In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, there really is no more appropriate album I could review today than the latest offering from Dropkick Murphys, Signed and Sealed in Blood. After all, when you consider the current rock landscape, is there any band that screams “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” more than these Boston Celtics?
I think not. (And don’t even say U2–sure, Bono and crew are from Ireland, but they don’t really sound Irish, and besides, Boston is essentially Ireland-west anyway)
The band took a slight digression on its last record, Going Out in Style, which was a hybrid concept album detailing the life and times of an Irish immigrant coming to the United States. It was a solid effort, but this band isn’t at its best when it must adhere to strict, cohesive story lines over the course of a whole album. That attitude is counterintuitive to the band’s freewheeling, rabble-rousing, go-where-the-night-and-the-green-beer-takes-you ethos. The concept was an interesting one-off idea, but as the band itself announces on the raucous opening track to Signed and Sealed in Blood, “The boys are back / and they’re looking for trouble.”
By now, I’d imagine the muted, monotone refrain, “What, what, what, what (repeated x 7),” followed by the skittering entrance of some playful, boastful saxophone, a loony sugar rush beat, and the introductory declaration, “I’m gonna pop some tags,” is now pretty well saturated in our pop music culture. I’m talking, of course, about the surprise cheese-fest of a mega-hit that is Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” – the anti-brand name, ballin’-on-a-budget anthem that has taken the world by storm.
Admittedly, it took me a while to catch on to this gem, which I think speaks to the path these independently produced and recorded artists took to get to the big time. Sure, I was aware of a song called “Thrift Shop” making the waves for some time, but without the big time advertising campaign that comes with signing to a major label, there was no relentless, in-my-face reason compelling me to actively seek it out. Call it laziness on my part, but when you sift through as much music on a daily basis as I do, sometimes you just need the next great song to seek you out for a change.
So it wasn’t until probably about a month ago that I finally fell in love with this track and all its fresh-faced exuberance; but the true Cupid’s arrow that erased any doubt in my mind about this Macklemore fellow came during his epic Saturday Night Live performance earlier this month in which he danced around like a hyped-up, pimped-out marionette (and really seemed genuinely excited about the opportunity). Hell, until that performance, I had been pronouncing his name Mack-uhl-more rather than Mack-luh-more. But the performance did the trick, and I immediately knew I needed to hear more from this guy.
That’s why I’m so glad I picked up his debut studio album, The Heist. It’s one of the best hip-hop albums I’ve heard in a long while.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like it has become all the rage (no pun intended) these days for bands to release 20th anniversary edition reissues of their classic albums (or all their albums for that matter).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to this trend. It sates the diehard collectors’ appetites for new material, introduces whole new generations of fans who weren’t old enough at the original time of release or simply missed it on the first go around, and offers an opportunity to reconsider and re-contextualize the album in a time of perhaps differing political, cultural, and musical mores.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 20th Anniversary Edition of Rage Against The Machine’s self-titled debut and take stock of the lasting impact that record made on arrival–because it’s not hard to believe that today’s musical landscape might be noticeably different had this album never graced store shelves.
So I took a little flak over on the SongMeanings Facebook page (which you should totally like if you haven’t yet) for expressing some dismay over Taylor Swift’s recent comments to Vanity Fair. Apparently, Taylor Swift is a golden calf in our society, not to be slandered in any way shape or form, for she is all that is good and pure about popular music…
She’s a 23 year old artist stuck in the mind frame of a middle school child, and judging by her reaction to a totally expected, harmless joke made at her expense at the Golden Globe Awards, she is beset by insecurity.
In response to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler making fun of Swift’s dating habits (you know, the stuff she writes about seemingly all the time in her music), Swift had this completely rational response, citing a quote Katie Couric had told her:
“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”
Look, I really don’t have much good to say about Ms. Swift and rather than launch into a long-winded tirade against her shallowness, I will just point you in the direction of a brilliant “non-interview” that ology.com wrote up dissecting her incredible, unjustified martyr complex. Here’s a choice excerpt:
Well, with most popular musicians, there’s a healthy balance of interest between their work and their offstage lives. But with you, there’s no real line between the two: you only write about your personal life, there’s nothing artful or creative about your songs to distinguish them from what you do when you’re not being quote-unquote Taylor Swift, so the amount of time the public would spend dissecting your lyrics gets shifted toward speculation about your personal life. Take someone like Frank Ocean, for instance—there was intense curiosity and interest in his sexual orientation before his album came out, but because his music was so full of nuance and interesting and his lyrics were so evocative and poetic, no one really cared about his love life anymore… whereas you have the opposite problem.
[laughs] Oh my god, I wish you were here right now to see this, my manager is freaking out, making a “hang up the phone” gesture with his hand. It’s hilarious!
I don’t know if I agree that Amy Poeher and Tina Fey were jealous of you. And I doubt their lives are sad or empty. You’re an immensely successful person… it’s sort of a prerequisite to be mentioned at the Golden Globes, let alone attend them. You should probably consider yourself grateful… I mean, most people who bounce from relationship to relationship don’t win Grammys, they’re just that sad, pathetic person with no integrity that everyone knows.
[makes The Taylor Swift Face] Oh gosh, he’s doing that “hang up” thing with both hands now!
In conclusion, Taylor Swift needs to grow up, and people shouldn’t get so bent out of shape when others criticize her for her lyrics and the way she presents herself.
The 85th Academy Awards are tonight, and I was all prepared to write up this review of the Beasts of the Southern Wild soundtrack, thinking it was up for the Best Original Score award. I mean, anyone who’s seen the movie (far too few, I imagine) knows the score, mainly produced by Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin, was a shoo in for a nomination, at the very least. Well, I was clearly mistaken. The Academy, in its infinite wisdom, completely ignored the music from this film. Sure, it’s deservedly up for four major awards, but an oversight like this is simply deplorable.
Thankfully, the music did get some recognition from other outfits such as the Chicago, Georgia, and Houston Film Critics Awards, among others. Anyways, I won’t let the Oscar snub keep me from offering my own thoughts on this score, so let’s proceed, shall we?
At its heart, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a story of a community’s perseverance through hellish times, the innate connection we as people have with our homelands, and a child’s innocence and wonder in the face of tragedy. It is a strikingly sad yet triumphal movie, backed by a musical score which highlights and heightens these emotions.
Bruno Mars’ second album is called Unorthodox Jukebox, though as far as pop records go, it’s pretty conventional.
Mars has spent his entire life in the entertainment business, and after you learn about his childhood experiences impersonating Elvis and performing classic Motown songs onstage, and then watching his preternatural comfort as a first-time performer on the Grammys stage, it’s little wonder that this is what he’s been born and brought up to do. He’s a smooth, suave entertainer (he really does come across more like a polished “act” rather than just a singer), who is heavily influenced by classic pop sounds, and much like his first record (review here), those influences are once again on full display.
Unorthodox, he is not. But his songs are catchy, and they are fun. And more than anything else, those are two ingredients that no pop album can live without.
I concluded my review of Kylesa’s last album, Spiral Shadow, by quoting a lyric from the record: “Keep moving, don’t look back.” I thought that command was an apt one for a band that had just released perhaps its finest work and seemed to be at a creative high point. Well, the guys and gal of Kylesa did indeed intend to pause and look back, and as a result, we now have From the Vaults, Vol. 1.
Odds-and-sods collections can be tricky ventures. Sometimes, they treat fans to mistakenly overlooked and unreleased gems from a band’s stockpile or offer enlightening glimpses into early versions of classic tracks and insight into their sonic evolutions. Seemingly more often than not, however, these releases come off like an attempt to package a handful of rightfully scrapped junk as something new, exciting, and worthy of the same stature as any proper LP.
Thankfully, Georgian metallers Kylesa have far too much integrity (and talent, frankly) to shill garbage. This collection of songs includes all the highlights of a grab bag record – alternate takes, unreleased tracks, covers, and even a brand new song. This variety of material, stretching all the way back to 2005 recordings can’t approach the cohesiveness and power of the band’s best work, but it’s certainly no embarrassment to the Kylesa brand.
So…about that “no cleavage” memo CBS sent out before last night’s Grammys…
Yeah, Katy Perry didn’t read it. (and thank jeebus she didn’t!)
Rapper Wale had some excellent Red Carpet commentary regarding Ms. Perry’s bountiful bosom: “There were a lot of people on that red carpet. I saw J.Lo, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, ahhh! I never dated a white girl before in my life, but that is one beautiful girl! I’m still thinking about it. As a rapper, I pride myself on my imagination: She left a lot to my imagination, and my imagination completely ran wild.”
You’re probably not the only one, Wale. To wit, check out photographic evidence after the jump of another Grammys attendee who was smitten by Perry’s display.
The 55th Grammy Awards are taking place tomorrow, and while there likely will be an unfortunate dearth of good ol’ fashioned T&A (come on Grammys, what is your show without a little conspicuous Katy Perry cleavage?!), there will definitely be plenty of worthy musical talent vying for trophies.
Today, I’m going to take a look at four albums that I never got around to reviewing upon their release but are up for awards this year. I mean, this is as good a time as any to evaluate these records’ merit, no? And due to the Grammys’ nomination process, you may notice that some of these records actually came out way back in 2011, but that’s just how these awards shows roll.
So let’s get into it!
The Lumineers – The Lumineers (Best New Artist, Best Americana Album)
A lot of times, the Grammys’ Best New Artist award introduces a young artist or two to a wider audience who had never before heard of them. Let’s be honest, before the 2011 show, who had ever heard of Esperanza Spalding? This year, I can be sure that absolutely everybody, no matter how socially secluded they may be, has heard of The Lumineers. This ragtag troupe exploded seemingly out of nowhere based on the inescapable, utterly infectious two minutes and forty-three seconds that make up “Ho Hey” – perhaps the most culturally ubiquitous song of 2012. That ditty showed up everywhere – played nonstop on radio (some stations going so far as to regularly play it twice in a row) and soundtracking countless TV shows, movie trailers and commercials. Most songs that get this kind of star treatment eventually lose most of their luster, becoming passe’ or seen as a commercial shill. In extreme cases, it causes listeners who at first enjoyed the song to turn their back on it in over-saturated disgust. Amazingly, I don’t think that’s happened yet with “Ho Hey,” and I sincerely hope it never does because as The Lumineers have proven on their debut record, they are the farthest thing from one-hit wonders.