Since the early ‘60s when The Beatles kicked open the doors, there’s been a constant flow of bands making their way from the UK, Scotland and Ireland to America. Every 10 years or so, there will be chatter and hype about a ‘new British Invasion’, but music fans are well-aware that great music has been landing on these shores for decades, and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of it stopping. For every band that achieves enormous commercial success (Beatles, The Clash, Depeche Mode, Blur, Oasis), there are dozens of other bands with that are just as worthy of your attention and hard-earned dollars. One of those bands is Ireland’s very own Two Door Cinema Club.
Up through the ‘80s, the term ‘Pop Music’ was not a derogatory term. Technically, it is shorthand for ‘Popular Music’ and didn’t refer to one particular genre. , Pop Music could refer to a Rock band that played songs with substance and melody. The Beatles are a perfect example of what one used to refer to as Pop Music makers. That term could also be applied to the teen idols and the one hit wonders like Frankie Avalon, Edison Lighthouse, and other artists known for a catchy chorus we all remember decades later. None of those artists sounded alike but they easily fell into the Pop Music category. In more recent times, Pop Music has been used to define the current state of the Top 40 – manufactured, paint-by-numbers music written by committee and enhanced by Auto-Tune. Well, I’m here to take the term ‘Pop Music’ back and apply it to artists that best exemplify what Pop Music was, is, and shall always be.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Your 2018 album NO GOOD DEED is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the way the album turned out and the reaction to it so far?
MINDI ABAIR: This album is deep to me. It feels like the band has gelled … we complete each other’s sentences musically and play together so effortlessly at this point. We joined forces as Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers at the beginning of 2015, but I had played with Randy Jacobs for 20 years before that, and Rodney Lee has been in my band for 17 years. Third Richardson is from my hometown. I hear the camaraderie and the friendship and the sheer abandon we have playing together, and I love it. We chose songs we loved, whether we wrote them or someone else did, and we played them like only we would.
Norway isn’t just the hotbed of Black Metal, you know. While that genre has kept a handful of Norwegian musicians gainfully employed, the country has also given us some artists who remain popular throughout the rest of the world. Mentioning Classical composer Edvard Grieg is a given, but many other influential artists hail from Norway including a-Ha, Jan Garbarek, Royksopp, Terje Rypdal, Jaga Jazzist, production team Stargate, and Anni-Frid ‘Frida’ Lyngstad, one of the two A’s in ABBA. With each passing year, Norwegian artists make their presence known outside their homeland and Aurora Laura Aksnes, who releases music under the name Aurora, is now making waves as she dances on the cup of international stardom.
THE LONG REVIEW:
Fifty-three years after he stepped into the limelight with the release of The Monkees’ debut single in August of 1966, Michael Nesmith remains a musical enigma. The story of The Monkees has been told so many times – perhaps TOO many times – so I’ll respectfully skip over most of the details. One thing I will mention is how Nesmith seemed slightly out of step with the Pop charts yet completely in step and confident of his own musical vision. While Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones handled the bulk of the lead vocals for The Monkees’ glorious hits, Nesmith added a sophisticated depth to the album tracks he wrote and/or produced. Although the most naturally gifted as a songwriter in the band, his lead vocals were not featured on a Monkees A-side until 1969, the year he graced the topside of two singles in a row!
It has been eight years since Southern California-based Apex Manor released their last album. Eight years is a long time between albums. In that same span of time, The Beatles wrote and recorded their entire catalog (not to mention making movies and touring). Fleetwood Mac was able to knock out everything from their 1975 self-titled release to their 1982 album TANGO IN THE NIGHT in just under eight years. Popular children’s music band The Wiggles issued nine studio albums, toured the world, and filmed a TV series within their first eight years of their existence. Wait… did I just mention The Wiggles? Oh, dear. Let’s circle back to Apex Manor and the eight-year stretch between albums…
Born Thomas Pentz, Jr., DJ and producer Diplo is a Grammy-winning man-about-town. Not only has he released music under his own name, he’s also a member of Major Lazer, LSD (with Sia and Labrinth), Silk City (with Mark Ronson), and Jack Ü (with producer and DJ Skrillex). He’s also known for his work with M.I.A., Gwen Stefani, Die Antwoord, Britney Spears, Madonna, Shakira, Beyoncé, No Doubt, Justin Bieber, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Trippie Redd, Chris Brown, CL, G-Dragon, Bad Bunny, MØ, Poppy, and Bausa. To say that Diplo is a prolific artist would most certainly be an understatement.
In Celebration of Topic Records’ 80th Anniversary:
An EXCLUSIVE Q&A
(Project Manager with Proper Records Ltd who oversees Topic Records)
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Topic Records, the world’s oldest independent label, is celebrating their 80th Anniversary in 2019. While the machinations of the music business have changed over the years, has Topic’s core musical focus remained the same?
GLEN JOHNSON: Ostensibly, yes. The emphasis has always been on preserving the voices and songs which may have otherwise gotten lost and to create a space for those that hear those songs to make new recordings of their own. So, there’s an archival element coupled with a curatorial one.
Remember when The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (1989-1994) gave us a new generation of young stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling and others? Well, if you weren’t paying attention, the syndicated TV series Kids Incorporated (1983-1992) was introducing to the world to new talent as well. Some of the soon-to-be-stars that made their first national appearances on the show include Stacy Ferguson (AKA Fergie), Martika, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Mario Lopez, Eric Balfour and the subject of this blog entry, Rahsaan Patterson.
THE B.B. KING BLUES BAND
THE SOUL OF THE KING
Blues music has been a crucial part of American history for nearly 150 years. Originally, the Blues genre grew organically from Folk, spirituals, and African work songs. Since the dawn of recorded music, Blues has traveled around the world, inspiring millions of musicians in the process. The musical blueprint for the Blues remains virtually unchanged a century and a half later yet musicians find new ways to interpret it year after year. Much like an amusement park ride, the basic structure itself never changes yet it is experienced differently by each person that rides it. The Blues can be performed by down-trodden acoustic guitar player or a glitzy big band and have the same effect on the listener. The Blues informs almost every other style of music – from Rock ‘n’ Roll to modern Country and Jazz. The Blues is understood and misunderstood in equal measures. The Blues can make you sob but then turn around and drown you in joy. The Blues, in the hands of the right musicians, is magical. And one of the greatest Blues musicians/magicians was – and remains – B.B. King.