That crazed devil-on-a-rollercoaster look that John Darnielle gets on his face when his songs get going is more than enough to calm (or amplify, I suppose) a Mountain Goats’ fan’s anxieties about the next twelve months. He stopped by NPR recently to perform some old hits (“Color in Your Cheeks”, “Going to Georgia”) and two from last year’s wonderful The Life of the World to Come.
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Deakin had nothing to do with Animal Collective’s Merriwether Post Pavilion, but lest you think he’s been resting on his laurels for forever and a day, he’s started the new year by conventionally spelling his stage name and putting out some solo material.
1959 remains, arguably, the most important year in the history of jazz music. Among all-time classic efforts from Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus released his masterpiece, Mingus Ah Um. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of this seminal session, we were blessed with Mingus Ah Um: Legacy Edition (which includes a remaster of the original, along with bonus tracks and the entirety of the other album Mingus cut for Columbia in 1959, Mingus Dynasty). 1959 signified the year that Mingus, after considerable dues paying, fully matured as a musician and composer. Mingus Ah Um is a virtual encyclopedia of the jazz music made at that point in the 20th century, which means it celebrates the sounds and feelings of America. This is the one Mingus release that has a little bit of everything, from ebullient statements of purpose (“Better Git It in Your Soul”) to soulful tributes (“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, “Jelly Roll”) to Mingus’s inimitable sociopolitical smackdowns (“Fables of Faubus”). This reissue is at once an essential reminder for fans and an imperative introduction for novices; it is the ultimate testament to the miracle that was Charles Mingus, one of the immortal voices in American music.
For the past decade, Swervedriver seemed destined to be one of the Bands That History Left Behind. The hard-hitting, melodic, often thrilling music the band produced in the early-to-mid 1990s would forever be lost in a wash of bad record deals and bad timing. Anyway, what to make of a British band that sang about Ford Mustangs? Swervedriver were pigeonholed into the short-lived UK “shoegazer” scene because they had an indifferent image and made music that was as pretty as it was loud. Here, though, was driving music that was neither as obtuse as metal nor as bleak as Nirvana. 1991 debut “Raise was a strong enough feet-finding effort built around a trio of outstanding singles. 1993 follow-up, Mezcal Head, however, was a bona-fide masterpiece, with a devastating combination of great tunes, great playing, and great production. Thankfully, these thoughtful, rich-sounding reissues gave fans and curious music lovers in general a chance to catch up with a band that shouldn’t have been left behind in the first place.
For all the praise that Terius Nash received for penning decade-defining hits like “Umbrella” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”, the dirty little secret amongst R&B fans was that Nash’s most adventurous and rewarding songs were on his first solo album, Love/Hate. But with Love vs. Money, Nash—better known as The-Dream— finally got his due both critically and commercially. In tandem with frequent collaborators Tricky Stewart and L.O.S. Da Maestro, he doubled down on his signature formula of classicist R&B song structures and themes fused with production influenced as much by Southern rap as Prince. And with the album’s four-song centerpiece, Nash fleshes out the album’s central conceit (the push/pull between love and money) with a jaw-droppingly operatic suite that blazes a trail from industrial beats to jazz pianos to beatboxing. It’s sandwiched in between sex jams that are both goofy and futuristic, adding up to an album equally suited for the bedroom, the car, and the stage.
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