“Tell Me When You See Something Worth Saving” — Why you should immediately become familiar with the work of Darrin Bradbury
Darrin Bradbury tells things as he sees them, which makes this four-track single release, A Casual Conversation With Superman, a stunningly repeatable listen. “True love’s gonna make you lose your teeth,” he sings on the track “True Love,” which equates a broken-down love affair to the decay of an addiction to methamphetamine: “How I wish I could get back to when love was just a toke of something green like your eyes and gold like your hair,” he mourns, before suggesting that true love burns fast, sweet and then becomes suffocating and destructive. That’s much like the take on the Superman trope on the first track, which really is the standout. “Tell me when you see something worth saving,” Superman snarks at the songwriter while standing outside a telephone booth. “Flying will hurt your back and the spandex makes you itch … sometimes this world just ain’t worth saving.” That and saving the world repeatedly still doesn’t get you laid enough, what with Superman’s kryptonite sperm and all.
Trust me, this songwriter from West Virginia brings the goods. This EP’s only the starting point — get hooked on it, then move on to the harder drugs of The Quiet Side of Hell, which really gives you the goods on what Bradbury has to offer. This is Steve Earle meets Drive-By Truckers, with the sharp lyrical edges of John Prine and the strong folk melodic flair of Danny Schmidt. In other words, listen and you won’t be disappointed.
Doing all she can to show us pop love, Naia Kete’s “Crazy Glue” sticks to the skull like the best ear candy
Back in October we premiered the single “Cherry Love” by Natania Lalwani. If you fell instantly in love with that slice of perfect pop candy, you’ll be just as enamored with what Naia Kete offers on her latest single “Crazy Glue,” which fits right into that vein of enthusiastic addictive surrender to the art of love. She gets positively high over the touch of a hand and vows to stick to her lover like glue, melding the message via sing-song vocals to a backdrop of guitars, pianos and light percussion, crafting a generous singable hook which is the perfect complement to the endlessly repeatable “Cherry Love.”
Kete, who now lives in LA, was a contestant on The Voice‘s second season and is set to play the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee this June, at which point she’ll release her third EP, followed by an appearance at Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco this August. If the material on the new EP continues in the vein of “Crazy Glue,” expect the hooks to bounce around the confines of your skull like the best summer songs pop music has to offer.
“These Diamonds In Our Hands” — Cris Cab’s “When We Were Young” melds Dave Matthews, Rob Thomas for robust single
This single by Miami-based singer-songwriter Cris Cab caught me by surprise this afternoon, a refreshing blend of Dave Matthews instrumentation with vocals which blend echoes of Rob Thomas with hints of reggae in the hook. The overall backdrop, when played on repeat, keeps drawing me back to Paul Simon’s Graceland, particularly when the horns come in strong at the 2:35 mark. This is a sunshine-soaked pop hit-in-the-making which should easily warrant proper headphone treatment followed by a proper blasting from your car’s speakers as you cruise down the highway.
If you dig the single as much as I have, check out his Red Road mix-tape, which arrives ahead of Cab’s upcoming debut album due this fall. The mix features collaborations with Hip Hop artists Mike Posner and Wyclef Jean, and can be streamed via SoundCloud.
It quickly becomes abundantly clear that there are few things David Draiman isn’t comfortable talking about. The man’s been around the block more than a few times, with a decade-plus behind him working with Disturbed, and his new album with super-group Device has breathed fresh air into his creative process. So he’s excited to sit down prior to the band’s show tonight at Ft. Lauderdale’s Culture Room to talk about the new album. Just don’t ask repeatedly what’s happening with Disturbed and all’s fine.
“Is Disturbed getting back together? When is Disturbed getting back together? Why did Disturbed break up?” he laughs. “We didn’t break up. We will be getting back together. Stop asking me about it! It’s a hiatus – look up definition of hiatus!”
With that out of the way, there’s plenty of time to talk about what went from being a one-off project for a potential soundtrack contribution to becoming a project which would consume his creative energies and push them in new directions. In the process, however, he also discusses what it’s like to hear early Disturbed albums more than a decade later, why he no longer feels trapped by his own voice, and that he really really wishes there was an app out there to smack “motherfuckers who say stupid things.”
It’s definitely a wild wide — you’ll want to read along below!
[Read the "Hear! Hear!" review of Device's album,
which came out officially on April 9th!]
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You’ve referenced Maynard James Keenan’s work with A Perfect Circle when asked about why you hope fans will accept Device as willingly as they have your work with Disturbed. Are fans today as willing to embrace artists experimenting with more than one project?
I hope so! [Laughs] I think that all of us are definitely stretching our wings out. It seems where there’s room to create art there’s then a reason to do it. This is, as I’ve said in previous interviews, not something I set out to do or planned. It’s a very fortunate accident. Geno [Lenardo] and I meant to write a song for a soundtrack together, not for the material to lead to writing more songs, or for those songs to lead to the creation of a band. The grouping of material was so strong, even after the first two week period when we already had seven songs in the bag, we were so cohesive and powerful it became a very compelling idea with powerful momentum behind it. When you are creating, the music tells you what to do. The music will always dictate where it needs to be. This grouping of material spoke very loud and clear.
Though the industrial sound of the new album does draw comparisons to Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, I’ve always noticed your interest in reviving something of a New Order 80s industrial pop sound. This album updates that in a more modern context, particularly on the cover of “Close My Eyes Forever.” What drew you to cover that song in particular? What was it like finally working with Lzzy Hale after she’s been such a longtime supporter of Disturbed?
And we have been longtime supporters of her, and I will continue to be a longtime supporter of her until the day I die. She’s an amazing woman. In my opinion she is the top of the mountain as far as female rock singers are concerned. I don’t think anybody holds a candle to her – she is the best of the best.
That’s a song I’ve loved for years, since it first came out. Who could forget the video? Who could forget the hook? It was such a memorable moment, one of the great rock duets of all time, so timeless. And Lzzy and I have been talking about doing this since she first started supporting Disturbed way back in the day. Initially we thought about doing it with Disturbed, but I’m very glad we ended up doing it with Device because in Disturbed it couldn’t have gone in the direction it did, with that ambient nature, the more synth-heavy, string-heavy sample-laden vibe to it. And I think it needed that. I think doing a heavier version wasn’t necessarily the answer.
You told Tony LaBrie of Flint, Mich.’s Banana 101.5 that after twelve years of cycling between record and tour with Disturbed, you all started to feel like “part of the machine.” That plus the album cover’s twisted take on technology absorbing our humanity, do you ever start to feel totally out of place in the modern world of social media?
I don’t know, man. I think that people are as heavily invested in the social media and that they follow the details as rapidly as they do because they are continually interested, and there is that continual desire for more, to be a part of the life, to a certain extent, of the artist that you love.
Does there come a point where a fan’s need to know everything about a band makes it impossible for an artist to ever try anything new or interesting?
You know, the minute you are focused on any expectations other than your own as an artist, that’s the minute that you fail. It should never be about trying to fit within a certain demographic or style. You have to stay true to yourself. You have to make music or make art that fulfills you, that speaks from your heart. That’s really the beginning and the end of it. The fans, you hope, will always value your music whatever direction you take. Maybe there are some fans of Disturbed who won’t dig where Device went with some of these new songs, with some of the more synth-heavy or electronic-fueled factors. And that’s okay! Device is going to appeal to some people who Disturbed wouldn’t, and the reverse as well. That’s why you do something like this, hopefully, is to be able to go in some of those different directions. I’m obviously also haunted by the identity, which is a blessing and a curse, of my voice. When I sing, it sounds like me no matter what the direction.
Right. You’ve said “as a vocalist you become a prisoner to the style you develop.” I found that interesting, because fans who listen closer to the vocals over time will hear how you’ve developed that style, adding more melodic tones to the staccato rhythms of the delivery. Do you still feel trapped by what you’ve done with Disturbed vocally? Or could any of that be solved by a few Meatloaf-esque “Bat Out Of Hell” moments?
Maybe. [Laughs] Maybe, man. It really is wonderful to do more of the “classical” delivery. To not always have to go to my safety spot, to the spot that I know I can own pretty well which is that rapid-fire staccato style delivery.
That and the microphone-assisted growl.
Yeah! That just comes out if there’s a primal element in the music, if there’s something that brings it out. That’s another thing which isn’t necessarily planned. Some of these rhythms are as tribal and primal as anything on a Disturbed record, sometimes I push the envelope even more. So it definitely can sometimes bring the animal out of you. But it’s really satisfying to let one of those things rip. Satisfying to be able to go back to your home base or even more satisfying to be able to expand it.
I love the things that I did on “Run For Cover.” I love being able to write a song like “Through It All” for my wife on the record, working with Glenn Hughes, where had I not gone in that direction, having a voice like his and mine on the same track wouldn’t have made sense. Or even a track like “Haze” – no one has ever heard me sing the way I do on the verses of that song anywhere on any record at any point in time. So it was really nice to be able to go into those directions and to still be myself, to be unashamed of being myself. At the same level I allowed what I’ve become to grow, and that’s been very refreshing.
What did become stifling and has become stifling was what the expectations were for a Disturbed record. “Okay, we fit within certain parameters, we have to stay within those parameters relatively, you have to know who your fan-base is, to know who you’re playing for, performing for.” We always did, and we kept that identity strong. That’s part of why we’ve been able to maintain the level of success that we have. But it also can be trapping when you are forced to do that much of a direction all the time.
I can hear that, listening to the albums in order like I did prepping for this conversation. You can hear how far you guys have come from doing a song like “Dropping Plates” to what you would do with “Never Again.” I can’t imagine many would have expected to hear “Never Again” based on what they heard on the first album.
I would agree with you. And to be honest, even though that first record captured us at a point in time where we were very raw, primal, and a lot of people really connected and loved that, there are parts of that record where I listen back and I cringe a little. “Oh my God, what was I thinking? Did I really think that was a good idea?” It really seemed to work back then. Lyrically, definitely there are things I wish I could have done better. But I was just starting out, feeling things out. I certainly didn’t have the knowledge base or even the fundamental skills that I do now. So it’s nice to come from that and to grow, to continue to learn and I’m continuing to build on what I’ve done with each passing day.
Well, it progressed quickly – I’ve always been interested in the way you’ve discussed your religious heritage through your music over the years, and I still think “Never Again” and “Prayer” don’t get nearly the critical respect they deserve.
What message would you hope fans would take from a song like “Opinion,” where you sing “Are you blind? Are you cold? How can you say you don’t have an opinion?”
That is a call-out to all those people who say “ignorance is bliss.” And they’d rather not know what’s going on in the world, they’d rather live in their own little bubble. Whatever happens outside their door doesn’t really affect them. “I don’t have an opinion.” Well you have to. If you don’t have an opinion then you don’t have a voice, and nothing ever changes. Then we can never affect change. There’s so much change that is necessary in this world, it takes people who have their eyes open and if you keep your eyes closed too long something ends up coming by and smacking you in the face. It’s definitely a wake-up call.
Are we all so afraid to offend anyone we won’t actually say what we really think anymore? Or has the world of social media made it too easy to empower ourselves anonymously without ever really saying anything worth standing behind?
Definitely. Oh, no shit. But as you’ve probably borne witness to, I’m never afraid to say what I think. I definitely think that the Internet has made people exceptionally mighty, unnecessarily and unjustifiably so. There are no repercussions. There’s no responsibility – you can say anything you want, pretend to be anybody you want, and somehow that’s okay. I don’t think that it is. I think that there should be consequences for actions. I am a believer in freedom of speech to a point. I don’t believe in hate speech. I don’t believe people are entitled to do that. I don’t believe people are entitled to bully. I don’t think that’s a right, that we’re protected to do that. I think other people should be protected from it.
That’s a flaw in the way that our laws are structured. I think that we give too much license to be predators, to do damage for the sake of quote-unquote “freedom of speech.” And that’s not freedom anymore. People should be free from being bullied, from being persecuted, from being tormented. That’s a freedom as well, and people often will go ahead and waive that freedom of speech flag and think that it entitles them to say just about anything.
You know what? It doesn’t. There should be repercussions. I often say I would pay a million dollars for an app that enabled me to just smack people through the computer. I mean it, I would pay a million dollars. There would be so many dumb motherfuckers getting smacked, it would be a smacking spree. And all of a sudden everybody would have a little bit of consequence. “What the hell is wrong with you? You are not just some computer jockey, some wannabe maniac sitting behind a keyboard trying to one-up the next guy in insulting some poor individual.”
And I can take care of myself. I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about the countless others out there who fall prey to these online predators and end up taking their own lives or end up living in isolation. They’re unable to deal with their own image of themselves. It’s disgusting what some of this technology has empowered people to do.
Well, maybe after this runs somebody will come up with Digital Bitchslap or something and you’ll get credit for it.
Dude, I’m in! If you know some developer guys, let’s go ahead and do it. We’ll build in some kind of shock technology into the computer. I’m in, let’s co-found the company!
After more than a decade working in the world of music, is there any subject you wish simply wouldn’t be brought up anymore?
“Is disturbed getting back together? When is Disturbed getting back together? Why did Disturbed break up?” [Laughs]. We didn’t break up. We will be getting back together. Stop asking me about it! It’s a hiatus – look up definition of hiatus, I don’t have any other way to explain it. And I’ve explained it in a hundred interviews and everybody still ends up asking me the same damned question.
Look, this way we’re all going to grow in our appreciation of each other as a group. Everybody steps away from it for awhile, the band and the fans. It’s not something that’s predictable anymore, you know you’re not going to get a new Disturbed record every other year. When a Disturbed reunification does occur — and it will occur because we don’t go ahead and dedicate sixteen years of our lives and all our blood, sweat, tears and souls to walk away forever — when the time comes we’ll come back to it with renewed vigor and inspiration, make a killer record and take this thing to new heights! But everybody needs to be conscious from here on out that when Disturbed does get back together, does make a new record, that’s a special occasion. It isn’t something that’s going to happen cyclically every other year anymore. We all need to cherish it, not just from the fan’s perspective but even from the band’s perspective as we become re-inspired by it rather than feeling like we have to do it. It’s going to make a tremendous difference.
In the reverse, what do you wish someone would talk to you about in an interview, yet they never do?
I’ve never been shy about talking about anything, brother. So I really don’t know that too much hasn’t been covered. I’ve gone in pretty much every direction I could possibly imagine. All I can do is reassure people and consider it a tremendous compliment that people love Disturbed to the point where they become so worrisome, so fearful. I think that’s a great thing. People should care, and I’ve definitely been shown that they do. I’m flattered for that.
In the meantime, you’re out on tour with Device now, not Disturbed. What would you tell those fans who wait for the inevitable reunion? What would you want them to get from seeing a Device show?
The same sort of release, man. That’s what music is about, even though it’s electronically saturated, this is still hard rock, so it’s still all about catharsis, having that moment of empowerment and release. Feeling like you can transcend the obstacles of life, that still draws water from the same well and I think this well is even more diverse. It can give people a lot of different flavors they’ve never had the opportunity to experience with Disturbed. You should just enjoy the ride. Please, come on board, because you’re welcome!
The evolution of Snoop Dogg from hip-hop to wannabe Rasta is hands down the most frustrating musical development of 2013 thus far. There’s nothing about this music which isn’t both over-calculated and under-inspired. It isn’t surprising that Snoop would gravitate toward the American idea of Rasta culture, being that he’s made a career out of loving all aspects of weed society, but crossing that over into his music means we’re inundated with every faux-reggae cliche.
“No Guns Allowed” fails in every aspect, drawing on cliches at every corner, decrying gun violence and a society where “money makes the man,” while mixing the message. “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” is the implicaton, but there’s also the idea that if we were all rich, we’d spend more time with our children and keep them from choosing violence. That, and “the District Attorney could use a conviction … they can’t wait to get you in the system.” So which trope should we latch onto?
At least “Lighters Up” and “Cali’ Livin’” play to Snoop’s strength, trying to get us all to unite, “east side, west side, north side, south side unified” — nothing can divide us if we just light up with Master Snoop. But the beats lack inspiration, drawing on a sound which brings weak UB40 Casio-reggae hooks together with weak iterations of early-90s Snoop gangsta, pleasing fans of neither in the end. It remains easier to unite behind bashing this material as a crass cash grab than to find any real musical impetus behind its reason for being.
Meanwhile, the less said about his collaboration with Miley Cyrus, “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks,” the better, as we al raise a glass to what used to be Snoop’s “career.”
At the very least, the most successful of these singles — “Cali’ Livin’” — makes me long to hear the Mamas and the Papas and perhaps “Nothin’ But A G Thang,” while I pretend I never heard any of this Snoop Lion nonsense. I suspect April 23 will prove I’m not the only one leaning in that direction when Reincarnation rightly bombs.
First off, watch the video below then “Like” the band as quickly as possible:
Done that? Good … bring on the 90s nostalgia!
Afew repeats and I’m wanting to dig out my copy of the Blue Album along with my other favorites from the era, including some Marcy Playground, Harvey Danger and … nah, I’ll just go to Bandcamp and rock out to the rest of Unmacho, which includes the blisteringly good two-minute track “Van Man,” which deserves a video as ridiculously cool as the one they’ve made for the title track. That and the album’s opener, “Bonehead,” which showcases there’s more under the hood than just aping Rivers Cuomo. A quick stream suggests there’s not a dud in the bunch, which is more than a good reason to like them on Facebook and then buy a copy to blast with your windows down all summer.
Blindly soldiering on, Josh Krajcik produces a solid post X-Factor album with Blindly, Lonely, Lovely
He finished second in a reality show, but let’s face the facts: Josh Krajcik has talent which didn’t need a Simon Cowell-led talent show to showcase it. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to hear Blindly, Lonely, Lovely showcasing his blues-tinged growl over larger-than-life arrangements which accentuate his ability to merge blues, rock and pop, all within a slick package.
“Back Where We Belong” brings “big” to the forefront, with its massive arrangement of piano, thundering drums and Krajcik’s lung-deflating vocals, and at times the song itself becomes overwhelmed by that top-heavy heft. Sometimes less is more, which “Nothing” illustrates as the album’s opener. That’s the song which needs to be spread around the internet as the reason this guy needs to be heard. That or the southern-blues keeper “The Remedy,” which could have fitted itself nicely into any Ray Lamontagne album yet released, or at the least as a John Mayer Continuum b-side. Steep yourself in those vocals at the chorus, along with that rising tide of horns, and try not to get swept up in the mood.
This isn’t an album he’ll be able to build a whole career on, but clearly reality success didn’t spoil him — he’s used the time in the Fox spotlight to build an audience and then released an album perfectly in line with what those fans wanted to hear, free from obsessive studio interference. With album tracks like “Don’t Make Me Hopeful” and the album-closing stunner “Let Me Hold You” anchoring this mix, there’s plenty to hope for in this songwriter’s future. If you weren’t already sucked in by the solid craft illuminated by his first two independent albums (try “Atavistic” on for size if you don’t believe me), I can’t think of a better mainstream introduction to his sound than what Blindly, Lonely, Lovely delivers.
Kacey Musgraves catches lightning in a bottle — “Same Trailer Different Park” is country’s best album of the year so far
If you ain’t got two kids by 21
You’re probably gonna die alone
At least that’s what tradition told you
And it don’t matter if you don’t believe
Come Sunday morning you best be there
In the front row like you’re supposed to
Same hurt in every heart
Same trailer different park
Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
And daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
We get bored so we get married
And just like dust we settle in this town
On this broken merry-go-
Round and round and round we go
Where it stops nobody knows
And it ain’t slowing down
Talk about a shot to the gut. This is one of those songs which could apply to just about everyone I’ve known in small-town Indiana at some point in our lives. It’s a touch of downwardly mobile Americana as we settle for less than we’re worth because we don’t believe we deserve anything better than just a chance at treading water.
Kacey Musgraves doesn’t have the thundering “shoot for the high notes” vocals of a Carrie Underwood, and though she could out-hustle Taylor Swift in any songwriting competition, you’ll be unlikely to find her drawing the same kind of frantic, obsessed crowd. All the better, because we can take in the wonderful songwriting on Same Trailer Different Park, 2013′s first flat-out fantastic country album, without having to worry she’ll be overexposed by September.
“Merry Go Round” may be the strongest introduction to her sound, but “Dandelion”, “Stupid” and “It Is What It Is” reiterate that this young woman is Nashville’s best lyrical hope, suggesting that country can mean a hell of a lot more than just by-the-numbers button pushing. This is the real America … it is what is is ’til it ain’t anymore. Here’s hoping listeners aren’t too stubborn to give her the chance she so richly deserves, because there’s nowhere better you could be than listening to this album a few times through.
As great as P.O.S.’s We Don’t Even Live Here is, the album’s been overshadowed by the rapper’s inability to properly tour to promote it, so it’s great to hear he’s getting the chance to go out and do a few dates this spring, including Sasquatch Fest in Washington state this May. With his otherwise well-documented health issues keeping him off the road for the last few months, I suspected he might have something to say to fans about the album and his collaborative spirit, which has seen him working with everyone from Doomtree to Building Better Bombs and Marijuana Deathsquads. Sure enough, there was enough great discussion fodder in a few minutes to fuel hours of conversation, had there been the opportunity.
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I’ve been really impressed with the collaborative spirit of Minneapolis hip-hop over the last decade. What would you hope the mainstream contributors to the genre would take from that?
I don’t know, I guess I really think that you’re starting to see that more anyway without someone having to get out there and say anything. I think having a band behind you is pretty fun, but it’s more about finding people who are good at something and working with them. Really thinking about everything as more of a project.
I’d noticed with the new album that, on tracks like “Fuck Your Stuff,” it seemed you were talking about getting people to get up off their asses to do something constructive rather than just bragging, hyping and buying stuff.
Yeah, it’s not just about musicians, but more everybody.
Have your fans taken that message and run with it?
I don’t know! I think some of them have, but I don’t know if all of them go beyond the music. The problem with talking about some of the stuff I talk about on this record is that we still live in the world that we live in, you know? It’s still all about the money you have and what you can afford and brag about. Whether I rap about trying to find a better way or a different way, that’s still where people’s lives are. They have to work and get money, whether they care about money or not.
Do you feel you have a responsibility since you have that “voice” through hip-hop, to push that Occupy message as far as it’ll go?
Sort of. I don’t know if it’s an Occupy message, but more of a general “if we live in a capitalist society, that’s where we live” mentality. There may not be anything you can do about it, but that doesn’t mean we all just have to take being wage-slaves and being treated like that’s what we want to do. I don’t know anyone who wants to be a wage-slave.
You got your start in the realm of punk music. Comparing that genre to hip-hop, do you think there’s really much of a difference between hip-hop’s lyricism and punk’s more furious roots?
No. I really don’t. I think that when I was first getting into Wu Tang Clan I was definitely very aware as a fan of music of how really punk-rock it was. I think at the very roots you can go all the way down and they both have their fun, they both have their carefree side, but at the most fundamental level they’re about doing something constructive with your life, looking at things from a different angle.
Listening to your music, you’ve covered all the different angles, with four solo albums, your work with Doomtree, and then you’ve been part of Building Better Bombs and Marijuana Deathsquads. How do you keep challenging yourself to maintain that level of work?
Well, I think the point is to make things that are challenging. I don’t know that it’s a matter of “how do I keep challenging,” it’s a matter of making songs that are interesting to me. If it feels that it’s not interesting for me then I can’t roll with it, you know? I never really think about it in terms of “how am I gonna outdo myself?” It’s a matter of making more music.
Do you feel that you have to have multiple things going on to keep yourself inspired?
Yeah. Definitely, if I was only rapping I’d be bored out of my mind.
Looking at Minneapolis in particular, in the 90s it was a flourishing punk and alternative scene, and now it’s been hip-hop since Rhymesayers really took force.
Right, but in all that time there’s still been that rock influence. Everything that’s happened, there’s not a lot of ska bands, since ska kind of just “went away,” but as far as different styles of music you can always find it. This is a very unique and interesting music city.
What makes a city build a good scene?
I think it’s because there are no major labels, just small labels big enough to handle the music local bands collaborate on. I think there’s a tradition here. I definitely wasn’t born when the music scene started here, but by the time I was old enough to listen to music, there were already bands like Husker Du and the Replacements, all these awesome bands that had worked the scene here. So I think if you’re a musician, if you’re just starting out it feels impossible to break through, but you only have to make a little bit of headway to realize just how wide open it is.
Artists often get pigeonholed into the same conversation over and over again. What do you wish someone would ask you but they never do?
Honestly? On my last record I was more annoyed. The questions this time around have been really good because people are starting to pay attention to the subject-matter of the songs. And I think culturally people are a little more awake than they may have ever been, if you take the Internet into consideration not just for music but for information. You can have an opinion and a set of ideals that maybe you didn’t have a few years back even. Things can happen so fast, it’s just a matter of taking the time to actually read things past the headline.
Is there something you wish no one would ever ask you again?
There are always the standard questions about “what are your favorite bands,” and stuff like that. I never mind sharing, but it’s always like “you could probably just read another interview.”
I’m always more interested in what artists are currently inspired by. Are there groups or solo writers coming up who you think we should be more aware of?
Yeah … I think that there’s a rapper named Haleek Maul who people are kind of sleeping on right now. But there’s always so many rappers, there are a million people. I’m really super-inspired by podcasts and current events. Musically I’m still into my favorites and I’m always listening to new stuff.
Do you think artists have a mandate to keep pushing people to think more deeply about the world?
No. I don’t at all. I think there’s always a place for stupid love songs, a place for completely mindless songs. I think there’s room for everybody. There’s a common thought in underground rap that mainstream rap is stupid. Underground punk bands think mainstream bands are stupid, since people who grew up loving Green Day hate Green Day now. I think there’s room for everybody to do pretty much whatever they want, there’s enough people out there to be successful. If you believe in the music that you’re putting out, you should stand behind it. When I was younger I was really mad at the direction hip-hop culture drives people, and there’s always going to be anger and ignorance, whether it’s rap or anything. But that’s me. Part of my personality is that I want to talk about things that affect my life, the world around me. It doesn’t mean everybody needs to do that.
If you’re going to write silly love songs, at least be willing to stand up for that.
Exactly, but there are people who – think about the Queers or bands like that – part of their charm is that they make silly stupid songs. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have that bent to them. For someone like me, I love Minor Threat because they talked about things which mattered to them, but I also liked the Vandals, where every song just seemed to make fun of something. There’s room for everything.
No such thing as a guilty pleasure then?
Not for me, at least not since I was 25. At that point I decided fuck it. If I like it, I like it.
I know you’re scheduled to play at Sasquatch Fest this spring. What should we expect to hear from you guys in the coming year? Are you working on any new material or are you just excited to get out there and promote the current album now?
I’m getting excited to promote the current album, but with all the health stuff sidelining the tour, I’d be bored if I wasn’t making something. It’s still been tough, I haven’t gotten my transplant yet and I’m booking shows on faith that I’ll be able to get out there. My docket’s still pretty open at this point.
If you had one album through which you could introduce the world to hip-hop or rap, which would be your “most essential” pick?
Oh man, there’s a lot of albums I personally like. I guess just because you’re asking me today and I’m thinking about it today, I’d say My Ghetto Report Card by E-40. It’s a really good record, because he’s one of those guys who is a true innovator and he’s not always dumb. There’s enough party, enough bullshit and enough smart stuff, and the beats all knock. And nobody sounds like E-40.
Classical piano meets Lil Wayne’s lyrical perversions on “IANAHB,” subverting any claim to good taste
For a minute you might be forgiven for wondering what the hell this track is — have I stumbled onto some odd alternate universe wherein Lil Wayne has converted into an off-kilter pianist?
“I’m in a crib, butt-naked bitch,” he chimes in ninety seconds in. “She said my dick could be the next black president.” Whatever the hell that means. From there, “IANAHB” expands to celebrate everything which is patently absurd about the entirety of Weezy’s schtick.
Yes, he’s crazy.
No, he doesn’t care what you think.
For those reasons, he’s willing to throw any ridiculous sleaze rhyme against the wall in hopes that it might stick and piss off someone, anyone, anywhere. In the course of nearly six minutes of perversely inane lyrical mind-fuckery, Lil Wayne manages to boast about everything from fucking every bitch in sight to even fornicating with the very piano backing his rhymes.
The message in the end is that he’s not a human being, so there’s no line he won’t cross in search of so-called hip-hop greatness. That, of course, is already clear to anyone with ears, as any rapper who would think it’s even remotely reasonable to equate the murder of Emmett Till with hardcore rough sex lacks the humanity to understand the concept of what it means to cross a line.
This is Wayne’s World, and if there ever was a line separating good from bad taste in hip-hop, he’s already gotten it drunk and had his way with it.
We’ve all been through romantic situations where “should have known better” comes to mind. We make mistakes, but often pray we won’t become defined by them. This is a playlist full of songs which ride that roller coaster from the highs of first love to the lows of wishing we’d just said no before having one’s heart ripped to shreds became a legitimate possibility. Highlights include “Flowers,” from Anais Mitchell’s acclaimed Hadestown folk-opera, “Homage for the Suffering” from a stunningly under-appreciated Matthew Perryman Jones effort, and “El Matador,” one of the best soMngs from Semisonic I can almost guarantee you’ll never have heard. That, and you can expose yourself to a number of artists on the edge of fame who sorely deserve a wider audience — Meaghan Smith deserves to be mentioned as one of the stronger “vaudeville pop” vocalists working the pop scene, and Diane Birch’s “Fire Escape” sorely needs a cult following.
Justin Timberlake filters his NSync past through hook-fueled “Mirrors,” proving “Suit and Tie” made a terrible first single
Skip to just shy of the four minute mark of this eight minute super-jam, and you’ll hear why “Mirrors” should have been the standard-bearer single for JT’s latest album The 20/20 Experience. This is the first track to meld his new soul leanings with the pop smarts of those boy band tracks which made his vocals ubiquitous in the first place. “Forget the old me, he’s already gone,” he sings, and though that won’t happen completely, “Mirrors” is an apt reflection of where he’s been and where he wants to go, even if at times he spends too much time standing in his own way. There’s no reason he needs to be such a perfectionist, waiting half a decade between albums. If he wants to be an actor, act. If he wants to be a musician, he needs to be willing to release things before they’re polished to death. That’s what made “Suit and Tie” come off as such an overplayed hand … all the talk of needing to hold these songs until he really felt they were ready was left meaningless when the song he did choose to be his comeback didn’t sizzle when we finally got past the “JT comeback” smokescreens.
That said, while I’m still not entirely convinced that Timberlake hasn’t set himself for a dramatic crash and burn, “Mirrors” is the next best thing he’s written since “What Goes Around Comes Around.” It’s the first thing to make me excited to hear the rest of the album, Is The 20/20 Experience going to leave Future/Sex/Love/Sounds in its dust? Unlikely. But it could wind up standing strong as a proper follow-up, even if it took too long to gestate. And though anything less than a global sales explosion will be seen as a failure, if Timberlake actually builds on this new expansion of his sound to build future albums, he could finally live up to the hype and prove he’s more than a jack of all trades and master of none.
The 126.96.36.199′s subvert pop, punk, surf and rockabilly expectations with Bomb The Twist, the best EP of 2012 you didn’t hear
Play this EP straight through and you’ll feel like you’ve just taken a time-warp back into the classic era of pop singles. “Three Coolchicks” may be the best mock-Beatles track I’ve heard to really hit on the sound the band made famous, while distilling how that sound must have sounded to these three Japanese women coming up in the era of Quentin Tarantino “aural re-evaluation.”
Yoshiko “Ronnie” Fujiyama, Sachiko Fujii and Akiko Omo formed the 188.8.131.52′s in Tokyo back in 1992, achieving a modicum of underground fame when they briefly appeared in Kill Bill Volume 1 performing “Woo Hoo” by the Rock-A-Teens, but their music has yet to catch fire. That boggles my mind in this era of retro-pop nostalgia — the EP’s title track sounds like a long-lost Bill Haley smash as though filtered through the Ramones with a touch of surf-rock Beach Party mix thrown in for good measure. This is the essence of “fun” and “rock” distilled into 18 minutes of furiously twisted pop. Like Tarantino the music ably steals from an era long past, but the key is that filter which is applied liberally to the music to make it distinctly theirs. That alone makes this worth a listen. I dare you not to start singing along with “Dream Boy” as though it truly was the logical follow-up to the Chordettes or Leslie Gore.
All night awake
In the moonlight I’m with you
In the moonlight I’m with you
Brighter than gold
They’ve owned my ears since I first heard their Cuban-fueled masterpiece Two Shoes nearly a decade ago, and since that moment I’ve never ceased to be surprised at the levels to which they take their obsessively catchy blend of global pop. This latest single, a bright exercise in full body enrichment, sets your speakers afire with horn soaked exuberance, as Felix Riebl lets loose his distinctive Aussie vocals and the band holds sway over us all. In this musical empire the only reason the sun ever sets is so we can blast off with music like this under the moonlight. And with American pop music lacking any distinct edge, something this good is worth ten times its weight in gold. Their yet-untitled sixth album, due in May, can’t come nearly soon enough to sate my appetite for more as I, stuck awake way into the night, continue to press play. “Oh la aye!” indeed.
I’m sure if you remember this album at all it’s more for Jim Carrey’s brutally hilarious takedown “Imposter” than the original #1 one hit wonder which was “Informer.” But for an 11-year-old gangly white kid in small-town Indiana, there was nothing cooler to blast from a boombox than 12 Inches of Snow, unless you count the UB40 album Promises and Lies which equally burned up the pop charts at the moment. I didn’t care at the time whether Snow’s sound was at all authentic. I just loved the beats, damn it, and having yet to immerse myself in the world of hip-hop, this dub-meets-Toronto hybrid had the right mix of percussive simplicity and lyrical complexity to keep me pressing repeat constantly. Listening to the album with a decade and a half of space between me and my early-90s self, I have to admit the album sounds as dated as expected, yet “Runaway” and “Informer” still hold up well as pop singles, instantly flashing me back to those days when I’d obliviously walk up and down a mile-long stretch outside our rural home annoying farmers with my flawless imitations of the epic, indecipherable chorus.
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A hat-tip to Starstorm over at Mixed Tape Masterpiece, whose constant stream of retro reminders will keep you flashing back to the glory days of alt-pop radio cheese thanks to his shoeboxes full of mix-tapes he’s rescued from his childhood. So far as I know, he has yet to find “Informer” on one of his tapes, but it can’t be more than a matter of time …
Casey Abrams’ new “Get Out!” video puts a humorous spin on obsessive crushes with an unforgettable hook
Memo to Casey Abrams. As much as we all love your songs and want you to succeed, it’s dangerous to film a video where you’re seen stalking a hot chick wearing her best “I Love NY” t-shirt, leering behind her like Seattle’s latest serial-killer-in-waiting. That, and telling a girl “you got me like a bug bite and now you’re under my skin” while your eyes bug out eerily might not quite come off as “sexy” as you’re hoping. This time it gets you punched in the face. Next time she might cut you, and we’d hate to see you get hurt, with so much great pop songwriting yet for you to do!
All kidding aside, this video perfectly sums up what made Casey so damned likeable when he was on American Idol back in 2010. If this hook doesn’t win you over, and you don’t find something to champion via this interview I conducted with him for PopMatters, I then officially excuse you. Please now safely give up pop music for life, you’re just not going to be in the right frame of mind for music which doesn’t take itself so seriously.
Lately I’ve been going crazy looking for a juicy pop hit to champion as we head toward spring. Well, folks, this is the one … roll those windows down and crank it full-volume, make sure the whole neighborhood hears. Represent for happy-go-lucky bearded weirdos everywhere, because with a hook this good, if this can’t be a hit I don’t want to listen anymore.
Call me a whore for obsessive stats observation, but I can’t help it. As a long-time sports fan, I’ve transitioned that insatiable drive for statistics by diving head-first into Joel Whitburn’s many Billboard Charts Books. While scanning the pages of his 9th edition of the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits I realized that alongside the one-hit wonders whose sole hit peaked at #1 on the Hot 100, others had hits which peaked way lower on the charts. So I wondered: “how many of those “one-hit” wonders had the fun of their sole hit peaking at #40, never to be heard from again?”
The answer: Twenty-Six. How many could I find on Spotify? Twenty. The others which you won’t get to hear here are available on YouTube, thankfully:
Jim Backus and Friends -”Delicious” (7/14/1958)
The Avant Garde – “Naturally Stoned” (8/31/1968)
Keith Barbour – “Echo Park” (9/27/1969)
Gunhill Road – “Back When My Hair Was Short” (3/31/1973)
Red Sovine – “Teddy Bear” (7/24/1976)
Desmond Child – “Love on a Rooftop” (6/22/1991)
The songs which are on the above playlist are listed in order of their release, which makes for a playlist which starts with skiffle in 1957 (the music which inspired the Beatles) and winds up with Breaking Benjamin’s hard rock metal inflused bluster on “I Will Not Bow,” which made its bow on September 19, 2009. Since the ninth edition of Whitburn’s book only goes through the end of 2010, any tracks which have peaked at #40 since that time will not be reflected here.
Check out the list and let me know which ones stand out … are there surprises on here? I hadn’t realized the Buggles’ video hit “Video Killed The Radio Star’ did indeed do so, since it didn’t make the radio impression the video did. And the Baha Men’s inane “Who Let The Dogs Out” made more of a radio impression than it did on the “CD single” market, since it too peaked at #40.
“One Day We’ll All Be Ghosts”
1. The Head and the Heart – “Ghosts” (4:19)
2. Don Ryan – “This Town” (3:38)
3. The Cat Empire – “The Heart is a Cannibal” (4:06)
4. Oceanship – “Hotblack” (3:39)
5. Sounds Under Radio – “The Arsonist” (3:52)
6. Mikky Ekko – “Pull Me Down” (3:29)
7. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive” (3:08)
8. Matt Hires – “Forever” (3:28)
9. Tim Noyes – “Blue Buildings” (3:16)
10. Alesso (ft. Matthew Koma) – “Years (Radio Edit)” (3:16)
11. James Blake – “Retrograde” (3:44)
12. alt-J – “Interlude 2″ (1:18)
13. Among Savages – “Raging Sun” (4:14)
14. The Kicks – “Live Fast, Die Young” (4:48)
15. Joe Pug – “The Great Despiser” (4:06)
16. Josh Ritter – “Can’t Go To Sleep (Without You)” (3:17)
Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many NOW “HEAR! HEAR!” THIS playlists using Spotify, which I hope will help put the spotlight on emerging artists worthy of mainstream appeal. I’ll start each list with a current song or artist and use their music to branch out, creating playlists which work as a whole. There won’t always be a literal theme to the list — in this case, ghosts don’t play a role specifically in every song — but sonically the lists will showcase how little difference there is today between many pop-centric hitmakers and their indie kin.
This week I jumpstarted this list off The Head and the Heart’s exquisite pop hook known as “Ghosts,” from which the title line is drawn. From there it was only a short hop between my favorite Don Ryan track (which also hearkens back to experimental indie-folk in the veins of Vandaveer) and then Oceanship’s “Hotblack.” Elsewhere on the journey you’ll find Australia’s most astonishing export (The Cat Empire), England’s ultimate art-rock savants (alt-J), and several hits which currently push the pop envelope into EDM inspired territory (Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and Alesso’s club-worthy “Years” in particular).
There’s even a song from the Grammys’ ultimate mystery man Mikky Ekko, who stole tons of Twitter time when he sat on a stool and sang with Rihanna while inspiring many online to wonder who the hell he was in the first place. “Pull Me Down” definitely isn’t afraid to make its presence heard. This could easily be the “Somebody I Used To Know” of 2013. It’s a song I fully expect will stick in your heads. Just make sure you’ve played the list all the way through before you go back and hit repeat a few dozen times.
In the end, I hope you’ll be inspired to create playlists of your own, building off your own favorite songs to give us a picture of where you see pop music heading in the new year. Feel free to comment on this list below and then post your own. Let’s really make “Hear! Hear!” a place to explore musical threads and get a conversation started! And if you hear a band you like, click the links above to check them out further on Facebook.
“We Don’t Even Live Here” — P.O.S. and his “Weird Friends” showcase just how far ahead they remain of mainstream hip-hop via new video
I’ve been a champion of P.O.S.’s magnificent hip-hop effort We Don’t Even Live Here since it came out late last year, but the rapper continues to find ways to mine that album for gold as the new year gets going, proving he leads the genre’s vanguard by a wide distance. Reset your opinions of hip-hop by giving these lyrical anarchists a listen or ten. They won’t be beat, and any chance to dig deeper into their catalog is worth the effort. Their tour was cancelled last year due to P.O.S.’s imminent need for a kidney transplant, but they will be playing Sasquatch! Fest with Mumford and Sons, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, the XX and an astonishing number of other cutting edge alternative artists, when the festival takes over George, Washington on May 27, 2013. Based on everything I’ve heard about his live shows, this won’t be one to miss.
Check out the video below! It definitely deserves a shot at wider mainstream acknowledgement, even as the band refuses to give up an ounce of their indie credibility to get it.
Fall Out Boy knows what we did in the dark but hasn’t figured out it’s been six years since their relevance expired
I wish Fall Out Boy could see just how far they’ve fallen since their career crashed and burned with the collapse of Folie a Deux. Unfortunately they think that a dash of Maroon 5 mock-swagger plus Bruno Mars-esque backdrop hooks equals a whole lot of Fun. And it’s not. Not by a long shot. “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” merely showcases a band whose career long ago went up in smoke attempting to create a pop juggernaut while playing by the old rules, figuring we’re all so desperate for a radio earworm we’ll gladly submit our brains for their control.
While once a powerful fixture in the world of top 40 hitmaking, Infinity On High marked their peak, and the five-year absence after “hits” like “America’s Suiteheart” failed to exceed trainwreck status suggests a total lack of direction. It’s been a long slow slide, and worse yet, they think they can Save Rock and Roll with their absurdly titled sixth studio album, due out in April. If this single is the best they can do, I think rock and roll would rather die a slow painful death than to submit to Patrick Stump and Co. as its savior. Sorry boys … the fall-out shall be swift: This critic knows what your songs did during the hiatus, and he’s not buying. Here’s hoping the rest of America follows suit.
Let it all be a reminder of how surely David Draiman rocks — Device’s self-titled debut delivers, “Vilify” leading the charge
There’s something about David Draiman’s inspired take on hard rock, tinged with all which is both invigorating and frustrating about the millennial hybrid fusion of rap and metal, that simply can’t be purged from my ears. For many of the same reasons I can’t stop listening to new Meatloaf records despite the fact that for every genius hook there’s an equally disappointing plummet, I find myself salivating whenever I hear any new track with that distinctive sing-song growl. “Arrrrrrrrrraughhhhhh!” It must be a product of my frenetic rock upbringing throughout the nineties which simply destroys all denial.
Draiman’s latest outlet, Device, has a self-titled debut coming out April 9th via the Warner label, and it arrives at once as addictive as anything Disturbed’s yet released, yet with more of an 80′s-inspired twist, particularly the incredible duet with Lizzy Hale on Device’s brilliant cover of Ozzy Osborne and Lita Ford’s 1988 “Close My Eyes Forever” which manages to blend pop hooks with Draiman’s typically uncompromising vocal energy. More on that in a moment.
First things first, however, as “You Think You Know” opens the album with typical Draimanesque bluster, including classic lines like “Get off me, you don’t know where I’ve been,” sung before he abruptly calls the mystery female a whore while referring to the monsters inside him. He’s like the opposite of Meat Loaf’s usual protagonist, the one constantly in arrested-development teenage lust, searching for desperate sexual release. Instead, Draiman’s songs come from that utterly opposite position where it’s all about living on a razor’s edge between fear, lust and ultimate insanity, a world rotting to its core.
You think you know, but it’s all in your mind. The sickness is everywhere, and we’re losing the battle.
What’s great about Device is the band’s willingness to twist the knife even as they merge Disturbed’s typical hard rock pastiche with backdrops built on layer after layer of Nine Inch Nails industrial and New Order inspired pop gloss. The opening triptych that is “You Think You Know,” ‘Penance” and the album’s first single, “Vilify,” unite everything fans will have come to expect from Draiman and Disturbed, but the new band seems more willing to play with those conventional expectations. “You’ve never had control from the onset,” he tells us. “Go find another lapdog, fucker!” He’s got this roiling tide of bile, distrust and confusion about the past, present and future, and the only way to get anywhere is to subvert every demand placed on the music.
Fuck you all!
Let every minute be a reminder
Of how it all came crashing down
Can’t believe this is happening
Don’t want to start over again!
How can this all keep happening
Over and over and over again?”
At that moment we finally come to a fork in the road — that aforementioned incredible cover of “Close My Eyes Forever” which should be the next single and the album’s ultimate mainstream breakthrough. Call it “Draiman Unchained” — apart from our demands for repeated past glories, the singer becomes a man willing to finally take the album to a new level. “If I close my eyes forever will it all remain unchanged?” Draiman and Hale sing back and forth, and while the answer in the end has to be “no,” we understand where they’re coming from.
It is easy to understand why Draiman has gone to such trouble to tell fans this isn’t an outlet to replace Disturbed — clearly he’s after a chance to redefine what’s come before, look toward the future and rediscover why he’s here to rock in the first place. The remainder of the album continues Device’s experimentation with hard rock and industrial, proving to be way more than a vanity side project while Disturbed takes a hiatus. “Out Of Line,” “Hunted” and “War Of Lies” won’t win over everyone who may have left Disturbed and David Draiman behind them a decade ago, but these songs (and in particular the album’s first four tracks) showcase a performer who knows his voice and is ready to get out there and dominate yet again, blending elements of the last three decades of hard rock into something perfectly shaped for our modern alternative landscape.
It’s not indispensable, but there’s something refreshingly invigorating about this album. Let it all be a reminder of how surely David Draiman rocks, and why we all could stand to take ourselves a little less seriously.
The last time I wrote about Hugh Laurie’s surprisingly adept blues debut nearly two years ago, the world of WordPress took note and rocketed the little review to Freshly Pressed status. The album never quite took off in the US, but my post did because at the time the music was only available in the UK — I’d just happened to luck into a press copy by accident, becoming the first US critic to say anything about it. What’s great about Laurie’s blues work, which makes the album stand out even two years in, is the fact that he comes at the music as a fan. He’s heard this music all his life, and it’s soaked into his soul — something which makes his performances work even when you perhaps wouldn’t otherwise take him seriously.
Today I learned he’s putting his music out there further in the UK to promote the NHS’s Organ Donor Registry via ITV, at a time when there is a desperate shortage of donors in that region. Laurie took to Oceanway Studios in Los Angeles, recording a rollicking cover of “Unchain My Heart” for the cause in the same venue where everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald have recorded. You can watch the video below, and then dig deep into Let Her Talk like you should have done two years ago. It’s not too late to recognize a wide-ranging talent when you hear one.
Billy Joel’s special Valentines’ Day hits compilation She’s Got A Way: Love Songs brings together eighteen of his best-known hits on the subject on one hook-filled disc, and today you can win a copy of your very own for yourself or the love of your life. All you need to do is email me at email@example.com with the subject Billy Joel, before the end of the day Thursday. I’ll then put everyone’s name in a hat and let my wife do a blind drawing and email the winner on Friday.
The track-listing for the album is below, along with Joel’s video for “The Night Is Still Young.” Feel free to comment below about your favorite song by Billy Joel — there are so many great songs on his albums it’s tough not to forget a few classics on any hits collection.
Billy Joel, ‘She’s Got A Way: Love Songs’ Track Listing
‘The Night Is Still Young’
‘This Is the Time’
‘She’s Got a Way (Live)’
‘Until the Night’
‘She’s Right on Time’
‘You’re My Home’
‘Just the Way You Are’
‘She’s Always a Woman’
‘State Of Grace’
‘An Innocent Man’
‘All about Soul (Remix)’
‘And So It Goes’