If you were to ask a dedicated fan what “punk” means in 2013, you would probably receive a long-winded dissertation on innumerable subgenres. Make no mistake: this conversation might be interesting, but it is not informative. At its core, the spirit of punk has always entailed “ in one form or another “ the forging of an individual path in the midst of a sea of conformity. It has reveled in a promised escape from the drudgery of the nine to five existence, a comfortable suburban home, and the meaningless trappings of a materialistic middle class life. It rejects the enforcement of the status quo. It pushes ceaselessly back against mindless repetition. That is what punk still is.
What happens, then, when a punk band turns that same critical eye on its own career; a career built upon the inevitable and predictable annual cycles of album releases, touring, and promotion? The result is The Bronx (IV), if not the most ferocious album that Los Angeles’ The Bronx have released to date, then certainly the most self-reflective. Thankfully, singer Matt Caughthran‘s throat-tearing screams remain intact on this release. There is no restrained breathing, no Zen of Screaming here. Only what sounds like Caughthran practically bleeding through the microphone in feral glee. (more…)
In 1964, during a single session in New Jersey, John Coltrane and his quartet recorded the entirety of A Love Supreme. The almost supernatural, single-minded focus required to produce such a complex piece of art in such a compact amount of time was a true manifestation of the spirit of the album. A statement of unity, concord, and appreciation for the mysterious workings of the higher power to which Coltrane credited his music, A Love Supreme was the sound of an artist cracking the door on the connection to his muse, and letting his listeners peer in at the light, if only for a second.
Regions of Light and Sound of God, the first solo album from My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, bears that same mark of divine connection. This is not to bluntly compare James to Coltrane, or even to suggest that it’s possible to compare them as artists. It is, nonetheless, recognizing the possibility that, as an unabashedly spiritual album, Regions of Light can be understood in much the same way as Coltrane’s masterpiece.
Although this date signifies the winter solstice, and NASA has assured us that all is well in outer space, it got us thinking. And you know what happens when we start thinking. We’ve gotta have tunes.
When describing Christmas in the Sand, Colbie Caillat expressed the desire to make an album for those who don’t live in cold areas and can’t relate to songs about classic wintertime clichés like snow, chilly weather, and huddling around the fireplace. While the album does maintain a generally sunny disposition, it can’t help but feature standards like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and original lyrics in Caillat’s contributions such as “It’s not Christmas / If the snow don’t fall.” Even though Christmas in the Sand is meant to be a Christmas album for those who spend most of their time in the sun or on the beach, it still seems obligated to retread the same ground as past holiday releases. Of course, listeners instinctively understand this, but it is worth noting how Caillat’s motivation for recording the album and the way in which that motivation plays out, at times, incongruously with the original intent, highlights the difficulty inherent in recording a type of album that in its very nature defies innovation. (more…)