Nick Cave praised Nina Simone and her live recording of ‘My Sweet Lord’ in his latest Red Hand Files blog, calling her rendition of George Harrison song a "howl of spiritual abandonment and accusation". He explained: "In this extraordinarily bold statement, Nina Simone stands defiant in the face of spiritual oblivion, and a world (and God) that so readily allows war and senseless carnage to occur, he continued. “It is a protest song par excellence that serves as a form of transport, a vehicle that takes us on a complex and nuanced journey into transcendent rage".

Heavy gazel
July 08, 2020

28 essential heavy shoegaze songs

Hum

Brooklyn Vegan, inspired by the latest Hum album, has put together a list of 28 essential songs from the crossover between shoegaze and heavier genres of music like punk, metal, post-hardcore, and grunge. It goes from songs that helped sew the seeds of the genre like Failure and Shiner, to the more recent bands who took this sound and turned it into something more prominent than ever, like Alcest, Torche, and Holy Fawn.

Helene Fischer, the “queen of schlager”

"I love schlager, and unironically so" - Guardian's Angelica Frey writes in favor of one Germany's biggest cultural exports. Why does she? - "I love the frequently occurring one-two rhythm – the oompah! – and the cheerful, sweet melodies and lyrics, which, while lacking wit and bite, are unbridled expressions of joy". Finally -"I also love the way this bright, shiny thread is woven so closely into the fabric of pop music".

A hard tribe
July 08, 2020

14 Native Americans in rock & metal

A small tribute by Loudwire to the Native Americans in rock and metal:

Testament vocalist Chuck Billy is a descendent of the Pomo Native American tribe; he spent much of his youth on the Hopeland Indian Reservation north of San Francisco

Jimi Hendrix often spoke about his grandmother, who was a member of the Cherokee tribe

Jimmy Carl Black was a Cheyenne drummer for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Rock band Blackfoot - founded by musicians with Cheyenne, Cherokee and Lakota Sioux - experienced major success in the late 1970s

Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna is a descendant of the Iroquois tribe...

Charlie Perrière

Narratively published an amazing article about Imperial Orchestra, a group of talented musicians who were forced to play for Jean Bédel Bokassa, a despot who started as president and then declared himself the emperor of Central African Republic. Bokassa is often caricatured as one of Africa’s most tyrannical dictators, a ruler who fed his opponents to crocodiles, adored diamonds and women, and - music. Bokassa believed music would be an effective tool to consolidate and aggrandize his power and influence both at home and abroad, so he assembled Imperial Orchestra. One of the members of Imperial Orchestra, Charlie Perrière remembers the violent years and singing for the tyrant.

A bad coincidence
July 05, 2020

The bands who sound nothing like their names

Kiss The...

Guardian's Mark Beaumont made a collection of strange band names, that have not really much in common with how those bands sound. So, there's Skullcrusher with a perfect name for thrash metal band, whereas in fact, the nice girl plays alt-folk. On the other side there's Candy, seemingly a teen-pop band, but actually, they're a skate-core quartet. Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat do have a horrible name, but the music is actually quite nice, Belgium dark-folk.

Getting to the bottom
July 02, 2020

50 best bassists of all time

A great bass line is like a mantra: It sounds like it could go on forever, and it only feels more profound the more you hear it - Rolling Stone says in its introduction to the list of 50 best bassists of all time. It starts with Thundercat - who went from Suicidal Tendencies to West Coast Get Down - on spot No 50, to Motown's home bassist James Jamerson.

Up to Sony's invention of Walkman, music was primarily a shared experience. "After the Walkman, music could be silence to all but the listener, cocooned within a personal soundscape, which spooled on analog cassette tape" - New Yorker writes on the 40th anniversary of the genius gadget being shared with the world - "The Walkman wasn’t the end of meeting people, but it paved the way for surviving an unthinkable era in which we would find ourselves unable to meet at all".

"[Henry] Rollins wore shorts and no shirt and slowly covered his torso with tattoos, including ones for his own band. Was it ego or pride? I loved it either way, because I had neither... I had a poster of its ['Damaged'] cover up on my bedroom wall, Rollins punching his reflection in the mirror, breaking it into a million pieces. He felt like garbage and hated himself too! Plus he had a lot of muscles. I could not have invented a more appropriate role model if I tried" - GQ's Matthew Schnipper wrote a heartwaring and earnest article about how he decided to name his son after Henry Rollins, hoping that hardcore icon will "make him tough in ways I can’t".

A Funny Little Cross to Bear
June 30, 2020

Jim White: A career, a house, and a daughter

A beautiful article in the Sunday Long Read about alt-country musician Jim White, who was struggling with poverty and mental health, while also trying to build a career, and raise a daughter. SLR writes about how White bought a house, which turned out to be the foundation for his life, his career, and his relationship with his daughter - "Jim had learned to stand tall during his personal storms, drawing artistic inspiration from them. When he bought the Winterville house, he was in the midst of a protracted custody battle with Willow’s mother. The fight, fierce as a Category 5 hurricane, would shape his daughter’s upbringing and his identity as a parent. This struggle, and untold others to follow, would test the limits of the bond between father and child". A great read!

Century of violence
June 30, 2020

A century of black music against state violence

Sara Martin / Leon Bridges

NPR Music has published a massive project documenting A Century of Black Music Against State Violence - a 50 songs list describing specific acts of police violence, and some of the ugliest stories with which America - and, since it goes international, the world - has to reckon. It is a story of Black American music and its response to oppression, and particularly, state-sanctioned violence. It starts with 1927 Sara Martin's 'Georgia Stockade Blues', continues with John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Michael Jackson, N.W.A., and dozen others from the Afro-American canon, to finish with this year's Leon Bridges' 'Sweeter'.

I'm only dancing when it rains
June 30, 2020

Cecilia Bengolea: Dance as a form of animated sculpture

Fact magazine presents multidisciplinary artist Cecilia Bengolea with a 13-minute video 'Dancehall Weather' where performers dance at various times of a day and in various weather conditions. “Dancing in the wet weather of the Caribbean, sweat and tropical rain further dissolve the boundaries between inside and outside”, says Bengolea, “reminding us perhaps that inner body fluid is an electrical conductor that functions for the body in similar ways to the synapses of the brain”.

Metallica fans have voted 'Master of Puppets' as the most significant song by the band, Loudwire reports. The knockout tournament called "Some Kind of Bracket" started a month ago when Metallica initially distributed the contest's first-round bracket on social media with over 60 songs in the competition. On June 18, the semifinals found 'Master of Puppets' going up against 'Fade to Black' and 'One' battling 'Enter Sandman'. By June 22, the tournament had winnowed down to the 1989 single from '…And Justice for All' and the title track from Metallica's 1986 album. By the following day, a victor had emerged - 'Master of Puppets'.

Oasis

NME's blogger sees the '90s revival happening, but it just won't work, he's convinced: "In these months of lockdown misery, Covid paranoia, dislocation and hardship, many are looking to the pre-Starsailor age for comfort. The 'Friends' are reuniting. Illegal raves are back. Early 'Resident Evil' games have been remade... The time is ripe then, you might think, for the long-awaited ‘90s revival... Yet new acts simply aren’t emulating their mockney joie de vivre, their suburban sauciness and surly swagger, their gleeful worship of ‘the chooon’... If the ‘90s seem like an unrepeatably idyllic moment in time, it’s because they were... How could we ever recapture such a world of possibility, and the musical exuberance that came with it?".

A great text in Nick Cave's Red Hand Files blog where he replied with a lengthy reasoning to a fan's question about why he doesn't write about politics in his songs, and in doing so, explained the backbone of his lyrics:

“Perhaps the thing you enjoy about my songs is that they are conflicted, and often deal in uncertainties and ambiguities. My better songs seem to be engaged in an interior struggle between opposing outlooks or states of mind. They rarely settle on anything. My songs sit in that liminal space between decided points of view.

Songs with political agendas inhabit a different space. They have little patience for nuance, neutrality or impartiality. Their aim is to get the message across in as clear and persuasive a manner as possible. There can be great value in these sorts of songs, but they are usually born from a particular combination of rigidity and zealousness, which I personally do not possess.

My songs seem to be resistant to fixed, inflexible points of view. They have, as you say, a concern for common, non-hierarchical suffering. They are not in the business of saving the world; rather they are in the business of saving the soul of the world.

I have very little control over what songs I write. They are constructed, incrementally, in the smallest of ways, the greater meaning revealing itself after the fact. They are often slippery, amorphous things, with unclear trajectories — position-free attempts at understanding the mysteries of the heart.

I guess I could write a protest song, but I think I would, in the end, feel compromised in doing so, not because there aren’t things I am fundamentally opposed to — there are — but because I would be using my particular talents to deal with something I consider to be morally obvious. Personally, I have little inclination to do that. It’s just not what I do.”

NME's Mark Beaumont made a list of eight songs made by artificial intelligence that qualify for "the best least worst" among them. It's fake Nickelback, Strokes, Morrissey, Nirvana, etc. songs. Check out the full list here.

Nick Cave has published a list of his favourite books on his Red Hand Files blog, a "rather formless and incoherent grab bag of titles that come to mind at this moment that, for one reason or another, I have loved over the years" (all of his books are at an exhibition now). It's nice to see there's plenty of poetry there, some familiar names, and some that just might be a starting point of a discovery.

Top of the rap's
June 15, 2020

Eminem lists best rappers of all time

Eminem listed his selection of the best rappers of all time on Twitter, saying that "in no particular order" it was a "toss up between" Lil Wayne, 2Pac, Royce Da 5'9", Jay-Z, Redman, Treach, Kool G Rap, Biggie, and Kxng Crooked, XXL reports. In a second tweet, he added, among others, a few younger ones - LL Cool J, Nas, Joyner Lucas, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Andre 3000, Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane.

Even Elvis got stuck, in caricature of himself
June 11, 2020

Mark, My Words: Pop persona can work wonders, but some get stuck in character

"Just last week Billie Eilish told an interviewer: 'sometimes I feel trapped by this persona that I have created'" - NME's Mark, My Words writes, and offers her advice - "History tells her that she’d best change it sharpish, or she’s liable to get lumbered with it for good". The power of an image is paramount in music, Mark says - "If Slipknot drummer Jay Weinberg suddenly developed a debilitating allergy to gimp gear and nail wigs, they wouldn’t ditch the masks in solidarity – they’d be taking forehead measurements for a new drummer".

List 'em all
June 04, 2020

40 best thrash metal albums

Loudwire made a selection of 40 best debut thrash metal albums, starting with Metallica's 'Kill 'Em All' released in June of 1983. The list is dominated by '80s era albums - proving the first five years of genre were the most fruitful. It contains all the biggest names - Slayer, Sepultura, Exodus, Anthrax, Megadeth...

Pride and prejudice
May 29, 2020

An essay about - Pete Townshend's nose

A great and funny read in the Tablet magazine by David Yaffe, a professor of humanities about - Pete Townshend's nose. "Townshend’s nose is the heavyweight champion. It’s an English nose unlike most any other, turned up to eleven... When Daltrey first met Townshend, he described him as 'a nose on a stick'. Daltrey seemed like a bully. Townshend seemed like the kid getting bullied, until he would, one day, rise up and take it out on all those guitars... [Townshend] was old when he was young, too. He strode the world’s largest stages with a certain reluctance. The music was aggressive, but he was taciturn, and kind of awkward. Exceedingly neurotic, he questioned himself and his role as a rockstar throughout his whole career".

Bits and pieces
May 25, 2020

The best samples - ever

A Tribe Called Quest

There are hundreds and thousands of great samples, really hard to pick out the best, but NME tried nevertheless. It's a good choice, although it's hardly definite. So, the top three: Destiny’s Child turning the Stevie Nicks' guitar riff ‘Edge of Seventeen’ into a R&B belter ‘Bootylicious’; A Tribe Called Quest use of Lou Reed’s lilting instrumentals into creating the legendary call-and-response led ‘Can I Kick It?’; ABBA’s 'Gimme Gimme Gimme' was pure pop before Madonna used it to make yet another disco banger, ‘Hung Up’.

Happy being sad
May 23, 2020

Why does sad music make us happy?

“Sad songs make me feel better because I’d rather feel something than nothing. Music that changes your mood is like alchemy for your feelings” - Phoebe Bridgers told Nylon about how sad music actually makes her feel better. Science has put it this way - listening to sad music can raise levels of the hormone prolactin, which produces “a consoling psychological effect”.

There will be four stages in corona-influenced albums, Mark, My Words argues: Insanity and bewilderment of the isolation nation; calming records about the routine, zen-like serenity of home quarantine; Coronapunk stage demanding the heads of the political class; Pub. But, what is it that we really need" - "Albums about the crisis will get tired very quickly; albums designed to help us through it, on the other hand, will remain encased in the generational amber. It’s time, already, to start singing for when we’re winning".

Jazz bassist and YouTube music scholar Adam Neely published a GREAT musicsplaining video about "the worst saxophone solo of all time", Vinny Mazzetta's alternative take on the Five Satins' 'The Jones Girl'. Nelly explains in great musical detail, in a 28-minute-long musical and cultural history of the one-note solo, why it is to bad.

Air

All Music made a selection of single-artist soundtracks, some lesser-known scores, worthy of a listen. It's all great, different kinds of soundtracks, being it 'Virgin Suicides' by Air, 'Tron Legacy' by Daft Punk, 'Death Wish 2' by Dan the Automator, or 'Dead Man' by Neil Young.

Kraftlist
May 13, 2020

50 essential synth-pop tracks

“Synth-pop” is less about the "synth" and more about the "pop", a product of movements and musicians trying to democratize musical performance - Treblezine argues in favor of the often disputed genre. It presents synth-pop with a chronological selection of 50 essential, and great, tracks - from Jean-Michel Jarre, over Prince and New Order, to Sharon van Etten.

"Denmark has already begun putting on drive-in gigs. In Spain, they hope to introduce seated outdoor shows of up to 200 and 30-capacity indoor shows. Arena bands are considering 10-day residencies at club venues, playing multiple shows throughout the afternoon and evening to revolving maximum quarantine capacity crowds. There’s even talk of running limited capacity festivals in the not-too-distant future... Coronavirus gigs sound like ‘VIP experience’... Every gig will be one big golden circle, with added table service. So bring on music’s new normal – I’m ready for the best of times in the worst of times" - NME's Mark, My Words is looking forward to the new live music normal.

Can I get an encore...
May 07, 2020

The songs give us life, and also tear us apart

When you’re a passionate music fan in a pandemic, you look for consolation in the songs you love. As always, music is the shelter from the storm. But music is also the storm. The songs you love might promise you a safe refuge, a little peace of mind. But you already know the songs are going to mess you up, ravage your heart, remind you of faces you miss and loud times you’re not having and weird places you’d rather be. Living with music these days can be total agony. Living without it? Merely impossible - Rolling Stone's journalist writes in his essay about how he misses live music these days; and how he dreams live music - terrible live music - every night, and LOVES it.

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