She was the ultimate Creem Dream, a punk rock pinup who fronted the band that became the most commercially successful of all the artists from the CBGB’s scene from the mid-to-late ’70s. Debbie Harry was a fantastic front woman, who could do whatever a song needed, whether it was singing like an angel or dishing out New York attitude. In many ways, she was an actress and vocalist at the same time. So it’s no surprise that she also starred on the big screen, most memorably in John Waters’ classic Hairspray. While interviews during Blondie’s heyday suggested she would retire while young, she’s still out there, singing the classics and fun new songs. In honor of Ms. Harry, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
- Janelle Monae — Faster (The ArchAndroid): One thing I love about this 2010 release, my favorite of that year, is how Monae made a true album. No, I don’t fully fathom the concept, but I love the diversity of songs and how she mixes in very accessible songs with weirder stuff. This song sits somewhere in the middle, as it percolates on a bouncy rhythm, but isn’t classically pop, although it’s not particularly difficult to get into. This is kind of a space age Motown song and a good track.
- Homeboy Sandman — Core Rhythm (The Good Sun): Apparently when Homeboy Sandman isn’t rapping, he’s a school teacher in New York City. That makes sense with his literate lyrics. I like Sandman’s flow, which is sometimes staccato, a bit like Eminem, and other times reminds me a bit of K-oS. The beats are pretty straightforward. This song is a short instrumental, with a bit of an ambient feel.
- XTC — Ballet For a Rainy Day (Skylarking): It’s hard to add much to the scads of praise XTC has received for this amazing psychedelic-pop song cycle. Andy Partridge was at the top of his game. This languid song is pretty Beatle-y, with a pure Swindonian flavor. I particularly enjoy Prairie Prince’s drumming, with seems a bit Ringo inspired.
- Wreckless Eric — Waxworks (Greatest Stiffs): While best known for his pop smash (way belatedly) “(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World”, Eric Goulding wasn’t just pop tunes, a la Nick Lowe and Ian Dury. Some of his material is a bit more rooted in blues and garage rock, though not quite as heavy. This song works off a variation on a blues progression and Eric harangues in his reedy voice.
- Astrid — Horror Movies (Play Dead): This Scottish pop band had a happy sound that reminded me a little bit of bands like Aztec Camera and The Housemartins, though a little bit more power poppy than either of those bands. This song comes close to glammy bubble gum, as the singer details all the spooky things he sees which leads into a bouncy handclapping chorus.
- Owsley — Coming Up Roses (Owsley): Will Owsley was a talented power pop singer who made his living playing guitar for others, including Amy Grant. Tragically, he killed himself a year or two ago. It’s a shame, as his debut album was fantastic — he sounded like he had the potential for a breakthrough like Matthew Sweet. His songs touched upon all of the ’60s classics, especially The Beatles, but done in a contemporary sound with a real emotional investment in his material. This song has some psychedelic touches and real sense of wistfulness that cuts pretty deeply.
- Rockfour — In A Blink (One Fantastic Day): This a band that I thought had a chance for stardom. While the garage rock revival was going on, they went for a more straight on psychedelic sound. Their music incorporated everything from The Move to early Pink Floyd to Genesis to varying degrees, they were outstanding players and had a charismatic frontman, who had a great voice. While the music was clearly retro, there was an aspect that I could hear appealing to a fan of Radiohead’s The Bends. This is a very representative song, with squalls of guitar, piledriving drumming and haunting vocals.
- Blitzen Trapper — Love U (Furr): While this band’s bread-and-butter is catchy, melodic folk based songs, they like to try on some other styles. This is fuzzy blues rock trip that may be inspired a bit by John Lennon. I like these detours that break up the smoother stuff.
- Sweet — Call Me (Cut Above The Rest): The lead track from the legendary glam band’s first album as a trio, as they kicked out Brian Connolly due to alcohol related issues. Having moved away from heavy rock on their successful Level Headed record, the band continued mixing pure pop with a few rock efforts. This Steve Priest tune is a silly tune about getting a massage from a sexy gal. It’s hard to gather from the lyrics whether more is going on. But this is a catchy, fun song.
- Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark — Messages (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark): One thing I love about the early OMD albums is that they mix dark, brooding Velvet Underground inspired electronic numbers with pure pop songs. But they still find layers and textures with their array of keyboards that add unsettling undercurrents to the bouncy tunes, as demonstrated on this classic song.
Apple Computer is reportedly developing new technology that will automatically prevent iPhones from filming live concerts.
RnB funk-rock legend Prince, as part of his continuing complaints against digital music formats, is refusing to release new music until digital copyright laws are tightened up or everyone goes back to vinyl.
As for bands that can’t afford to not release new records, Kaiser Chiefs are trying a new way to market their album – they’re letting the fans pick the track list. But will it work, and is it worth doing?
The 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s classic album Nevermind is coming this September. The album is getting a 4-CD + a DVD re-issue, but after two decades of coverage, admiration, and criticism, how much is there really left to hear?
After decades of success overseas, at 68, singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys is going indie.
The Reading List is a collection of interesting, important, and thought-provoking articles about music from around the Web. Click here to suggest an article.
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The Reading List is a weekly collection of interesting, important, and thought-provoking articles about music from around the Web. Click here to suggest an article.
(LISTEN to CHIRP Radio.)
CHIRP Radio is psyched to be a part of Green Music Fest 2011 happening this Saturday June 25th and Sunday June 26th in Wicker Park!
This street festival features an eco-friendly vendor village offering arts and crafts, local services, art, and food. There’s also going to be an outstanding lineup of bands, including Les Savy Fav, The Thermals, Trampled by Turtles, and Yo la Tengo!
The festival runs from noon to 10:00pm on both days. See you there!
Green Music Fest 2011 from Green Music Fest on Vimeo.