It’s rock that does it best for me. It can come in whatever stripe – indie, heavy metal, with an orchestra or without, with a synth or without, folk-infused, progressive… you name it. Rock is my first preference when I want to listen to music. I like the blues too and R&B, some hip-hop, some post-rock, electronic dance music even, and sometimes experimental avant garde but not as much as I like rock. But there are those occasions when nothing but a classic jazz album will work for me. At such times, my well-thumbed sleeve of Miles Davis’ 1970 double album, Bitches Brew is brought out, and spun and, in spite of the nasty scratch on Spanish Key (first track on Side 3), I marvel for the umpteenth time at the fabulousness of that towering jazz-rock fusion album, its tracks, of course, but also the deadly line-up that trumpet guru Davis got together for it. Read more
A couple of weeks back, I listed five albums that stood out for me in 2012, five that I would certainly take with me into the next year. All five—Sigur Ros’s Valtari, Patti Smith’s Banga, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, and Dr. John’s Locked Down—are doing heavy-duty shifts on my playlists and, I’m quite sure, shall continue to do so for a bit. But if I look back again at 2012, there are a few albums that I wish I’d spent more time with. Some of them are gems that are sitting there to be discovered. Read more
When you first listen to The Tallest Man on Earth (who’s actually a 5’7” Swede named Kristian Matsson) you could be mistaken into believing that he’s probably mimicking Bob Dylan, so similar is the 29-year-old’s singing style and songwriting to the legendary musician. In fact, some critics feel exactly that way and Matsson, in his three-record career till now, has often faced that criticism—that he channels Dylan. But a closer listen to any of his albums, particularly this year’s There’s No Leaving Now, can change your perception. Hugely influenced by American folk giants such as Dylan and Woody Guthrie he may be, but Matsson’s songs are all about where he belongs and his local Swedish environment. Read more
In the late eighties when Neneh Cherry first burst onto the scene with her album, Raw Like Sushi, and won two Brit awards, she promptly melted one of them and got it crafted into jewellery, some of which she gifted to other nominees in the categories she won the award for. Raw Like Sushi showcased the then still incipient trend of hip-hop and rap but with an infusion of electronica, a genre that earned it the label trip-hop. The tracks on that debut album, including two major hits, Buffalo Stance and Manchild, brought her instant fame. And, more important than that, an enviably cool image.
Some bands you can only enjoy listening to them live. I’ve been listening to the Athens (Georgia) based American band, Of Montreal, for a while now. They have been around since the late 1990s and have nearly a dozen studio albums out. Their music is difficult to classify—and driven by frontman, singer and guitarist Kevin Barnes, they have fused and hopped genres as widely disparate as catchy indie pop, glam rock, experimental and psychedelic rock and deeply brooding lo-fi music. That last kind of music was what characterised Of Montreal’s 2007 album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, a dark and very personal kind of work. I don’t know whether I was fortunate or otherwise that Hissing Fauna was the first album by the band that came my way. Read more
I think it was some time in 2002 that a tech-forward friend dropped by to show off his newly-acquired toy, an iPod. It was a first-generation model with a capacity of 10 gigabytes. That meant, he bragged to me, that he could carry in his pocket 2000 songs and listen to them via a pair of white ear-buds anywhere he wanted to. “Just listen to the sound,” he gloated, “it’s like carrying an entire library of music with you.” I was skeptical (and, I must admit, a bit of Luddite too) when I popped the ear-buds in and heard his classic rock selections. I think it was Cream’s SWLABR (which deliciously expands into She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow, circa 1967) that got piped in first and I complained about how the bass was muted; the treble was tinny and so on. “Go away and take that stupid iPod with you,” I sneered. Read more
The first time I heard John Francis Anthony “Jaco” Pastorius III was when a friend handed me a pre-recorded Columbia Records cassette called Black Market by the jazz-rock fusion band, Weather Report. It was the late 1970s and my friend, a maverick sort of a guy who also was a classmate, predicted while handing over the tape that the bass guitarist on at least two tracks on the album would be like no one I’d ever heard before.
Ever since last week when I first heard Pearl Jam’s Backspacer, their newest album, I’ve been obsessively listening to it over and over again. It’s a mighty fine album and if you read the review in last Saturday’s Rock ’n’ Roll Circus in Hindustan Times by my colleague Indrajit Hazra you’ll know what I mean. Backspacer is a whopper; a cracker of an album from the band. Pearl Jam has been around for nearly 20 years, much longer than what many bands take to burn out or become their own stupid caricatures—I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about.
A friend called up the other day to say he remembered me because he was in London and had just gone for a concert where Seun Kuti and his Egypt 80 band had played. “You wrote about Seun, remember? I just caught his concert and it was fabulous.”
I’m sure it was, I thought to myself, sitting here in the sweltering heat of Delhi where the mercury routinely hovers above the 40-degree mark during summer. Read more
Forty-one years ago, on this very day—April 26—Stephen Stills was at a recording session for his then girlfriend, singer Judy Collins. Stills and Collins, as is well known, had an on-and-off relationship during the 1960s, with Stills having played back-up guitar on at least one of Collins’ albums (1968’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes). Read more