Entries in Music (8)

Thursday
Dec012011

Debating Kanye, Adele, Foo Fighters, Skrillex, Bon Iver and the Grammy Noms and Snubs

  
REVIEWING THE NOMINEES: As usual, the annual Grammy candidates included trendy surprises, predictable bores and baffling omissions. We discuss, and mostly mock.

 

By Kenny Herzog and Robbie Woliver
"Wait, I got the most nominations but not album of the year. Shit." (Credit: Island Def Jam)

 

As you may know, REVIEWniverse editors Robbie Woliver and Kenny Herzog occassionally go tit-for-tat about the latest TV shows, movies, albums, true-crime happenings, celebrity blunders and general pop-culture schrapnel. Call it a great debate, call it a he said/he said, call it whatever you like. Just don't call it Shirley. 

Today, we take a look at the much buzzed-about 2012 Grammy nominations, which polarized music fans as they always do, especially in the Twitter-verse. So, we took it upon ourselves to parse through the honored acts, overlooked artists and public response itself, and see if we can't deduce just what to make of this year's annointed crop. 

 

KENNY HERZOG: I will admit, it's odd that Kanye would get nominated for seven trophies but not Album of the Year. Still, I'm a bit surprised that people are surprised. It's like bemoaning your middle-aged aunt being out of touch with kids these days.

ROBBIE WOLIVER: I'm sure he'll get up to the podium to accept anyway. But the Grammys sure tapped into their inner folkie and dreamy folk rock, didn't they? Their big live show is gonna be Bon Iver, the Civil Wars, the Decemberists and Mumford & Sons? Where are the Katy Perrys?!

KH: Just to be a bit indulgent for a minute, the Bon Iver revelation kind of took me aback. I understand it's on the heels of his Kanye association and subsequent charting relevance, but on a personal level, he and I were sitting in my then-office four years ago at this time, talking and hanging out before he eventually performed acoustic for a podcast. Four years later, he's a multiple Grammy nominee, and I'm sitting at my laptop navel-gazing about his success. I feel congratulatory toward him, yet somehow sad and comparatively unaccomplished. Depressing, no?

RW: Wow, what a name-dropper. Well, I was once mano y mano with Bob Dylan in his dressing room for an hour (OK, one other person was with us)--and Liberace was outside the door. So there.

KH: Yes, because they were already successful. My encounter is uniquely bittersweet because, at that time, I was theoretically extending exposure to a then-unknown artist who has now comically eclipsed me in his pursuits. Opposite of name-dropping. It's like name-sadness.

 

RW: Let's set Bon Iver's delicately plucked "Holocene" aside for a second, but "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons as Record of the Year? WTF? Did Liberace ever win a Grammy? 

 

KH: The list of deserved Grammy snubs far exceeds even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's. And I definitely equate their mutually insitutionalized randomness. I think the danger in NARAS fogies chasing indie-crossover trends is that a lot of what's coming from that culture is boring. It's a no-win, because most of pop radio in 2011 is pretty soulless, glitchy genre mashing. Adele being a notable exception among the nominated.

 

RW: The Grammys has always been more known for its schizophrenia than common sense. But it's that crazy nonsensical mix that makes me like the nominations. Adele is certainly expected and deserved, as is Katy Perry's "Firework," I must admit. And although I don't think they are top-tier award-worthy, it is certainly wonderful to see acts like Bon Iver and Mumford in the mix. And there are weird selections all over the place. Take Dance. "Barbara Streisand" by Duck Sauce? That is not a Grammy-worthy nomination, but Robyn is well-earned.

 

KH: Robyn is well-deserved, although the fawning over uber-trendy flash-in-pan Skrillex is dubious at best. It almost feels like voters either have moles scanning blogs or their college-aged kids are whispering hipness into their ear. It also should be said that, while Bon Iver is great and should be acknowledged, he is not exactly a New Artist. Their definition of that category is still bafflingly self-serving. I also need to ask if all the Foo Fighters love (for a fine record, but one no more distinguished than their best) has anything opportunistically to do with all the Nirvana Nevermind anniversary buzz this year. They're hoping for a "moment" during one of Dave Grohl's speeches, perhaps?

RW: Well, what about Eddie Vedder's nomination for Best Folk Album? And the Best New Artist category has always been baffling. Remember when Shelby Lynne won after, like, a four-decade career? (I love Shelby Lynne by the way, and if she were nominated next year for Best New Artist again, I would be thrilled.) But is the category to watch Best Pop Collaboration, given the inclusion of Tony Bennett and the late Amy Winehouse's duet? Grammys giving her one last goodbye? 

KH: I guess the formula has always been a cynical calculation of timely sentiment, overcorrected belatedness, mainstream complacence and, increasingly, desperate trendiness. But unless Bon Iver sweeps his categories and the night, it'll be hard to imagine anything as astounding as Arcade Fire's coup de ceremony last year. That kind of backfired on the Grammys though, which makes Adele's breakout record the perfect patsy to get things back safely but credibly on track.

RW: The bottom line is that this is Adele's year. There is no bigger music story, or more deserving recording, and we'll all be waiting to see if her throat surgery heals enough for her to perform. Everything else pales in her wake. There are some other great offerings like the Decemberists who are so deserving of wider recognition. And this year's Who is Esperanza Spaulding Award? goes to Americana's Linda Chorney, whom none of my Americana colleagues ever heard of. And for the record, Nicki Minaj won the New York Music Awards' Best New Artist Award a year prior to this Grammy nomination. I'm also sorry Lili Anel's "Every Second In Between" wasn't recognized in Jazz. 

KH: Ugh. The Decemberists. I HATE the Decemberists. And I think they're pretty widely recognized. Even as far back as a few years ago, when they were heavily dropped in a Friday Night Lights episode. I did, however, meet a girl I once dated at a show of theirs someone dragged me to, so there's that. And she was a bit older, so it was something of a May-Decemberists romance, eh? Anyhow, I don't really have anyone I feel was egregiously omitted, to be honest. If I do, they'd either make me look delusional or like someone who simply has poor taste in music. I suppose I can agree that Adele may as well sweep up. Maybe I'm feeling safe too, but it beats a gloating Kanye or nerd revolt when one of their indie-rock heroes triumphs. 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Stay tuned for our post-Grammys shakedown after it airs on Feb. 12, 2012. There's a lot of 2s in that date.

OVERALL NOMINATIONS RATING: 6.5/10

AT LEAST THERE'S SOME REAL PEOPLE TO ROOT FOR RATING: 7/10

REALIZING HOW ARBITRARY THE PROCESS IS/WINNERS ARE ANYWAY RATING: Sighing Exhale/10


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Thursday
Oct272011

Susan Boyle Channels Selena Gomez on New Version of "Mad World"

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Susan Boyle, Britain's Got Talent poster girl, is about to release her third studio album (her albums sell gazillion copies around the world), Someone to Watch Over Me. Included in this highly anticipated recording is her part-gorgeous/part-creepy teen-voiced version of Tears for Fears' classic "Mad World."

By Robbie Woliver

 

Susan Boyle seems to approve of her new teen voice.

 

"Mad World" has become one of those ubiquitous songs that never really gets old; Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is another. No matter who sings it, the song will most likely survive. The unlikely superstar, Boyle, who reached global fame by belting out Broadway classics on Britain's Got Talent in 2009, has taken a more daring and unexpected route on her albums. Turns out she has an affinity for rock and roll, and some obscure songs at that. Her choice of "Wild Horses" on her debut, I Dreamed a Dream, for example, was not as surprising as her choice of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" (pick up jaws) on the upcoming Someone, which will be released on November 1.   

The 50-year-old singer has a gorgeous voice, there is no disputing that, and that familiar soaring soprano of hers is not quite in evidence during "Mad World," where she sounds more like a teen Disney star like Selena Gomez or Taylor Swift. It's a great track to play for your friends and make a sure-fire million dollar bet that they'll never guess who it is--and they won't, unless, of course, they are REVIEWniverse followers. But you know what? Boyle's childlike rendition is eerily compelling and creepy, sorta the way weird young Adelaide is on American Horror Story.

We haven't heard Adelaide sing Tears for Fears yet, but it might sound like this:

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Beautiful song. Ethereal rendition. No surprise.

"MAD WORLD" VERSION BY SUSAN BOYLE RATING: 9.4/10

KNOWING IT'S SUSAN BOYLE SINGING AND NOT SELENA GOMEZ RATING: 4.9/10

ADELAIDE CREEPY FACTOR RATING: 10/10

"MAD WORLD" VERSION BY ADAM LAMBERT: Jackpot/10

 

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Tuesday
Oct252011

Pentatonix Kills it With Kanye West's "Love Lockdown" on 'Sing-Off'

MUSIC REVIEW: Pentatonix, the L.A.-based a cappella quintet with an underground swag, not only hips up the NBC show The Sing-Off, but they reinvented Kanye West's already-cool "Love Lockdown," in what had to be one of the best performances of the season.

By Robbie Woliver

Pentatonix can take the Glee kids in New Directions when it comes to out-of-the-box vocalizing. (Credit: NBC)

The Sing-Off is actually a pretty damn cool music competition. It not only embraces the purest of musical styles (a cappella, vocalizing with no musical instruments), it turns what could be a dull glee-club fest into one of the most intricate and current musical showcases. 

You can't cheat when performing a cappella. It's bare, but not spare. Every note, every breath is out in the open, exposed for any flaws. The singers (and "musicians") have to be perfect, not only with their own vocalization, but their harmony, choreography and showmanship. Every band member (one group, the entertaining Yellowjackets from the University of Rochester has 15 members) is providing a unique bit to the overall sound, whether it's the lead, harmony or one of the instrumental sounds. We've heard them mimic violins, basses, drums, and guitars. And each kid can sing better than most of these X-Factor or Idol clowns.

I would be remiss in not mentioning how good the judges, all performers, are on this show: R&B superstar Shawn Stockman (Boyz II Men), Sara Bareilles and Ben Folds, who is astonishingly well-informed about music, in general. They are all endearing, likable, funny, and incredibly knowledgable. They are the best judging team on any TV competition. And really, how cool and how un-TV is Ben Folds?

From the start, Pentatonix has proven to be one of the most interesting bands on the show. Up against larger groups like the Yellowjackets, they have more to prove, and they usually prove that they are more intricate and complex than the other groups. But this week they outdid theselves with an extraordinary rendition of Kanye West's "Love Lockdown." It was a gripping performance, the kind that when it was over, you realize you didn't breathe for a minute. 

This fivesome (four guys, one girl) do it all--sing, dance and bring a swagger to acapella that most singing groups tend to lack. They can wail, harmonize, dance, and brilliantly arrange their material, and considering that they're a fairly new entity (three were a trio in high school in Arlington, Texas who added two more members who they found on YouTube, including the beatboxer, of course). Unlike many of the other contestant groups, Pentaonix's influences are less Glee, and more underground, incorporating dubstep, garage house and electronic music. Add that eclectic and very contemporary mix to stellar and often dramatic performances, and you have a winning team here. 

Pentatonix is comprised of Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Avi Kaplan, Kirstin Maldonado and Kevin Olusola. 
Watch their stunning performance of "Love Lockdown" below, and you'll see how they make a cappella as hip as any underground hip-hop show.

 


IN OTHER WORDS: I want to download this on my iPod now.

THE SING-OFF RATING: 8/10

PENTATONIX RATING: 9.9/10

The SING-OFF JUDGES RATING: 9/10

AFRO-BLUE'S ONE WHITE GIRL NEVER GETTING THE SPOTLIGHT RATING: LOL/10

KEEP YOUR EYES ON THOSE TWO GUYS IN THE BACKGROUND RATING: 20/20

 

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Wednesday
Oct192011

VIDEO: David Lynch 'Crazy Clown Time' Trailer 

MUSIC-VIDEO REVIEW: David Lynch has a solo musical album out on Election Day, and the trailer for it gets our vote.

By Kenny Herzog

Why so serious? (Credit: David Lynch.... Naturally)

If Jeff Bridges, Jeff Daniels and Hugh Laurie can put out bluesy pop records, why can't David Lynch release his own demented spin on the form? Not that aural weirdness is mutually exclusive from the director/artist's film oeuvre. But in the past, he's collaborated with everyone from composer Angelo Badalamenti to late songwriter Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse to provide the ear candy that suits his hallucinatory visuals. On Nov. 8, however, Lynch will be releasing Crazy Clown Time (Sunday Best/[PIAS]), his first-ever solo musical album.

And now, a la Metallica and Lou Reed, he's unveiled a minute-plus abstract video trailer for the LP, which you can view below. It shares some creative DNA with the aforementioned Lulu teaser, in that there's shards of guitar noise and clipped bits of vocal overdubs, although the Crazy Clown Time preview is significantly more evocative in its short running time. And the in-studio glimpses also demonstrate that Lynch was, not surprisingly, completely hands-on with the entire writing, recording and engineering process, along with co-conspirator and Inland Empire sound man Dean Hurley. In a nutshell, it sounds cool, the video looks cool, and Crazy Clown Time, despite its misleadingly frivolous title, may just be a seriously good piece of work. 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Send in the Clown.

ANTICIPATING CRAZY CLOWN TIME RATING: 7/10

CRAZY CLOWN TIME TRAILER RATING: 8/10

WISHING IT WASN'T CALLED CRAZY CLOWN TIME RATING: 10/10

 

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Tuesday
Oct182011

Smashing Pumpkins 'Siamese Dream'/'Gish' Reissues Get Release Date

 

MUSIC-NEWS REVIEW: With a release date set for two huge reissues, the Smashing Pumpkins finally get their moment in the '90s-nostalgia spotlight.

 

By Kenny Herzog

Ya gotta admit: These Pumpkins reissues look pretty Smashing.

 

There's been quite a bit of noise around Nirvana and Pearl Jam over the last 12 months, and how they were the architects of early '90s alt-rock's crossover explosion. This is, to some degree, a convenient truth. Between 1991 and '93, Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins released two albums, Gish and Siamese Dream, that distilled the sound of an era with fury, melody and massive influence.

In fact, both Gish and Dream shared something essential with Nirvana's iconic Nevermind: producer Butch Vig. What they didn't have in common with the outputs of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell et al was Seattle roots. The Pumpkins were Chicago outsiders who fought their way in, and EMI has set a firm release date of Nov. 29 for a proper homage to their contributions during that heady time.

That day, deluxe reissue editions of both their early landmark LPs will hit the market. As per the post-aughts norm for these kinds of releases, they'll be made available in double-CD/DVD, LP and digital formats, and be stuffed with the requisite liner notes from Corgan, a slew of old demos and classic live concert footage. 

The Pumpkins are, of course, still active, and will release their newest album, Oceania, in 2012. But in terms of revisiting their peak recordings, and to invoke one of Corgan's most famous lyrical phrases, today is the greatest day diehard fans have known.

 

GISH (DELUXE EDITION) TRACKLISTING:

Disc 1:  

 1.     I am one 

2.    Siva

3.    Rhinoceros

4.    Bury me

5.    Crush

6.    Suffer

7.    Snail

8.    Tristessa

9.    Window paine

10.  Daydream

Disc 2: 

  1. Starla (2011 mix)
  2. Siva (Peel session)*
  3. Honeyspider (Reel Time demos / 2011 mix)
  4. Hippy Trippy (Crush Music Box demo)
  5. Snail (live radio performance)
  6. Plume (2011 mix)
  7. Bury Me (Reel Time demos / 2011 mix)
  8. Daydream (Old House demo)
  9. Tristessa (Sub Pop single / 2011 mix)
  10. Girl Named Sandoz (Peel session)*
  11. Jesus Is The Sun (Apartment demo)
  12. Blue (Gish sessions demo)
  13. Smiley (Gish sessions demo)
  14. I Am One (Reel Time demos / 2011 mix)
  15. Seam (Suffer / Apartment demo)
  16. La Dolly Vita (2011 mix)
  17. Pulseczar (Gish sessions demo)*
  18. Drown (alternate guitar solo)

 

All songs previously unreleased except where indicated.*

 

DVD

Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90

Introduction

  1. I am one
  2. Snail
  3. Rhinoceros
  4. Bury Me
  5. Tristessa
  6. Window Paine
  7. Razor
  8. Sookie Sookie
  9. Godzilla
  10. Crush - Acoustic

 

SIAMESE DREAM (DELUXE EDITION)TRACKLISTING:

Disc 1:

  1. Cherub rock
  2. Quiet
  3. Today
  4. Hummer
  5. Rocket
  6. Disarm
  7. Soma
  8. Geek U.S.A
  9. Mayonaise
  10. Spaceboy
  11. Silverfuck
  12. Sweet sweet
  13. Luna

 

Disc 2:

  1. Pissant (siamese sessions rough mix)
  2. Siamese dream (broadway rehearsals demo)
  3. STP (rehearsal demo)
  4. Frail and bedazzled (soundworks demo)
  5. Luna (apartment demo)
  6. Quiet (bbc session/bc mix)
  7. Moleasskiss (soundworks demo)
  8. Hello kitty kat (soundworks demo)
  9. Today (broadway rehearsal demo)
  10. Never let me down again (bbc session)*
  11. Apathy's last kiss (siamese sessions rough mix)
  12. Ache (silverfuck rehearsal demo)

13.  U.S.A. (soundworks demo)

  1. U.S.S.R. (soundworks demo)
  2. Spaceboy (acoustic mix)
  3. Rocket (rehearsal demo)
  4. Disarm (acoustic mix)
  5. Soma (instrumental mix)

 

All songs previously unreleased except where indicated.*

 

DVD

Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93

Introduction

  1. Rocket
  2. Quiet
  3. Today
  4. Rhinoceros
  5. Geek U.S.A.
  6. Soma
  7. I am one
  8. Disarm
  9. Spaceboy
  10. Starla
  11. Cherub rock
  12. Bury me
  13. Hummer
  14. Siva
  15. Mayonaise
  16. Drown
  17. Silverfuck

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Corgan's a bit nutso, and his latest records aren't exactly must-own, but both Gish and Siamese Dream really hold up, and we're psyched for those live DVDs.

GISH/SIAMESE DREAM REISSUES COMING SOON RATING: 8/10

THE PUMPKINS GETTING OVERLOOKED AMID SEATTLE-NARRATIVE NOSTALGIA RATING: 2/10

 

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