My favorite week of the year is quickly approaching, Although every week in Nashville has it’s fair share of loaded writer’s nights and stellar concerts, one week has a special place in my heart. Songwriters Festival, Tin Pan South, takes place at local venues in Nashville, for a week, every March. The lineup never ceases to disappoint as they utilize 10 of the most intimate venues in Nashville and host two shows a night. Every night attendees get to watch the songs they all know come to life in a somewhat backwards way. There is something magical about hearing a song stripped down, as it was originally written, and learning the stories behind them. The only way to understand is to experience this yourself! This is my advice and the shows you don’t want to miss (all in my opinion of course).
“Can we start it all over again this morning?” Beck asks early on in the opening track of Morning Phase, his first album since 2008′s Modern Guilt. After a gorgeous 40 second instrumental opening, strings give way into the plaintive guitar strums of “Morning”, and it truly does feel like a something entirely new, a rebirth — which is odd, because Beck has specifically said this album is a spiritual successor to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change.
And sure, the beginning of “Morning” has an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of Sea Change opener “The Golden Age.” And sure, all of Morning Phase is ostensibly similar to its much-vaunted predecessor. It does feature the same musicians and the same California-folk influence. And yeah, even the cover art (Exhibits 1 and 2) looks strikingly similar, Beck’s steady gaze staring out behind smears of orange and blue.
But hear me out: the truth is that it’s only similar in the sense that all music by an artist sounds similar to previous music produced by that artist. No left turn is truly a total departure: even the cold, Kraftwerk heartbeat of Kid A‘s “Idioteque” had its roots in the laserbeam percussion loop of OK Computer’s “Airbag”.
The point of all this is to get you to look at Morning Phase in the ways it differs, rather than its similarities, because these differences are what make Morning Phase the best Beck album since 1998′s Mutations.
It has been on my bucket list since the beginning of my first semester – watch an awesome show at the Exit/In. That may be redundant, considering the bands that come to the venue are more likely than not, extremely talented. Some of them have been lucky enough to have their names written on a large wall behind the bar or on the grand mural outside the front door. Well, I would argue that the show I went to, Kodaline with the fantastic opener LP, should be put up next on that wall of fame.
In the past decade, a new style of music has wormed its way onto the music scene. While dubstep rose in popularity late in the first decade of the new millennium, with its driving, syncopated rhythms and epic bass drops, a completely opposite subgenre of quasi-electronic music also became popular. Chillwave, also known as glo-fi or shoegaze, is a much more ambient style that is reminiscent of popular music from the 1980s. It incorporates a lot of effects processing, sampling, use of synthesizers, and ambient background noise. Its slower tempos, light, ethereal vocals; relatively simple and singable melodies, and ample synthesized effects remind its listeners of the sounds of the summer, especially since its sudden explosion in popularity occurred during the summer of 2010.
Back as a sophomore in high school I came across a very peculiar album cover that had could have well been a classic art piece, if not for the strange bread-like object that had replaced the girl’s face in the artwork. I decided not to judge an album by its cover and went to listen to a couple songs. It was unlike anything I had heard before – eerie, dreamy, lyrically ambiguous, but somehow very beautiful. It was none other than the album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel. I would never have guessed that a little over three years later I would watch the band live after their indefinite hiatus.
A great drummer can make the difference in a band. Anyone will tell you that’s a fact. Try to imagine The Who without the thunderous, kinetic play of Keith Moon. Or “Be My Baby” without that famous drum break and frantic yet tasteful fills by Hal Blaine. Or James Brown’s classic records without the “Funky Drummer” himself, Clyde Stubblefield. Even the much-maligned Ringo Starr knew exactly when to accent a moment in a song with a perfect fill (think “Helter Skelter” or “Drive My Car”) and when to sit back and let the music groove.
Sadly, the drummer is often ignored in indie-rock conversation. Maybe it’s because the genre itself doesn’t lend itself to the kind of flash that classic rock and roll or funk or jazz does (there aren’t a lot of soloists in indie rock). The drumming in a ton of indie rock music also doesn’t move beyond simple timekeeping or tasteful grooves, which doesn’t immediately impress as much as a great jazz solo or a thunderous metal part. As a drummer and indie rock fan, I’ve found the genre to house plenty of interesting and excellent players, some of which don’t get the respect they deserve. These are just a few of the drummers of indie rock who deserve more attention.
Despite plenty of success and years of experience, some artists just want to mix things up. This motivation creates what we may call side projects or musical supergroups. Take all the best qualities of similar, or not so similar, musicians, put them in a recording studio, and watch the magic happen. In the past decade or so, five projects in particular have redefined the expectations of musical collaborations. In fact, some of the names may even surprise you.
Before the official release of Bugg’s sophomore album Shangri La, he released two singles from the album What Doesn’t Kill You and Slumville Sunrise, which featured a significant development in Bugg’s music from his first debut album Jake Bugg. The two singles were much heavier, rockier, and fast moving; that’s definitely not a bad thing by any means, but I fell in love with Jake Bugg’s music because it felt real, genuine, and I liked the folky acoustic sound in all of his songs. So while I was excited to listen to Shangri La, I was worried it would disappoint my expectations for Bugg. But, it’s amazing and everyone should listen to it.