Album reviews

Montaigne – Glorious Heights (in name, and in reality) released today!!!

Jessica Cerro {Montaigne} — musician extraordinaire

After decades — pardon the massive hyperbole 😉 — of waiting, Glorious Heights has arrived!

The soaring textured vocals of Jess Cerro, the playful piano solos, the passion injected into everything she does…

I’m a bit speechless, as I’m currently recalling how moved I was when I first listened to Glorious Heights.

How to put it into words…

Did you ever see that TV commercial, something to do with the sensation of feeling like you’re standing on top of a mountain?
Well, when you listen to this — my pick for ALBUM OF THE YEAR, just quietly — brace yourself for the trek and for the feeling of liberation when you reach the peak.

I don’t mind admitting: I’ve been peeing myself in anticipation for this day, pretty much since I first heard Montaigne’s ‘I Am Not An End’ when she was Unearthed by Triple J two years ago.

My fandom doubled, tripled and quadrupled with every one of her single releases since then.
Not to mention her collaboration with Hilltop Hoods, her relentless touring, and her chipper, charismatic disposition during interviews and on stage…

I kinda want to be her best friend! 😛

Seriously though: I have closely followed Jess’s progress since she first hit the Triple J airwaves. As such, I am very very excited for the release of Glorious Heights and I invite you all to check her out! Her tunes are relatable, exhilarating, and cathartic.

Check out my review of Glorious Heights, including a couple of her clips for your listening pleasure.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time I researched tour dates… 

Bands that stand the test of time

Don’t wanna be an American Idiot? Why not? – a brief history on Green Day, told through the eyes of a lifelong fan

Where it all began... for me!
Where it all began… for me!

Ahhhhhhhhh that album cover brings back so many memories!

Before I begin: yes, the lifelong fan is ME!

In all honesty though, when I say ‘lifelong’ I mean the last 21 years.

I was inspired to write this article when I saw on the Rolling Stone website that Green Day’s “lost” ‘American Idiot’ documentary will be released mid-October this year.

When I read the Rolling Stone article, it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought about these guys for a long time.

Then, I saw on Facebook someone was asking how many people were a fan of Green Day BEFORE ‘American Idiot.’

A valid question, I thought, and one where I wanted to participate and tell my personal Green Day story! (I’ll get to it, don’t worry)

Then, some buzzkill arsehole commented and accused us all of being hipsters trying to prove how great we were because we’ve known Green Day longer than everyone else.

That fried me. There is nothing worse than douche bags who throw around words they don’t understand and try to make others feel like shit. We were all simply answering the question that was originally asked, I was enjoying reading about others’ experiences with the band, and this ignorant guy had to come in and try to ruin it.

I say ‘try’ because he didn’t actually succeed in ruining anything: I feel sorry for people like him, whose soul purpose in life is to shoot down the sharing of the joy of music. Is it jealousy? That’s all I can think of: jealousy, that others know more about a topic than him. Jealousy, that they have nothing to contribute to the conversation.

So, what’s the deal: I’m not allowed to admit that I have been a Green Day fan for over two decades, that they shaped and changed the way I thought about music forever, leading me to pursue my passion (music writer), all because I’LL BE LABELLED A HIPSTER?!

Sorry, but: fuck that!

Okay, rant is over. Sorry guys, I went off on a tangent there. lol I guess my point is: don’t let people like that get to you. If you appreciate music, appreciate art, appreciate, gardening, appreciate stamp collecting, whatever it is!

Let the petty insults be like water off a duck’s back, and you keep on enjoying your passions and pursuits! 😀

Allow me to start from the very beginning as it is, so I’ve heard, a “very good place to start.”

THIS is how I remember them :-) taken on the streets of NYC in 1994
THIS is how I remember them 🙂 taken on the streets of NYC in 1994

The year was 1994. The radio station was 105.3 New FM and I was a 14 year old girl with a chip on my shoulder. Enter, ‘Longview’ from Green Day’s third studio album Dookie!

“BITE MY LIP AND CLOSE MY EYES! TAKE ME AWAY TO PARADISE!” I naively belted out, only discovering a few years later what the song was actually about :-/

In quick succession, after ‘Longview’, I heard other tracks like ‘Basket Case’ and the absolute timeless smash ‘When I Come Around.’ When I discovered they were all from the same album, I didn’t hesitate: I used my pocket money to buy the CD — the very first CD I ever bought.

I. DEVOURED. IT. Played it countless times, read the lyrics over and over to store in my memory bank, bought a couple of Green Day T-shirts. It’s safe to say I was obsessed.

After Dookie, I then went on to realise there was more to the music world than what was played in the Top 40 charts. It was largely because of them, I realised I didn’t have to be told what to listen to: I could find my OWN music and enjoy it when I wanted!

Thanks, Billie Joe Armstrong!

Alrighty, so then life went on, I got older, and I did notice when albums like Nimrod were released. I was like “oooh, Green Day are at it again! Cool! Good on ’em” then I’d get back to what I was doing.

But when ‘American Idiot’ was released in 2004 (marking the decade anniversary of my GD (Green Day) fandom, I sat up and took notice again.

It was hit after hit after hit, and in my opinion was the commercial turning point for them. People, who previously hated them, seemed to warm up to them now, seemed to “get” them. They were more ‘likeable’ I guess you can say. I mean, I’ve always liked them! But not everyone else has! lol

Boulevard Of Broken Dreams was a biggie, and you can really hear the growth and maturity they’ve gone through. Less anger, more love and hope.

My point is: yes, I am a fan of both phases of GD. There is no one true GD moment that is better than the others, because each is different with its own merits.

Personally, they have evolved over the years and have really gotten ME, strangely enough, at each stage of my life when I was already feeling the emotions they invoke.

Don’t be afraid, and don’t let others make you feel small, for starting in the middle and working your way backwards and forwards. And yeah, you don’t HAVE to like EVERYTHING an artists does, but you also don’t have to feel bad for liking everything if that is your genuine opinion. Stick to your convictions 🙂

Oh I almost forgot! Back in 2012, I actually wrote a review of part 1 of their 3-album trilogy released one after the other: UNO! I’ll leave you with this, now. And Kudos to GD for standing the test of time!

Music Therapy

Cuts Like a Knife! – a quick look at the music that moves you (to tears)

What a buzz kill, hey?

Why would I even talk about something like this?!

Well, if you knew me well enough, you’d know this is a very valid question, and here’s why:

I actively AVOID listening to songs that cause me to cry.

I posed this very question on my Facebook page a couple of days ago, and I had such a good response — and learned a thing or two — that I feel compelled to go deeper.

It all started because I was talking to my partner, Sarah, about the fact that I have cried several times while watching The Walking Dead. To her credit, she didn’t laugh at me 😛

Something else you might not know about me:

I’m a massive softie, and I cry at the drop of a hat.

If a song comes on the radio that has this undesirable effect on me, it’s like someone has just lit a stick of dynamite under me: I cannot change the station — or shut it off completely — fast enough!

I guess there are a few different reasons why songs can leave you drowning in your own waterworks:

1. The subject matter

Often, it’s not because you’ve personally been through what the song is preaching, or even because in some abstract way it reminds you of a past experience.

Sometimes — and apologies for breaking it down like this — it’s simply because the song is about something sad.

My sister got me with this the other night. She told me about Keep Me in Your Heart for a While” by Warren Zevon. I’d never heard of it.

30 seconds in, I was crying so hard I couldn’t even see.

It’s a song about missing someone when they’re gone, even though they’re never fully gone from your life. Even now, the lump is creeping back to my throat as we speak!

Basically: the reason these sad songs are so effective, is that they make you feel things, things you didn’t know you were upset about, and makes you more empathetic to things that other people are going through

2. The vibe of the song

Sometimes, it’s the exact opposite: the lyrics are fine and fairly innocuous, but there’s just something about it!

Take “The Rose” as sung by Bette Midler. It’s a beautiful song about love and hope:

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the spring becomes the rose”

But holy hell: THE WAY SHE SINGS IT! The way the melodies are so soft and so drawn out… I feel a fresh knife wound in my heart every time I hear it.

Oh and don’t get me started on the opening keyboard riff for “Everything I Do (I Do It For You) but Bryan Adams.

Basically: even if the theme is fairly straightforward, something as simple as a tone of voice, or a strum of guitar or even a cowbell being beaten against a rock can set you off, and will certainly take you by surprise!

3. (and it’s a biggie) You can relate to the song

Whether it is describing a closed chapter of your life, or is more simply a song that you heard, that one time you were going through something huge and painful, it’s amazing how quickly old sutures can be ripped open!

For me, it’s Coldplay – Fix You. Without getting too personal, let’s just say that it’s a little from column A and B for me. I heard it several times when I was going through a horrendous break up. Also, it was a stark reminder that I could not fix everything. I was exhausted from killing myself trying to fix everything for about five years straight.

This song came as a sigh of relief, a weight lifting off my shoulders, a little jab to let me know I’d just wasted five years of my life, and here’s the most important part:

I had to learn to rebuild myself, to fix MYSELF, before I could even hope to concentrate on anyone else.

Basically: I know that for many, having songs that make you cry is a form of release, a form of audio therapy, but personally, I’d rather those times remained buried.

Listen once, let it all out and move forward.

There are different circumstances though, and different levels of pain: people have tragically lost their young children, have suffered a terrible illness & had a long recovery, have been abused for years and finally escaped, pretty much anything!

I don’t discount anyone’s feelings. EVER. And I know everyone has their own way of dealing with the pain: I just know what works for me! 🙂

Do you use music to deal with your pain, to move forward, to remember the good times that have since passed?

I wish healing and light upon you all. Whatever works for you, just go with it and don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong 🙂

Music Supergroups

Supergroups! Da-da-da-DA-da-DAAAA!

Watered-down sell-outs? Or phenomenal hair-raising talent?

For the most part, I’m going with the latter! Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. None spring to mind right now, but I’m sure they’re out there.

I didn’t realise this until I read an article yesterday, highlighting 14 awesome supergroups, but I’m actually a huge fan! In fact, a few supergroups will be featuring in my debut book ‘The Years That Rocked’ (title still a work in progress ;-)), including Cream, Them Crooked Vultures and, sadly not long for the musical world, Audioslave.

Seven years of masterful rock: Audioslave
Seven years of masterful rock: Audioslave

The list goes on, really.

I must admit, I used to be a naysayer and automatically shut down the concept of a supergroup. I was part of the “You don’t belong in [insert supergroup’s name], you are and always will be a member of [insert original band’s name here] til the day you die! I don’t want to hear you playing anything new or joining any other groups! Get your arse back to [original band name] right now, and produce more of the exact same music we all know and love!” crowd.

I cringe that I could have ever been so close minded about music. Seriously: why is new necessarily a bad thing? This whole “change is bad” mentality really pisses me off. Not saying that everyone has to like everything: the world would be boring if we all shared the same likes and dislikes. But what’s with immediately rubbishing something different? What’s with instantly taking on a negative, hateful attitude just because an artist wants to branch out and collaborate and CREATE, for us, the fans?!

Case in Point (Part 1)

At The Drive In: I dare you to feel nothing when you listen to them.
At The Drive In: I dare you to feel nothing when you listen to them.

Look at At The Drive In: gritty, confronting, gut-wrenching hardcore rock.

Then, we have The Mars Volta: experimental, trippy, mind blowing rock.

Lastly, a relatively new project, Antemasque: fun, punk-infused, upbeat rock.

What do they all have in common?

One man: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Or, that guy on the far left in the above photo.

He evolved, he teamed up with other musicians like Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, and continued to create music he believed in, music he felt passionate about.

Of course, Antemasque is now the only active band out of the three, but that’s not to say the others didn’t have a hell of a ride and produce unforgettable music.

Case in Point (Part 2)

Evolution, done right: The Dead Weather
Evolution, done right: The Dead Weather

He must’ve heard this a thousand times, but I swear Jack White looks like the ultimate Tim Burton movie character!

Not being derogatory at all — Jack White is nothing short of a musical genius — but I just always think I’m looking at Edward Scissorhands or Sweeny Todd or something!

Sorry for my random outburst. Moving right along. 😉

So, there’s The White Stripes with former husband and wife team, Jack and Meg. At times frenetic, at times chilled and bassy, but always amazing bluesy rock.

Then, Jack White branched out on his own solo project. OH. SO. MANY. HOOKS! And allllll of the incredible lyrics!!! “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me.” Goosebumps, really. Check out Sixteen Saltines as a perfect example of how he has flourished since going solo.

So then there’s this OTHER band, duo The Kills. British, ‘dirty’ indie rock. Oh, I also happen to love these guys. Always have. Here’s Getting Down, catchy stuff with their drum machine working overtime and so much chemistry between the two! It just works on so many levels, for me anyway!

I know what you’re probably thinking, if you haven’t already figured out where I’m going with this: what do The Kills have to do with Jack White?

I know there are soooooo many other supergroups I could talk about, but The Dead Weather is a perfect example of an underrated band — and, you know me: writing about underrated talent is kinda my deal — who took the best bits of their other bands and produced something worthy of praise.

Not that The Dead Weather doesn’t already have a HUGE following, because they do! And rightly so! But nearly everyone I talk to has never heard of them. And that’s just criminal! hehehe

Oh, I digressed! Sorry, I’m nearly done, I swear!

So: The Dead Weather (last video link for this blog: have a look at I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)). You’ve got Jack White, Allison Mosshart (female lead in The Kills) and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age.

Oh, the grit, the frenzy, the tempo changes, the energy! Even if you don’t end up being a fan, please check them out, just once. I think they’re pretty special, and maybe you will, too 🙂

Oh yeah, I could also talk about Dave Grohl being behind Foo Fighters as well as being part of Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, but you probably know this already 😉

Plus, I’ve taken up enough of your time. Note to self, though: homage to Dave Grohl could very well be my next post!

I hope you’ve learned something today, and I hope you get out there and get yourself a dose of supergroup goodness! Try something new! It literally WILL NOT hurt you, so just do it already!! 😀