It’s been no secret that Juliana Hatfield will be joining Evan Dando for an upcoming Lemonheads project “ they’re touring with the Psychedelic Furs this fall. Glad news for fans of all three, especially considering the long history between the two once-and-future alt-rock darlings “ Hatfield played bass on The Lemonheads’ beloved It’s A Shame About Ray LP, Dando was briefly a member of Hatfield’s pre-solo career band Blake Babies, and the two performed a spate of shows as a duo last year. Now comes word that, in addition to Hatfield, Lemonheads co-founder and former co-frontman Ben Deily (now of Varsity Drag) will be on the new record, after he and Dando reconnected recently. Compound that with the revelation that known Dando accomplice Ryan Adams will be producing, and, well, you’ve got yourself either a hell of an album, or an impending implosion of massive, massive proportions. Twitter tells us that Adams is manning the drum kit, as well. Not sure what that portends vis a vis massive implosion.
Reading Jesse Terry’s list of tour dates from the past few years is a lot like looking at an actual calendar. Almost every single day corresponds with yet another gig, often in an area hundreds of miles away from the previous night’s show. A self-described “road warrior,” Terry has played his way across the contiguous United States multiple times by now, and the wanderlust evident in his musical travels plays a major role on his new LP Empty Seat on a Plane. Whether he’s describing Montana’s Bitterroot Valley or the dusty back roads of Tennessee, it’s clear that Terry isn’t merely going through the lyrical motions. He’s been to each place, soaked up its essence, and reproduced it in the form of gorgeously sung folk songs. Even if he isn’t doing the traveling himself, Terry is busy imagining the voyages of others to far-away locales like Portugal, Spain, or France. He envisions cars, trains, and planes carrying people off to the bright new lives they want, or at least think they want.
That is not to say that Terry doesn’t maintain a strong sense of groundedness amidst his travels. Woven throughout the various narratives on Empty Seat on a Plane is an enduring sense of Americana. In Terry’s lyrics, home is less a single place than a group of ideas and images (ballparks, carnival rides, and wide-open roads) that conjure the unified feeling of America as one expansive home. Specific nods to gospel, funk, and blues instrumentally achieve a similar effect, compressing America’s vast musical history into portable tuneful mementos that give listeners a coherent sense of place no matter where they might be. Never crowded or ostentatious, Terry’s arrangements give each instrument just enough space to make these musical influences clear, and his soothing vocal delivery is calming without being sleep“inducing, which is a rare feat. While Terry has been accurately compared to the likes of Ryan Adams and James Taylor, Empty Seat on a Plane shows that now he may be well on the way to becoming a reference point for other up-and-coming singer-songwriters himself.
Here at SoundTrax, our goal is to provide you with weekly music that is specific to an event or mood. No genre limitations, no time-period restrictions, just great music. The order of the songs selected is equally important to the content itself in our opinion, so more often than not, this blog will be presented in the form of a playlist.
As the weather takes a turn for the worse here in Boston, I find my taste in music changing as well. Tempo begins to slow, euphoric bustling arrangements give way to introspective and sparse recordings, and themes shift towards the darker end of the spectrum. So throw on your favorite pair of headphones, slip on some mittens and brave the cold, gray January skies with these tunes:
“Codex” by Radiohead
Radiohead have been the kings of introspective rock music for years now, and Codex is no exception. The slow, steady pacing of the song provides a sense of safety to an otherwise haunting track.
“Wonderwall” by Ryan Adams
Adams’ cover of Oasis manages to take a stereotypical ’90s rock track and turn it into a beautiful, bare-boned love song. The perfect track to listen to as the sky blackens and the first bit of snow coats the ground.
“Hold On” by Angus and Julia Stone
As the pace quickens, your feet start to fall in line with the subtle shuffle of drums. Hold on, you’re not quite through this storm.
“Temptress” (Tyler Stone’s Forbidden Fruit Mix) by Sutro
Our very own Sutro provides you with this sultry track. With simple yet striking production, and vocals that absolutely drip with sex, this song should warm your insides.
- You’re too pretty to hide behind the camera, Justin Timberlake.
- Dress like Amy Winehouse.
- Rihanna too sexual? You don’t say.
- Ladies, start your engines. New Ryan Adams is on its way.
- That’s a lot of emo for one album.
- We have a hard time believing Kings of Leon are going to pull an Aerosmith and kick out Caleb Followill.
- Lady Gaga’s favorite Lady Gaga songs.
- Beginning to think someone put a curse on this summer’s tours.
A few weeks ago, Melbourne hosted the TV WEEK Logie Awards, which is like Australia’s Emmys, only with more reality TV, more cooking shows and music. Katy Perry and Maroon 5 represented American pop, and then there was rising UK star Jessie J, representing¦ well, I’m still not 100 percent sure. As she stalked the stage, decked out in glam-Goth basic black, performing her No. 1 UK hit “Price Tag,” my friend peeled his eyes away from the television, turned to me and announced, “Her look is cool and alternative, but her music is so lame and poppy. They don’t match at all!”
It’s a discordancy that’s starting to take over. Pop and rock and hip hop used to hang out on different sides of the playground, barely acknowledging each other, with the rare, revolutionary exception (think Run-D.M.C.‘s 1985 smash cover of Aerosmith‘s “Walk this Way,” featuring the vintage rock band on vocals and in the song’s video). If your music was too mainstream, strictly middle-of-the-road (a condition that afflicted neither Run-D.M.C.’s nor Aerosmith’s tunes at the time, which perhaps is why the hit sounded so effortless), there was no changing lanes. You could dress as wild as ’80s fashion would let you, but you would always be a pop star. Chart-toppers had little chance of drumming up street cred or working with artists whose tunes dangled from the cutting edge. Why do you think Duran Duran, one of the most influential bands of the Reagan era, still hasn’t been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and is only now, more than two decades past its prime, publicly earning the respect of well-respected men like David Lynch, who directed the band’s recent American Express online concert?
Suddenly its cool to be alternative and pop. We’ve got Katy Perry mingling with Snoop Dogg and Kanye West on record and with bad-boy British comic Russell Brand in holy matrimony, and Ke$ha singing some of the poppiest songs on the charts and casting James van der Beek, one of Hollywood’s most white-bread actors, in her video but tarting it up just enough to come across as one of the coolest girls in school. (Ever the trendsetter, in the ’80s, Madonna had the good sense to tousle her image by marrying bad boy Sean Penn.) Meanwhile, Rihanna”a pop princess if ever there was one”holds court with Eminem and sings about how she’s “Hard” (as Young Jeezy raps in her defense).
Lady Gaga dresses like a freak and breaks every sartorial rule while singing what is basically the rave music of every ’90s teenage dream. Her former video costar Beyoncé alternates between straight-up pop (“Halo,” “Sweet Dreams”) and darker hip hop (“Diva” and current single “Run the World [Girls]”), while A Rocket to the Moon and Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy are among those who have covered “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Try This (her 2003 flop that, in my opinion, is her best album) aside, Pink‘s ultra-commercial music has never mirrored her rock-chick attitude. Even Coldplay, one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, second perhaps only to U2, collaborated with, of all people, Kylie Minogue on the 2008 World AID’s Day charity single “Lhuna.”
As with so many recent musical trends, the current shift toward the mainstream and the cutting edge making strange bedfellows began with hip hop. If a roguish rapper like Eminem could rhyme alongside pop singers (first Dido on “Stan,” then Elton John at the 2001 GRAMMYs, and most recently, Pink and Rihanna on Recovery), couldn’t all musicians, regardless of genre, get along? Sure they can, but the commercial results have been mixed. There’ve been huge hits”the Katy Perry singles “California Gurls” and “E.T.” returned her rapper costars, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, respectively, to No. 1 for the first time in eons”but when Alicia Keys met Jack White for “Another Way to Die,” the theme for the last James Bond flick, 2008’s Quantum of Solace, it was a one-week wonder on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 81.
Perhaps Keys’ R&B and pop fans and White’s alternative ones didn’t know what to do with the meeting of their musical minds, which was nonethess one of the best singles of 2008. Of course, there are artists who resist, too. Remember when Ryan Adams used to go off on fans who requested Bryan Adams‘ “Summer of ’69” because he was fed up with being compared to the ’80s and ’90s pop superstar with the almost-identical name? (He once had a fan tossed out of a Nashville concert for daring to do the unthinkable!)
Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards probably was as much about the cutting edge (hip hop) vs. the mainstream (country-pop) as it was about the visual supremacy of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video. In February, I read a Billboard.com interview where empress of ’80s cool Chrissie Hynde talked about her upcoming Super Bowl weekend performance on CMT Crossroads with country diva Faith Hill, and she said she was unfamiliar with Hill’s music and admitted, “I don’t know much about country music, period.” Then there’s Kings of Leon, best known in the US for the Top 5 hit “Use Somebody”. Although the band would hardly be considered alternative in its recent hit-making incarnation, the guys nonetheless refused to allow Glee to use “Somebody.” (I bet South Park or Dexter or Weeds would have gotten their blessing.)
But if Jay-Z can let the Glee kids turn “Empire State of Mind” into a show tune, if Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler can sit beside Jennifer Lopez at the American Idol judges table, if “F–k You” singer Cee Lo Green can go from collaborating with Danger Mouse (in Gnarls Barkley) to being one of Christina Aguilera‘s fellow judges on The Voice, then we might yet live to hear an Eminem track featuring Britney Spears.
- Clips of This Is It to be shown at the Michael Jackson trial. Popcorn is extra.
- Soulja Boy tells ‘em.
- In case you were wondering, Michael Scott worked “9,986,000 minutes” at Dundler Mifflin Paper.
- After reviewing music videos, getting married and putting out a death metal album, Ryan Adams debuts new tracks.
- This is so much cooler than Etch A Sketch.
- Beyoncé has found God in Adele.
- What’s next, Kanye, high tea?
- Don’t be a tease, Neon Indian.
- Reality television done right.
- Wish you could have Charlie Sheen around you all the time? There’s an app for that.
- Looks like J. Lo got a taste of something she likes.
Do you find yourself rocking out to Wilco on a daily basis? Does Ryan Adams frequent your iTunes top-played list more than you’d like to admit? Well OurStage may just have a channel that’s right up your alley. This month, artists in the Alternative Country Channel are competing for a year’s supply of free strings and accessories from Ernie Ball. In case you were wondering, a prize like that is a huge benefit to any up-and-coming musician, especially those who aspire to hold rank with artists the likes of Neil Young, My Morning Jacket and Son Volt. Your musical expertise is needed to help filter the best artists to the top of the channel, and in return you can discover some truly awesome new music along the way. So what are you waiting for? You can take part in discovering the next big thing in alternative country music. Head to the channel now and let your voice be heard. But hurry, judging closes February 26th!