Music. Various Artists. American Popular Song: Six Decades of Songwriters and Singers (7xLP Compilation).

There is peace in these old songs. There is joy. If there is one overarching reason to own a turntable, it is this: songs from the days before rock ‘n roll was king sound so, so good.

American Popular Song: Six Decades of Songwriters and Singers is such a huge compilation that it’s difficult to figure out where to start talking about it. While rock ‘n roll is nowhere to be found, we do have everyone from Bing Crosby to Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald to Billie Holliday, Judy Garland to Peggy Lee. There are seven LPs worth of music here, almost all of which sit at eight songs on each side, and if you have ever tapped your foot to a song from the “standards” era, you’ll find something to love here. Continue reading

Music. Beck. Where It’s At + Remixes (12″ Single).

“Two turntables and a microphone…”

Anyone who turned on a radio in the latter half of the ’90s is probably familiar with the refrain, Beck’s return to the spotlight after “Loser” had him earmarked as a likely grunge-era novelty one-hit-wonder. In hindsight, it’s a brilliant move, a self-assured tune with a back-to-basics theme from a guy who never really got away from the basics. “Where It’s At” adopts a flow that’s remarkably similar to that of “Loser,” except now, it’s in service of a party rather than a means of self-deprecation. If the popularity of “Loser” didn’t exactly have listeners running to see what Mellow Gold was about (and it didn’t), “Where It’s At” was the sound of someone you might want to spend some time with. Continue reading

Music. Twenty One Pilots. Double Sided (RSD 2016 7″ Single).

It’s possible that I spent more time trying to figure out how to actually represent the band’s name throughout this writeup than I actually spent thinking about it. I’m going with Twenty One Pilots (and not message board favorite “twenty one pilots”, nor Discogs’ preferred “Twenty | One | Pilots”, nor the Wikipedia-suggested alternate “TWENTY ØNE PILØTS” because GØØD LØRD), if only because a) that’s what Wikipedia says, and b) it looks most like the English language I am familiar with.

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doublesidedThe first time I heard Twenty One Pilots, it was via the almost-too-clever “Tear In My Heart”, a fantastic little lark of a song that goes from irreverent piano balladry to technicolor EDM piss-take within a mere three-and-change minutes. Since then, radio has been content to (over)play song after song of these guys’ genial pop music, songs that push universal emotional themes like stress (“Stressed Out”) and alienation (Suicide Squad cut “Heathens”) while staying at arm’s length. Chances are you’ve heard a handful of songs by these guys and you don’t feel like you know a darn thing about them. Continue reading

Music. David Bowie. The Man Who Sold the World (RSD 2016 Edition).

I did a thing this week: I catalogued every record I own in Discogs. I have 93 releases on vinyl. It’s not a ton, but it’s enough to start taking a closer look at some of those records, particularly ones I picked up in grab bags and from boxes on the curb, things I have expressly for the purpose of filling out a collection.

Happily, when browsing my collection on Discogs, I noticed the link that brings you to a random release from the collection. Every week I’ll be grabbing a random record, listening to it, and writing about it, because…well, because why not?

This week: David Bowie’s iconic The Man Who Sold the World.

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tmwstw-frontThe picture that would eventually become the commonly-accepted American cover for The Man Who Sold the World once the Bowie canon was released on CD is an odd one; David Bowie in a “man’s dress” was certainly a statement in the early ’70s, but it seems oddly muted and domestic today. while it makes sense that the cover might have made American executives nervous in the ’70s (hence its relegation to UK-only status), by the time the ’90s came around, its dull color palette and tame, posed look allowed it to fade into the background almost too easily when presented alongside Bowie’s many other iconic album covers. Okay, maybe Michael Weller’s cartoon was a little too “’70s schtick” to attract much attention, the black and white stage photo was a little too “unofficial bootleg”, and the German cover was a little too “bad acid trip”. Continue reading