My Top 5 Road Trip Albums

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

I go on a lot of road trips.  I have to drive between Albuquerque, NM and Nashville, TN twice per year so I can have access to my car in my two homes.  I drive to retreats and district events for Tau Beta Sigma, the band service organization I am a part of.  I drive to various music festivals.  I’m going to be driving to Mardi Gras this spring.  And while some people may not understand it, I love all of these long drives, and one of the main reasons for that is having a good road trip playlist.  Having been fortunate enough to be travelling to festivals for two of the past three weekends, I’ve decided to share a few of my current favorite road trip albums.

Jake Bugg’s “What Doesn’t Kill You” Review

courtesy of videostatic.com

Now let me say singer-songwriter Jake Bugg is hands down my all time favourite artist in the whole world, so when he released his newest single around two weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised by the harsher, tougher, sound of What Doesn’t Kill You, marking a huge shift from the indie folk/rock sound of his debut album Jake Bugg. For his fans who prefer the tracks with just Bugg’s voice and his acoustic guitar (Simple as This, Country Song, Note to Self, Someone Told Me), it may take some time for the new single to grow on them, but Bugg’s charismatic voice and intimately personal lyrics only get better with each listen.

Under-appreciated Albums: “The Hazards of Love”, by the Decemberists

A few weeks ago the National played at the Ryman, and fellow staff writer Nick Kline and I happened to meet up there. We talked about music, favorite bands, past concerts, and then we hit upon The Decemberists — we’d both seen them live, on their 2009 A Short Fazed Hovel tour, where they played the entirety of their recent album The Hazards of Love. Nick mentioned as an aside that HoL his least favorite Decemberists album, and conversation moved on.

Perhaps this (and, admittedly, a bad case of writer’s block) is what motivated me to write this. While I don’t necessarily know why it’s Nick’s least favorite, nor do I even know if he likes or dislikes it, the general opinion developed since The Hazards of Love‘s release is that’s it’s overwrought, weird, has too many guest vocals, is too repetitive, and too metal. By the time of the release of The Decemberists’ next effort, the superb The King is Dead in 2011, frontman Colin Meloy admitted “Even I’m starting to believe it, like, ‘I guess The Hazards of Love did kind of suck, didn’t it?'”.  By 2013, it’s largely been swept under the rug, left hiding under the skirt of the bigger and strong releases in their six-album catalog. Yet, I can’t help but love this album. 

Lockwood Barr and a Cloud Control Review

I "discovered" Cloud Control this week.  According to Christopher Columbus, I can claim them for Spain and force them to mine my gold and farm my crops.
I “discovered” Cloud Control this week. According to Christopher Columbus, I can claim them for Spain and force them to mine my gold and farm my crops.

Hey everybody,

One of the benefits of hosting The VU Backstage for a year is that you develop friendships and solid connections with the artists you invite on the show.  This is especially nice when you are scrambling for a guest for the show on the day of.  You call up a friend–in this case Lockwood Barr–and you do the show.  And the interview is easy because there’s already an established rapport there, making conversation a delight and bringing more personality out of both you and the guest.

That was what happened last night.  Lockwood and I had fun discussing everything from her new band and extensive tour plans to The Catcher in the Rye and gourmet cooking.  It was fittingly awkward when I whiffed on two straight Napoleon Dynamite references, but there was also substantive insight into Lockwood’s songwriting and attitude towards music.  Of course, there was also the music itself, which was fantastic.  You can catch the full show here.

In other news, I discovered a new band (for me, at least; you’ve probably heard of them for a few years).  Generally, I look to the past for my music; Rush, the Beatles, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers with John Frusciante are my three favorite bands.  Any current music I consume has to be introduced to me by someone else, either because a recommendation is a sure sign that a band is worth my time or because I am too lazy to seek out the music myself.  Luckily, I work at WRVU and cannot avoid being introduced to new and unfamiliar music.

CHVRCHES Soar With Thrilling, Excellently Executed Debut

Photo Courtesy of anotherrainysaturday.com

Coming off of last year’s monster single “The Mother We Share,” many (including yours truly) have been hotly anticipating more from Scottish synthpop band CHVRCHES. Could they sustain the rush of that song over a whole album? Would they be able to bring enough variety in their sugary-yet-melancholic sound to last an album’s length? Thankfully the answer to both of those questions on debut The Bones of What You Believe is “mostly yes.” With the sonic layers to please synth-heads and the songwriting prowess to please everyone else, CHVRCHES has delivered one of the year’s most fully realized debuts and one of the best pop records I’ve heard in ages.

Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival is a Can’t-Miss Weekend

Image from Music Midtown

This past Friday and Saturday marked the 3rd year of the return of Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival to Piedmont Park.  The two-day festival included three stages and a diverse line-up ranging from rap genius Kendrick Lamar, to classic rock titans Journey, to live show titans Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I attended the festival with a friend who is a graduate student in chemistry at Georgia Tech.  In short, it was an amazing weekend.  After the jump, I’ll be giving you a look at it day-by-day, and then summarizing the festival experience as a whole to wrap things up.

Meet Soul Belter John Newman

photo courtesy of www.standard.co.uk

You’ve heard him on Rudimental’s track Feel the Love (and if you haven’t here’s a link), but John Newman is making it big. Call it soul, r&b, funk, whatever you want, but Newman’s music is unbelievably catchy and charismatic, and although he’s only released a handful of singles (his debut album is set to release October 14!), his climb to fame is attracting attention throughout the UK and seeping its way into America.

Little Known Classics: Important by Jip Jop

 

Album image courtesy of Spotify

The Band:

Jip Jop formed sometime between 2006 and 2008 (depending on which online bio you trust) when front man Ben Gershman- Benny Nice behind the boards and on the mic- noticed a few standout students in Indiana University Bloomington’s Jacobs school of music. They each had jazz training, they all liked hip-hop and so naturally they melded the two.

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Day late and a dollar short, perhaps: this song came out eight whole days ago. In today’s hyper-consumptive, Facebook-addicted generation where one week becomes one month and a year compresses into a day, where we watch our lives unfold on our phones’ camera app, it’s easy for the present to slip through our fingers. Eight days is a long time. Don’t you know that one of my old high school friends has made 21 new posts since “Reflektor” released? Don’t you know that twenty-one important, life-changing things happened to them in that span of 8 days? I read it, too, all of it.

Yet, a year from now, they won’t remember what it was all about. And I won’t remember it, either. They’re someone that I knew once, but not anymore.

We live now in an embattled state, where social media and self-absorption has blurred and obscured the line between friend and stranger. This is the world that Arcade Fire’s new single, “Reflektor”, inhabits, questions, and condemns.

Jillian Stein and a New Project

I have a second music child to look after now--RVU Records, Vanderbilt's student-run recording company.
I have a second music child to look after now–RVU Records, Vanderbilt’s student-run recording company.

Hi everybody,

Thanks for your continued support of The VU Backstage!  Jillian Stein was a phenomenal guest last night.  Her music gives off a very retro, late 60s-early 70s folk vibe, and you can easily draw comparisons to Joni Mitchell (who, as it turns out, is her chief influence).  Catch the full episode right here.

This next bit of news is extremely exciting and relevant both to the show and to WRVU.  It has taken weeks of development on my part and involved a litany of other people, both students and fully grown adults.  It required a fairly large investment by the Vanderbilt Student Communications board.  It has the potential to change the music scene at Vanderbilt FOREVER.

Jillian Stein played a great show on The VU Backstage last night.  Also, building suspense for the "bit of news" I'm about to drop.
Jillian Stein played a great show on The VU Backstage last night. Also, building suspense for the “bit of news” I’m about to drop.

Have I built you up sufficiently?

HAVE I???
Irrelevant picture of a cat, to further build suspense.

HAVE I????????

No Trouble for The National as they Rock the Ryman

Photo by Rick Hawkins for American Songwriter

Everyone has “that one band.” That one band that first exposed you to what would become your taste in music (Modest Mouse for me). That one band that expanded your horizons as to what music could be (Radiohead, specifically the album Kid A for me too). Bands or artists that exposed you to various genres: metal, hip-hop, jazz, what have you. The National is that one band that I listened to every time when things just seemed to suck as a teenager. Of the top 25 most played songs in my iTunes library, 9 of them are by The National (including 2 of the top 3). I have a deep and abiding love for Matt Berninger’s velvety dark-chocolate baritone, Bryan Devendorf’s jittery, spastic drumming, and the Dessners’ genius arrangements. But despite this, I’d never had a chance to see this juggernaut of my teenage life in concert (hence why I woke up early for the pre-sale and refreshed the Ticketmaster page until it actually went live). Thus, this review may be a little skewed. Even on the off chance that the live show didn’t quite match the power of their records, I would be head over heels for that Sunday night. However, I’m happy to report that this (like my experiences with Death Grips, The Mountain Goats, The Hold Steady, My Morning Jacket, Radiohead, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor) was not just a great show, but a defining moment of my year.

The 1975’s Self-Titled Debut is Driving and Relaxing All In One

Image courtesy of gigwise.com

I discovered The 1975 while browsing r/listentothis on Reddit last year, probably in September or October.  I was immediately enthralled with this band with an interesting name and a catchy, if unpolished, sound and I began looking for a larger catalog .  Or, attempting to find one rather; at the time they had only two EP releases to their name.  Very little information was to be found.  And so I was left to wait patiently for a debut album to appear, only to be met by consecutive EP releases that were interesting, but at the same time so short and left me wanting something fuller.  However, after all of my waiting, their self-titled debut album has finally arrived, filled with songs that sound like they could all be singles yet still find cohesion as a whole work.  Suffice it to say that I am not disappointed.

Meet Human Don’t Be Angry

Photo courtesy of malcolmmiddleton.blogspot.com

Malcolm Middleton, a musician from Falkirk, Scotland, was once part of the duo Arab Strap before embarking on a solo career and releasing five albums in the span of seven years. However, seeking yet another creative outlet, Middleton decided to take on the pseudonym of Human Don’t Be Angry, a translation of the German board game “Mensch ärgere Dich nicht”, releasing his first self-titled album in 2012. This new solo project is a completely new departure from his previous heartachey lyrics and mellow indie rock sounds; Human Don’t Be Angry is a largely electronic instrumental album.

Volcano Choir Repaves Sound for Sophomore LP

Photo Courtesy of Jagjaguwar

Bon Iver may be done for a little while, but between popping up on hip-hop albums big (YeezusMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch The Throne) and small (P.O.S.’s We Don’t Even Live Here), playing with his band The Shouting Matches, and collaborating with The Blind Boys of Alabama, Justin Vernon hasn’t exactly been quiet. Nevertheless, the announcement of another album from Volcano Choir, a collaboration with post-rock band Collections of Colonies of Bees, was a bit of a surprise. Their 2009 album Unmap was a solid collection of abstractions with the occasional killer song (“Island, IS”, if you haven’t heard it, is still awesome), but it was a bit unstructured (and quite strange for my tastes). However,  it seems to have been an important project for Vernon. Just look at the world of difference between For Emma and Bon Iver, Bon Iver: all the layered, more complex instrumentation. The odder, instrumentally complex, direction of Volcano Choir definitely had a hand in influencing that album’s left-turn from the dude-in-a-cabin scrappiness that defined his debut. On Repave, however, it’s Bon Iver that is influencing Volcano Choir.

theGODleeBarnes(lp)

Photo Courtesy of turntablekitchen.com

 

The LP:

On a seemingly random day in 2010, California MC Blu drops the theGODleeBarnes(lp) via his twitter account. It comes as a single, large mp3 and is totally unmixed. Fans aren’t pleased and Blu doesn’t seem to care. And why would he? The man had produced a lo-fi masterpiece .