjust to it, Bennington is bellowing over the instrumentation, and his voice is shining through for the first time on the record. It helps that he’s actually singing, and his voice is excellently complemented by the music. You feel his pain when he discusses how “These wounds will not heal.” The video is also a landmark of the era, and in the end this song won it’s audience over by “Crawling” all over the competition of the modern rock scene at the end. It’s just an all around great rock song.
Thats whats so great about Linkin Park. They were able to ultimately bridge the gap between the uber depressing messages of Korn and Limp Bizkit, but also mastered the more upbeat style that P.O.D. tried to provide us with. It’s just more accessible. I mean there were twelve year old girls with LP shirts on. That just doesn’t happen too often, especially with more angry sounding music.
So many songs are familiar now though. “Runaway” is a crowd anthem for everyone to get pumped up on, while “Points of Authority” is a masterful track that fuses the rap and rock elements in a fluid way that isn’t seen on every track. Even a track like “A Place for my Head,” which features an Incubus influenced opening is able to grab the inspiration from hip hop and rock that the band is rooted in.
Track eight though, is where the lid really blew off on this Linkin Park craze. “One Step Closer,” and “Crawling” were big hits, but if you want a massive success, women and girls need to like your song. This statement isn’t meant as derogatory, but it’s mostly true. Guys love liking the same music as their ladies, and if you have a great song that your girl also likes, it’s much more fun. I can’t listen to half of the music I love around my wife because she wouldn't dig it, which is fine, but you enjoy sharing music with your partners.
The song I’m referring to, is of course “In The End.” The song builds off of an initial piano key, and with Chester and Shinado both harmonizing, you really can’t go wrong. There’s no other song in their canon where they fuse the vocal arrangements better, and the theme of disenchantment in a relationship helps to relate to a casual listener. The vocals near the end are supremely strong, and it’s in that instance where the band allows Chester’s voice to soar above and beyond to make a profound impact. This song became the anthem of the era, and one of the brightest stars in the whole saga of “Nu Metal.” For good reason though; the song is excellent and is still being sung by giant crowds every time the band plays.
From there the album goes in much the same way the rest of “Hybrid Theory” has. “Forgotten” is a bounce heavy, crunchy signature sounding song that sees Mike take center stage, as he raps throughout. “Pushing Me Away,” the last track on the record, is a more down to earth modern rock track. It makes a good ending song, mostly because it ties the alienation and ugliness of a failed relationship into the central themes of the record.
Ultimately though, this album brought the band into huge focus, and they were able to go on to really delve into different areas and become more than just a typical band of a certain type of music. Thanks for reading. See you Friday.
Even since her days with the Sugarcubes, Bjork has been a figure that captivated like-minded audiences. Her voice was was both powerful and whispery when needed, and I’d like to think her unique voice led the way for various artists who also didn’t have the most traditional sounding vocals. She’s the alternative Madonna; able to revive her identify with each subsequent releases, and still is compelling to watch(Unlike Madonna). Today we talk about Bjork’s Top Ten Best Songs. Let’s go!
10. Crystalline, Biophilia
Like I mentioned in the introduction, Bjork is constantly changing, and you’ll see examples of this all throughout my Top Ten Bjork Songs. With this album she not only created music, but a whole world of computer app’s to make the album more integrated and world oriented. There’s some filler there, but much of it is really cool and intriguing. The song itself though, has this small feeling bell factor running through the duration, and Bjork’s voice is smashing through the simple yet highly engaging beat. There’s a mixture here that makes the song awesome. I love a song that can seem like it’s minimal and simple. Often times it’s the opposite to be honest. The song is mid tempo, and a little bit quiet, but here, and especially at the end, there’s a lot of beat work happening.
9. Hyper-ballad, Post
Number nine on our Top ten Bjork songs list finds the first song on our countdown that perfects the slow build and growing of sounds. The imagery here is simply incredible. The story of Bjork waking up to a gorgeously cold day, and having to care for her family is one that you find easy to relate to. When she talks about “Early morning, no one is awake,” you know exactly what she’s talking about. There’s a beautiful stillness to an early morning,and without much effort you’re transported to this wonderful world full of vibrant beats that both make you want to dance and be in the arms of the one’s you love. I love that she’s able to do all this with just her voice and magic with lyrics, and it’s one of the reasons she’s still going strong twenty plus years on.
8. Enjoy, Post
This darker themed musical track opens with a machine like movement, and it’s one of the few things that she does that gets closest to darker industrial music. Now, she’s not quite there, but it’s brimming with ominous beats and the vocals here are held back in the mix to give more focus to the highly organized music. The beats keep growing throughout the song, and you get the impression that the lyrics are representative of the forcefulness, but in a very strange way. Maybe she like’s being dominated? I’m still not sure, but the song itself is quite submissive at times, and the murkiness of the track only adds to the overall gloom of the song.
7. Human Behaviour, Debut
For many their first exposure to Bjork was this song, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t mine. As soon as my eleven year old mind heard this, I was entranced. The beat, the off kilter voice, and especially, the animal themed music video all caught something within my mind, and that’s where my love and fascination with her began. The song has this tribal drum beat happening in the background, and her voice is especially solid here. She’s gone on to say that this album was quite weak and not a favorite of hers, but I’m grateful for being exposed to it, and it ignited a love and excitement that’s lasted a large portion of my existence here on Earth.
6. All is Full of Love, Homogenic
There’s two clips of this wondrous song that I love. The first is the official video. Depicting an android version of Bjork, she’s gradually built in a cold, still environment. Machines making machines, and she’s slowly morphing into an entity and gaining the love of the other robot in the room. It’s a video of cyber erotica that’s really quite beautiful and enticing to the eye. It’s probably one of the better videos she’s ever made to be honest. The second one, is a live version from when she opened her first Coachella set with the song. The crowd is a little too much for her, and you can see she wasn’t expecting that response, but it makes the performance that much more engrossing. It’s a thing of beauty, and both variations of this track shouldn’t be missed if you haven't seen them.
5. Pagan Poetry, Vespertine
Number five on our list of the best Bjork songs, “Pagan Poetry” is blooming with fantastical beats that make you feel as if you’re in a wonderful, illuminating garden at night. It’s a layered song that is perfectly complimented by Bjork using her voice in a more subdued way than she does in other songs. I’m still not sure how much harp is involved in the track, but there’s something that sounds like that in the background, and it really helps to move the song along. The album, “Vespertine,” is often forgotten because it came out after her two most well known and groundbreaking albums(Post and Homogenic), but it’s a record worth digging into it.
4. Joga, Homogenic,
The strings opening this song propel you into exactly the world she’s trying to show us. This album was the first record where she really went for a more personal, emotional type of record, and that feeling permeates this entire track. The song itself is an ode to Iceland, and also to her best friend, and the lyrics demonstrate her love and need for them both. I like to think that her use of the “State of Emergency” isn’t her being in danger, but rather how much she requires these things to be ever present in her life. You can sense how important her friendships and relationships are, and she requires them in her life to make her world the best possible world.
3. Hunter, Homogenic
This song opens the record, and from the first second you sense this wouldn’t be like her previous albums. It has an otherworldly aesthetic to it, and you feel like you're watching her scavenge for food on some alien world. No One is quite capable of incorporating electronic beats with symphonic qualities as well as she is, and on “Hunter” you see her mastering her craft to a level higher than anyone in modern music. The song is quiet on the surface, but don’t be mistaken. There’s much happening here. Her vocals are a little bit sparse, but the way she allows the instrumentation to paint the world is brilliant. This signified a change of pace for her, and brought her status way up in the world. Excellent song, from an excellent album.
2. Army of Me, Post
More than likely this is one of the her heaviest, beat driven song. The song itself is a bomb of sorts, and from the initial opening of the song, you’re pretty much in the middle of it. The track blends machine like beats and her signature voice in such a way that you can’t really focus on one for too long until you start to figure out just how closely they are in tune. I’ve always felt like this song is a presentation that might see Bjork standing atop a tower, imploring the army below that not only doesn’t she need them, but she’s capable of wiping them all out with her skill and precision. Now, that’s just my interpretation to the song. Feel free to disagree if you want, but when I hear this track I witness Bjork at her fiercest and most powerful, musically and otherwise.
1. Bachelorette, Homogenic
Since I heard it, this was my favorite Bjork song, and it was no surprise when I knew it would be the Number One song on my list of the Top Ten Bjork songs. This song is so amazing in every way that’s hard to pinpoint just one area where it excels in brilliance. First, the music is one set in a post apocalyptic world that sees the skies turn to ash and the slowly beat bubbling over a dark world. I’ve always only ever witnessed the song in this context musically. But the lyrics do something different. While the instrumentation is dark and mischievous, the lyrics are a struggle and full of love. All throughout the track, you see examples of her and her partner, and their need for the other. “Love is a Two Way Dream” is an absolute brilliant example of the shared love among partners in crime, and with gorgeous blossoming love can come heartache and difficulty. The song is full of epic imagery, and this is without a doubt her strongest track to date. The strength behind her voice is precise and you feel as though she’s not only giving it her all for the power of the song, but also for the strength of her love for her partner. It’s a remarkable song, and one that speaks to the epic scope and feeling of being in love. Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday.
For many, the fourteenth of February is a dreadful day. Whether you’re not in a relationship, or in one you wish you could get out of, the day is the worst day to be single. But thankfully there are many people who are awesome, and also may be “alone.” Even more great is there are bitter songs for the people the day who wish the day would just go away. Today’s entry is a list of not so love songs. Some don’t even discuss love in a romantic way. Some of these are on the sweeter side, some are darker, and some remind us that life is too short. Hope you enjoy
the Flaming Lips, Do You Realize??, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The song has now become a huge hit, but truthfully, it’s a damn good song. It’s one that is able to capture the warmth that love brings about, but also the honesty that everyone’s time on Earth will eventually end. The track has a slight science fiction vibe to it(similar to other tracks on the record), but it also feels extremely human. The way the bells and effects come bursting through the song really make it seem like a new and wondrous world has landed at your feet, and Coyne’s voice is scratchy and beautiful in a way only his is capable of. This song changed the trajectory of the band upon it’s release, and it’s well deserved. One of the most honest, and beautiful songs of our time, it’s a song that is loved far and wide.
Bon Iver, Skinny Love, For Emma, Forever Ago
The lonely guitar strumming a despondent cord, this song is one that captures pain in a naked, unmistakable way. Vernon’s voice shows signs of remorse, and of not having the patience. He’s begging a person for someone who can’t help anymore. The metaphor of “I’ll be Holding all the tickets and you’ll holding all the finds” is brilliant. He’s giving his all to the subject matter, but she’s not giving anything in return. This song is off of an album full of real world truths about the complexities of a relationship, but it’s still one of the prettiest tracks I’ve ever heard.
Death Cab for Cutie, I Will Follow you into the Dark, Plans
It takes a lot of love to venture to unknown parts of another human being and share the dirty, painful details. Anyone who has been in any kind of relationship undoubtedly knows it. This track is an example of not only being aware of the complications, but also going full speed into the fear that is the “heart of love.” This is Death Cab at their most enduring, and also their most painstakingly honest track. I presume a partner in crime is vanishing to the next world, but the remaining partner is all too willing to give up his heart and soul to accompany her into the next world. When I hear this song, I think of undeniable companionship and of never wanting that special person to be alone.
the Killers, My List, Sam’s Town
From the first time I was exposed to this there was something about it. The Killers are known for a few things, but profound songwriters of meaningful songs aren’t really one of them. I happen to think they’re an awesome band, but many many people can’t stand them. Either way, this song is an accurate portrayal of mistakes everyone makes. The soaring qualities of the music, as well as Flowers’ often epic voice pulls the song to a wonderful place that’s full of reassurance and positivity that eventually make the song a worthy but often overlooked song about redemption, and of love.
Lykke Li, Sadness is a Blessing, Wounded Rhymes
If she wasn’t put on Earth to remind us about the wrongs that replay in relationships, I don’t know why she’s here. Her voice is able to be so downright depressing and full of soul that many times you don’t even need to know what she’s saying. Her tone counts for so so much, and it’s even more noteworthy here than normal. This is a song welcoming the pain of mistakes, and hoping somehow they will be corrected. The music though, full of chamber music qualities, brings the sadness to another lesson. It’s true, “Sadness is a Blessing,” especially since we not have been gifted with this amazing talent if not for ultimate despair.
Nine Inch Nails, Various Methods of Escape, Hesitation Marks
What happens when you need to get out, but something, or perhaps someone isn’t willing to give you your reprieve. That’s what we’re confronted with in this song. Reznor’s voice in the chorus is one of desperation. He simply has no idea how to escape, and his requests keep going unanswered. The beats and backgrounds slowly glide underneath the vocals, and it never really hits the same dynamic that other tracks do, but it also doesn’t have to. It reminds me very much of the work he did on the “Gone Girl” score, and if you think in terms of context between the film and the lyrics of the song, you’ll find it’s very similar in some instances. One of my favorite songs on the new album, and an all around great atmosphere building track.
Portishead, Roads, Dummy
I suspect anyone reading this might agree that this song is easily the best they've ever written. It's a really sad song, but it's pain is also it's beauty. The whole feel of the song is dreary, but sometimes those are the songs that can bring the most beauty. Pain, and sadness are a part of this world, and understanding that makes the happy moments worth fighting for. To this day the plot, and utter hopelessness of the song, and the pain behind Beth's voice still bring tears to my eyes. Without sadness, and loss, nothing would be special. I'm reminded of listening to this with my grandmother, Audrey. She quite liked this song one time she heard it played in my car, and that always has stayed with me. She left this world, but at least the memory will never escape. That's the ultimate message I get from this song. Memories last forever.
Thanks for reading, Sorry for the delay on this. Mardi Gras is occurring here in New Orleans, and it’s been a busy one. There will be more this week, but regular posts will start next Monday.
Why are long songs so thrilling? Often times they take us on these massive journeys that are soaring, abstract, and above else, a testament to the depth of the band or artists. Today we’re gonna talk about some of the best long songs of recent years. Hope you enjoy.
Dan Deacon, Wham City, Spiderman of the Rings, 11:45
Dan Deacon has always been an interesting artist, and this track, off his first official release is a epic journey full of blasting electro beats, tales of mots, bridges, and wonderful images. It’s a slow build up of knobs and experimental beats, but it’s all in preparation for the dance party that takes over at around the three minute mark. The lyrics are great and mythological, but if you are familiar with Dan you know it’s all in service to the overall foundation of the song. I’ve seen this song performed a few times, and it’s amazing how much dancing you can get through in twelve fun filled minutes.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, East Hastings, F♯A♯∞, 17:58
We open up on a darkened, battered landscape. A man is yelling for help,but help is not to be found. Picture any dystopian world, and of the ravage it must contain, and you can place yourself in the world of this song. It’s extremely slow winding, and the strums of the guitar early on are a call to prayer by candlelight that’s going ignored. This mysterious band rarely tours, gives even fewer interviews, and prefers to let their astonishing music speak for itself. This is easily my favorite song by the band, and the way they pull every moment out at a snails pace only makes the intricate song more enthralling to experience. It has a depth of somberness in it’s epic scope that you don’t find often. It’s a haunting look into what a real end of days scenario could look like, and it’s the perfect score for the rapture. Only the bad ones get left behind.
Neutral Milk Hotel, Oh Comely, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, 8:18
On this amazing album, there are many stand out songs, but the longest, and most gut wrenching, in my opinion, is “Oh Comely.” The quiet sadness of the acoustic guitar gives way only to the strange voice of band leader Jeff Mangum. While many songs on this list take you on a epic journey, this track is more of a voyage of the soul. It’s a meandering song full of loss, but it speaks to a simpler time. It’s a verbose song which finds back wood types singing joyfully behind the light of a night fire. At slightly over eight minutes, the song has a haunting quality to it, and with help from the rest of the band, Mangum is able to create a captivating sad song that is full of dread. You feel the pain when he talks about missing the chance to save the album’s inspiration, and how 500 families are buried in a whole in the earth, their lives taken away from them.
Sigur Ros, Svefn-G-Englar, Ágætis Byrjun, 10:04
I've been lucky enough to see this band three times now, and most of those times got to share the moment with my wife. When we saw them at Bonnaroo 2008, it was easily the best set of the weekend, and unfortunately, it was overshadowed by that whole Kanye thing. Getting back to the topic at hand though, this was the choice for the opening song of the set, and it couldn't have been better, It was day three of the festival, at 1:30 AM, and this slow burn of a song was how they welcomed us into their little world for the next two hours. The song winds and rolls with ease, going to an unknown destination. Trees on both sides, and the sun slowly going down for a nap, we don't know where this road will be going, but the chances are that it's going to be a place where only the purest, most serene things are possible, and the people we love will be accompanying us on the journey.
Smashing Pumpkins, Porcelina of the Vast Oceans, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 9:23
I think this song is only possible because with “Soma,” off of “Siamese Dream” the band figured out they could make longs songs that weren’t difficult to get through. The Pumpkins have a few lengthy songs, but this is my favorite, without a doubt. The lush backgrounds of the music give way over time to a bombastic signature sound only they could achieve. And I mean all four of them, not just Corgan. It’s nearly three minutes before vocals come in, and while they’re great, the real story here is the perfection in terms of mixing. Corgan’s vocals are done in such a way that they just peek out during the verses, but come full force during the epic choruses. Jimmy Chamberlain meanwhile, is able to navigate the drums like a sail covering the black waters of the night. Among the amazing songs found on “Mellon Collie,” “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” is among the most remarkable and triumphant.
Swans, She Loves Us, To Be Kind, 17:01
Before Swans reemerged they were a different entity, but now they’re mostly known as purveyors of insanely long songs, full of aggression and musical precision. “She Loves Us,”
off last years “To Be Kind,” is a prime example of how the band has transformed. It’s a deliberate song, and from the early offset the thr guitars are matched in their strangeness by the tribal sounding tapping of the drums. It’s a song very much in the spirit of an indian temptress, whose cultivating the spirits from the earth to help do her bidding. From their though, the song spirals out in a weird, violent way. It almost reminds me of the bad acid trip from “Natural Born Killers.” Swans are at their best when their left unhinged and to their own devices, and with the help of his various members, Swans has become a thing of avant garde beauty and darkness that they weren’t album to accomplish on their first try. If you love not knowing where a record is going, this is the band for you.
Tool, Third Eye, Salival version, 14:05
“Think for yourself, question authority,” might be the motto of the band. While this song hasn't been played a lot at the shows I've attended, I've heard that phrase quite a few times. The opening, provided by Tim Leary, basically sets the stage for the most epic, mind melting song in their catalog. This song has more loops and turns than an episode of “LOST.” It also happens to have a persistence that doesn’t quit for the entire fourteen minutes of the song. Seeing this song live, and especially as the show opener is just insane. Most bands don't have the nerve to open a two hour show with the longest song they plan to play that night, but Tool do it without missing a beat. Adam Jones' guitars, to me at least, have always reminded me a little bit of something you'd hear in an Egyptian science fiction movie. Speaking on the topic of mixing, and making sure that every part is central is something no one except maybe Radiohead does better than Tool. They understand the lyrics are the not the overwhelming plot point of the song. Everything you hear is meant to induce emotions. Sure the lyric helps, but all parts are equally valuable. With more than five minutes left, the song takes yet another turn. It goes from ominous foreshadowing to the welcoming of a love thought lost perhaps. Then another turn down a spiraling rabbit hole. Imploring us to open our eyes may or may not have something to do with the opening dialogue on the track. Humans aren't meant to be conditioned by rules. We are too great of a people. Life without boundaries is the most ultimate gift anyone can achieve, yet at times it's those very rules of society that help us to stay safe. Then another, even uglier turn, this time with the intense drums of Carey while Keenan proclaims “ Prying open my third eye,” as the song comes to a final, full circle resting place.
As we all know, even today, The Cure have been around for a really long time. Like, a really long time. Released in 1989, “Disintegration” is the band’s eighth album. Think about that for a second. Before the eighties ended they were already at eight records. Most bands don’t even make that amount of albums. Anyway, this record is a monumental success in the world of Alternative Rock, and it’s still hailed as one of the best albums of all time. Even Kyle from South Park once proclaimed “Disintegration is the best album ever,” so yeah. Today we add another record to my “Albums of my Life” series with the Cure’s “Disintegration.”
It might seem silly to those not of this age, but the return to gloomy, slow alt rock found it’s way back into the band in part because of Smith’s drug use. The drug use however, was a result of him coming to the realization that his thirtieth birthday was closing in. Like I said, that might seem silly, but it’s a big deal in your life. Anyway, the album over with soft murmurs of wind chimes, like a cool night air is passing through. Then, like an explosion of fireworks over a lake, the song erupts and the slow yet purposeful drumming and texturing of “Plainsong” overtakes us. It’s not only one of the best songs they ever recorded, but it’s an unbelievable way to start an album. Robert Smith’s voice has always been a unique one, but the way the album is recorded really lets his voice came in waves, weaving in and out of the instruments.
It’s funny to consider at the time that people higher up thought this record would be commercial suicide. It was the opinion of many that they should stick to their light hearted material, but Smith, wisely so, had other intentions. There are so many powerful songs on this record, and the more you listen to it and get deeper, you see it’s full potential. Take a song like “Pictures of You.” It’s a more musically light song compared to the rest of the tracks, but the lyrics are adamantly down and upsetting. For me this song has always been a reminder of how quickly relationships can take a bad turn and you're left with nothing, except memories. In his lyrics, Smith paints a vivid picture of a forlorn lover who has lost everything, and in the layers of guitars Smith and Porl Thompson give the sang added depth.
By track four though, the Cure start bringing out their big guns. More than likely the most recognizable song on the album comes to us in the form of “Lovesong.” I know this was one of the earliest songs I ever had from them, and it fits perfectly in the dreary themes of loneliness and despair that filter through the album. The production quality of this song, and of the album overall has this murky, deep water feeling to it. It really does overtake the music at some point and adds weight whenever it’s needed. I’m always found myself wondering if the presentation on “Disintegration” reminded anyone else of struggle. What I mean is that emotionally it’s a difficult record, full of want, desire, many regrets, and ultimate sadness. It’s a journey to get through, much like trying to drag a body through a swamp. It’s difficult, and i can’t help but think that lyrically, and figuratively the album’s muddled, deeply textured sound is the trials and journey of Smith trying to get through the swamp of realizing he’s about to be thirty.
As we get to the halfway point of the record, the band really hits its stride. Tracks six through eight are all excellent, and they serve as the emotional core of the entire album. “Lullaby” has a soft but sinister element to it, and Smith’s voice is at his whispery, breathy best. There are still times where I’m not sure what he’s saying, but in this instance the tone and approach he uses is more important than the overall lyrics. The next song, and arguably their best song period, is called “Fascination Street.”
There are so few songs that drive the beat and capture the spirit of the album in a way that “Fascination Street” does. The thumping of the drums, the slow rattle of the bass, and the eventual emergence of Smith’s voice only add to the essence of the song. It’s a submissively dark song,and it lures you in like a predator in the night. Except in this case, you don’t want to leave the strange, enticing area that makes up “Fascination Street.”
“Prayers for Rain” comes next, and in my opinion, it bridges the gap between the start and finish of the record. It’s another nightmarishly slow and deliberate song, but it excels at that task. The keyboards are melancholy and lush in a way that other synths and keys hadn’t been used during this time period. This was recorded in the late eighties, and while plenty of dark records had been released in that time, a band that big hadn’t gone into the heart of darkness so thoroughly. It’s almost as if the record was a reaction not only to the more poppy albums the band had been putting out, but also to the glam pop that was festering everywhere during this time.
The title track, finding us at number 10, is the beginning of the end for this amazing record, and this song in particular is pretty brilliant. It opens with a long instrumental section, which the band does regularly, but it’s this building of tension that sets it apart from other tracks in which they use that method. Not only does this signify the nearing culmination of the album, but also of the turmoil that is everywhere and all encompassing on the record.
The last song, “Untitled,” begins in a very unusual way compared to the rest of the tracks. The keys are slightly more upbeat and clear, but quickly enough the song starts down a smiliarly themed road as the rest of the album. It very much feels like an end of the album song, but don’t think I mean that in a bad way. It’s a great track, and for one last brief period we share the regret that Smith has laid out for us to understand over the last seventy plus minute record. It’s a slow winding song, and it signifies having made it through the darkness and evil of the night. This is the song where Smith comes to terms with the mistakes he’s made, and is finally figuring out either how to remedy the issue, or get to a place where he can live with them.
Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday.
Without a doubt, for many adolescents in the 90’s who were growing up and trying to figure themselves out, a band was discovered and before long, literally millions of people were obsessed with them. This band is Nirvana. For the early part of the decade there was simply no bigger act than these out of nowhere musicians from Seattle. The importance of the music on the scene, and on rock music itself is colossal, but with amazing beginnings come sometimes tragic ends.
Kurt Cobain was always going to be rock star, even though it became obvious very quickly that that was the last thing he cared about. Even from early on you can sense his attitude towards the scene, and how adverse he was to fame. Thankfully though, the music was good enough that it caught on, and before long, they had arrived.
However, we’re going to jump back a bit there. The bands core, Cobain and Krist Novoselic had a rhythm and chemistry thats hard to come by. Their proper full length debut, “Bleach,” is an album full of honesty, and also of aspiring hopes. This was in the early days of the “Grunge” movement, and at this point, people hadn’t began to catch on in the vast way they would in following years. There was an interesting thing happening in the Northwest, and one of the many noteworthy aspects was the sound of a little band called “Nirvana.”
“Bleach” has this certain quality to it that’s both clearly defined and dirty. I mean seriously, it’s a gritty record, but there’s a weird charm to it at the same time. Many of the songs featured have themes of anger, isolation, and determination. “School” is one of the stand outs. Lyrics don’t always have to make much sense, but when you hear Cobain scream “No Recess,” you genuinely feel like you’re missing out on the wonderful aspects of your childhood. Other songs are more to the point and reak of failure. “Negative Creep” is full of anger, and you get the impression it’s from the point of view of a severely neglected child. One can’t but wonder when listening to these songs what brought about these dark emotions. “Bleach” is covered in these feelings.
Then, everything changed.. In the year 1991, this juggernaut of a song called “Smells Like Teen Spirit” exploded the band into public consciousness, and nothing ever was the same. By this time, Kurt and Krist had finally found a steady drummer, in the form of Dave Grohl. Having being brought on during the early “Nevermind” sessions, he added a cohesiveness and fusion to the band that wasn’t there during “Bleach.” You can just hear the band change, and overnight, the music changed, and with it, the world had begun to take notice of the Seattle sound.
“Nevermind” is still one of the best albums of the 90’s, and it’s full of amazing songs. Many times, especially with something so exacting, you may find some aging happening. Those things don’t exist when discussing “Nevermind.” “Teen Spirit,” still has the charge it had the first time you heard it, and although the video isn’t the best, it brings you back to the days when you figured out you weren’t alone. There were people just as weird and misunderstood as you, and now we all wanted to wear flannel. While “Smells like Teen Spirit” was the obvious stand out track, plenty of other songs resonated with the world at large.”In Bloom” has a crisp vocal quality to it, and the video, meant to be cheesy and reminiscent of the 50’s, hits all the right notes.
However, it’s in the non singles that the spirit of the what the band truly was comes out. “Territorial Pissings” opens up with this absolutely insane drum beat(Who knew Grohl could drum…) and the whole song is in your face in the way punk rock was meant to be. The band had this ability to be as punk rock as you could be, while also including more oriented hooks and beats. It’s a rare thing, but one Nirvana seemed capable of doing almost without effort. Another quality track, and one of my all time favorite songs period is “Drain You.”The album version is awesome, but the superior version, at least in my opinion, is the live version taken “From the Muddy banks of the Wishkah” album, released years later, after all the sadness had come.
This version, full of the raw energy of their notorious live shows, is one of the best live songs I’ve ever heard, but it also is one of the tightest sounding recordings. Cobain’s voice on the live effort sounds like you would imagine it would, in a room with 10,000 people. Also great about this version is the buildup of the drums and textured layers right before the song explodes. Having had the amazing opportunity to see this band live, one single time, that energy is familiar to me, and if I had been of age to be on the floor during this concert, things would have gone down in a volatile way.
The darkest song though, finds us at the very end of “Nevermind.” It’s a haunting, isolated track full of terrible foreshadowing and it exists purely in a world of darkness. That song, “Something in the way,” has extremely dark lyrics,and the stillness it brings to the overall effect of the record leaves you in a vulnerable place. That might be what many people didn’t get. This band was never a particularly happy one. At least not all the time. By this point, Cobain had already begun experimenting with various substances. Brought on by a worsening stomach ulcer, most things didn’t help. That’s where Heroin came in.
Nonetheless, “Nevermind” was the story of the year, and they were suddenly the biggest band on earth. To fill the time, they released a compilation of long sought after demos. The result, “Incestide” has both tinges of quality from “Bleach” and “Nevermind.” Some of it is rougher, sometimes not. Among these tracks, probably the best are “Sliver,” and “Aneurysm.” “Aneurysm” especially has the biggest sound. The production isn’t life changing, but the same charge that ignited their best songs is most certainly there. If you’ve never given it a check out, you should.
By this time though, they were the most popular band on earth. Having successfully killed the metal of Guns N’ Roses and taken the throne of the 90’s, they were poised to make their best album yet, and move into the middle of the decade as a force to be reckoned with. One of those things happened.
“In Utero,” released 1993, is a fundamentally perfect rock record. The sonic force of the band is still there, and although Butch Vig was the great choice of producer for “Nevermind,” I can’t help but think that with the forever awesome producing talent that is Steve Albini at the helm, they as a band had found their perfect collaborator. In the end though, this turned out to be untrue. The band was less than thrilled with aspects of the recording, and others were brought into make the album whole, at least in the eyes of the band.
Many of the songs featured on “In Utero” have the same aesthetic feel of other songs, but it’s more angry than previously, if that’s even possible. A track like “Scentless Apprentice” has more piss and vinegar than most songs, and it’s in this moment that you realize that this band is dangerous. A band that can speed up and exploit everything, then turn around and hit you with an eye opening sobering track is a band that is diverse, and ultimately, a group of artists that are capable of inspiring great things.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was able to see them on this albums tour. I was ten or eleven, and on a cold December night, my good natured father took me to see Nirvana, along with The Breeders and Shonen Knife. I remember the show for a few reasons. For one,it was terrible. Seriously, Nirvana weren’t even kind of amazing that night. Knowing now how horrible things were going within the band, and the state of Cobains mind, I’m not that angry. At least I got to see them. Secondly, They played a song called “Rape Me” that royally upset my dad. Again, understandable. Maybe a song called that isn’t the best thing for a kid to hear, but oh well. The last thing though, was the upsetting realization that the big hit, and overall awesome track “Heart Shaped Box, was not being played. At the time it boggled my mind that the lead single was totally ignored, but again, knowing a bit more about the tendencies of artists to shun their best known songs, I’m not surprised at all.
Moving on though, “In Utero” features more than a few songs that are still able to hold up over time. Among those are “Pennyroyal Tea.” It has this euphoric quality to, and one of the best things about it is the strain evident on Cobain’s voice. In the studio it can be cleaned up and made to be pretty, but this band was wanting something real, and tangible. Art after all, doesn’t have to be wrapped in a little bow to get it’s point across. Moments like that are scattered all throughout the album, which ultimately makes it such a great record.
I’ve always wondered how bad things must’ve gotten though. Looking back, all the signs seem there for the picking. Tracks are increasing dark, and various metaphors for death are littered here and there. Self Loathing is also at an all time high. This is most obvious in a song like “ Radio Friendly Unit Shifter.” This is the song that not only absolves him of everything, but it’s the most bitter lyrically. Not that I like mentioning the L world, but you can’t help but wonder if this was directed at their increasingly troubling marriage. Choice lyrics include “Bi Polar Opposites Attract,” “What is wrong with me?” and of course “Do not want what I have Got.” These could all be fingers pointed at one person, or at the crumbling group at their height of monetary success, or it might be a finger pointed at this situation that an ill man simply didn’t want to be a part of. I think, most likely, it’s a nod to all three. This album, above all else, is about the dissolution of life, and of decaying minds.
But, it also features what is without a doubt of their one of their most mesmerizing songs. “All Apologies,” fittingly at the end of the record, has the ability to soar “In the Sun,” and bring light to all the darkness of the previous tracks. It’s not a cheerful song lyrically, but it’s a beautiful, richly layered song that brings hope. It’s still one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and you can’t help but feel connected to the musicians.
The last recording of the band occurred on the road. The now classic “Unplugged” session is one of the most amazing things ever. It’s not only the best in the series, but it’s impossible for any other session to be that good, almost completely because of how the band went about it.
Gone were the sets of the go to hits. Instead, the band picked songs that fit the format, and although a few mildly well known tracks were presented in the acoustic spectrum, most the album contains b-sides, lesser known cuts, and of course, quite a few covers. One of them, which I now hear more than the original, is “The Man Who Sold the World.” The song itself is masterful, but Nirvana’s version has this hauntingly ominous vibe to it. The ending of “Unplugged” though, is the most eye opening section of the entire set. “Where did You Sleep Last Night,” is a somber ballad that speaks volumes about the band depth and talent. Originally an 18th century folk song, what the band is able to do with it is impressive to say the least. Without even trying they found and resurrected a song that fits them as well as a girl. “Unplugged” would go on to sell very well, and it also ended up being the last time they were ever filmed performing live.
As we all know now, that was the last full year of the band. Scheduled to headline Lollapalooza, the rumors starting mounting they were over. Then the overdose in Paris, which cancelled the tour, and then of course, the tragic events of April 8th. Cobain, after hopping the fence in rehab, ventures back to his home in Seattle, and takes his own life. Millions mourn, and a great emerging artist is gone in a literal flash.
It’s impossible to think about what would've come of the band had he not passed. In a perfect world, the band would have simply split up, Cobain would have gotten help, figured himself out, and gone on to once again let the world listen to his amazing talents. Sadly that was not to be.
Thanks for Reading.
See you Monday.
Late last year I was asked to share my experiences on having a stutter, as part of the Louisiana Speech and Hearing Association Newsletter. Today I’m sharing it here. One in ten adults stutter, and growing up it was a huge obstacle in my life. Many, many people I know still deal with it everyday. Sometimes it gets easier, sometimes not. Hope you enjoy
My entire life I have stuttered. From early on, I felt that I was in a battle to not only understand my stuttering, but to cope with it. In this fight I was forever flanked by my mother and father. From the age of three my war with stuttering began and persisted. It was always there so growing up was difficult, and a large part of this difficulty was due to my feelings surrounding my speech.
Naturally my parents were bothered by the emergence of my stutter. Even more naturally, they sought out various methods of escape to make my stutter go away. Unfortunately at the time, our understanding of the situation wasn't as clear as it is now. The amount of knowledge we as a world know about stuttering now is night and day compared to what it was in 1985.
After being diagnosed with a stutter, the journey began to "fix" me. You name the treatment and, over the years, I and my family have tried it; thirteen years of trial and error has been an experience to say the least. Pointing the tongue on the roof of the mouth, slowed talking, or R-O-B-O-T talking as I called it, even the Speech Easy was tried, to no avail. Even the much dreaded "just slow down" was introduced and yet there was no change. In hindsight, I think it made my stuttering worse.
High school was the worst four years of my life. The picking and depression were so bad we even went back to speech therapy. After years of trying to figure out who I was, I genuinely think going back to therapy was a mistake. My parents and I are to blame for that, but honestly, how were we to know? After years of trying to cure my stuttering, I had started to see my speech and myself as a problem. Once again my parents tried to fix it. That process only made me think that stuttering was something I should be ashamed of. Stuttering isn't something to be ashamed of.
Also frustrating was the lack of progress. Nothing changed. In fact it got worse. What was even more jarring was how no one, in any way, asked me how I felt about my stutter; at least not that I can recall. To a degree, the later years of therapy were forced on me. After a long time, I decided to quit the therapy, and figure it out for myself.
Years got dark. One of the most vivid memories of that time was early on in college. At this point I hadn't been able to say my name in nine years. My full name never left my lips. The worst was introductions where struggling and giving up was a constant certainty.
Thankfully, that was the lowest point of my life and actually, I'm grateful for it. Because of the years of sadness, darkness, and the failure of therapy, I was forced to confront my fears and grow. This is what finally worked. Over the years I had become confident, learned to not panic, and most importantly accept what I can't possibly control. It's part of my life and always will be.
The biggest ray of hope was the arrival of the National Stuttering Association into my life. The members of this organization taught me the patience and understanding that I was unable to find in my formative years. Over time I've steadily risen in the organization from a group member, to a chapter leader. I've since stepped down in order to let others lead the chapter, and have instead taken on the role of the Regional Chapter Coordinator for the Central Region of our country. I oversee 17 chapters and help them to grow in the way I have grown.
In closing, my journey to acceptance has been long and the victory well deserved. I thank all of the people who have helped, and all the therapists who have tried. For all of the tools that have been shown to me and have helped, I'm grateful.
Few artists are as compelling and enduring as the King of Pop. He brought music to an entirely new area, and it’s his legacy of amazing music that still stands up. He inspired various entertainers in a multitude of genre’s. Quite simply there’s no one like him. Today we talk about his top ten best song. Hope you enjoy.
10. Bad, Bad
While Jackson’s vocals are almost always perfect. there’s even more you can say about this when it comes to beats and production quality. It’s so high up there, it’s difficult to compare it to anyone, even decades after he emerged on the scene. One of the first songs I ever heard was our number ten in our top ten best songs, “Bad.” The beat is clean, and polished as much as you can hope for, and the vocals are a declaration of awareness. He wants you to know his status, and he doesn’t want you surprised when he brings the power in this classic track.
9. Jam, Dangerous
I remember when this song came out. I’m pretty sure it was featured on the “Space Jam” movie, right? Either way, it’s a pretty straight forward song, and the opening especially promises that this is Jackson at his most rebellious, on the defensive best. Those horrible allegations were making their way to the swarming media around the time of this album, and the turmoil probably propelled the music to a more personal place. The lyrics here are intense to say the least, and he’s not holding back how he feels. To say the least, this song has the hooks you love from Jackson,and it certainly lives up to it’s title.
8. Scream, History
This video is still one of the coolest things of the 90’s. When the clip came out it was one of the most innovative for sure, but the song also is a supremely powerful song. Jackson at this point wasn’t huge on collaborations, but when Janet jumps into this track, your mind is totally gone, in the best way possible. This is the best team up he ever did with anyone, and the song is a full blown club anthem if ever there was one. The video was reportedly very expensive, and the subtle nature of the lyrics pull you in. The guitar at the end also delivers another surprise element to the song, and with the two most well known and talented Jackson’s working hand in hand to deliver a classic song, you can’t really go wrong.
7. Man In the Mirror, Bad
Few of his songs are as poignant as "Man in the Mirror" which finds our countdown of the top 10 Michael Jackson songs at number six. It's a slow building song the features Jackson’s gorgeous crooning. The chorus however is where it really opens up and a deep moment of self reflection is upon us. It's heartfelt songs like this that really show how much of an important figure pop in music he was. While he was known to be a bit of a recluse(after all the torment he went through, who could blame him)it’s in his music where he’s the most honest about his life, and struggles.
6. Black Or White, Dangerous
From the opening of the song you know it's going to be a mega hit. As a kid I could perfectly relate to trying to hear my favorite song right when my parents were telling me to go to bed. After the interlude the real song starts though and its here where the track truly takes off. It has one of the best hooks in all of music and before long Jackson is singing and the song is in full swing. Above all else “Black or White” it is a song about how everyone is ultimately the same even though we all have different colors of skin. This song came out at the peak of his popularity and showed a depth and understanding in terms of music. Although he was huge before the track came out I think its this track, “Black or White” that really changed everything.
5.Beat It, Thriller
The opening sequence and subsequent beats are things that are still recognizable today even to casual fans. The guitar part at the 30 second mark however is where things just go full blown energy. As you might know this is the best selling album of all time and its songs like this that propelled it to that status. Decades after its release date it is still a song everyone knows, and the video really steps it up in terms of what they were doing at the time. Jackson's vocals here are in your face but its not abrasive and hard to get into in the way you think it might be. His voice is amazing and in this track and even to this day “Beat It” is a really bad-ass songs.
4. Billie Jean, Thriller
We will likely never know the truth behind the inspiration of this song but the thing is it doesn't make a difference because the song is so solid all the way through. “Billie Jean,” which finds our countdown of the top ten Michael Jackson songs of all time at number four is a perfect example of how good Jackson was a storytelling. The song to me has always felt like its from the point of view of a naive young girl while it is also clear that the singer is that a similarly naive point of his life. In terms of mid-tempo songs this is his best and although it's not as in your face as so some of his other songs it doesn't have to be because it's such a quality track through and through.
3. Thriller, Thriller
While this song is without a doubt his best known song, the video also changed everything. Before “Thriller” hit our ears and our eyes no one knew things like this could exist, especially in video form. Thats why he captured everyone’s attention so well. One could argue that the Beatles are the most important band of all time but what Jackson did almost single-handedly is staggering. Apparently as a young boy I wore out multiple tapes and records because I couldn't get enough of the whole album but this song is especially important. The song, full of haunting beats and an incredible melody, is a classic in every way it can be. Its probably the number one reason people know who the King of Pop is While “Thriller” only hits the number 3 spot of my top ten Michael Jackson songs there's no denying how influential it was not only in terms of Pop music but also terms of what could be done during that period in video form. All the Music world owes him a debt of gratitude, and it's very likely that we're never going to be in a world where don’t know about this perfect song. .
2. The Way You Make Me Feel, Bad
This song simply just has that funky bass every pounding going that is really hard not to get excited about. It's an upbeat song that's all about the heart and how once you meet the amazing person you have no idea how you lived your life without them. You can literally feel the happiness overflowing in the song. Everything from the gorgeously layered instruments and the overwhelmingly positive lyrics really move the song to its own island. So many songs are great, but its“The Way you Make me Feel” thats up there with his best. Might not be as popular or well noticed as his other songs but it's not as one you should shrug off eithe. Iit's a perfect example of how good he was for so long and it's still a song that's loved today.
1. Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough, Off the Wall
“Don't Stop til You Get Enough” is the quintessential Michael Jackson song. The perfect build up explodes and before you know it you’re dancing in a disco infused world that makes it impossible for you to escape. Other songs again may be more popular, but this song says everything I told him that you need to know. His voice especially in this track is able to go from suave and velvety to his signature high pitch and everything in between. There are good songs and then there are songs like this that will forever remain in the public consciousness. The number one song on my countdown of the top 10 Michael Jackson songs, off the excellent “Off the Wal”l album, “Don't Stop til You Get Enough.” Thank you for reading, see you Wednesday.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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