Jason’s Jams Vol. 1

St. Vincent– Los Ageless

This dirty dance number from the new St. Vincent album Masseduction has been getting a lot of playtime from me this week. With St. Vincent uses her trademark noisy guitar solos, catchy choruses and dark seduction to deliver this song quite nicely.

Lyrics—

In Los Ageless, the winter never comes
In Los Ageless, the mothers milk their young
But I can keep running
No, I can keep running
The Los Ageless hang out by the bar
Burn the pages of unwritten memoirs
But I can keep running
No, I can keep running
How can anybody have you?
How can anybody have you and lose you?
How can anybody have you and lose you
And not lose their minds, too?
How can anybody have you?
How can anybody have you and lose you?
How can anybody have you and lose you
And not lose their minds, too?
The last days of the sunset superstars
Girls in cages playing their guitars
But how can I leave?
I just follow the hood of my car
In Los Ageless, the waves they never break
They build and build until you don’t have no escape
But how can I leave?
I just

 

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About Las Vegas

I have been thinking about the events that happened in Las Vegas. I have been to several concerts. Even the big outdoor type concerts that this event was. A concert is supposed to be a moment of unity. A collection of people from all sorts of places that share a moment together enjoying music. The crowd in a way adds to the epic-ness of it all. Because you are NOT, the only one.

So when something happens like this shooting it is especially tragic. Some of the best times I have had in my life have been attending and participating in concerts large and small.

I don’t have any easy solutions. I would hope that events like these would make the staunchest advocate for gun rights to at least think about things for a few moments. People are more isolated from each other than ever. I can’t help but feel that this isolation, is part of the reason why incidents of mass murder seem to be on the rise.

Events that decrease isolation like a concert are more important than ever. Concerts are a unifying experience. They are something that you share. You like that person, I do too. I saw him in 1980 in Omaha. You saw him in 1997 in Minneapolis. Cool. These are shared moments that can bring people together. We need more of this not less.

Thanks for listening….

 

A Brief Report

So today I sat on the front steps and played through some songs. At first I tried to play some cover songs. Eventually, I started playing my songs. I have to admit, it took awhile for me to get into gear. I haven’t been playing very much lately.

I always think I should take the time to work on my songs and get good at performing them. I never have though. There are a lot of songs that I would have to re-teach myself how to play. Granted this would be a relatively fast process as things would come back to me, as I worked on it.

Most of the songs I can play best are the ones that have been around the longest. I guess just because I have been doing them more often. The other thing is, that not all of my songs lend themselves to be played on an acoustic guitar.

I haven’t written any new songs. I have written a few lyrics but not anything that has me super fired up. When I get inspired everything sort of happens all at once. I am not there yet.

Of course I am always an active music listener. Currently, I am digesting the new Queens Of The Stone Age album. I also have been a little bit into Franz Ferdinand also.

One thing that I am thinking about is doing more with direct in recording and clean guitars. We will see what happens. Goodbye for now.

 

 

How Do You Judge??

So far the two best albums of 2017 have been Dan Auerbach’s “Waiting On A Song” and Roger Waters’ “Is This The Life We Really Want?”. These two albums are an interesting contrast to each other in many ways. “Waiting On A Song” is a positive album, with mostly straight-forward songs. “Is This The Life We Really Want” is a fairly dark album, where individual songs take a back seat at times, to being a part of an integrated whole.

I find this interesting when this happens. How does one rate something with higher peaks and valleys against something that maintains a greater consistency? Is one truly better than the other. Nirvana (the spiritual state not the band) is achieved by having perfect neutrality. Yet, peaks and valleys do not bother me, as long as they are not too extreme.

Does an album that has really great individual songs trump an album that is more consistent overall? To me this debate rears its head when comparing these two albums. While “Waiting On A Song” clearly has the higher peaks, the overall consistency and integrated design of “Is This The Life We Really Want” is impressive. Another truism for determining the quality of anything is how well does it stand the test of time? And of course to see that, we will have to wait.

Arcade Fire- Everything Now

Arcade Fire has been the not-so-little indie band that could for awhile now. Everything Now is the fifth album that they have released. The last album was 2013’s Reflektor. In my mind Reflektor was Arcade Fire’s best album to date. Reflektor combined the signature epic sound with danceable rhythms. Especially Haitian rhythms as the album was mostly recorded in that country. Everything Now still features a danceable disco-vibe in spots but also veers off in different directions.

Everything Now the album starts off with an intro into Everything Now the song. . The album also finishes with an outro version of Everything Now. Everything Now as a song is probably the most stereotypical Arcade Fire song on the album. Everything Now is a solid track, but it falls short of the burden that was put on it. Everything Now is definitely not as strong as Reflektor the title track of the previous album. Reflektor set a real definitive tone for that entire album. Everything Now does not.

The second track Signs Of Life is one of the better tracks on the album. This is one of the songs where incorporating the danceable elements really works well.

Creature Comfort to me is the best song lyrically and musically on the album. This song, to me, is the signature song of this album.

The album kind of veers off in a weird direction with Peter Pan. Peter Pan has a weirdly minimalistic beat and just does not coalesce very well.

Chemistry is a song that has grown on me. I particularly like a strong guitar riff that adds punch through the chorus.

Infinite Content is a strange track or rather a pair of tracks. Both are very short, less than two minutes each. Basically, it is the same track performed in two different styles. First is kind of a punk rock style. Next is more of country-esque style. The idea is interesting but to me feels overly repetitious.

Electric Blue is a song sung by Régine Chassagne who is the chief songwriter and singer Win Butler’s wife. She sings background on many of the songs and her voice works well for that. Her vocals are kind of an acquired taste though and with a vocal lead, especially the way the chose to do it for this song, it does not work for me.

Put Your Money On Me and Good God Damn are songs that I have grown to appreciate more. The funk element of Good God Damn is interesting. Once again these songs manage to incorporate more danceable rhythmic elements effectively.

The last song before the Everything Now reprise is We Don’t Deserve Love. This song does not quite deliver what it is trying to do. We Don’t Deserve Love is trying to be very epic and deep but it just doesn’t deliver the punch it needs. Maybe not enough angst.

Generally speaking, this album has not received the critical acclaim of Arcade Fire’s previous albums. I would agree that this is not one of Arcade Fire’s stronger albums. I can say that my appreciation for this album has grown since the initial listen. This album feels like a band that is looking to reach out in a different direction but hasn’t quite figured out what that direction is yet. I have found that an album by an artist that is searching for a direction is a very common phenomenon for bands with a long career that push against the boundaries of creativity.

Arcade Fire deserve to be considered as one of the more interesting active bands in the music industry today.  While this album will probably never be considered one of Arcade Fire’s definitive works, I certainly don’t see this album being sited as an epic failure either.

Roger Waters- Is This The Life We Really Want

This album snuck up on me. I didn’t catch any advanced press of it. I haven’t been a big fan of Roger Waters solo work in general.  However, this album was a pleasant surprise.

This album embraces several of the elements that made Pink Floyd a great band. Roger Waters was the chief songwriter for the band. Especially towards the end with Animals and The Wall. One thing that happens with Roger Waters is he at times crosses the line from being critical to out and out bitchy. In this album he does a good job of not crossing the bitchy line.

There are a couple of songs where he delivers very nicely including “Deja Vu”, “The Last Refuge”, “Picture That” and “Is This The Life We Really Want”. He also strings the songs together in a classic Pink Floyd fashion using several little recorded vignettes to link songs together. Of course, the primary difference is the musicians. No Nick Mason, Richard Wright Or David Gilmour… these guys are all incredibly talented. In some ways you can’t help but wonder what a great Gilmour guitar solo or two would have done.

This is certainly a lot closer to a classic Pink Floyd album than either Endless River or Gilmour’s Rattle That Lock was. There is a reason why Roger Waters is who he is. It is good to have an album that reinforces his talent.

Having the album produced by the very talented Nigel Godrich is a big help. Nigel has produced a lot of very tasty sounding albums. Most famously for Radiohead.

I would say that Roger delivered an album that was better than my expectations.

Dan Auerbach-Waiting On A Song The Review

This is NOT Dan’s first solo album. His first solo album was called Keep It Hid and was released in 2009. Truth be told, Keep It Hid was pretty unremarkable. Dan’s second solo album Waiting On A Song is much better.

Dan, of course, is better known as the lead singer/guitarist for the Black Keys. The Black Keys have been quiet for an extended period. Dan has expanded out into other projects including producing several albums and a side band project called The Arcs. This album is unique for two reasons: 1. Most of the songs, Dan shares a co-writing credit, instead of being the sole songwriter. 2. Dan worked exclusively with studio musicians for this album.

Waiting On A Song is a very good album. It kind of teeters on the edge of greatness. There has not been a Dan Auerbach album that has been as positive as this one. The songs are generally lighter in tone and represent a kind of 70’s pop/rock feel. Some of the guest stars are musical luminaries with their own lofty reputation like Duane Eddy and Mark Knoppfler. The slickness and professionalism of the album is a strength and weakness as well.

Many of the songs get lost a bit in slick production and over-orchestration. There are times when the production style works real well especially in the highlight tracks: “King Of A One Horse Town”, “Shine On Me” and “Livin’ In Sin”. In the end though, the thing that holds this effort back from being a great album is the production. The more musical elements that are entered in, the less space the elements have to work in. If the elements don’t have enough space to work in, they work against each other and lessen the impact of the whole song. Dan Auerbach has spent most of his career delivering songs in an incredibly minimalist fashion. So him delving into the more orchestrated side of things only makes sense.

If Dan could find a happy medium between this style of album and a Black Keys album, he might really have something. Mind you. If he keeps producing products of this quality, he will never have trouble with earning my dollars.

U2- June 4th, 2017 Soldier Field Chicago

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Joshua Tree, U2 has been on a special tour this summer. I was fortunate enough to be able to catch the show Sunday night in Soldier Field.

The Lumineers were the opening act. Not knowing much about the band before the show, my impression of them was pretty neutral. They really didn’t do anything to particularly inspire me to seek them out, but they weren’t bad either. Obviously, the lead singer/guitarist is heavily inspired by Bob Dylan, but his lyric and song delivery lack the sharpness that Dylan has.

The stage is setup with a very large video screen behind it. There is also a substage in front of the main stage that looks like a Joshua Tree. U2 opened up on the sub-stage with “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. The way that U2 decided to approach the set list was by chronologically going through their career.  “New Years Day” a highlight track was next. Followed by “A Sort Of Homecoming”. U2 tried a different arrangement of that song, which didn’t quite work. “Pride”was next and then U2 launched into the Joshua Tree album.

U2 decided to play the entire album in order from beginning to end. The front end of the album is full of live staples and was performed well. The back end of the album features several songs that U2 do not normally play out live. “Red Hill Mining Town” was performed primarily on piano which is fairly different than the original track. One song that really was a pleasant surprise was “Exit” which was really excellent live. I hope U2 keeps that one in their live song rotation. U2 upon completion of the album stepped off the stage for an early encore.

U2 performed “Miss Sarajevo” which wasn’t too much. Then followed up by “One” and “Ultraviolet” from Achtung Baby. Then the transitioned to All That You Can’t Leave Behind and played “Beautiful Day” which definitely was another highlight track. “Elevation” was also solid. U2 ended the night with a new song from the upcoming Songs Of Experience album. The song started off as a subdued piano based track and then built into a more rock and roll track towards the end.

Because of the unusual nature of the show, playing a whole album through from beginning to end, it created a few unusual issues with the set list. The set ended up being top heavy. With a lot of the top end tracks coming in right at the beginning of the night. Also, once it became obvious that they were playing Joshua Tree all the way through from beginning to end, the mystery of what song will the play next was gone for awhile. Part of the excitement of seeing the band is that moment of mystery before the next song starts. That little bit of time before you know what the next song is.

I also noticed that Bono often avoided going after a lot of really high notes when singing. He either re-worked the vocal part or encouraged the audience to sing the part instead. Not sure if this is due to him not having that vocal range anymore or if he is just preserving his voice for the tour. Probably a little bit of both. Not to say that Bono’s voice wasn’t good. Often times vocalists have to rework the way they sing as they get older. A lot of times the loss in range is made up for by the improvement in technique.

The rest of the band are still top-notch musicians. Often times the rhythm section of Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton get overlooked but they are extremely solid. The Edge is still one of the more unique guitarists today.

Overall it was an excellent show. Worth the money and hassle. Even though, I think it will be a long time I try to tackle seeing a show on this scale again. Arena shows are one thing, but stadium shows are just too much.

Imitation

Every person who decides to be an artist starts off as an imitator. Usually the event that pushes you to want to be an artist goes something like this. Wow! That was really cool! I wanna do something like that too. And then you proceed to try to do that. What saves us? Lack of ability. You are attempting to copy something developed from a well-developed set of skills. You on other hand are just learning how to do it.

There is imitation which is an attempt to copy the source material as much as possible. There is also influence where there are ideas that you obviously built your ideas from. Some people are great imitators. To me though imitation is a lower form of expression. Why? Because a good deal of the work is already is done. Let’s use fan fiction as an example. In fan fiction, the world, the characters and everything else has already been established for you. All you have to do is work with what is already there. Coming up with a new world and new characters requires much more work.

I think showing that you have been influenced by something is better. Why? It shows greater reverence for the source material. I am showing that I appreciate the source material. I also am showing that I am not the source artist. I don’t think I am as good as the source artist. Also, the source material artist made a decision to create their own art. I am showing my appreciation for that by showing, that I too, am going to attempt to create my own art.

Let’s throw in another caveat. Tradition. Some ideas are so well established and universal that anyone can make an attempt at it. For instance, the blues. The form of the blues has been well-established. If I want to use that form to create my own blues song, no one is going to accuse of me ripping anyone off. Why? Because the idea is so prevalent. No one is going to accuse someone who does an impressionistic painting as ripping off Van Gogh. However, if your painting is Starry Night with reds instead of blues or something. Then maybe. And if your painting is an attempt to recreate Starry Night exactly then for sure.

In some ways, the danger of imitation becomes greater as your skills develop. Suddenly, where the idea of imitation wasn’t even possible. Now it is. Also, sometimes you can unconsciously imitate something. One time, I wrote an instrumental piece of music. I wanted the piece of music to have a Santana-type feel. However, I basically copped the bass line of”Jingo-Lo-Ba”. And since that bass line is lynch pin of the whole composition, my instrumental crossed the line from influence to imitation.

Some people are so influenced by people that all they do is imitate them. I have known guitarists that have to have the exact same gear as there idol. They meticulously learn everything their hero plays and can copy it exactly. Some people have tribute bands where they not only play all the songs of a band. They even dress like them and act like them on stage. In the end, there is nothing wrong with this kind of behavior. As long as the proper reverence goes to the source.

One thing that great artists seem to share in common though is that they have a style that is distinct. That style is totally unique to that artist and cannot really be imitated. If anything, I as an artist have not been able to establish a distinct enough style. Maybe someday. I will tell you this though. I feel that I have a far greater appreciation of art because I have created my own art.

Art And Morality

I am going to try to stay on a high-level with this. This is a subject where it is easy to get pulled off in various different directions. Does art need to be morally controversial? Of course not. But can it be morally controversial? Definitely.

Morality is a favorite attacking point for people against art. The concept of what is and what is not moral is always changing and covers a wide variety of stands. Art usually is an idea. Something like a book or a song or a painting. These are things that usually do not directly effect people. What other way to explore morality is safer?

Can art be immoral? Of course it can. Is art being immoral necessarily wrong? No. Sometimes the immorality is the point of the art. Having characters live through an immoral situation and seeing what happens to them is important. It reinforces why the moral exists in the first place. And hey, morals do change, and seeing things like slavery from different eyes, not only leads to change, but it also gives us a way of remembering the mistakes of the past so we do not repeat them.

Art can be used as a tool to advocate positions that aren’t correct and will never be correct. But you as the audience have the ability to choose to pay attention to the art or not. You can even go so far as to create your own art advocating your own position. Some people want to ban or condemn anyone that advocates a moral position that that person feels is wrong. Extreme precautions need to be taken. A constant dialog is an important thing when it comes to morality. Because once again, morality is always changing. Don’t believe me? Look at how radically positions on things such as race, gender and sexual orientation have changed even in the last 50 years.

Another favorite position of advocates of censorship is the protection of children argument. Parents argue that art should be limited so that children do not get exposed to anything that the parents do not want them exposed to. I will go this far. Innocence does have some value. Because, once it is gone, it can never come back. All of us deserve to live, for awhile anyway, in a purer world. However, one way or the other, your child is going to be exposed to things that you don’t want them to be exposed to. Wouldn’t you rather have them be exposed in such a way that they are at least vaguely informed about what they are seeing? Isn’t it your responsibility as a parent to maintain a moral dialog with your child and to monitor it is what they are exposed to? Once again, the moral dialog is very important, and art is one of the safest ways to explore morality.

Like it or not the ugly side of humanity will show its face to you. It is important not to completely repress the darkness. Can you really understand beauty if you don’t understand ugliness? I am not sure. I won’t bullshit you. I have seen things I wish I would have never seen. I have heard about things that I would have rather never known about. In the end, the exposure to ideas that art has given me that add positively to my existence overwhelmingly outweigh the negative. I would argue that art contributes far more powerfully as a positive and unifying force than it does as a negative force. So please, let’s try to keep art as free as possible.