Not a ton of people remember Opal (actually, to remember a band, you need to have heard of them in the first place, right?). It’s a shame, although admittedly, this is an acquired taste: think Syd Barrett’s Floyd (circa Piper at the Gates of Dawn) and the Doors, heavy organ action and a certain lysergic vibe (but black-and-white blotter paper, not a technicolor trip), and insert a female vocalist with a subdued style that borders on lugubrious…sounds terrible, right? Well, that is what most folks would probably think. Kendra Smith (vocals) and David Roback (guitar), formerly of Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade, respectively, comprised a sort of Paisley Underground all-star team. Think Velvet Underground cut with a British garage band’s blues affectations (in other words, Piper at the Gates of Dawn). Listen to 1987’s 20-year time warp “Magick Power” below. (If you like what you hear, beg, borrow or steal their lost semi-masterpiece, Happy Nightmare Baby and then, once you’re hooked, call out a favor or find a friend to track down the almost impossible to procure Early Recordings.)
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The first Little Boots (Caligula to his contemporaries) was a Roman emperor infamous for his sadism, who inspired a really bad 1980 film starring Malcolm MacDowell and Helen Mirren. It’s taken two millenia, but finally another Little Boots has come along to redeem the name. Also known as Victoria Hesketh, she creates elegant and oh-so-infectious electro-pop. Her debut album is still in the works, but meanwhile, you can download her new album, Arecibo, or check out her MySpace page.
Ever want to be immortalized in a song? Or, more critically, do you have a spare $150 laying around?
Say Anything, for the uninitiated, is a surprisingly literate, self-consciously humorous emo-rock act fronted by Max Bemis, a young man who has a strong, distinct personality that stands out amidst the sea of generic Alternative Press flavors-of-the-week that come and go every month without much notice. Bemis’ “official” debut album, 2004’s excellent … is a Real Boy, was a theatrical, intelligent affair that got all the attention it deserved: few emo-rock albums carry as much pop-savvy or emotional heft as this album did, never once leaning into overly-poetic (see: indulgent) lyrics, simply because Bemis was so self-deprecating to be nailed with heavy criticism. Though his follow-up disc (2007’s double-disc affair In Defense of the Genre) was predictably bloated, Bemis showed no signs of slowing down his Pollard-like output, contributing to last year’s Punk Goes Crunk album (a cover of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money”) and releasing a full-length album from his Two Tongues side-project just a few months ago.
Everyone knows that Herbie Hancock is one of the coolest men on the planet, and has been for almost half a century. Anyone who doesn’t know this doesn’t know much; all we can offer them are condolences. Only Miles Davis, with whom Hancock worked for several crucial years (in both mens’ lives) during the mid-’60s, can possibly be invoked in any discussion of popular musicians who consistently shaped, then challenged the vanguard over a substantial period of time. These artists not only made new music but changed music on at least a handful of occasions.
Most folks know, and love, Hancock from what was likely their first association with him: the song (and more significantly, the video) “Rockit”, which was prominent in the MTV rotation circa 1983. The import of this one song is impossible to overstate: it not only spotlighted black men on the then-lilywhite music video channel, it spotlighted a jazz band. On top of that, it served as a mainstream introduction to scratching and turntable pyrotechnics. To say the earth was no longer flat, sonically speaking, after “Rockit” is only hinting at its influence.