Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Music for the New Year

It's been a while since I've written about music, so with the New Year now upon us I thought I'd opine on some new music that I'm listening to now. Rock music in particular.

I've had many a conversation with friends about how that in terms of "rock" music (very broadly defined), it's all been done. There's not much out there new, breaking and compelling. I think this is true for the most part. It seems that most performers - diligently, innocently in some cases and in a calculated manner in others - are mostly going through the motions of re-creating something that's already been done and, more importantly to the music industry, that's already been proven to be a money maker.

As Joe Strummer once said (and I'm paraphrasing here as I don't have the quote in front of me), "real music comes from the street, not from the executive suites of record companies." What he means is that nobody was clamoring for Elvis to do what he did, nobody was asking for reggae music or David Bowie's glam rock, nobody was asking for rap, techno, disco or, those monumental musical developments were things conceived of and that grew organically from the minds of creative people holed up in basements, bars, back rooms and clubs and spread from there - they were not inventions suddenly birthed whole in record company offices.

And, of course, Strummer also said you got to "dig the new" and not focus backward. Check out and indulge what's new and happening.

With this in mind, I've been trying to find some new rock music that's legit and coming from a "real place." This is not easy, especially for someone who is now 41 years old, has a full time job, marriage and responsibilities. You just can't check much out in person and you have to rely on other resources to figure out what's going on.

All that said, I'm doing my best. Certainly music is subjective, I have my own likes and dislikes that some people might like and others not, and I don't claim to be somehow "plugged in" or more intuitive than anyone else. But, here are a few rock performers that I'm listening to right now who have put new music out this year already that I think are doing something different or bringing something interesting than attempting to copy or re-package a proven formula...

British Sea Power - this is an interesting band. They have a new album out called Valhalla Dancehall. I would call their sound rock, but it's an odd type of rock that incorporates non-traditional sounds. All I can say is, check it out. You'll either like it a lot or you will  think I'm nuts. Their earlier albums, particularly Do You Like Rock Music are excellent. Songs and albums on iTunes.

Mona - from the concrete basements and dingy bars of Nashville, TN, Mona is a an authentic young rock and roll band fighting the good fight. They've got an edge and I think may rise up in 2011. Think of them as the anit-Muse, anit-Nickelback, anti-Linkin Park. Where those bands are big, sweeping, enhanced and almost operatic rock, Mona is that band in the bar or small venue crankin' it out and speaking to you. Song Listen To Your Love is on iTunes.

Funeral Party - this is an L.A. rock band. But guess what? They're not trying to be a GnR or Motley Crue clone or re-create X or the Germs or Social D. No, they've got their own thing going on. Slightly poppy, slightly aggressive, slightly angular and at times with a tinge of a disco beat (yes), Funeral Party brings it in a different way. I'm liking what I'm hearing and plan on listening more. Song are on iTunes.

Glasvegas - one of my favorite new bands of recent years is set to come back with their second full album this spring. The early (and free) single to promote the album is really good to my ears...confirming why I like this band so much. The World Is Yours is a song that builds, rocks and soars with James Allan delivering a vital, heartfelt and epic voice to a song about how much a person can mean to another. If this is how their second album is going to be, wow. The first Glasvegas album is at iTunes, and the new single can be heard at the Glasvegas Web site...but as of now not downloadable in the U.S.

The Vaccines - this is  new band I don't know much about, but they have a couple singles out that you can find online. More pop that Funeral Party, more straight ahead rock than Glasvegas or British Sea Power, this could simply be a new quality pop rock band worth checking out. You have hunt the Internet at this point to find this band's songs. I've found them and if you look you can too.

Social Distortion - I am listening to their new album Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. It's the first set of new music from Mike Ness and the crew in a long time. While their sound is established and they take a lot from performers like the Stones, Johnny Cash, the Clash and some others, I think it's safe to say that to get back to Strummer's statement, there isn't a massive market for this type of music. It's a labor of love by Ness who - thanks to earlier successes of his band in times in the past when scuzzy, countrified, outlaw cowboy rock were more marketable - continues to create wonderful rock and roll for those paying attention. All music by Social D is at your local record store and on iTunes.

OK, so there are six performers who have put out new music in the last four weeks. Check it out.

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