The Path of Thorns

Archive for February, 2010

Gotta make your own way.

by on Feb.04, 2010, under human emotions, love, music

I wrote in my last post how inspired, original, captivating music is hard to find.  How most newer music doesn’t capture the essence of its ancestral rock and pop originators.  It’s hard, after so much music in this genre has been written over the past several decades, to find a crisp new sound.  Eight out of ten people I know gave up on new music fifteen or twenty years ago.

Stellar Road is not such a band.  It’s a strong and solid argument that they’re just a branch of Dave Matthews, Ben Harper or Jack Johnson.  I can’t stand the last two artists, and I only like Dave a little.  But that’s mostly because most people I grew up with listened to only those few artists for the most part, and most of those people were like James Spader in Pretty in Pink.  So, bad connotation there.

I digress.  Stellar Road’s new self-titled effort is phenomenal.  It’s acoustic rock for the most part, with additional horns and strings as needed.  The songwriting is brilliant, though; their melodies and harmonies are, well, stellar.  They have passion that a lot of newer music lacks; you can hear it loud and clear in tunes like “Try to Be” and “Amazing.”  They’re catchy, but also intelligent; I can imagine an entire amphitheater singing loudly to the chorus of “Shipwrecked” and “Believe.”

They’re bluesier than those in their genre, and you can even hear a little jazz.  Each song is put together carefully with just enough construction and layering to make it strong and brilliant, without overdoing it.  An entire room could dance and lose their minds to their perfected jams in many of their songs, but it’s the intense passion when they let it rip that really captures me.   Daly can croon as well as he can belt out, and the band meshes so well together that you’d think they’ve been doing this for thirty years.

Songs like “Before We Dance” and “Goddamakaway”, on the other hand, put me to ease as well as anything else soothing that I’ve ever heard.  You can imagine them being played on a beach after sunset, after a long and exhausting day.  They sing of love and fun, of the future and the past; never trying to be something they’re not.  I think that stands for something.

Stellar Road is for anyone who enjoys a good rock or pop song.  What’s amazing is that the world doesn’t know them, yet; for now, I’ll enjoy seeing them at Chicagoland bars until some major label realizes these songs have to be truly heard.

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We are trying to communicate a fulfilled ideal. Does anybody remember laughter?

by on Feb.01, 2010, under human emotions, inspiration, music

Before I critique another album, I’m taking this time to make a point, or statement, whatever it is.  My thoughts are so jumbled and layered that I don’t know if I’ll make more sense to myself than I might right now.  It’s an exhausted argument and a very narrow one as well, but one I feel will always be addressed.

You know who the biggest bands in the world are right now?  That’s right, the same damn ones that have been on top for three, four, five, SIX decades now.  U2.  The Rolling Stones.  AC/DC.  Metallica.  Madonna.  The Who.  Iron Maiden.  Can Phoenix sell out 100,000 seat arenas?  No, but Edward The Great can.  They’re the biggest draws live, and they’re just as big now as they ever were.  These artists and the scores more at their level have sealed their legacies and legends, and have inspired masses and generations, and always will.

Now, granted, they’ve had the time to keep it together, stay together and stay inspired enough to stay relevant.  Time to create these legacies.  But these artists defined their generation, revolutionized music, whether they wanted to or not.  There’s no way to know if something you did will be groundbreaking and a worldwide favorite, but there’s always something magical that happens when it’s made.

These artists are the master at what they do.  Whether it’s brilliant lyrics, defining entertainment, groundbreaking musical talent, they mastered it.  You see them live, they define your own lifetime, they move you, they become a part of your own dreams and loves.

Kings of Leon?  They’re as marginally forgettable as Kingdom Come.  Rihanna?  Incredibly talented, but is the millionth R&B singer to shout out songs about relationships.  Lil Wayne?  I’ll admit that hip-hop has had many brilliant talents in their innovative and culture-defining uprising, people like Russell Simmons, Grandmaster Flash and Dr. Dre, but at what point does it begin to sound like self-obsessed noise?

I don’t write this blog to attack people who live their dreams and make great careers for themselves, and I’m trying to pick my words wisely now.  But there’s a point where you just have to take a leap and say “Will this inspire?  Will this song live on?  What is the point here?”

I’ll also say that artists, many of them, don’t want to lead the pack.  They’re not looking for infamy, or an avant-garde musical lifeline, and that’s fine.  But there’s got to be someone who can take the torch from the artists that have held it for generations.  It’s going to have to happen sometime.  The Rolling Stones are nearing their mortal end.  So is Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Roger Daltrey.  Rock n’ roll isn’t old enough to see its direct originators play it through their 80’s, but it’s far from easily possible.

Music isn’t defining anymore.  If it is, I consider myself dated.  Music’s movement has been technological; vocoders and auto-tuners are “in.”  Bands like The Postal Service, Owl City, VNV Nation and Shiny Toy Guns are successful due to their computerized sounds that stem as far back as Nine Inch Nails and before that, 80’s synth pop.

In that, music a continuance.  Maybe that’s all it is.  I don’t know if music is going to define our lives like it did our parents and grandparents.  I think we’re forced to grow up too fast in a harsher reality, and music doesn’t always have the sway it used to.  With more ways to get music out there, with more media and with so much created in an always-corrupt recording industry, maybe there will be no one to step up to the likes of The Beatles.  Then again, we’ve never been able to see what’s to come in music, so why start now?

I’m rambling.  I knew I would.  I guess my bottom line is that I’m bummed I missed Woodstock, missed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, missed the foundation of bands like Aerosmith, Cream,  Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.  Those bands changed the world.  They’re honored and worshiped today and will be forever.

Is there anyone else coming?  Will my generation and those after have such incredibly earth-shattering swarms of talent that would overcome any dry spell in popular music?  I don’t know, and I don’t see it, and that worries me.

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