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Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010
An unfairly named, unfairly shunned, and completely unhip genre, adult alternative, in my opinion, is producing some of the best new music these days, and you don't have to be a project manager with two kids and a suburban home to enjoy it. Here I examine three examples of the best records in said genre from this year.

According to the definition from the king of genre explanations, allmusic.com, adult alternative is “a smooth, melodic, radio-friendly style that packaged alternative’s mellower side for wider consumption”. Some mainstays of the genre include Jeff Buckley, late-era Goo Goo Dolls, my beloved Crowded House, my personal deity Aimee Mann, and—give me a moment to vomit in my mouth a bit—Dave Matthews Band. I suppose it’s adult contemporary with an edge. The three artists profiled here are undoubtedly part of this movement, and while it seems unfair to pigeonhole them into something for adults, genres exist for a reason and I’m not going to cry over it.


My first experience with bona fide adult alternative was David Gray’s “White Ladder” in 2000, when I was 18 years old. Growing up a punk rocker, and still considering myself one to a certain extent, I felt that my sheer enjoyment of that record was somewhat traitorous. But punk rock, God bless it, can be a limited genre that doesn’t take kindly to other genres, and the older I got, the more I found myself branching out, exploring more and more different types of music, and finding excellence everywhere. I no longer should, and I no longer do, feel any guilt. We should never limit ourselves, because art is subjective, and beauty can be found everywhere.


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Monday, Sep 27, 2010
Stephen Rowland takes a look at every major release by the Pernice Brothers, ranging from the high points to the sleep-inducing lows.

In 1997, revered alternative country act the Scud Mountain Boys called it a day, and leader Joe Pernice (along, obviously, with his brother, Bob) quickly formed the Pernice Brothers, a group with a much less interesting name making decidedly more interesting music. Debuting on Sub Pop in 1998, Joe and Co. have been cranking out solid and often brilliant music for over a decade. This article examines and reviews all their major releases and hopefully gives insight into the songwriting evolution of the band, or more specifically, Joe Pernice. I feel it’s time we give them their due—they are by no means unknowns, but still fly a bit under the radar.


 

Pernice Brothers
Overcome By Happiness

Sub Pop (1998)
Rating: 5


Yeah, more like Overcome By NyQuil, as this record is the sonic equivalent to drool on a pillow. It’s so mellow it has fallen asleep. And it’s asleep so hard, it is almost comatose.


Now the actual Brothers Pernice’s prior group the Scud Mountain Boys had a similar sound, but there’s really nothing positive to say about them. If people were talking about them—which they weren’t—they were classifying the Scuds as an alternative-country band. I think not, unless Cat Stevens singing Burt Bacharach tunes is country. Or an alternative to that.


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Tuesday, Sep 21, 2010
With bullying and abuse still a major problem in schools around the world, a star-studded lineup of metal musicians delivers its manifesto on the subject through the new project Sweden United.

Bullying is an epidemic that unfortunately still plagues schools all over the world. No matter how many punishments exist for it or how many lessons are planned around it, the problem still pervades the lives of children and adolescents everywhere. Celebrities of all kinds, ranging from pop musicians and rappers to actors and TV personalities, have tried to raise awareness about the issue in a multitude of different campaigns and causes. Now, true to form, the metal community has stepped up and delivered its message on the topic.


Swedish melodic death metal band Scarpoint is not widely known, having only released one full-length album, The Silence We Deserve (2007), thus far in its career. However, the group’s extensive touring résumé has connected it with some of the biggest names in its country’s sprawling metal scene, as well as other prominent figures from the surrounding region. Thus, when the band decided to record an anti-bullying song and release it as a way to raise money and awareness, it had just the right contacts to achieve the recognition it hoped for.


“Open Your Eyes” is a one-off song by Sweden United, the official name for the group assembled by Scarpoint. The members of Scarpoint are responsible for the instrumentation on the song. In addition to Scarpoint vocalist Henrik Englund, an all-star cast of Scandinavian vocalists lend their talents to the song: Jens Kidman (Meshuggah), Jimmie Strimmell (Dead by April, ex-Nightrage), Anette Olzon (Nightwish), Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Zak Tell (Clawfinger), Martin Westerstrand (Lillasyster), Tom Englund (Evergrey), and Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain). The song was written by Scarpoint and ex-Dead by April guitarist Pontus Hjelm, produced by Clawfinger keyboardist Jocke Skog, and mixed by production wizard Jens Bogren.


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Tuesday, Aug 31, 2010
Mike Reed’s People, Places, and Things present a bold vision of not just what improvised music has been in the past, but what it can be in the future.

I sometimes fear that the concept of the live jazz performance is slowly fading. While jazz still maintains a presence in major cities, public support for America’s truly original art form is undoubtedly not at an all-time high. With rising concert costs, it is increasingly more difficult for folks of average economic means to attend gigs. These circumstances are truly unfortunate, for nothing else in the music world rivals the vitality of a live jazz set.


Common wisdom states that a recording can never quite capture the magic that happens in a club or on a concert stage. It is curious, then, that a jazz fan’s induction into the music often comes through records. Where would the jazz world be without such masterpieces as Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, or Maiden Voyage, all albums that originated in a studio?  Capturing the energy of a live performance on record is one of today’s major artistic challenges. Given the dire economic and cultural conditions described above, it is good to know that creative and engaging live recordings are still being made. One primary example is an album called Stories and Negotiations, released in April 2010 and recorded live in Chicago’s Millennium Park in August 2008.


Mike Reed, a Chicago drummer and composer, works with an octet—drums, bass, two tenor saxes, alto sax, trumpet, and trombone—called People, Places, and Things. Reed is not only a vibrant musician, but he also presents the music of local artists he admires, as well as dedicates himself to preserving the history of Chicago’s neglected jazz musicians of the past. On his professional website, he lists some of his major musical influences, including artists as diverse as the Impressions, the Beatles, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, and Neil Young. After just one spin through People, Places, and Things’ Stories and Negotiations, all of Reed’s influences and interests are prominently displayed.


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Monday, Aug 9, 2010

We’re always on the lookout for great new tracks to share with our readers, and William Brittelle’s “Sheena Easton” definitely falls under that category. It’s a cut off of Brittelle’s sophomore release, Television Landscape, which landed in stores just weeks ago. In the course of an album marked by complex orchestrations that are by turns jazzy and jarring and some frankly mind-bending arrangements, Brittelle collaborates with a slew of musicians from bands like the Long Count and Alarm Will Sound, and on “Sheena Easton,” the patently unfairly talented kids of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. And if that’s not enough of a taste, you can get a load of the album’s opening track, “Dunes of Vermillion”, on Brittelle’s MySpace page.



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