Monday, January 19, 2009

A band a day: Hurt

As most of you are aware, I like hard rock music (I mean, duh, I made this blog). I get a lot of comments from some friends and family members that hard rock is just stringing notes together with incoherent screaming. That may be true for some of the bands that I like, but not all. 

Take Hurt for example.

Their music can be heavy, but the intensity of their music can also be expressed with a cello.

Hurt is:
J. Loren Wince (Vocals, Cello)
Paul Spatola (Guitar)
Rek Mohr (Bass)
Evan Johns (Drums)

I'd seen them on March 20th, 2008 at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City headlining a show with Tunnels to Holland and Leo (the band that Rek Mohr had been playing for before being recruited for Hurt).

Members representing Capitol Records had been in attendance. The show was great, but a little awkward to say the least.

Hurt had moderate success with Volume I, but hadn't been doing as well with Volume II. While "Ten Ton Brick" was a top 10 Active Rock hit, Loded barely made a blip on the radar.

A little after the tour was over, it was announced that they'd left Capitol Records. 

You would think that after a band leaves a major record deal that their life span essentially ends. On the contrary, the only people that were hurt were Capitol Records.

They went onto Amusement Recordings, who released the Re-Consummation (a retrospective of older recordings, some of which wound up on their major label releases).

On April 7th, they will be waving Goodbye to the Machine. The album, produced by Joseph DeMaio, is in reference to them leaving Capitol Records. It is also in reference to an approach that says goodbye to computers. The music that will be heard throughout the album is going to be largely recorded in analog. 

It will feature the lead single "Wars", "Fighting Tao" (which had been performed live towards the end of last year's touring), and "World Ain't Right" which will feature vocals from Seether frontman Shaun Morgan.

Their live performances are incredible and something to be admired.

Here are performances of the songs "Danse Russe" and "Fighting Tao".

Thursday, January 15, 2009

B.I.A.T.C.H.-Blogging in Anger for Things Chris Hates (The Plight of a Major Label Artist)

In an earlier post I mentioned that Daughters of Mara broke up because their record label sat on their hands after they recorded an album.

This is not the first and won't be the last time that happens. I will mention this story and other examples of record labels that missed opportunities.

I'll start with Daughters of Mara because it's recent and because I hold such a high regard for their music. They were signed to Virgin Records in 2007 and were poised to record an album. They finished recording the album in March of last year. Virgin had merged with Capitol Records during that time period. I don't know if that had a lot to do with what happened with Daughters of Mara, but they officially broke up in December...releasing a major label quality album essentially for free.

April Sixth had a record deal with Columbia in 2005 and were put on a tour with Crossfade. They really could have hit it huge with the song "Dear Angel" and had a whole album recorded and ready to be released. Lead singer Christopher McCracken wound up self-releasing it the next year.

Gone 'Til November, led by lead singer Aimee Proal, had been signed by Epic Records in late 2006. Everything seemed to be going well. They had been tracking for their album and had been playing shows in 2007. However, it seemed like Epic Records was sitting on their hands. By May 2008, the project had been dissolved with no music officially released.

Trading Yesterday was a group formed by former Evanescence member David Hodges in 2004. They were quickly noticed by Epic Records and Trading Yesterday was signed. They were lucky enough to get on the Stealth soundtrack with the song "One Day", but the movie flopped. No excuse not to get the album out, but Epic Records kept pushing the album back which had been due in the fall of 2005 to 2006 and in late 2005, they left Epic Records.

The idea is that when you sign an artist and let them record an album that you put out the album. Instead, it seems like record labels sign artists more to keep them away from other record labels. If the record label sits on their hands like they did to these artists and they leave, their market value declines, which is why none of these projects have survived past leaving.

What makes me upset about these particular artists is that they all had the potential to release great albums. I felt that the last two in particular had the potential for top 40 and platinum success.

I came up with four examples, but it makes me think of how many other times it probably has happened.

I think of some artists that are popular now and think that if one of the four mentioned were given the same chance, they could have done just as well or even better.

Although, rather than just complain about it, I think I have solutions to make it easier for artists to be on major labels.

The biggest one for me is to release digital-only singles and albums. You can still promote said artists on the radio, but releasing it digitally would be a huge cost-cutter. It seems like some labels are starting to release digital albums earlier than physical copies, which helps.

Another idea would be to put out EP's rather than full-fledged albums. I think it would be easier for casual listeners to digest 4 or 5 songs rather than 10 or 11 at a time. It'd also be cheaper to produce because you're only releasing those songs. It really should be what labels do more now with a struggling economy.

Artists could still work as if they were putting out an album and play unreleased stuff live and they wouldn't be under so much pressure because EP's are really only small tastes of what an artist offers.

If record labels can't appreciate their own artists and release their work, then the business as a whole should be less appealing to those that want in.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

B.I.A.T.C.H.-Blogging In Anger for Things Chris Hates (VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs)

Welcome to B.I.A.T.C.H. (pronounced Bee-yotch).

It is a segment of my blog where I complain about things in the music industry that I don't particularly like. I spent most of last year when I started this blog posting about music that I liked. I didn't do enough complaining so my New Year's Resolution was to complain more.

My first order of business is VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs of All Time.

I get sucked into these countdown shows more than I'd like to admit, but this one was clearly the one that I was waiting for. After all, hard rock is and has been my favorite genre for years.

But after looking at the list, I'm not so sure I can accept it.

First, a good chunk of the songs on this list are '80s hair metal. It's understandable when you have the show hosted by Poison's Bret Michaels.

I feel that '80s hair metal is over-represented. I tend to associate hard rock more with the grunge era of the early 90s and the nu-metal movement of the mid to late 90s.

I could understand Motley Crue and Def Leppard, but I'm iffy on some of the lower entries.

I just can't see Warrant, Ratt or Winger on this list.

Another gripe I have is with the newest songs chosen. I don't think Andrew W.K. belongs on that list. Good song...doesn't belong on the greatest songs. I feel that Buckcherry, The Darkness, and Velvet Revolver don't belong on the list either. You can't put them on this hard rock list without putting Linkin Park above them. Evanescence stays due to my personal bias. It's MY list now.

However, my biggest issue with this list is the horrible treatment of Alice in Chains.

"Would?" is the only Alice song on this list at #88. That song deserves to be higher. It didn't even outplace Winger.

They also completely omitted one of the greatest songs of the 1990s

Alice in Chains was the first band of the grunge era to ever go platinum and they barely touch the list? Fail.

There's no Nine Inch Nails, no Tool, no Disturbed, no Rage Against the Machine, and no Linkin Park.

My next gripe is a minor one...but I believe that Enter Sandman is THE song that defines hard rock on this list and deserves the #1 spot on the list. It's the song that made hard rock so accessible and on a personal note is the album that got me into listening to harder rock in the first place.

On top of that, they only got acknowledged on this list once. There's no "One", no "Fade to Black", no "Master of Puppets".

VH1 blames the fans because it was supposedly fan-voted, but I don't buy that at all. I think that their definition of hard rock isn't as hard as it should be and I'm sure that there are plenty of fellow fans that can agree with me on that.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

No Good Music Goes Unlistened (Volume 2): Ben Moody

Before I begin, let me just say that I have a personal stake and bias to posting this particular entry.

In 2003, Ben Moody made his debut with Evanescence who I fell head over heels for. I was lucky enough to see a show in September of that year and it was clear to see then that Ben was a natural performer.

Everything had seemingly been going perfect with the band. Their album was triple-platinum at the time and they were about to put out My Immortal (one of the band's oldest songs...a song that Ben wrote most of when he was 15) as a single.

Little did fans know that this performance in Cologne would be one of Ben's last with the band. Ironically, their performance at Cologne, Germany is often considered a fan favorite.

Less than a week later, Ben left the band and took a plane home to California.

Many fans were shocked, livid, and later split by the decision Ben made to leave the band.

Fans didn't realize how much of a toll the road took on both the band and Moody. Infighting, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, but then came the rehabilitation process.

He started working with other artists such as Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. He helped put a song on the Punisher soundtrack. He helped on a song for tsunami relief.

Ben even put out a song with Anastacia for the Fantastic Four soundtrack.

After much thought, he was to release a solo album sometime in 2005. The album, Can't Regret What You Don't Remember, which had been worked on has never seen the light of day.

Aside from Ben, those close to him, and reps in Wind-up Records, no one really knows what happened to this project.

Ben kept working with other artists outside of Wind-up and has maintained a career as a successful songwriter/producer.

Enter Hana Pestle, an artist from Montana whom he helped discover. The music is noticeably different from the artists that he has produced in the past (which is normally pop and pop-rock). This discovery has not only redefined what he can do as a producer and a songwriter, but it has also redefined what he can do as an artist.

In the summer of 2008, when Hana Pestle was touring with Collective Soul, Ben and Hana (collectively known as Ben-y-Hana) went on stage to perform Shine.

Just as fans were unaware of Ben leaving Evanescence, fans were unaware that Ben had actually been working on new music.

At a Hana Pestle show in December in Little Rock's Juanita's (a venue where Evanescence gained its early following), Ben released an EP of songs that he's been working on for a full album that's coming out March 3rd.

And just as fans were unaware that he was even putting out an EP of songs, much less an album, fans were unaware that Ben wanted to put it out for free.

The Mutiny Bootleg EP is a stark difference from previous music he's put out in the sense that it's not musically as heavy, but it is very much the same because the sound is so full of layers.

The rich sound is what makes it every bit as intense and dynamic as previous efforts.

No Good Music Goes Unlistened (Volume 1): Daughters of Mara/Shawn Zuzek

For a long time, I'd been hesitant to post direct links to music both to avoid legal complications and to protect the artist because it's the way they make their living.

But, if an artist feels comfortable with releasing their material publicly and it happens to be good, I'd like to post something.

I'm going to start with the band Daughters of Mara who I credited as being one of my favorite new artists of 2008 along with having the best headbanger of the year with the song "And Away".

With a little bit of bad news, the band disbanded officially at the end of 2008 as a result of Virgin Records sitting on their hands to release the album (something that I plan to discuss in a later post in more detail).

If you like metalcore (metal mixed with melody), this album is about as good as it gets. Aside from the album I Am Destroyer, you will be getting the B-sides from the album and some of his solo work which is a bit more diverse.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

(More Than) 9 Artists to Watch in '09

I'm counting on these artists to hit it big for this upcoming year of music.

1. Red-They had an enormously successful first run with the Grammy-nominated album End of Silence back in 2006. Their new album Innocence & Instinct isn't just 10 tracks (14 for the deluxe), it's an entire experience. Rob Graves, who produced the first album, will produce again proving that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". On top of all of that, this album is a concept record based on Dante's Inferno. If that doesn't get you hyped up, then maybe a song co-written by Ben Burnley of Breaking Benjamin ("Shadows") will.

2. Creed/Alter Bridge/Led Zeppelin-This is a triple entry because it's hard to say what will happen this year between the three bands. There had been rumors that once Alter Bridge stopped touring that Myles Kennedy would audition for and possibly take over Robert Plant's legendary position as the frontman for Led Zeppelin (which many of their own fans are opposed to). Word has it that if that were to happen that they would not call themselves Led Zeppelin. There are also rumors that Creed will be getting back together for some kind of reunion tour. It would be proof in the music business that you can never truly say never.

3. No Doubt-Everyone that mentions these kinds of lists will mention this group and I'm clearly no different. After two solo efforts from Gwen Stefani, they are hoping to release their first proper album in eight years (Rock Steady in 2001). It's said that they'll come back with a reggae/ska-influenced album that influenced their earlier sound and later singles such as "Underneath It All". They'll be on a full-fledged tour in 2009 along with headlining festivals such as the Bamboozle Festival in New Jersey in May.  Their album is easily one of the most anticipated for the year.

4. Green Day-What year is this? 1995? Sorry, Foxboro Hot Tubs fans, it looks like it's going to be a while before you get an album. Green Day fans have been waiting for new music since their Grammy-winning American Idiot in 2004. Unfortunately, not much has been said about this album, but it's Green Day and that's good enough for most everyone.

5. Alice in Chains-OK, so it is 1995 apparently. The grunge gods are back after losing original frontman Layne Staley in 2002 to a heroin overdose. William DuVall, who's been the official lead singer since 2007 is writing and recording new material with the band, the first new music in ten years...the first proper album in 14 (self-titled in 1995).

6. Kelly Clarkson-Kelly put out My December in 2007, a much darker album than any of her previous efforts. Even though the album went on to hit platinum, it had been unpopular with Clive Davis and as a result put her in the doghouse. March's Masquerade will supposedly bring her back to the Breakaway sound that got her the most success. Max Martin, The Doctor Luke, Howard Benson, and One Republic's Ryan Tedder (co-writer of Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love) are all said to have worked on her album.

7. U2-Grammy darlings and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers will be returning with No Line on the Horizon, said to be a heavier record with elements of electro. It'll mark their first album since 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which marks their longest break for an album ever.

8. Psychostick-Not a band that I would expect you guys to know, but one that I would hope you will grow to your pants. The silly humorcore band from Arizona will be putting out Sandwich, the follow-up to their debut We Couldn't Think of a Title...the album that earned them a record deal with Rock Ridge Records. In a rough economy, they came up with a great idea to fundraise money to record.

9. Halestorm-They were signed in 2005 to Atlantic Records and have been playing shows with Seether, Shinedown, and Flyleaf, to name a few...they even put out a live EP in 2005. However, they have not put out a proper record until now. Their debut album is scheduled to come out sometime this spring and will feature the production of Grammy-nominated producer, Howard Benson.