Musicians taking over this year’s Oscars
It was a watershed moment in 2010 when Trent Reznor won the Academy Award for Best Original Score (for The Social Network), as the Nine Inch Nails frontman opened the door for other musicians who aren’t necessarily film composers. Arcade Fire’s William Butler and Toronto violinist Owen Pallett hope to follow in Reznor’s footsteps for their work on Her. The highly praised Spike Jonze-directed movie is also up for Best Original Song, specifically “The Moon Song” by Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She’ll be in tough against U2 and their Nelson Mandela tribute “Ordinary Love”, not to mention Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” from Despicable Me 2. But the ROCKthusiast will be most interested to see if Thirty Seconds to Mars singer Jared Leto can take home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.
Peeping Juggalo fan favs Twiztid’s first independently released mixtape , “A New Nightmare” (I, still a horrorcore newbie) frightened, impressed and intrigued me. Putting the break with Psychopathic Records (Insane Clown Posse’s label) behind them, they ventured out on their own and had a very successful 2013, punctuated by their Abominationz Tour and headlining Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare. In their 16 year career, this Detroit duo’s (Madrox and Monoxide) done a lot, working with the likes of Tech N9ne, Swollen Members and Royce Da 5’9, to name a few.
You may have picked up my mention of a musical hiatus. That was the period, roughly corresponding to my first marriage, when my listening to music dropped off sharply. I perhaps bought no more than a dozen CD’s during that period from late 1989 to early 2002. Since then, I have gone back and filled out my collection with a number of albums from that era but I am still discovering fantastic stuff, especially from that period, which I had never previously heard, especially shoegaze and jangle pop. It just goes to show, you cannot know what you don’t know.
OK, we will soon be a quarter of the way there now.
I don’t know about you all, but I’ve had just about enough of frost quakes and polar vortexes. Nothing tends to warm me up faster than a major festival lineup announcement like Coachella’s. For the uninitiated, it takes place every April in the sweltering California desert, and acts as an informal kick-off to the summer music period. Coachella has also earned quite the reputation for getting high-profile bands back together. In 2014, reunited rappers OutKast lead an impressive list of 140 artists, including other headliners Muse and Arcade Fire, as well as funky Canadian duo Chromeo, acoustic indie folkers City and Colour, and Toronto-based electronic group Austra. Thinking of going? Good luck, as any and all passes sold out before I even had a chance to post this. Oh well, there’s always the “Couchella” webcast to look forward to! Read more
Continuing the exploration of top artists of 2013, I will highlight a few more that were unforgettable and left their mark behind. Their work speaks for itself so here we go:
9. Mack Wilds
The newcomer to the R&B/hip-hop scene but already an accomplished actor, Tristan “Mack” Wilds filled an important void (particularly in the young girl crush area) we didn’t even realize was there until he arrived. I luckily spoke to Mack right before the album, “New York: A Love Story”, dropped about his all-star debut, his Jay Z and Alicia Keys ties and his on-set memories. Working with mega producers with Ne-Yo, Salaam Remi, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Method Man, Raekwon and Doug E. Fresh collabos, it was no surprise to see this nab a Grammy nod.
Check out my review of the Michigan-based blues rock trio’s latest double-EP offering here
And check out their homemade video for the track “High Tide Rising” below!
In hip-hop, history’s proven countless times we, the audience, appreciate overcoming hardship, finding a renewed sense of purpose and using those dreams to partake in the rising rap grind. Inspired by a few artists over the past year I’ve met who have this story in common, doing big things up in the polar vortex (stay warm, Canada), I came across another such artist, Johnny Dilemma and his behind the scenes tour video randomly, who recently wrapped a Canadian run with the group, Machine Gun Kelly. It’s clear to see he’s got next, taken lemons and made “Dilemmanade” and is doing his part to value-add and elevate T-dot (raised in Scarborough) and Van City’s hip-hop profiles. Read more
These days I probably listen to about 300 albums a year and buy about sixty. In my old age I have become a terrible music snob for, whereas I would once buy an album on a friend’s recommendation or on the reputation of the band, not now. I am much more choosy. I bought some real duds back then. Now I listen to the album first and if any record company thinks that downloads or streaming is hurting the artist (more likely the record company), then I am proof it is not, for there will be no purchase unless I know what I am getting. Of course, as mentioned previously, there may be some great songs I have not yet heard which would make it onto this list if only….
Anyway, deeper and down/Down down, deeper and down.
There was a time when great cover versions were the norm in popular music. You could compare versions of “Easy To Love” or “You Make Me Feel So Young,” and decide and discuss which version is best.
Granted, the deck is stacked in discourse when Frank Sinatra has a signature version. But it’s cool hearing these different versions, and if you come across a jazz instrumental version, it’s an intriguing change.
Covers can still work well into a song catalog or a concert. MGMT came up with a good cut via Faine Jade’s “Introspection.” The energy and satisfaction after the song ended when the Eels revved up early in a show with Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” made me want to explore the song further.
Unfortunately there’s been a tradition of bad cover versions. In the 1980s, a local DJ hosted a radio show, where there was a segment for dubious remakes.
Part of the problem today is source material. Some of these songs are so bad, it’s not clear why they need to be revisited. It might be asking too much for artists to read old reviews before they decide if it’s worth putting out another version of “Broken Wings” or “Heaven”. Still it wouldn’t hurt. Read more
Since 1997 and six albums later, Mississippi born musician Charlie Mars’ captivated fans, fine-tuning his blend of acoustic folk-rock with a touch of downhome dirty. Touring with artists like REM, Tedeschi Trucks Band and most recently hitting Canada with the Dixie Chicks, his latest introspective and equal parts romance and regret-filled effort, “Blackberry Light” displays growth and even ventures to new electro and reggae territories.