Blog Posts by David Marchese

  • Unearthing England’s Wild Folk Scene

    The other day The New York Times ran a fairly raving review of a new book called Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music by a British music writer named Rob Young. I called it in and gave it a read. Glad I did. The book is a look back through the acid-etched looking glass to the time in the '60s and early '70s when young British musicians brought rock's spirit of experimentation-and a heavy dose of electricity-to the traditional music of their native land. The resulting folk-rock, by the likes of Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and the Incredible String Band, is, by Young's and many other's estimation, the genre's high-water mark.

    Like a good music book should, Electric Eden, by dint of Young's charged, near-hallucinogenic prose and seemingly exhaustive research, sent me back to the music in question. I was only slightly familiar with the key artists before and, frankly, had dismissed some of them as overly twee and fey. Young made me hear them differently. The Incredible

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  • The Arctic Monkeys Are All Grown-Up

    The title of the Arctic Monkeys' upcoming album, their fourth, due out June 7, is Suck It & See, which sounds more like something a snotty 13-year-old would mutter to an annoying adult than a title for an album of melodically mature, beautifully-arranged rock. But hey, names have never been a strong suit for the Sheffield, England quartet.

    Though frontman Alex Turner might be loathe to admit it, his band has changed. This is a good thing. When the Monkeys swung into view back in 2006, their story was two-fold. There was the music-tense with hormonal teenage energy--but there was also the rapid ascent. They were held up as the first MySpace success story, having bypassed the traditional A&R-record company roll-out in favor of social network shouts and whispers. The band's rise matched their music. Their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was fast, startling and fresh.

    Subsequent efforts were just as musically rewarding, but didn't quite catch on here like they did in

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  • Is Pop More About “Me” Than Ever Before?

    During a long drive from Brooklyn to the Adirondacks the other day, I heard a story on NPR about how a University of Kentucky psychology professor studying hit songs released between 1980 and 2007 found a link between egotistical lyrics and an uptick in societal narcissism. The findings of Professor Nathan DeWall suggest that there is an increasing focus on "me" and "my" attitudes in hit songs rather than "we" and "our."

    In a sense, these findings are not surprising. It's no great leap to suggest that pop music mirrors society. So in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and personal blogs, when everyone has a public outlet and a means to share their opinion with the world (regardless of whether or not the world cares or that opinion matters), it's not a shocker that pop music would reflect our increasingly me-centric ways of being in the world. (The NPR piece cited Kanye West as a prime example of pop music narcissism.)

    So, pop music is "me" music. Fine. But the problem with this study is

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  • Leave Lady Gaga Alone

    Well, Lady Gaga has been taking some guff lately from people accusing her of ripping off Madonna's "Express Yourself" on her recent single "Born This Way." Lady Gaga says any similarities are unintentional - though they sure are hard to miss. (Caryn Ganz's excellent post sums up both the tracks' twin sounds and LG's denials of culpability.)

    Here's the thing: I don't care if Gaga ripped off Madonna, consciously or not. The issue of plagiarism comes up all the time in pop music - a few years back Avril Lavigne got in hot water when power pop band the Rubinoos said her "Girlfriend" was too close to comfort to their "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."

    It's hard to prove that one musician knowingly plagiarized another. But, and I know this may sound reductive, this is pop music we're talking about - not jazz or classical or mazurkas or whatever. Compositionally, it is a limited form. It's rare for a pop song to use more than a small handful of chords. Hit dance-y song tempos tend to stay within a

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  • The Top Ten Bands To See At Coachella

    This year's edition of the Coachella festival kicks off April 15in Indio, California. In recent years, the festival's organizers have opted to bring in big-name legacy acts such as Prince, Paul McCartney, the Cure, and Roger Waters to headline. The marquee names, thankfully, skew younger this year. Kings of Leon top the bill on the first night, Arcade Fire on the second, and Kanye West and the Strokes co-headline the final evening. The rest of the lineup is equally stellar. But should you need/want some guidance, below are my picks for the Ten Bands to See At Coachella. I'll be there, watching. If you are too, say hi on Twitter @david_marchese. And remember, sunscreen is your friend!

    1. Odd Future - This wild pack of young rap scofflaws has been bubbling in the underground for a while now. Gigs like this are stepping stones to . . . world domination? The music is stark, scary, and thrums with the invigorating sense that the young men who make it, particularly Tyler, the Creator, are

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  • Adele’s Appeal

    My mom bought the Adele album. My mom almost never buys albums--certainly not ones by artists who didn't hit their prime somewhere between 1968 and 1975. I think her purchase is telling. Adele's, 21, her second full-length, has spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart since its release on February 22. So my Mom is far from alone in quickly cottoning to the 22-year-old English soul singer. But the scale of Adele's success certainly caught me by surprise: Her album is by far 2011's biggest seller so far. Where did this come from?

    If my mom is any indication, I think Adele is satisfying an underserved section of the music market. She's young and pretty, but makes music that harks back to classic '60s pop and soul. To be reductive about it, a song like the great 21 single, "Rolling In The Deep," would've sounded at home on a prime-era Dusty Springfield record. Yet it avoids being merely an exercise in nostalgia, mostly due to the gorgeous yearning power of Adele's

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  • Ringing In St. Patrick’s Day with the Pogues

    I'd never seen the Pogues play live. I probably hadn't celebrated St. Patrick's Day in any real way for about ten years. On March 15 at Manhattan's cavernous Terminal 5, a few days before the actual holiday, I did both. Not coincidentally, my brain is a bit foggy as I write, the morning after. But I'll say this: If the opportunity ever arises, go to a  Pogues concert. Do it on or around St. Patrick's Day.

    The long-running Irish rabble-rousers' current tour is being billed as "A Parting Glass with the Pogues," so the chance to revel with them might not soon come again. (The band's Spider Stacy has said they're just scaling back on touring, not going away altogether.) What a treat, though, to hear the gang rip through the sax-sozzled "Fiesta," wooly "Bottle of Smoke," and storming "If I Should Fall From the Grace of God." The band earned its renown for the wild, punk-informed energy it brought to traditional Irish music-and there was no shortage of rocking rambunctioness onstage-but

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  • Don’t Forget The Real Steven Tyler

    There's been a lot of chatter during this new season of American Idol about the awesomeness of Steven Tyler. He's snarky, he's strange, he's funny, he's warm (especially in his interaction with the fiancée of contestant Chris Medina). All of which is to say that Tyler has given a welcome shot in the arm to a franchise that had been suffering from some existential inertia.

    The attention is well deserved, but let's remember why the dude is here: He's a rock star. Before Tyler was an Idol judge or a water cooler talking point, he is (at least last time anyone checked), one of the most charismatic and talented frontmen of the classic rock generation. His singing on Aerosmith gems such as "Walk This Way" and "Last Child" is all swagger and sass, the vocal equivalent of strutting. On "Rats In the Cellar" he's feral and hungry. "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" from the Armageddon soundtrack is schmaltz to sure, but Tyler sings it with a detailed sensitivity (check the little yelp he gives to the

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  • What I’ll Miss Most About The White Stripes

    So, as we all know by now, the White Stripes are no more. There are plenty of reasons to be bummed about this news, which is to say, plenty of reasons for why the band mattered. There was Jack and Meg's artful attention to detail; playful conceptual sense; compelling chemistry; and, of course, powerful music.

    I'd like to draw attention to a specific aspect of the latter. No band of the last ten years did as much to keep the blues relevant as the White Stripes. (I know what you're thinking Black Keys fans, but the White Stripes were in the mass consciousness first, and arguably paved the way for the Akron duo's success.) I'm not just talking about chord progressions or a scale with the flattened fifth. I'm talking attitude. There was an outsized swagger to songs like "Ball and Biscuit" that comes directly from Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. It's a sense of menace and aggression born from society's margins; the compelling huffing and puffing of people who have to struggle to get theirs.

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  • Back to the Basics and Pushing Boundaries with Rock’s Biggest Bands

    In reading some recent articles about big albums due for release in 2011, you may have noticed that veteran artists tend to lean one of two ways when it comes to describing their upcoming work: They're going back to basics or they're pushing boundaries.

    Foo Fighters main man Dave Grohl told the BBC that the process of making the band's new album was "simple," and done "without any computers." Conversely, Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard pointed to Brian Eno's classic art rock album Another Green World as a reference point for his band's upcoming effort, and noted that "we're not adding guitars because people will be expecting them." Bassist Tommy Blankenship revealed that My Morning Jacket's next release finds the jammy rockers "going back to a similar vibe that we had on the first three records." Things tilted in the opposite direction for Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, who said that the long-running L.A. icons' have been experimenting with afro-pop sounds as they work on

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