I find it hard to believe myself, but I’ve done the math, and I started making cards and sending them out to friends and family exactly ten years ago. The first run was for my immediate family, but the current list stretches almost to a hundred. If you’d like to receive a hand-deckled print next year, or if you’ve received one in the past and have unexpectedly moved to the Virgin Islands, just drop me a line.
Silversun Pickups. Silversun Pickups. Say it with me, now. Silversun Pickups. This California band may have one the hardest names to remember out of the new crop of indie rockers, but I have a feeling their style and delivery will be remembered long after Modest Mouse becomes a household word. Besides, with the advent of simple web links to iTunes, MySpace, and YouTube, who cares about memory recall anyway?
This group has a deeply penetrating sound seemingly designed to eat away at the outer membranes of the para-sympathetic brain region. No shit, one listen will instantly leave the listener with one option and one option only–listen to the entire album again. And again. And again. And again it goes.
This is the kind of music that 90’s grunge and early Radiohead was dutifully working toward, until it got sidetracked by a world that decided not to think anymore. That is to say then that it comes off as progressively cerebral and artsy. But if pretentiousness is your biggest fear in life, than let front man Brian Aubert tear away your misconceptions with his frighteningly rough voice, which can only be described as a freaked-out banshee hooked on pain killers. Actually, he sounds like a cross between a female Billy Corgan and the lead singer for the Agents of Good Roots. The former’s ruspiness was rumored to be caused by a skiing accident. No word on what twist of fait gives the Pickups the perfect vocal accompaniment to their sonic feedback vibrations. My guess is it’s a clever gift from God, who obviously wants the world to rock like a bunch of smug bastards all over again. Or, if not smug, at least smelly.
Hey, I won’t complain.
While I’ve become accustomed to more forms of music over the years (except for the jingoistic crap on country stations), the bulk of my musical palette remains steadily with the art house crowd. That’s why new music by these guys and others, like the Secret Machines; guys who aren’t afraid to pick up where bands like the Smashing Pumpkins left off (when they were still good, of course), are starting to fuel a young and possibly resilient fire. The main difference between the new scene and its early predecessors seems to be its reliance on lyrical abstraction within large and flowing sound scapes. Beautiful with just a hint of danger. It was that kind of vibe that made music exciting years ago and it seems to be picking up once more with guys like these who appear every bit as eager to turn the world on its end.
Now, whether or not bands like the Silversun Pickups can outlive their reference points remains to be seen. All I can say is it feels really special and really good right now. I’ll be watching closely.
Album Stand Outs:
- Lazy Eye
- Well Thought Out Twinkies
- Checkered Floor
- Future Foe Scenarios
- Dream At Tempo 119
Just when I thought it was impossible for Days of Our Lives to spiral downward any further (Remember Marlena’s possession? Or more recently, Patch and Jack’s simultaneous return from the dead?), they go ahead and pull out the Smokey Robinson card.
I just hate getting sucked back in.
John Legend definitely gets my vote for being the most likable personality in the music business today, bar none. It could be in that vain (of trying to uplift my own fragile ego) that I purchased his latest album, Once Again. Because whatever this guy has, it’s clearly contagious. Having worked with luminaries such as Lauryn Hill and Kanye West, just to mention a few, he’s earning respect one ditty at a time and nearly single-handedly inspiring a full on resurgence in the kind of urban music that used to matter more—namely Gospel, R&B, and Soul.
His complete sophomore release doesn’t disappoint either. Although I have to admit that at times the album doesn’t shine quite as brightly as his first, it’s to his credit that he was able to cast so much light into the darkness during the humble beginnings of his career. If anything, he’s just made it that much more difficult to top himself.
Save Room, the album lead, is a fair average for the music to follow. It’s seemingly forced upbeat tempo, slow build of electric guitar, and lack of a piano all signal that this effort will not simply be a follow up to his most recognizable track, Ordinary People. But that’s not a bad thing. With every popping beat and finger poke at his church organ, Legend is playfully announcing a confidence in attitude that’s refreshingly audacious, without the overly self-centered antics of just about every one of his hip-hop contemporaries.
But that’s already making me sound jaded. And if anything, Legend appears to be about turning around that stereotype of the talented (and some not so talented) black musicians who relish flaunting the riches of their success.
The broad musical attempt appears to be play it safe with highly playable tracks like Stereo, but every now and then small musical hybrids, like the Hendrix-inspired guitar opening of Show Me stand out for special appreciation. Likewise, the sentimental harmony of Each Day Gets Better recalls groups like the Detroit Spinners in a nearly pitch perfect tone.
But it would also be remiss not to mention the booty. Yes, the booty.
After all, the centerpiece of this album is really all about getting it on. No other track exemplifies this better on the album (and maybe on any album recorded in the last ten years) then the free flow exhibitionism of P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care). It’s a sexy romp that covers all sorts of over-heated scenarios my older brother never warned me about.
I see you closing down the restaurant
Let’s sneak and do it when your boss is gone
Everybody’s leaving we’ll have some fun
Oh, maybe it’s wrong but you’re turning me on
Ohh, we’ll take a visit to your Mama’s house
Creep to the bedroom while your Mama’s out
Maybe she’ll hear it when we scream and shout
But we’ll keep it rocking until she comes knocking.
Damn, the guy’s got some serious mojo.
All kidding aside, the song that encapsulates the sentiments of just about every legendary artist that Legend (the man) can and will be compared to in one fell swoop is Slow Dance. The patented old-school R&B groove is balanced out nicely by lyrics which could have easily been sung by Marvin Gaye or Al Green.
Forget about the world
I’m grooving with my girl
Forget about the news
Let’s put on our dancing shoes
Let’s not talk about the war
Don’t know what they’re fighting for
I propose that we go to the floor and we slow dance
Hey, that’s good enough for me. In fact, let’s start right now.