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.

Continue reading

Essential Listening: Version 3

Hey everybody.  Last night saw a massive overhaul to the appearance of Essential Listening.  I’ve been looking for a new theme for a while, and when WordPress released some of their newest defaults, I was pushed to do something.  So here we are.

Things may be in a bit of flux for the next few days as I get a better background and otherwise tool around with the (semi) final display.  Thanks for checking this out, and hopefully things will be more productive in the coming weeks!

Housekeeping: 2009 and Decade Pages

Hey everyone! Thanks again for reading my blog. The next update for the Decade Albums list is upcoming, but I have some housekeeping to attend to:

Check out the new link up top on the blog, labeled “The Best of 2009.” This is a quick link to my lists for the year.  You can then find links to the original articles in that page.  Just like last year’s stuff (The Best of 2008), check it out for an overview of my opinions.

Coming soon will be a link for the Decade Lists. I haven’t had time to put that one together yet, but it will be up top as well, so keep your eyes open for that link and another housekeeping post.

Thanks again for reading, and feel free to comment over all my posts.  It’s exciting to see such traffic lately, and I hope you’re enjoying this blog.  It’s fun to write about music, and I hope you find my reading somewhat interesting.

The Republican Party

Political blogs are everywhere.  This is not a political blog.  Essential Listening remains devoted to music.  However, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings have reminded me of my views and I felt like a random post would be nice.

I am a Republican.  I do not support much of the presidency of George W Bush.

These statements likely contradict in the minds of many moderates and liberals today.  Clearly (seemingly) my Republican status must make me a Bush supporter.

That is simply not the case.

The unfortunate reality is that, until the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party was slipping away for me, becoming a shell of what I support.

In my mind, the Republican Party is summarized by Ronald Reagan (almost).  The essential consideration is small, un-intrusive government.  This means fewer social programs, less bloat and less spending.

This should again raise a flag for all liberals.  How can a Republican support less spending if Bush spent so much?

Therein lies the problem: George Bush was more a Democrat than Republican.  Instead of being conservative with the budget, he spent.  Instead of cutting down the bureaucracy, he expanded the role of government in education and surveillance.  Suddenly, the government was huge and powerful.

This is not what a “real” Republican ought support.  Quite suddenly, Bush seemed no better than the liberals he “opposed.”  And somehow, the “republican” politicians followed.  They spent, they grew government and alienated their base.

Continue reading

Artist Spotlight: Spoon

After recently hitting pretty big (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga in the Billboard top 10), it’s interesting to consider the path of Spoon.  This band out of Austin seems to have achieved that elusive indie crossover status.  However, this wasn’t without effort and great change within the band’s sound.

Spoon is now amongst my favorite artists, but it’s a bit harder to see their greatness in their early days.

Early Days: Pixie Phone

It is effortless to peg early Spoon efforts as Pixies-inspired.  Dynamic shifts, near-scream vocals and thrashing guitars instantly recall the sounds of Surfer Rosa and Doolittle.  However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Pixies are lauded as one of the great rock bands.  To copy one of the greats is probably a wise choice.

Unfortunately, Spoon’s first two albums do very little to stand apart from other bands.  Thankfully there are two points that differentiate the group: Britt Daniels and Jim Eno.

For all the derivative sounds, lead singer and main composer Britt Daniels had a knack for sonic quality from the start.  By ensuring that first album Telephono was an excellent Pixies facsimile, the record nearly stands the test of time.

The second facet of Spoon’s early success is in drummer Jim Eno.  Inventive fills and a great sense of rhythm infect every song on Telephono.

Continue reading