It was 20 years ago today….January 1994

Tori Amos: Under the Pink

I explained at the beginning of the month that 1994 was a pivotal year in my life. Two bus routes moved from one junior high to another, and my bus was one of those routes. I found myself needing to decide what sort of friends I wanted to make. I decided to make friends based upon shared musical interests. Musical interests I had been telling myself I shouldn’t like I suddenly gave into. It is at least a little bit because of this year that 20 years later I have a blog about music.

Under the Pink was released on January 31, 1994. Cornflake Girl was the single that got me interested in Tori Amos as an artist. It was so different, with its pealing and strong female vocals and heavily focused on piano rather than feedback guitar. The accompanying video was also vastly different from the broody videos so popular of the era.

Another fantastic song from Under the Pink was titled God. It begs the question “Do you need a woman to look after you?” to a supposedly infallible being, which in my mind is still what makes the song so good.

Pretty Good Year, Icicle, and The Wrong Band are all songs which I had never heard until I bought the album, but have through the years grown to know and love extremely well. Pretty Good Year leads off the album, and as such, has the duty of grabbing your attention. Icicle isn’t about icicles at all, not that I necessarily realized that when I was 14-15 years old… The Wrong Band is just Tori and her piano, but never seems to lose steam.

But that’s not what I came here to talk about…Past the Mission is my favorite song on the album. A tale about a forbidden relationship between a man and a woman. One of them disappears, and the other pines over the loss. Oh, and it features Trent Reznor on backing vocals!

Through the years, I have continued to listen to Tori Amos. She’s made missteps along the way, but there has usually been at least one song on each of her albums which has kept me interested. A few years ago, she re-worked several of her popular songs with a symphony orchestra, but Cloud on my Tongue, Yes Anastasia & Precious Things (which I did not discuss in this review) were the only songs from Under the Pink that received such a re-working.

After I discovered Under the Pink, I found her first album, Little Earthquakes. I highly recommend Crucify and Silent All These Years. The latter was a benefit single for Tori Amos’ Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

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Breaking my “music only” code

But this preview does mention that nothing in life is too messed up that it can’t be fixed by a Peter Gabriel song…

Everybody should read this book and see this movie. in 2012, it won Time magazine’s “Book of the Year” and is one of the best books I’ve read in years.

Seriously, mark June 6th on your calendar…

Analysis of Grammy Winners

In December, I posted my predictions for several categories of Grammys, and said that I’d see how close my predictions were after the fact. Well, the Grammys were held last night, and my predictions didn’t hold up too well. Below is my analysis of who won and why I picked the choices I picked:

Best Comedy Album- Winner: Calm Down Gurrl by Kathy Griffin
My choice: Live by Tig Notaro
I really thought Tig was going to win because this album was recorded the day after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a downbeat, very dark comedy, in which she reassures the audience that they “probably” have nothing to worry about, that now, more than ever, she wants to be called “ma’am” rather than “sir” by accident, and generally that awkward that you can’t help but laugh at. I’ve never heard Kathy Griffin’s album, but I’m sure that it’s good too.

Best Fok Album- Winner: My Favorite Picture of You by Guy Clark
My choice: The Ash & Clay by MIlk Carton Kids
I was given the Milk Carton Kids album last year, it was something provided on a mailing list. It was also one of the better albums I heard last year. I haven’t heard Guy Clark’s album either, so far, I’m 0 for 2 on the selection front.

Best Rap Album- Winner: The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
My choice: Yeesus by Kanye West
Local boy done good! I was impressed by both albums. I honestly thought that Macklemore would win some of the bigger prizes, but not this one. While his music fits into the rap category, the other artists are better known in the genre. Good for him in winning in a category where he had no label support and managing to beat out Kanye West and Jay-Z!

Best Rap Song- Winner: “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
My choice: Swimming Pool (Drank) by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick put out a very good west coast rap album last year. Drank was far and away the best song on it. I’m actually a little surprised Thrift Shop won…a song about being cheap and finding deals at the thrift shop, not to mention, how bad some things smell when you buy them. The Grammys could have done better in this category.

Best Alternative Album- Winner: Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend
My choice: Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails
The VW album has grown on me, but for several months after it came out, it didn’t seem to have a stand out track. I love me some NIN, though. I’m not disappointed that Vampire Weekend won, but, for my money, the return of Trent Reznor to angry music was one of the musical highlights of last year. 0 for 5, oh yeah, baby!

Best Rock Album – Winner: Celebration Day by Led Zeppelin
My choice: The Next Day by David Bowie
I honestly didn’t think that a concert album, even Zep live from 2007, was going to win out over another aging rock star putting out a surprise new album that was actually pretty cohesive. Bowie and Beyonce both released surprise albums last year, but Bowie had given up music in the early 2000’s so it was the bigger surprise in my book.

Best New Artist- Winner: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
My choice: Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore may have been new to the national scene, but I remember him from This Town and My Oh My. Hell, his world premiere performance of “Cant Stop Us” was on KEXP months before The Heist came out. Congrats Ben Haggerty.

Song of the Year- Winner: Royals by Lorde
My choice: Same Love by Maclemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert
I kinda thought Royals would rub the people who vote for the Grammys the wrong way. A song by a 17 year old girl from New Zealand about how they reject the culture of excess so common in modern music. Same Love is one of the best songs in a few years, and it was actually supporting a cause.

Record of the Year- Winner: Get Lucky by Daft Punk
My choice: Royals by Lorde
Good on the robot overlords for creating a successful techno album using entirely real instruments recorded in the studio, but the song gets on your nerves after only a few listens. Apparently it was their time, though.

Album of the Year- Winner: Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
My choice: The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
I think the song about marriage equality creeped just enough people who vote for the Grammys out that Macklemore didn’t stand a chance. The person who spoke on behalf of Daft Punk said that he thought The Heist was the best album he’d heard in years.

Vinyl Review: Death: …For the Whole World to See

For those not in the know, a band that goes by the name of Death probably has never crossed your radar.  They were of 3 brothers from Detroit who recorded one demo, released an obscure Seven Inch single, and that single became an impossible to find Holy Grail for vinyl collectors.  It got to the point where only those who had heard that single knew how good a band called Death could have been.  This was 1974.

And then the offspring of one of the former members was listening to the tapes from their aborted attempt to record an album…seven songs that sounded like a cross between nascent punk rock and funk.  Think of a cross between George Clinton and the Dead Kennedys…  In 2009, those seven songs were released as an album, finally letting the whole world see how good Death was; as much as I like Bad Brains, this band is better, in my opinion.

The sound on this record doesn’t really get improved from the MP3 tracks I’ve had since 2009, but it’s a nice addition to my collection.  It’s really a shame that it took a whole generation to realize that 3 brothers from Detroit should be placed in their rightful place alongside The Stooges and Velvet Underground as proto-punk pioneers.

Check out the trailer for the movie documenting their latent rise to fame below:

 

 

Punk as Fuck

There are 6 songs in my Itunes account for which I have created the genre tag “Punk as Fuck”.  Those songs are:

Like a Rolling Stone (Judas Heckle version)-  Bob Dylan

Working Class Hero-  John Lennon

Solidarity-  Tchkung!

The Return of Jackie and Judy-  Tom Waits

Blank Generation-  Richard Hell & the Voidoids

The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton (live)-  The Mountain Goats

 

I knew what the label meant to me:  it meant that each of those tracks were created without caring at all what people thought about them.  Dylan tells responds to hecklers by telling his band to “play fucking loud”.  John Lennon insisted on swearing for the good of the song in his first post-Beatles album.  Tchkung made their own instruments.  Tom Waits can sing, despite the fact that his voice is raspy and growly (is that even a thing?).  Richard Hell were probably the most influential band of the early New York punk scene, Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and Blondie included.  The live version of “Denton” changes the lines of the top 3 band name contenders because people have ACTUALLY named themselves “Satan’s Fingers” and “The Killers”, perhaps because of the lyrics in their song (it was changed to the top 3 contenders, which were later ripped off)…

 

Anyway, this evening, I was seeing whether my “Punk as Fuck” genre label actually meant anything on the internets, and here is what I found.  Thank you urban dictionary.

Not giving a fuck… 

Not giving a fuck if you are punk or not. 

Not fucking caring what other people think. 

Not giving a damn if you look punk or not. 

Knowing that punk is an attitude… 
not how you dress or do your hair, 
not what kind of music you listen to, 
not who you hang out with, 
not how much you drink, 
not what kind of drugs you do, 
not if you sleep on the street or eat out of dumpsters, 
not how many tattoos or piercings you have, 
ITS A FUCKING ATTITUDE

 
 
 
 
I’ve been to punk rock shows in my work clothes.  I don’t think you can only be punk rock if you drink, do drugs, or dumpster dive.  One of my fondest memories of my self-imposed bachelor days of 2009 was making sure that I went at least once a month to the Bremerton, WA punk club The Charleston, where they allow just about any band coming through town to play on their stage, with a 60 person capacity crowd, and going in my work clothes.  Maybe nobody noticed, maybe nobody thought I belonged there, but those were my favorite nights out when I was forcing myself to not be an elderly shut-in at 29 years old.
 
In the words of Jawbreaker (whom I’ll probably post about some day):  1, 2, 3, 4…who’s punk, what’s the score?

Great hip hop from Seattle

The name of the group is Blue Scholars, the song is “No Rest for the Weary”. Sure, they may not be Sir Mix-a-Lot (who was from Bremerton), nor are they Macklemore (who is very talented, and I wish him the best), but I really think this song was part of the catalyst that brought rap to the forefront again in Seattle.

I’d venture to say that their biggest show was opening for Kanye West at Bumbershoot 2006. Damn, how did I forget that that had been a thing?