Album Review: Watch the Throne

Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West

Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West (Roc-A-Fella, 2011. 46 minutes) Born in Brooklyn, Jay-Z is an American rapper, record producer, and business mogul. He has won 16 Grammys. Kanye West is an artist, producer, fashion designer, and film director, born in Chicago, Illinois. He has won 22 Grammys. Liberation Means Money Liberation: a major theme in literature from marginalized groups. When you don’t have choice, when the institutions and structures seem to operate in opposition to you, your goals, and your culture as a whole, then freedom becomes the cry. Freedom to make decisions without external repercussions. Freedom to practice beliefs, customs, and rites in the open. Freedom to make a living, equal to or better than those… Read More →

Album Review: The Beast in its Tracks

The Beast in its Tracks by Josh Ritter

The Beast in its Tracks by Josh Ritter (Pytheas Recordings, 2013. 44 minutes) Josh Ritter is an American singer-songwriter born in Moscow, Idaho. A graduate of Oberlin College, Ritter sang open-mic nights and worked odd jobs until he was discovered by Glen Hansard. Ritter has released 7 full-length albums and numerous EPs. A Gig, Most Difficult In my opinion, the hardest gig in show business is that of the singer-songwriter. Typically alone on stage without much accompaniment, the singer-songwriter can’t hide behind anything. When you have a band, the focus of the audience wanders from member to member. A backing band can bring energy to a mundane song; it can hide meaningless lyrics. But when you are alone on stage,… Read More →

Album Review: All the Times We Had

All the Times We Had by Ivan & Alyosa

All the Times We Had by Ivan & Alyosha (Dualtone Records, 2013. 43 minutes) Ivan & Alyosha is a Seattle band founded by lead singer, Tim Wilson, and lead guitarist, Ryan Carbary. Later, the band added Pete Wilson on bass and Tim Kim on guitar. Aside from All the Time We Had, the band has released multiple EPs. In Search of a Masterpiece We’ve all heard a masterpiece record. We might not agree on exactly what makes a masterpiece, but it always seems to transcend genre, each second contains pure gold. More than just a collection of songs, the album is a collective piece of art. But how does an album become art? And how does a band attain a… Read More →

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 →