The Sound Opinions World Tour in Russia & Angel Olsen Review

World Tour: Russia
Download Subscribe via iTunes

Music News

They truly are the champions: Queen’s Greatest Hits album just became the first record in history to sell more than 6 million copies in the United Kingdom. That’s about one album for every ten Britons—or, as Jim puts it, a whole lot of Freddie Mercury’s overbite.

In more chart news from across the pond, the U.K.’s top-selling album this week is So Long, See You Tomorrow, the latest from Bombay Bicycle Club. Which had Jim and Greg wondering… who, exactly, is Bombay Bicycle Club? Apparently it’s an indie rock outfit known for sampling Bollywood show tunes, with the nephew of the late British songstress Kirsty MacColl on guitar. The Brits must have a thing for the initials BBC.

Meanwhile back in the States, rock fans have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. And for memorabilia dealers, that’s meant big business. A chunk of the Sullivan Show set signed by the Fab Four is going for a million bucks, while a signed U.K. version of A Hard Day’s Night is expected to take in $60,000. There’s also a signed copy of With the Beatles floating around somewhere. If you’re the owner, consider paying a visit to Antiques Roadshow—you’re in for at least $45,000.

Funnyman Fred Armisen of Portlandia and Saturday Night Live fame will soon return to late-night TV, this time as a musician. When fellow SNL alum Seth Myers takes over Late Night later this month, Armisen will curate his music and lead the in-house 8G Band, Myers announced by tweet this week. Sound Opinions saw this coming in 2012, when Fred (a former Chicago punk rocker who played in the band Trenchmouth, as well as Blue Man Group) told Jim and Greg how he’s always admired bands on TV. Live the dream, Fred.

Russia

Last year, Jim and Greg racked up lots of frequent flier miles during the Sound Opinions World Tour with trips to Sweden, Japan, South Africa and Mexico. This year, just in time for the Winter Olympic Games, they grab their passports once again and head for Russia. Moscow-based author and music critic Artemy Troitsky serves as their guide, lifting the shroud of the Iron Curtain to reveal Russia’s complicated rock ‘n’ roll history. Up until the mid-1980’s, the Communist government heavily censored the media, so listeners eager to hear the latest Beatles or Beach Boys song from the West had to rely on pirate radio stations and an underground market of reel-to-reel tapes. According to Troitsky, the tense environment actually helped push many artists to quietly rebel and make relevant and provocative music right under the noses (and ears) of the government. Inpsired by artists in the West, bands like Aquarium, DDT, and Nautilus Pompilius started making their own music complete with poetic and thoughtful lyrics which fit in nicely with Russia’s long, rich literary tradition. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in the mid- 1980’s, media censorship was relaxed some, and many more underground acts rose to the surface. However, for every topnotch band like Kino, or talented singer like Zhanna Aguzarova that emerged, there were three lackluster pop and chanson (a type of Russian country music) acts which specialize in fun and nostalgia. These musical styles continue to dominate the Russian charts to this day, but Artemy says there’s still plenty of non-mainstream Russian music to be excited about with rappers like MC Noize, electro-punks Barto, and agit-rockers Pussy Riot, unafraid to challenge the status quo and explore new sonic frontiers.

Burn Your Fire for No Witness Angel Olsen

Burn Your Fire For No Witness

From Missouri to Chicago and now Asheville, NC, singer/songwriter Angel Olsen has been quietly making a name for herself. Now, with her second full LP, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, she’s being compared to Leonard Cohen and Patsy Cline. Jim and Greg agree that this release is a huge step forward, combining wan, contemplative lyrics with truly rock ‘n’ roll backing band. While she may not be a Leonard Cohen just yet, both Jim and Greg think that Olsen’s lyricism alone deserves your cash: Buy It.

Jim

This week we looked at the music, past and present, of Russia. Jim thought about one band that curiously made a splash there: The Lords of the New Church. The band was somewhat of a supergroup, with punk pioneers Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys, Brian James of The Damned, Dave Tregunna of Sham 69 and Nick Turner of The Barracudas, all coming together to play, what Jim readily admits, a 1980’s sound that mixed punk with goth. While he didn’t love most of their output, he really loved the first single that penetrated the Iron Curtain: Open Your Eyes.

Dear Listeners,

For more than 15 years, Sound Opinions was a production of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Now that the show is independent, we're inviting you to join the band and lend a hand! We need your support more than ever because now we have to do all the behind-the-scenes work that WBEZ handled before (like buying insurance and paying for podcast hosting, ugh). Plus, we have some exciting ideas we'd like to try now that there's no one to tell us no!