Wednesday, October 25, 2017

First Listening Greatness

I was asked recently a life shattering question.  It was simplistic, as most life altering questions often are, but it held the weight of ten thousand questions.

The question was quite simply - what album would you want to go back and hear for the first time again.

To me, this question had only one absolute answer - Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol.

That album shifted something in me on that very first listen that altered my preference in music ever since.  It was just a slight bump.  I'd imagine something like Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division would have done the same had I been old enough to hear it new but that album had already shifted music by the time I first started getting into music. 

Although Interpol's music definitely falls in line with that post punk vibe that Joy Division basically created, there was something about that album that just punched me in the gut more than any other first listening of an album.

Of course, there are other albums that are even more dynamic - Beck's Odelay album, Nine Inch Nail's album, The Fragile (or Downward Spiral if you're so inclined).  Tool's Aenima album.  The Legendary Pink Dots' Crushed Velvet Apocalypse.  And on and on.

The thing about all these other dynamic albums, along with the thousands not mentioned here, those albums felt like opening up little treasures the more I listened to them.  It was like exploring a dynamic world, or watching a Daren Aronofsky movie.

That isn't to say that Turn on the Bright Lights was a one hit and quit type of album.  No, that album stayed deep into constant rotation for years after I first heard it.  I still pull the cd out of its jewel case and carefully put it into the cd player for another listen.  I just simply don't feel like I'm learning anything new about the album every listen - it is just great music.

Of course this led down a rabbit hole of me attempting to think of another album that felt similar to this, another album that the first listen was the most dynamic and I'd go back in time to have that experience again.  Strangely, I can't think of another, but the fact that I have so many albums that I enjoyed more the more listens I took of them more than compensates for the lack of initial hitting albums.

So, dear readers of mine, I ask you now - what is an album you'd go back in time to hear for the first time again?

-Dustin S. Stover

Collect my short stories at Amazon for the Kindle: Happiness in a Void of Darkness
Or for the Nook: Happiness in a Void of Darkness

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mogwai's World Expands

I have never been a Mogwai fan.  I have always tried my damnedest to be because, by all accounts, if you were to write out what they are on paper they would check all the boxes for a band I love, but there has always been this disconnect in actual practice.

In the past, in the days where purchasing a cd was the best way to get music, I would even purchase their albums one by one in the hopes that the next album I picked up would be the one.

It wasn't - I always just longed for Godspeed! You Black Emperor instead.

But, like that pizza place that everyone raves on and on about when you only think it is mediocre, I have to keep going back for another taste.

Don't get me wrong - I love the fact they still make music.  I think their talent is top notch, too.  It just doesn't strike me the way it should.

They just released another album, though - Every Country's Sun - and with it, another opportunity to delve into their world.

I am not going to lie, though.  This isn't where I derail this tangent and say that this album has made me a believer in the way of Mogwai's genius.  It hasn't.  Like their previous albums - do I think it is good?  Yeah.  Do I think there is creativity?  Absolutely.  Do I think they still have their talent?  Sure.  Do I love the album?  Not exactly.

The thing that makes this album different, though, is that the couple songs on it that I like, I really fucking love and if you've been steadfast in making sure your Mogwai doesn't hatch out gremlins then you will surely love this album - that is to say, if you've been a fan, you'll remain a fan.

There are some seriously good moments in this album.  "Brain Sweeties" synthetic atmosphere really allows the analog instruments to shine, for example.  "Coolverine" - the first track - broke out in something so special that I thought this was going to be the album to turn my so-so mentality for the band into an outright obsession.  Later on in the album, another knock out song - "Crossing the Road Material" - is another one that, if the entire album was filled with these sounds, I'd have been right there rooting for them one hundred percent.

Alas, the songs that don't grab me nearly as tightly are the ones that will render this album forgettable for me.  Again, this isn't to say it is a bad album.  Mogwai just doesn't hold onto me the way those twenty minute long songs of GYBE have done since I first heard them.

Perhaps that is the whole problem for me.  On the surface, the two bands are so similar.  GYBE just allows far more time for their songs to grow, expand, and create an entire world.  I'm certain that if Mogwai followed that layout then I'd be totally obsessed, as it does seem that my favorite songs on the album are the ones that last the longest.

-Dustin S. Stover

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell

When I was but a youthful, head hanging, dirt kicking, skateboarding pre-teen my friends were getting into the likes of Pearl Jam and Nirvana.  I distinctly remember the majority of them hyping Pearl Jam to no end, spreading news articles about a kid who killed himself in my face and saying, "but this is what the song is about!"  It was an interesting take on empathy, admittedly, but I found myself more drawn to the expression of the emotions felt from singer and songwriter Chris Cornell.

Soundgarden was the grunge band that captivated me most as the lyrics, especially those in songs like Fell on Black Days, felt especially real to me.

There is a hope in those of us who are on the outside of fame, listening or watching the famous deal with struggles of life.  That hope is that, perhaps, there is a way to overcome such things - and perhaps there is, but now it is within question that Chris Cornell didn't find the ease from his struggles.  Today it was officially announced that he had passed away with the most common announcement also stating possible suicide.

In the past, with the passing of other famous musicians that I had a particularly fondness towards (Bowie and Cohen, for example), it always felt as though they had lived these vibrant and completely full lives.  They chased the things they wanted, they achieved what they wanted, and then they wanted more and found it, too.  It always felt as though their growth was endless until the end, when they were both ready to say, "my life has been grand.  My life is tapped out and if I end tomorrow, I've done more than I could have imagined ever doing before I did it."

With Chris Cornell, at least from my perspective, it feels more like a man who still had so many desires but just lost the drive to get them.  Perhaps it is premature to feel that way considering he hasn't been officially determined as a suicide, but I remember when Audioslave broke up and he'd make statements about how he wasn't enough for the rest of the band.  He would talk about his voice wasn't what it used to be, and from interviews he sounded so lost with who he was and wasn't.

That pain of not knowing where you're going, where you want to go, what you want to be is what always shined through so brightly in his music.  It is what made it so related for fans of his music.  If it is determined to be a suicide then it is tremendously sad that he was devoured so intensely.  If it isn't determined to be a suicide, it is still equally as painful of a loss but at least fans won't have to live with the notion that he was devoured by his own pain, internal as it may have been.  At least fans can hope to find a relief from their own pain.

-Dustin S. Stover

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
Nook:   Happiness in a Void of Darkness

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