music / Columns

Music’s 3Rs 1.14.13: Everything In Its Right/Wrong/Ridiculous Place

January 14, 2013 | Posted by Sean Comer

Chitty chitty bang bang, nothin’ but my R’s thang.

Welcome, Babies, to Music’s 3 R’s, my walk through the week’s bold, beautiful, bitchin’ and bizarre happenings etched in the week’s musical Interwebz annals. You’ve been waiting since Sunday, and now I’m here: your glass’s fresh ice cubes, Sean Comer.

Let’s see how we wear this new era’s fresh new hat…

OBITUARY: Your last excuse not to own a Julia Nunes album
Hey, I can sympathize. Really.

Many a great album by all rights should, based upon my artist admiration, be nestled snugly within my iTunes library. Alas, though “Music” ranks highly between “Perpetual Humpity-Bumpity” and “Blood of a Virgin King Cobra” upon my unique hierarchy of needs, my rent’s perpetuity and nutritional sustenance often trump its permanent procurement.

That said, Julia Nunes’ third full-length studio album has dipped in price into the single-digit range for a short time, leaving you free and clear to give all your loving to this gifted New York singer-songwriter for about $5 on via download.

For those of you not yet one with the tunes of Nunes, here’s the short explanation: since 2007, she’s amassed an appreciative, ardent following of millions, mostly via becoming one of the most-watched producers in YouTube’s history. Her homemade performance videos have twice been featured on the site’s front page. She played last year’s Sundance Film Festival and became a regular Bonnaroo performer a few years ago, after multiple gigs opening for Ben Folds, The Bacon Brothers and others since 2008.

Of course, 2012 also marked her first gig as a Conan musical guest, playing “Stay Awake” from this very album.

Settle Down is Nunes’ third full-length studio album of original music, following previous efforts Left Right Wrong and I Wrote These; the five-song EP I Think You Know, released between I Wrote These and Settle Down; and a collection of the very YouTube covers that first earned her acclaim. Settle Down was her first album to be funded entirely via Kickstarter campaign, and she’s been touring like a woman possessed performing a series of “living room concerts” – they’re exactly what they sound like – for donors who pledged her massive sums of money to complete the album.

Before one single soul gets pedantic below and whines that she’s “nothing special” or anybody complains that they “don’t see the big deal,” here’s a statement of honesty: no shit. Probably by her very own admission, she’s not the re-inventor of the wheel. She’s been writing songs since her teen years, but started out doing so and keeps doing so today without the pretentious, forced, theatrical awkwardness of Taylor Swift or others who broke through around her age. Listeners will find the most joy when they realize that her enthusiasm comes through every note, to the point of her audiences typically having every ounce as much fun listening to her sing and play her songs as she does performing them.

For a little taste of the pure joy a powerful lower-range alto and a ukulele begets, enjoy her official video for “Stay Awake,” far and away one of my favorite songs.

Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine partner for premium-audio download service
Many artists can say that they champion taking music’s composition and performance to places neither has ever been driven.

Few can say the same thing about portable audio quality quite like Dr. Dre can.

According to MTV this week, the hip-hop production legend has hitched the expansion of his Beats by Dre headphones line into a download service to Interscope Records chairman and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine.

There aren’t many new avenues left down which legitimate streaming and downloadable audio services can turn, neither as concerns pricing structures nor extent of respective services’ offered libraries. Instead, Dre and Iovine’s Daisy service calls existing networks on the carpet for substandard file quality that Iovine claims leaves clients shortchanged.

“Right now, these things are all utilities,” Iovine explained. “It’s give me your credit card, here’s 12 million songs, good luck. We have an entire generation that was brought up on sound being inferior, and sound is the only conduit for emotion that we have. We’ve had ten very bad years in the audio industry. So we want the best possible quality, and it will have global scale. So it will be a balance of those things.”

Former Topspin online marketing software CEO Ian Rogers will also be overseeing the duo’s latest project.

Perfect honesty, Babies? Upper-echelon audio quality really isn’t worth to me a fraction of what Beats by Dre headphones typically cost. My earbuds are typically worn in environments that put them in perpetual peril: hiking through the foothills of Phoenix’s South Mountain, at the gym, walking about Mesa, and other environments in which one nasty accident or another could mean their short road to ruin. Particularly in the gym, the more popular over-ear Beats by Dre models are just plain impractical and cumbersome.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t an untapped market here for somebody else, though.

If one can’t offer something completely unique and absent from the marketplace, present something already for sale at a premium quality. Though the quality files offered by the likes of Amazon, Spotify, iTunes, Grooveshark and other services suit many who just care about hearing a song or album in its entirety just fine, others have longed for more masterfully crafted mixing. Dre’s most solidified legacy to this point has been his production – his alchemist’s sensitivity for sound, balance and mixing. He built an addition onto that renown with the undeniable reception for the listening experience the Beats by Dre line affords to those who can afford them.

If that’s the remodeled addition to his home in the annals of musical respect, then this service could be the blueprint that vaults the ceiling.
Frank Ocean debuts “Pink Matter” remix featuring reunited Outkast
I recapped last week (via NME) Frank Ocean’s triumphant reuniting of Outkast’s Big Boi and Andre 3000 to remix “Pink Matter”. Bringing everything full-circle, Hip Hop N More unveiled the new mix Saturday, complete with a hot new verse by Big Boi.

It would be redundant if I recapped in entirety once more every reason there’s nary a drop of “Wrong” to be found here. Savor the flavor, mi jovenes. To hear the typical indifference in Big Boi and Andre’s remarks, moments like this melding the Atlanta pair’s distinctly electric delivery with Big Boi’s sharp production and Frank Ocean’s tender lyricism might very well be the closest we get for a long while to an “official” Outkast reunion.

Kylie Minogue winding down her music career
It’s long been my code that I needn’t necessarily “like” a person in order for me to grant him or her a degree of deserved respect.

So it is with Kylie Minogue. The U.K.’s Sunday Mirror reported over the weekend that the Australian pop songstress has set affairs in order to ease away from a music career spanning more than 20 years and chart success across multiple continents.

“Kylie’s decision to stop recording for the time being and part company with [ longtime manager Terry Blamley] has come as a massive shock,” a source claimed. “Ever since she broke into the charts in the 80s, Terry has been the man behind the scenes. But now Kylie is saying she wants to pull back from the pressures that come with a music career…She says she’s determined to devote more time both to herself and to her career as an actress. She may be thinking she’s achieved most of what she wants as a pop star.”

Minogue has been an enduring overseas chart presence even through a 2005 breast-cancer diagnosis that curtailed her touring schedule at the time. As an actress, she’s starred most recently in 2012’s Holy Motors, but also through the years in Moulin Rouge! (The Green Fairy), the absolutely hilarious, Jean-Claude Van Damme-starring Street Fighter (Cammy), and the hit Australian soap Neighbours.

So she’s got quite the fallback plan ahead. She’s made her mark in music. She’s defeated cancer and never really let her star fade in four separate decades amid a notoriously fickle field of wavering tastes to please.

So why the “Wrong,” you might ask?

That’s because, selfishly, I’ll miss her. Her music has never been a staple of my iPod, but as dance pop goes, I’ve long enjoyed her. Nothing has ever really felt that forced, or like she was trying to wedge herself into a style that didn’t her. It is what it is: a non-offensive bubblegum beat that never really gets grating.

In a world of artists that do grate on my sensibilities by trying far too hard, Minogue could always be counted on to deliver what I needed when I needed it: something infectiously charismatic that’s infused with fun – no more, no less.

That said, let’s honor her apparently impending transition into full-time acting endeavors with the moment with which I’ll always associate her acting career.

Taylor Swift’s 66 days with Harry Styles yields FIVE F***ING SONGS?!
I’ve done it. I’ve finally found that to which I most liken Taylor Swift’s creative process.

Blonde-o, you’re like Sammael Hound of the Resurrection in Hellboy: much like how the ugly dreadlocked beastie latched itself onto Hellboy a matter of seconds and managed to lay several eggs of demon spawn, the gangly sociopath snaked her tendrils around One Direction’s Harry Styles for 66 whopping days, and it reportedly has already yielded five f***ing songs, according to The U.K. Sun.

“Taylor writes music in the same way that other women chat to their friends on the phone. It’s been how she deals with her emotions for most of her life,” a source claimed. “Harry and Taylor only dated for a short time but there were very strong feelings, so it’s been a tough comedown.

“Lyrics have been written, but Taylor hasn’t come close to deciding whether she’ll ever release them,” the source added. “A song about it will surface at some point but it won’t be anything like the way she had a dig at her other ex John Mayer in one of her other tracks.”

Sure, it won’t.

Nothing is ever this catty half-wit’s fault. Of course, it’s going to be calling for Styles’ nut-sack to be laid bleeding at her feet. Stop enabling this!

It’s not even so much that she can’t write anything these days except a break-up lament. There are ways to do that right. Let me refer, again, to Ms. Nunes. She often notes when playing this song live how much the song’s target hates it. However, note also how it is kept, indeed, “short and sweet.”

Bless her little heart. Making her point took 1:38.

Taylor, Pumpkin Bar, at some point, it becomes clear that the problem is you. Don’t piss on my head only to tell me it’s raining, and don’t begin to tell me that she isn’t dating strictly at this point because she’s acknowledged that she’s the musical equivalent to Hideo Nomo: a one-trick pony that’s been long since figured-out.

To be fair, your awful, awful music has to date produced exactly one worthwhile byproduct.

I admittedly do consider this parody easily one of the best Mass Effect 2 satires ever made. I could watch this all day.

That means that I must indirectly doff my cap to the blonde sociopathic hose-beast, even as I wish for her to just go the ever-loving hell away.

Damn you, Taylor. Just….damn you.

Ryan Adams covers Iron Maiden
I’ve said it before, but it probably bears repeating: I don’t believe that the Ridiculous need always be merely a pantheon beyond the Wrong’s realm of the spectrum.

Sometimes, it’s just something that sounds so peculiar on paper, that I’m ultimately gob-smacked how well it panned out in execution.

Every so often, taking a song stylistically off-road gets a little mud on the tires, but gives it a certain new character. I wouldn’t have believed it until I heard it, but Ryan Adams recently took Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” for a joyride.

Much like The Civil Wars’ poignant take on The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Adams’ doff of the cap to the British metal demigods recorded for the upcoming season of Showtime’s Californication takes the song in emotional directions probably never intended, but eventually not at all unwelcome. Adams is contemplative to a transformative extent and makes the Maiden standard absolutely his own. I say without hesitation that this is a genius re-imagining on par with Johnny Cash’s own renderings of “Rusty Cage” and “Hurt”.

This isn’t the studio version that will premiere with the album Music From The Showtime Series Californication Season 6 on Jan. 15 – two days after the David Duchovny series’ premiere – but it’s an equally stirring 2011 live take. Just the same, check out also Damone’s version from the Out Here All Night album.

Yes, this is indeed an answer to the pedantic commenter who implied snarkily in the 411 posting of this track that Damone having previously covered it in this style somehow makes Adams’ own take meaningless. Appreciate some things on their own respective merits, Babies. Jimi Hendrix might’ve performed easily the definitive rendition of “All Along The Watchtower,” but does that really make Dave Matthews Band covering it decades letter any less admirable in its own right? Adams gives it his own diminished delivery that lends it a thoughtfulness conveyed differently than that which Damone evokes.

What a long, strange, wonderful week it was, Babies. But the sun’s comin’ up, and I’m ridin’ with Lady Luck.

Let’s shut it down with the Patron-Saint Reapers of Ridiculous – MOMENT OF GWAR, BISHES!

Keep your stick on the ice, Babies. I’m Sean. You’re not. Never dull your colors for someone else’s canvas.

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Sean Comer
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