The longer that the Finnish symphonic metal act Nightwish goes on, the more apparent it becomes that this isn’t so much a band than a vehicle for keyboardist/composer Tuomas Holopainen’s massive ego. This project is far too dysfunctional to be called a “band”: when your last four albums feature three different lead singers, you have a chemistry problem. Bigger, though, is Holopainen’s inability to work with a singer who is strong-willed. This is ironic because this pioneering band, which has always built its music around an operatic diva of a lead singer, can’t handle it when said diva becomes more assertive and wants to have a bigger say in the creative process. Holopainen, always garishly performing with his comically lavish “look at me” keyboard set-up and wearing a top hat, wants an employee not a frontwoman, and heaven help any woman who dares to think she’s the focal point. Beloved, groundbreaking singer Tarja Turunen starts to think for herself? Fired publicly via open letter. Her successor Anette Olzon dared to inconvenience the musicians by becoming pregnant—those poor boys—and spoke her mind, and was unceremoniously fired in the middle of a North American tour. Basically, if you’re a strong-willed woman, life in Nightwish is guaranteed to be pure hell.
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Pop Unmuted is a podcast dedicated to in-depth discussion of pop music from varying critical and academic perspectives. On Episode 10, Scott Interrante and Kurt Trowbridge are joined by Melbourne, Australia-based pop podcaster Daniel Gregg and Music Theory PhD candidate Megan Lavengood to talk about legendary pop producer and songwriter Max Martin. We then delve deeper into his most recent hit, Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do”, and close with a special Max Martin themed Unmuted Pop Songs segment.
John Moreland has a cult following, as he should. I was late to the party, but first got to know him through the 2013 online music festival Couch By Couchwest. Country Fried Rock finally featured him in early 2014, as he was planning his next album, High on Tulsa Heat, now being released this spring via Thirty Tigers.
His previous record, In the Throes, is one of the most gut-wrenching records we have featured, and Moreland’s live performances wring more emotion from a voice and guitar than seems humanly possible. Go ahead and pre-order the album now, and maybe a box of Kleenex. As Moreland says, “I just can’t write happy songs.”
Klinger: Over the last four-plus years, we’ve talked about the Who twice, back when we were taking on the Great List in numerical order—two albums that are highly iconic, yet markedly different both from one another and from the Who’s earliest work. And no matter what relationship I’ve had with the Who over the years (and I’m on record as being back and forth with the group to degrees that alarm even me), I will always be a champion of their pre-Tommy work. That’s especially true of The Who Sell Out, which is currently the 312th most acclaimed album of all time and one that I return to fairly regularly. Released in late 1967, The Who Sell Out is an ingenious concept album that came out at a time before concept albums were de rigeur for artistes of a certain temperament.
Album of the Week
Liturgy, The Ark Work (Thrill Jockey)
The more the years go by, the more Liturgy’s 2011 marvel Aesthethica stands out as one of the best metal albums of the decade so far. I can practically hear the cries of derision as I type. But it’s an album that so wonderfully turns the ideas of black metal on its ear, subverting, inverting it all so that instead of wallowing in misery and morbidity, it creates something bizarrely uplifting, its musical vision far outside extreme metal yet with its feet firmly planted in extreme metal influences. Typical of the metal scene, though, many were quick to react negatively toward Liturgy, but the more the backlash swelled the more apparent it was that folks were particularly preoccupied with the pretensions of guitarist/vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix than the actual music. Four years have passed, and interviewers for metal publications are still bringing up his dissertation on black metal, unwilling to let that faux-controversy die.