essay Archive

Sigur Rós Proves That Music Really is the Universal Language

A brief written description of the music of Sigur Rós rarely does it justice. Variously described as post-rock, impressionistic, glacial and abstract, the music on the trio’s seven studio albums often features falsetto vocals in either the group’s native Icelandic or an invented, wordless “language” called Hopelandic or vonlenska. But while that summary might suggest

Gang of Four: The Gang’s Still Here

Rising out of the tail-end of the late 1970s Great Britain music scene (thus earning the “postpunk” label), Gang of Four combined dub reggae and punk, with funk undercurrents. The Leeds quartet provocatively named themselves after the cadre of Chinese Communist Party officials who wielded power in the 1960s. And while Gang of Four have

An Artist to Watch: Allen Stone

Look at photos of Allen Stone and read his bio, and neither will prepare you for his sound. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest in a sheltered, religious-based atmosphere, Stone somehow ended up sounding like Stevie Wonder. His gospel-oriented young days certainly informed his music, which is very much of a soulful nature. Unlike many

An Instructive Little Anecdote

Today I’d like to share a brief, second-hand story. It’s one that, I think, illustrates the perils of narrow-mindedness, of holding onto preconceived notions, of dismissing that which one doesn’t understand. I only heard the story told once, and it was a couple of weeks ago, so some of the details may be incorrect or

A Look Back at “Now Wave Sampler” (1979)

I’m not ashamed of my age: for most of 1979 I was fifteen years old. Living in the suburbs of Atlanta – even then very much a “car city” – I already had my learner’s permit. But one couldn’t drive without a license-carrying adult in the passenger seat, and I didn’t own a car, so

AmericanaFest Panel: Breaking Barriers Through #SocialNetworking

I recently had the pleasure and honor of joining a distinguished panel to discuss social networking as it applies as a tool for musicians. In addition to my years as a music journalist, I have nearly three decades’ practical experience in marketing and advertising, and have been a freelance web developer (my rarely-mentioned “day job”)

Let’s Play “Smash or Trash,” Part Two

Continued from Part One… My first impression: humorless concept-world-prog. But humor is generally in short supply in progressive rock circles, and I like prog. So I shouldn’t hold that against ’em. All manner of styles are on display here. I was worried there’d be vocals, with the inevitable pompous lyrics. But this seems to be

Let’s Play “Smash or Trash,” Part One

One of the exercises in which I regularly engage is a little thing I like to call “Smash or Trash.” The name is stolen from a segment the radio deejays on Atlanta’s 96 Rock (WKLS-FM) used to do back in the late 70s and early 80s (I’m sure other stations did it as well). The

A Brief History of Rock’n’roll…Because, Why Not?

My cousin is a fifth-grade public school teacher. Put another way, he’s doing some of the most important work there is. Recently he asked me to put together “a page or two” history of rock ‘n’ roll from its beginning through the 1970s so that he could share it with his students. As patently impossible

Some Long-lost Artist Biographies

Way back in the depths of the Great Recession (2007-2009), one of my former writers (from my time as Editor in Chief of a now-defunct magazine I won’t dignify by naming) put me in touch with the good people at Amoeba Music. The California-based record chain had an ambitious plan: creating artist bios to serve