Archive for the ‘Rock’ Category

Maybe it’s because spring is around the corner, bringing its sense of new beginnings. Or maybe it’s a renewed sense of zen after taking a step back from reality for a little while. Whatever the case, I’ve decided it’s high time to just let things go. Grudges don’t help anyone out, don’t do anyone any favours. They really only affect you, occupying your every thought, impacting your every emotion. So if someone’s throwing shade your way, let it slide. Move on. Cut your losses. Because this can be a lot harder than it seems, here are a few tracks to help you rid yourself of all that drama.

“Shine” by Mondo Cozmo

This song from Philly-bred, LA-based artist Josh Ostrander, is about figuring out the right path to take, and finding one’s way through it. The music is hopeful and more than anything, it reminds us there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help.

“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

A track from 1975, that remains relevant to this day. The sadness in Stevie Knicks’ voice, and the lyrics full of reflection, can’t help but make us think that no matter what happens to us, life moves forward. Sometimes, you just have to leave the past behind, be the bigger person, and focus on the future; as hard as it may be.

“Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis

Wise words from these Britpop royals.

“Walk Away” by Ben Harper

Ben Harper has this magical way of using his voice, music and lyrics to convey the deepest of emotions, completely effortlessly. The track says it all.

 

“Let it Go” by James Bay

Typically, I don’t lean towards overplayed Top 40 pop music, but there’s just something about this one. Bay masterfully controls his voice, making you feel everything he does. The lyrics, though simplistic at times, are also real which helps the listener relate to Bay’s woes.

 

British trio The xx formed back in 2005, and first came onto the scene in 2009 with their debut album, xx. Romy Madley Croft provides vocals and guitar; Oliver Sim, vocals and bass; Jamie Smith, beats and production. They followed up with 2012’s sublime, Coexist, and most recently 2016’s work of art, I See You. Here’s why you need them in your life.

The Sound: It’s subtle, nuanced, echoing each and every feeling they express, without being distracting. It perfectly sets up the mood for each track, knowing when to quiet down, and when to pick things up. It’s so meticulously and purposefully placed in each track, such that each note, each strum, each pluck of a string, each inflection, each beat has a specific place in the song; nothing is superfluous. It doesn’t fit in any particular genre, having flecks of indie rock and dance; hints of pop and electronic; plenty of confessional tones. The beats, guitar and bass shimmer so brightly together, the resulting music comes off in such a way that, no other version of the song will ever make sense. Their sound is incomparable, inimitable, and frankly deserves to be a genre all on its own.

The Lyrics: One thing to note about The xx, you can’t just have them on in the background. You have to listen to them, and you’ll thank me because what you’ll hear will take you to a place you’ve never been before. You’ll find yourself deep in thought, ruminating over some life event in ways you never have. Each word, each phrase, is so well thought out. Every syllable is in there for a reason, and has a role to play in unfolding the inner workings of Croft and Sim’s minds. They know exactly what to say, and how to say it, and only say what’s necessary to convey their mood; nothing more, nothing less. Like true poets.

The Vocals. There’s nothing outwardly spectacular about their vocals; they don’t do runs, they’re not power houses, they don’t show anything off. They exude just the right amount of force when singing, perfectly exercising control, and not getting carried away. They can be haunting, moving, playful, emotional, thoughtful, on the verge of tears, confident, confused, and everything else you can imagine. They’re honest and vulnerable, and sometimes a total mess on the inside – and it all translates perfectly through their delivery.

The Albums. When you combine their sound, their lyrics and their vocals, this is what you get: a masterpiece that grabs your soul and breaks it apart piece by piece, leaving you empty and broken inside. Then out of nowhere, breathes life right back into you, reviving your soul and making you feel things far beyond what you ever thought possible. I’m not being hyperbolic, they’re just that good. It’s not just a one-off either. Each of their albums is unique in its own way, but still manages to evoke the same senses. If you’ve never seen them live, please do – it’s an experience you’ll  never forget.

 

There’s a lot to be said about 2016, good or bad. Personally, I had a great 2016, one of the best years ever. Musically, however, I did not.

Aside from this blog, I’ve also been contributing to an online entertainment site, examiner.com for about 4 years. Anything from album reviews, concert reviews, new releases, etc. More of an objective journalistic approach to music writing compared to the much more subjective stuff I write here. The site got bought out by axs.com, and was going to shut down mid-2016. I assumed everything would be the same, just under a different banner. Obviously I was wrong, and by the time I figured it out, it was too late. Over 100 articles I wrote, vanished into thin air; gone, just like that, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

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Over the last 6 years or so, I’ve been taking guitar lessons. First on an acoustic, then gradually switched over to electric (which is way more fun/easy to play.) I started at a music school, then when my instructor had to move, we still managed to keep it up, even resorting to sessions over Skype. That lasted a while, but as life goes, the time for it on both our ends became less and less, and towards the tail end of 2016, I had to throw in the towel, which disconnected me from a part of music that had been in my life for some time. Now my guitars just sit in the corner of the living room, as decoration.

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My musical game also took a dive: my ear wasn’t as close to the ground as it has been in the past, and I’ve fallen behind on new music. During 2016, Torrent sites were constantly being shut down, so it was hard to get and sample any new music. If I heard a song I liked, my routine used to be: download the album, listen to it on repeat for a couple of weeks. Then go back and download earlier albums of the same artist (if applicable,) to create a well-informed opinion. Nowadays, singles drop left, right and centre. Some are on albums, some are bonus tracks, some are B-sides. It’s becoming more difficult to get everything in one place. Spotify is great, but like the mind of today’s younger generation, it also has no attention span. There’s no time to really fall in love with an artist, because every day, new ones pop up out of nowhere.

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Then there were all the musician deaths, particularly the ones that hit me most. David Bowie’s came first, in January, and it stung. I was never a huge fan, but I did know his music. His persona was also something to be admired because he was different; eccentric; fearless. Prince’s passing followed in April, and that hit much closer to home. I’d seen Prince live a few years ago, during a show where he played at least 7 encores. He was incredible in all aspects of his musicianship and artistry. Even my mom was even a huge fan.

On Christmas Day, there was George Michael, and I was stunned. I’ve had the privilege of growing up with older cousins and an older sibling, so in the 80s, I was always in tune with great music. I learned about U2, INXS, and Duran Duran; plus, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and George Michael. He was practically a household name. In fact, my brothers and I used to dance around the house, air-guitaring and  lip singing to “Faith.” I’m also pretty sure George Michael was the first sex symbol I knew (before actually knowing what a sex symbol was.)

When I got older, I found out he was also part of Wham!, and the genius behind “Careless Whisper.” He disappeared for a while from the music scene in the late 90s, but resurfaced with Patience in 2004, and this hit single – he was unstoppable. I don’t know a life without George Michael. I don’t know a music industry without George Michael.

If the musical chaos of 2016 is evidence of anything, it’s that everything changes. Leaders change, people change, life changes. Relationships change, work changes, you change. The lesson is: act now (well, after you finish reading this.) Don’t wait for the timing to be right, because it will never be “right.” You just never know what the future holds, so why wait?