Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #100: Down the Highway

Happy Birthday, Bob

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The Bob Dylan Rankings have been on an extended hiatus, but they’re back today—in honor of Dylan’s 70th birthday— with “Down the Highway,” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It’s something of an odd selection: In addition to not being a particularly memorable song, it’s also incongruous with Dylan hitting an age so neatly associated with old age. “Down the Highway” is a playful and undeveloped song, and in some ways immature.

Nevertheless, “Down the Highway” allows us to delve into one of the most ubiquitous motifs of Dylan’s now seven-decade-long life: the road. What, after all, is Dylan’s obsession with highways? Continue reading

Nine Types of Light: Review

Here’s a question I hadn’t really considered until just now: Does TV on the Radio constitute a supergroup? There’s some obvious evidence to the contrary, specifically that none of its members were famous before the band. And the term “supergroup” is so loaded that it shouldn’t be applied liberally. But all of its members have robust solo careers—since 2008’s Dear Science, Kyp Malone and Dave Sitek each released solo albums. Even more illustrative, though, is how each member seems to refer to the band in interviews: Malone, Sitek, and Tunde Adebimpe seem continuously shocked that they are still together, as if TV on the Radio were a side project that kept growing.

This week’s release of Nine Types of Light should make fans very happy that the band is still together. Despite the broad tastes and styles of the band’s members, TVOTR has developed a coherent sound that is uniquely its own, which its members would be unable to match without one another. Indeed, the band’s different sounds have blended together so well that I often can’t even tell who is singing on a particular song.

On past albums, the multitude of styles that TVOTR comprises has led to songs that tend to change on a dime—like “King Eternal”—or that tend to sound frenetic, like a lot of songs being played at once—like “Dancing Choose.” Nine Types of Light, on the other hand, has a more relaxed, deliberate sound. The differences are clear from the very beginning. “Second Song,” the first song on the album,* begins slowly, with just Adebimpe’s voice over a lone note, before adding a crisp, simple drumbeat. Of course, the song gets more complex than that, but it is essentially built around the vocal interplay between Adebimpe and Malone, creating a rather straightforward song. Continue reading

The King of Limbs: Review

Your first reaction to the latest Radiohead album will be based almost entirely on what you expected from it. This is true to some extent for every album (and every movie, television show, novel, meal, etc.), but it’s particularly the case for Radiohead. The band has built a reputation as the most daring and innovative band on the planet, and it has now gone over three years between albums twice in a row. In other words, these guys have a lot to live up to.

I suspect that Radiohead knows this, and that it at least partially motivated the quick release of The King of Limbs. Just over a week ago, the album had no official name or release date; then last Monday the band announced not only that the album was complete, but that it would be released in five days. To top all that off, the band released the album on Friday, a day before they had initially planned.

The general effect of this was both to preempt any long, anticipatory buildup to the album, as well as to shift focus from The King of Limbs itself to the manner of its release (something Radiohead has done before).

Not that fans need or ought to be “distracted” from The King of Limbs: The album is quite good. Continue reading

The Best First Lines in Music

In yesterday’s Pretty Little Liars recap Tim called the opening line of The Outfield’s “Your Love” his favorite opening line to any song ever. He even dared me to come up with a list of songs topping it.

Well, in the immortal words of Barney Stinson…

And I have bad news for you, Tim, “Your Love” doesn’t even crack my Top 50.

Of course, the topic raises several tricky questions: What constitutes an opening line? The first complete sentence? The first rhyming couplet? Until the first pause? And what criteria should we use to evaluate “the best” opening line? The catchiest? The most memorable?

I ended up being pretty flexible on both questions. Some of these lyrics were chosen because they are legitimately great lyrics. Others were chosen because of how they’re sung. Others are chosen because they are the most iconic moments of great songs. I’m sure I’m forgetting some great ones (I had only one day, chill out!), but here is an initial draft of the Top 50 opening lines in music history: Continue reading

Hindsight 2010: Josh on The Best of Music

Much of the music I listened to this year was not from 2010, but there were plenty of standout tracks from this year. Below are my top five songs and top three albums of 2010:

Top Five Songs of 2010

5) “Deep Blue” — Arcade Fire

  • It may be a simpler song than many of the others on the The Suburbs, but Win Butler’s falsetto shines on this ballad, as does the acoustic guitar and violin play.

Continue reading

Hindsight 2010: John S on the Best of Music

I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell? Another Hindsight 2010 post? It’s January 27th!” Well, chill out, man, if you think it’s too late for a review then consider this incredibly premature nostalgia:

Top Ten Songs of 2010

10. “Hurricane J” — The Hold Steady


From an otherwise forgettable album, Craig Finn shows off his knack for guitar hooks and great melodies in a song that also features one of the band’s rare great vocal harmonies.

Continue reading

Joie de Vivre: Christmas Music

One of the (many) great things about Christmas is getting the chance (and the social leniency) to listen to Christmas music. Like most Catholics and Christmasphiles and unlike most everyone else, I love Christmas music.

I understand the complaints about Christmas music. I even agree that, for the most part, it sucks. Like, nine out of 10 Christmas songs played on the radio and in malls and other stores are indefensibly terrible.* Nothing promotes lazier “creativity” in music than Christmas, with popular artists knowing that an album of a dozen shoddy covers of public-domain classics will sell tremendously, since everyone knows someone who likes Christmas music and thus thinks buying that person a Christmas CD is a great and thoughtful gift.

*To be fair, this isn’t much different from the usual ratio on the radio these days.

Continue reading

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