To be absolutely honest, Chrissie Hynde was one of the first female rock ’n’ rollers I seriously got into at the very beginning of the 1980s. Considering the times, she represented something very different in rock ’n’ roll for a female performer and fronted an amazing band in Pretenders.
The “difficult sophomore album” is a well-worn trope in popular music. It’s the rite of passage that proves that an artist’s early success was no accident. It’s proverbially difficult because it has to sound like the first album, yet different; it has to written in a shorter amount of time, yet be more expansive.
Most bands only have to go through this ordeal once. Britpop stalwarts Suede, however, have had to do it a second time.
An interim release between Wilson’s previous album Hand. Cannot. Erase. and the next studio album. Which makes 4½ sound like some throwaway, some stopgap. Trust me, it is definitely not.
The legendary David Bowie thrilled all his fans with his fabulous comeback album The Next Day back in 2013 and diehards have been hoping and praying that the LP was not a one-off. Thankfully, Bowie is back with a new album for 2016 – Blackstar!
Back in the early 90s, when Nirvana were top of the charts, alternative rock became the ‘in-thing’ and suddenly, the so-called ‘corporate rock’ of the 80s was something to be disdained by the grunge generation. Despite being critically reviled, here are seven examples of great rock songs that deserve a revaluation.
The name Kurt brought me back 18 years where Saturdays were spent jamming to “Aneurysm” and “Lithium” at a run-down studio in Yishun. I have always associated Kurt with the frontman of Nirvana but today, I was looking at a different Kurt.
B’lieve I’m Going Down… is Kurt Vile’s fourth album with Matador Records. On the cover, he shows off the bountiful hair of a metalhead, poses like a gypsy guitar virtuoso and wears a pair of skinny jeans too tight for comfort.
I did not know what to expect.
The first song “ Pretty Pimpin” starts with an acoustic guitar picking before he sings about the struggles of self-recognition, in a manner highly reminiscent of Elliott Smith. Shifting into a lower register Lou Reed-like voice for much of the album, he sinks you into the depths of relaxation with lyrics like, “When I go out/I take pills to take the edge off/or to just take a chillax/man and forget about it”. Vile has got good writing chops if you can ignore the ‘stoner’ vibe and dive into his words. In this sense, the album’s chillax direction may work against him as new listeners might let his words drift by .
Overall, this album speaks about finding oneself by being more emotionally aware and going with the flow. Though I feel that Vile himself is in no hurry j – “Give it some time/Give it some time” on his last song “Wild Imagination”.
A good lofi indie rock/folk spin for your weekend.
Brenton recently completed my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course. Find out more from KAMCO Music.
Ex-Pink Floyd singer-guitarist returns with a new solo LP that follows last year’s pointless Pink Floyd release – The Endless River – and Gilmour’s previous solo work, the magnificent On An Island (2006).
Sadly, Rattle That Lock – despite the promise of the excellent title track – is not a patch on On An Island and finds Gilmour trying out (rather unconvincingly) different musical styles that are far removed from his solo and Floyd work.
All of which is frustrating because on tracks like the instrumentals “5 A.M.”, “Beauty” and “… And Then”, Gilmour’s trademark guitar stylings shine through and all is well. Elsewhere, the choppy dance rhythms of “Today”, the anti-war balladry of “In Any Tongue” and the sprightly blues-romp of the title track remain the highlights.
Sadly, there are at least four tracks – “Faces of Stone”, “A Boat Lies Waiting”, “Dancing Right In Front Of Me” and “The Girl in the Yellow Dress” – where Gilmour’s attempts at eclecticism somewhat fall flat. Especially on that last named track where Gilmour fancies himself to deliver a pseudo-jazz standard with appalling results.
Presumably, Gilmour wanted to demonstrate his songwriting versatility but only emphasised his paucity in this department. Sobering to realise that it took Gilmour almost a decade to come up with enough songs to produce a new album. Floyd fans will enjoyed the highlights previously mentioned, which makes Rattle That Lock somewhat half-baked overall.
The late Ian Macdonald, one of most influential rock critics of all time, wrote in 2003 that “the essentials of modern popular music were laid down during a period of less than ten years and that, but for some technical innovations leading to various musical diversions (such as reggae, rap/hip hop and sequenced dance music), nothing intrinsically new has appeared since then, all musical mini-revolutions in the last twenty years being prefaced in the products of the sixties, the foundation decade for all that’s followed.”
There’s no denying that the origins of blues-rock, garage, pop-rock, R&B, avant rock. metal, folk-rock and punk rock lie in the sixties but it can also be argued that the seventies were even more influential (especially in relation to the origins of rap/hip hop) or even the nineties (as electronic music became more pervasive). These discussions about the origins of the diverse music genres that make up the landscape of modern popular music will be at the heart of my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course to be conducted in two weeks!
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Our weekly (weakly?) discovery of worthy new releases. Enjoy!
STRANGE WILDS – SUBJECTIVE CONCEPTS
A musical power-trio from Olympia, Washington on Sub Pop? Are you thinking what I’m thinking? The return of Seattle Grunge! Uh-huh. About frigging time too.
ELEVENTH DREAM DAY – WORKS FOR TOMORROW
All this talk of a guitar rock revival belies the fact that veteran bands like Eleventh Dream Day are still delivering kickass music! Here’s one, the young upstarts to take notes from.
DUCKTAILS – ST. CATHERINE
Here’s one to chill out to – very lush & sophisticated indie-psych-dream pop-rock. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon, in fact.
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Yes, you read that right!
Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy explained the reason behind this move over at the band’s Facebook page.
“Why release an album this way and why make it free? Well, the biggest reason, and I’m not sure we even need any others, is that it felt like it would be fun. What’s more fun than a surprise?”
Indeed. This is boon for all rock ‘n’ roll fans. Go get it!
Review to come.
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What’s new? Well, here’s three melodic pop-rock gems you can stream without fear! Dive in!!
VERUCA SALT – GHOST NOTES
Talking about a 90s rock revival, here’s the reunion album of Veruca Salt, sounding smashing in a beefy Brad Wood production. First rate songs that make the years melt away.
BEST FRIENDS – HOT. RECKLESS. TOTALLY INSANE
More actual evidence of a 90s rock revival comes in the form of Sheffield’s Best Friends. Fuzzy guitars, knowing pop tunes and punk rhythms. It’s happening, boys and girls!
EZTV – CALLING OUT
Power pop band hailing from Brooklyn, that has a good handle of 90s pop underground dynamics viz. infectious melodies, jangly guitar tones and sophisticated chord changes. Highly promising.
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Three new releases for your discovery!
JAILL – BRAIN CREAM
Jangle pop rules with Jaill! If you dig the likes of Real Estate or Girls, you’ll fall in love with this collection of energetic melodic pop-rock tunes.
DU BLONDE – WELCOME BACK TO MILK
Beth Jeans Houghton has attitude in spades but with the right kind of music, she deserves to get away with it! Du Blonde is everything you’ve loved about punky glammy rock n roll and then some!
SONGHOY BLUES – MUSIC IN EXILE
A Mali band of musicians that had to run away from the unrest in their homeland to deliver a wonderful amalgam of African ethnic music and rock ‘n’ roll – edgy and relevant.
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On new album The Monsanto Years, Neil Young seems re-invigorated with new backing band Promise of The Real, to deliver one of his feistiest works in recent memory. Rather like Living With War (2006), the politics might be a little too obvious but there’s no faulting the songs that Young and gang have come up with – full of vim and vigour.
Full of country-folk inflected rock ‘n’ roll, songs like “A New Day For Love”, “People Want to Hear the Love”, “Workin’ Man” and the title track come across like vintage Young, except with very modern references (highly anti-corporation rhetoric against Monsanto, Starbucks etc) – which I suspect will endear the evergreen Young to a new generation of music lovers. But of course, for Young, the album reflects the continuation of the hippie dream, which has been part of Young’s raison d’être since the 1960s.
Years in the making but definitely worth the wait. 10 tracks of such instrumental sophistication and erudite witticism that it is barely imaginable that the former cultural desert of Singapore is able to produce an album that absorbs the wondrous legacy of 60s rock and pop so well.
With the songwriting template pioneered by the likes of Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Band the band have also adopted the production values of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson to deliver a unique aural experience that will please rock scholars and casual music fans alike. An additional distinctive element is the band’s ability to incorporate East Asian sounds and melodies into the mix to create a East meets West amalgam that is surprising and pleasing.
Believe me it’s difficult to point out any particular highlights here as every track is an entity to itself but I will say that songs like the ghostly Beatlesque “Mercy of Cain and Abel”, the atmospheric folky “Patriach”, the country bluesy “Blood the Prize” and the Orbison-Teresa Teng channeling “Honeymoon” certainly deserve special mention.
In an amazing year for Singapore rock so far, this eponymous album is a definite standout and a statement of intent that hopefully will bring forth more exciting music from this wonderful band in the years to come.
CDs and digital albums will be available on cheatingsons.bandcamp.com and CDs also at Curated Records and Roxy Records & Trading.
New music videos!
Alright. This is a lil embarrassing but late last year Spotify made Power of Pop a ‘Tastemaker’ with a new account and despite my best efforts (?), so far we’ve had only 10 (!) followers. Shameful!!
So I am still pushing this the best way I know how – by working hard at putting together more playlists that I imagine would interest the kind folks who visit us every day. Recently, I have focusing on PoP Legends – artists whom we believe deserve that accolade so here’s what we have so far. Enjoy, spread the word and FOLLOW!
Rock music is a genre of popular music that originated as “rock and roll” in the United States in the 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. (W. E. Studwell and D. F. Lonergan, The Classic Rock and Roll Reader: Rock Music from its Beginnings to the mid-1970s)
So yeah, rock came from 40s/50s rock ‘n’ roll, which in turn is a form of pop music. So even The Carpenters or ABBA is rock, by that definition. So I am always comfortable to use the terms “pop” and “rock” fairly interchangeably, and get rather annoyed by the insane categorizations that is now so common.
In that light, let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of pop music, I am confident to label as ROCK!
There are only 12 notes in the chromatic scale. So, how original can a pop song truly be? Recently, Sam Smith got into legal trouble for his hit song “Stay With Me” (co-written by Smith, James Napier and William Phillips) for its similarities with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” (co-written by Petty and Jeff Lynne).
Mention the word ‘cadence’ during a music theory class and chances are that panicked students will be racking their brains to recall what that term means (true story!). As highlighted in their bio, #sgindie rock band Cadence explains that it is “a section in a musical piece which creates a sense of resolution, or the measure of a cyclist’s pace”.
The bio goes on – “The band’s music runs either fast and loud, or slow and yearning. If it sounds desperate, that’s because it probably is. The sound of five, taking a shot in the dark, hoping to create something to believe in”.
The band consists of Seth Chiam (Vocals, Guitar); Angus Sham (Guitar); Nathan Huang (Guitar); Japheth Ng (Bass) and Dominic Goh (Drums). At StageFright, we have been quite blessed to experience many bands that have delivered stellar performances despite the space constraints at Artistry, using the limitations to their advantage (instead of sulking about them). Stopgap, Catalogue V, Doves & Ravens, Atlas, Enec.e and Sapporo Safaris are just a couple of great examples. So don’t miss Cadence as they open StageFright XVI @ Artistry on 21st January!
Artistry is located at 17 Jalan Pinang.
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Seems appropriate to start this series with Bob Dylan, doesn’t it? Considering that The Beatles are currently not on any streaming service, Dylan deserves top billing. After all, can one imagine talking about singer-songwriters without mentioning Dylan’s massive influence?
The man is the very definition of the modern folk troubadour but more than that, Dylan’s legacy extends to rock as well, of course. For me personally, I remember hearing Dylan on the radio when I was a kid – especially his well known early folk songs but I really got into his work (ironically enough) – with his controversial Christian conversion album Slow Train Comin’ (1979), which explains why I kick off the playlist with “Precious Angel” (which also features incandescent guitar work from Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler). Including “Make You Feel My Love” was necessary to provide Dylan’s continuing relevance as Adele’s cover version proved conclusively. The rest of the playlist focuses mainly on his seminal 60s/70s works. Enjoy!
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Pride. I guess that was the emotion coursing through my veins as I watched Caracal deliver a set full of passion, dynamism and yes, even fun last Thursday at the launch of the new album, Welcome the Ironists, at the Substation.
The sold out concert attracted many familiar faces from the indie music scene but it was encouraging to see strange new faces, evidence that the scene is also appealing to newcomers, a very good sign.
I first caught sight of the band during Baybeats 2007 and it’s safe to say that Caracal is a totally different proposition as we come to the end of 2014. As they have grown older, the music has become slower and deeper, with tidy references to 90s grunge (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees et al) cementing the band’s burgeoning reputation.
The prime examples being “God Damn Tree”, “Divergence” and “Entrepreneur” where the band displayed an unprecedented emotional heaviness. But the highlight for me was probably when singer KC Meals dedicated “Given Breath” to all the band members’ parents – a touching moment that resonated.
Another high point – the encore that included crowd favorite “Cheers to Love” when audience and the band truly become one. Yet again, a spine-tingling memory to cherish. All told, a thoroughly satisfying rock experience. Kudos.
Thanks to Kitty Wu Records for making this review possible.
It’s here – the official music video for the title track off Caracal‘s amazing new album. The unconventional music video breaks up the song a little at the beginning but delivers a strong narrative and includes a little twist at the end for good measure. Kudos to all concerned.
Check out also my 5-star review at TODAY.
Regular PoP visitors will be aware of my affection for Vancouver band JPNSGRLS and that their debut album, Circulation, is one of my faves of 2014. So, was pretty stoked to take a look at their latest MV for the title track, which is really hot! Frontman Charlie Kerr literally bursts into flames on this one and reflects perfectly some of the best lyrics seen this year.
“Like I’m counting Mississippis til it’s convenient/You say I’m nothing baby, we’re in agreement”.
Check out the video below and listen to the LP at Spotify!