Music Columnist

Something Old, Something New Album Review. Ep2

Happy Holidays to the NGCS family! Hope you're all doing stuff you enjoy. Spending time with family, relaxing, enjoying some tunes and a cigar, maybe a couple drinks if that's your thing. Hopefully 2021 is a little better for all of us. Music is something that genuinely helps me through tough times. So if anyone has any suggestions, please share them with me in the forum or on my Instagram I'd love to hear them.
        As a genuine music fan, but also as someone who is near 40 years old I am in a constant state of struggle. I love taking chances on either new music or older artists that I’ve never heard and being rewarded with something that becomes a new favorite. But there’s that part of me that’s heard so much music over roughly the last 30 years of listening that I could comfortably rely on what I’m familiar with and already enjoy until I die. But as nice as being comfortable is, I also don’t want to be a dinosaur and that high of hearing something for the first time and knowing you’ve stumbled onto something great is something that’s worth the risk. So for Episode 2 of the ‘Something Old, Something New Album Review’, I’m going to check out two albums I’ve never heard, but are both massively popular albums.

Something New

Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

2019 Darkroom/Interscope Records

Rating: 3.75/5

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     While I’m not a huge fan, I can appreciate pop music. To me, most pop music is not “art”. It’s manufactured, slick and the goal is for mass consumption. Everything from the production to the “artists” image is a calculated plan meant to make money. It’s like a beautiful new car vs. a great painting. The car took the input of many people to become what it is, but the painting took the vision and execution of just one. And although it took me until now to give her music a chance, I appreciated Billie Eilish from the first time I saw her earlier this year racking up 5 awards at the 2020 Grammy’s. Wearing baggy clothes and her hair dyed neon green, she clearly dressed for herself and didn’t care. To me, that’s punk. I respected that (even though the Grammy awards themselves are meaningless trash, in my opinion). She didn’t have to look like a hooker and show off her body to get attention for music that isn’t very good, or mask a clear lack of talent like say……Britney Spears. And you know what? I respect that too. People like Britney do a lot with a little talent. And that’s hustle. That’s cool. Doesn’t mean her music doesn’t suck though.. Back to Billie. I finally decided it was time to see what the hype was about. This column gave me the kick I needed to give this album an honest listen.

        Now, that all being said, I’m sorta perplexed by this one. Initially I was kind of in a “get off my lawn” type of mood, but the more I listened I got…intrigued. It’s an interesting record. It’s a dark and moody pop album, which is rare. Billie and her brother Finneas made this record in his bedroom, with him handling all the production. While that’s cool and all, lots of artists make albums that way now. The beats, effects and instruments are all relatively simple and seem to mix together well creating some pretty interesting soundscapes with some pretty deep bass groove. The album kind of rides on a dark vibe. Especially when paired with Billie’s almost “whisper sing” vocal delivery. She does a little bit of actual singing here and there, but it’s understated and contributes to the overall vibe of the album. While the record overall is personally not my taste, there are a couple of jams on here. I actually really like the beat on the smash hit “Bad Guy” and “You Should See Me In A Crown” has a pretty good dark vibe too, where the beat and her vocals work well together. “When The Party’s Over” is a sparse and moody ballad that works well. There are also some swings and misses though. Where “When The Party’s Over” succeeds, the next track “8” takes the same kind of formula but fails. The random baby talk is…..weird, but in the bad way. Regardless, I can easily see why this album is big and why she’s a huge star. Both the album and Billie herself are DIFFERENT. And in a time where everything “new” is mostly a retread of something old, finding a new formula that works is pretty rare and commendable. 

Something Old

Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive

1976 A&M Records

Rating: 3.5/5

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        I promise, I haven’t been living under a rock. I knew of this record, I just didn’t care. I’d always assumed Peter Frampton was on the lighter side of the heaviness scale so for many years, that was enough for me to avoid him. But as a record collector, this one is easy to find for cheap. So when I started collecting I acquired one. 10 years later, I’m finally listening to it. This album was a strange phenomenon in the 70’s. Frampton left ‘Humble Pie’ just as they were breaking stateside to go solo. His first 4 solo records were relative commercial failures. But this record EXPLODED (much in the same way ‘Kiss Alive!’ was gigantic after 3 relative commercial failures preceding it). Normally live albums are either a cash grab or a contractual obligation. But this one, along with the aforementioned ‘Kiss Alive!’ set a precedent for every rock band in the 70’s to record a live album. Supposedly, this was the biggest selling live album in America for a long time, since being eclipsed by Eric Clapton’s Unplugged and Garth Brooks’ Double Live.
        Now listening to this was not exactly a revelation. I did not feel like I robbed myself of an amazing album for all these years. It’s pretty good. Definitely a good bargain bin score. Frampton is a great guitar player, and there is great playing all over this record including his famous “talk box” effect. It lags in spots for me, but the highlights are great. “Show Me The Way”, “Baby I Love Your Way”, a great kind of funky cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” and the 14+ minute album closer, “Do You Feel Like I Do” are all excellent tracks. Will I personally revisit this record much? Probably not. It feels like one of those albums that was very much of it’s era, that was being cranked out of car windows everywhere in the summer of ’76. If you had that personal attachment, then you love it, but I don’t know how many new listeners it’s grabbing now. Still a decent listen.
       Quick funny anecdote; there was a band called ‘Big Mountain’ in the early 90’s and they did a cover of “Baby I Love Your Way” that was a big hit. I honestly thought it was their song until recently. That’s how much I avoided this album until now.
        In the review of Billie’s album I mentioned vibe a couple times. Sometimes the vibe on a record is just as important as the record itself and I think next time I’ll focus on 2 albums that are both very vibe oriented. Something that you could light a cigar…or light something….and just lose yourself in. Until next time

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