January 6, 2012

2011 Music | A Return To Rock


Sometimes music just captures due to being in a certain place, at a particular time in your life, the people you were with or the mood you were in. It's as if you have no control over its pull on you. Certainly, some music is just so good that it is fawned over by millions. U2's Joshua Tree is like that for millions of people. I've had countless conversations with people who have confessed to coming to tears the first time they heard that album, just as I did. It is that good. But I felt the same way the first time I heard Fugazi's In On The Kill Taker and??Quicksand's Slip. And, clearly by the fact of how many of you that are now thinking, "Who?!", not as many people would equate those other two albums with Joshua Tree. I confess that I am quite opinionated about music. Posts like this one??expose this (and many of you took great offense and let it be known to me). But while I have particular tastes and interests, I admit that I have as little objectivity as anyone else.

Three bands that made releases this year were comprised of artists whose previous music had a great impact on me earlier in life. These three releases almost made my year-end lists. But ultimately, their history impacted my decision to exclude them. Was it that they just weren't as good? Or was it just sentimentality? Who know's?! But??Sleater-Kinney, Drive Like Jehu and Pavement are three bands from the alternative, post-punk archives that you should look into. And here's a little about artists that returned to rock in 2011 from these bands but with new bandmates.

Pavement would be the most well known of the three. Pavement singer and guitarist, Stephen Malkmus has made a return to the rock world with his newest musical enterprise, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks??and their album Mirror Traffic. It was a good release but it just did not equal Malkmus previous work and this probably has a lot to do with what happens to memories the further they descend into our history. Was Pavement all my memory makes them out to be? Maybe no, maybe yes.

Drive Like Jehu is one of my all time favorite bands. I never had the pleasure of seeing this incredible group live and that is something I regret. Rick Froberg's vocals led an passionate, chaotic post-punk offering from this fine city that rivaled what was coming out of the East Coast. Both their self-titled and Yank Crime albums are a must. Years later, Froberg returned with John Reis from Jehu (but more well known from Rocket from the Crypt) with a new band, Hot Snakes. They weren't Jehu, but they rocked! But something is lost with Obits. Moody, Standard and Poor is good but it doesn't rock like Hot Snake or bring the innovation that Drive Like Jehu did.??I would argue its all due to San Diego. Froberg now hails from New York and that seems to have taken something out of him... or maybe its just age.

Lastly, Sleater-Kinney was the female post-punk band of the 90's that we'd needed. They were creative, ground-breaking and broke a male-dominated genre (which musical genre's aren't male dominated?). Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney have returned with others to make up Wild Flag. Their self-titled release this year got a lot of attention and it should have. It is a solidly rocking album. More straight forward than any of Sleater-Kinney's work. I can't resist noting Brownstein's being a former staffer of NPR--and the success of her show Portlandia with Fred Armisen--seems not to have hurt for the publicity of a release that would have otherwise gone unnoticed by many. Still, its fair that they do get the attention. Its a good album. But I miss the quirky, awkwardness of Sleater-Kinney.

I'm adding these three releases to my 2011 year-end playlist on Spotify. So click on the link and hit "shuffle." Enjoy.

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