Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

The Place of Music Scenes

I’ve been spending a lot of my recent ‘free-thinking’ time on the subject of music scenes, specifically about how they form and what effect they end up having on music as a whole. When a music scene has developed it means that there’s suddenly a new type of sound which is starting to get more attention and exposure for artists playing it, with that sound also occasionally being tracked to a specific location or region as well. For some examples, there was the Grunge movement in the Northwest in the late 1980s, a new definition of Alternative Rock emerged in the mid-90’s with bands such as Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Archers of Loaf, Guided By Voices and The Pixies gaining popularity, and recently there was a defined new-wave rock scene in New York City which spawned artists like The Strokes and Interpol. So how do these scenes actually start? Theoretically I can think of a few ways, but they all share some common points.

  • A new artist emerges and plays a sound which sounds so different from anything else that is currently being played, and so it inspires imitation and new methods of thinking. (Example: Bob Dylan)
  • An artist with an already established following and influence has a sudden drastic sound shift which worked incredibly well for them. (Example: Radiohead)
  • Multiple artists get inspired from the same source, bringing extra attention to an artist who’s music left a significant impact and is just now being remembered. (Example: The Velvet Underground)
  • An awesome local music scene emerges to draw a crowd, and somebody from that local scene emerges into the national spotlight. (Example: Neutral Milk Hotel)

There have to be other scenarios as well, but you’re probably starting to understand what I believe has to be present for a successful music scene to form. The sound has to be new and unique to the other options out there, and somebody within the scene has to grow in popularity enough so that they can spread the word around about it. It’s an interesting dynamic to think about, but that theorization is only the beginning point to this article.

Smaller music scenes get defined constantly and the study of these is basically what it means today to be current with modern music, and the people who get to define what these smaller scenes are work for the music media. Their job is to try and define these different music scenes and report what’s happening within them from a specific mindset, and this effects their opinion on who deserves to be recognized and how releases should be rated. This approach makes some sense from their perspective because if you’re covering music on a day-to-day basis then I imagine you wouldn’t be very keen on viewing every new release as a blank slate, but it’s a flawed approach towards rating music.

That’s because while music scenes are real and potentially valuable, they can also be a mirage which only displays the sounds which share common qualities with each other. Where’s the space for creativity and new ideas within this mindset, and what solutions get missed if you’re stuck looking for the answer in the same place repeatedly?

When it comes to new music, I think it’s best to just compare it to the total product rather than how it fits into the modern music scenes because of this. How well does the band or release stand alongside the successful sounds which have come before it, and how likely is it to inspire the sounds which will follow? That’s the ultimate question right there, and with all of the different genres and stylistic differences which have made an impact in music history I would think it’s safe to say that there’s never going to be a sure-fire answers to those questions. It’s just something that time decides, but keeping an open mind towards what could leave an imprint is an important step.

Album Reviews: Jake Bugg, The Pixies, Tennis

Shangri Las

Jake Bugg- Shangri La
Grade: B
Release Date: 11/18/2013

Jake Bugg has become one of the premiere English artists recently, and on Shangri-La you get a heavy dose of his folk-rock side. The label folk-rock is what probably makes the ‘Dylan’ label seem so applicable to him as an artist, it’s a genre which Bob Dylan single handedly brought to the forefront, but Bugg has heard that comparison many times by now and is on record as saying that he wasn’t heavily influenced by the man. Even if neither side probably enjoys hearing the comparison as this point, the label does do a good job of displaying Bugg at what he’s best at: being a singer-songwriter who’s well-versed in song form.

The lyrics in his works are good but I’m a believer that this is an area where he’s going to still improve as an artist, as right now his less meaningful songs sound like wasted efforts among their peers. “A Song About Love” seems like a good example of one of these as the song just asks Bugg’s perceived loved one if they want to hear songs about love, before Bugg settles on saying that he just want to learn where she is. There’s worse songs out there surely, but in a genre that boasts it’s story-telling ability the bar for Bugg should be set higher than that, especially since he can reach it. His Beatles’ influence also clearly shows itself at one point on this album, as I wouldn’t allow anyone to tell me that the beginning for “All Your Reasons” wasn’t created with “Don’t Let Me Down” in mind.

Track Picks: “Me and You”, “There’s A Beast And We All Feed It”, “Messed Up Kids”

The Pixies EP2

The Pixies- EP2
Grade: C
Release Date: 01/03/14

The Pixies were probably the most disappointing reunion of last year, as an underwhelming EP1 and a failed attempt to replace Kim Deal with Kim Shattuck has left us with this band which doesn’t sound like what it’s name promises anymore. A lot of the original appeal of the band had to do with their energy and willingness to shock their audience with controversial topics and stances, but EP2 stays pretty tame throughout and doesn’t take advantage of the group’s strengths. I won’t blame any band for reuniting if they’re getting offered good money to play the music that they love, but I think in the long-run these EP releases are only doing damage to the legacy of a band which was set up to leave something great behind. If Deal is already out, then it only makes sense to do the return under a new project: get a new name for the new style of music that you’d like to play.

Track Picks: “Greens and Blues”, “Magdelena”

Small Sound
Tennis- Small Sound
Grade: B-
Release Date: 11/05/13

Tennis creates a difficult sound to grade because it has to stay in the back of your mind that their last album Young And Old sounded pretty and melodic on first listen, but didn’t prove to be a lasting sound. The reasons for why that happens are ultimately guesses, but I would point to the lack of sophistication in a group which only contains a married couple (Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley) playing pretty basic rhythms. It’s indie-pop which is guilty of being overly-reliant on studio tricks to produce overlapped choruses, and ultimately I think that Small Sound fits into the same description as the previously mentioned release. It’s fun and nice on the first listen and will fit nicely into any type of ‘what’s new’ playlist, but there’s just not enough to actually learn about the songs to justify playing this EP repeatedly.

Finally, it should be stated that it’s difficult to trust the creative process in a band composed of a married couple. There are some things which they probably don’t feel comfortable saying to each other during recording which artists need to be able to say, and I’d have to guess that the benefit in increased intimateness in the music gets outweighed by this issue.

Track Picks: “Cured of Youth”, “100 Lovers”

50 States, 50 Artists, 50 Songs

Alabama

Alabama Shakes- “Hold On”

Alaska

Volcano Choir- “Alaskans”

Arizona

The Beatles- “Get Back”

Arkansas

Of Montreal- “Little Rock

California

Foxygen- “San Francisco”

Colorado

Bob Dylan- “Man of Constant Sorrow”

Connecticut

Superchunk- “Connecticut

Delaware

Continue reading 50 States, 50 Artists, 50 Songs

Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 10-1

Here’s the finale: songs ten through one on my 100 favorite songs countdown.

10. Bob Dylan- Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind/ You coulda done better, but, I don’t mind/ You just kinda wasted my precious time/ But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

I adore Dylan as an influence, how could you not when so many of your favorite artists view him as an inspiration, but there’s only one song of his which actually stops me in my tracks. “Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright” captures Dylan telling his girl that he’s leaving, and that he is doing it because of her. It’s the chance of getting hurt in the relationship that scares everyone, and Dylan goes through a bad one here where the girl “Just wasted [his] precious time”, and Dylan blames her for it because she didn’t do enough to try and make it work. Still, he makes sure to let her know that she doesn’t need to worry about what she’s done to him, because this is a risk that he knew about going in. He’s going to be able to get over this. There’s no desire to see her again, and he knows that she never really had the intention of hurting him in the first place, it just didn’t work out, and that’s alright.

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9. The Velvet Underground- Heroin

“Oh, and I guess that I just don’t know.

This list was made before the death of Lou Reed, but it’s difficult to not take that route while writing about it now. When Reed passed I had to learn about it through social media posts which took an overly symbolic approach to the subject, and as people re-explored his catalog they searched for the lyrics which suddenly looked more meaningful than previously thought. It’s cool that people found these connections, but I hated it because that overly-symbolic look wasn’t what Reed was about at all in my eyes. This wasn’t the man who tried to hide anything in his music, he was the guy who’d actually done it and wanted to let you how what it was. On “Heroin” we get a look at the the hope in the music alongside the gradual buildup and rush of the instruments which ultimately leads to the song’s ‘high’, but it never fails to fall back with what is in my opinion the best lyric that Reed ever wrote: “And I guess, that I just don’t know”.

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8. Animal Collective- Fireworks

“They’ve got two flashing eyes and they’re colored why/ They make me, feel, that I’m only all I see sometimes.”

There’s so much joy in “Fireworks” once you learn what to appreciate in it. The narrator is an observant and self-aware man who dreams one day of having a family he can take to the beach, to watch the fireworks. In his current life though he’s dealing with the same monotony as the rest of us and  he’s learned the routine of how to ignore the repeated questions and tasks he encounters every day. Instead he gets lost in thought about what he hopes for, he thinks about what his kid will think the first time that he sees the fireworks, and all the wonder that will be in his eyes at that point. But what if the child was color blind and just wasn’t able to comprehend what he witnessed? This view on experiential learning reminds him that what he views in the world is completely shaped by how he happened to view it when he was growing up, and leads him to think that “I’m only all I see sometimes”.

Continue reading Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 10-1

Essential Albums: Bob Dylan- The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Freewheelin Bob Dylan

I’ve done a poor job of balancing out actual classics in this segment with albums that are classics in my mind within the alternative music mindset. You should be aware of who Bob Dylan is and what he has done, though I suppose you never know in a world where “Who Is Paul McCartney” exists. Dylan is the premier folk artist pretty much without a doubt, the man who defined the genre and inspired countless artists from the 1960s until today. As his career progressed Dylan’s sound did as well, with him experimenting within different genres including rock and blues, but a look back to his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan does a great job of outlying his talent in the traditional folk sense which captures him at his best.

Continue reading Essential Albums: Bob Dylan- The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

DJ Survey: What’s Your Favorite Long Song?

On the radio playing a long track can be a death sentence to your listenership, but there are still those tracks that are so great that they need to be played either way. This time we checked in with our DJs to ask them what their favorite long song is and got some terrific responses. A song had to be at least eight minutes long to be considered.

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Jed Davis: “Stairway to Heaven”

Just kidding.  Shellac- “The End of Radio”.

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Robby Red: The Velvet Underground- “Sister Ray”

The studio version of “Sister Ray” by the Velvet Underground is seventeen and a half minutes long. When the Velvet Underground played it live they would make it last anywhere from twenty to forty minutes long. Runner Up: “Marquee Moon” by Television

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Andrew: William Basinki- “d|p 1.1″

If I exclude things like full sided cassette rips, mixes, and anything that might be more then one song strung together I get rid of lots of favorites like Yard’s 37mx (1 hour 14 mins) which I guess is technically a mix.
But if I have to pick a favorite that is really just one song it is probably William Basinski’s d|p 1.1 from The Disintegration Loops. d|p 1.1 weighs in at 63 minutes and I have played it in its entirety on WCDB before. Basinski is playing at EMPAC in the fall.


Continue reading DJ Survey: What’s Your Favorite Long Song?