it made me want to believe. @crispinsartwell (i) is tweeting a series of contemporary bluegrass gospel songs. i think this is most beautiful popular music, as good or better than it has ever been. here are the first two.
george michael was a fine pop singer. but before you make him an symbol of huiman liberation, you should ponder a bit. @OwenJones84, as others, treat him as a gay icon, in part because of 'i want your sex.' now, i say that is a pretty great princey pop song. but owen jones should watch the video, because it's very apparently hetero, softcore porn. not exactly a feminist document either. you'd have to say that it's one of the most impressive heterosexist works by a gay person.
the man was quite closeted, yes? until he was arrested for public sex. now, you can celebrate 'the party' as human liberation. you can, like michael purported to, find anonymous sex profoundly innovative or something, i suppose. i'm going to sortof try to hide my disgust, whether it's straight or gay. maybe the drugs were great too: all part of the human road to freedom. however, i have a funny feeling that george michael was loaded to the gills with addictions and compulsions, which were enslaving. also destructive: look at his touring and recording arc, and you will see a good artist who couldn't make art anymore, so free was he. also, dead. owen, and everyone, if that's the liberation you want or admire or are pursuing, i'll have to leave you to it.
i really first got exposed to hip hop in maybe '81 or '82, covering the 'get fresh fest' for the baltimore city paper. i saw that lineup three times here and there, i think: basically grandmaster flash and the furious five, fat boys, the teenage ll cool jay, run dmc. it took me some time to even figure out what was going on and why there was no band on stage. i would say that each time i might have been as impressed with whodini (jalil, ecstasy and grandmaster dee) as any of the acts. really, i think they were as good as run dmc, but have been kind of forgotten. 'five minutes of funk' for example, is a great concept, unfoldding in real time ('two minutes left'). some of the tracks, as on 'funky beat' were pretty excellent, radical productions for the era.
New Vets News Network Today Post. -- Lots of music ranging from a Ani di Franco Cover of Woodie Guthrie to Steve Earle and Dukes and Duchesses doing Hillbilly Highway to Gary Allan's remaster Juarez...to the horns of Hattin and the palisade at the Alamo...
If Hume awakened Kant from his doctrinal slumbers, perhaps this can rescue country western music from it lyrical and musical doldrums.
Miranda Lambert is an artist who sits on the cusp of my consciousness -- I listen to her stuff but don't stockpile it. May have to change my approach...This is about as bleak as beauty can be. The video conception is amazing, and the beginning and the climax are parallel. Part cinema noir, part medieval morality play, but fascinating musically and lyrically. She seems to break down the walls of country music's current lyrical malaise in a way that reminds me of Marianne Faithful's comeback...except she still has that marvelous voice where Marianne had in effect re-invented herself as an artist. I have no idea why she has yet to be cast in a Coen Brothers film, in a True Detective or Fargo...
and I promise if you ever hear me contradict myself
it's not a sign of the apocalypse
in my view hip hop had two great phases: early-to-mid '90s and early-to-mid 2000s. the genre reached its maximum commercial potency - at least in one sense - in the former period, and also its mature production styles. so, you know, dre, snoop, tupac on the west coast, the wu and rza and biggie on the east. (the reason i say 'in one sense' is that though you hear less pure hip hop now, you hear it as an element in virtually all pop music all over the world, from nashville to the cote d'ivoire.)
but when i talk about 2000-2010 as a golden age as well, you may be puzzled. i don't mean commercial hip hop, though there were also some relatively interesting artists there, like eminem or lil wayne: i mean 'underground' hip hop. that people understood hip hop to have 'sold out' and (for one thing) become totally apolitical in that period, actually helped create a whole world of non- or anti-commercial artists. they were often extremely radical politically, but also many of them had amazing flow and good-to-great production (production got a lot cheaper in that period).
so, i might mention dead prez, jedi mind tricks, 7l and esoteric, brother ali, j-live, aceyalone, anti-pop consortium, bahamadia, aesop rock, demigodz. but there were many others, and there still are. i do rate immortal technique as the best mc, ever. (eminem is his only rival to my way of thinking.) one of the great artists of the period was atmosphere (minneapolis; mc = slug; dj = ant). "scapegoat" and "god loves ugly" are two of the best songs in hip hop history, i believe.
no wonder you're in love with your therapist. go to sleep my little time bomb.
and look that was not that long ago, and a lot of these people were quite young, and many are still recording, along with a couple of cohorts that they influenced. i want to point out that atmosphere sounds as good or better than ever on fishing blues. slug was never a verbal gymnast like wayne or tech; he was always a killer writer with a cool and accessible voice. he's writing great right now.
i think a number of these artists should have the status of american masters at this point, and atmosphere is just as good and relevant now as they were a decade ago. i also think the beats have steadily improved, and the underlying tracks are actually pretty various; i'm crediting ant with a lot of the excellence of fishing blues. "won't look back" actually sounds like a pop hit, but there are many cool elements and styles throughout.
one good thing you have to live with: hip hop was a completely inter or multi-racial genre by 00s, like jazz in the 30s and 40s, or blues in the 60s and 70s. call it cultural appropriation if you like; i call it music.
after the inxs piece, i was rummaging around in my old clips. i can't seem to find the review of the inxs show, but i found a buttload of other stuff, including the interview with cyndi lauper. the album by her great baby-band blue angel (1980) - which i obsessively praised when i was talking to her, thus getting on her good side - is finally up on itunes etc. i say this album represents one of the greatest vocal performances in pop music history. no one ever sang like that.
actually as far as i can tell, cyndi only has a good side.
this is my review from the old washington evening star:
the star gave me my first shot as a music critic; i was working there as a copy boy. my daddy was a reporter there back in the '50s and early '60s. also i delivered the thing for what seemed like many years; i still remember my stack of papers floating away down nevada ave in hurricane agnes. the star died just a few months after this piece appeared.
there are definitely some excellent young female country singers emerging. last year i praised people like maren morris, cam, hailey witters, and caroline spence. caitlyn smith's ep 'starfire' is more or less in the same vein. of them all, she might be the singiest: pretty stunning range and power. she reminds me of someone who i think of as one of the all-time female pop vocalists: cyndi lauper. it's kind of in a contemporary soul vein, not that far from morris. both, as also the very fine witters, have this love-gospel thing going, which is more or less the origin of soul music in the first place.
i definitely like the bluesiness of these artists. my only criticism of 'starfire' would be that the instrumental tracks are a bit inert; i would have given her a somewhat more stripped-down frame. but she sounds great. here she is from a few years back:
another excellent recent ep is crystal yates's 'the other side.' it's darker in tone: very dark indeed. but the smoky, swampy vibe is compelling.
every few months for ten years or more, i've been checking itunes for the van morrison live album it's too late to stop now, which is my candidate for best live rock album (but really, if i were assigning it to a genre, it'd be soul, though soul and rock aren't perfectly distinct by any means). i have it on lp, but i wore it out in the 70s so bad that's it's mostly unplayable. anyway, it is up, the original two-record set along with multiple further volumes. i'm not sure just what those are, but will explore.
the thing is just great: it's a big band with horn section and strings, recorded with no overdubs. van is wildly improvisational and eccentric, but also working perfectly with the band and the arrangements, and there are so many great songs, some of them in quite their best versions, like this:
it was released in '73, and i have always speculated that the early springsteen albums would be impossible without it; the instrumental configuration is similar, as also the street-corner symphony of the lyric themes and even the vocal style. only, van is so so much better: there's always a lilt, a subtlety, an idiosyncrasy, a change of tempo or emphasis, a sense of play. in contrast, i hear springsteen as pretentious, big for the sake of big, with a bludgeoning and unsubtle rhythm and bellowing vocals that i associate with my chronic headaches from the era. bs might get whytheysucked pretty soon by the way.
the new brandy clark album, big day in a small town, is certainly the best country album so far this year, and brandy is the best songwriter working anywhere near mainstream country music, and one of the very best singers. it might be better than twelve stories, which is saying something. there are no weak songs. the specificity, realism, narrative structure,and phrasemaking are incomparable. what would she charge to write the whole next kacey musgraves album?
the biggest shift from 12 stories is the production. that one used a very stripped-down acoustic frame; she sounds great like that. believe it or not, i think she's been listening to taylor swift and stuff. well, she wants some hit singles, and if anyone should have them, she should. and i think that all the different production styles work beautifully with the songs, and it is all country no matter the frame.
i've been on the other side of that, which is a long hard road, so to speak. perhaps i should write a reply, or maybe joe maphis already did. but don't think that it's all that poppy; she uses a variety of approaches, including more trad things (but it is all more 'produced' than the last album). how about this lyric?:
anyway, just great song after great song; i'd like to post them all.
i really don't have any twitter skills. i'd like to launch #whytheysuck, though. and in any forum, i'd like to hear your candidates: people who are more or less universally adored and horribly overrated, or who face untreated sucking issues. it's like an intervention; we're doing it because we care, for the suckers' own good. they will never stop sucking and start blowing until they admit they have a sucking problem
the debut of sister sadie is the best bluegrass album i've heard in some time. beautiful singing and virtuoso picking.
just like the original runaways, one of them's a banker and one is the director of academic advising at belmont university. and just like the original runaways, they love jesus and feature the great dale ann bradley.
the mandolin is killer; watch her chop the rhythm on the one below. these vids don't give you the quartet vocals, which are so lovely.