Among the masses of hipsterdom, the pantheon of Americana has long been dismissed as “dad rock.” Uncool, out-of-touch, and pedestrian. It’s to be expected: indie rock has always been rooted in a sort of iconoclasm. It’s imbued with a rejection of establishment practices and the conventions of commercial music.
Then, like a bolt of lightning across the night sky, a two-headed beast reached out of Philadelphia and grabbed Dad Rock by the shoulders and pulled it toward itself.
The beast’s heads were Kurt Vile and Adam Granduciel.
By the beginning of the 80s, David Bowie had been through enough career turns to make the most accomplished musicians dizzy. He had cut his teeth with Dylan-esque space folk before moving onto theatric art pop, glam rock, plastic soul, sci-fi disco, and harrowing Krautrock.
There wasn’t a lot of space that Bowie hadn’t already explored. So he set his sights on the best dang pop a man could create.
1959 was an incredible year for jazz.
Charles Mingus released Mingus Ah Um, John Coltrane released Giant Steps, Ornette Coleman released The Shape of Jazz to Come, and Miles Davis released Kind of Blue, which is perhaps the single most famous jazz record of all time (Coltrane was on that, too).
The year was so phenomenal that according to legend, Time Out was largely overlooked upon its release.
Memory is a funny thing. When the intersection of thrift and communal nostalgia led me to buy this record when I found it on the cheap, I didn’t expect that I would have ever had every single song on here memorized.
The pantheon of great American singer-songwriters is a broad and inspiring pool. From the poignant commentary of Bob Dylan to the howling anthems of Bruce Springsteen, the bright-eyed optimism of Tom Petty to the jaded sentimentality of Bob Seger, the full depths are nearly impossible to plumb.
One of the icons that I have, until recently, overlooked is one Jackson Browne. Continue reading
Being a well-loved indie darling is something of a double-edged sword. You can either suffer in anonymity while your immense talent fails to find the appreciation it deserves, or you can find widespread success and get labeled a sell-out.
And ever since hopping on a major-label with Plans, every new Death Cab For Cutie album has been treated with speculation and dismissal.
Yesterday, I told the story about how Imogen Heap turned me into a poptimist. And while that narrative informed much of the narrative for that post, this record actually deserves most of the credit for that.
Because if we’re going linearly (rather than alphabetically), the moment that shattered my aversion for all things pop was when I logged onto MySpace and listened to the featured track of the week: a mournful, vocoder-only ballad called “Hide and Seek.”
In the fall of 2005, I started my freshman year of college. I was a certified scene kid: I wore girl pants and band t-shirts, painted my nails black. Almost everything I listened to was guitar-based.
Then, I discovered this record (and its spiritual sequel, Imogen Heap’s Speak For Yourself).
And God as my witness, it made me a poptimist.
“What is my age again?”
That’s the question I found myself asking when, at the age of 31, I purchased my first copy of this record (I had Napster’d it originally. Oh, sweet Napster).
I’m not sure if any record has indirectly influenced me as much as this one while simultaneously escaping my attention for so long.
This is one of the most important guitar albums to come out of the 1990s. It inspired many of the groups that inspired me. And yet, I’ve only gotten into it in the last couple months.
Why have I been wasting my time?