In Words and Phrases

Hey folks – I still get occasional blog traffic on this site, but I’m not sure if that’s really people visiting or bot hits. Either way, I’m doing Best Music of 2011 stuff over at my new blog, so if you’re interested head on over to In Words and Phrases. It wasn’t a great year for music, but it still had some worthwhile releases and countdowns are always fun.

Go check it out. There’s nothing happening here!

Essential Ending (for now)

It’s pretty clear to anybody who follows this blog that things have slowed to a complete crawl.  Even my typically more-active summer was without any new posts or other commentary.  So I think it’s time to play the final track on Essential Listening.

I am not, however, quitting the blogging world.  You see, Essential Listening slowly became more tedious over time because I had limited myself from the very beginning.  If I was tired of writing about music, it was hard to push elsewhere in a place that had a title about music.

So today I am going to suspend operations on this blog and point you at my new one – In Words and Phrases.  IWP will be focused on “ideas and events.”  Of course, that’s pretty broad – and intentionally so.  I will still write about music (it is a very rewarding adventure), but also my other favorite hobbies and passions – sports, cooking, photography, and other far-reaching topics.  I do hope you’ll join me over there.

And if you’ve been with this blog until the end, I thank you for even so much as pretending to pay attention.  I think it’s time to play the final track:

Back Soon

Brief update on the lack of F9F last week – it’s finals week here so I’m busy and buried under studying, projects and other work.  But fear not faithful blog readers! Things will be back in semi-normal order by the end of the week.

Thanks for sticking with Essential Listening!

Celebrating 22 Years of Doolittle

On this day 22 years ago, something special happened to the world – Pixies’ masterpiece was released.  The recording sessions have been described as difficult – so much so that the band chemistry was forever altered.  The music was not commercially successful (peaking at #98 in the Billboard 200, and the “hit” single only getting to #3 in the Billboard Modern Rock chart).  But here we are more than two decades later, still touched by the impact of this mammoth record.  Doolittle is one of the greatest rock albums ever released.

But why is it still so revered?  The hyper-saturation of modern music can make it difficult to see the singular nature of Doolittle.  So let’s take a step back and consider popular and alternative music in April of 1989, and also see what other artists have said about Pixies.

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Friday 90s Focus: One Headlight

It has been a long week for me (projects, more projects, deadlines and general panic), so it’s only a quick update on F9F this week.  I’m going with a song that was everywhere and yet never really got old: “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers.

Quick confession: I’m not overly fond of Bob Dylan’s voice, so it’s refreshing to hear it (sort of) in a younger, smoother guise with Mr. Dylan’s son.  Enjoy the video, and try to enjoy the weekend!

Friday 90s Focus: Everlong

Partially in honor of the newest Foo Fighters record (Wasting Light which comes out on Tuesday), we have a Foo-themed look into the 90s.  But this wouldn’t appear if this song were useless on its own.  Indeed, “Everlong” is probably the single greatest Foo song, and one of the best compositions of the 90s.

The emotional core of the track is undeniable and quite moving.  I am always shocked by how much weight a song like this carries.  Normally I’d classify the sound as hard/grunge rock and get right into something about alienation.  But here Dave Grohl’s nuanced vocal delivery shows flashes of desire, desperation and regret.  Add this all to a well-constructed guitar part and you’ve got a brilliant song.  It’s one part fun loud song, two parts meaningful vocals and lyrics, and held together by the clean intro guitar part that slowly ushers you into the experience.  “Everlong” is Grohl’s crowning post-Nirvana achievement.

The End of LCD Soundsystem

So ends the short-but-phenomenal career of LCD Soundsystem.  I can honestly say that I’m disappointed in how I didn’t get to see them live.  This evening’s webcast only confirms the idea that live LCD would have been spectacular, perhaps only rivaling my live Radiohead experience.

In honor of the final performance, I now post the final song played by the band.  Here’s to hoping for more excellence from whatever James Murphy does.  And maybe, just maybe, they’ll come back one day for a few more shows.

Friday 90s Focus: Rick Astley

Because it’s April Fools Day, you’d think that RickRolling would be appropriate.  Of COURSE it is, but instead I will present another Astley tune.  This one is also terrible, but I’ve got to keep in line with this 90s thing (“Never Gonna Give You Up” was from 1987).  This is “The Ones You Love” from 1993 (by way of the 1980s sonically).

No seriously, this is terrible.

Now get out there and go buy some De-3D Glasses or something like that.  Or do your own job and RickRoll yourself.  Whatever you prefer.

Friday 90s Focus: “Brian Wilson”

We’re introducing a new trial-feature today called Friday 90s Focus.  Hopefully this becomes a normal thing.  It involves highlighting a song or record from the 1990s.  The inspiration for this feature comes from an NPR All Songs Considered feature.

I guess I’m a loser – I had never heard this song until a few days ago.  My friends were discussing it and their jaws dropped when I admitted my non-encounters with “Brian Wilson” by Barenaked Ladies.  So they quickly fixed that problem and got me attached to this video.

And now I’m wondering how I missed this in the first place. The song has the typical BNL qualities – strong melody, amazing vocal work and harmonies, and insane catchiness.  But what pushes this over the top is lyrical and emotional weight.  Steven Page spins a great tale about a man living a life like the titular Beach Boy.  The song has aged brilliantly since 1992 (I’ve only just heard this and it sounds fresh and exciting) and is the first entry in our Friday 90s Focus.  Give it a whirl and get drawn in.