Album Review: The 20/20 Experience

The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake (RCA, 2013. 70 minutes) Renaissance Man A recent episode of Saturday Night Live was hosted by none other than Justin Timberlake, a man who can sing, joke, act, and do it all. He is today’s renaissance man. He is a performer. The 20/20 Experience marks Justin Timberlake’s first release in seven long years. Justin Timberlake spent the better part of the decade acting, being funny, and trying to escape the negative attention that he was “trying to be black”, which, curiously enough was one of the jokes of the last Saturday Night Live episode. The success of The 20/20 Experience has everything to do with Saturday Night Live, as it is Justin Timberlake’s ability to be a performer, not just a musician,… Read More →

Album Review: Boys & Girls

Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes (ATO, 2012. 38 minutes) Alabama Shakes formed in 2009. The group includes Brittany Howard on guitar and lead vocals, Zac Cockrell on bass, Heath Fogg on guitar, and Steve Johnson on drums. The band earned 3 Grammy nominations in 2013. An Inquiry on Vocals What makes a voice? Is it only about hitting all the right notes? Certainly pitch matters. We’ve all heard a tone-deaf rendition of a song; it’s not pretty. But what if you’re too perfect? Many have descried the emergence of auto-tune—a synthetic correction ensuring perfect pitch to a voice. Auto tune forcefully alters the blue note, a note sung both with conviction and sung intentionally off-pitch. Sometimes, these blue notes… Read More →

Album Review: The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hands

The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand by Matt Pond (BMG, 2013. 36 minutes) Since 1998, Matt Pond has recorded 8 full-length and 8 EP records with a wide variety of collaborating musicians. Sound Is Brand There comes a time for any musician when he or she must decide on a sound. Music, as an avenue for creativity, can be represented in a panoply of sound. On any given day, a musician could write a folk song, a rock song, a techno song, even on orchestral piece. But imagine a record with such a wide variety of tunes. It wouldn’t feel complete; it might even cause frustration as it jumps around without rhyme or reason. Bluntly, sound is brand…. Read More →

Album Review: Document

Document by R.E.M. (I.R.S. Records, 1987. 40 minutes) Formed in 1980 in Athens, Georgia, R.E.M. is one of the first alternative rock bands. The band has released 15 full-length studio albums and is well known for campaigning for political and humanitarian causes. R.E.M. disbanded in 2011. Chasing the Tree Recently, the Seattle Mariners traded Mike Carp. This occurrence has nothing to do with R.E.M. other than it serves a point I am about to make. This AAAA First Baseman/Left Fielder is the latest player in a long line of acquisitions that can be traced back to the Mark Langston trade in 1989. More specifically, Langston became Randy Johnson became Freddy Garcia became Jeremy Reed became Mike Carp. Something about tracing… Read More →

Album Review: Lonesome Dreams

Lonesome Dreams by Lord Huron (Iamsound Records, 2012. 45 minutes) Lord Huron is an American indie folk group from Los Angeles. They are signed to Iamsound Records and released their debut album in 2012. To Innovate or to Perfect: That is the Question? What’s better: the innovator or the perfector? We are often wowed when an artist appears, utilizing a new technique. Ernest Hemingway popularized short, staccato sentences where the content left out is as important and meaningful as what remains. However, since his time, many authors have used this technique, some perhaps to better effect. Likewise, consider Jimi Hendrix. His use of heavy distortion and lightning riffs revolutionized the sound of guitar. But is he the best guitarist ever?… Read More →

Album Review: Shut Down the Streets

Shut Down the Streets by A.C. Newman (Matador Records, 2012. 40 minutes) A.C. Newman is a Canadian singer-songwriter. After contributing as a band member of Superconductor and Zumpano, Newman currently leads The New Pornographers. He launched his solo career in 2004. Dreaming Solo When I was in a band, a solo project always sat in the back of my mind. Going solo offers unique creative opportunities compared to a collaborative band setting. Compositional and lyrics choices are yours alone. Truthfully, most solo projects should never find the light of day because collaborative band settings function as an editing process. Most band members keep each other from making major musical mistakes. But, a rare few hold the talent to do it… Read More →

Andrew’s Top 20 Albums of 2012

No, there’s no Kesha, Maroon 5, or Carly Rae Jepsen on this list, and that’s how I like it. This list, at the moment anyway, reflects what I feel to be the best albums released in the year 2012. I’ve listened to a ton of albums this year, so this represents just a small smattering of what I feel to be the best. Most of these albums have an in depth review on this very blog, so check it out! Also, many of these albums appear on Donovan’s top ten list, and rather than re-inventing the (idler) wheel, I copied his descriptions for those albums because he’s right.   20.  Ben Folds Five – The Sound Of The Life Of… Read More →

Donovan’s Top 10 Albums of 2012

Much like last year, I am surprised at the continued narrowing of my musical consumption. Narrowing down my music to a Top-40 list a few years ago represented quite a project. Having listened to a continuous stream of music, I had no problem outlining an extensive list. Well, this year, I have added only 18 albums to my iTunes from 2012. As I said last year, this list no longer represents what I feel to be the absolute best music from 2012. I fully expect that I have missed some excellent music. Instead, this list represents a snapshot of my year. These albums sat in my car for months at a time. Most of them found their way to a… Read More →

Album Review: Silver & Gold

Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10 by Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty, 2012.) Sufjan Stevens is an American singer-songwriter born in Detroit, Michigan and based in Brooklyn, New York. Stevens has released many albums of varying styles but is perhaps best known for Come On Feel the Illinoise, a concept album based on the state of Illinois. Stevens collaborates often with a variety of musicians and his work has received much critical acclaim. A Magical Time of Year, A Complicated Time of Year Isn’t December a magical time of year? The air seems to fill with the spirit of the season. People buzz around grabbing gifts, attending holiday parties, imbibing in spirits, and viewing Christmas lights. There is a… Read More →

Album Review: Negotiations

Negotiations by Helio Sequence (Sub Pop, 2012. 40 minutes) The Helio Sequence is an American alternative rock duo from Beaverton, Oregon, signed to Sub Pop. The band was formed in 1999 and consists of Brandon Summers on vocals and guitars and Benjamin Weikel on drums and keyboards. Glad I Missed It The year was 2004, and as a young, naïve college freshman, I was going to take a road trip to Portland, OR to hear Helio Sequence live for the first time.  I had a friend that invited me to go, and I had never heard of them.  Brandon Summers, however, had lost his voice, and decided to cancel the tour.  I was bummed, sure, but from what I heard… Read More →