Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Three Types of Music

As the title implies, I hypothesize that there are only three types of music.  I can almost see everyone's face light up as they start thinking, "but rock, and blues, and rap, and electronic, and folk, and indie, and and AND!"  But, you're all wrong.

Now, let me begin to explain before that shock wears off of your pretty faces.

Three types of music is all that exists.  The three types are simple, at that.  The first type of music is the music that makes you feel good.  For simplicity we'll just call it "Music that makes you feel good."

We all know this music and, probably, some of you who are reading this find this type of music - at least a good portion of it - to be annoying.  This is the type of music you put on at a party because it makes you want to dance.  It is the type of songs that sing about how girls only want to have fun.  Their substance in the lyrics are very typically lacking, but the beat and melody and even the lack of substance induces a type of good feeling.

Even rap has fallen into this category a good portion of the time, much like rock music of the past did - she's not my cherry pie, but she was someone's.

The second type of music is a bit deeper than that.  It is the type of music that I find myself devoured in most often.  I will, finding creativity in this exercise to be too much effort, call it "music that makes us feel good to feel bad."

Now some of you may be thinking, "I hate that kind of music."  Well, probably not since most people who hate the kind of music that requires such thoughtful exercises to enjoy, along with feeling that sorrow, sadness, and/or pain typically don't spend time doing much reading on music, but maybe there are one or two of you who will stumble across this post by some chance.

This is the type of music that sings about saying goodbye to Marianne or how someone will take something with them when they go - wherever they are going.  This requires a deep understanding of whatever "negative" emotion the singer portrays, most often because the listener is very akin to the feeling themselves.

This type of music extends beyond those types of emotions, though.  Rage and anger fall under this category - like when you find yourself deeply upset because of government or economic injustices so you just want to create another bombtrack.  Maybe you're upset about the use of vivisection on innocent animals and that's what you relate to.  Anyway you look at it, however, there is a deeper involvement in the good feeling that comes from this music.

Finally, the third type of music is the type of music that is simply art.  It can't really be described as something you'd listen to in order to feel good or feel like you're sitting with someone who feels the same way that you do, it just simply exists.  There is a rockette out there named Morton who may even express two different parts that fits this category far too well.  Some may even perform a shuffle with five knuckles while listening to jazz greats, around twenty of them, give or take.

This category, of course, would definitely have the least listeners.  It is like looking at abstract art in musical form.  It doesn't make sense and when you listen to it one time you could fall in love with it, another time hate, and another time just not have any feeling about it one way or another.  It relies on you to be in the right frame of mind more than either of the other two categories.  It wouldn't be a wise decision to go to a museum, for example, when all you want to do is punch someone in the face.

So there you have it, the three true types of music.  Do you have anything to add?

-Dustin S. Stover

For more reading pleasures in the form of more story than simple thought, check out my collection of short stories on:
Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Leonard Cohen

What a year 2016 has been so far.  David Bowie.  Prince.  Now, Leonard Cohen (November 10th, 2016).

Leonard Cohen has written some of my all time favorite songs.  It wasn't for his overly complex instrumentals or his most amazing voice - arguably, neither of those are amazing.  No, it was the deepness in his lyrics and the way his voice not only portrayed the lyrics, but simply lived in the space that the words did.  His voice embodied the words in the most perfect, imperfect way.

Of course, Leonard Cohen cannot be brought up without speaking of love as well.  Nick Cave said it best when he stated that Cohen lived the life of love.  That is to say, the feeling that you've never quite got it, it is always on your fingertips and moments away from slipping away, never to be touched again.

Cohen was a man that, undoubtedly, lost more love than most of us will ever even know.  It wasn't the superficial love that was embodying the ideal relationship on the outside without passion or liveliness on the inside.  No, his words was perfectly descriptive of that deep longing, that knowing that no matter how much time he has with his love(s) that it will never be enough, and that feeling that they are simply moments away from being gone forever.

Months ago, when the infamous Marianne, one of his lovers, died he wrote a letter to her stating that he was not far behind - so close that she'd be able to touch him if she reached out.  When I read the letter, it was clear he only had a very limited amount of time left, but I had high hopes that he had one left push before he was gone.

Boy, did he have that push.  His last album featured some of the greatest writing ever.  His voice being burnt by cigarette smoke and the burns soothed over with whiskey.  His voice was withered, deep, rumbling, running over rocks, and embodied more about the world the album lived in more than, perhaps, any album before.  It is simply a masterpiece that expresses his obviousness of being ready to die.  He had lived his pleasures and his pain more than enough for one man, but the art that came from all those emotions have made me feel less alone.  If that isn't the purpose of art then art has no purpose.

He was an artist that no one could duplicate, and I don't know that anyone ever will.  I'd prefer for that to be the case considering that I couldn't imagine anyone else spending years writing, honing, one singular song the way that Cohen did.

I've not written about music for a while.  This year burnt me, especially due to David Bowie.  I remember thinking back then that I really hoped the world didn't lose any other artists off of my secret list of (wishful) immortal artists.  Leonard Cohen was on that list.

It looks like it is time to load up all the Leonard Cohen and celebrate him and all he has done for music, writing, and art in general.

-Dustin S. Stover

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Growing World of Marissa Nadler

Marissa Nadler's voice has this ability to echo through me and haunt me in the most pleasurable way imaginable.  I like to deprive myself of her vocals just so that when I hear them again I get that feeling of floating all over again.  Drifting through a field of emotions only to embrace it as one would a lover, or a best friend that I've not seen for an extended time.

July was easily one of my favorite albums of the year when it came out.  Her vocals alone will make that album worth listening to as far as I'm concerned.

That brings me to her latest album - Strangers.  Instantly it feels like an old friend has greeted me.  That beautiful voice is something that could still - as I believe I've said several times - lead me straight into Hell and I'd never once stray from it.

The new album feels more uplifting than her last album.  That isn't to say that it is uplifting, it is still a very dark album.  There is just a tingle of happiness in her voice now that seems as though she has rode through her turbulent events in life and come out the other end better than she was before.

That, too, is further exampled by the lyrics.  They take a more indirect approach, more voyeuristic in nature as opposed to internal.  

The instrumental work is, of course, rather simplistic and eerie.  If you've not been a fan of her in the past then don't expect this album to be the one to bring you to your senses.  It does, however, set the perfect mood for her vocals and lyrics.  Just as a fan would expect.

While this album doesn't push her boundaries in any dynamic way, it does expand herself as a musician in little ways.  It doesn't feel as though this is someone locked inside her mind any longer.  There are hints of a more country music sound in some songs - especially "Strangers".  Don't read that as it being a country song, it is just hints.  

It is the little pushes like this that really make it feel better than July.  Not just from the aspect of a lyrical standpoint, but even the production value feels more keenly set to what she wants it to be.

Strangers is currently available however your preferred means of listening is.

-Dustin S. Stover

And, as usual, if you would like to read my collection of short stories, they are available on Kindle and Nook through the links below.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An Old Soul Trapped in a Young Body Sounding Like an Old Soul

Adia Victoria is someone of a quite turbulent and interesting past (look it up.  If you can find it, it is entertaining and insightful for how she got to where she is).  I can only imagine that her upbringing led her to loving blues.

She has every bit of passion in her music as every one of the greatest blues artists of all time.  For that matter, choose any genre - every genre - and then discover the most passionate of the bands in those genres.  Adia Victoria grasps every ounce of energy and passion that those artists could care to in their pinnacle, yet, she only has one release under her belt.

She is quite controversial in her public outcries, as well.  Social justice, her stance with the Black Lives Matter movement, and expressing her own personal experiences of being a black woman in a white world.

Her album, Beyond the Bloodhounds, is pure blues music.  Her voice is lush with an old time sound.  She sounds many decades older than her actual age.  Her writing style is equally as dynamic as the lyrics feel as though she has had a lifetime of experience piecing together songs.

Yet, because she isn't those decades older, she has the energy of a 20-something.  There is also an element of in your face, don't give a shit that I absolutely love.  An innocence in her naivety of how the world works, but that also builds into a character.  A character not afraid of deepening an understanding.

This is the second artist to release a debut album this year that I've been anticipating for what feels like forever.  I first heard Adia Victoria's song "Stuck in the South" over a year ago - I want to say it was sometime in 2014.  It was the kind of bait I had been waiting for without ever knowing I was waiting for anything.

That is to say, it popped.  It was a brilliant howl of purity, raw energy, and felt like a fresh kick in the nuts.

Since then, I hadn't really heard more than that song.  I had seen her posts on social media and been following her since, waiting extremely patiently.  I have not been disappointed by this release.  

I can't wait to see (and hear) where Adia Victoria goes from here.  Her album, Beyond the Bloodhounds, is out now and see her in a city near you as she is currently on tour as well.

-Dustin S. Stover

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Reintroducing the Deftones

The Deftones have been around a good while, as their first album came out in 1995.  Had someone told me that they'd still be around sixteen years after their album White Pony came out, I'd have found myself struck with an uncontrollable laughter.  Well, perhaps not back then.  I'd have been much more excited for all the music they'd make between then and now.

However, the time did pass between then and now.  Those first three albums were golden to me, but since then I have found myself disappointed in every release they've put out since.  They had discovered where they wanted to be by the time White Pony arrived and they executed it very well once they arrived.  Sadly, none of the albums after did much for me in regards to developing their sound more or changing enough of a direction to entice my listening beyond one or two passes.

Don't get me wrong, every album is very much Deftones, but they just didn't feel new.  Well, with their most recent release, Gore, that changes.  No, it doesn't feel like the instrumental work expands so drastically as the earlier albums did but it makes up for that in just how much Chino's vocals have improved.  There is also a really interesting dynamic between him and Stephen Carpenter's guitar playing.

Gore is really the first Deftones album that I've really wanted to listen to multiple times since White Pony.  It feels like a very cohesive album, an album that was born out of a stable mindset between the band members - even if, at times, it seems they are on different pages, the individuals seem to have a stable mind towards what they want.

That is the fine balance on this album that makes it work, though.  Suddenly I feel like I'm listening to a band that wants to discover themselves again.  A band that doesn't quite know exactly where it wants to go, and it doesn't care to just repeat the past again.

The lyrics, as always, are vague and seemingly random.  That's nothing new for any Deftones fan, though.

I just keep coming back to the vocals.  It is very odd for me to fall in love so heavily with vocals but they are something truly amazing on this album.  I read somewhere that Chino has gotten himself cleaned up within the past few years and if that is true, it has done wonders for his vocals.  There is a connection I feel through him to the music that I've not felt before - like he was dreaming in the past and he has suddenly woken up and really grabbed the songs.

In the midst of all this, though, they manage to sound so much like who they've always been that there is no mistaking them for anyone other than the Deftones.

While I may not ever love this album as much as I did Adrenaline, Around the Fur, and White Pony, I find myself being able to say that I'm a fan again.

-Dustin S. Stover

Check out my collection of short stories by clicking the link below.
Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
Nook: Happiness in a Void of Darkness

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Hope in PJ Harvey's New Album

Now, PJ Harvey is a musical genius.  A musical genius that I have a grand tendency to overlook time and time again.  When I heard she had a new album coming out, The Hope Six Demolition Project, I told myself that I HAD to listen to it.  Really take it in and not let it pass by.

Let's start with my favorite part about almost all the music I love - the instrumental work.  This is where I tell myself to fit it into a genre of music and explain how it differentiates from said genre.  The truth is, though, each song takes on a life all its own.  There are haunting songs, upbeat songs, and everything in between.

The link between them all is the message through the lyrics, but before I get to that point I'd just like to say that the album simply doesn't feel as though it is a single, cohesive piece of art.  Standing alone, the songs work.  There is depth in the sounds, there is cohesion in each of the individual songs.  This is really a meaningless and trivial complaint in today's society, where albums are a relic of the past in all but release date.  I am still, however, a big fan of that cohesive feel.  The way a Pink Floyd album flows from song to song, creating an entire story.

Anyway, back to PJ Harvey.  The topics covered in this album revolve around poor people losing their homes, losing their livelihoods to big name corporations.  Honestly, her fans are already going to be on her side with this topic, and the lyrics offer little as a means to support their claims so I doubt it would branch her fan base out based on that point.

Some of the songs definitely have a power to capture a listener, though.  Even though the entire album doesn't flow, the songs are good.  They definitely have catch to them, and they have the ability to reel in the listener.  The trick is to find which song on the album does that most for you.

Overall, I don't see PJ Harvey losing any fans from this album.  Even if her fanbase wasn't as dedicated as they've proven themselves to be, there are good songs to enjoy off the album.  On the reverse of that, though, I don't see her gaining any new fans either.

-Dustin S. Stover
Click below for my collection of short stories.
Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
Nook: Happiness in a Void of Darkness

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Do the Beans of Sunflowers Only Grow in Direct Sunlight?

Sunflower Bean have released their debut full length album, Human Ceremony, which comes in at a relatively short 38 minutes; however, it is a lovely walk through fields.  Fields illuminated by the brightest sunlight imaginable.

There is an airiness to their sound, a sort of floating you'd get from psychedelic music of the past.  In a way, they are a direct continuation from that sound but with a slight bit more pop in their step than that of the experimental days of the past.  There isn't anything wrong with that, but it does feel like less of a game changer and more of a copy-cat theme.

A lot of bands get their start by following the steps of their predecessors, though.  This album has a definite feel to it that other bands can't quite grasp, and by that I mean that it feels like a complete thought from start to finish.  All the songs fit together nicely and it is easy to distinguish that it is a Sunflower Bean song when you hear it, even if the songs feel like they were made in 1967 with modern day production value.

The alternating between male and female vocals feel as though it could be pulled off for a more dynamic effect, though, if the male vocalist had a bit deeper of a voice.  His relatively high voice doesn't distinguish him as much from the female vocalist as what my ears would like, but it is still a good contrast.

It is refreshing to hear this band, though.  There is something to be said about a band who can be so cohesive and full of sound without going over the top.  This isn't a hard band to enjoy.  There just feels as though there needs to be a touch more uniqueness to really give them that boost.

I will stroll through this field of sunflowers and blinding sunlight a few more times before it gets shelved.  It isn't an album I feel that I could fall deeply in love with but I find myself very far from hating it at the same time.  It is a good album, very good for a first LP, and it does what any first album should do - it makes me want more, I just hope it comes with a bit more depth.

I can't even fault the depth of the lyrics as it tackles space, God, life, and other existential topics; however, it still feels that they have so much more room to grow and that, after all, is the most exciting part of a new band.

-Dustin S. Stover

To read more of my writing, click below:
Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
Nook: Happiness in a Void of Darkness