One-Person Bands & Opinions on Randy Newman & Downtown Boys

one-person bands

Certain artists are perfectionists at heart, and if you want something done right, do it yourself. This week, Jim and Greg share some of their favorite One-Person Bands – artists who have recorded albums playing all the instruments themselves. Plus, Jim and Greg will review new releases from songwriter Randy Newman and punk rockers Downtown Boys.

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Dark Matter Randy Newman

Dark Matter

Dark Matter is Randy Newman’s first album in nine years. Greg notes that although Newman has been awarded Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys, he remains a cult figure for his darkly satirical songwriting. Although Newman’s pop career has not been nearly as commercially successful, there’s much more to him than Short People and his well-known soundtrack work. This album features narratives about a number of notables, including Sonny Boy, which was written from the perspective of blues great Sonny Boy Williamson, and Putin, imagining Russian president Vladimir Putin as a song and dance man. Greg thinks that many of the songs are brilliant. He says there is no one out there like Newman, and gives the album a Buy It. But Jim says that while the songs sound like great ideas on paper, he doesn’t find them listenable as execued. Jim adds that though he admires and respects Randy Newman, he just doesn’t want to listen to him. Jim can’t give Dark Matter anything better than a Trash It because he never wants to hear it again.

Cost of Living Downtown Boys

Cost of Living

Jim has been a Downtown Boys fan since he saw them perform at SXSW 2016, and describes them as an undeniable force of nature. On their new album, Cost of Living, the members of Downtown Boys are angry at today’s sociopolitical climate and use their music to convey that anger, fighting the fight using good humor, momentum, and the only good saxophone in punk rock history since X-Ray Spex. Greg names Victoria Ruiz the perfect front woman for these times and thinks A Wall is the song of the year. He also notes how producer Guy Picciotto, of Fugazi, highlights the band’s excellent rhythm section. Given the sad events that occurred in Charlottesville this week, Jim calls Cost of Living an antidote and inspiration. Both give the album a Buy It.

One-Person Bands

One-Person Bands

Ever had a vision that only you could execute? This week, Jim and Greg list their favorite one-person bands: projects where artists write all the lyrics, play all the instruments, and sing all the parts themselves, free from the annoyances of working with other people.

Jim

  • Emitt Rhodes, Emitt Rhodes
  • Divine Styler, Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light
  • Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells
  • Juana Molina, Un Día

Greg

  • Grimes, Art Angels
  • Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything?
  • tUnE-yArDs, BiRd-BrAiNs
  • Stevie Wonder, Innervisions

Greg

The inspiration for this trip to the Desert Island Jukebox was a recent list of the Greatest Albums Made By Women. Greg thought it was an injustice to omit Jefferson Airplane’s frontwoman, Grace Slick. He declares that hers was the voice of the Summer of Love through songs like Somebody to Love and White Rabbit. In 1968’s Lather, Grace showcases her playful side while asking why openness to new ideas and new experiences needs to be sacrificed at the altar of adulthood. He thinks the song holds up, and applies to anybody dealing with adulthood today.

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