Results for Minnesota
Our guest this week is the alternative grunge band out of Nashville, Bully. The group is fronted by Minnesota native Alicia Bognanno, with drummer Stewart Copeland (no, not the drummer of The Police,) bass player Reece Lazarus and guitarist Clayton Parker. In 2013, the band signed with Columbia on their Startime International label and in June of this year, released their debut full-length album, Feels Like.
Jim first saw Bully perform at SXSW this year in Austin and was blown away by their sonic power and emotional lyrics. A few weeks ago, Bully came into the studio and while unfortunately Greg couldn't be there, Jim had a great time talking to the members about their past professions, '90s nostalgia and their unique sound.Go to episode 510
Next up, the Minnesota band Low visits the studio to perform songs from its recent album C'mon. Low is often inaccurately labeled“slowcore,”because of their quiet sound. But they also know how to rock out and tackle everything from the war in Iraq to religion in their songs. Founding members Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk are not only band mates, but husband and wife and practicing Mormons. And after nine albums, they've gained a faithful following, which includes Robert Plant. He covered two of the band's songs on his last release Band of Joy.Go to episode 286
Like most breakups, band breakups can be agonizing and traumatic, but also opportunities for self-reflection and reinvention. This week Jim and Greg talk to Hüsker Dü songwriter and guitarist Bob Mould about the breakup of his band - on the cusp of what many believed would be their mainstream breakthrough - and his subsequent reinvention as a solo artist. It's a period Mould talks about in his new memoir, See a Little Light, though he rarely discusses it in person. Aside from being one of the most rousing live rock n' roll acts around, Minnesota's Hüsker Dü was amazingly prolific. With Mould on guitar, Grant Hart on drums, and Greg Norton on bass, the band took punk velocity and pop craft to superhuman levels on a series of significant releases between 1984 and 1986: Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig, and Candy Apple Grey. But as Mould recalls, after the band's move to a major label, personal relationships, competition, and addiction proved to be toxic. The crisis came after a disastrous 1987 performance in Columbia, Missouri, when Hart's drug use brought the show to a halt. It was the period, Mould emphasizes, at the end of a very long sentence. The band broke up shortly thereafter. Bob also discusses his retreat to rural Minnesota, where he began experimenting with new instruments and alternate tunings. In 1989, he would re-emerge as a solo artist with another great album, Workbook.
Want more Mould? Listen to Jim and Greg's 2008 interview with Bob here.Go to episode 295
"Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last." Yet the party ended much too soon for music legend Prince, who died on April 21 at the age of 57 at his Paisley Park home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Volumes have been said about the late Prince Rogers Nelson in the past week, but Jim and Greg draw attention to aspects of his music and career that aren't acknowledged enough. Growing out of the Minneapolis funk scene, Prince refused to be boxed into a single genre, fearlessly blending funk, pop, rock, soul, new wave, and R&B to create a sound all his own. He was known as a guitar god, but could really play any instrument he touched and often was the only musician on his recordings. Prince carried on the Marvin Gaye and Al Green tradition in R&B of mixing the sacred and the profane, sex and salvation. On records like The Black Album, he created some of the most lascivious music ever, but at the same time, Jim and Greg argue he showed a deep respect for women. Not only did he mentor and collaborate with up-and-coming female stars, but he also was eager to help out his idols like Chaka Khan and Mavis Staples.
Prince was unafraid to explore psychedelia, especially in the crucial three album run of Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Parade in the mid-80s. He spent the rest of his life toiling away at Paisley Park, churning out recording after recording – not without quality control issues. But in the past couple decades, Prince was defined by his unpredictable and often transcendent live performances. Prince was ahead of his time in recognizing the internet as a way to sell music directly to his fans without a label. But his greatest legacy will of course be his music, and his influence on generations of artists is immeasurable.Go to episode 544
Low Ones and Sixes
Duluth, Minnesota trio Low has been making hushed, minimal music since 1993, leading critics to dub their sound "slowcore" over the band's objections. (Low stopped by the studios back in 2011). For their eleventh album Ones and Sixes, the band headed to the Eau Claire, Wisconsin studio of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. Greg cringes when people think of Low as mellow and soothing – the music may be quiet, but it's also disquieting, often reaching into dark, even apocalyptic, places. He loves how the band consistently finds new directions to take its sound even while working within the same palette, this time adding texture with electronic static and quaking bass lines. Ones and Sixes doesn't have the same amount of dynamic contrast as some previous records, so it took a while for Jim to warm up to it. But after repeated listens, he now counts it as one of his favorite Low albums. That makes it an enthusiastic double-Buy It from both critics.
Janet Jackson Unbreakable
For the first time in seven years, Janet Jackson has released a new album called Unbreakable. At the beginning of her career, she faced the challenge of stepping out of the shadow of her older brothers, which she did with the help of Minnesota songwriters and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They worked together creating her signature rhythmic pop sound on many of Janet's most famous albums, including Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, and teamed up again for Unbreakable. Greg thinks Jackson's last record, 2008's Discipline, was probably her worst ever but she rebounded with a solid mid-career album. He appreciated that Janet stopped wasting her time with weak and overtly sexual material, and instead made music that is more true to her authentic self. Greg especially enjoyed the track "BURNITUP!," featuring one of his all-time favorite artists, Missy Elliott. He gives the record a Buy It. Jim agrees and highlights the strengths of Jam and Lewis' electronic, modernized sound. He thinks Janet is as confident and talented as ever. It's a double Buy It for Unbreakable.
The Jayhawks were brought up briefly during the Dixie Chicks review, and Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick also features the Twin Cities rock band. Before they were The Jayhawks, Gary Louris, Marc Perlman and Mark Olson backed up a fellow Minnesota singer named Lori Wray. While Wray has not achieved a lot of success outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Jim thinks that her voice surpasses that of Natalie Maines. He explains that she adds a Lulu-like '60s pop sensibility to her singing, making her voice perfect for heartbreak tunes like his DIJ pick, "True Love in a Day."Go to episode 26
Jim recently visited Minneapolis public radio station The Current, where he saw lying around the studio a new reissue of American Dream by Têtes Noires. French for“black heads,”Têtes Noires was an accurate descriptor for the six raven-haired women who made up the band. Jim recalls how they stuck out in the sea of Nordic blondes called Minnesota. Their music was a capella harmony bolstered with wheezing organ and hand claps, and their lyrics fell somewhere between comedy, performance art and "killer indie rock." To show what he means, Jim plays "True Love," which features the vocalist listing all of the rotten relationships she's had since grade school. Têtes Noires may not have survived past its '80s heyday, but its spirit lives on in the new remaster – and, thanks to Jim, on the Desert Island.Go to episode 444
Greg needs to clear his Christmas palette, so he chooses a worthy holiday song to put in the Desert Island Jukebox. This is one he could listen to all year long. In 1999 the Minnesota trio Low released their Christmas EP. Members of Low are practicing Mormons, and you can hear the influence of their faith on their music. In "Long Way Around the Sea," Low strips the song of any mentions of bows and sleighs and gets to the essence of the holiday. To Greg, it's deliberate, beautiful, and something he'd like to listen to if stranded on an island.Go to episode 203
For the third time defendant Jammie Thomas-Rasset has been ordered by a jury to pay damages for making 24 songs illegally available on her computer. First, the RIAA offered Thomas-Rasset the option to settle for a couple thousand dollars. Then it went up to $222,000, $1.9 million and now $1.5 million. The recording industry has wanted to make an example out of the Minnesota mom, and it has succeeded.
The music industry has been eyeing video games as a potential source of revenue for the past couple of years. But since exploding onto the gaming scene, titles like Rock Band and Guitar Hero have actually declined in sales and popularity. They can't count on marketing tie-ins with the Beatles forever, and so they turn to where it all began: music. The new Rock Band 3 can actually begin to teach you to play guitar, bass and keyboards with real instruments. This is great news to Jim and Greg who have long feared that thumbing controls would surpass strumming guitars for today's kid.Go to episode 259
Last week a federal jury concluded that 25-year-old college student Joel Tennenbaum must pay $675,000 - or $22,500 for each of the 30 songs he was found liable of infringing. He was the country's second RIAA file-sharing defendant to go before a jury; the other was Minnesotawoman Jammie Thomas-Rasset. She was ordered to pay even more–$1.92 million for the 24 songs she shared on Kazaa. Both of these cases have been high-profile, leading Jim, Gregand guest Nate Anderson of Ars Technica to wonder if the defendents are being made examples of, especially since the damages were so high. Adding to the media attention was Tennenbaum's lawyer, Charles Nesson of Harvard, who took this case as a celebre. Nesson tried to use a fair-use defense, but the judge in the case was having none of it. Tenenbaum plans to appeal, but otherwise has plans to file for bankruptcy.
Mariah Carey announced this week that she'll include an ad-packed mini magazine with her next release, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. The 34-page spread will include ads for Mariah's perfume, as well as other luxury brands and Mariah-centric content. And a version will be included in Elle Magazine. Jim and Greg wonder if commercials between songs are next?
The Black Eyed Peas have been consistent hit-makers since bringing Fergie on in 2003. Now they are record breakers. With "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling," they have the longest successive chart run in the history of Billboard. The last group to do this was Boyz II Men. The Black Eyed Peas are solidifying their status as the dominant force in commercial music today.
Sun Records recording artist Billy Lee Riley died last week at the age of 75. Riley never achieved great mainstream success and didn't get to record a full album for Sun, but his string of singles were hugely influential according to Jim and Greg. The best way to remember him is by listening to his biggest hit "Flyin' Saucers Rock and Roll."Go to episode 193