Success in the music business depends on many factors. Some artists struggle for many years before they reach any level of recognition. They play bars, parties, and weddings as a means to an end. Frequently, they spend the little money they earn on recording and touring expenses. In contrast, some artists seem to gain fame overnight. Whether or not their popularity is well-deserved, they somehow manage to reach the top of the charts. However, fame has a shelf life. Eventually, people forget about the flavor of the week and move on to the next big thing. One hit wonders rise like the phoenix and fall like shooting stars.
A voice is a very powerful tool. It can incite passion, touch the soul, or even call people to arms. A voice is also the one musical instrument that every human possesses. Contrary to popular belief, everyone has the ability to sing. Some can sing better than others. In terms of vocal prowess, Neko Case ranks as one of the best. Her unwavering tone, country twang, and siren-like call mesmerize the auditory senses. I cannot think of any recent artist that sings with such beauty and resonance. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood showcases her talent on every one of these superb tracks. The twelve songs paint a downcast and fragile landscape rife with colors of ache and melancholy. Angelic guitars hover over honky-tonk piano while Case’s voice takes center stage.
Buying CDs seems so passe nowadays. If you walk into your local Best Buy, you might notice that the music section is much smaller than it was five years ago. Recently, companies like Amazon and Google have established their own digital stores in order to compete with Apple’s iTunes. By the looks of it, CDs are going the way of the dinosaur. Along with digital downloads, consumers now have another option for their music fix: streaming. Services like Pandora allow users to create customized playlists based on similar artists or songs. Spotify provides customers with the ability to stream whole albums on demand for a monthly fee. This begs the question: are people still willing to own music?
Summer is that time of year when people relax by the pool, fire up the barbecue, and go on vacation. The smell of fresh cut grass permeates the air. Children play in the sprinklers while the ice cream man drives around the neighborhood. Warm campfires light up the night sky. Amid all this seasonal revelry, music provides the perfect backdrop. A summer song can enhance a good mood, make you get up and dance, or even bring up fond memories. The following ten songs comprise my perfect summer soundtrack.
Emo is a term that gets thrown around constantly. More often than not, it is a disparaging word. Many people imagine distraught teenagers who have hair covering their eyes, wear black, and possibly cut their wrists. Walk into any Hot Topic and you might be able to spot one. However, the modern definition of Emo is vastly different from its original incarnation in the eighties. Back then, Emo closely resembled hardcore punk. Bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace created hardcore that was more melodic and deeply personal. Eventually, Emo shifted away from its roots and started to incorporate more alternative and indie rock characteristics.
For my thirteenth birthday, I received a Fender Stratocaster from my parents. I’ll never forget how ecstatic I was when I first laid my hands upon it. The wine red body felt smooth to the touch. While firmly grasping the neck, I pressed my fingers down on the rosewood fretboard. Everything on this instrument had impeccable workmanship. I could not wait to try it out. A little later, I went to my room, plugged in my amp and guitar, cranked up the distortion, and strummed a chord. As the sound reverberated, I experienced pure joy. This was truly a defining moment in my life.
Most people remember the Beach Boys as a feel good band from the 60s that sang about surfing, cars, and girls. True music aficionados know that’s only half of the story. Their rich vocal harmonies, clever arrangements, and elegant production thrust the Beach Boys to the forefront of pop music. When the album Pet Sounds arrived, their creativity reached a level that only The Beatles could match. The man behind their success, Brian Wilson, was a certified genius. Sadly, it all came crashing down when they abandoned their follow-up album and Wilson descended into mental illness. By the time the 70s rolled around, the band struggled to find its voice.
In the movie Garden State, Natalie Portman enthusiastically declares to Zach Braff: “You gotta hear this one song, it’ll change your life I swear.” That song was “New Slang,” a smooth acoustic guitar driven tune that seems to melt away into thin air. I don’t know if it’s life changing, but it serves as a pleasant centerpiece to Oh, Inverted World by The Shins. Throughout the album, the arrangements are kept simple and the guitars remain trim. James Mercer’s vocals are a combination of clean and eloquent.
Let’s get this out of the way: I love Green Day. I received Dookie for my twelfth birthday and listened to it incessantly. I know how to play almost every Green Day song on guitar. I have a signed poster hanging on my wall. Unfortunately, the band has been through a rough patch as of late. Billie Joe Armstrong recently came out of rehab after an obscenity slinging tirade at the I Heart Radio Awards. Their albums Uno, Dos, and Tre barely made a blip on the charts. What once was the biggest pop-punk band on the planet is now a shadow of its former self.
For my first list, I have decided to reveal my top five favorite albums. I thought it would be a good introduction to my taste in music. In general, I tend to like music from the indie and alternative genres. However, I am also into classic rock, hip hop, and alt country. These kinds of lists are very subjective, so I assume that not everyone will agree with me.