Throwback Thursday: Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”

This song has been in and out of my head for probably around six months now. I’ve wanted to write this edition of Throwback Thursday now for a while, and I figured now would be a good time to finally do it, with Black Sabbath performing at the Centurylink Center last night.

Released in 1970 as the first single and title track of Black Sabbath’s second studio album, “Paranoid” is a symbol of the birth of heavy metal. Black Sabbath is among the founders of metal along with bands such as Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Steppenwolf (who are also among the first to use the term, “heavy metal,” in their 1968 song “Born to Be Wild”). In fact, while many debate on what the first heavy metal song was, “Helter Skelter” by the Beatles isn’t a bad guess, but that’s an article for another time.

Ozzy Osbourne’s lyrics depicting a descent into insanity on top of Tommy Iommi’s simple driving riff is enough to solidify this song’s place as one of the essentials of heavy metal. “Paranoid” is proof that a song doesn’t have to be terribly complex to be great, with it being #253 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list.

“And so as you hear these words telling you now of my state
I tell you to enjoy life I wish I could but it’s too late”

-Mark Austin

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Throwback Thursday: Graceland

Graceland by Paul Simon.

Anyone that even kind of knows me could have told you that it wouldn’t be long before this specific edition of Throwback Thursday appeared. That’s because this is my favorite album of all time, and I am pretty much in love with Paul Simon. Prior to Graceland, few other artists had incorporated African music into their work. Another notable example of this is Talking Head’s 1980 release of Remain in Light (influenced by Nigerian Afrobeat artist Fela Kuti).

Graceland was released in 1986 amid turmoil not only in Paul Simon’s life and career, and in the global political sphere as well. Simon’s career had been on the decline in the first half of the 1980’s following the cancellation of a reunion tour with Art Garfunkel and a string of poor-charting albums. On top of this, the album came shortly after his split from Princess Leia actress Carrie Fisher. Lastly, it’s obvious that this album is heavily influenced by South African jaiva music (okay, it’s not that obvious, but you can at least tell it’s African). As we learned in world history class, South Africa was a controversial place during a good part of the 20th century due to apartheid. Because of this, a “cultural boycott” was placed on the country, and artists of all kinds were encouraged to avoid South Africa, in an effort to pressure leaders to abolish their institutionalized discrimination.

However, Simon traveled to South Africa to record anyway, and the album features several South African musicians. This broke the boycott by both traveling to the country and working with musicians (most notably Ladysmith Black Mambazo), something that was seen as extremely controversial. The rest, to borrow from a cliche and overused quote, is history. By mid-1987, nearly a year after its release, six million copies of Graceland had been sold, and the album continues to receive universal praise. It won Album of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1986 and 1987 Grammys, respectively.

This album spawned mega-hits such as “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and “You Can Call Me Al,” famous for its music video featuring Chevy Chase and instantly recognizable synth riff.

“And she said honey take me dancing
But they ended up by sleeping
In a doorway
By the bodegas and the lights on
Upper Broadway
Wearing diamonds on the soles of their shoes”

Ladysmith Black Mambazo on Sesame Street, which, according to my parents, was a favorite episode of mine in my youth.

-Mark Austin

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BLUJ Informational Meeting: 10/27

Interested in getting involved with BLUJ Radio? Come to our informational meeting at 8:00 PM on Tuesday, October 27th. We’ll be in Eppley 109- come learn about the program and ask us any questions you may have!

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Throwback Thursday: T. Rex’s “Mambo Sun”

I’ll start off by saying two things:
1. I have no idea what a “mambo sun” is
2. I know very little about Glam Rock that is not David Bowie.

However, I know that T. Rex’s song off of their critically-acclaimed 1971 album Electric Warrior, “Mambo Sun”, is glam rock, and I know that I like it a lot. Like, it’s been on repeat since I happened to hear it on KXT 91.7 in Dallas in August.

Prior to discovering this song, I had a very limited knowledge about T. Rex: I knew their two biggest songs, “Bang a Gong (Get it On),” and “Jeepster” (and you probably do too, even if you don’t know it), and I knew that they’re referenced in “You Better You Bet” by The Who. Those first two aforementioned songs are included on Electric Warrior, which is considered a glam rock essential and one of the defining albums of the genre. I’ll admit I tended to lump T. Rex into the “classic rock that doesn’t include The Beatles, The Who, Zeppelin, The Doors, etc.” category, but this track made me revisit them.

The steady, hypnotic mix of the palm-muted guitar with the drum beat (think “Everlasting Light” by the Black Keys. No, really. It’s literally the same.) sets up Marc Bolan’s lyrics perfectly. In addition to this, while less obvious, I think that the backing vocal harmonies really add a depth that greatly improves the overall quality of the song.

The lyrics, however, are what really grabbed me from the beginning. It’s got a simple message, a classic love song, we’ve heard it thousands of times. However, this one is set apart with the imagery that Bolan uses. It’s all so out there and bizarre, it just works.

One of the less weird and more straightforward lines is:

“beneath the Mambo Sun,
I got to be the one- with you”

How sweet. What’s next?

“on a mountain range,
I’m Doctor Strange- for you”

Oh. Still, I guess that’s still sweet? I just know it’s easily my favorite line. Now I don’t know who Doctor Strange is, but apparently he looks like this, so he’s got that going for him.

Doctor Strange.

So, if you’re looking for the next song to get stuck in your head:

Enjoy.
-Mark Austin

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Sorry, Weezer

Sorry, Weezer. Sorry I tweeted that your ninth studio album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, was going to be garbage upon it’s release in early October of 2014 exactly 365 days ago. Sorry I thought the best part of the album was going to be the album art. However, lucky for me, I was very mistaken.

I was initially disappointed with the first single, and was ready to lump this album in with the likes of 2009’s Ratitutde (I will, however, be the first to admit that this album’s lead single, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” is a great song and was on repeat for half of my freshman year of high school).

I will also admit I’ve never been Weezer’s biggest fan, and my knowledge of them is relatively limited. That’s one reason why this post is so late. I remember being somewhat pleasantly surprised upon my initial listens last October, but overall indifferent, thinking I would revisit it later. School and life being time consuming, solid albums can and sometimes do easily slip through the cracks. Luckily, I did end up revising this one in early June, and it has quickly become one of my go-to albums this summer. This album has been my companion on several flights and at least one road trip so far this summer.

Rivers Cuomo continues to please with his usually-clever-but-sometimes-cringeworthy songwriting, and the instrumentation is extremely reminiscent of 1994’s critically-acclaimed self-titled debut Weezer (or, The Blue Album, if you’re into that sort of thing). Cuomo’s lyrics over the classic heavy guitar that brought Weezer to power-pop-emo-indie rock fame shows that less can be more.

The song I expected to annoy me the most, “Da Vinci,” has ended up being my favorite track because of the chorus alone. Sure, I’m not a huge fan of the whistling, but I can’t get enough of the lyrics:

 

“Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you

Stephen Hawking can’t explain you

Rosetta Stone could not translate you

I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words”

 

How could you not love that? Anyway, this wasn’t intended to be a review, more of a recommendation, but I’m, going to throw a rating on it anyway. So, if you’re looking for something to listen to, it certainly wouldn’t kill you to give this album a few listens.

Sorry, Weezer. Please forgive me, Rivers.

Final Rating: 7.5

-Mark Austin

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Wilco Balances Consistency and Evolution in Surprise Album “Star Wars”

There’s over a minute of what can only be described as organized chaos in opening track “EKG” before we hear Jeff Tweedy’s voice come in on the second track of Star Wars, the ninth studio album by Chicago’s indie rock darling Wilco. Released as a surprise on wilcoworld.net for free, Star Wars marks Wilco’s first studio album since 2011’s The Whole Love. Tweedy and the rest of Wilco have shown us why the band is still relevant in today’s ever-changing musical landscape, and appealing to a wide range of fans, both young and old.

“EKG” sounds like a musical representation of my frantic scrambling on the Internetz to download the album after seeing early news of its release. I’ll admit, I was skeptical of the rest of the album while listening to this track. However, lucky for us, the album mellows out at the beginning of track 2, “More…” The front half of this album reminds me more of recent releases, such as The Whole Love, in which Wilco adopts a more alternative-rock sound, as opposed to the Americana  sound that defines the band’s early (and most critically acclaimed) albums, such as Summerteeth and universally agreed-upon 2001 masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. These opening tracks feature the fuzzy distortion of electric guitar that has become commonplace in their discography as their sound has evolved.

I was beginning to assume that the similarities between Star Wars and the albums of their past were negligible. For example, with clocking in at only 34 minutes, most Wilco albums approach twice the length of Star Wars. However, these assumptions were halted upon reaching tracks 6 and 7. These two songs, “Taste the Ceiling” and “Pickled Ginger,” effectively showcase the old versus the new in Wilco’s discography that encompasses nearly 20 years. These tracks also seem to be the turning point in the album’s sound. “Taste the Ceiling,” probably my personal favorite, offers a slower, more reflective vibe, not unlike the songs that brought Wilco to prominence in the 1990s during the alt-country revolution that they themselves were at the forefront of as Uncle Tupelo (Wilco was formed from the ashes of Tupelo following their breakup in 1994).

Following these two tracks, a regression to Wilco’s older roots can be heard through the rest of the album. This style really helps bring to front Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting prowess that has garnered so much praise over the last twenty years over softer melodies before building up later in the song (check out track 8, “Where Do I Begin,” for an example of this”)

Overall, Star Wars lacks the depth found in their earlier releases, but I would primarily attribute this to the significantly shorter length of the album. However, this is not meant as bad. Wilco releases a fun, yet still objectively solid album that appropriately showcases their unique sound. Lastly, give some credit to Tweedy & company for releasing a completely surprise album in 2015 free of leaks and rumors beforehand, something that is rarely accomplished. This album will get plenty more listens from me in the near future, and I only expect it to get better as time passes.

Final Rating: 6.5

star wars album cover

-Mark Austin

 

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San Cisco Announces New Album Gracetown

Australian indie pop band San Cisco will return with their second studio album Gracetown, which is slated for release on March 17th in the United States, with a slightly earlier release of March 6th in Asia, Australia, and the United Kingdom. San Cisco can be classified as indie pop, with elements of dance, jangle, and surf rock present, mainly seen in their bright, melodic guitar sounds. The first new single, “Run”, released in November, suggests they may be moving towards an even more dance-friendly sound, while their newest single released late last night (American time) seems to stick more to their classic sound. Personally, I’m extremely excited to see how this new album turns out. Their self-titled debut album was one of my personal favorites of 2012, and I highly recommend it to anyone into bands such as Real Estate and Vampire Weekend. Here are the new singles below:

Run: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLb57RNlqJc

Too Much Time Together: https://soundcloud.com/san-cisco-music/too-much-time-together

 

-Mark Austin

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2015 Album Speculations

 As we enter the final days of 2014, it is time to set our sights on 2015, which has the potential to be a huge year for music after a more or less mediocre one (in similar fashion to 2006-2007, and 2012-2013 to an extent). This year featured albums from artists with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, such as debuts from Schoolboy Q and FKA twigs, releases from veterans like Aphex Twin, The New Pornographers, and Jack White (if you count his pre-solo work, of course), and ones who broke through a little earlier and are working towards long-lasting staying power, such as Mac Demarco, Foxygen, and The War on Drugs.  Here’s what y’all can look forward to in 2015:

Death Cab For Cutie

Last release: Codes and Keys (2011)

Genre: Emo, alternative rock

Seattle’s emo outfit Death Cab For Cutie will return with their eighth studio album in early 2015, possibly around March. This release is notable due to it being the last to feature founding member and guitarist Chris Walla, who announce his departure over the summer following several tour dates (I was lucky enough to see them in Dallas in mid-August). He played his last show in September, but has stuck around to record the final album. Walla, a renowned producer in his own right, will be missed in the band, but frontman Ben Gibbard is excited to see what lies ahead for the band. In an interview with Stereogum, Gibbard said, “I do think from start to finish it’s a much better record than Codes And Keys. If that record turned anybody off, I feel pretty strongly that this one could win them back. There are threads in this one that connect back to our earliest stuff that people love.” This will also be the first Death Cab album not produced by Walla. If you’re looking to get a taste of Death Cab For Cutie, I would recommend songs such as “Crooked Teeth” and “I Will Possess Your Heart”.

Sources: Stereogum, Rolling Stone

 

Will Butler: Policy

Genre: Art rock, baroque pop, blues rock

The hype behind Arcade Fire’s Will Butler’s debut solo album has been pretty high in relation to the sparse details behind it. So far, all we know is that it is called Policy, it will be out March 10th through Merge Records, and that there is one single, “Take My Side. Personally, I’m extremely excited for this album. Will Butler’s brother Win, Arcade Fire frontman, has always stolen the show, and Will seems ready to make his mark, especially after receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score for Her. The single is an upbeat, alt-rock track with hints of blues influences. In addition, Butler played a solo set in Brooklyn in November, debuting more tracks off the album, available online.

Sources: Pitchfork

 

The Strokes

Last release: Comedown Machine (2013)

Genre: Garage rock, post-punk revival

Since the five-year hiatus inbetween 2006’s First Impressions of Earth and 2011’s Angles, The Strokes have been pretty active, at least in the studio. As far as touring goes, they have only played a few shows, mostly festivals, supporting Angles and the more recent Comedown Machine. Guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. told Gigwise that “I know that when The Strokes tour again, it will be because we put something out.” It should also be noted that 2015 would fit into The Strokes’ album release cycle, as 2011 and 2013 both saw albums, in March and May, respectively. However, Julian Casablancas did also spend a good chunk of 2014 recording his second debut album Tyranny. So, this may have disrupted some Strokes recordings. However, I feel much more confident that they will put out an album, or at least a single, sometime within the next 365 days than I did this time in the late 2000s, when there was little activity with the band. To reinforce this, Julian Casablancas told NME that the chemistry in the band is strong and that they are able to work more professionally together than in recent years. To get a feel for these New York rockers, check out “Last Nite” and “Undercover of Darkness”.

Sources: Gigwise, NME

 

Kanye West

Last release: Yeezus (2013)

Genre: Hip-hop, industrial hip-hop

I was reluctant to include the “industrial” tag in the genre, because only Yeezus really fits that label, and we have no idea if this next album will sound anything like it. But that’s the beauty of Kanye West’s music: both of West’s last two studio albums are heralded by critics and fans alike as masterpieces, as essentials in 21st century hip-hop, but after that the comparisons are slim. Kanye West has spent the better part of the last 15 years releasing critically acclaimed albums, and producing many more, and they all have extremely distinct sounds. Kanye West brings extreme diversity in the sounds of hip-hop as we know it today. Examples of this are abundant when looking through his discography: 808’s and Heartbreak’s R&B influenced-tracks are drastically different from arena and party-friendly’s Graduation, released only fourteen months earlier (Using months, as if we’re talking about young children). Moral of the story is that we have no idea what this album will sound like, but it will be big when it arrives. Part of one single, “All Day”, was leaked but taken down quickly. I can’t remember what it sounded like to make a call, and finding an authentic copy online is nearly impossible now. As West previously speculated a late 2014 release, an early-to-mid 2015 release is what I’m predicting, possibly around May.

Sources: Pitchfork

 

Kendrick Lamar

Last release: good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012)

Genre: Hip-hop (West Coast), gangsta rap

By the time 1993 rolled around, the East Coast vs. West Coast hip hope debate was raging on with no end in sight, as Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle and Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) had been released within three weeks of each other. By the 2000s, many of the G-funk and gangsta rap artists had faded into history. In the present day, we are reminded of the genres and styles that Dr. Dre (who is working on this album) and the rest of N.W.A., along with rappers such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac helped pioneer through Kendrick Lamar’s music. Like Kanye, Kendrick Lamar’s third studio album was planned on being released in 2014, so an early 2015 drop would not be surprising.  So far, one single has been released, “i”, featuring a somewhat new sound. Despite this, it received overall positive reviews from critics, and I am very excited to see how good kid, m.A.A.d. city’s successor turns out.

Sources: Complex

 

Radiohead

Last release: The King of Limbs (2011)

Genre: Alternative rock, experimental

Since 2011’s The King of Limbs, the members of English indie rock darlings Radiohead have been keeping themselves busy. In addition to supporting the album on tour, several members, including frontman Thom Yorke, worked on and eventually released solo albums and side projects. However, those days are over, and Radiohead is looking to the future, according to guitarist Jonny Greenwood in an interview with BBC in November. The amount of details is pretty slim right now, but I would anticipate a later release for this one. Greenwood even says they are unsure of the direction they’re heading in this album, which can mean a wide range of sounds, as this band’s discography shows. It’s impossible to capture their sound in one song, so I’ll just leave The Bends, one of their earlier tracks, and one of my personal favorites.

Sources: BBC Radio, Consequence of Sound

 

-Mark Austin

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Dance Punk 2014: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Centuries Most Engaging Genre – Jack McConnell

Dance Punk. To many, these words together are a nonsensical combination of music styles that have nothing in common. Whether you knew it was dance punk, you have no doubt heard this style of music and its influences before. It is easily one of the most interesting progressions in music history. That said, a genre having an interesting history does not merit an article dedicated to it. Why should dance punk be relevant to you in 2014? This year has seen an incredible rebirth of what was starting to be considered a dying genre, and this rebirth is perhaps the most important trend of the year in music.

Dance Punk’s origins can be traced back to the turn of the decade in the late seventies. As post-punk artists like The Cure and Joy Division were foreshadowing the New Age movement led by the Talking Heads. Additionally during this period, Krautrock was on the rise and German artists like Faust and Kraftwerk were among the first to incorporate electronics with experimental rock. Additionally the Detroit techno movement, as well as all of the sub-genres of electronic music in Great Britain during the 80s had a direct impact on the genre. However, Dance Punk as it is known today did not take its shape until the early 2000s.

The turn of the century was notable for the post-punk revival movement that began in New York City. These throwbacks, guitar acts offered a return to the garage rock basics that were lost in the Britpop/grunge/stadium rock dominated 90s. As a direct extension of this movement, dance punk evolved out of artists who shared many of the same influences as the more standard revivalists did. In the way that Joy Division directly influence perhaps the most important post-punk revival albums in The Strokes’ 2001 effort Is This It, it only naturally follows that Joy Division’s second branding in New Ordr, a key member of New Age, in turn influenced The Strokes Dance Punk predecessors.

While Dance Punk was a widespread genre with many artists, one stands out alone and must be mentioned as the primary act; James Murphy’s project LCD Soundsystem. Murphy had been active in New York’s music scene for over a decade and his wealth of experience likely contributed to the group’s early success, even if Murphy’s other projects had stayed under the radar for so long. LCD Soundsystem formed in 2001 during the birth of post-punk revival. Over the next four years they released many singles leading up to their much anticipated self-titled, double album, debut. I still hold the second half of this record to be the crowning achievement in the genre. LCD Soundsystem’s release in 2005 was a breakthrough for Dance Punk. Other acts during this time included The Rapture, The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and Liars, who originally possessed a garage rock sound, and moved towards dance punk by the end of the decade. Another group, Death From Above 1979 is somewhat controversial to me personally. Their debut You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine (2004) is often cited as a key album in the genre, but I find it much too punk, and not enough dance.

Dance Punk is just that, the combination of “punk” music of the seventies and early eighties, and the dance music of the eighties and nineties. It is important to distinguish electronic rock, like that innovated by Radiohead on their 2000 record Kid A, which incorporates synthesized instruments but lacks dance inspiration. To me, the ideal dance punk style is one that focuses primarily on the instruments of dance, but takes a rock oriented song-writing approach.

As the last decade ended, the genre began to lose steam, but its flagship artist LCD Soundsystem released one of the best albums of the period in 2007 with Sound of Silver. In 2010 they released their third and final album This Is Happening which marked the completion of a trilogy of albums, each one as cohesive, innovative, and enjoyable as the next. Following the release of This Is Happening as 2010 turned into 2011, Murphy announced that the group was stepping away and played a fairwell concert at Madison Square Garden. As the white balloons fell from the rafters after the conclusion of “New York I Love, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” thousands of fans sat devastated that they had just witnessed the final act of such an incredible group. What they did not realize is that they almost saw the final act of a decade’s worth of music.

By 2013, Dance Punk appeared dead. There were no major releases in the genre following 2010’s This Is Happening, and hope that the genre could reclaim the strength of the mid 00s was all but gone. Musicians in 2014 have made a point that they are not ready for this movement to die, and great accomplishments toward the genre have been found from the most unlikely sources.

The first Dance Punk Revival album to be released in 2014 was Liars with their album Mess. While Liars were part of the original movement, this release was a significant return to form for the group and the genre, and was met with critical acclaim. Also making their long awaited follow up to their debut, Death From Above 1979’s album The Physical World was released last month, and although I didn’t care for it, or find it representative of true dance punk, it is worth mentioning as a significant release.

However, this “revival” would be nothing without what is perhaps the best release of all genres in 2014. Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra is the well-known offshoot of Canadian post-rock group Godspeed You! Black Emperor. A significant departure from their symphonies of instrumental rock, the group put together a two track EP featuring dance punk remixes of old tracks. While I said Disc 2 of LCD Soundsystem is the crowning achievement of the genre, Hang On To Each Other EP is about equal in quality.

These three releases may not constitute enough to insinuate a “revival” of sorts, but it goes far beyond the music at hand. Music fans around the country and world have a renewed excitement in the future of the genre. It’s a movement, and you had better get in on the ground floor, because in 2014; Dance Punk is back.

 

Jack McConnell

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Praise the Lorde

September 27th, 2014

The first line to Lorde’s opening song described this night almost perfectly: There’s a humming in the restless summer air. The crowd that had been standing restlessly for hours was revived once the lights dimmed and an ominous, tall figure dressed in a black cape emerged onstage. With her breathy vocals and electronic-rock beats, Lorde filled the outdoor arena with something magical. Various costume changes—from a two-piece white ensemble to a red dress and a golden crown—paired with special effects such as strobe lights and fog bubbles helped to add to the otherworldly feel of the show. My favorite performances were without a doubt “Glory and Gore”, “Buzzcut Season”, and “Ribs.” Most memorable moment? Lorde took a break in between songs to reflect on the past year of her life. Saturday had been the one-year anniversary of the release of Pure Heroine, her “diary from ages 12 to 16.” One talent that I believe sets Lorde apart from the rest is her ability to capture the essence of teenage years through her lyrics. Anyone with the chance to see Lorde should grab tickets to see this show!

Lorde was accompanied by opening act Majical Cloudz, an indie/electro duo from Canada. They were very low key, with no instrumentals other than vocals and a soundboard. Their sound was a perfect addition to the haunting essence of the show. My favorite by them was “Savage”. Be sure to look them up!

Libby Brower

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