The Smiths: Better than the Beatles? They lasted just five years. They made just four proper albums. They’ve been ignored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The American pop charts wanted nothing to do with them. But the legacy and legend of the Smiths only grows. The partnership that ensued led to arguably the most important music of the decade, and some would say even longer. The terrific British music writer Tony Fletcher has just published the definitive biography of the group, “A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths,” taking almost 700 pages to tell the story of just 70 songs and this essential slice of the 1980s. “Those my own age, most of us parents now, some even with angst-riden teenagers of our own, mostly greeted a mention of the Smiths as if I was speaking of a former lover,” he writes. Let me start with the big legacy question. I place them right up there. So I think when you look commercially, you can’t say Morrissey and Marr were on the level then of Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards.
Lana Del Rey, the joke’s on us Andy Warhol famously remarked that the president and Liz Taylor drink the same cola as the bum on the corner: “All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.” On the year’s most controversial album, “Born to Die,” (released in a “Paradise Edition” last week), Lana Del Rey proclaims “My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola.” It’s not enough for 2012’s most-talked-about pop star (did people really discuss Carly Rae Jepsen?) to enjoy corporate excess or bemoan it from a human distance; she has to physically bond with it. Why carry the designer bag when you can get the logo tattooed? Whether you find Lana’s, ahem, product placement to be appalling or novel, chances are excellent that you paused to take it in, because it’s not the sort of thing that a pop star — or any kind of celebrity really — would say. Laughter is a crucial feature of any connective music, just in case there are still Scott Walker fans who can’t fathom why he toils in cultdom while Sinatra enjoys commemorative plates.
Björk puts the rock in rock star Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk was born and raised on an island that tectonic forces are ripping apart. Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which separates the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate. These two plates are drifting away from one another at a rate of about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) each year. Most of the Mid-Atlantic ridge remains underwater, but Iceland was forced above sea level around 18 million years ago, most likely by an enormous mushroom-shaped plume of magma. The Icelandic plume is also probably responsible for the island’s intense volcanic activity and geysers. Over the years, Iceland’s unique geology and diverse landscapes have appeared in Björk’s art in one way or another. Björk and her team chose Los Angeles-based filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang to direct the music video for “Mutual Core.” The video opens with crumbling layers of earth, reminiscent of sand art. In some scenes, Björk appears to spit magma from her mouth.
Gangnam Style: We need more foreign language pop songs Photographs by Axl Jansen and Ryan Pierse/Getty Images. How to account for the more than 650 million YouTube views of “Gangnam Style”? That jaunty dance surely deserves some credit, but might the faucalized voice and aspirated consonants of the Korean language play a part as well? It may seem unlikely, though perhaps no more unlikely than everything else about Psy’s megahit. “Gangnam Style” is the first smash foreign-language song in the United States in years—and, with any hope, a sign of more to come—but it’s hardly the first. This is a shame for a number of reasons. Given the history of pop, an English translation of "Gangnam Style" may not be far off. Language’s effect on music can take unexpected forms. Despite this rhythmic-linguistic hurdle, some singers do OK shifting from one tongue to another. In any case, international charts make it clear that English now serves as pop’s lingua franca. Are some languages more musical than others? Thanks to Dr.
The End of Jazz - Benjamin Schwarz Duke Ellington with his close collaborator Billy Strayhorn (Underwood & Underwood/Corbis) The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire By Ted Gioia Oxford Musician, composer, scholar, teacher, perhaps a bit of an operator—albeit of a distinctly nerdy variety—Ted Gioia is also the sort of compulsive, encyclopedically knowledgeable enthusiast the jazz world engenders. Although he suggests in his introduction that this book satisfies an unfilled need, in fact the Web site JazzStandards.com already provides a similar guide, written by a variety of contributors. Take his entry on Billy Strayhorn’s bitter, lovely, transcendent “Lush Life” (1936). VIDEO: Benjamin Schwarz shares some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time, from Frank Sinatra to Billy Strayhorn. Still, the most impressive aspect of the entry is Gioia’s assessment of a single word.
The Greatest Recordings in Jazz History - Jennie Rothenberg Gritz In "The End of Jazz," his essay in the November Atlantic, Benjamin Schwarz looks at the Great American Songbook -- a collection that is not a physical book, but "a notional catalogue of classic popular songs" written between the 1920s and 1950s. Many of its entries are familiar to almost every American, including famous tunes by Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, and other masters of the musical theater. In this video, Schwarz singles out some of the most unforgetable performances of these songs. He shows how Peggy Lee's "Where or When" — recorded with Benny Goodman and his band — captured "the quavering uncertainty" in the weeks just after Pearl Harbor. He explains that Frank Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin" transformed a little-known Cole Porter number into a staple of the Great American Songbook. And he explores the enigma of "Lush Life," a Billy Strayhorn song that Sinatra himself tried and failed to capture.
‘Rite of Spring’ and ‘Jeux’ as Radical Music Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna Schoenberg's Three Piano Pieces (Op. 11), written in 1909, took music into an almost freely atonal realm. They were not intended to shock, but their harmonic language is utterly radical. Does art retain the power to shock? Must artists contrive to provoke? Post a Comment The Granger Collection, New York You can understand why “Jeux” (“Games”), at only 16 minutes, might have been overshadowed. O.K. Stravinsky and Debussy (who was 20 years older) were respectful colleagues. Why was “The Rite of Spring” shocking? “Jeux” was not created to shock. That a piece is shocking or radical does not in itself make it good. Stravinsky’s “Rite” is not just shocking but also ingenious, audacious and original. Radicalism in music has most often been attributed to works that push the boundaries of harmonic language. In the “Rite” the visceral impact of Stravinsky’s harmonic language often comes when he attaches piles of dissonance to elemental themes.
Peggy Lee, Life, and the Apocalypse EVERYONE HAS IN their head, I’m pretty sure, certain songs that knocked them sideways when they were really young, songs that were beyond them when they first heard them and that always carry the peculiar sensation of knowing and not-knowing that can coincide in the mind of a child. It was the thrill and danger of emotional taboo, the sonic equivalent of sneaking a cigarette butt from an ashtray and taking that first filthy drag. This was music about the messy things that grown-ups got themselves into, and there was the adult world, on garish display for the child to witness. The arbitrary exposure to certain songs was such a fine way to see the chinks in the adult facade. This is one thing radio has always been so good for. Rick James, titillating young minds for decades now I can remember hearing melancholy before I quite knew what melancholy was. But the queen of all this for me, the one who ushered in the murky world of mature uncertainties, was Miss Peggy Lee.
Five Ways Jazz Can Be Punk : A Blog Supreme hide captionThe quartet Garage a Trois. Michael Weintrob/Courtesy of the artist The quartet Garage a Trois. Jazz is a sponge for outside sounds. Add another idea to it — say, European classical or gospel-inflected R&B music — and it absorbs, assimilating the sound into a new subgenre: like "third stream" or "soul jazz," respectively. It's hard to imagine something that could be further in sound and structure from jazz than punk rock, but punk and jazz do have elements in common — the most important being attitude. Here are five possibilities for how that attitude might sound. Five Ways To Mix Jazz And Punk Album: Lounge Lizards Song: Incident on South Street Add to Playlist Obviously, there's some Charles Mingus influence here — that repetitive piano line is reminiscent of the bassist's "Boogie Stop Shuffle." This album is available via Amazon MP3 or iTunes. Album: Twist Your Soul: The Definitive Collection Song: Twitch Purchase Featured Music Album: Naked City Song: You Will Be Shot
Should Duke Ellington be compared to Bach? IN 1933, HAVING BUILT a national reputation as the composer-bandleader toiling nightly for white audiences at the Cotton Club, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington and his “jungle” orchestra embarked on their first European tour. The following year, British music critic Constant Lambert proclaimed that Ellington was “skillful as compared with other jazz composers,” but that his music could stand alongside that of the European masters: “I know of nothing in Ravel so dexterous […] nothing in Stravinsky more dynamic.” The names of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Paul Hindemith, and César Franck were dropped in as well. Such proclamations by Lambert and his European peers were pounced on by American journalists, who responded with headlines like “Harpsichords and Jazz Trumpets” and “‘Hot Damn!’ Says Ellington When Ranked with Bach.” Ellington’s media image was reborn. Comparisons between the black jazz giant and white European classical composers have been a touchy issue ever since.
Cat Power: 'I'm Not Ashamed To Hear My Voice' hide captionChan Marshall's new album as Cat Power, her first set of new songs in more than six years, is called Sun. Austin Conroy/Courtesy of the artist Chan Marshall's new album as Cat Power, her first set of new songs in more than six years, is called Sun. The musician known as Cat Power has a penchant for goofing around. That might come as a surprise to those familiar with her music, which is always at least a little bit mournful. Off stage, Cat Power is Chan Marshall. With that behind her, she's releasing her first album of original work in more than six years, Sun. Interview Highlights On the genesis of Sun "I had started four years ago in Silverlake, in Los Angeles, out of habit, started writing some songs with a guitar and a piano. On abstaining from guitar "The thing that I'd always relied on was the tempo of playing a guitar — you know, like John Lee Hooker taps his foot or Stevie [Ray Vaughan] moves his head. On taking an extended break On struggling with addiction
Bono: Mascot of Neoliberalism In 1984 I wrote a hostile (to both music and words) review of U2’s Unforgettable Fire. Some weeks later, I found myself dragooned (by a force too absurd to mention) into a late afternoon conversation with Bono. It wasn’t an interview. He wanted to talk one-on-one about why I’d written such a negative estimation of the record. I arrived bemused, only to become more so when I was sent to the hotel’s penthouse. I knew this hotel, the Who made it their New York headquarters (Keith Moon got the suites about to be remodeled to save on demolition costs). We had a conversation, not that either of us listened too much. This is the part that’s hardest to believe: For roughly the next ten years, every time I ran into Bono, he tried to re-engage me about that review. But after reading Harry Browne’s The Front Man: Bono (In the Name of Power), I think I understand. The Front Man is about a boy who never grew up or faced facts. Does this make Harry Browne’s Bono less easy to despise?
How Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan saved country music The musical freedom that Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson yearned for in the late 1960s seemed out of reach in the sterile new office buildings and sagging bungalows that housed the record business on Music Row. The corporate enclave ruled every country artist in town. Except for Johnny Cash, who under the cover of midnight darkness lugged his guitar and his band into the studios of Columbia Records. Cash followed his own rules in the studio, uncorking classic records that dealt with war, the plight of the American Indian, and other thorny topics—a departure from more traditional subjects of love and heartbreak. Bob Dylan came second. Like Dylan and Cash, producers Jack Clement and Fred Foster modeled independence in Nashville. Clement stood out in Nashville like a juggler in a funeral parlor. “They all wanted to be around Jack,” says Jim Casey, who wrote for one of Clement’s publishing companies in the 1970s. It might also be a North Carolina thing.