Bill gets to play the "Hey, Brian!" game as Brian returns from touring with his band, the Paper Jets, and welcomes singer-songwriter, musician, and podcaster Brian Rothenbeck (rothenbeck.com) as a guest. In this episode, we discuss the Weakerthans' Reconstruction Site (2003, Epitaph). Their first record with major label distribution behind it, the Weakerthans broke through to a wider audience with their infectious pop hooks, intelligent lyrics, and fantastic guitar tones. As we discuss the album with a track by track analysis, we also talk about sonnets, the difference between a pedal steel and a lap steel, the philosophy of Cream, a theory about pet ownership and relationships with fathers, how to write songs in a single key, rhyming, and more!
Bonus! Song! Thursday! It's what it is! Brian is still away, touring the Northeast with his band The Paper Jets (thepaperjets.com), so Bill enlists the help of his own bandmate, Andrew Kolbenschlag of Small Planet Radio (smallplanetradio.com), to fill in as guest host. Returning from Monday's episode is guest Eric Nelson, guitarist and songwriter for The Lights Beneath (thelightsbeneath.com), to talk a little bit more about Bright Eyes. This time, we focus on the song "Poison Oak" from the 2005 album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.
While Brian is out on tour with his band, The Paper Jets, Bill invites friend of the podcast, musician, and songwriter Andrew Kolbenschlag to fill in as guest co-host! Joining us is musician/songwriter Eric Nelson from The Lights Beneath (hear their whole debut album at www.thelightsbeneath.com) to talk about Bright Eyes' Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (Saddle Creak, 2005). Released as a companion to the slightly more commercially successful, folk influenced album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, "Digital" took the opposite approach to Conor Oberst's stark, honest lyrics and nestled them amongst computer programming and digital instrumentation. Bill, Andrew, and Eric discuss their reasoning for talking about this album over other Bright Eyes' albums, breathing fetishes, electronic music production, death and drug use as themes on the album, and more as we talk about what makes this album great and then get into a track by track review of it!
It's bonus song Thursday! Bill and Brian discuss a Ryan Adams' version of "Wonderwall" from his 2004 album Love is Hell. Originally recorded and written by 90s British rockers Oasis, Adams turns the song into a haunting ballad. While delving into the music, Brian and Bill also talk about counting in Spanish, a drummer from the Beach Boys, how Beck maybe borrowed a little too liberally from other artists, how Ryan Adams' career lines up with Neil Young's, the Moody Blues, the Pixies, and more!
Brian and Bill sit down to talk about Ryan Adam's first foray away from alt-country and into the world of rock and roll with his appropriately titled album Rock n Roll (2003, Lost Highway). Following the success of his previous album and its single "New York, New York," Adams submitted 5 attempts that his label turned down. As a final "screw you," he made this album as, both a wry nod at their desire for something more marketable and a not-so-subtle response to their request for something less alternative. Bill and Brian talk about what makes this album great despite not changing the face of rock and roll, Brian's college years yearning for a certain girls, how the album neatly separates in to 4 distinct parts, and how the tracklist seems to tell a particular story of a crazy night in NYC.
It's Bonus Song Thursday! And it finally happened. We had a technical glitch and the audio is terrible on this episode. Regardless, we forged ahead and decided to release the episode. Bill and Brian talk about U2's "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" from their 1991 album Achtung Baby. We talk about the bands evolution and how intentional it was before reading some listener emails about bands with underated rhythm sections.
This week, Bill and Brian go sans guest to talk about U2's super-massive-megadon hit The Joshua Tree (1987, Island). Recorded after the band had spent years touring the US, alternately falling in love with its ideals and becoming outspoken critics of its international policies, and wanting to create something bigger and better than anything they had done before, U2 released this album to massive sales and critical praise. Brian and Bill talk about their personal connections with the music, how the album got made, and a track by track analysis of each song. Along the way, we discuss religion and secularism, Euler's number, how addiction has touched our lives, the legality of immigration, how music can spur community in the face of tragedy, and more!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! We listen to Beck's "Cold Brains" off his 1998 follow up to Odeley, Mutations and discuss Beck's transformation as an artist, how the aging of a listener helps one appreciate the music of an artist over the years, the politics of labels and releases, and if in fact Van Morrison still perform's "Gloria!"
With his sophomore effort, Beck quieted the critics and pundits who thought he may be a one trick pony by collaborating with production team the Dust Brothers. Known for their work in sampling, the producers helped Beck combine elements of hip hip, rock, soul, jazz, alternative, and R&B to create a nearly undefinable sound. Bill and Brian do their best to analyze and discuss a very dense piece of art. Along the way, they discuss Beck's originality, exactly which samples are being used and how (but we're still not totally sure), positivity, Andy Wharhol, the strange connection betwen Beck and Hanson, Brian's formative years, and more as we talk about the album's production and each song, track by track!
On this week's Bonus Song Thursday, Bill and Brian take a deeper dive into Van Morrison's early career and listen to Them's garage rock classic "Gloria." Along the way, they talk about what the sound of the British invasion entailed, "nuggets," the criteria for being electrocuted by your guitar amp, and Stax v. Motown.
Photographer and artist Amanda Guthrie (amandaguthriephotography.com) joins Bill and Brian to talk about Van Morrison's Moondance (1970, Warner Bros.). With his third (second, depending on who you ask) release, Van "the man" found himself finally shedding his one-hit-wonder status after the initially dissappointing reaction to Astral Weeks in 1968 (the album has since gone on to establish itself as one of the best records of all time). With this album Morrison cemented himself as a gyspy folk icon. As we talk about what went into the album and what made it great, Amanda shares the tale of the magical Moondance CD that found its way into her car, Brian makes an argument for why the title track is his least favorite on the album, and Bill brings up Phil Collins. That and more as we get into a deep dive on the album, analyzing each song track by track!
Bill, Brian, and special guest Colin McDonough continue this week's topic, Otis Redding, by taking a listen to a deep cut from his posthumous releases, "I'm a Changed Man." The guys talk about Otis Redding's evolving sound, what something "swampy" sounds like, and how the soul singer's legacy is treated with respect (no pun intended). The guys also catch up on some fan outreach (that Bill missed because he got too excited when talking about 1980s Philadelphia phenoms The Hooters a couple weeks ago) and read several emails from our listeners!
Musician/guitarist Colin McDonough joins Brian and Bill to talk about Otis Redding's second posthumous release, The Immortal Otis Redding (1968, Atco). Recorded shortly before the soul and R&B singer's death at the end of 1967, the album shows off a lot of what the singer/songrwriter did best, including what the Stax Records house band(s), Booker T & the MGs and the Memphis Horns, could do. Bill, Brian, and Colin get into talking about discovering great music for the first time, Stax vs. Motown, Telecasters, Steve Cropper's signature arpeggiated guitar in 3/4 ballads, and Colin plays a few licks for us as we get into this album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday, and Renee Maskin and Jim McGee are back to talkabout Iggy Pop's "The Passenger." In his second collaboration with David Bowie, Iggy decided to have a little more fun than the dour The Idiot. In this episode we discuss how we all first experienced Iggy Pop, his existence as a pop icon, and Problem Child (the movie)!
Singer, songwriter, and musician Renee Maskin, solo artist and member of Lowlight and the Roadside Graves (soundcloud.com/reneemaskin, lowlightnj.bandcamp.com, and roadsidegraves.tumblr.com), joins Brian and Bill along with guitarist Jim McGee (jesseelliot.com) to talk about Iggy Pop's solo debut The Idiot (1977, RCA). Produced by and written with David Bowie, this landmark album gave a preview of what was to come in Bowie's "Berlin years." Recorded several years after the Stooges disbanded and Iggy did a stint at a mental institution, both he and Bowie went to Germany to kick their heroin habits and create new music. They ended up making this weird proto-industrial mood piece. Brian, Bill, Renee, and Jim talk about how this album affected them, what happens if future paleontologists discover The Idiot, and what to do when you "missed it" as they make their way through the album track by track.
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Unfortunately, Brian couldn't make it for this episode, but we got friend of the show and Hooters afficionado Jeff Fiedler (singer, songwriter, and musician for sleepingsatellites.bandcamp.com) to come on and share his expertise. Since there was no "album" for Monday's episode, we continued down a thread we touched on by exploring more of the Hooters and their work. In addition to finding about the band's origins writing for Cyndi Lauper and opening Live Aid in Philadelphia, we discuss their album Nervous Night (1985, Columbia). And, it turns out some of Cyndi Lauper's music makes a cameo!
Musician and luthier Mike Virok (of the Paper Jets and Bordentown Guitar Rescue, bordentownguitarrescue.com, respectively) joins Bill and Brian to discuss some great songs off of some not-so-great albums. In a reprise of the format we introduced back in our "10 Great Songs," we push the limits by adding one more song! We talk about the Hooter's influence over all great music, Father's Day, whether or not one should date a person who has traveled the country for John Mellencamp, the value of Michael Jackson's songwriting, and the difference between Joe Dante and Joe Johnston! Songs by the following artists are discussed on this episode: The Police, Joan Osborne, Boston, Butthole Surfers, John Mellancamp, Michael Jackson, Todd Rundgren, Fleetwood Mac, The Gaslight Anthem, Modest Mouse, and Jimmy Eat World.
It's bonus song Thursday! In our follow up to Monday's Pet Sounds episode, we examine The Beach Boys' (or is it Jesse and The Rippers'?) "Forever" off of their 1970 album Sunflower. Featuring drummer Dennis Wilson's lead vocals after he took pen to paper to craft this song, the song helped bring the band back to minor chart succes and critical good graces. Luthier and musician Mike Virok (a preview of next week's episode) helps Bill and Brian break down the song, figure out how The Beach Boys fit into the annuls of 90s sitcoms, and develop a morning zoo-esque terrestrial radio program!
If we're talking about great albums of music, it's hard to escape the influence of The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (1966, Capitol). Part of a group of LPs that helped usher in the "age of the albums" (c. 1964-2007), The Beach Boys' 11th studio album in under 4 years heralded a sea change in music fandom and criticism. Eschewing their "fun in the sun" image, band leader Brian Wilson attempted to create something personal and beautiful and musically dense amidst the culture and technology of the mid 60s. Bill and Brian break down this masterpiece of art track by track as they try to share what makes this album great.
The Beach Boys are once again our subject of conversation, this time discussing Brian Wilson's song, "Til I Die," from the Surf's Up album (1971, Brother). Set toward the end of this democratic-to-a-fault LP, "Til I Die," remains a post "Good Vibrations." While it finds Wilson in a dark place, it betrays the perception that he spent the decade "in his room," completely unproductive. Despite his output having slowed considerably, Wilson was still in complete control of his facilities. "Til I Die," is proof-positive.
Brian flies solo this week to talk about one of rock's most misunderstood albums, Smiley Smile (1967, Brother) by The Beach Boys. He attempts to recontextualize the album's importance in music's "back to basics" movement of the late 60s as The Boys transition from their signature lush, orchestral pop into something more primal. And somewhere in there, Brian realizes, quite aggressively, that Sgt. Pepper's might not be quite as good as the rest of the world thinks it is. This and more as he talks about what makes the album great, one track at a time.
While Bill and Brian come in and quickly cover Tip's song, "Let's Ride," from the album Amplified (1999, Arista), things suddenly go awry as the audience is treated to a little bit of the outtakes that don't always make the final cut. We touch on the Grisworld family Christmas and attempt to answer the age old question: Who would you rather go out with, Billy Joel or Phil Colins?
Brian and guest host Jim McGee (from our Neil Young episode) lead a tangent-filled podcast exploring the difference between "rap" and "hip hop," the ins-and-outs of hip hop culture and one thing you NEVER do while DJing a party. "Iron" Mike Bacon is our guest as we explore Q-Tip's opus, The Renaissance (2008, Universal), as always, one track at a time.
Brian, Bill, and special guest Ryan Hanratty forget about the podcast's "fans-not-critics" criteria of content for a little bit as they talk about Green Day's "21 Guns" from the album 21st Century Breakdown (2009, Reprise). Before that though, they have a little bit of an addendum to the GnR episode. We discuss how "21 Guns" was here and gone thanks to the legacy of American Idiot and its smash success. And finally, Ryan points out why that guitar solo may sound a little familiar to you...
Guitarist, singer-songwriter, and videographer Ryan Hanratty of Wolfasaurus Rex, Catch Me If You Can, and Frosted Green Interviews (respectively) travels down from Long Island to discuss Green Day's American Idiot (2004, Reprise) with Brian and Bill. Coming 10 years after the band's breakthrough album Dookie, American Idiot saw Green Day cement their superstardom as they released their hit rock opera. Ryan ends up being the best person to discuss this with because he hit his prime punk rock years of adolescence when this album was released. We break down the 3 acts, debate the use of the "other F word," discuss the political climate of the time, and find out the lewd story behind what is "frosted" and "green." All this and more in our second longest episode yet!