Thank you, Chester.

I remember the first time I heard Linkin Park. I was still living at home, watching MTV – back then they did something unheard of now – AIR MUSIC VIDEOS. And I heard this song, this really loud, loud, song. I looked up at the screen and I saw this intense looking young man, with bleach blonde spikes (it was the early 00s..a lot of dudes did that to their hair), brown eyes but with this stare and intensity that has yet been unmatched to me with any other singer. He lip synced, “Everything you say to me takes me one step closer to the edge and I’m about to break.” And from that moment on, I was hooked. He sang everything I was feeling. I was a broke graphic designer, who no one would listen to despite having an education. I was frustrated, angry, disappointed, and done with the world. Truth be told, that’s not too far from how I’m feeling now but that is beside the point. He was angry. I was angry. He was frustrated. I was frustrated. I watched this very very weird conceptual video and waited to see who the band was.

Linkin Park.

My first thought was that they were from DC, because there is a Lincoln Park here, and they just changed the spelling to be cool. But there is pretty much a Lincoln Park everywhere in the US. My bad. I kept watching MTV that night because I KNEW at some point, they’d show the video again (remember, this is when MTV knew that the M stood for “music” in their name). And rest assured, they did air the video again and I watched it. I was fascinated with the visual imagery, and the lyrics spoke to every young person who was just fed up with life, and what little it had to offer. “One Step Closer” was the name of the song. I learned all the words and sang along every time I saw the video. I just couldn’t get over how melodic the song was yet so dark, so heavy. Everything made sense lyrically. And there was no turning back for me. I later did a search for the band, and found the band names online.

Chester Bennington.

He was my everything. His voice was so strong, so hard, and passionate. You could hear the pain in his voice, the anguish, yet sound so gentle at times. I honestly hadn’t heard of any voice like that since Chris Cornell (and yes, I see how creepy this comparison would become). The name of their album was Hybrid Theory. Songs like “Crawling,” “In the End,” “Runaway,” spoke to many people my age – pain, isolation, frustration, and not knowing if there was going to be a light at the end of a very dark – for many extremely dark – tunnel. Listening to Chester’s voice was comforting, even when he was screaming his heart out. The fans got it. They got the lyrics. They got his personality. And so did I. Chester was such a commanding presence on stage. And he got our attention. Each and every time. His music was a way of battling and overcoming his previous demons in life. I had no idea Chester was molested as a kid, and it explained so much behind his actions from that point on (drugs, alcohol, etc). But from where fans were standing, he seemed to have his act together. And the music seemingly proved it. Seemingly, being the main word.

From Hybrid to Meteora, A Thousand Suns, and so on, Chester gave us his all. Some songs were not pretty, and they weren’t supposed to be. They were a way of cleaning out a toxic system that had a negative effect on his life. And fans were along for the ride. For those coping with similar demons, or other demons, Linkin Park and Chester were are saviors. No one else understood, but LP got it. Even though their musical style changed dramatically with this recent album, “One More Light,” the lyrics remained true – fight, battle, tooth and nail if you have to – to overcome things keeping you down. I can respect that, even if the music behind the lyrics sounded like the everyday dance pop you hear on the radio (a bone of contention from old school LP fans like myself). We still loved LP though, no matter what.

Finding out on July 20th, 2017, that Chester Bennington took his own life left me and millions of fans heartbroken, confused, hurt, and pissed. We don’t understand why someone with so much promise and still had a LOT to offer to the music world, took his life. I believe the demons that he fought for SO long, took over and the pain was just much too great to bear. I understand. I’m dealing with quite a few myself. I understand the route to take to end it. But he was so loved, by his wife and family, and the band, and friends, and fans… it’s just hard in that regard to wrap my brain around it. I guess I never really will. Nor will the rest of fans.

So. I hope Chester found peace. I hope he knows he was loved by so so many people. I hope he will watch over not just LP members and his family, but fans too. Because we love him. Always will. He helped us. I just wish we could’ve helped him in return.

RIP Chester. You will always be in our hearts. Your star will most definitely shine bright everywhere.

chester

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Throwback Thursday Album (a few days late): Sheryl Crow’s “Sheryl Crow”

SHERYL CROW LP 1996

 

I haven’t always been a fan of Sheryl Crow.

I’m going to date myself here but when Tuesday Night Music Club dropped, I wasn’t particularly fond of “Leaving Las Vegas.” It was slow sounding, and back then I was still a rap and hip hop head listening to WuTang Clan, Biggie, with the few rock bands that snuck into my tape (yes I was around for tapes) collection – Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M, The Black Crowes, etc. These were all artists that kept me awake, alert, and entertained. And I wasn’t thrilled with Sheryl’s voice overall. The, like most teens my age, “All I Wanna Do” dropped, and I instantly changed my tune towards her. It was fast, funny, and had a great melody. Pretty much pop rock gold, which turned into platinum for her. Followed by “Can’t Cry Anymore” and I was pretty much hooked.

Then her second album, “Sheryl Crow,” finally arrived. I remember vividly ordering the tape from our campus store (which stopped selling cassettes and instead sold cds for EVERY artist) and once it arrived, I was completely blown away with it. She produced it, which back then and now for that matter – for a woman to produce her own music – pretty much unheard of  unfortunately. While Bill Botrell was behind the debut album production, this one was Sheryl. Plus 1. It was filled with just absolute greatness. I can’t say back in 1996 offhand that every cassette I owned was great from beginning to end, but THIS album my dear friends was. Every song to me, was a potential single, and every song had a message, hiding behind the pop rock and the quirky sound effects. The melodies worked extremely well with her voice and the lyrics were simple yet effective. And let’s face it on a “A Change Would Do You Good,” there were hand claps. I’m a fan of the hand claps. More songs need hand claps. That was a no brainer hit.

“If It Makes You Happy” to this day makes me laugh – not in a mean way, but the chorus kills me. “If It makes you happy, it can’t be that bad. If It makes you happy then why the hell are you so sad?” Why does it kill me? Because this chorus reigns true to life to this day, 21 years later. Things that make people happy should make us happy, not sad. If it makes us sad, then we shouldn’t continue to do things that make us sad. It’s just that simple. Plus 2. I also love the fact that while she sings the chorus, it comes completely across as shouting to me – as if she was trying to drive the idea home. I hear ya Sheryl. I hear ya. Even my mom thought this was a hit and she doesn’t like anyone.

Another favorite of mine, “Sweet Rosalyn,” is about a woman who keeps her head above water, working just enough to get by but she needs something to keep her going, to continue the fight, to keep her moving forward as they say. My favorite line is “Well, maybe we all could use a little grace to know when to run and when to stay in one place.” It’s not a long song lyrically, but it still makes an impact with the instrumentation. Between the slide, the dobro, and twangy guitars, I was pretty much sold on this one. Sheryl throws down on this one y’all. Check out this video of it.

 

 

I will always support Sheryl because I remember her fighting with Walmart in regards to the song, “Love is a Good Thing.” For those who don’t know, there’s a lyric about kids who use guns they purchased at Walmart. At that time, it was very true. And Walmart didn’t take too kindly to her statement (despite the stories hitting the news revealing where the guns came from) and removed her album from the stores. She stood firm though, and she didn’t give in. That to me, was completely awesome. And fierce. You rule Sheryl. She wanted it to be known that we need to do something about gun control. She sings it so nonchalantly but in doing so, made a big statement. Plus 3.

The opener, “Maybe Angels” is the song that kicked off my love for this album…the piano in particular. It just sounds so weird with the guitar riff that it fits. So weird. But it fits. And the subject matter about not being able to feel angels, but they are around. “I swear they’re out there, I swear…” It’s a mid tempo toe tapper (Say that FIVE times fast. I dare you. It’s ok. I’ll wait.” She finds angels to be mysterious, but she knows..she has a feeling…that the unexplained..can only be answered by angels. The rockers who have passed away, they’re coming back too. Ok, Sheryl. I believe you.

I won’t go on and on, but this is truly a great album. From beginning to end, it entertains, and you hear something different with each listen. AND she broke the dreaded second album slump AND the “Best New Artist” curse that hits many after winning a Grammy. Thank you Sheryl for releasing a perfect pop gem. My ears thank you as well.

 

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My Favorite Albums of 2016

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My fellow earbudders,

Well. Another year of music has come and gone, which means, another list of favorites to publish for you to read, consume, and just maybe decide what to put on your own end of the year playlist for gist and shiggles. These 40 albums were my favorites. I try not to say the “best “ones because I know that for every album that is on the list, I probably missed my fair share of musical goodies but these are the ones that got numerous plays on my ipod. This year revealed reunions, long awaited returns, artistic passion, departed souls, and your run of the mill pop fluff – of which there was a little too much of I admit. I was bored by many of the pop songs I heard on the radio – same beats, same squeaky voiced people singing the same things over and over again. You could take the head off one singer, replace it with another and you wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference. But the true artists – the ones that display quality over quality, fought their way through the cracks of pop goo. So for that I’m grateful for this year of music and helping me get out of darkness. For now anyway.. Enjoy the list. And Happy New Year.

1. Anderson Paak – Malibu
2. Solange Knowles – A Seat at the Table
3. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
4. S U R V I V E – RR7349
5. The Weeknd – Starboy
6. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
7. Beyonce – Lemonade
8. Brookzill! – Throwback to the Future
9. Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death
10. The Kills – Fire and Ice
11. JoJo – Mad Love
12. Emeli Sande – Long Live the Angels
13. J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
14. Robbie Williams – Heavy Entertainment Show
15. Kane Brown – Kane Brown
16. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
17. Childish Gambino – Awaken! My Love!
18. Raleigh Ritchie – You’re a Man Now Boy
19. David Bowie – Blackstar
20. Elizabeth Cook – Exodus of Venus
21. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
22. Teenage Fanclub – Here
23. Santigold – 99 Cents
24. Jack Garratt – Phase
25. Africaine 808 – Basar
26. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive
27. Hamilton Soundtrack
28. Shura – Nothing’s Real
29. Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math
30. Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate
31. Leagues – Alone Again
32. Roosevelt – Roosevelt
33. Rocky – Soft Machines
34. Deftones – Gore
35. Hidden Figures – The Soundtrack
36. Lazarus (Original Cast Recording)
37. Ria Mae – Ria Mae
38. Jamila Woods – HEAVN
39. Skye and Ross – Skye and Ross
40. Ghost Beach – Blonde

Honorable Mentions:
LP – Death Valley EP
Big Gigantic – Brighter Future
Justice – Women
Dawn Richard – Redemption

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Gambino’s Game Plan…

It’s hard to pinpoint Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino. He’s a writer, an actor, an entertainer, a rapper, and now … it seems a funk master. I’ve been a fan of his music for a few years now. His lyrics are honest, heartfelt, and in some regards, just plain weird but entertaining – ranging from his self proclaimed nerdiness, growing up in middle class life, racism, and relationships. There’s a lot going on in that mind of his. And now he’s back with a new album called, “Awaken, My Love!” This album hands down, threw me. Goodbye to the rhymes for this project, he concentrated on making an old school funk, rock, and r&b album that would make George Clinton and Bootsy Collins proud. I was quite surprised really. But that’s what an artist does – always throws you. You should never expect the same thing. And Donald delivers. From the opening track, “Me and Your Mama,” a standout rock and funk song where he illustrates his singing chops, lines right up with there with the best of them, to “Boogieman,” and “Zombies,” it’s just a roller coaster of fun.. It’s exciting, and I appreciate him taking a complete left turn with his music. As someone who listens to rock music, and is Black, I definitely applaud anyone else who is Black and is in the music field to stretch and break boundaries of what Black artists are used to doing in music.

I’m not going to go on and on like most critics do about albums. Most of you won’t read it anyway. Just trust me when I say this album is worth the time and the listen. It’s 40 plus minutes of pure funky entertainment. And I most add that Donald’s voice as a singer isn’t bad at all. Usually I joke, “all rappers want to act, and all actors want to sing” but in his case, he’s pretty good. The time away from doing music has served him well and he came back with a vengeance. This album is a musical head trip. With every listen I hear something new and that’s how music should be, at least in my opinion – never boring, always intriguing. “Anything less would be uncivilized.” So come. Feel alive with the Gambino and travel inside his mind for a while. It’s worth it.

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Bruno Just Wants to Party.

As much as I dig melancholy and deep lyrics, there are times I just want to listen to fun music – music that keeps my mind preoccupied from the other voices in my head I hear on the daily. Music that stays in my ears like infected earworms that leave me smiling. Congratulations Bruno Mars, you have been selected to uplift my spirits. And you do so magnificently.

The new album, 24K Magic, is a dance extravaganza of entertainment. It’s pretty clear that he was influenced by 80s and 90s music because the whole album is just a throwback to that era. I’m not complaining about it at all. I believe Bruno wants the world to just relax, have fun, dance, and not think about their problems. That’s kind of what he’s been all about anyway, but this third album really drives the idea home. From the title track, to “Chunky” to “Callin’ All My Lovelies” to my particular favorite, “Finesse” he keeps the party moving. My only complaint is that there are only 9 songs. He left me wanting more. My guess? Since the album is a tribute to old school 80s synths, and 90s drumbeats, maybe he also wanted to stay true to how albums were made back in the day 8 or 9 songs, and that was it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a short album, but it still packs a punch nonetheless.

What I love about Bruno is that he has tremendously big bravado in such a small stature. And he’s so darn likable. That smile, the way he carries himself, how he pines for the ladies it goes a long way to garner attention. One thing is for sure, he’s like the Tazmanian Devil. Once he leaves, you always know he was around because his voice and spirit stay with you for the rest of the day. He makes it his mission to make sure everyone has a good time because life is just too short not to and I appreciate that in a man. Even his love songs are pretty entertaining and I’m not a fan of love songs. He is a complete charmer and I’m thankful that in a world of music crap we have Bruno to celebrate life. And this is coming from a resident Eeyore. So if you want to have a good time, throw a party, twerk yourself into oblivion, put on 24 K Magic. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Podcast #45. The end is the beginning.

Earbudders.

Long time no post. But *long pause* I’m here. And so are you. And that’s a good thing. So after a tumultuous wackdafied week of a ridiculous election selection #nevermypresident, I thought I’d give you a songlist to enjoy – calm the nerves so to speak. It’s not a long list, just an enjoyable one for the ears. So go relax, enjoy and turn this shit up.

Enjoy.

Stream or Download here

As usual, here’s a lovely collage for gits and shiggs..

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Sour Times – Portishead

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) – Marvin Gaye

Complexicated – Braille

Give Me All Your Doubt – Bronze Radio Return

We Had Everything – Broods

Get Real – Alex Clare

Band Against the Wall – Rocky

She Don’t Really Care_1 Luv – Alicia Keys

One Love – Whodini

Fantastic Voyage – David Bowie

Padded Cell – Seal

2 Heads – Coleman Hell

Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? – Moby

Don’t Mess With Bil – The Marvelettes

Directions – Ane Brun

Shaky But True – Givers

A Beautiful Sadness – London Elektricity

TV Queen – Wild Nothing

Don’t Breathe – Roots Manuva

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New Stuff: “Brookzill”

Dearest earbudders, while we wait for Digable Planets to get on the good foot and make a comeback, member Ladybug Mecca has preoccupied herself with DJ/Producer king Prince Paul, collaborating in a group called Brookzill (“Brooklyn and Brazil”). Combining Afro-Brazilian rhythms, hip hop, jazz, and all around good stuffs, this is a band I am seriously looking forward to listening to when their album drops October 7th. While we wait for this already predicted musical masterpiece, check out their first single, “Saudade Songbook” with Count Bass D. My ears are excited.

 

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