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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Last Post

I've decided to shut this blog down because I already have one that I update a few times a week, and it seems unnecessary for me to have two.  With school, it would also be a challenge to maintain two different blogs, so I'll put my focus into the upkeep of one quality site.

Thanks for reading, and to keep reading, check out Derrick etc.

Dan Thompkins, District 2 Vice President of the
Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association of Connecticut

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Maine Campus Top 25 Albums of the Year list

Two other writers (my editor Kegan Zema and Jay Grant) and myself compiled a list of the best 25 albums of the year for the paper, put out today.  There are obviously albums on it I don't care for, but there was a compelling reason for each CD to be on there, so I went with it.  I'm sure they felt that way about a few of my choices too.

So you can check out the list here, and for those who care, I did the write-ups for #5, #7, #10, #13, #16, #19, #22 and #25.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

NBA Ballers Getting Into Music

My newest Maine Campus column, about the music careers of professional basketball players.
A posthumous collection of songs by award-winning and chart-topping jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale was released Oct. 26, about 17 months after his death. One thing that set Tisdale apart from other jazz musicians was his ginormous 6-foot-9-inch frame. Jeez, you would think a big guy like that would have given basketball a try. 
He did. Tisdale became the first player in collegiate history to be named a first-team All American in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. He helped the United States win a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. In the NBA, Tisdale posted career averages topping 15 points and six rebounds per game over 12 seasons.
Read the rest at the Maine Campus.
Also for your benefit, I am providing MP3's of the two Kobe songs mentioned, so download "K.O.B.E." and download "Thug Poet" if you so wish.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Carl Broemel - All Birds Say (2010)

 "All Birds Say" - Carl Broemel, 2010
The psychedelic southern rock of indie kings My Morning Jacket is a gateway to a new place — one that features both country-fried chicken picking and as much diversity as the United Nations. But for now, let the band’s guitarist Carl Broemel take you to a different setting — a cabin by the woods, with the sun dipping just below the horizon. Broemel’s new release “All Birds Say” fills the autumn air with the soothing sound of an artist in his element.
Read the rest at the Maine Campus.

(rating out of 5)

MP3 Sample:
"Life Leftover"

Album Sample:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz (2010)

This review was supposed to be run in either today's or Thursday's issue of the Maine Campus, but due to a communication error, another writer and myself ended up writing about the same album.  He had called the album before I did, so he got the slot (feel free to read Jay Grant's review here).
I figured I should kill at least one bird with this stone, so here is the review that I wrote.
CD Review: Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
"Indie songwriter's electro-art-rock experiment a success"
NPR streamed the album in its entirety for almost a month before its October 12 release, so this CD may already be old news to faithful fans of the Detroit native, but to non-fans, "The Age of Adz" - pronounced "odds" - is a breath of fresh, innovative air that will more than likely remove the "non" from "non-fans."
The album opener "Futile Devices," a hypnotic folk number along the lines of Iron and Wine, features soft guitar pickings and Sufjan Stevens' soothing voice accented by a light piano, which is not at all indicative of the rest of the album.  This lovely and accessible song may be intended to ease the listener into the record, as 84 minutes is a lot to commit to an album that carries doubt.
With the first synthesized-clogged-toilet sound - not bad like it sounds - of the second track "Too Much," the Flaming Lips-ish electronic psychedelia grabs the rest of the record by the horns and muscles it into submission with synthesized twinkles, orchestral arrangements and all sorts of studio trickery.
Following the exciting and big climax of the previous song, the title track opens with what seems to be the score from a dramatic scene of a classic Disney cartoon remixed by Daft Punk.  Stevens continues the uncertain lyrical themes present throughout the album, either singing about a lost love, a self-realization or a newfound faith in God, with lines like, "Well I have known you for just a little while, but I feel I've known you, I feel I've seen you, when the Earth was split in fives."
Many twists and turns are taken from here, and more musical ideas are explored.  "I Want To Be Well" sees Stevens doubting the beauty of the world as he says, "Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, illness is watching, waiting its turn." The song's last three minutes are an urgent and beautiful crescendo into frustration, as Stevens calls out, "I'm not f*cking around, I'm not f*cking around," with quick drums and background harmonies only adding to the intense climax.
A near-third of "The Age of Adz" occurs in the album closer, the 25-minute "Impossible Soul."  It is certainly a long haul, clocking in at slightly longer than most sitcoms, but like the TV shows, the song shifts moods and tempos, never turning stale.  Like the long-winded Pink Floyd suites of yore, "Impossible Soul" makes use of as many instruments, tones and sounds as possible, while avoiding sounding like a car crash.
The first 10 minutes of this robo-space-rock symphony have Stevens on his knees, begging his object of affection for love, singing, "But all I want is the perfect love, though I know it's small, I want love for us all, and all I couldn't sing, I would say it all my life to you, if I could get you at all."  Persistent drums and chanting conjure thoughts of the chorus of "Kids" by MGMT, as Stevens recites, "It's a long life, better pinch yourself, put your faith together, better get it right."
Surprisingly, after this extensive, interesting and fantastical ride, the last three minutes hearken back to the album opener, creating graceful, organic bookends to the wild, schizophrenic experiment sandwiched in the middle.
The indie pop of Stevens' hit 2005 song "Chicago" has no home on this disc, and that's fine - fans should be delighted to hear such a beautiful pushing of the boundaries.  With all the sonic subtleties and nuances, this boundary-pushing is much more effectively experienced through a pair of quality headphones, so no detail goes unnoticed and the true, intended feel can be fully received.
Arguably the most interesting release of 2010 thus far, "The Age of Adz" is a record that warrants multiple listenings, and will be a mainstay in many indie music collections and a topper of numerous best-of-the-year lists.
(rating out of 5)
  1. Futile Devices (2:13)
  2. Too Much (6:45)
  3. Age of Adz (8:01)
  4. I Walked (5:02)
  5. Now That I'm Older (4:57)
  6. Get Real Get Right (5:12)
  7. Bad Communication (2:26)
  8. Vesuvius (5:28)
  9. All for Myself (2:57)
  10. I Want To Be Well (6:28)
  11. Impossible Soul (25:34)
Album Sampler:
(Sufjan Stevens - I Want To Be Well)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Eddie Hazel - Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs (1977)

If you know of Eddie Hazel, he's the gift-from-Heaven guitarist for the 70's funk powerhouse Funkadelic, Rolling Stone's 43rd greatest guitarist to ever pick a string, and the man who thought up the beauty of "Maggot Brain."

"You're welcome, b*tches."
What you won't know is that Hazel released one solo album while he was alive, and while it's not widely known, it is widely good.

"Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs" - Eddie Hazel, 1977.
Most of the record is a framework that gives Hazel an excuse to pull out his phenomenal psychedelic-funk guitar chops, but if you have any interest in this album, that's probably what you're listening for anyways.
The album's two standout tracks are cover, but sound far from unoriginal.  Hazel stretches the sub-3-minute The Mamas & The Papas classic "California Dreamin'" into something long enough to accommodate his top-rate solos, while still retaining the beauty of the original, if not adding to it.
Hazel takes a break from singing in the Lennon-McCartney composition "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," handing those duties over to some female soul vocalists.  He takes the already-long song (the original Beatles recording clocks in at 7:47) and tacks on almost an extra two minutes, making room for solos that made Funkadelic songs like "Red Hot Mama" so thoroughly enjoyable.
If you decide to try to find this albums somewhere to add to your collection, look for the bonus track version, that adds on the rare Hazel "Jams From The Heart" EP to the end.  The four extra songs are much more than add-ons: length-wise, they are only a few minutes shy of the whole "Game, Dames..." album.
This album is geared toward listeners who enjoy their 70's, are six-string enthusiasts, and have brains and souls.  Don't skip over this one: it's a worthy part of any music collection, despite its lack of notoriety.
(rating out of 5)

MP3 Sample:

(Eddie Hazel - California Dreamin' MP3)

(full album download in comments)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Not in English? Not a Problem

Most of the music we listen to is in English. It is our native tongue, the language we grasp best. We would have a hard time understanding a singer if he or she was belting out their lyrics in Swahili or Ubbi-Dubbi, and wouldn’t that be frustrating?
Now let’s take conventional wisdom and flip it around: What if we don’t need to understand what is being said? What if we start thinking of the human voice as an instrument? What if it isn’t always used to convey linguistic meaning, but sometimes as another part of the music’s sound?
Click here to read the rest at The Maine Campus website
Sigur Rós