Playlist: 15 Songs For April 2012 (Via Spotify)

Time for some April showers – of good music that is.  This month’s mix is a little more on the rocking side, but there’s something here for everyone.  I even threw in a classical piece for all my sophisticated viewers out there.

Here are my 15 songs for April 2012.

Music Journal: April Recap – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Turns 10 And Woody Guthrie Turns 100

Oh yeah, and the Lollapalooza 2012 lineup was announced….nothing big.

Happy 10th Birthday Yankee Hotel Foxtrot!

Ten years ago in April, Wilco’s seminal 4th album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was released after a long battle against their record label that wouldn’t release the damn thing.  It’s a great story (click here to see a brief summary), but the real reason we’re celebrating  is because the music has aged very well.  This is one of my favorite albums that I highly recommend to anyone.

 

Happy 100th Birthday Woody Guthrie!

April held another special birthday, which also had something to do with Wilco.  Woody Guthrie would have turned 100 this April, and if you don’t know who he is, he’s (arguably) the most influential American folk musician ever.  His influence on musicians such as a young Bob Dylan was crazy, and he wrote “This Land Is Your Land”, a song that has been seriously debated to replace “The Star Spangled Banner” as America’s national anthem.

Now back in the late 90s Wilco and British folk singer Billy Bragg collaborated on Mermaid Avenue, a tribute album in a sense that took old Guthrie lyrics and updated the music to reintroduce the folk singer to a new generation.  In April, to celebrate Woody’s birthday, the entire Mermaid Avenue sessions were released, with the original albums and new material.  This is a terrific collection and a high recommendation for anyone who wants to get into folk music.

 

Lollapalooza 2012 Lineup Announced

Lollapalooza, one of America’s most commercially successful music festivals, announced its lineup for this year.  The three day festival will happen in Chicago August 3-5.  Click here to see the full lineup and click here to see my reaction to this year’s lineup.

 

Album Of The Month: Jack White – Blunderbuss

One of rock & roll’s most dependable figures finally released his first solo album, and it doesn’t disappoint.  White dabbles in different genres which he puts together coherently, yet everything is grounded in rock & roll tradition.  The album successfully both pumps you up and slows you down.

 

Song I Listened To The Most This Month: M. Ward – “Clean Slate”

M. Ward has always been one of those artist I knew I would probably like but did not know what album to start with.  I think now I’ve finally found that album.  A Wasteland Companion, which was also released this April, is a very appealing introduction to the indie-folkie.  The album opener “Clean Slate” is a magic slow jam of a song, and has been on repeat all month.

First Impression: Jack White – Blunderbuss

Don’t worry folks, it’s not a blunder.

Whatever expectations you have for Jack White’s first solo album get ride of them right now, because you’ll either be dissappointed or annoyed by Blunderbuss.  With each band White was with (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) he had a mission.  With the White Stripes it was to strip rock & roll to its bluesy roots, the Raconteurs to try being a sideman in a full band that had a more appealing “rock” sound, and the Dead Weather to put himself completely out of the spotlight with very un-Jack White-esk music.  Now on his first solo record, White has nothing to prove and can do whatever the hell he wants, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.  And I gotta tell you folks, I love it when he loosens up.

Before I go further taking about Blunderbuss, I must stress to you that this is not a White Stripes album.  Though White was the creative mind behind the duo, it was still a part of a specific sound.  The music on Blunderbuss varies all over different genres.  He incorporates blues, rock, 60s pop, and country in all his songs.  If I had to make a comparison it would be to the last White Stripes album Icky Thump, but even that didn’t sound like a White Stripes record.

But I’m putting too much emphasis on White’s former band.  Blunderbuss puts the spotlight completely on White.  He wrote (except for his excellent cover of “I’m Shakin'”) and produced all of Blunderbuss and these songs showcase the strengths of White as a songwriter.  There are kick-ass rock songs (“Sixteen Saltines”, the most direct and loudest song on the album), honky tonk jams (“Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”, “Blunderbuss”), and everything else sounds like a combination of everything White has done in his pervious bands.

And don’t worry guitar players, White still reminds us why he’s a guitar god.  His signature guitar sound appears all over the place, and each solo is very tasteful.  There are no feedback freakouts like “Ball and Biscuit” here, but the songs are so good you don’t mind.  White is also a very underrated riff player, and Blunderbuss is full of great licks that Jimmy Page would be jealous of.

I think Spin magazine said it best when they said, “The emphasis [on Blunderbuss] is on the songs, not a prevailing ideology”.  When you put things into that perspective, it’s easier to see how talented White is as a songwriter and performer.  For the first time in his career White has nothing to prove, and now he can just focus on the music.  The album sounds fantastic as a whole but some of the tracks are forgettable, and White, though an excellent singer, isn’t a memorable lyricist.

A blunderbuss is an action that is regarded as lacking in subtlety and precision, and that’s a perfect way to summarize Jack White’s first solo album.  Blunderbuss is a much needed exercise for White to do something he has finally earned the right to do – make an album for the fun of making an album.

Overall First Impression: It might not be the album you expected (or wanted) to hear, but Jack White has earned the right to make an album for himself, and it still manages to be one of the best albums of the year so far.

Buy This Album If: You’re a fan of anything Jack White does.

Don’t Buy This Album If: You’re still banking on a White Stripes reunion.

Highlights: “Sixteen Saltines”, “Freedom at 21”, “I’m Shakin'”

Rating: 4.5/5

New Album Releases: April 24, 2012 – Jack White and Death Grips

If you haven’t been able to make your way over to your local record shop, today is a good day to do so.  Today Jack White’s first official solo album Blunderbuss and Death Grips’s major label debut The Money Store comes out today.

The anticipated solo debut from guitar god and former White Striper Jack White is one of 2012’s most anticipated releases, and it doesn’t disappoint.  White puts all of his favorite genres from delta-blues to slow country and his signature minimalist rock & roll sound into an album’s worth of great tunes.  It might not be what you expected (the focus is more on sound rather than raw power) but it’s just as good as anything White has done, which is saying a lot.

 

Now Death Grips I’m not as familiar with, but this band should not be ignored.  Death Grips is an electro hip-hop duo that isn’t afraid to get in your face with an intense sound that’ll make you wanna start a fight at a club.  You won’t understand what the hell anything is being said, the intense sound isn’t for everyone, and even their album cover might be a turn off.  However with that said, this music is strangely appealing, and you might find yourself coming back to this album again and again.  If you’re gonna take a chance with any album this year, take it with The Money Store.

 

Go out and check out these albums, and remember to support your local record store!

Music Journal: The Lollapalooza 2012 Lineup, One Day Later

I gotta be honest folks, I’m not a huge fan of this year’s lineup for Lollapalooza.  I was really tempted to include some personal attacks against the famed Chicago festival in yesterday’s post, but with these kinds of things I’ve learned from experience that it’s always best to wait a day to think about the situation and not say something I’ll regret later.

Well it’s been a day.

My feelings are still the same – I’m not planning on attention Lolla this year.  However, those who are going are in for a treat not for the main attractions but for the hidden treats.  This year has a great middle-teir section, including a handful of bands I would pay to see if they were the headliners.  These acts include M83, Dawes, Guy Clark Jr., The Gaslight Anthem, and Washed Out.  It’s a shame these guys aren’t in a more prominent spot, but at least they’ll be playing.

As for the headliners I’m not as thrilled.  As much as I love the Chili Peppers they seem to be out of their prime, and it doesn’t help that their latest album I’m With You isn’t superb (though I will say it’s growing on me).  I love the Black Keys, but their music is not meant to headline Lollapalooza.  Black Sabbath is just going to be awkward, and it’s not for certain how good they will sound.  Jack White has the potential to be really good, but I can also see him being extremely weird on stage, and don’t get your hopes up for a lot of White Stripes material.

Well there’s my two cents.  This year is an ok mix of music that isn’t worth over $200 to see.  Agree or disagree with what I have to say, this is still Lollapalooza, and it is always a good time.  We’ll see how well they pull it off this year when August comes around.

And The Lollapalooza 2012 Lineup Is….

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you this year’s Lolla lineup!

The top acts are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Black Keys, Black Sabbath, and Jack White.  The other major acts include Florence and the Machine, The Shins, M83, Sigur Ros, Frank Ocean, Wale, J. Cole, and Guy Clark Jr.  Some hidden gems include Sharon Van Etten, Washed Out, The Weeknd, and plenty of other up and coming acts.

To see the full list, click here.

Top Lists: My Favorite Guitar Solos

What makes a great guitar solo?  Is it how fast or flashy it is, or how slow and soulful it is?  Does it sound like a voice that you could sing to, telling its own story?  Does it start small but then crescendos into a colossal showcase of talent and emotion?  Solos are great for different reasons, but the one thing all great solos have is soul.  The following solos are my favorites, and they’re each here for different reasons.  These aren’t necessarily the best solos I’ve ever heard, but each solo here has soul and shows what can happen when an talented guitarist is in harmony with his instrument.

The Beatles – “Something” (Guitar Player: George Harrison)

 

Jimi Hendrix & The Band Of Gypsys – “Machine Gun” (Guitar Player: Jimi Hendrix)

 

Wilco – “Impossible Germany” (Guitar Player: Niles Cline)

 

John Mayer – “Covered In Rain” (Guitar Player: John Mayer)

 

Led Zeppelin – “Heartbreaker” (Guitar Player: Jimmy Page)

 

Prince – “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” (Guitar Player: Prince)

 

Steely Dan – “Kid Charlemagne” (Guitar Player: Larry Carlton)

 

Sublime – “Santeria” (Guitar Player: Brad Nowell)

 

The White Stripes – “Ball And Biscuit” (Guitar Player: Jack White)

 

Pink Floyd – “Money” (Guitar Player: David Gilmour)

 

Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Midnight in Harlem” (Guitar Player: Derek Trucks)

 

Dire Straits – “Sultans of Swing” (Guitar Player: Mark Knopfler)

 

Were there any that I miss? Comment below or hit me up on twitter @HeadfoneNation

And before you say anything, Yes, “Stairway to Heaven” was denied from this list.  Sorry Wayne.