Here's How Long Your Set Should Be

Categories: Commentary

9952933.87.jpg
Brandon Marshall
Jenny Lewis can pretty much play as long as she wants, as far as we're concerned.
When you purchase a ticket to any concert, you run the risk of not getting the experience you paid for. Outdoor shows get rained out. Favorite songs don't get played. Opening bands go over their allotted time. Sometimes a musician is just having a very bad night. The one variable any musician can feasibly control is the length of his or her setlist, but do bands like Interpol even have to give their audience more than an hour of their time?

More »

The Best Opening Song Pairings in Album History

Categories: Commentary

9402041.0.jpg
Timothy Norris for LA Weekly. Slideshow
First impressions have always been important in pop music, but in an era where bands seems to outnumber people, it's become our primary currency. In three minutes you can go from reading about a band, to typing their name in Spotify, and writing them off permanently. These are strange times, a utopia gone wrong, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. Pray for the thinning moments of contemplation for our future generations.

But that doesn't have to be a death knell, at least not all the time. An album's killer first impression can serve as some of the most memorable experiences of music listening, a flashpoint realization that the reason you claw through all the middling vibes is to stumble on sublimity. With that in mind, we've collected a few of our favorite one-two punches, when a record turns its track one track two sequence into a clarion call.

More »

Hip-Hop Did Not Start the Way You Think It Did

Categories: Commentary

rudyraymoore.jpg
To hear most people tell it, the history of rap goes like this: MCs were originally rapping primarily to showcase their DJs. That is, until Sugar Hill Gang put out "Rapper's Delight" in 1979. It was the second rap record of all time and an enormous hit, proving there was a market for rapping on wax.

From there, Kool Moe Dee battled Busy Bee and changed how rappers could rap, Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel put out "The Message" -- changing what rappers could rap about -- and Run-DMC released "Sucker MCs (Krush Groove 1)," which changed how rap could sound.

By Chaz Kangas

At the start of it all, of course, was DJ Kool Herc's 1973 block party in the Bronx, which effectively birthed hip-hop as we know it.

Those are the bullet points, but they don't answer the question: How did rapping get started in the first place?

More »

The Strange, Stupid History of Pop Music Plagiarism

Categories: Commentary

4399081211_d737a850fa_z.jpg
Flickr user Heinrich Klaffs
Yeah, even this guy.
Plagiarism in music is a weird concoction of money, pride and misinterpretation. We all know that nobody has written an original rock song since 1953, and the entire music industry is founded on the principle of exchanging blurry photocopies of other people's work. But that certainly doesn't stop artists from realizing a cash opportunity when they see it. Case in point: Tame Impala, an Australian psych band currently fielding accusations that their song "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" rips off Argentinian singer Pablo Ruiz's "Océano," which we can almost be sure is a song that Tame Impala have never, ever heard. It doesn't matter, money talks, and the band will inevitably get sued and be tied up in courts for years to come.

So we decided to look back on some of the more interesting cases of music plagiarism. Who among our favorite artists decided to ingloriously steal (or take inspiration from, depends on your definition,) from others? Can we learn anything, or is this just a never-ending cat fight of litigation and tears? The answer is more obvious than you'd expect.

More »

In Defense of Liking Music for No Good Reason

Categories: Commentary

kanye-tour-23.jpg
A Yeezus tour photo courtesy of Rogers & Cowan
Because it's awesome, is why.
Why did you like Yeezus? Did you find it anarchic? Did you like how it challenged racial norms in a confrontational, blacked-out way? Did you like its minimalism? Or its maximalism? Did you find the songs to speak to a larger narrative of where Kanye West is artistically and emotionally? Did you appreciate the videos, or the bloodthirstiness? Did you enjoy the lack of singles and the punk narrative?

This is how you're supposed to like Yeezus. It's a cultural artifact that aims to be a cultural artifact, the sort of album that comes with mystical adjectives like "brooding" and "antagonistic" already equipped. The justifications for the acclaim were prepackaged in the marketing, and it only took a few pissed-off punchlines to sell the world that this, right here, was Kanye's blue period. A wildly experimental album that was sure to alienate listeners, and destined solely to unite the cabal of serious, resourceful music fans eager enough to journey into the dark world.

More »

Can You Guess the Real Music Genre?

Categories: Commentary

7860929.87.jpg
Photo of Neon Indian by Laura June Kirsch for the Village Voice. More here.
If there is one thing you can always blame music writers for, it's the utterly useless proliferation of genre tags into modern cultural dialogue. The construction of a genre can serve as hot branding for certain publications -- it's why a site like Pitchfork was totally happy to nurture an imaginary "chillwave" scene which really only encompassed about five bands in five completely different parts of the world. The connectivity of the Internet allows the idea of genre to bind our entirely asymmetrical music scene into something digestible. It's a vain attempt to give meaning and context to something that will always, always be hopelessly obfuscated.

More »

Ranking the 2014 Wu-Tang Clan From Worst to Best

Categories: Commentary

wu-tang-ranking.jpg
Screengrab via The Daily Show

A week ago all nine of the surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan returned on The Daily Show to premiere a new song from their upcoming album A Better Tomorrow. This was a bona fide, anti-cynicism Good Thing. We all love the Wu-Tang Clan, and any time they collectively decide to return to their art should always be met with the adulation it deserves.

That being said, we think it's high time for a reordering of Wu-Tang hierarchy. For years the narrative has been set in stone. Ghostface is the best, U-God is the worst, but it's been more than twenty years since '93. Careers often don't look the same after generational shifts and presidential administrations. Let's set the record straight and celebrate who actually earns celebration in 2014. These are the official, undisputed rankings of which Wu-Tang members have aged the best.


More »

Eight Guidelines You Should Follow if You're Going to Take Drugs at a Show

Categories: Commentary

9672367.0.jpg
Timothy Norris
Music Festival responsibly, people.
Editor: We've chosen to keep the author of this story anonymous to protect everyone involved from incrimination. The names below have also been changed.

I struggled with Lacey's pants. She didn't know what was going on, and she did not want me to take them off -- she resisted, clamping her legs together and pushing at my shoulders. I paused, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and then tried to make eye contact with her.

"Lacey," I said, in as soothing a voice I could muster. "Your pants are wet. I have dry ones right here for you. Let me help you change."

I lost track of the number of times I took Lacey to the bathroom to change. I'd been awake for about thirty-six hours and was exhausted, my head still buzzing with the drugs I'd ingested the previous evening. Definitely not my idea of a good way to come down.
My roommate's sister had attended a rave with us the night before. I'd seen her throughout the party, smiling and dancing, pupils blown.


More »

Lauryn Hill is finally playing recognizable shows, and it is glorious

Categories: Commentary

9882718.87.jpg
Brandon Marshall
These days, buying a ticket to a Lauryn Hill concert is basically like buying a lottery ticket-you're either going to end up a little more broke and a little more bitter than yesterday, or you're going to strike gold. No question, Ms. Lauryn Hill is volatile. Her tours from recent years are littered with scathing reports of her chronic tardiness, distant affect, and inscrutable renditions. Reports from this tour have been somewhat mixed, but in general one of the greatest artists of the '90s has returned to form. She was certainly there in Denver.


More »

The ten best songs by awful musicians

Categories: Commentary

Jim-Morrison-the-doors.jpeg

Stopped clocks are right twice a day. Geoffrey Arend is married to Christina Hendricks. Performance artists get federal funding. Canada is south of Detroit. People wear Google Glass and think they look awesome. Some things you just can't explain, like how really shitty bands occasionally luck into recording splendid songs. To wit, here are the 10 greatest songs ever recorded by not-so-great musicians:


More »

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...