"Strange things happen every day, but in my life, few things have been as beautifully strange as the inherited repercussions—father to daughter, cotton field to city streets—of seeing, hearing, and being forever changed by the godmother of soul, Sister Rosetta Tharpe" - Rosanne 'The Daughter' Cash wrote in Oxford American about the iconic blues pioneer.

von Henselt statue

'Piano Concerto Op. 160' by virtuoso pianist and composer Adolf von Henselt was too hard to play even for Russian pianist virtuoso Anton Rubinstein who called Henselt "a freak”. Von Henselt's fingers had an unusual elasticity that allowed him to achieve a technique most players cannot hope for no matter how much they practice - Ludwig van writes as it chooses 7 most difficult classical music pieces to perform.

Spotify fillers fill pockets
November 18, 2020

Lesser-known indie-rock songs becoming hits thanks to Spotify

Galaxie 500

Stereogum explores the power of Spotify, similar to TikTok's, describing the lives of two relatively obscure indie-rock songs from the 1980s and 1990s. Pavement's 'Harness Your Hopes' was three-decade-old b-side before it became number one on Pavement’s Spotify page, ending up with over 28 million plays to date. Another one in Galaxie 500's 'Strange' which was a song from a long-overlooked album track, and ended up as the most popular Galaxie 500 song on Spotify. How did this happen? Mostly, thanks to Spotify's Autoplay feature which cues up music that “resembles” what the listener has been listening to previously.

Ladies after the last
November 13, 2020

11 women that need to be inducted into Rock Hall of Fame

Carey / Fitzgerald / Parton

29 individuals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last weekend, with 28 of them being men (the only women inducted was Whitney Houston). Courtney E. Smith had, of course, to react to this - "Here’s who I’d like to see from a list of women that should be titled: Are You Fucking Kidding Me, She/They Haven’t Been Inducted or Even Nominated Yet???". It is really a surprise these women aren't in: The Go-Go's, Ella Fitzgerald, Doly Parton, Tina Turner, Carole King, Maria Carey. Not only them, there also needs to be a place for Mary J. Blige, Barbara Streisand, Buffy St. Marie, Björk, Alanis Morrissette, Carly Simon, Cyndi Lauper, Loretta Lynn, Hole, Chaka Khan...

The big and the biggest
November 13, 2020

The Baffler: Spotify only works for the stars

A serious analysis in the Baffler of Spotify and its business model: "Over the past year, Spotify transformed its stated aspirations as a company. It used to see itself as the go-to platform providing 'music for every mood and moment' - not just a music streaming service but one that knows your taste better than you know it yourself. That changed in February 2019, when Spotify announced its acquisitions of Gimlet and Anchor in a letter declaring itself 'Audio First'". Spotify went wider with the content becoming a podcast company as well, but - "in many ways, though, the $50 billion company is treating podcasters similarly to how it has historically treated musicians, with a system that privileges the already moneyed and powerful".

Springsteen / Lenker / Vernon

Guardian goes through the history of cabin-in-the-woods album: Big Thief singer Adrianne Lenker recorded her latest solo album 'Songs' while holed up in a forest in Massachusetts during lockdown; 13 years ago Justin Vernon was going through heartbreak and self-doubt while holed up in a cabin in Wisconsin where he made his debut 'For Emma, Forever Ago'. Similarly, 'Cross Road Blues' by Robert Johnson was cut in 1936 in the blues singer’s hotel room in San Antonio. Daniel Johnston’s 'Songs of Pain' cassette album was recorded in his parents’ basement in West Virginia in 1981. Bruce Springsteen recorded 'Nebraska' at his home on a humble four-track over the course of three days in 1982...

When brains meets the body...
November 09, 2020

Six best documentaries about dance

Music Journalism Insider chose six best documentaries about dancing. There are; 'Madonna: Truth or Dare' (1991) about her extravagant Blond Ambition tour; 'Strike A Pose' (2016) tells the story of the dancers from the 'Madonna...' docu, it casts an entirely different light on the former story; 'I'm Tryna Tell Ya' (2014) about Chicago dancers who started out as producers; 'The Summer of Rave 1989' (2006) about times of happiness and euphoria (and some drugs); 'Cunningham' (2019) about influential and somewhat radical choreographer Merce Cunningham; 'Only When I Dance' (2010) about Rio de Janerio teenagers whos only way out of poverty is ballet.

Physical graffiti
November 06, 2020

"Don’t duet with the dead"

A great text by Tom Maxwell about duets by the dead (Tupac & Biggie), or with the dead (Robbie Williams and Frank Sinatra; Kanye West's birthday gift to his wife was an inspiration for the article ): "Reflected in this cultural thinking is the fairytale belief that fame is key to immortality, and therefore both are to be devoutly desired. Lurking on a deeper level is the feeling that our celebrities belong to us; that the individual is subservient to the brand; that persona trumps person". A conclusion and a plea: "In some ways, the digital age has diminished us. Recordings are now infinitely reproducible, and thus have no inherent value. Musicians have likewise been devalued — it was far easier to make money playing in a cover band pre-pandemic. It’s up to us to declare what is important and proper, beyond market value, or be forever owned".Physical graffiti

"In tribute to Connery's Bond (the only true Bond), the Cold War's American-British alliance, shaken martinis, white tuxedos, honesty and honor, karate chops to the neck, Monte Carlo casinos, eye patches on villains, tiny dogs in the arms of bad guys, valet parking, hats that killed when thrown like a Frisbee, and Connery's perfectly lined face and after-shave looks" - JazzWax brings the opening title sequences of his seven Bond films - here.

Long, long, time ago...
November 02, 2020

Leo Ornstein - avant-garde composer who would be forgotten

A great read in Tusk Is Better Than Rumours by Marshall Gu about mostly forgotten classic music composer Leo Ornstein who once, well, not so famously, said that "if his music were any good, it would survive; if not, it would be deservedly forgotten". TIBTR argues he should be remembered as the one preceding Stravinsky and Schoenberg, and the most innovative of the three. Great text - a pleasure to read!

Ludwig van Psychoven
October 27, 2020

Psychedelia in - classic music

Van magazine explores the psychedelia in classical music, through a chronological playlist featuring a select history of the relationship between classical music and psychedelic experimentation. It includes Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, Chopin and others. Check out the classic-delia list here.

Podcaster Jake Brennan told a chilling-amazing story in his Dead and Gone podcast about the unusual spate of missing and murdered fans of the Grateful Dead, better known as Deadheads, the Daily Beast reports. Brennan names several out of numerous cases of murders and disappearances, plenty unresolved to his day, and offers a possible explanation - "Grateful Dead... live and preach this super anti-authority lifestyle, even after they became an institution themselves. Being a Deadhead and traveling on the road following the band was all about living outside of the bounds of society, and there's a lawlessness that goes along with that. It's ultimately part of what contributed to this environment of vulnerability where people went missing and lost their lives".

Black lady plays
October 22, 2020

7 female black pioneer guitarists

Elizabeth Cotten

She Shreds lists 7 early black female musicians - mostly guitarists and bassists, one vocalist - "who pioneered the path for music as we know it today". They are:

Mamie Smith (1891–1946) - made the Blues a national sensation in 1920

Elizabeth Cotten (1893-1987) - The Mother of Folk

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 – 1973) - invented and pioneered the sounds of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Sylvia Robinson (1935 – 2011) - The Mother of Hip Hop

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins (1939 – 2019) - one of the first women to be recognized as a lead blues guitarist

Lady Bo aka Peggy Jones (1940 – 2015) - played a key role in the transition of Blues to Rock ‘n’ Roll

Barbara Lynn (1942 – present) - Mother of R&B Guitar

"The Griselda philosophy is rap about what you know, sound like who you are, and let the world find you" - Music Redef writes in their new thread on Griselda Records, an underground hip-hop label and crew from Buffalo, New York. At the foundation of Griselda, there are Conway the Machine, his brother Westside Gunn, and their cousin Benny the Butcher, all of whom have released notable albums in the past five weeks as the label continues to edge its way into hip-hop's spotlight.

Next best thing after life itself
October 20, 2020

What would our lives be like without music?

Vice published a great text about the lack of live music, and what really we are missing (not the sounds coming out of speakers): "It’s the one thing, besides sports, that provides community when no one else gives a shit. The impact that has on opportunity and quality of life, even – in fact especially – in the context of financial hardship, is huge. So it’s baffling, although does not surprise me in the slightest, that when it comes to making 'necessary cuts' to 'save' the economy, cultural and social services are always the first against the wall. People rarely consider things they don’t need, and no one needs fun less than rich people".

Exact, no cherry picking
October 20, 2020

Cherie Hu: How to stand out

Award-winning music journalist and analyst shared some advice with Compound Writing on how to stand out, in any business really:

1. You don’t need to beat the industry titans at their own game

2. Whatever the press release says the story is probably isn't - dig deeper

3. People are drowning in information - connect the dots for them

4. Record labels make most of their money from their back catalog of classics - writers should do the same

5. Avoid the temptation to reach everybody - you win by reaching the right people

The neo big soul
October 19, 2020

Baby Rose: I’m a vocal anomaly

When she was a teenager, Baby Rose was ostracised because of the way she talked, but then she "realised that I was a pariah and I was different from the rest of the pack, but that was OK because eventually it would be something that I could make my thing". And she did - she started making music, including "one of the most impressive vocal performances in recent memory", as NME has heard her album 'To Myself'. She gets comparisons to Amy Winehouse - “it’s awesome for me because she’s a vocal anomaly, I know that I’m a vocal anomaly too and I love that. But the message has always been at the forefront for me, the music is just a conduit to get the point across of who I am”. Deluxe edition of 'To Myself' is out now.

Rising list
October 12, 2020

10 best Japanese rock albums

Ayumi Hamasaki

Pantera's late guitarist Dimebag Darrell was a big Van Halen fan, so when a limited edition guitar with EVH's signature tape-stripping was about to be launched, Darrell called Van Halen trying to buy on. Van Halen said no, but promised to bring him one personally. Darrell was killed on-stage soon after, so when Eddie van Halen came to his funeral he put one of these hand-taped guitars in his casket.

Opera singer and essayist Xenia Hanusiak wrote a philosophical text in the Psyche about how music helps us understand ourselves better: "The present pandemic has brought us closer to ourselves. There is dissonance. The rhythms are haphazard. Contrary motions of jangling melodies confront us. We seem to be living in a maze of minor keys and open-ended cadences. We move chromatically, step by step. The array of discord challenges us. We’re searching for resolution. If this gamut of expressions seems familiar, you’re right. They are the building blocks of music. We might not ordinarily say to ourselves, let’s modulate, or let’s change key, but every day we unconsciously conduct our lives as a musical composition, a symphonic masterpiece, an anthem, or a slice of hip-hop".

Guardian critics admit mistakes they made years ago reviewing music, that they now realize is waaay better than they originally thought. Alexis Petridis misjudged Daft Punk's 'Discovery' - "my review, on the other hand, has not aged so well", while Phil Harrison had a Slayer-revelation - "As a teen Smiths obsessive, I had been a bit of a snob about metal’s neck-breaking, big-shorted charms. That lasted until my late 30s, when I accidentally encountered Slayer at a festival. Within moments of their first howled, blasted, faster-than-hardcore notes, I was like: 'Holy mother of SATAN, this is incredible. Why did nobody tell me!?'".

Nick Cave wrote a lovely tribute to his son Arthur, who tragically died in 2015 aged 15 after falling off a cliff. He wrote the letter on his The Red Hand Files blog, as an answer to a fan Richard who asked Cave whether he liked magic. He described how Arthur was a magician himself for about a year when he was around 14, and how good he became, and finished his response like this: "I am sorry that maybe in the end these words are not addressed to you. Maybe these words are projected beyond this world, as a wish, as a prayer, as a sleight of hand, hoping they may draw the attention of the spirits themselves. Our boy, our magician, our vanisher — we miss you".

Loudwire lists 26 bands from the metal/rock realm that sound nothing like they did on their first albums. Incubus started as a funk/hip-hop rock band, and turned to alt-rock early in their career. Opeth were Iron Maiden lovers before turning to prog-metal. Ministry were a synth-pop band, a la Depeche Mode, before stepping to the side with industrial. In Flames started as a death-metal band before discovering melody...

Money is really funny in this case
September 18, 2020

A method to the madness - how ABBA got their costumes

An amusing article on the Messy Nessy blog about ABBA's outlandishly-designed stage-clothes. It's all about the money - according to the Swedish law regarding costumes, as long as the outfits were too impractical for everyday wear and couldn’t be worn outside a performance, they were tax-deductible. The legal loop hole thus encouraged ABBA's designer Owe Sandström to make ABBA’s costumes as colourful and unwearable as possible. And did he!

Also, the first slow core and drone
September 17, 2020

Enya - an unlikely influence on today's pop music

Pitchfork's writer had two surprises with Enya in the last year. The first: her music proved itself perfect in the time of isolation - "maybe it is because her atmospheric compositions are full of imagination, of openness, each note like a new horizon coming into focus. Maybe it is because her many-layered catalog is so sad and healing at once, or because it makes the complex work of being indefinitely alone sound easy". The second - list of musicians she has influenced: Weyes Blood, FKA twigs, Nicki Minaj, Grimes, Angel Olsen, Perfume Genius, Brandy, Blood Incantation...

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