Sometimes, these columns are damn hard to spit out. It’s not always easy to remain enthralled with the music world, especially when the real world seems to be crumbling around us. We don’t have to pretend. 2017 has been a fucking nightmare. We’ve witnessed the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, North Korea launching a missile over Japan, devastating floods in Houston and South Asia, and rallies filled with actual Nazis, just to name few lows. I’m not a religious person, but I’m starting to expect widespread plague and a swarm of locusts any minute now. Just visiting The Guardian’s World [...]
This is the closest I will ever get to Tom Waits. I’m sitting at the bar of my dad’s bistro, listening to a live performance by The Bleeding Romeos… a Tom Waits cover band. Much to Mr. Waits’ presumed chagrin, I do not sip from a flask of cheap whiskey, but a glass of red wine. And no – it is not Carlo Rossi. My father has been planning this night for months. Having me home in Washington, fixed on a barstool, drinking in the songs of my favorite artist. I on the other hand, have been apprehensive about the [...]
I never went to summer camp as a child. In fact, I didn’t really believe that anyone else did, either. Summer camp, like talking dogs and successful marriages, was the stuff of movies. Camp was a tradition I never longed for, or understood, or even thought of. So I was a bit surprised last month when my sister asked me to help out at her Teen Songwriting Retreat – as a camp counselor. A singer/songwriter, producer, performer, and music teacher by her own right, my sister has been cutting records and touring extensively since the early 2000s. Comparatively, I am [...]
Repeat after me: Loser. Double loser. Whatever. Moron. If you were a certain age in the late 1990s, this insult – when paired with the correct hand motions – was the ultimate dis to peers, siblings, and losers of every stripe. The term “loser” in the nineties and early ‘00s was plastered all over the place, from Beck’s breakout hit, to anti-drug PSAs, and that movie starring Jason Biggs’ trapper hat. The identity of the “loser” in music, however, is a far more complex thing than a girl “with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an "L" [...]
By the time you read this, I’ll be home. Not the home I’ve made for nearly a decade – not New York home. I’ll be “home” with a big “H.” The “home” Carole King sang of in “Home Again,” the home James Joyce fled but could never stop writing about, the home of countless poems and plays. It’s not controversial to say that most songs are about love in some capacity, but I would wager that music about home – whether leaving or returning – makes up a hefty portion of the American songbook as well. Some say there’s no [...]
Think about the last party you threw. Think about the beer bought and balloons inflated. Remember the quiche you labored over, only to realize no one wants to eat quiche at a party. Now consider the playlist you made. Don’t deny it – we all know you spent three lunch breaks compiling a shindig score entitled “Fiesta Mix.” Now tell me – was your party (despite irrelevant quiche) a hit? Did “Fiesta Mix” incite a collective boogie? Did hips swing and booties shake, rattling the room with merriment? Well congratulations, my friend; you have accomplished something far beyond my abilities. [...]
What does summer sound like? For those of you living in respectable locales, it may sound like the buzz of John Deer lawnmowers, or a nighttime orchestra of cicadas. Summer anywhere but New York might hum along to the tune of unfurling picnic blankets and jet skis zipping across lakes. But for New Yorkers, the hot season presents a whole new catalogue of sounds – and smells – to take in. Summer in New York is unlike summer anywhere else. Where July in, say, Bethesda, Maryland brings the whizzing of Frisbees on crisp air, NYC’s July sounds like asthmatics wheezing [...]
Sam Riley as Ian Curtis and Alexandra Maria Lara as Annik Honore in Anton Corbijn's 2007 film Control Imagine it. Spring Fling, 2005. Kevin, the object of your eternal tweenage desire, is playing the school dance – in his band. That’s right. Kevin is in a band. Or, more accurately, Kevin has a band. You see, he writes the songs, and the lyrics. He sings them, and plays the electric guitar. It’s a Stratocaster. He got it last year for his birthday. Kevin looks great tonight. He’s just gotten a haircut, and he’s wearing that shirt that you [...]
The plan was as simple as it was unprepared; utilize my two-week vacation in Paris and the UK to discover new music, catch some live shows, and, well…write about it. It would be a piece of cake (or, as the French say, a piece de cake). What I didn’t expect was that my innate aversion to planning anything while on vacation – even so much as Googling what concert to attend that night – was far stronger than my desire to potentially write off my entire trip (hiiiii IRS). You see, I’m a big fan of the “stumble-upon;” those situations [...]
Last year, before the presidential election tore through the fabric of reality like Dr. Who’s Tardis, a friend invited me to indulge in her Groupon – for a float. “Floating” aka “Flotation Therapy,” is a physically simple practice achieved by resting your naked self atop a highly concentrated saline solution. The super salty pool (upwards of 1,000 pounds of salt for just a bath’s amount of tepid water) suspends your bod like a buoy, and allegedly alleviates you of any tactile sensation. Though comprised of rudimentary ingredients, this spa trend can cost exorbitant prices ($75-$130 per “float”) when paired with [...]
The first step is acceptance: you can’t see it all. It’s just not possible. The second step is showing up. But there are many more steps to doing Northside Festival right – and I don’t mean right as opposed to wrong – I simply mean having fun, staying hydrated, and not passing out from a sudden drop in your blood sugar. Take it from someone who makes a living overbooking herself at events like these (I once thought I could manage seeing six shows in one night at CMJ… after working from 9-6). With over 350 bands playing in four [...]
My earliest memories of dance involve ballet – or at least my sloppy stab at it. More than actual dancing, I remember the shined and scuffed Marley flooring; that pleated, boiled-wool skirt flopping over Ms. Burgwin’s sad calves; and most of all, the utter confusion as to why the hell my fellow ballerinas and I weren’t wearing tutus and tiaras at all times. Was ballet not princess training after all? Was I in the wrong room? Ballet class was a rigid environment that, even at five, I failed to see the point of. I thought I wanted to learn ballet…but [...]
I no longer own my very first record. It was AFI’s Very Proud of Ya, (that’s pre-emo AFI for those of you wondering), and I bought it in Seattle with my own allowance. I can still hear it spinning on the portable turntable my dad leant me for late night bedroom listening. The portable record player was a goofy little invention. It was called a Discman, which is hilarious in retrospect considering its makers couldn’t have predicted the imminent reign of CDs and their portable players. The Discman was essentially useless – the LP’s edges protruded from its sides, there [...]
The shorts are out. The pasty, prickly legs wearing the shorts are out, too. It’s sunny every day and we’re starting to remember that we own arms, and shins, and sandals. Birds chirp in the morning, cats moan at night, and hemlines rise with the temperatures. Isn’t it great? That all depends. Sure, we’re in pleasant weather now, but before you know it you’ll be sweating through pants and underpants, kicking your bedmate away at night, and trying to schmooze your way into the esteemed echelons of friends with air conditioning units. Summer is upon us early this year, prompting [...]
“Teenage, teenage/I want a car, I want a girl.” It’s 10am, and the 1979 hit “Teenage” by L.A. punks The Weirdos rotates maliciously in my head. I meant to wake up hours ago, but the weighty fuzz of last night’s beer kept me tucked in. “Teenage, teenage/Don’t wanna work, don’t wanna go to school.” I don’t believe it. I’m being mocked by my subconscious – and I haven’t even had coffee yet. My dream state has produced an apt song to score the morning. It must have known that I’ve been feeling “Teenage, teenage…” I’ve been thinking a lot about [...]
Self-deprecation is easy. When at a loss for things to write about, I can merely plumb the depths of my humiliating infatuations – never having to dive all that deep (more of a snorkel than a scuba, really). There are so many incriminating things floating atop that black and expansive pool; black, due to its enormity, but also because of its propensity for blackmail. Yes, I have written about musical guilty pleasures before, but on a more theoretical level. There are always more blood-and-guts specifics to dig into. This mining urge surfaces today, as a bittersweet email drifts into my inbox [...]
In a clever bit of self-effacing paid content, The Guardian’s Stephen Armstrong delves into the mixtape vs. playlist debate – on the behalf of Spotify. While I’m no fan of sponsored content on principle, I have to admit that the piece is well written and funny, and it poses an interesting question: “Were Mixtapes Better Than Modern Playlists?” Although I make them on a regular basis to accompany cheeky articles of my own, I’ve had a tenuous relationship with playlists... especially as services like Pandora and Spotify have rendered the medium. Like me, Armstrong doesn’t sound entirely sold on the [...]
A few nights ago at a bar, someone asked me a reasonable but difficult question: what do I want to experience when listening to music? What do I look for in a band? I floundered briefly, rattling off some vague declaration about placing a “good song” above any technical music ability. “What do you mean, a 'good' song?" my interviewer prodded (this person is a reporter by day). “You can’t just say, ‘good' song; obviously you prefer a 'good' song – but what makes a good song to you?” Touché. I stewed over the question momentarily, thinking of other forms [...]
It is unrelenting. Circular. A clump of chains I can’t untangle. It is like that hedge maze in The Shining: I cannot get out of it. I am trapped. Trapped in the ceaseless sax solo from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” But why? Why is it stuck in my head, in a perpetual loop? What part of my frontal lobe – a locality so full of things that are not George Michael songs – has weakened in just the right moment for that slithery little woodwind to slip in? And furthermore: where did I even hear it in the first place? [...]
Who are the great musical influencers of our lives? Lovers, friends, parents, librarians. The people who were in close proximity when our cultural preferences were still small, squishy, and developing. Their impact on our taste was indispensable and unforgettable, as they passed down songs to us like cherished family recipes. Rare is the record collection built solely from autonomous discovery – because that wouldn’t be very interesting, would it? But what about that other person in your life? The one who got the bigger bedroom, the better car, and all of the boys? The keeper of crucial adolescent information, such [...]
Bob Dylan is finally going to accept his Nobel Prize…with a taped lecture. Ed Sheeran is losing his “nice guy” status and getting called out as a blatant misogynist. Even in death, Chuck Berry can’t escape his reputation as a scat-loving pederast. We listen to them. We love them. We live for what they do. Hell, I make my wages writing about them. But let’s face it: musicians can be massive assholes. Entering adulthood, we all experience the humanizing of our parents. The great gods of early childhood, those people who said that yes, you could watch Beavis and Butthead, [...]
Rihanna is doing everything I am not. “Work, work, work, work, work, work/You see me I be work, work, work, work, work, work,” she barks through the café sound system – as if she knows. Another sunny day in the neighborhood. It is loping along at a drowsy pace. Parks are barren – full of empty benches. There is no line at the post office, and my favorite corner in the local coffee shop is dutifully awaiting me. I’m not dreaming. I’m not lucky. I am unemployed. And it’s just a weekday. As luck would have it, I’ve been laid [...]
Something smooth is afoot. Suddenly, as if surfacing on the pop charts for the first time, Sade is played, sung, and mentioned in nearly every room I enter. “The Sweetest Taboo” slinks across my favorite coffee shop. “No Ordinary Love” sashays through my kitchen. “Smooth Operator” blares from restaurant speakers…or comes as close to blaring as a song like “Smooth Operator” can. Have I missed something here? I feel like I’m unhip to some universal punch line – as if the town around me has burst into a choreographed dance routine and I’m the only one who finds it strange. [...]
I take the same path to the same coffee shop every week. Down DeKalb Avenue, a right on Franklin Avenue, a left on Greene Avenue, and a final right on Bedford Avenue. My gait is calculated and mechanical. A determined trudge. There is nothing romantic about this habit, and while I’d like to applaud its efficiency, I haven’t actually done the math to prove that this course is the fastest. In truth, I take this route because it is the one I first took to the coffee shop. It is repeated out of reflex and muscle memory and stubbornness. It [...]
An email has landed in my inbox. It is an arrow, shot from my childhood – and aimed at my heart. Piercing deeply, it stings me with eight simple words: Backstreet Boys Las Vegas Residency Starts Next Wednesday I am reeling, as if a long gone relative has risen from the dead. Backstreet’s back?! ALRIGHT! To be painfully honest, I was already planning on writing about Backstreet Boys eventually. The email plugging their Vegas comeback was a serendipitous bonus. But was it really a bonus? Or a sign? A friend recently asked me what the first record I ever bought [...]
You remember it. You know you do. Every morning, at 9am sharp. Standing. Hat off. Left arm, stiff at your side. Right hand resting on heart – reluctantly. All together now: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." There came a time in my elementary school life, when this routine incantation became unbearable to perform. Naturally, this sudden sourness coincided with the election of George W. Bush, and his subsequent invasions and monstrosities. As we approach our first [...]
When Beyoncé so wisely instructed “All the single ladies” (ALL the single ladies) to “put your hands up,” it was a different time. It was 2008. A year of innocence. We had elected Obama. Beach House had released Devotion. And single ladies everywhere felt empowered by Queen B’s anthem for autonomy. I’d just moved to New York, 18 and wet behind the ears. I couldn’t wait to have my own fashion line, a loft in Soho, and to party with The Strokes – all of which happened in rapid succession. (#AlternativeFacts.) Back then, 99% of my friends were single, and [...]
If you are paying attention to the political sector right now – and I’d be concerned yet impressed if you’ve managed to escape it – every day may feel like a battle. Those who have suffered depression will be uncomfortably familiar with this sentiment. The difference being: now we experience distress as a collective whole. Shared unrest can at least make us feel less solitary, but it comes with its own set of side effects. A sense of widespread and impending doom, for instance. In times like these, it is easy to write off seemingly frivolous forms of catharsis. To [...]
I have considered writing this many times – but I never felt it was ready. It would be ready, I thought, when my mastery of the piano was complete. Or more realistically, when my proficiency at the piano was deemed certifiable. Certifiable by whom, I was never sure. I now realize how silly that would be. The story would never be told. Two years ago, during a period of prolonged illness, I spent two months in my native Washington State. Words minced: it was a difficult time. A time in which there were few relaxing moments. I was preoccupied, even [...]
Despite their history, politics and pop culture have an unsteady relationship. When we look specifically at music and politics, there lies an on-again, off-again affair that is as fickle as a middle school romance.
Long has anger been a stigmatized emotion – more so for women than men, unfortunately. What is an incensed woman to do when she is told for decades that 12 Angry Men look like passionate, dutiful citizens, but one angry woman looks like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction?
This year, I hope that in addition to pushing the boundaries sonically, artists will continue to use their work to further political and social discourse the way Solange did with A Seat At The Table, Anohni with HOPELESSNESS, and Common with Black America Again.
Whether he is melding the worlds of classical and electronica, or discovering that an overlooked household object can be the perfect mallet for a grand piano, Frahm is truly one of a kind.
Cover songs as a genre get a bad rep, it seems. Covers = karaoke, or worse, Covers = Cover Bands.
But I refuse to accept that shagging to a soundtrack is only for teens and broke city-dwellers. Despite how “cheesy” and juvenile some might find it, I’m always down for some rock n’ roll in the hay...provided it’s awesome.
I’ve been following allegations that multimillionaire Joe Corré – spawn of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and late Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren – would set fire to roughly $6,000,000 worth of punk memorabilia.
Leonard Cohen, though enormously different than David Bowie, was similar in the sense that he never tarnished. In his decades of writing and recording, he remained at his own golden standard, one that few others have touched.
You can go to Burning Man all you want if you can afford it, but you still live here. In reality. In the U.S. of A. And as of this election, you now live under the Trump administration.
Considering we can’t have free booze or even decent food (let alone free decent food) perhaps the good people of these airlines would allow some sort of in-flight access to any and all of the music you damn pleased.
It would be an injustice to the season and my family not to make this week’s installment of Only Noise all about Halloween.
Dear Carl, Why do I hate Nirvana? -The Guilty Washingtonian.
I have appointed myself with the task of making a playlist of songs I enjoy for their sheer mood-erecting abilities, which was harder than you might think. They can’t just be any peppy pop songs. I have to love of course. I may be in a good mood, but I’m still a snob.
Informative the book was; innocent it was not. What my dad had unknowingly placed in my crimeless little hands was an instruction manual on bad behavior.
Around this time of year I start to crave horror movie marathons, and turtlenecks, and potpie. But more than anything, at this time of year I am usually preparing for the once annual CMJ Music Marathon.
It is funny, and also frustrating that though all of the humanity has felt the sensation of long distance longing for another person, only a select few of us can distill that longing into an art form.
Stephen Malkmus has always been the king of nonchalance and blasé, putting boredom on a stick and somehow making it seem appetizing.
Where else in the country does summer = hot garbage? Better yet: hot garbage juice, which I’m sure we have all stepped in, wearing sandals.
The best insults are those that fly over our heads. Those that for a minute maybe sound like praise. Those that strike with a delay…like a cut from a sharp blade that doesn’t begin to bleed until several moments after incision.
Waits has since become my favorite artist of all time, completely altering my perception of what makes music great, and what makes art worthwhile. I think it’s safe to say that that night changed my life forever, and it was of course all because of the good people at 90.3 FM.
I knew he was an immense connoisseur of wine and rich food. I knew that he used to bury fossils from all over the world in his Orange County yard to “confuse future scientists. And I know his record collection.
But here exists the dilemma with a junk shop record dive: it’s 99 percent grueling pursuit and one percent success.
It takes a lot of balls to wear a dress. Shit, I have a hard time with it, and I lack the pesky external organ complicating the endeavor to begin with. However, Ezra Furman’s ballsiness goes far beyond his ability to look excellent in a miniskirt. And he does look excellent.
“I think all art comes out of conflict.” It was the American novelist Joyce Carol Oates who spoke these words, but it was Alan Vega who lived them.
I speak from personal experience when I say that dating a socially inept log who, literally cannot “get with my friends,” is nothing short of excruciating.
There is only one album that pinches me awake from the downward swirling hellhole of a bad mood. It’s The Specials’ 1979 self-titled debut that does it. It is my only hope, and I toss it back like a shot of bourbon after a long workday.
Like U2 has the power to cause chemical equilibrium and suddenly disable all of your good tastes.
Much like Daft Punk are robots with beating, blood-pumping hearts, Jerry Paper is code with soul.
With Father's Day around the corner, Madison Bloom revisits her dad's record collection.
Founded in 2002, BBC 6’s slogan claims that it is “The place for the best Alternative Music. From Indie Pop and Iconic Rock to Trip Hop, Electronica and Dance with great Archive Music Sessions, Live Music Concerts and Documentaries.” Somehow that statement still seems to be putting it lightly.
I kept going. Discovery, TRON: Legacy (the soundtrack), Human After All. I loved each for their own qualities, and appreciated that not one was like the next.
If concept is the enemy, context is a friend. After all, it was context that first tricked me into liking The Smiths.
Mine wasn’t a lesson in grunge, but punk rock, and it began on Valentine’s Day in sixth grade.
Welcome to the second installment of "Only Noise," in which Madison Bloom writes a memoir with music. A mixtape is something Generation Y shouldn’t grasp the importance of. Despite the small number of people who claim to prefer the sound of tape, mixtapes today are largely leveraged as devices of kitsch and nostalgia. There is of course the tape renaissance in the cottage punk industry. Once declining tape-manufacturing plants such as National Audio Company are finding newfound profits in reel-to-reel, and brands like Urban Outfitters are eager to get in on the “vintage” trend. The clothing retailer made a gesture [...]
After my parents separated, my mom converted our home into what she liked to call “The House of Freedom.” Upon entering The House of Freedom, it was recommended you remove your bra. There, the Halloween decorations hung around into the New Year and Christmas lights punctuated our window frames long past their respective season. In The House of Freedom we took dinner on the couch, our plates sat on pillows propped on knees while a movie played. One of mom’s favorite exercises in “freedom” was the constant attempt to dissuade my studious pursuits. “And if the homework/brings you down/then we’ll [...]