Muse – Black Holes and Revelations

Muse came to Bangkok a few weeks back and almost everyone I know went. Me with a kid at home, well, concerts don’t really happen anymore. But everyone was raving about it the day after, so I decided to check them out and loved what I heard. I know one of the conditions for album picks in the Sonic Collective is that they should have had some kind of meaning for us, but despite only recently learning of Muse, I know that if I had known about Black Holes and Revelations in 2006, I would most definitely have had it on repeat for weeks.Continue reading

Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine

Nine Inch Nails is not so much a band as it is one man’s musical sandbox. That man is Trent Reznor, and even if you’ve never heard of him before, chances are you’ve probably heard some of the music he’s produced over his prolific career, either through movies or video games. But long before Reznor was an award-winning producer, he was a janitor…

Photo by Kevin Westenberg
Photo by Kevin Westenberg

Working nights as a handyman and janitor at the Right Track Studio in Cleveland, Ohio, Reznor took advantage of his down time and access to equipment to record and develop his own music. Playing most of the keyboards, drum machines, guitars, and samplers himself, he recorded a demo and began to shop it around to various record labels. Eventually settling on the name “Nine Inch Nails”, he scored a deal with TVT, a small label originally known as TeeVee Toons, whose bread and butter was releasing novelty and television jingle records.
Thanks to his new recording contract, Reznor got the opportunity to work with a number of producers he idolized, and thus Pretty Hate Machine was born. Much like the demo he cut, Reznor refused to record with a conventional band, preferring to record by himself.
On October 20th, 1989, Nine Inch Nails released Pretty Hate Machine to commercial success, and mixed critical reception. It was the starting point of a long, storied career for Trent Reznor, and it’s the album we’re reviewing this month.
Listen to Pretty Hate Machine on Rdio

Useful links
Wikipedia – Pretty Hate Machine
Wikipedia – Trent Reznor


Other albums under consideration for this month’s review:

  • Alanis Morisette – Jagged Little Pill
  • New Kids on the Block – Step By Step
  • Rage Against The Machine – Rage Agaist The Machine

Stevie Wonder: Innervisions

I’ve known of Stevie Wonder my entire life and a handful of his hits are familiar to me, but I’d never consumed an entire album. The time has come. After some digging to determine which of his albums is considered to be the best, Innervisions came out on top and what a treat it’s been delving in to its rich tracks.
Innervisions, Wonder’s 16th studio album, was released on August 3, 1973 (20 days before I was born!) and is cited for its exploration of popular themes at the time: drug abuse, racism, inequality, and toxic politics. The tracks are not only full of funk but challenge the listener at every turn. Jabs at then US President Richard Nixon appear, as do calls against police for their treatment of black Americans, all while keeping your toes tapping – an impressive feat.
Stevie Wonder The Sonic Collective

220px-Steviewonder_innervisionsWonder completed this album more or less on his own, writing, producing, and playing on most tracks, relying heavily on an ARP synthesizer, which set the tone of black music to come. He played all instruments on six of nine tracks and this work firmly cemented him as one of the world’s preeminent musicians. I encourage the listener to put on headphones for an initial, undisturbed listen, to fully absorb the lyrics, before diving in to future sessions. Enjoy!
 
Other albums enjoyed and considered this month include:

Innervisions on iTunes
Innervisions Wikipedia page

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

“For me, The Beatles are proof of the existence of God.” – Rick Rubin

For this month’s pick I may be accused of playing it a little safe or picking an obvious choice. That being said, I just don’t see how we could be in a music collective that specializes in older albums that influenced other great bands. This is our 9th month and I just felt we could go no further without taking the time to listen to what is arguably the best rock album ever made as chosen by Rolling Stone magazine.
Being 45 I actually remember listening to Beatles albums as a kid and I actually had a digital watch when they first came out that had a crude alarm that played Hey Jude. Of course I have listened to lots of Beatles over the years but to be honest I never really sat and listened to many albums from start to finish. I picked up Revolver a few months back on vinyl and it blew me away how good it was. I don’t ever remember really listening to the full album of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and a quick look at the track list had me not sure I’d heard several of the songs. I feel like a musical hypocrite by not having given this album its due. Now is the time.

“It was a peak,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970, describing both the album and his collaborative relationship with McCartney. “Paul and I were definitely working together,”

The Beatles   Sgt. Peppers Lonley Hearts Club Band
I am excited to diver into this classic album and to see what the Beatles had to offer as they neared the twilight of their career. So, even though this may seem like an obvious choice I would ask all our readers to take the time and listen to the album with us. It may help to get into the psychedelic vibe before listening and to pay homage to these 4 lads from Liverpool.
The Making Of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Useful Links:
Official Beatles Page (really great stuff here)
Wikipedia Entry
SPLHCB on iTunes
 

Skunk Anansie: Paranoid and Sunburnt

If there’s one thing Skunk Anansie is not, it’s dull. Any band that describes their style of music as “clit-rock” can pretty much be guaranteed not to bore.
The first time I heard Skunk was on an HMV sampler tape that my friend gave me in about 1999. I put it in my yellow Sony Walkman when I went for a walk, pressed play, and had my eardrums blown up. The song I listened to was Charlie Big Potato, and I finished my walk in record time. I bought their latest album Post Orgasmic Chill immediately after and nearly wore it out. I followed their career after that, but for whatever reason I never listened to their older material in any depth. Their newer albums have gotten much more poppy and less edgy, so I wanted to go back to their very first album and give it a thorough re-listen.
Paranoid and Sunburnt came out in 1994 with Skin on vocals, Cass on bass, Ace on guitar, and Mark on drums. Its mix of punk, funk, rock, metal, and reggae was an immediate success in their native Britain and beyond. This paragraph from Wikipedia sums up their reception:

In 1995 they were voted Best New British Band by the readers of Kerrang! magazine…Soon after that, two of their songs, “Feed” and “Selling Jesus”, appeared on the soundtrack of the film Strange Days. Success continued  and they were also voted Kerrang!‘s Best British Live Act in 1996. In 1997 they were nominated for Best Live Act and Best Group at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

One thing I like about them is that they manage to have diverse hobbies and tastes outside of the band. Skin is a model and one-time interior designer; Ace is a record producer and teaches workshops at some of the world’s top performance institutions; Cass’ career got its start with, of all people, Terrence Trent D’Arby; and Mark is a passionate bike rider who has completed multiple mega-rides such as the Enduro Africa (2,500km) and Experience Africa (1,500km – twice) for charity. It doesn’t make them better, but I dunno, it just seems cool that they all have such diverse lives outside of being rock stars.Skunk-Anansie-I-believe-in-you
They were going strong up until 2001 when they broke up, but reformed in 2009, and have released two albums since then. Their politics and racial diversity has been hard to miss in many of their songs, and even in real life (Skin is married to the daughter of an American Republican billionaire). This is readily apparent on Paranoid and Sunburnt, with titles such as “Intellectualise My Blackness” and “Little Baby Swastikkka.”
From what I remember, this is an album best listened to LOUD with good headphones, so put away the tea cozies and go for a run or hit the gym, and enjoy the listen.
Paranoid and Sunburnt on iTunes
Skunk Anansie’s website (not much there, but they do have a good presence on social media)
Skunk Anansie on Facebook
Mark on Instagram
Skin on Instagram
Ace on Instagram
 
 

Dr. Dre: The Chronic

Dr. Dre: The Chronic

If you’re a die-hard Sonic Collective fan, then aside from almost certainly being handsome and successful, you’re likely a keen observer too. No doubt then, you would have noticed that last month Scott did something new with his pick by offering a list of some of the other albums he was considering before he settled on Cheap Trick. (This is a great idea, and one that I’ll be shamelessly stealing.) One of the albums he listed, NWA: Straight Outta Compton, happens to be one of my favourites and brought to mind the trademark production styles of early West-Coast rap made famous by none other than Dr. Dre. I decided that I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend Dre’s debut studio album, The Chronic.
DrDreCorbisDre is widely regarded as the father of the “G-Funk” sound that characterized and influenced hip hop artists throughout the 90s as Rap became more mainstream. According to the near-omnicient Wikipedia, G-funk makes use of Funk samples layered with melodic synths, deep bass, and high-pitched portamento saw-wave synths. The sound is rounded out by a slow tempo, female backing vocals, and a relaxed, almost slurred style of rapping. Dr Dre generally uses live musicians in the studio to reproduce the original music of the samples he chose, which gives his music a much more characteristically “Dr. Dre” sound.
Despite the fact that The Chronic’s sound is quite dated by today’s hip hop standards, when you hear it, you can’t help but think back to an era where Rap was just starting to become mainstream, and brought some of the struggles facing inner-city youth to light for the first time. It was not without its controversy, and some of the songs are quite politicized, which to my mind, makes it historically significant compared to other rap albums of the era that just never bothered to go there.
Kanye West once said stated: “The Chronic is still the hip-hop equivalent to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. It’s the benchmark you measure your album against if you’re serious.” Pretty high praise, to be sure.
I’m still eagerly waiting for Dr. Dre to put out Detox, but presently he seems content going to the gym, developing headphones, working on a feature-length NWA biopic, and counting his billions (yep, billions) of dollars.
In the meantime then, let’s revisit his debut album, The Chronic.
FYI: The Chronic is difficult to find online for purchase to copyright lawsuits.
Read: 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Dr. Dre’s The Chronic 
___________________
Other albums I considered this month:
Tool: Undertow
Between the Buried and Me:  Between The Buried and Me
• The Prodigy: Fat of the Land

Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight

Most music fans have heard of, and likely listened to some of Cheap Trick at Budokan. The iconic live recording was released in 1979 and propelled Cheap Trick to stardom back in their home country and around the world. But this was actually their fourth album, originally recorded for Japan release only, for their rabid fans that had followed them closely since their first album in 1977. It was recorded on the heels of the release of the band’s third studio album Heaven Tonight, which is now regarded as their best studio effort.

 

The band formed in 1973 in Illinois, USA, and took a number of years to find the right members and gel, but once they did, they went on to crank out an impressive amount of material in a very short period of time. They released five big albums between the winter of 1977 and summer of 1979, forming the backbone of what still today comprises much of their live set. This output is seriously impressive and their sound was never better than on Heaven Tonight.

 

I really got in to Cheap Trick at Budokan in February 2014 and think it’s one of the best live albums ever. Their sound is so raw and authentic; it completely draws me in. But like most live albums it’s more or less a compilation of greatest hits at that time, and I’d never heard an entire Cheap Trick studio album. I’ve seen Cheap Trick guitarist and main composer Rick Nielsen perform with Foo Fighters a few times over the last couple years and this got me interested in diving a bit deeper in to the world of Cheap Trick. 

 

So here we are – selected is what is widely considered to be the greatest studio album by Cheap Trick, a legendary rock band, referenced in countless pop culture sources over the decades, including the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High (the first time I ever heard their name) and yours for devouring – Heaven Tonight. Enjoy the ride.

Read our review of Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight here

Something new: During the selection process for this month’s pick, I came to enjoy a number of noteworthy albums I recommend you give a listen to if you have time:

 

 

The Beta Band: The Three E.P.'s

So I might sound like a sucker for what Hollywood dictates I should like, but dang it if I didn’t see a clip from the movie High Fidelity the other day that totally got me.
Check it out here:

I hadn’t seen this movie in years but one of my favorite music bloggers, Alan Cross, posted that clip and I was indeed grooving to The Beta Band, and like John Cusack’s character Rob Gordon predicted I did want to buy the Three E.P.’s album.
I didn’t know anything about this band so at this point I feel that Wikipedia description is good.

beta_Band_smallThe Three EPs is a compilation of The Beta Band‘s first three releases, consisting of the EPs Champion Versions,The Patty Patty Sound and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos. The cover art includes the main image from each of the EPs.
“Dry the Rain” was prominently featured in a scene from the 2000 film High Fidelity.
In 2000 Q magazine placed The Three EPs at number 74 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.[4]Pitchfork placed the album at number 23 in its Top 100 Albums of the 1990s.[5]

I know I am somewhat breaking our rule of no compilations but I figure this is ok as it is just making a full album out of three short EPs.
I look forward to getting to know this band and this album. Besides, how bad could a Scottish alt-pop-rock-atmospheric-krautrock-hip hop be?
Wikipedia entry for The Three E.P.’s
Wikipedia entry for The Beta Band
Purchase it on iTunes
Darren Scott
Read our review posted on April 1st here.

Jane's Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual

This might meander at first, but bear with me:
In 1990 I was just coming into my personal musical renaissance. My social circle was expanding, and with it, my exposure to all types of music and bands I’d never heard of. It was awesome. Among my new friends was a guy named Tim. Tim was, to me, the coolest guy in high school. He had a cool car. His girlfriend was beautiful. He was the lead in the school play. He wore clothes that no one else could get away with. He made short superhero movies during his spare periods. Jocks loved him. Drama geeks loved him. Teachers loved him. He rode BMX, told the best jokes, and was an incredible artist. Everything about him was cool. Except for one thing – his taste in music.
To a wannabe like me, some of it was okay, but most of it was just weird, and none more weird than his favorite band – Jane’s Addiction. Their album Ritual de lo Habitual would blast out of his room whenever I visited, and I just didn’t get it. They were awful. Their music was all over the place, the singer had a screeching, scraggly voice with no finesse, and I never gave them much thought beyond that. Maybe I just wasn’t cool enough or mature enough to really appreciate it? Over the years a song or two of theirs occasionally drifted in and out of my consciousness and I read their name sometimes in articles on influential artists, but I never really gave them a good listen. So, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity.ritual_de_lo_habitual_cover
Formed in 1985, the band managed to slalom past the tragic gravity wells of various styles and fads – hair bands (Cinderella, Poison), hard rock (Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row), pop (REM, U2), and the early days of grunge (Mother Love Bone, Sonic Youth). They maintained their unique sound and gained a large cult following before breaking up in 1991, when their farewell tour launched Lollapalooza, the Granddaddy of modern rock festivals. (That was also the same year Nevermind blew everyone else right out of the water, so maybe it was good timing).
As Jane’s Addiction, vocalist Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins, and bassist Eric Avery have inspired a wide swath of the industry and have retained a loyal following, even as the members moved on to various solo projects (most notably Farrell and Navarro). The band has reunited several times since then to various levels of acclaim, but none of their efforts have resonated like Ritual de lo Habitual did. Indeed, Rolling Stone listed Ritual de lo Habitual #55 on its list of top 100 albums of the 1990s.
But despite never being a fan, even now – 25 years later – I’m immediately transported back to Tim’s basement whenever I hear the spoken opening words to Stop (performed by Cindy Lair – yowza). I wanted to give this album a solid re-listen as an adult, and get the input from you fine gentlemen as well to see if the album improves with time and a more mature point of view, or if it’s really just designed for a specific type of listener at a specific point in time. I have a feeling it’s the former, as these two conflicting reviews from Rolling Stone attest:
October 1990: “Ritual de lo Habitual finds Jane’s Addiction thin and wandering…Split into a hard-rockin’ side and a prog-rock side, the album doesn’t cohere — whatever the band members have been doing for the last two years, they haven’t been practicing much.” – RdlH album review
April 2011: “Ritual is the album most likely to convert skeptics. Not only does it have two great singles — the game of sonic peekaboo “Stop!” and the anarchist manifesto “Been Caught Stealing” — but the whole record rides a groove that’s as hard and frenetic as the Santa Monica Freeway leading right into these surfers’ beloved curl.” -100 Best Albums of the 90’s list
-Greg Jorgensen
Please click here to read our reviews of Ritual de lo Habitual.
 
Ritual de lo Habitual on iTunes
Jane’s Addiction on Wikipedia
Ritual de lo Habitual on Wikipedia
Jane’s Addiction official website

Kraftwerk: Autobahn

Lately I’ve found myself captivated by the kind of music that can be produced through the digital medium. Of course, I’m talking about electronic music. With computing technology advancing so quickly, a new wave of artists such as Skrillex, Deadmau5, and Diplo have emerged with practically nothing more than some consumer-level laptops, software, and a unique sound to become chart-topping producers and artists. Not to detract from their talents and mainstream accomplishments, but these guys aren’t the true pioneers of electronic music. I wanted to explore the roots of this genre and see where the world of EDM owes its biggest debt of gratitude.

Kraftwerk - Autobahn
Kraftwerk – Autobahn

In the early 1970s, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider met as college students, both of whom were enrolled in a music school in Düsseldorf. They had previously played together in a number of bands and were active members of the “Krautrock” music scene. The duo began to make experimental recordings, working with a variety of other musicians, using traditional instruments like guitars, drums, basses, and uh, flutes … all of which were electronically processed to produce different effects. With each experimental release, the group now called Kraftwerk, began to incorporate more electronic equipment such as synthesizers and drum machines into their recording sessions. By 1974, Kraftwerk had reached international acclaim following the release of their fourth album, Autobahn. Though not purely an electronic album, Autobahn made significant use of Moog Synthesizers,  drum machines, and various custom-built contraptions.
Synthesizers and drum machines were around before Kraftwerk came onto the scene, but most “proper” musicians at the time regarded them as nothing more than electronic curiosities. Kraftwerk managed to incorporate this electronic audio equipment into their flavour of music in a way that had never been done before, and their influence can still be felt today.
Just a small selection of notable musicians directly influenced by Kraftwerk:

  • David Bowie
  • Joy Division
  • Bjork
  • Depeche Mode
  • The Human League

According to NME, Kraftwerk’s electronic pop sensibilities even contributed to the creation of groups like Daft Punk and The Prodigy.
There we have it. Give Kraftwerk’s Autobahn a shot. See if you can imagine how this sound would ultimately go on to influence a lot of the stuff you hear on popular radio.
– Alain Dupuis
Click here to read our reviews of Autobahn. 
Links

Buy Autobahn on iTunes
Kraftwerk’s Wikipedia page
Autobahn’s Wikipedia page
Kraftwerk’s official website
Kling Klang app by Kraftwerk