Sunday, August 3, 2014

Song of the Week: Jason Molina – It’s Easier Now

One of the aspects that has always attracted me to alternative country as a music genre is its penchant for sadness. It is a very relatable emotion, and in difficult times, it can be a relief to know that you are not the only one struggling. The late Jason Molina was the master of the despondent song, leaving us with a collection of very personal songs chronicling his own battle with depression. His songs came from a very real place, his struggle with depression leading to alcoholism, and his death from liver failure last year.

The song “It’s Easier Now” comes from his second album under his own name, Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go. The song is filled with evocative imagery, as Jason was always known for: “Torn apart moon in an empty room.” But it is also one of the most crushingly disheartening songs in his catalog, the line "It's easier now. And I just say I got better" gets me every time. The song’s protagonist has come to the conclusion that it is easier to just lie to his loved ones and tell them that he has surmounted his personal struggles than it is to tell them about the pain he is is going through.

I can only hope that Jason has found peace.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Song of the Week: The Front Bottoms – Au Revoir

I had not been familiar with the Front Bottoms before this past week when a friend suggested them to me, specifically with the song “Au Revoir.” With just one listen, I was already of fan. Brian Sella's warbling voice has an immediate charm to it, and the lyrical content of the song has an amiable wit that drives it along.

The song humorously chronicles the narrator’s decision to end his relationship with his girlfriend using the expression “au revoir”, thinking she would not know what it meant. “Unexpectedly,” she did and leaves the relationship herself with “Adios.”

I will certainly be spending more time listening the Front Bottoms’ brand of catchy folk-pop, and suggest that you give them a listen, as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Best Albums of 2012

Midway into 2014, it might seem like something of a joke to be posting a list of my favorite albums of 2012. It has been something that I have been mulling over for awhile, and have continually struggled to get anything written down about. 2012 was a very unproductive year for me writing about music (only 6 blog posts for the whole year), but there certainly was not a dearth of quality music released. On the contrary, there were a lot of excellent albums which deserve to be talked about.
So without further ado, here my favorite albums of 2012:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Song of the Week: Leatherface - Punch

In all of my time listening to music, I have never heard another singer quite like Frankie Stubbs of Leatherface. He has an extremely gravelly rasp, but not of the death metal sort. He is not trying his damnedest to sound gruff and tough (like a lot of metal bands), it is just his best singing voice.

Leatherface broke up in 1993, after releasing the now classic records Mush and Minx and inspiring a host of punk bands. In what seems like nothing short of a miracle, they reformed in 1999 to record songs for a split with Hot Water Music. And what a split record it is, finding both bands in top form. The Song of the Week is from that split, and is probably my favorite song from it. Required listening for punk rock fans.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Meth Quarry – Irreverence

Pittsburgh has a penchant for producing some of the most miserable sounding music around (Vulture, Heartless), the newest to come to my attention is the hardcore band Meth Quarry. While I had seen the band’s name bandied around on a number of local show fliers, I had not actually heard any of their music until seeing them open for Primitive Man a few weeks ago (also one of the most wretched sounding bands you will ever hear). Now, I have seen a lot of hardcore bands in the last few years, many of which verge of sounding the same (undecipherable vocals, messy guitarwork, etc..), such that I did not go into the show expecting anything out of the ordinary. It only took halfway through the first song before Meth Quarry had my undivided attention. The songs were fast and ugly, but they also featured discernible melodies, and were dare I say, catchy. Vocalist Adam Bailey did not so much sing/scream as spit out his lyrics with a vitriolic rage, providing one of the most memorable hardcore vocal performances I have heard in a while.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Warren Zevon - The Barricades of Heaven

When I look back onto the musicians and bands that made the biggest impressions on me in my childhood, Warren Zevon undoubtedly takes the top spot. I remember sitting in my father’s pickup truck playing “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” over and over on the cassette player (if he got tired of hearing it, he never told me). The story of a Thompson submachine gun-wielding Norwegian soldier carrying on his crusade even after being beheaded really captured my imagination. When I got a little older, I began to appreciate Zevon’s caustic wit and lyrical prowess, well beyond his interesting subject matter. His songs were ones that told stories, confined to 3-4 minutes but never lacking in breadth. If there is anyone to attribute my longstanding appreciation and preoccupation with the lyrical content of songs, it was Warren Zevon. By the time I learned of his diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer in 2003, I was listening to him virtually to the exclusion of anything else. And while his eventual passing that year was a terrible thing to bear, I am grateful for the vast musical legacy he left, one that acted as the catalyst for my fascination and love of music as a whole.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Song of the Week: Slayer – South of Heaven

The rigors of graduate school have kept me from posting much here as of late, and unfortunately it seems that when I get the chance, it is to comment on the death of a great musician. As most of you reading this blog probably know, Jeff Hanneman, one of the founding members of Slayer, died last week from liver failure. Hanneman had not been playing with Slayer for the past 2 years after being bitten by a spider and contracting necrotizing fasciitis on his right arm. There was some speculation that the liver failure was a complication of the spider bite, however the coroner’s report confirmed that it was due to alcohol-related cirrhosis. So just like with Jason Molina 2 months ago, alcohol has taken the life of another luminary.