Categories
Classic Album Review

Album Review: Psychotropic by Los Tones

ALBUM: “Psychotropic” by Los Tones

RELEASE YEAR: 2015

LABEL: Groovie Records

RATING: 10/10

BEST TRACKS: “Psychotropic”, “Buchanan Hammer” and “Ordinary Man”

FCC: Clean

I am a firm believer that Los Tones are one of the most underrated psych-rock bands out there. Hailing from Syndey, Australia, the foursome specializes in fuzzy, heavy surf rock. If you’re a garage fan, you may have heard their hit song “Buchanan Hammer” off this very album. However, “Psychotropic” has so much more to offer than their most popular single. It’s stuffed to the brim with heavy, sludgy, spooky goodness. Think skeletons-surfing-at-Goo-Lagoon-type-beat.

“Psychotropic” is both fast-paced and rich, keeping you enraptured at all times. I know we like to think of The Growlers or Allah-Las as the modern kings of “beach goth,” but I’d argue that Los Tones could easily snatch that crown away. Though they very obviously draw inspiration from old-school garage bands like The Sonics and The Seeds, they add a modern spin with their high energy and intense ferocity. Many acid rock bands mimic that signature growling vocal style, but their lead singer adds a sneering provocativeness that is truly unmatched. It’s easy for that style to sound abrasive or even apathetic, but Los Tones master it perfectly.

The best part about “Psychotropic” by far is their guitar work. Their axeman is obviously a guru when it comes to the reverb pedal. Though each song is extremely lively in its own way, the way they switch speeds and intensities is relishable. Tracks like “One Horse Race” and “Waste of Space” especially show off this artistry, especially the latter. Right at 1:33, there’s an amazing solo transition that’s absolutely to die for. “Speed Boat” is a spine-chilling tune, reminiscent of The Cramps’ horror-core punk.

If you’re a fan of any type of garage, surf, or early punk, you’ve just got to give “Psychotropic” a listen. You won’t regret it!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Music Education

What Your Music Taste Says About You

For some of us (*cough* WKNC DJs), music is heavily intertwined with our identities. But how did we develop our taste in music? Where did it come from, and what does it mean? Of course, there’s no perfect way to measure personality, but we’ve come pretty close to pinning down what exactly our unique music tastes say about us as individuals.

In 2003, researchers Peter Rentfrow and Samuel Gosling were curious as to how our personalities correlate with our music taste. After conducting a test with over 3,500 people, they were able to identify four major personality categories based on music preferences: reflective and complex, intense and rebellious, upbeat and conventional, and energetic and rhythmic. Since this study, other researchers have refined these categories even further:

1. Refined Observer

Favorite Genres: jazz, blues, folk, classical

Personality Traits: Refined Observers are introspective, analytical and creative. They appreciate music for its complexity, structure and “genius factor.” They also prefer abstract, emotionally rich topics.

2. Heated Defiant

Favorite Genres: heavy rock, metal, grunge, punk

Personality Traits: As you could probably deduce from their title, Heated Defiants tend to be rebellious and explosive, though they may not show those traits outwardly. They also value the spontaneity of new experiences and unconventionality.

3. Easy-Going Conventional

Favorite Genres: pop, country, religious music

Personality Traits: This is for all those G105 listeners out there (no shade). Easy-Going Conventionals tend to be light, warm and optimistic. Rather than looking for the complexity in music, they prefer simplicity and catchy tunes.

4. Outgoing Mingler

Favorite Genres: hip-hop, rap, funk

Personality Traits: Energetic, sociable and friendly, Outgoing Minglers appreciate music with a strong rhythmic and lyrical feel. They’re natural extroverts, enjoying the company of others in all types of gatherings.

5. Serene Enjoyer

Favorite Genres: world music, electronica, soft indie

Personality Traits: Last but not least, the Serene Enjoyer loves music that is unconventional yet chill. They tend to be laid back and unafraid to venture into unknown musical territory. Though they’re very creative, they prefer music that airs on the lighter side of things.

Of course, this is not an extensive measure of personality by any means. Many of us like tons of different genres! Either way, it’s fun to see how your taste might correlate to certain personality traits. What’s your personality type? Do you have more than one? Let us know!

– DJ Butter

Source for the information in this blog.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Behind the Cover: Led Zeppelin IV

Welcome back to the “Behind the Cover” series! This week, I’ll be diving into the story behind one of the most iconic album covers in the history of classic rock: “Led Zeppelin IV.” I first heard about the cover’s origin in rock journalist Brad Tolinski’s book, “Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page.” Filled with interviews and stories about the guitarist’s life, one of the points Toliksni touches on in the sixth chapter is the making of “Led Zeppelin IV.”

The Backstory

By 1971, Led Zeppelin was quickly reaching international success. Fans around the world worshipped them and their hard-hitting, experimental rock, but critics weren’t as adoring. They chalked the band’s fame up to “hype, not talent.” Their first three albums, especially “II” and “III”, had the band’s faces plastered all over the record sleeves, leading harsh music journalists to believe that Led Zeppelin was nothing more than a fad.

The band and Atlantic Records had a steady, gracious relationship up until “IV’s” release. They gave the foursome full creative control over every aspect of their music, including the album covers. The band took a “retreat” to Headley Grange, a two-hundred-year-old mansion in the English countryside, to record the majority of their upcoming album. Free from distractions at the remote, crumbling house, the band used the natural acoustics at Headley to experiment with new sounds in their creative seclusion. It was rumored that their fourth album would be otherworldly.

Needless to say, Atlantic Records was devastated when they found out the album would have no name, no cover title, and no artist credits. It is now known as “Led Zeppelin IV,” but it was originally meant to have no title at all. The record label tried to convince the band that they were “committing professional suicide,” but their choice was final. They wanted to show the world that Led Zeppelin was more than a trend.

The Cover Art

The final cover design shows an antique painting of an old man with a bundle of sticks on his back, hanging on a peeling wall. This painting was found by lead singer Robert Plant in an antique shop. It spoke to the band because of its reference to the “destruction of the old,” which they contrasted with the photographs of skyscrapers on the back cover. The entirety of “IV” and its cover is very much an ode to balancing traditionality with the new.

The inside is just as fascinating and mysterious as the outside. Depicting the Hermit, an ancient figure used in Tarot, it is meant to represent “a seeker aspiring to the light of truth.” The record sleeve has a gorgeous Arts and Crafts style typography, spelling out the lyrics to “Stairway to Heaven.” (Jimmy Page, the producer and guitarist, actually found a clipping of the typeface in a vintage magazine and hired a designer to remake the entire alphabet.)

Led Zeppelin IV inside cover (taken by me)
Led Zeppelin IV record sleeve (taken by me)
Led Zeppelin IV front and back album art (taken by me)

This is truly one of my favorite album cover stories. I think it’s so interesting how the band used it as both a representation of the music and as a reaction to their critics. They wanted to let the music speak for itself, and by god it did.

– DJ Butter

Categories
Classic Album Review

Soundtrack Highlight: BlacKkKlansman

Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” was my favorite movie of 2018 by far. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a true story set in the early 1970s about the first Black cop at the Colorado Springs Police Department, a man named Ron Stallworth. The movie focuses on how he, with the help of his partner, infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan. It is a powerful, striking movie, with important references to today’s racial inequality. Commanding, telling, and surprisingly comedic, it’s a must-see.

Something I loved about this movie right from the beginning was the soundtrack. Terence Blanchard, who’s worked with Spike Lee on several other films, served as the composer for “BlacKkKlansman.” Though the film includes a variety of old-school funk and R&B tracks, Blanchard’s original composition is fantastic. He meshes the classical sounds of violin with a crooning electric guitar, mimicking a Hendrix-esc sound. According to Blanchard, he wanted to imbibe this sound because it reminded him of when Jimi Hendrix performed the national anthem at Woodstock:

I kept thinking that was one of the most patriotic things I’d ever heard. It seemed like me that he was screaming that we were all Americans.

Terence Blanchard (Source)

Most of the songs play off the same riff, which can be heard best in “Main Theme – Ron.” However, some stray into intense, sometimes frightening tones. For example, the last scenes in the movie tie the plot to real-life footage of modern events. Underlined with Blanchard’s “Photo Opps,” it creates a sinister tone that really drives home the film’s message.

It’s a dramatic and dynamic soundtrack, truly reflecting the intensity of the movie. As the scenes switch quickly from light-hearted to fierce, the music follows suit. One of my favorite moments is when Ron and his girlfriend, Patrice, are dancing to “Too Late To Turn Back Now” by The Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose at the club. The music is perfectly picked to match the mood of the scene.

“BlacKkKlansman’s” soundtrack is truly one of the best I’ve ever heard. It reflects the feeling of the movie perfectly. Now, go watch the movie and give it a listen!

Categories
Miscellaneous

Behind the Cover: Freetown Sound by Blood Orange

When Deana Lawson took this portrait, titled “Binky & Tony Forever,” she had no idea that it would become the cover of one of Dev Hynes’s most prolific albums. Lawson specializes in photography depicting identity, love and materiality, particularly in Black culture. Her work is beautiful and honest, showing levels of intimacy that are both soft and powerful.

In 2016, the year “Freetown Sound” was released, “Fader” magazine interviewed Lawson on the album cover’s creation. She described how “Binky & Tony Forever” was originally a personal project, and it would be seven years before Dev Hynes used it for his album artwork. Binky, the woman in the photo, was a makeup artist she met on a shoot. Anthony, the man, was a friend of Binky’s. Lawson went in knowing she wanted to capture the idea of “physical intimacy” with a young couple. Usually, she shoots her subjects in their own environments, but for this particular photo shoot, they were actually in Lawson’s bedroom. She chose to keep everything on the walls the same except the Michael Jackson poster, which she says invoked her “own memory of popular culture while [she] was growing up.”

Lawson chose them as subjects partially because of their heights. Though Binky was quite short and Anthony quite tall, their positions demonstrate a deep level of respect and closeness. The way he’s embracing her gives off the sense that they are equals, and there’s no toxic power dynamic in their relationship.

The striking tenderness of this visual is perhaps what drew Dev Hynes to the photograph. After seeing “Binky & Tony Forever”, he asked if he could use it for the cover to “Freetown Sound.” Though Lawson was hesitant to release one of her pieces into such heavy circulation, she came around after hearing Dev Hynes’ unreleased album. She felt “like his mission, his intention, and his aesthetic” fit hers perfectly.

– DJ Butter

Interview source can be found here.

Categories
Playlists

DJ Butter’s Playlist of the Week

It’s that time again! I have tons of new music to share with you guys this week. Most of it is going to be on my setlists, but I thought I’d feature some choice picks from my recent discoveries. If you’re into ’80s jams, heavy rock and funk, look no further. You’ve found your new favorite playlist!

1. Driving South – The Stone Roses

This song is an absolute experience. The Stone Roses are masters of combining two very unlikely music styles: classic rock and dance music. “Driving South” uses an amazing riff combined with that signature ’80s drum sound to create a truly magical song.

2. A Tear for Eddie – Ween

Ween is the weirdest, most amazing band ever. This song is a more lowkey instrumental, but it’s fantastic. With relaxing and atmospheric synth-like strumming, it’s sure to be one of your favorites.

3. I Wanna Be Your Dog – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Joan Jett’s cover of the famous Stooges song is totally underrated. Included in her fifth album, “Up Your Alley,” it has to be my top choice from the 1988 release. Her take on “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is less fuzzy than the original, but amazing nonetheless.

4. Ice Pick – Albert Collins

“Ice Pickin'”, the album “Ice Pick” came from, is one of the best blues albums ever released. This particular track blends blues and funk exquisitely.

5. Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love Inn) – The Chocolate Watchband

The Chocolate Watchband is one of those groups that (unfortunately) slipped through the cracks during the 1960s. This song, a great garage rock ballad, is one of my favorites from them.

6. Groove Grease – Jimmy McGriff

The title of this song really says it all. When “Groove Grease” was released, Jimmy McGriff was just starting to experiment with electric instruments and synth. He does an amazing job transitioning his classic soulful sound into a groovy number with this song.

7. Lay With Me – The Flying Eyes

The Flying Eyes are an awesome psychedelic rock band from Baltimore. “Lay With Me” is interesting in that it’s acoustic, but still manages to have a sludgy, heavy feel to it. First-rate band, first-rate song!

8. Just For Kicks – Salem’s Pot

I randomly stumbled upon Salem’s Pot on my Spotify Discover Weekly and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. “Just For Kicks” is probably their most popular song, but their entire discography is honestly amazing.

9. Just A Little Heat – The Black Keys

If you couldn’t tell from one of my recent blogs, I’ve been on a Black Keys kick for the past couple of weeks. This song from my favorite album, “Magic Potion,” a hard, bluesy-rock masterpiece.

Tune in!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Miscellaneous

Behind the Cover: Horses by Patti Smith

“Horses” is easily Patti Smith’s most iconic album. Filled with a glorious fusion of poetry and rock n’ roll, her 1975 release is an early punk masterpiece. Her bold feminity adds a sort of mystique that makes “Horses” stand out against similar albums of the time.

The cover is a testament to her bold beauty and authenticity as an artist. It was shot by the legendary Robert Mapplethorpe, one of Smith’s dearest companions and the subject of her memoir “Just Kids.” She always knew Mapplethorpe would shoot the album cover for “Horses;” Their friendship was so extraordinary and his reputation as a photographer was skyrocketing. Smith recalls that she “had no sense of how it would look, just that it should be true.” The only thing Mapplethorpe asked of her was to wear a clean shirt with no stains on it.

After a trip to the Salvation Army, Smith found a pile of white button-downs. The one she chose had an RV embroidered on the breast pocket, which she says reminded her of the movie “Barbarella.” The portrait was taken in their friend’s apartment, bathed in natural light against a blank wall. Smith tried several poses before throwing her jacket over her shoulder “Frank Sinatra style,” leading to the portrait we all know and love today. In total, Mapplethorpe only took twelve photographs.

“When I look at it now, I never see me. I see us.”

Patti Smith, “Just Kids”

The true beauty behind the “Horses” cover is Mapplethorpe and Smith’s connection. After crossing paths in New York during the cultural explosion of the mid-1960s, they formed a life together by exploring art in all its forms. Though they drifted apart as their careers took them down different roads, they always managed to find each other again.

To read more about their relationship, you can read the book review I wrote on “Just Kids.” If you haven’t heard “Horses,” give it a listen!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album Review: Elephant

ALBUM: “Elephant” by The White Stripes

RELEASE YEAR: 2003

LABEL: This Man Records

RATING: 9.5/10

BEST TRACKS: “Ball and Biscuit”, “The Hardest Button to Button” and “Seven Nation Army”

FCC: Clean

No album embodies the early 2000s garage rock revival better than “Elephant.” Meg and Jack White clearly put their all into it, as it’s often heralded as the White Stripes’ best release.

As the sounds from ’60s rock were coming back into style, the duo set out to record “Elephant” on retro equipment to achieve a more organic sound. Produced in Liam Watson’s Toe Rag Studio in London, none of the equipment was from later than 1963. You can find the words, “No computers were used during the writing, recording, mixing, or mastering of this record” on the inside of the LP cover.

The result was worth their tedious analog methods. Cutting blues, hard-hitting punk, and an incredible sense of rhythm make “Elephant” an unforgettable album. Jack White’s forceful voice slides across each song with impassioned intensity, complimenting his gutsy guitar playing. Songs like “Little Acorn” and “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine” have a twinge of metal to them, showing off the White’s mastery of hard rock. “Ball and Biscuit” stands out as a bluesy epic as screeching riffs stretch across seven minutes of pure hysteria.

Meanwhile, “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket,” an acoustic, romantic song, exposes Jack’s softer side. “In the Cold, Cold Night” follows a similar trend, featuring a rare snippet of Meg’s singing. And, of course, who can forget “Seven Nation Army,” containing one of the most recognizable “basslines” ever made (it’s actually a semi-acoustic guitar hooked up to a pitch shift pedal).

“Elephant” is filled to the brim with goodness. It’s not only the quintessential White Stripes album, but it also defines an entire era of music perfectly.

– DJ Butter

Categories
Playlists

The Black Keys: Top Picks

The Black Keys have defined an entire generation of rock music. They’re easily one of the best bands to emerge from the early 2000s. In honor of their new rerelease of “Brothers,” I decided to highlight my all-time favorite tracks from the duo. With ten albums out, it’s hard to know where to start listening if you’re new to them. Here are my top song picks to get ya goin’!

1. Next Girl – Brothers (2010)

In my opinion, “Brothers” is The Black Keys’ best album. Even though “Howlin’ For You” and “Everlasting Light” tend to get the most attention from their 2010 release, “Next Girl” is my personal favorite. Dan Auerbach’s guitar skills are unmatched on this track of bluesy goodness.

2. Turn Blue – Turn Blue (2014)

This album leans in a psychedelic direction more than any of their others, but it’s still heavily twinged with their classic garage sound. “Turn Blue” (the song) has an atmosphere to it that’s truly amazing. Highly recommend listening on FULL VOLUME.

3. Thickfreakness – Thickfreakness (2003)

“Thickfreakness” is The Black Keys’ most underrated album. The song christened after its title is equally as such. Sludgy, heavy, and fuzzy, “Thickfreakness” is a staple of Auerbach’s supreme sliding skills.

4. Lonely Boy – El Camino (2011)

“Lonely Boy” is easily their most popular song, but you can’t help but love it. “El Camino” is quite different from their previous albums, straying into a more cheery sound. Patrick Carney’s rhythm artistry is on full display throughout the upbeat track.

5. Money Maker – El Camino (2011)

There’s just nothing bad about this song. Every moment is so good, from the chorus to the hook to Auerbach’s hypnotic voice. Though it comes from “El Camino,” “Money Maker” echoes the darkness of their other albums.

6. Have Mercy On Me – Chulahoma (2006)

I heard this song for the first time pretty recently, and I immediately fell in love. “Chulahoma” is actually a cover album, filled with remakes of Junior Kimbrough’s blues songs. The passion in this album is so tangible, even though it has less of The Black Keys’ signature garage fuzz.

7. Strange Desire – Magic Potion (2006)

The entire “Magic Potion” album has a very homemade, organic quality to it, but it’s great nonetheless. The riff in “Strange Desire” is just to die for. I love how they switch tempos throughout the track, making it a rollercoaster of a song.

8. Busted – The Big Come Up (2002)

“Busted” is the first song off their first full-length album. It’s a fantastic testament to their roots as a true garage-blues band. “The Big Come Up” sounds like something out of the early ’70s rather than 2002, having an almost Led Zeppelin-like quality to it.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Behind the Cover: “Vacation in Hell” by Flatbush Zombies

In my previous series “Album Art Gems,” I shared my favorite album art of all time. This time, I wanted to do a deep dive into the coolest stories behind how some of the most iconic covers were made. The creation of album art goes much farther than a designer or photographer’s concept. Oftentimes, there’s an incredible narrative at the root of the covers we know and love.

This week, we’ll be looking at Flatbush Zombies’ 2018 album, “Vacation in Hell.” It was shot by long-time musician photographer Jessica Lehrman (@jessierocks on Instagram). She was inspired by the classic 1968 photoshoot of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Hawaii (pictured below).

The day of the shoot was miserable. It was a dreary, rainy day in California but it was the only time that the models, FBZ, and the photographer were available. It was their one shot. Meech, Juice, and Erik spent most of the day hiding under umbrellas, helping their fully-glittered models keep warm. Their photographer tried to get as many photos as she could under the cloudy skies, but they all knew the day was pretty much ruined. Suddenly, just as they were packing up their bags in defeat, the sun burst through the clouds, right at sunset. As they scrambled to get the shot before the light disappeared, a rainbow appeared overhead. The Zombies described the moment as “the final piece of the Vacation In Hell puzzle,” and “an image that will live forever as a piece of rap history.”

One members of FBZ walks with one of the models under an umbrella
One of the members from FBZ walks with a model in the rain. Photo via @flatbushzombies on Instagram.

You can read the full “Vacation in Hell” story here. Look out for more “Behind the Cover” blogs in the future!

– DJ Butter