T-Bone Burnett and the Americana Film Soundtrack

On the Friday before spring break, I had the pleasure of seeing the Vanderbilt Core Choir perform their home concert that began their week long tour to Florida.  The front end of the program was a typical classical repertoire, featuring works from Bach, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.  Via short sets focusing on international pieces and original compositions by choir members and friends, there was a gradual transition into what I found to be an absolutely stunning performance of Americana songs at the tail end of the program.  There was a complete change in atmosphere of the concert, and it was in no way related to the quality of the music going up for some strange reason.  The performance level was stunning throughout; in the roots set, it was just like the music stopped being a performance and began to be a warm and welcoming conversation.  It focused strongly on spirituals, arrangements of songs by The Wailin’ Jennys to highlight some of the ensemble’s remarkable sopranos and altos, and a selection for the male vocalists to shine on that happens to be one of my current favorite songs.    This was an adapted arrangement of Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac’s recording of “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” for the 2013 Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis (you can listen to a recording of the choir’s men performing the selection above).  The film follows a week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a fictional folk artist in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s struggling to make it by, providing a dreary reminder to the audience that for every Bob Dylan or Joan Baez success that came from this vibrant folk movement there were countless careers that failed to start.  Again and again in this dismal setting, the film’s music shines through, punctuated by performances from Oscar Isaac in his titular role.  The man that put that soundtrack together was T-Bone Burnett.

[Read more...]

Introducing…Your All-2000s Bad Music Squad!

Mathematicians call this the "empty set."
Mathematicians call this the “empty set.”

I spent the majority of my spring break plastering the walls of a cinderblock building in the Puerto Rican rain forest.  The only way to possibly get through a task as mind-numbing as plastering walls is to have an upbeat, driving playlist of music blasting from a decent set of speakers.  Luckily, for the most part, that was the situation; our work crew leader had impeccable and eclectic taste, and about 100,000 songs in his iTunes library.  One day, though, we made the call to switch it up.  My buddy Matt had concocted a playlist entitled “Ridiculous Rap,” mainly comprised of one-hit crunk wonders from the mid-2000s.  The first couple songs were hilarious and everybody sang along.  By song five, the high had disappeared and it dawned on us that we had been ingesting pure crap for the past fifteen or so minutes.

[Read more...]

The Case Against the Star-Spangled Banner

Why do singers mess up these words so frequently?
Why do singers mess up these words so frequently?

It’s Olympics time, and that means patriotism is at a relative high here in America.  So is the potential to wile away the hours in front of non-stop sports coverage.  It’s taking all my willpower to keep my eyes on my laptop as the American hockey team plays the Czechs on the television in front of me.

But there’s one thing about seeing the United States in international competition that bothers the hell out of me: our national anthem, when compared to those of other countries, just doesn’t cut it.

[Read more...]

Super Duped: The Decline of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Flea, your bass is unplugged...and since when did Chad Smith look like Bruno Mars instead of Will Ferrell?
Flea, your bass is unplugged…and since when did Chad Smith look like Bruno Mars instead of Will Ferrell?

If you grew up a rock music fan in the first decade of the 2000s, as I did, the Red Hot Chili Peppers likely provide much of the soundtrack of your formative years.  Songs like “Can’t Stop” and “Dani California” populated your early-generation iPods, and you familiarized yourself with the oldies that stood the test of time: “Give it Away,” “Under the Bridge,” etc.  Listening to these songs probably invokes a good deal of nostalgia.  They stand the test of time, too; listen through Californication again today, and relish in the tight, emotionally thick beauty of its fifteen tracks.

Given these assumptions, you were probably just as pumped as I was to hear that the Chili Peppers would be joining Bruno Mars for the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime performance.  By the time the teams headed to the locker rooms and Seattle had ensured that the game would be akin to watching a monster truck run over the same poor car for three hours, you were probably relieved that some good music would interrupt the tedium.  Bruno Mars, sure, cool, but the CHILI PEPPERS!!!  I was so excited, I had even set up a betting pool with my family, trying to pick the three songs they would play.

[Read more...]

A Much Delayed Top 5 Songs of 2013

http://www.billboard.com/files/media/daft-punk-2013-650-430-b.jpg

2014 is over a month old now, the Grammys have finally aired, and it’s high time for me to compose this before the moment passes and 2014′s release schedule starts to heat up as the year pushes into spring. And what better time is there to catch up on music than a rainy Nashville February?

[Read more...]

Why Everyone Should Experience the Honda Battle of the Bands

I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps you’re thinking marching band is lame. When you see or hear the words “marching band,” you might think of the stereotypical “band geek” who walks around talking about cork grease and spit valves. Or maybe you think of sexually frustrated high schoolers, who brag about all the unmentionable things they did during that one time at band camp (looking at you, American Pie). But, I can promise you that marching band isn’t really like that…

…well, except maybe for that one time at band camp. Anyone who’s been in marching band knows band camp can get pretty wild for a number of reasons.

All band jokes aside, here is an explanation for why everyone should experience the Honda Battle of the Bands at some point during their lifetime.

[Read more...]

Five Side Projects Turned Supergroups

gorillaz_510
The diverse members of Gorillaz

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.

[Read more...]

Rites of Spring 2014—Who Might Be Coming?

Image courtesy of Consequence of Sound

In 2011, I predicted that Kid Cudi would headline Rites of Spring, based on the similar success he and Drake were having at the time and Drake’s performance the previous year.  In 2012, I predicted Wiz Khalifa would headline, again based on his break-through hip-hop success that was similar to Drake and Cudi.  I further predicted that MUTEMATH would be coming that year, albeit not as the Friday-night headliner they ended up being, based on their fall, winter, and spring tours all circumventing Nashville while traveling through the southeast (they had to come here sometime).  On the other hand, I failed marvelously at predicting what the 2013 Rites lineup might look like, following my previous trend of looking at breakthrough rap success to peg Kendrick Lamar, who ended up coming for Quake this past fall.  In short, over my four years at Vandy, making Rites artist predictions has become a hobby of mine, much in the same way that people make predictions for Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and so many others of the festivals that have become so popular throughout the country.

Of course, all of these predictions and guesses were made in the relative comfort of my friendgroup, where no one would give me too much grief if I was wildly offbase and drinks would be had in my honor if I happened to be correct.  They’re much more forgiving than the scores that swim the internet waters, but this year I decided to up the stakes by sharing my predictions in a public forum.  Please note that I hold no affiliation with the Music Group or any other arm of the Vanderbilt Programming Board, and that I have no sources for my predictions other than the reasoning presented in my own words to you.  These are a couple of my personal hopes, dreams, and deductions presented to a wide audience, for glory or for shame. [Read more...]