29 November 2012

ALL THINGS MUST PASS: George Harrison (25 Feb '43 - 29 Nov '01)

An excerpt from Here Comes The Sun by Joshua Greene:
In March 2001, doctors at the Mayo Clinic discovered cancer in George's lungs. A growth was removed, but within a month the cancer spread. Soon a malignancy was found on his brain. This, too, he took in stride, knowing that death would mean he had finished his work here and was at last entitled to leave.

"He never sat around moping, 'Oh, I'm ill,'" his son, Dhani later said. "Even when he first found out that he was ill years ago and the doctor gave him - what, six months to live? He was just, like, 'Bollocks!' He was never afraid. He was willing to try and get better, but he didn't care. He wasn't attached to this world in the way most people would be. He was on to bigger and better things. and he had a real total and utter disinterest in worrying and being stressed. My dad had no fear of dying whatsoever. I can't stress that enough, really."

Soon after the diagnosis, George took his family by private jet to Varanasi, India, where he bathed in the Ganges - a traditional practice for one who is preparing to die.

After their return, Olivia tried everything possible to find a cure. While staying near a hospital in Staten Island, New York, George received a few select visitors. Ringo visited and stayed for hours.

George's sister, Louise, arrived. They had not seen one another in several years. Louise had become a grandmother in 1990. Her son had taken up Transcendental Meditation, while she had joined the Self-Realization Fellowship and become a dedicated advocated of environmental awareness. "I believe this is your dharma," George told her. "This is what you have to do." Looking back, she remembered him at that final meeting as kind, loving, and completely fearless in the face of death.

Later, Paul visited the hospital and they told jokes, hugged, and cried. George and Paul had known each other nearly half a century. That last visit was the first time they ever held hands.

(page 268)
It's a bit difficult to grasp that it has been eleven years since George Harrison passed away, but, here we are. Time magazine put George on the cover of the 10 December 2001 issue and it's a time capsule. To get to the article on George I had to flip past articles questioning former Attorney General John Ashcroft's new powers to fight terrorism, articles documenting the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the bloody battles against the Taliban. Remember Enron? They collapsed and officially went bankrupt on 2 December of 2001. There was fascination over the new Segway and praise for the television show JAG.

Of course, for most, the likes of Enron, John Ashcroft, Segways and JAG are easily forgettable while the message and music of George Harrison still endures.

(Honestly, it's not even fair to compare Ashcroft to Harrison, really).

(This demo for "All Things Must Pass" was recorded for the Beatles' Get Back sessions but a complete version was never released until George's first solo record of the same name. I often imagine what Let It Be would sound like with "All Things Must Pass" on the album. If it was included on Let It Be it's would surely have been one of the few songs that actually would have sounded good with the Phil Spector production. Eventually Spector did produce the track and the rest of George's solo debut All Things Must Pass.).

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12 November 2012

TOP 5: Artists/Bands For The Next James Bond Title Theme

Last Thursday I revealed my Top 5 James Bond Title Themes and today - after watching Skyfall over the weekend (it was extremely entertaining and I'd put it just a couple ticks below the modern James Bond classic Casino Royale) - I'm thinking of my Top 5 artists or bands who should do the next James Bond title theme.

I know, I know. You're probably thinking, "Hey, Pet Bear Sounds, the next one doesn't come out until late-2014. What's the rush??"

Truth! But ruminating on these sorts of things is, well, kinda my thing.

If you're playing at home, here's the loose criteria I have created in my head. The people involved have to be alive (sorry, Amy) and relatively active (sorry, Bowie). Repeats of previous James Bond title theme performers are allowed. Also, my Anglophilic bias also tells me that non-UK/Ireland acts are not acceptable for the Bond song (sorry, Black Keys).

08 November 2012

TOP 5: James Bond Title Themes

The latest James Bond flick Skyfall is officially released in the United States tomorrow and I'm just as excited about the title themes as I am the films themselves.

No question that Adele was the best choice for the title theme. The quality and power of her voice ranks right up there with classic Bond song singers like Shirley Bassey. The song itself isn't particularly adventurous in scope and doesn't stray too far from Adele's style but "Skyfall" has all the hallmarks of a classic Bond song: Powerful female vocalist, sweeping strings, epic build, soaring finish. And it has that all-important x-factor doesn't it? "Skyfall" feels like a Bond song and I haven't felt that way about a Bond song in a very long time.

Trivia: How many James Bond title themes have gone to number 1 in the US or UK? Just one. Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill" went to number 1 in the US and just number 2 in the UK.

"Skyfall" - thus far - has peaked at number 2 in the UK and number 8 in the US.

Does "Skyfall" crack the Pet Bear Sounds Top 5 James Bond Title Themes?

06 November 2012

"VOTE!" says Paul McCartney

Sure, it's a little silly to take an endorsement from a billionaire rock star but if you've gone this far and haven't decided between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, well, why not follow the recommendation of a man who has inspired more hope and change than most politicians?

Don't know where to vote? Well, Google has a nice little resource for you.


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05 November 2012

VOTE! OHIO: A Spotify Playlist

It's Election Day tomorrow in the United States and Ohio can be the difference maker for one of the presidential candidates. The lure and allure of Ohio also extends to the music world as well. Many artists have waxed poetic about Ohio and I've collected some of my favorite songs in a Spotify playlist.

Enjoy the Ohio-themed tunes and don't forget to vote. Especially you, Ohio.

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02 November 2012

THE WEEK(s): Some albums get older, some albums are newborn, some albums are in the oven, etc.

Boy, how long has it been since the last one of these? (Hint: 8 September). There has been a lot going on over the last few weeks or so:

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17 September 2012


My Morning Jacket at the Wiltern.
My Morning Jacket at the Wiltern; 13 September 2012

Fiona Apple at the Greek.
Fiona Apple at the Greek; 14 September 2012

It's my birthday today!

As I've previously documented, I've had a pretty amazing run of Birthdaytimes Concerts and broke a lot of I-finally-saw-that-band Cherries along the way:

The seeds of Anglophilia were planted by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Zombies, Eric Clapton, (etc., etc.) and British literature and films. The mid-1990s Brit-Pop revolution (or re-evolution, perhaps?) took those seeds and nurtured them into trees that took root in my head and heart.

I can always credit Oasis for the reason why I finally decided to start writing songs and in 2005 I finally saw Oasis in concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Kasabian and Jet.

In the early-2000s I was enthralled with "If I Ever Feel Better" by Phoenix and spent almost a decade enjoying every album by Phoenix and patiently waiting for the chance to see them in concert.

I finally saw Phoenix (with Metric) at the Greek in September of 2009. For good measure, I saw Phoenix again almost exactly a year later at the Hollywood Bowl.

Bon Iver was my birthday concert last year and his performance at the Shrine Auditorium was a real treat. It was incredible to see the stark, simple songs of For Emma, Forever Ago translate into full, epic renditions in concert.

This year I have wrapped a couple fantastic concerts around my birthday. I saw My Morning Jacket at the Wiltern last Thursday and Fiona Apple at the Greek the following night.

After strong and stunning debut album, Apple's creative output has been inconsistent and sporadic. And in brand new world of social media, Fiona has been essentially absent. So, I wasn't sure what to expect from Fiona Apple. But her strong performance at the Greek was a very pleasant surprise.

Judging from the albums alone, I've considered My Morning Jacket one of the best pure rock 'n' roll bands touring today. I've heard the stories about their legendary live performances and when I finally saw MMJ in concert, I can now confidently say that they are the best rock 'n' roll band today. Enough said. (Well, until the inevitable OMG-MMJ-fanboy blog post...)

Fiona and MMJ are two more fantastic birthday concerts in the books. I'm already looking forward to the show(s) that I'll see for my birthday in 2013.

Finally, let's re-visit the worst birthday song on the planet. Ever.

Thanks, Stevie Wonder. I think.

And now get the sour taste of that birthday song out of your head with The Beatles and their superior birthday song "Birthday."

Thanks, Beatles. Thanks for reading everyone!

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13 September 2012

MY MORNING JACKET: Sorting Out The Setlist

My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket at Outside Lands 2010
Photo by: Sara Wilson

The day is coming, the day is near. The day is finally here and I am going to see My Morning Jacket for the first time at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, CA.

Their latest record Circuital was my #1 album of 2011 where I declared that "My Morning Jacket is the best American rock band that we have today."

At least on record. Now I finally get to see if their live performance will match the quality of their records and there are no doubts from fans and critics alike that their live shows are every bit as good as the albums.

For their three-night stand at the Wiltern, My Morning Jacket are doing three nights with no repeats. A unique setlist for each night. Nights one and two are in the books and Pet Bear Sounds is going to do a little process of elimination and see what My Morning Jacket have in store for us tonight.

Why do this? Because of the numerous neurotic qualities that I possess.

11 September 2012

REMEMBERING 9/11: Clear Channel and the memorandum

It's hard to imagine that 11 years have gone by since the attacks on September 11 but here we are.

September 11th is that B.C./A.D. sort of marker in our timeline where we find ourselves saying, "Oh, right, that was before 9/11" or "That was after 9/11." I saw a lot of commentary this morning about children growing up in a post-9/11 world and how to discuss 9/11 in today's classrooms to a generation of kids who weren't even born when the United States was attacked, all of which, superficially-speaking, made me feel old.

There are plenty of writers who will be able to comment far more eloquently about 9/11 and there'll be plenty of bloggers writing about their personal experiences on that day along with everyone Tweeting and Facebooking about 9/11 as well (can't wait to see the epic 9/11 Fails on Failbook.com tomorrow).

As for me, let me remember 9/11 from a musical point of view. (After all, this is kinda the whole point of Pet Bear Sounds).

One of the most shocking things following 9/11 was the memorandum sent out by media giant Clear Channel Communications essentially banning songs that were deemed "questionable" following the attacks.

Well, I take that back. Clear Channel didn't "ban" the songs.

According to Snopes.com:
It's not unusual in a time of sadness and mourning such as the one following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. that radio and television stations temporarily suspend the airing of material — programs, songs, advertisements — that might be considered insensitive or in bad taste. Just as an airline wouldn't show in-flight films featuring airplane crashes, especially after a particularly horrible airliner accident, so entertainment outlets generally opt to temporarily dispense with material dealing with death and disaster in the wake of terrible real-life events. So, many radio stations have recently invoked voluntary moratoriums on songs which refer to airplanes, crashes, violence, and death in their lyrics or titles.
Furthermore, according to a program director at Clear Channel: "This was not a mandate, nor was the list generated out of the corporate radio offices. It was a grassroots effort that was apparently circulated among program directors."

Fair enough. In retrospect - if Clear Channel are to be believed - it doesn't seem as insidious as it seemed in 2001. But keep in mind the perspective I was coming from: a young, liberal college kid studying poli-sci, working as the arts & entertainment editor for the university paper, interning and producing segments for a current events talk radio show at the local NPR affiliate. Also keep in mind that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 essentially deregulated everything in media so Clear Channel was gobbling up radio stations all over the country creating a broadcast monopoly. Gee, thanks for that one, Bill.

So, all that in mind, after a major attack on American soil, even the simple notion of this big, bad media giant sponsoring any sort of censorship - especially in a time of crisis - was frightening.

Eleven years later in this post-9/11 world it still is.

And that is something to remember on 9/11 that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom of the press are rights that we must fiercely fight for every single day.

Oh and, Clear Channel? For future reference it is actually okay to permanently ban any songs by 3 Doors Down, Alien Ant Farm, Godsmack, Limp Bizkit, and P.O.D. Thanks.

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08 September 2012

THE WEEK(s): David Gray Plans To Destroy Homes (in addition to ears), Albums That Make Us Feel Old, Lana Del Rey Naked, Socks.

Be Here Now is 15, Turn On The Bright Lights is 10 and we're old.

It has been a while since our last post about The Week but it's because Pet Bear Sounds has been all over the place.

But there has been a lot going on in past few weeks!
  • Pet Bear Sounds went to FYF. Are you following us on Instagram? (Handle: PetBearSounds).
  • Photographer Thom Moore re-imagines famous album covers with socks. SOCKS.
  • File this under "This Makes Me Feel Old" because the incredible Interpol album Turn On The Bright Lights turned 10.
  • The Russian police is on the hunt for more Pussy. Riot, that is. Pitchfork has all the latest.
  • David Gray (yah, remember him?) insists on destroying places that produce good music. Jealousy.
  • File this under "This Makes Me Feel Older" because that awesome Oasis album Be Here Now turned 15.
  • Stereogum sums up LA Weekly's "20 Worst Hipster Bands." File this one under "You might be a hipster if..."
  • Record store owner Manuel Vasquez is selling an album recorded by Charles Manson. And he's getting hate mail for it. Shocker.
  • Jack White tells the BBC that music festivals are a "necessary evil."
  • Do we need another Rolling Stones documentary? Apparently we do. Crossfire Hurricane is a career-spanning documentary for television to be released later this year. (Yah, we'll watch it).
  • And, finally, NME wonders if Lana Del Rey can pose naked on GQ and still be taken seriously as a musician.

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01 September 2012

FYF FEST 2012: See you there!

(click poster for set times)

FYF Fest over Labor Day weekend? It's a tradition now!

This year marks the expansion of the festival from one day to two and, sure, that also means an expansion in ticket prices (from 20-something dollars to 80-something) but take one look at the lineup and you can tell that this mini-Coachella is worth it. Add the backing of promoting powerhouse Goldenvoice and now you've got a more "professional" looking festival.
With the help of Goldenvoice, [Sean] Carlson said, “I was no longer dealing with the city, staging and lighting and the tents. I’m looped in, but I’m not sitting there going over budgets for hours and hours. Why do that when I can hire someone to do that?” [LA Times]
All the logistics are more professional and the lineup packs a punch as well. In keeping to its roots, local Los Angeles bands are still fixtures in the lineup but sprinkled in are more established, hey-I-know-them acts.

I'm really looking forward to seeing: AA Bondy, Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Future Islands, Warpaint, Sleigh Bells, Purity Ring, Tycho, M83, Simian Mobile Disco, Givers, Against Me!, Paul Banks, Dinosaur Jr., Liars, Health, Yeasayer, Beirut, Twin Shadow, etc., etc., etc.

Also, I got on board the Instagram train so you can see me snap pictures of bands.

Follow me at: petbearsounds

See you there!
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20 August 2012

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: What would this 'world be without 'good music?

This comes from one of my favorite blogs on the Internet: Letters of Note.
In 1967, jazz legend Louis Armstrong wrote this generous, heartfelt letter to a fan who, as a Marine stationed in Vietnam, had recently sent him some fan-mail ... Then there's Satchmo's idiosyncratic use of punctuation, which, if you've never seen it before, will probably charm and confuse you in equal measure.

34—56—107 St.
Corona New York'

Dear L/Cpl, Villec"

I'd like to 'step in here for a 'Minute or 'so' to ''tell you how much—I 'feel to know that 'you are a 'Jazz fan, and 'Dig' 'that 'Jive—the 'same as 'we 'do, "yeah." "Man—I carry an 'Album, 'loaded with 'Records—'Long playing 'that is. And when I am 'Shaving or 'Sitting on the 'Throne with 'Swiss Kriss' in me—That Music 'sure 'brings out those 'Riffs' 'Right Along with 'Swiss Kriss, which I 'take 'every night or when I go to bed. 'Yeah. I give myself a 'Concert with those 'records. 'Music is 'life it'self. What would this 'world be without 'good music? No matter 'what kind it is.

You can read the entire letter on Letters of Note. It truly is an endearing letter. Even though there are tons of ways for public figures to interact with their fans in this day and age, it's hard to imagine even a heartfelt email (let alone a letter in the mail) from a star.

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17 August 2012

THE WEEK: An Avalanche, Olympics 2012 - The Musical, MuseStep, Pussy Riot, and more!

Editor's Note: In an effort to keep up with more music news and all the other blogs I follow, I will collect some of my favorite bits of news of the week in this weekly post. Every Friday! What did you miss recently?
  • Pitchfork reporting that The Avalanches are making steady progress on their follow-up to Since I Left You (my No. 4 album of 2001).
  • Muse going dubstep? Consequence Of Sound confirms your fears. Their quip - "The 2nd Law will…drop…October 2nd." - is gold.
  • Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch prohibits his music for use in adverts reports Rolling Stone. We'll see how long that lasts.
  • Teenage Pet Bear Sounds was extremely tickled by the fact that members of the Spice Girls, Liam Gallagher of Oasis and the drummer for Muse were just having a laugh after the closing ceremony of the Olympics.
  • Speaking of the Olympics, American viewers were "treated" to NBC's Animal Practice instead of Muse and The Who.
  • Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood does another soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson's next picture The Master. Consequence Of Sound has the soundtrack details here.
  • Freedom of speech is alive and well in Russia as Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." Pitchfork have collected a lot of great links regarding the case. Pitchfork also had a fantastic interview with Kathleen Hanna of American riot grrrl band Bikini Kill.
That's that for The Week, have a musical weekend everyone!

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30 June 2012

EURO 2012: Football And Music

The swelling chorus of voices from soccer football supporters, the songs from the terraces (uplifting, degrading, hilarious, amazing), the pop songs that become football anthems. The connection between football and music has always been strong.

I noted in a previous post how fascinating it was to see a Rodgers and Hammerstein song turn into an anthem for Liverpool Football Club, so much so, that even Pink Floyd used a sample of the crowd in their highly underrated song "Fearless."

As the 2012 European Football Championships come to a close, many have noted the popularity of "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes in the stadiums around Poland and Ukraine.

NME.com credits the Italians (who play Spain in the final) for popularizing the song in football stadia in Europe.

Sports blog Deadspin.com examines in a bit more detail how the song grew in popularity in spite of reservations about the song from the White Stripe camp itself.

Jack White has weighed in on the recent popularity as well:
"I am honored that the Italians have adopted this song as their own," White said. "Nothing is more beautiful than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music. As a songwriter it is something impossible to plan. Especially in modern times. I love that most people who are chanting it have no idea where it came from. That's folk music."
Chris Salmon writes in The Guardian Music Blog that "[F]ootball and (credible) music were mutually exclusive. If you liked one, you really didn't like the other, and if you liked both you kept it to yourself."

The Beatles were encouraged by manager Brian Epstein to hide their football allegiances (McCartney was allegedly an Everton supporter while Lennon supported Liverpool FC).

Salmon goes on to write about the economics of the music and football industry and about how music is now inextricably linked to football especially because of the money available in the sport.

The link between football and music has always been strong with Pink Floyd using "You'll Never Walk Alone," through New Order's surprisingly good football song "World In Motion" in 1990 and even bands like Embrace writing the official 2006 World Cup song for England. Glasvegas is led by James Allen, a former professional footballer in the Scottish Premier League. Though most may not think it (or find it stereotypically odd) Elton John is big investor and supporter of Watford Football Club since 1976. The Gallagher brothers of Oasis have never made any secrets about their support for Manchester City. Joy Division's Ian Curtis, also a huge Manchester City supporter.

The headline in the Guardian blog article says, "Once musicians were too cool for the terraces - not now" but I think that's a bit misleading. Musicians (Ones from the UK, anyway) have always been able to combine their love for football and music.

Musicians were never "too cool" for the terraces but nowadays it's just paying off.

This goes into the discussion of bands "selling out" or not or "branding" issues for bands these days. I have embryos of thoughts on this subject and planning on a fully-formed post on it in the future. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy the football. Enjoy the music. Cheers!

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27 June 2012

BOWIE: Don't Ever Stop

This comes from one of my favorite blogs in the whole wide world (wide web): Letters Of Note.
You know it is your letters and cards and applause after each show which makes me able to carry on and devise new ideas and schemes to entertain you and make me happy. DON'T EVER STOP.

Love on ya!

(Signed, 'Bowie')
(Click here for the full transcript).

According to Letters Of Note, this form letter was written back in April of 1974. David Bowie was about 27 years old back then, had just released "Rebel Rebel" in February of that year and was on the cusp of going on an incredible run of albums: Young Americans (1975), Station To Station (1976), Low (1977), "Heroes" (1977), Lodger (1979).


| David Bowie - "Rebel Rebel" |

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25 June 2012

PET BEAR SOUNDS NEWS: Send Me Your Albums Of The Year

As loyal Pet Bear Sounds readers have already noticed, I have done a bit of tidying around the place. The right-hand column is less cumbersome (hopefully the site should load a bit faster) and there are some more useful/interesting links at the top of the page.

I hope you like these little changes. (And you may have also noticed that I've been attempting to post more often).

One section I wanted to highlight is the Albums Of The Year page. This will be a place where I collect a list of albums that I've been listening to this year and enjoying. Ultimately, this reference page should help make the creation of my end of year Top Albums list much easier.

Now, let's be honest here. I'm not going to be able to listen to every single album that is released this year and, frankly, I don't have the patience to wade through all the pants albums so I'm going to need your help.

"Holler at me" and let me know the albums (released this year) that you have been enjoying so far in 2012 and that I should consider for my end of the year list.

You can contact me any number of ways: Twitter, Facebook, the PetBearSounds.com comment sections (at the bottom of most if not all posts), my Spotify inbox, text message (xxx-xxx-xxxx), email (petbearsounds at gmail dot com), snail mail, carrier pigeon, messenger, etc. (You could tell me in person but I'd probably forget. Short-term memory issues and all.).

Thanks and thanks for reading!

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21 June 2012

EXCERPT: "Young and old alike were entranced."

An excerpt from the fantastic Beatles book Revolution in the Head by Ian McDonald.
With Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band finished, the group left Abbey Road at dawn bearing an acetate and drove to 'Mama' Cass Elliott's flat off the King's Road where, at six in the morning, they threw open the windows, put speakers on the ledge, and played the album full blast over the rooftops of Chelsea.

According to Derek Taylor, 'all the windows around us opened and people leaned out, wondering. It was obvious who it was on the record. Nobody complained. A lovely spring morning. People were smiling and giving us the thumbs up.'

When Sgt. Pepper was released in June, it was a major cultural event. Young and old alike were entranced. Attending a party with a group of rich older women, EMI boss Sir Joseph Lockwood found them so 'thrilled' by the album that they sat on the floor after dinner singing extracts from it.

In America normal radio-play was virtually suspended for several days, only tracks from Sgt. Pepper being played. An almost religious awe surrounded the LP.

Paul Kantner of the San Francisco acid rock band Jefferson Airplane remembers how The Byrds' David Crosby brough a tape of Sgt. Pepper to their Seattle hotel and played it all night in the lobby with a hundred young fans listening quietly on the stairs, as if rapt by a spiritual experienced. 'Something,' says Kantner, 'enveloped the whole world at that time and it just exploded into a renaissance.'

Pg. 248-9
Nobody seems to listen to records anymore. When was the last time you just sat down with your friends in the living room, around the hi-fi and just listened to an album? The last time you just laid down in bed, no phone, no laptop, no book, no television and just listened to an album all the way through? When was the last time you were 'entranced?'

That's the problem, I suppose. A lot of bands these days don't create proper albums anymore. And people don't really listen to albums anymore.

I want to start an album club where each week a person will bring an album to the group and everyone will just sit for an hour and just listen.

Now, take 40 minutes out of your day and listen to this one:

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18 June 2012

FYF Fest 2012

Really love that a local music festival like FYF Fest is expanding to two days.

You spend $77.00 for both days, pop down to Downtown Los Angeles and go see: M83, Beirut, Yeasayer, Simian Mobile Disco, Dinosaur Jr., Warpaint, Wildflag, Paul Banks (from Interpol), Liars, Health, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, AA Bondy, Softpack, etc. etc. etc.

Support Los Angeles.

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WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: The Smiths In Electronic

A brief journey through the 1980s here, bear with me.

The Smiths were likely the best alternative-rock band to come out of the 1980s while on the other side of the spectrum, New Order were the best synthpop band to come out of the '80s.

The magnitude of their musical and cultural influence may have been forgotten by modern bands but the fingerprints of these two Manchester bands are everywhere in music.

The career of The Smiths was painfully short with just four albums between 1984 and 1987. By the time their last album - Strangeways, Here We Come - was released in September of 1987, The Smiths were finished. The drama between Morrissey and Johnny Marr rivaled and echoed the he-said/he-said drama of John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1970.

From the ashes* of Joy Division emerged New Order and the dawn of innovative sythpop, thundering club beats, combined with simple and heartfelt - if not cryptic - lyrics. After the release of Republic in 1993, New Order also parted ways (for a while) and after a brief reformation New Order split again in the midst of this all-too-often drama between its principle members Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.

While New Order has had the luxury of reuniting and being flattered with dozens of sounds-like-New-Order sort of bands (and the general upswing of electro-pop in recent years), The Smiths died in 1987 with little chance of Morrissey and Marr reconciling (not even for the reunion-friendly Coachella music festival).

Morrissey embarked on a successful solo career while Marr became an indie-rock Eric Clapton working with Bernard Sumner (more on this later), The Pretenders, The The, Talking Heads, Pet Shop Boys, Beck, Oasis, Modest Mouse, The Cribs, and releasing his own solo record in 2003.

With Morrissey and Marr keeping busy and staying relevant and successful, there was little motivation for Morrissey and Marr to reunite. (Much to the chagrin of Smiths drummer Mike Joyce and bass player Andy Rourke, I'm sure).

These days a Smith reunion seems near impossible but that hasn't detered the calls for a Smiths reformation. Every once in a while a rumor will spill out, off-hand remarks from Morrissey or Marr throwing the English music press into a frenzy, but nothing has materialized.

So, of course, one tends to speculate: How would The Smiths career have evolved?

The brit-pop revolution of the early- to mid-90s owed a lot to the influence of The Smiths but what would be the sound of The Smiths? What could have been?

The answer is in the Johnny Marr/Bernard Sumner super-group Electronic and their single "Vivid."

| Electronic - "Vivid" |

Twisted Tenderness was released in April 1999 and seems to be the most guitar-oriented album of the three Electronic records. "Vivid" floats in with a dreamy swirl of synths interrupted by a bone-crushing crash of drums and a furious (Smiths-esque?) harmonica solo.

While the unmistakeable vocals of Sumner gives "Vivid" a distinctly New Order-y feel, one can easily imagine another strikingly unique vocalist in this song.

The fact that "Vivid" sounds like a Smiths song isn't surprising, obviously, considering the Marr influence (the two previous Electronic albums definitely had more of the Sumner/New Order fingerprints on it) but it's the slow intro, the structure of the song, the tempo, the melody, the harmonica, the hallmarks of a Smiths song.

While lyrically Sumner isn't (or refuses to be?) as grandiose as Morrissey, the epic scope of this song - while retaining the lyrical themes - could stand to use the lyrical wit and vocal punch of Morrissey.

But such is the classic downfall of a super-group. The elements and the talent are clearly there, the quality in the production is there, but the group lacks that extra something. You ultimately become disappointed at the collection of watered down sounds of the bands the super-group represents.

It's the thin-line between success and mediocrity. It's the "It" factor that is so hard to define.

"Vivid" is a bit of a frustrating song. Standing on its own, the quality of this song is undeniable. But the unfulfilled potential of this song is also undeniable. But, really, it's another example of a collection of watered down sounds.

I don't think that Sumner or Marr started this side project to best the efforts of their respective bands but the Electronic super-group is frustrating because you almost want to hear more New Order or more Smiths.

In the case of "Vivid," this song is a look into what could have been for The Smiths in the '90s.

Now, if only Morrissey wasn't such a prat.

* I grimaced when using this word. I promised myself I wouldn't use 'ashes' when speaking of Joy Division/New Order story, a word that has been overused by any who writes about Joy Division and New Order. But the phoenix-like ascension of New Order after the suicide of their enegmatic and charismatic frontman Ian Curtis really makes a word like 'ashes' fitting.

| @PetBearSounds | facebook.com/PetBearSounds |
| last.fm/PetBearSounds | g+/PetBearSounds |

17 June 2012

Dad Rock

Let's say you're somewhere between the ages of about 20 to 40. Let's say you have a dad. Let's suppose that dear old dad is a huge fan of western popular music. Then you know about DAD ROCK.

It's like some United States supreme court justice once said about pornography, you can't define it but you know it when you see it.

Same with Dad Rock. Every dad listens to some different genres, some dads are a bit older, some dads are a bit younger, but ultimately, there's a lot of overlap in the Dad Rock genre. You can't really define Dad Rock but you know it when you hear it.

I have to thank my dad for making sure that music was always around. The piano, the guitars, the oldies radio station blaring in the garage, the stacks of tapes that always accompanied us on those idyllic family road trips, the tower of CDs, the hi-fi.

And, of course, quintessential Dad Rock pumping from the speakers:
  • Eagles
  • Peter, Paul and Mary
  • John Denver (Dad loves John Denver)
  • Simon & Garfunkel
  • Neil Diamond
  • Kenny Rogers
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Beatles
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Hall & Oates
  • Michael Jackson ("Before he got... strange." ~ Dad)
  • Eric Clapton (especially that MTV Unplugged album)
  • Mid-1960s Motown
Do you find yourself thinking about your own dad and nodding your head? Yep. Dad Rock. Some of it might seem cringe-worthy now but you secretly (or not-so-secretly) listen to it and love it because it's good damn good music and it's comforting. And, well, because it's just so Dad. Happy Father's Day!
| @PetBearSounds | facebook.com/PetBearSounds | | last.fm/PetBearSounds | g+/PetBearSounds |

03 May 2012

THE BEATLES: From "One After 909" To "One After 909"

The Beatles. We get it. They were great. Not just great, they were the best goddamn rock 'n' roll band in the world and every band should hope to achieve even a fraction of what The Beatles accomplished. Right?! They were creators, innovators, leaders, pretty, popular, religious, open, free, flawed, they were the fuckin' Beatles, man!

The plaudits are endless. The praise, impassioned. The criticism, begrudging.

We get it.

The Beatles story has been rehashed so many times. Stories ironed into legend, legends carefully crafted by the survivors into the perfect Beatles mythology.

We get it.

We dog-eared the favorite bits in our Beatles books, we bought the limited edition magazines, wore out the Anthology CDs, watched The Beatles Anthology a million times, bought the vinyl, the CDs, the remasters.

Seriously, we get it!

What more do we need to do?

We need to take a listen to "One After 909."

Sure, "One After 909" is a fun track but ultimately - especially compared to the rest of their catalog - a bit of a throwaway song on Let It Be. But in between the lines of "One After 909" is rush of emotion and history that brings a tear to my eyes. Hyperbole? Sure. But doesn't it always seem like that when you're talking about The Beatles?

18 April 2012

06 April 2012

Coachella 2012: Spotify Playlists!

| Official Coachella 2012 Lineup! |

Update (6 April 2012):
Just think. In one short week you will be waking up, getting dressed, and wandering over to the Empire Polo Grounds for three non-stop days of music and whatever else strikes your fancy.

I have updated my Spotify playlists (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) after listening to tracks from each and every band on the lineup. I really narrowed it down to the bands that really caught my ears.

Some of the bands that I wasn't familiar with that caught my ears?

  • Yuck - A melodic, shoegazey, lo-fi band from the UK. Listen with your arms crossed to "Get Away."
  • Honeyhoney - Modern alt-country with a healthy twinge of Fleetwood Mac. Grab a glass of whiskey and listen to "Turn That Finger Around."
  • Wallpaper. - French-disco-funk-house-pop-music. Get up and dance to "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted."
  • Destroyer - Dreamy'80s-Roxy-Music-Bowie. Get your 4am coked-out vibe with "Kaputt."
  • We Were Promised Jetpacks - If Two Door Cinema Club were more post-punk. Do your Ian Curtis dance to "Quiet Little Voices."
  • Keep Shelly In Athens - Dreamy female vocals? Big late-'80s-New-Order (or current-Cut-Copy) sort of beats? Got it. Here's "Fairytale."
  • Real Estate - Pitchfork darlings. But take from that what you will, it's still good jangly-guitar-indie-pop. Keep your hair over your eyes for "It's Real."
  • Housse de Racket - This French band were former session musicians for Air and Phoenix. So, you get the idea. If you like your Phoenix with a bit of French-house jam to "Chateau."
  • Sleeper Agent - Energetic alt-rock band from Kentucky. A bit of Cage The Elephant with a bit of The Strokes. Get drunk on domestic and rock out to "Get Burned."
There's a total of six hours of music. Enjoy. Get pumped. See you there!

Originally posted on 11 January 2012:
Chances are if you love music, you love Spotify. If you've found this blog, you probably also love the bands that are playing at Coachella year in and year out. So, I created some Coachella playlists on Spotify!

Come visit my PetBearSounds profile on Spotify and check out my Coachella 2012 playlists for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!

More songs will be added as I discover new bands!

See you at Coachella (Weekend 1).

| @PetBearSounds | facebook.com/PetBearSounds |
| last.fm/PetBearSounds | g+/PetBearSounds |

09 January 2012

Top Albums: 2011

Happy new year, everyone! Before we power into 2012, let's take a quick look back at 2011 and my Top Albums.

Previously I've listed my top five albums of the year and then a handful of "honorable mentions." For 2011 I'm listing my top ten albums.

I think it's difficult to truly measure the impact of an album after such a limited time (especially with the albums released in the second half of the year) but I've drafted and re-drafted my list a dozen times and finally settled on my top ten.

Feelings may change over the years but this list is an accurate representation of my favorite albums at the close of 2011.