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One of the major turning points in my life was when I stopped listening to my dad’s music. At the age of seven, with two older brothers shoveling grunge, metal and punk into my eardrums, my music tastes switched drastically. I can only imagine how annoying I was, whining in the back seat about the 60s mixtape flowing out of the car speakers — “This sucks! This is corny! Don’t you know Eddie Vedder is the new Paul McCartney?” One of the bands whose cheesiness I would trash was The Moody Blues. To my ears they epitomized everything that was uncool about parents.
It’s about time we all started believing in ghosts. In the posthumous release of Valleys of Neptune, the phantom of Jimi Hendrix has entered the airwaves to show that forty years on, he still deserves one of the highest thrones in the pantheon of rock deities. With twelve previously unreleased recordings — mostly from 1969 — the original Experience line-up has catapulted into the 21st century to prove that their grooves, their virtuosity and their innovation are still unparalleled. Hearing Valleys of Neptune is not just an exercise in nostalgia. It is also a new generation’s chance to be blown away by the direct connection Hendrix’s heart has with his fret board, the swampy, ever-rolling flurry of sounds that explode from Mitch Mitchell’s kit, and the right-in-the-pocket bass licks of Noel Redding. It is a chance for those who weren’t around to appreciate the brilliance of a release like Electric Ladyland to take a new journey through space with Hendrix and his friends.
It’s easy to forget that there is a whole musical world out there full of artists who are taking their own traditional styles and fashioning them into contemporary masterpieces that challenge our preconceptions of what music is, has been and will be. Sure, we’ve given it a name — you’ll find many of these artists dumped in the “World Music” bin at any record store, but that’s the very reason we’ve forgotten about them. Some greats have managed to make their way into the mainstream musical lexicon — Ali Farka Touré, Tito Puente, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. But could that really be it? Street is here to point you to some artists from around the world who remain in dusty World Music racks or lost as tracks on a Putumayo compilation.
It’s probably too late to start liking Alkaline Trio. But for the many who count Goddamnit and Good Mourning as integral parts of their high-school soundtracks, the Trio’s most recent release, This Addiction, is the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with these punk rockers.
Jeff Woloszyn is sitting outside of his establishment at 15th and South streets playing the guitar. It’s 10 a.m. on an uncharacteristically sunny November morning, and South Street Sounds is closed for another two hours. Rather than opening early, Jeff is enjoying the morning, singing about journeying to Chinatown to pick up his favorite dumplings. His tall, lanky frame is folded like a slinky over a stool, spilling on to the sidewalk, and his head is tilted upwards as if he’s singing to the sun. His soothing tenor is more conversational than musical and it decrescendos to a whisper every time someone walks past the store. A tattered mat rests on the stoop with bold black letters and the outline of a guitar — “Welcome to the Music.” As you walk into South Street Sounds, you walk into ‘music’ in its every form.
“I call the place South Street Sounds, because I sell anything that makes a sound,” Jeff says in his soft timbre as he navigates through the labyrinth of noise-making devices covering every inch of the small space. Guitars are suspended from every corner over an infinite variety of hand drums, horns, drumsticks and other music accessories. A double-neck guitar that Jeff built himself leans against the checkout counter. Miscellaneous stacks of CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes teeter precariously on top of amplifiers. The place screams 1960s West Coast, with small Buddha sculptures and Taoist art filling the sparse spaces not occupied by instruments. Jeff’s wife, Leona, the store’s only other employee, is behind the counter on the phone with a customer.
Even the stairs that lead down to Buddha Zen Studio, which Jeff describes as “the real gem of the place,” are used as storage space. Downstairs in the studio, a pair of old MXL microphones stand suspended over a maple drum set. Through a glass door, a Mac desktop next to a pile of preamps and mixers and two wooden chairs make up Jeff’s workspace. In the studio, Jeff sits back on the drum stool and props his feet up against the bass drum. It’s as if he’s not at work, but rather at home, and he seems quietly proud and content with his set-up and his life.
LADY GAGA IS USHERING IN A NEW, FAR MORE REFRESHING, ERA OF POP
At first glance, Lady Gaga’s most recent release, The Fame Monster, looks like a typical moneymaking B-sides release attached at the hip to her debut hit-machine, The Fame. But don’t be fooled. In The Fame Monster, Gaga takes her eccentricities and musical sophistication and builds bridges between different subgenres of pop to create something new and far more refreshing than anything else on the radio waves.
Nearly 20 years into his career as a genre-defying, envelope-pushing musician, Omar Rodríguez-López has yet to run out of ideas. In 2009 alone he has released eight albums under his own name, the Mars Volta and a number of side projects. Every Omar release is a reinvention, as if creativity flows in an endless stream of experimentation and explosive musicality.
In the vast world of metal, few bands have the versatility of North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me. They proved it in 2007’s Colors, a prog-metal maelstrom of earth-shattering riffs, atmospheric space-outs and polka breakdowns — to name a few. Where does a band go when they are already seemingly at the apex of their musicianship, innovation and songwriting ability? The answer is The Great Misdirect — an hour-long journey through a universe of music that leaves you bruised, disoriented and gasping for air.
Sometimes, the best kind of music doesn’t make sense. The Flaming Lips are veterans of testing the capabilities of listeners to piece together cohesion out of collages of musical chaos. The Oklahoma natives have risen to their place as neo-psychedelic demigods because of our consistent inability to understand them. In their double album, Embryonic, this competition of The Flaming Lips vs. Us is taken to all new heights.
In a blur of breakups, overdoses and suicides, grunge died in the late '90s. What followed was a wave of aural garbage in the form of bands fronted by Eddie Vedder wannabes who just couldn’t cut it — Creed, Nickelback, 3 Doors Down and (unfortunately) the list goes on and on. Yet somehow, long after their glory days and 19 years after their inception, Pearl Jam is still kicking, screaming and having a great time doing it — and Backspacer is proof.
In the world of sellable indie rock, there is a thin line between chaos and bliss. With 1988's Daydream Nation, it was as if Sonic Youth had perfected the art of balancing between the two and, to show the world, plunged headfirst into their own amps.
You’ve been at Penn for a few weeks now, and you're finally back in the school-time groove. Unfortunately, you’re most likely grooving to the same old songs. It’s time to branch out, and we’re here to tell you how. Check out our favorite blogs, apps and tools created to help you cut the crappy music cord.