I know what you were expecting. “See You In September” or “Summer Nights” from Grease or, in a sarcastic vein, “School’s Out” — but we don’t need no steenkin’ kitsch. Your Popdose Pals have something else planned entirely.
September is more than just the unofficial end of summer; it’s also back-to-school time, and with the migratory return to dorms and classrooms comes the return to computers for the sake of homework. Did you know that new semesters are traditionally a heavy time for music downloading, probably because of all that new time at the PC or Mac? Neither did I, because I just made it up right here, but it kind of makes sense (even though it’s utter B.S. on my part.) The thought of increased downloading certainly wouldn’t cheer the beleaguered record labels, which through expansive & expensive special editions, Wal-Mart and Best Buy exclusives and the like are desperately trying to maintain market share. The Internet is evil, I tells ya.
Not really. To prove my point, I asked the staff to contribute a song, band or artist they found through the Internet. It could be from random surfing, suggestions via Facebook, Twitter or other social networks or even PR companies and their electronic press kits. The premise is that these introductions opened up new sounds, and new wallets, through this oft despised medium. Without further ado, I cede the floor to my colleagues and wish everyone a fine and functional new school year.
And to the rest who don’t have to go back to school, ha-ha! We don’t have to go back to school!
Dave Steed: I guess it was about 2004 or so when I started really exploring my metal side. I had always liked rock music, but was never able to find one genre of metal that I really loved. Then I stumbled across a blog where “Battered” by Annihilator was streaming in one of those embedded players. The song not only had some massive guitar solos but was super melodic as well, very easily accessible. I downloaded the 2000 album Carnival Diablos from the group and immediately knew I wanted more. I’ve since purchased that album and every other Annihilator disc (not a cheap proposition since they don’t have a US distribution deal). Through more internet searches, I was lead to other bands in a similar vein and thus my love for thrash metal began. For the last 5 years I’ve been actively seeking out more old school and new school thrash albums and I owe that to some dinky little internet blog.
Jack Feerick: When compared with Web 2.0 wonders like PandoraÁ¢€”or even with NapsterÁ¢€”mp3blogs seem like a pretty low-tech and inefficient way to promote and disseminate new music. Maybe that’s why I like ’em so much. Musical taste seems to me both too personal and too important to be reduced to an algorithm, even a complex algorithm; give me a real live human any day, somebody writing from the perspective of an enthusiast rather than strictly as a critic, saying “I dig this, and I think you might, too.”
I’ve been running in the same online circles as Matthew Perpetua for years, and he is a star, a friend, a hero, an inspiration. With big ears and an open heart, he has led me to a ton of new and wonderful music; Kings of Convenience, The Ark, Feist, Johnny Boy, Alphabeat, The Knife, School of Seven Bells, and a bunch of other bands I know I’m forgetting. But would I have eventually found those bands on my own? Probably. I like Matthew best when he’s not just out in front of the curve, but defining his own curveÁ¢€”when he digs up an unreleased never-was band like Stimulator, and he gives you this glorious one-off of a song, making the case that this could have been a monster hit, and it should have been a monster hit. And the enthusiasm is infectious, and I think Why not? And so “78 Stimulator” is a huge monster hitÁ¢€”in my head, anyway, and that’s all that counts, because that’s where the music lives and where it is made real. And in my head there’s a radio station that plays an alternate-universe Top 40, and it sounds like Fluxblog.
Jeff Giles: I forget which download service turned me on to the work of Christopher Bradley, a.k.a. Starclock, but I do remember playing a selection of his tracks — including “Glasses” and “Girlfriend” so many times that I eventually ended up trying to sign him to a record deal at some point during 1999. He politely told me he was more interested in playing videogames than recording an album, and I guess he’s spent the last 10 years making good on that statement. Still, I love this song.
Zack Dennis:Á‚ When I returned home in 2005 after a three-year stay in South Africa, I had no idea where to look for new music.Á‚ I ended up finding my way to a seemingly endless series of podcasts from WBAR, the college radio station for Barnard College in New York.Á‚ Courtesy of Adrienne W’s show “Knee Deep Snow” and Jackie A’s “Boys with Makeup,” I discovered Eric Elbogen’s band that was then called Say Hi To Your Mom and based in Brooklyn.Á‚ These days, he/they are known as Say Hi and reside in Seattle, but I still adore their songs every bit as much as when I dove into their page at Myspace and immersed myself in the synthesized glory of “The Death of Girl Number Two.”Á‚ I’ve seen Eric et. al. play live half a dozen times since, hopefully enough to make up for my internet pilfering of his music.
Scott Malchus: In the early 2000’s I was really into Ryan Adams. One his major influences was the late Gram Parsons, an artist I had heard so much about in my many years of being a rock and roll fan. The Eagles were influenced by him. The Byrds were influenced by him. Emmylou Harris got her career started singing with him. The list goes on of people who admired Parsons, yet his music was never played on any radio station I ever listened to, not country, not AAA, certainly not classic rock. So I did a search on Napster and found this song, just to hear what all of the hoopla was all about. The first time I played “Return of the Grievous Angel” I sat silently as the music came over my crappy computer speakers. The music was wonderful and twangy, but it was Parsons’s voice that got to me. The sadness that just seeps out of the notes he’s singing really moved me. Soon thereafter, Rhino Records put out their exemplary Gram Parsons anthology, Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels, which covers every facet of his career. I immediately got it. Ironically, the version of “Return of the Grievous Angel” contained on that 2 CD collection is different from the original (the one I had downloaded). After immersing myself in the music I bought the Ben Fong-Torres biography, Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons, that detailed his tragic life. It’s a good rock bio, if anyone is interested. Finally, I added the Flying Burritos Brothers anthology, Hot Burritos, to my collection deepening my appreciation for that band, too. Now I can’t imagine my life without “$1000 Wedding,” “In My Hour of Darkness,” “Sin City,” the Parsons sung Flying Burritos Bros. version of “Wild Horses,” and of course, “Return of the Grievous Angel.”
I would say that that one illegal download paid off in dividends.
Anthony Hansen: Though I’ve written an awful lot about David Bowie in the past couple of months, it’s worth reiterating how many interesting bands and artists I discovered through him. If I hadn’t known Bowie covered The Walker Brothers’ Nite Flights, for instance, I may have never felt the impetus to download the titular album, a late-70s comeback attempt which had apparently been influenced by Bowie himself. While all the Scott Walker-penned songs are uniformly excellent, this one stands out as a particular highlight. Why? Because it’s just about one of the most frightening songs I’ve ever heard. The intro, with its shrieking wall of strings, ominous distorted bass and bizarre vocal harmonies is indescribably unnerving, and the fact that the song itself is actually a fairly beautiful ballad full of sweeping strings and delicate Spanish guitars doesn’t quell the unease… especially when the intro returns as the song’s climax, by which point all the hairs on your arm should be standing firmly on end. Enjoy.
Ben Wiser: (I’ve come across music) via message boards, the Live Music Archive, bt.etree, and The Well long before that, I have discovered so much of the music that I now listen to regularly, I couldn’t pick just one band.
Dw. Dunphy: You’re not likely to find a dissenting view about Gerry Rafferty’s City By City album around here. It’s kind of a pop masterpiece. Not so much with the follow-up Night Owl, and certainly not with the lukewarm, hook-bereft Snakes and Ladders. Still, I find my way back to City By City every couple of months and wonder where all that magic went. You know what I’m talking about – those lush guitar tones, vaguely reminiscent of Mark Knopfler, those vocal harmonies so sharp you can cut a tin can with them and still make paper-thin tomato slices. And there were stories for, above all else, the best of Rafferty’s songs are also fine examples of storytelling.
I came across North & South on the interwebs. I’m pretty fastidious about this stuff. If I love what I hear, I buy it. If I don’t, I delete it. Unfortunately, North & South is not available domestically. Also unfortunate is that it has the track “Winter’s Come” on it, reminding all of what made this guy so great in the first place. However, the fortune is yours, as is the track.
Another group I stumbled into, via the family tree of the Internet, is Pugwash. Fronted by Thomas Walsh, I got to Pugwash through his association with Neil Hannon in The Duckworth Lewis Method, which stemmed from Hannon’s project The Divine Comedy of which Joby Talbot was an occasional collaborator. Talbot did the score for the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I found all these details out via Wiki and IMDB. Whew.
Pugwash is just a near-perfect pure pop group, sometimes co-opting The Beach Boys, sometimes XTC, and on their single “Take Me Away”, they evoke The Lemonheads. But on the track “Here” from Eleven Modern Antiquities, it’s all about the E.L.O., people, and I couldn’t be happier.
So that’s it, folks. Get your sweaters fluffed and Febreezed because Fall is on the way, but if you really, really, really need “Summer Nights,” here’s a version we did last year at the Popdose Christmas party… Right before Kelly Stitzel slapped me across the face and told me my views on U.S. foreign policy were highly suspect at the very least.
Good times, good times.