Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why do we hate "POP" music?
When was the last time someone asked you "What kind of music do you listen to?" Was it hard for you to answer them? Did the word "pop" come up in their questioning or even in your answer? Most of you would probably say no when asked if you like pop music. We all know that the term pop music really means popular music which leads me to another question. Do we hate it when the bands we listen to become popular? Does that make us like them less? I have to answer for everyone until I get a few comments on this post. Yes and no!
I have a hard time answering someone if they ask me what kind of music I listen to because I listen to so many different kinds. I usually get the most laughs when I answer classical or choir music which i really do like but they're certainly not my first choice. My answer usually goes something like this: "Well . . . I like alot of different kinds of music, alternative (mainly because people that don't listen to alot of music at least understand that term.), indie, punk, etc." I never, ever say the word pop! I never say rock either but that's a whole post in itself.
When I was a teenager I took pride in the fact that I didn't listen to pop music when actually if I would have been honest I would have said I did because half of the stuff I liked was in the top 40 in England but not in America. I thought the bands I listened to were too good to be considered pop. I remember having a favorite band or two and loving them and then their popularity would rise and it would start to bother me. Somehow I had a connection with that particular band, an exclusivity that made them mine and yet at the same time I would wonder why people didn't listen to them when they were so much better than other bands. (Wow, I had a problem back then.) Why shouldn't the bands we like become popular? Isn't that at least a part of the reason they are making music? Shouldn't they be able to make a living at what they love to do?
My whole point to asking these questions is to basically say it's alright for great bands to become popular. I think it's even ok to like pop music. I constantly catch myself saying "This band is too good to be considered a pop band." Now I'm not telling you to run out and buy a Miley Cyrus cd or something crazy like that but don't be afraid to love a band that has a song in the Top 40. Below is a playlist of bands or musicians that I've always considered too good to be pop. Enjoy.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Some of the people that follow this blog have challenged me to choose the genres of music that I don't typically listen to and pick my top five in those genres. I'm not necessarily setting any rules for this challenge that I so readily accepted but I will try to explain my motive or reason for choosing these artists. This should be fun! My first genre is . . .
Country music is a good one to start with because I never listen to it by choice but I don't detest it. I can easily recognize the talent it takes to produce good country music. In my mind there are some very good country musicians and some very bad ones. I think one of the hardest things about this challenge will be narrowing them down to only five. I know that my answers may be heavily influenced by whether I have seen them live or not, that always helps me appreciate a band or musician more. The list will be in no particular order. Alright, here we go.

1. Alan Jackson - I have appreciated Alan Jackson from the very first song I ever heard by him mostly because he writes just about all of his songs. He's a very honest songwriter and he seems to really enjoy it. He is true country to me because his music comes from the heart.

2. Dwight Yoakam - His first album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc, Etc. was a masterpiece. He has a coolness about him that is unmatched. Another true country musician that took country back to it's roots.
3. Merle Haggard - Real Country at its best! Definitely an original. Put him up against Johnny Cash any day and he would win. If you don't agree with that I'm afraid you just don't really know country music.

4. Diamond Rio - I'm sure alot of people might disagree with me on this one but remember this is my top 5. I've seen them live and they are incredible. They know their stuff, pure talent. Great songwriting, catchy hooks, southern accent, what else do you need to be good country?

5. Alabama - They have to be, hands down, the greastest country band of all time. They have the awards to prove it. That might be all I can say.

6. Nickle Creek - I know it's a top 5 list but I said there wasn't going to be any rules. And you know I had to throw in somewhat of an Alternative/Country band. When Nickle Creek first came out they were young, inventive, and creative. Like always radio never did quite figure out what to do with them. They had a bit of airplay but then they got swept under the rug. Three words; talent, talent, talent. I'm afraid if you can't appreciate this band you just don't like music.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

WHO IS . . .

Who is Jackson United? They're one of the best bands you've never listened to. Why haven't you been listening to them? I can only give you speculative reasons which are; because you're not a music whore like I am, or maybe because you've never heard of them which, in my opinion, is the reason hardly anyone listens to them. I could be wrong but it almost seems like the band isn't concerned with getting their albums out there. They don't have an official website anymore, they just have a myspace page. (Which I don't really care for myspace band pages.) You can purchase their latest cd on Itunes but they don't have their first cd on there. And when I say latest cd I mean Harmony and Dissidence released near the end of 2008. I just bought it in December because I happened to stumble across it on the internet. They just don't advertise. I happen to be one of the few crazy people left in the world that like to own a hard copy of albums I really like, so I won't be completely happy until I find a copy of it. It just feels incomplete to me if I can't open up the plastic case and pull the sleeve out and read all of the lyrics that I will never be able to commit to memory (that's another story), or read the list of thank you's by the band members, or even find out the band members names because they don't have an official website. (Thank goodness for wikipedia.)

So let me tell you a little about Jackson United. They formed in 2003 as a side project (could be the reason they don't care about getting their music out there) for Chris Shiflett lead guitarist for Foo Fighters, and formerly lead guitarist for one of my favorite punk bands No Use For a Name , and also currently lead guitarist for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Chris not only plays guitar for the band but he is the lead singer as well. His Brother Scott Shiflett (formerly of punk band Face to Face) is the official bass player for the band, and Joe Sirois (formerly of Mighty Mighty Bosstones) is the drummer. This band together and separately have so much talent, experience, and know how that they instantly make a smooth record. It's no secret that "rock" is not my favorite genre, i'm not in any way a real fan of having to put bands into a genre at all. I don't even like saying the word. Jackson United is another one of those bands that understands what rock is supposed to be and the elements that belong in a rock band and yet they bring alot of punk/alternative aspects that improve rock music. There were so many heavy metal/rock bands from the 80's that ruined the genre that I am thankful for bands like these that can bring reality back to the music. I think some critics might put the vocals down a bit because he's not the most perfect singer in the world but i'm not typically looking for a lead singer to have taken voice lessons or to always have perfect pitch. Sometimes I prefer honesty and a singer that does it because he loves it. I love both albums by Jackson United that I highly recommend them to everyone and would love to hear other peoples opinion of them. Go to the playlist below for one small sample. (that's all I could find so far.) Happy listening!

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Howard's Best Albums of 2009

Here is my list of what I think are the best albums of 2009. This was very hard to do because there were so many great albums released at the very end of 2008, and I'm not sure 2009 caught up. Writing this list reminded me again of how much I love music and how important it is for my mind and my happiness. I hope this list sparks an interest for some people and makes others listen to something they haven't listened to before. You never know, some of you might even agree with one or two of them. This list is in no particular order.

1. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
At first listen, I thought Humbug didn't pack the punch that the other two Artic Monkeys albums did. After seriously listening and seeing them live I realized it didn't need to. This album is extremely brilliant! It might be their best. Alex Turner continues to be ridiculously clever with his lyrics. The entire band is way too young to be as good as they are. Their contribution to the music world is unparalleled. If I had to choose the very best album of 2009 (which I don't) this might be it.

Favorite Songs: My Propeller, Dance Little Liar, and Pretty Visitors.

2. Silversun Pickups - Swoon I wondered how Silversun Pickups would follow up with Swoon after enjoying Carnavas so much. It's very rare to put in a CD and love it from the very first second and never stop loving it. Silversun Pickups are full of originality and talent which definitely shows on Swoon. There is no need for song skipping on this album, it is perfect from start to finish.

Favorite Songs: There's No Secrets This Year, Panic Switch, and Sort Of.

3. The Veils - Sun Gangs The Veils follow no rules musically. Everyone of their albums has a different outlook and sound. Sun Gangs is probably their most melancholy and mature album. When I say melancholy I don't mean completely depressing, but it is serious. Finn Andrews, being the son of Barry Andrews of XTC and Shriekback fame, has a life time of musical experience and it comes through on Sun Gangs. You won't find yourself jumping for joy while listening to this CD, but it is perfect for a reflective or rainy day.

Favorite Songs: Sit Down by the Fire, the Letter, and Killed by the Boom.

4. White Rabbits - It's Frightening
Wow! My anticipation for this album was nothing less than huge. White Rabbits brought fun back into music. After listening to It's Frightening, I have an undeniable urge to hit something, anything, but in a good way. They really understand what percussion is meant for and on this album every member of this six man band plays some form of percussion. This album shows more maturity and more of what makes music about having a good time. Definitely the feel good, fun album of the year.
Favorite Songs: Percussion Gun, Rudie Fails, and Company I Keep

5. A Fine Frenzy - Bomb in a Birdcage
With the release of this album, I had no expectations at all, I just knew that Alison Sudol has a beautiful voice and I would listen to any music that she released, and her being my musical crush didn't hurt any. This album took me off guard by being incredible. I think when it came time to record her second full length CD she said, "I'm going to make the most creative, fun, wonderful, and joyful album possible." She did it. Bomb in a Birdcage just flat out makes me smile. Who doesn't love smiling while listening to music? Her voice… is still beautiful.
Favorite Songs: What I Wouldn't Do, Elements, and Stood Up
6. 311 - Uplifter If you are a 311 fan you just can't help but like this album. You can tell they are getting older, but not too old. They still have it! More of their songs are about love and relationships, but still have that great snare drum and base line. It's a really solid, good summer CD.
Favorite Songs: Mix it Up, Neverending Summer, and Two Drops in the Ocean
Honorable Mentions:
- School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms This album came out of nowhere for me. I wasn't looking for and didn't expect to like it, but I do. Alpinisms offers great vocals and good percussion plus some very well put together songs. It's just a pleasant listen. Perfect to listen to while doing a project or if you just need some music on while keeping busy. It's definitely worth a listen.
Favorite Songs: Face to Face on High Places, Half Asleep, and Wired for Light

- The Dead Weather - Horehound
I had to give this album an honorable mention because it is absolutely worth purchasing. For my taste it is not a perfect CD, but it offers things every serious music listener must hear. Jack White is musically magic and the musicians he surrounds himself with always make contributions to the rock music world that is usually lacking in what the industry considers rock music. You have to hear this album.
Favorite Songs: Hang You From the Heavens, I Cut Like a Buffalo, Treat Me Like Your Mother, and 3 Birds.
RX Bandits - Mandala

Mandala was another highly anticipated album for me, maybe too highly aticipated. It gets an honorable mention because it wasn't my favorite RX Bandits album but it was good. It's really hard to compete with their album And The Battle Begun. (I love that album and it has more horns . . . I love horns.) Mandala definitely still has all of the power and passion their other albums possess and to be honest, the more I listen to it the more I like it.

Favorite Songs: Breakfast Cat, Hearts That Hanker For Mistake, Hidden Track

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