As someone who once wandered through the huge Planet M in Fort (Mumbai) searching for Soundgarden’s supposedly best album Superunknown only to be told by the sales guy that it was unavailable, resuming this unfulfilled search at Music World only to find that though Superunknown was probably tucked away in some remote corner of the universe, far out of reach, there was a compilation album A-sides by Soundgarden to drown into, the A-sides cassette proof enough of Soundgarden’s raw power and Chris Cornell’s undeniable vocal supremacy, as someone who, few years later, made his own copy of Superunknown (burning the tracks on a blank CD and neatly writing down Superunknown with a  permanent marker on top of it), as someone who idolised Chris Cornell (along with Eddie Vedder) as the greatest vocalist of the 90s, as someone who would scream ‘Black Hole Sun’ at the top of his lungs from the 5th floor of his college hostel egged on by his fellow bandmate, as someone who performed ‘Be Yourself’ twice on stage, as someone who would often go around telling stories of Chris Cornell – how he quit smoking and alcohol to preserve his voice – it’s still difficult for me to come to terms with his death. He was only 52. It is greater than 27 but that doesn’t make it any easier.

One of Soundgarden’s most powerful live performances 

 “You used to listen to them a lot,” my sister commented when I told her that Chris Cornell had been a part of Soundgarden and Audioslave. I half shrugged, half nodded, tongue tied and unable to respond. I could still feel his powerful voice traversing through the layers of my mind, haunting and prophetic (‘Fell on Black Days’, indeed). As if his performances in Soundgarden and Audioslave weren’t testament enough, I recently stumbled upon some of his covers in which he elegantly rages like a burning inferno in a gale. It was effortless and I wasn’t even surprised. Chris Cornell’s death had once again left me pondering abstractedly on painful themes of talent and stardom, depression and death.

Chris Cornell’s  cover of Nothing Compares 2 U is absolutely stunning

The title of the blog post is a reference to a Temple of the Dog song, sung by Chris Cornell himself. Temple of the Dog were a band (the members of which would go on to form Soundgarden and Pearl Jam) formed as a tribute to Andrew Wood, vocalist for Mother Love Bone, who too was a victim of life’s callousness at a very young age. Today, the song might very well be a reference to Chris Cornell himself. So rest in peace Chris Cornell. You were idolised. You were revered. And in death, you will be remembered.

– Shiraz Hasan

 

You know how you love this one particular candy, the orange one with the glittering wrapper that lights up your eyes whenever you lay your hands on it? And then a few years later you realize they don’t make that candy anymore but your parents try their best. They get you the other candies and the chocolates and the ice creams that have taken the neighbourhood by storm and all the other kids are flocking down to the stores, anxious to get their hands and mouths dirty and you have no choice but to be a part of the bandwagon and gobble these down anyway. But nothing truly compares to that orange candy. Nothing can make up for it. Nothing can make you feel the way it did. That’s how I feel about the 90s.The 90s. The brash, brazen, beautiful and mind-blowing 90s. I can’t begin to describe how much I dig the 90s music. And the 90s Alternative Rock in particular. Time and again, I have this overwhelming feeling, this sense of devastating nostalgia and I can’t help but go back to the bands that have pretty much shaped my taste in music.

This is the first time I’m doing a playlist. And my little cousin thinks people really dig lists and I figured that this might just be something people are really interested in. Like the title suggests, the post aims to bring out the (oft hidden) gentler and mellower side of 90s Alternative Rock. You know. The soft core of the rock. The ‘Being Human’ side of Salman Bhai. The gentle patter after a heavy downpour. That sort of stuff. I mean, every Nevermind needs a ‘Something in the Way’ right?

  1. ‘Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town’ by Pearl Jam – Longest title in the Pearl Jam catalogue. This heartfelt song about an elderly woman struggling with memories is just one of those many moments of brilliance that have made Pearl Jam one of the defining bands of the era. Reminds me of my upper berth train journeys with my Sony Walkman and the Live On Two Legs cassette.
  1. ‘Jane Says’ by Jane’s Addiction –A sincere and direct song inspired by the real story of a woman named Jane, battling with her addiction and abusive boyfriend, and longing for love. As far as the lyrics go, a fair fraction of the world would identify themselves with the protagonist. The music really represents everything Jane’s Addiction are not well known for. It is simple (just two chords) and entirely on acoustic guitars, with the steel drums adding to the melodic fervor.
  1. ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ by The Verve – Known mainly for their smash hit ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, the album Urban Hymns is actually filled with superlative triumphs (And being fixated only with ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ for a long time, I’m guilty of not realizing this earlier) and this is just one of them. Another song about addiction and predictably melancholic.
  1. ‘Talk Tonight’ by Oasis – Written and sung by the more talented of the Gallagher brothers, this is an ode to a woman who helped Noel through a rough patch in an unfamiliar city. This little beauty also found its way in my personal mix CD that I’d play every night to help me sleep.
  1. ‘Don’t Follow’ by Alice in Chains – As hard hitting as any Alice in Chains track, as depressing as Layne Stayley’s life and yet it has a strikingly calm and peaceful vibe. A lot of you wouldn’t expect Alice in Chains to come up with something like this. I really love how Jar of Flies contrasts so heavily against their albums like Dirt and this is a perfect example.
  1. ‘Disarm’ by Smashing Pumpkins – The violins, gongs and lyrics really take the cream and the cherry and this might just be my favourite Smashing Pumpkins song ever. My sister used to get really irked when I used to listen to it like 10,000 times in a day (during my I-get-high-on-depressing-stuff days). Dark and disturbing, watch yourself. With Billy Corgan’s impassioned and rancorous reminiscences of a troubled childhood, this one can make you bleed.
  1. ‘Thinking About You’ by RadioheadPablo Honey was the first and only cassette I bought online (obviously because it was dirt cheap) and that too from Baazee.com I think (Heh!) and it was totally worth it. A relatively unknown gem in a grossly underrated album, this melodic delicacy just goes on to show that Radiohead are capable of doing just about everything.
  1. ‘Acoustic #3’ by The Goo Goo Dolls – After my phase of being hung on tracks like ‘Slide’, ‘Iris’, ‘Name’, ‘Black Balloon’ , along came ‘Acoustic #3’. Clocking just under two minutes, this little ditty, with just Johnny and his acoustic guitar, is about a girl and the pyramid of lies and deceit she has to deal with in her life. “What’s the point in all this screaming? No one’s listening anyway,” Johnny croons and it pretty much sums up her situation.
  1. ‘I Could Have Lied’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers – From their breakthrough (And maybe best too?) album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the song tugs at your heart and gets all the flavours right in its sonic narrative of Anthony’s relationship with Sinead O’ Connor turning to dust. I really love the dark intro and how the acoustic guitar then breaks in.
  1. ‘Love is Blindness’ by U2Jack White smashed it with his cover of the song but let us not forget to give our due to the original masters. Haunting and enchanting, this one feels like the calm before a raging squall. A great end to the first U2 album I ever heard (and loved every bit of it).
  1. ‘Perfect’ by Alanis Morissette – So a song off Jagged Little Pill features in a post about the 90s. Surprised? Hardly. Easily one of the best albums of the decade (and I bought the album only when it featured in one of such lists). Alanis Morissette’s gorgeous voice blossoms effortlessly in this one against the chiming guitars and delicately captures the pernicious expectations of parents off their children. I really love the vocal delivery, misleading you into thinking it’s a happy feel good song.
  1. ‘Tender’ by Blur – The other masters of the Britpop invasion, Blur’s ‘Tender’ draws heavily from the Beatles and features an encouraging Gospel Choir as Damon Albarn struggles to get through his breakup. Something I stumbled upon quite recently but better late than very late right?
  1. ‘Nightswimming’ by R.E.M. – Off their masterpiece Automatic For the People and propelled by the lush piano riff, the song is an ode to fond remembrances and lost youth. As wistful as anything can get, it captures nostalgia in all its picturesque & heartbreaking glory. Makes you smile but kills you as well, something a lot of us can relate to.
  1. ‘Beautiful World’ by Rage Against The Machine – Not exactly 90s. Not strictly Alternative. But what the hell? I couldn’t not share Rage Against The Machine’s cover of Beautiful World. Heavy on sarcasm and heavier on feel. I don’t think I’ve heard anything like this from Rage Against the Machine ever.
  1. ‘Something in the Way’ by Nirvana – Every Nevermind needs a ‘Something in the Way’. Every Alt Rock list needs a Nirvana Song. Every ‘softer side of Alternative Rock’ post needs ‘Something in the Way’. Get it?

 

Hope you enjoy the songs. Here’s the consolidated playlist:

 

– Shiraz Hasan

Unlike the other Red Lady, this one seems obsessed with water. So much that her producer had to explicitly forbid her from writing a single song that alluded to the dreaded five letter word. Can’t say how prudent the advice was, considering that her best song by a mile (in my humble opinion) makes vivid allusions to oceans and the art of effortless drowning, not unlike the epitome of the perfect Greek tragedy that she craves for in her songs.

So in Florence and the Machine’s third album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful there are no oceans, but there are well…ships, the ones that were predictably destined to have calamitous consequences. Florence Welch’s guilty infatuation with self-destruction is hardly ever not an indulgence. ‘Ship to Wreck’ is one of the strongest tracks in the album. The song could easily have been part of a Keane or The Cure album (with female vocals of course. It would seem odd if Tom Chaplin or Robert Smith suddenly started playing the damsel in distress in a rubble of a relationship). The Keane and post 90s U2 vibes continue on the anthemic ‘What Kind of Man’ with gospel roots replete with horns and trumpets that evoke images of Florence as the Pied Piper leading her marching band of the scorned, spiteful against the common enemy.

The title track is delicately elevated by her little trills and vocal manoeuvres inebriating you and leaving your head spinning. Florence here slides into the shoes of a skilful artist transforming her art with little strokes and finishing touches. The song also reminds you of PJ Harvey from the Stories From the City, Stories from the Sea era, which is always a good thing although the grandiose red carpet ending seems more apt for someone like Siouxie Sioux or Kate Bush. Florence is resurrected as the ‘Queen of Peace’ in the fourth track, one of the best ones on the album. The orchestra at the start heralds tragedy and Florence hardly disappoints (See that’s the thing, she never does). And while the monotony might seem staggering, it does bring out her best.

Various Storms and Saints’ doesn’t boast of much instrumentation unlike what one would expect from a Florence and the Machine song and yet the falsetto notes in the chorus are a force themselves, embellishing this minimalist piece of art like grass glittered with dew. ‘Delilah’ has a strong build up, playing around with biblical references and ends almost like a self-assuring anthem. ‘Long and Lost’ might remind you of Black Sabbath’s ‘Solitude’ at the start and relies more on atmosphere than instrumentation. The next track is ‘Caught’, the start of which reminds you of The Beatles, and sees the lady conscientiously treading into pop territory. Continuing with the experimentation we have ‘Third Eye’ which sounds catchy, fun and well, is the most Pop I’ve seen her go.

Welcome to ‘St. Jude’. Welcome back to minimalism and welcome back to PJ Harvey reminiscences. The song is contemplative, sombre and once again relies heavily on atmosphere. With ‘Mother’ she throws something utterly unanticipated at you – unbridled and trippy guitars reeking heavily of Led Zeppelin and Jefferson Airplane influences ending in a labyrinth of psychedelic fervour.

A lot of people won’t like the album much after the first listen. But it does grow on you. The fundamental problem is that the best songs here don’t compete with some of her earlier giants. So if you’re expecting another ‘Shake It Out’ or a ‘Never Let Me Go’ or a ‘Cosmic Love’ you might be in for disappointment. She hits a different road and there will be times you feel as if she’s just holding back and you want to egg her on to let go and go all intemperate and expansive like the adventurous and eclectic side of her we’ve come to know. Here she is far more contemplative and brooding, moody but cagey (though never lacking in intensity), with words wrapped around speckles of melody, hitting you like pebbles thrown in the river ultimately forming ripples that dazzle and rivet you. The whole album seems fit for a Broadway performance, many of the songs replicating the environment of her live concert at Royal Albert Hall – the background choir, the orchestra, the instrumentation. So while you might not find yourself immediately hooked, your patience won’t be futile. For the album is dense with several layers, and while unravelling them might be an exercise, it’s a beautiful and maybe even an addictive one.

Standout Tracks – Queen of Peace, Ship to Wreck, What Kind of Man, Mother, Delilah,

Rating – 7.5

– Shiraz Hasan

On Mourinho, Sir Alex said, “He’s good looking, knows five languages and wins everything. It’s not fair.” Something similar can be said about Jack White. He sings like an angel, plays the guitar like the devil, drums like a machine and is such a genius. Musically as well as lyrically, Lazaretto is just another example of Jack White’s complexity and creativity.  His music is dense, eclectic and thoroughly captivating. Make no mistake, the album cover with Jack White on his throne surrounded by statues of angels is no coincidence.

Like its predecessor Blunderbuss, Lazaretto doesn’t confine itself to one particular sound or style. With the solid opener ‘Three Women’ (Jack White’s own version of ‘Three Women Blues’ by Blind Willie McTell) he pays his mandatory homage to Blues followed by the guitar heavy ‘Lazaretto’. The wafer crisp bass riff, the brief interlude in the middle, all with a violin solo, just goes on to show that Mr. White is no one trick pony and when he croons “Every single bone in my brain is electric” you just can’t agree more. He takes the country and folk music route with ‘Temporary Ground’ with the harmonized female vocals blending easily. ‘Would You Fight For My Love?’ with a signature tune that would suit a Bond or Tarantino flick is simply brilliant. ‘High Ball Stepper’ is an instrumental with a bluesy riff and garage rock roots. This is Mr. White doing what he does best. This guy is just so, so cool.

‘Just One Drink’, again with its roots in country and folk music, is something you wouldn’t mind singing drunk in a bar at the top of your voice. ‘Alone In My Home’ will probably remind you of the White Stripes’ ‘My Doorbell’ and the Beatles’ ‘In My Life’ (The piano interlude). ‘Entitlement’, with its commentary on how society tries to control you, is something a lot of people could relate to. ‘That Black Bat Licorice’ is an out and out, unbridled crazy rocker. ‘I Think I Found A Culprit and ‘Want and Able’ are both nice, melodic and gentler pieces with acoustic guitar and piano as the main weapons of Jack White’s sonic artistry.

During a conversation on music, a college junior recently asked me why I like Jack White so much. I don’t know. For the past few years, I haven’t been playing the Electric Guitar a lot. I’m happy strumming my Acoustic and singing along. Jack White, on the other hand, makes me miss my electric guitar days. In an age fueled by electronic and pop music, he reminds you why the guitar is so cool. As such Lazaretto deservedly serves as a gentle reminder of Jack White’s supremacy.

Rating – 8.5/10

Shiraz Hasan

A friend of mine once suggested Tame Impala as we were discussing Australian bands. I read about them, liked the reviews…and inadvertently forgot all about them. Now about more than a year ago, I read about Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) covering a Tame Impala song. I didn’t check it out then. Not just yet. I first got hold of both the full length Tame Impala albums – Lonerism and Innerspeaker, heard the original song (‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’) and only then heard the cover, which by the way is smashing (Alex Turner hardly seems to do anything wrong anyway).

So who are Tame Impala? Well, Tame Impala is actually a supergroup featuring John Lennon (Vocals), Roger Waters (Keyboards), Kevin Shields (Guitars) and Steven Drozd (Drums). Just kidding. And no I’m not comparing the band with the aforementioned people (legends in their own right) but just trying to arrive at what Tame Impala sound like. Tame Impala is actually pretty much a one man project, the brainchild of Kevin Parker. Kevin Parker is to Tame Impala what Trent Reznor is to Nine Inch Nails.

So coming back to the sound, imagine The Beatles and Pink Floyd coming together to produce a soundtrack for a Sci-Fi film. Imagine Led Zeppelin creating music while tripping on crazy acid. Imagine The Flaming Lips and My Bloody Valentine time travelling back to the 70s, hanging out together like best chums and making music, just for fun. Tame Impala’s strength lies in recreating the Psychedelic sounds of the 60s and 70s with Kevin Parker’s own special genius touch to it. The result is an explosive, raw and melodic wall of sound, featuring ambient sounds and a goulash of guitar effects (most notably distortion, phasing, reverb, delay and flanger), which is trippy, edgy and on more than one occasion, a beautiful mixture of both (Just listen to the  arrangements, instrumental interlude and melody of ‘Keep on Lying’ or the blares in ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?’ or the Chorus heavy and fluid sounds of ‘Solitude Is Bliss’).

You can probably start with ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, featuring a melody that tenaciously refuses to go out of your head (Almost hypnotic, as one of my friends pointed out). Or ‘Mind Mischief’ which will seduce you with its riff and remind you of Lennon’s dreamy vocals. Other highlights include the bluesy and very popular ‘Elephant’ (Suits viewers might recognize this one), the grandiose ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, the lush and multi-dimensional ‘It’s Not Meant To Be’, The catchy ‘Expectation’, the groovy ‘Why Won’t They Talk to Me?’, the rippling ‘Music To Walk Home By’, the out and out rocker ‘Lucidity’, the debut album Innerspeaker and the follow up Lonerism.

Oh and don’t forget the Arctic Monkeys cover.

Shiraz Hasan

It’s trivia time. And this one is related to arguably the greatest Alternative Rock band of the 90s, Nirvana. Now most music lovers would swear by the genius of Kurt Cobain and the band in general. It is less of a matter of opinion and more of a fact. As the Dothraki say, “It is known.” Nevermind and In Utero would probably feature in every ‘Greatest Albums of the 90s’ or similar lists. I, myself am a huge Nirvana fan with due respect to the entire band – the brilliantly talented Krist Novoselic, the outrageously under-rated Dave Grohl and of course Kurt Cobain. Here, I’ll be talking about a very popular Nirvana song, ‘Come As You Are’, a song known for a bassline-mimicking guitar riff, chorus heavy guitar effects, the short and crisp guitar solo and perhaps the line “And I swear that I don’t have a gun.”

For those of you who haven’t heard the song, you might want to check it out.

A great song right? I love it too, honestly speaking. Now here’s the catch. Check out this song called ‘Eighties’ by a band called Killing Joke.

Gasping in Surprise? Swearing at Kurt Cobain? Smirking at his ‘thievery’? Laughing it off? Yep. The similarity between the riffs is unmistakable. Infact Nirvana’s band members and producer were nervous about releasing ‘Come As You Are’ as a single because of the obvious similarity, fearing a backlash and possible legal action. Apparently a lawsuit was filed by Killing Joke but later dismissed either because of financial reasons or Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Nirvana’s management team’s defense was that they had never even heard of Killing Joke when Killing Joke retaliated by talking about a Christmas postcard that Kurt Cobain had sent them way back. Some sources even say that Kurt Cobain went on to admit that he stole the riff because he thought it was a really cool song! However all’s amicable between the two bands now with Dave Grohl having contributed to one of Killing Joke’s albums with his drumming.

Now this is certainly not the first time that a band has been accused of plagiarism. Even biggies like Led Zeppelin, Coldplay, Radiohead and Green Day have been accused of borrowing parts from other songs. This brings into question the ‘Good artists borrow, Genius steals’ claim. Having been brought up in a country where artists unabashedly copy songs beat by beat and tune by tune, I don’t really know how big an offence it is to borrow a part and a lot of times, transform it into something better. And I don’t believe the similarity is always intentional. Being a musician myself, most of my sporadic and feeble attempts at creating music have been characterised by doubt and a subsequent, introspective questioning as to the originality of the tune. I’m always like, “Isn’t this similar to some other song?”, “Is this really an original composition?” and so on. Accusations of plagiarism surfaced during Lootera as well but I’d like to give Amit Trivedi the benefit of doubt. Not only because he is a musical genius but also because it is always a plausible defence that two musicians might come up with similar tunes or that sometimes the subconscious doesn’t really realize that it’s in fact a known tune. Unless of course if you’re Pritam. Or father to a certain Anmol Malik. Or your most recent work, co-starred Yo Yo Honey Singh and had disaster written all over it.

Oh wait. I haven’t even come to the best bit yet. Listen to this track called ‘Life Goes On’ by The Damned released in 1982.

Disbelief Part II? Ha Ha. I don’t know. Both Nirvana and Killing Joke claim to have had no knowledge of this. What can I say? Except perhaps as Kurt Cobain says in ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, “Oh well, whatever, nevermind”.

Shiraz Hasan 

So finally I have a post that lives up to the promises evoked by my blog name (Yay!). For those who don’t know, Indie is basically a shortened form of Independent Music, having roots in Alternative Rock of the 80s. While it’s tough to categorize the genre, a general rule of thumb is that the artists or bands are not associated with a major record label and release their albums on their own or through a low budget record label, often self-producing the record. Even if affiliated to a major label, they usually retain their autonomy and creative control. Over the years however, attempts have been made to define the sound as usually melodic with well-textured arrangements employing diverse instrumentation and passionate songwriting.

Now a music-lover friend of mine told me how the Ten review didn’t do much for him as the point of a music blog for him was to learn (And since Pearl Jam have a seemingly ubiquitous presence, he had already heard most of the album) adding that he hardly knew anything about Indie Music. So I thought it’d be cool to recommend artists (And songs and albums wherever necessary), mostly present-day artists that would seem to be a fit way to start with Indie Music, especially for people who are yet to explore this amazing genre. Having been criticised earlier for my verbosity and the lengths of my posts, I’ll be dividing this in two, not necessarily consecutive posts. All good?

1. Arcade Fire – In my experience, Arcade Fire don’t get their due. You’ve probably heard of them and The Suburbs which went on to win Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammys much to the surprise of critics and masses alike. You’ve probably indulged in the magnificence of tracks like ‘Ready to Start’ and ‘City With No Children’ and the exceptional ‘The Suburbs’. You’ve probably had a taste of the lavish experiences associated with an Arcade Fire album. If not, you should get to know what you’ve been missing out on. If yes, then please listen to the near-perfect Funeral, the classic Neon Bible and the experimental Reflektor as well. Mainly because you ought to be able to appreciate the band’s growth, their maturity, their ingenuity and their multi-faceted brilliance. A band like Arcade Fire deserves that. Seriously.

2. The NationalThe National inarguably represent the best of Indie music, constantly belting out one masterpiece after another. Alligator, Boxer, High Violet and the latest Trouble Will Find Me are all solid records and I still can’t decide whether my favourite is Boxer or High Violet. At any case, from the gritty and angsty ‘Mr. November’, to the haunting vibes of ‘About Today’, from the abstract ‘Secret Meeting’ to the melancholic rhythms of ‘Sorrow’, from the piano fuelled intricate arrangements of ‘Fake Empire’ to the melodic sombreness of ‘England’, from the simplistic beauty of ‘Start a War’ to the graceful ‘I Need My Girl,’ from the radio friendly ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ to the brooding ‘Anyone’s Ghost’, The National have a really diverse and consistent track record.

3. Death Cab for Cutie – There’s not much room to go wrong with Death Cab for Cutie, a band that has grown more mature with each record. Vocalist Benjamin Gibbard’s mellifluous voice and prose poetry against the backdrop of lush musical arrangements, vivid imagery and melodic sounds, though often melancholic, are heartfelt and never fail to create a dynamic atmosphere of soul-stirring magic. If I had to pick one album, I’d probably go with Plans or Transatlanticism with my favourite tracks by the band being ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’, ‘Soul Meets Body’ and the epic ‘Transatlanticism’.

4. The Strokes –I heard them first through a music quiz app on Orkut way back (I believe the songs I had heard were ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Reptilia‘). They are again one of the classic examples of a band hitting gold with their debut album, which by the way, in my opinion, is one of the greatest Indie Albums ever. Is This It, wherein most of the songs are catchy upbeat sing-along tracks revolving around observances in New York City, is a joy ride with its implosive guitar heavy 70s Garage Rock and Post Punk Revival sounds layered with a melodic pop drift. It is probably the best way to start with The Strokes. The title track (featuring a bassline so sublime, you wonder if it’s for real), ‘Hard to Explain’, ‘Someday’ and ‘Take it or Leave it’ are personal favourites.

5. Neutral Milk Hotel – They’ve released just two full length studio albums and are mostly known for only one of them, but that one album is an absolute winner! Catchy guitar strums, obscure lyrics (with subtle Anne Frank references) and eclectic sounds (featuring a range of instruments like acoustic guitars, accordion, organ, trumpet, horn arrangements etc. and a healthy dose of fuzz) and frontman Jeff Magnum’s high pitched crooning, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is pure genius. Arcade Fire have gone on to admit that they signed with Merge Records chiefly because of this album. You can probably start with ‘Holland, 1945’, ‘Two Headed Boy, ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea‘ and ‘King of Carrot Flowers Part 1’ or just do yourselves a favour and listen to the entire album.

6. Florence and the Machine Florence Welch is a stunner. And I don’t say that because of her looks (or her legs) but that voice! Her voice is a sea of myriad emotions, her vocals ranging from explosive and glass shattering to passionate and delicate. And while she sweeps you off your feet with her ballads and anthems (‘Only If For A Night’ and ‘Shake It Out’ are perfect examples), there is also this ethereally emotive quality to her songs that gets accented by the imagery & occasional poetry evident on songs such as ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Cosmic Love’ wherein she seduces you with the atmosphere she conjures. Other highlights include the dark yet upbeat ‘Rabbit Heart’, the overwhelming and hypnotizing ‘What The Water Gave Me’ and a stunningly intense cover of ‘You’ve Got The Love’ amongst other tracks.

7. The ShinsNatalie Portman’s character in the movie Garden State affirms that ‘New Slang’ by The Shins is a life altering experience. Well, I don’t know about that but I can assure you that it will be like a gentle breeze on an oppressive day with its melodic guitars, folk influences and thoughtful lyrics. Pretty much the same can be said about The Shins, with their bursts of psychedelic grandeur against folk style guitaring and crafty pop melodies on albums like Chutes Too Narrow and Oh! Inverted World and songs such as ‘Gone for Good’, ‘A Comet Appears’, ‘Caring is Creepy’, ‘Young Pilgrims’, ‘So Says I’, ‘Saint Simon’, ‘Fighting in a Sack’ and of course the exquisitely enchanting ‘New Slang’.

8. Arctic Monkeys – Okay I didn’t really want to feature them because obviously you’ve already heard them. But my close friend’s tenacious insistence has let my confidence in this assumption hanging on a thread of doubt. At any rate, I first heard about this really cool band many years ago, making waves and breaking records for the fastest selling debut album in British music history. I did listen to a couple of songs off that album then but didn’t really give them their due in terms of respect and adulation. On hindsight, it was a rather grave mistake but I’m glad to have rectified it in more ways than one (Naming my DC Nick after one of their songs is just one of them). Simply put, if I had to make my list of the best bands to have come out of the 21st century, Arctic Monkeys would be a part of the cream or perhaps even top the list. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’ m Not is a smashing debut and yet hardly their magnum opus, for every Arctic Monkeys record not only sounds different (You should really see how they’ve grown with each album) but also is colossal in its own right. Right then, you know what to do (if you haven’t already). Kickass or DC or your nearest music store (whatever suits you). Discography. Cheers!

Part two will come soon. Meanwhile, check out this really cool track by another Indie band. FIFA ‘10 gamers might remember this one. The song is adventurous, vibrant, anthemic and a whole lot of fun with its bouncy guitars, near-to-screaming vocals and an infectious hook.

Shiraz Hasan

pearl-jam-ten-full-cover

The iconic album cover.

My blog title mentions two genres. Before you dismiss my assessment of an album that falls in neither category as blasphemy, let me explain. I’ve never really done an album review before. I wanted to do an album that I was really sure of, one that I knew inside out. Having grown up in the 90s, should it come out as a surprise then that I chose one of the most definitive albums of that decade? Pearl Jam’s Ten was or rather is a very important album. It was important for the Seattle based Grunge movement, important for Alternative Rock and important for Rock and Roll music in general. Boasting of  fan favourites like ‘Jeremy’, ‘Alive’, ‘Black’, ‘Garden’, ‘Release’, ‘Once’, ‘Why Go’, ‘Porch’, ‘Deep’, ‘Oceans’ and ‘Even Flow‘ (that’s the entire album by the way, tongue in cheek), this is an artistic triumph from start to finish. When I expressed my desire of doing Ten as my first review, one of my friends remarked, “Sahi hai. Akhir Ten se zyade achche albums hi kitne hain?” (That’s great. How many albums superior to Ten are out there anyway?) Well, I concur. This is a band that has transcended generations, a band fathers and sons might be rocking out to together in various parts of the world and like a lot of great bands, this one made their mark with a smashing debut record. A mark that will perhaps never get obliterated. What I love the most about the band in general is their honesty, their arresting sincerity and their unquestionable integrity. Released in 1991, Ten had the band brimming with a kind of spirit that can only be associated with the unabashed recklessness of youth and a passivity towards the outcome. The result is a restive sea of delicately layered, distortion heavy guitar sounds emanating from Mike McCready and Stone Gossard‘s disciplined twin guitar attack (Rolling Stone editor David Fricke has gone on to admit that it was a mistake to exclude them from Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time) with Jeff Ament‘s crisp bass lines and Dave Krusen’s power packed drumming adding to the fervour. And as far as Eddie Vedder is considered, that man is an absolute genius. His lyrics, his persona, his profound vocals all are right there, at the top. I mean you could probably teach a kid how to count by making him or her count all the number of artists who’ve tried to imitate Vedder‘s vocal style.

You know how a lot of bands have THE Album? That one album that defines the band & is in a different league all together when compared to their other works. That one absolutely magical and wondrous album, that overshadows and dwarfs every other effort by that band, making those efforts appear like minions in front of a giant (Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, Weezer’s The Blue Album, Rage Against The Machine’s Eponymous Album, The Stone Roses’ Eponymous Album, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and so on).

A list of accolades earned by the album.

A list of accolades earned by the album.

Well Ten is that towering giant for Pearl Jam, in my opinion. Which might be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what kind of a fan you are. And though it may be harsh to adjudge Pearl Jam’s other efforts as minions (For the Pearl Jam discography boasts of some absolute gems), well I had to make a point. What is interesting is that not every great band has THE Album if you know what I mean. Take Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin IV? How about II or III or Houses of the Holy? Take The Beatles. Sgt Peppers? Well a huge chunk of the music fraternity would opt for Revolver. I myself would go for Rubber Soul. Hell, The Beatles have no dearth of great albums. Take Pink Floyd. Dark Side of the Moon? Pink Floyd connoisseurs would say The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Take Limp Bizkit. Okay, just kidding.

I remember buying this album when I was around 15 years old (and I still listen to it with unshaken awe), plugging the cassette in my Sony Walkman and patiently waiting for something blistering to hit my ears. What started calmly with a dominant bass line and quiet drums (The two part instrumental track ‘Master/Slave’) soon culminated abruptly into a crazy razor edged riff (That goes very well with the Serial Killer lyrics) that had me within a few seconds. ‘Once’ is a powerful track that shows frontman Eddie Vedder’s vocal prowess with his aggressive growls as well as the band’s superlative dynamics. You can feel the angst and the adrenaline pump in your veins with this one. Next up is ‘Even Flow’, with its two fold guitar solo and lyrics dealing with homelessness. It has a calm yet edgy and a slightly funky riff and I especially love the part where the song goes very quiet and then picks up again. Great build up. What follows is arguably one of Pearl Jam’s greatest tracks, ‘Alive‘. I’d like to mention that ‘Alive’ is actually a part of trilogy written by Vedder. It starts with ‘Alive’ (The protagonist’s troubled childhood), followed by ‘Once’ (The protagonist going into an enraged psychopath mode) and finally the protagonist’s final moments in ‘Footsteps‘. ‘Alive’ actually tells the story about a guy discovering that the man he considered his father was actually his stepfather and his mother’s relationship towards him on account of his resemblance to his biological father. Now ‘Alive’ has a simple riff, a four power chords chorus filled with Eddie Vedder’s powerful snarls and a chilling, jaw ripping guitar solo that bends and creaks and with Mike Mccready’s fret-board-trotting fingers, delivers a solid knockout punch. Next we have ‘Why Go’ which, with its thumping and hammering drums, dribbling bass-lines and Vedder’s solid treatment of lyrics dealing with the frustrations associated with institutionalization, doesn’t fail to hit you. We’re talking about raw energy here. ‘Black’ takes a detour from the gritty power of the previous tracks. Dealing with the musings of a broken hearted Romeo, this one is slow and searing and heart-wrenching. It has this dark and brooding atmosphere but with some really clever band dynamics. If this song doesn’t move you then you’re probably a Gargoyle.

eddie-vedder-profile

Frontman Eddie Vedder is one the most respected musicians in the world today.

Jeremy‘ is another very popular Pearl Jam track with lyrics inspired by a disturbing real life incident about a young boy who shot himself in school and a video that MTV had to ban initially. Intense and exceptionally powerful, the song takes you on a fervent ride to an overwhelming angst-ridden roller coaster with the band going really berserk by the end, which is a good thing of course. ‘Oceans‘ doesn’t really fall in line with the rest of the songs texturally or musically but is still a solid track with the war drums like sounding beats standing out. ‘Porch‘ is racy; an out and out rocker that hurtles with adrenaline laced bass and might very well serve for kicks during fast drives. ‘Garden‘ is probably one of the most underrated Pearl Jam songs. It’s a slower reverb heavy track with cryptic death themed lyrics and chiming guitar fills in the verse. With lyrics dealing with addiction, it’s only fitting that ‘Deep‘ has a psychedelic feel to its chorus. The final track, ‘Release‘ really tugs at your heart and gives you the chills. Written as an ode to Eddie Vedder’s dad, this song reveals Pearl Jam’s softer side without any compromise on their individuality. One of the best tracks on the album, this is Vedder at his best. Listen to it and when you hear him screaming ‘Release Me…’ during the chorus and you can feel the hairs on your skin give a standing ovation to this man’s genius, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

Rating – 9.5/10

Standout Tracks – Alive, Black, Jeremy, Release, Even Flow

My relationship with music is a tricky one. It is not that of a laid back listener, who lends a ear to some good music, nods in agreement and then forgets all about it. It is not that of the dancer whose feet start tapping to the rhythm almost instantly and incessantly, neither that of the Bollywood Ninja, to whom all that matters are the latest chart-busters the relevance of which fades away with the film, nor that of the thorough Metalheads, who cannot bear to hear even a half note outside of their death metal world, trapped in it like fanatics who are too lost in their mystifying labyrinth of dogmas and beliefs to get out of it. Music to me is indescribable. It is another dimension to my inconsistent and largely inconsequential life.

My 11 year old cousin prides himself in being an out and out Metalhead for the past 3 years. When it comes to Music, we don't have a lot in common.

My 11 year old cousin prides himself in being an out and out Metalhead for the past 3 years. When it comes to Music, we don’t have a lot in common.

This blog is a result of consistent persuasion from a lot of my friends who believe I have great taste in music. Though taste is subjective, I’ve been listening to a lot of music right since my childhood. I remember ‘rocking out’ to English songs when I could barely understand the language. On one occasion a guy in my school was trying to learn the lyrics of an English song off a piece of paper. I completed the line for him as he was reciting it and he looked at me almost in awe. Well you can hardly blame me for not being able to resist showing off. I was in the 1st grade and he was six years my senior. I remember the impression Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ had on me when I was in the 6th grade. MTV did play some good music then after all, at least once in a while. I remember discovering Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oasis a year later in a rock music compilation cassette. The next thing I did was get my hands on their best albums. I remember my prized collection of music cassettes collected over the years. I miss those days.

The remnants of my prized Music Cassettes Collection. Good old days!

The remnants of my prized Music Cassettes Collection. Good old days!

I remember making playlists for a lot of my friends on their insistence back in my school, even for my guitar teacher once. I still do that, make playlists. I remember the look on my cousin’s face when I randomly woke up at 1 am in the morning…and started playing the guitar. I still indulge in that, only no one gives me looks now that they’re used to it.  I remember bunking tuitions for gigs in town. My partner in crime had this suspicious father who would browse through his notebooks. It so happened once that I had to write a couple of totally nonsensical and hypothetical computer programs (that had lyrics of Pink Floyd songs interspersed in between) in his notebook, on the road. I remember Eminem-inspired raps written during my hip hop phase. Having recently discovered them parched, yellow and rotting away to nothingness in my old drawer, I’m inclined to believe I wrote better raps at the age of 13 than Honey Singh Yo Yo Honey Singh does now. No, seriously.

While I am open to all the limitless genres of music, I am mostly a Rock Music guy and do admit having a soft corner for Alternative & Indie and a relatively lower tolerance towards Metal and its sub-genres (Though I love certain Metal bands!).

While the album doesn't do full justice to the band's immense talent, it is still very listenable.

While the album doesn’t do full justice to the band’s immense talent, it is still very listenable.

Now while a lot of people scowl and frown upon Indian Rock Music dismissing them as caricaturist and imitative, I do believe we have some really good talent, making fresh and innovative music. And I’m proud to have hosted one of them.I was actually responsible for setting up a rock show at my hometown back in 2009. This one involved the then Channel V Launchpad finalists Cassini’s Division.If you’ve never heard the name before (Apart from the astronomical reference) I suggest you do check them out. With a front man who can sing, rap, play the guitar and most importantly really write, I believe they’re grossly underrated, just like Demonic Resurrection aren’t.

Now I grew up in a small town. We had no big music shops or anything like that. I would constantly hound my relatives living in big cities to visit their Music Galaxies and Rhythm Houses and PlanetMs and find me the albums that I was looking for, all of which were the result of my browsing through the Music sections of websites like Amazon. Once my mom was carrying my wishlist (on a piece of paper) to Delhi and she got convinced that I was a victim of bad company and Satan’s nasty contrivance when my cousin there, after looking at that list, commented, “Yeh Shizu kya kya sun raha hai aaj kal? Yeh bands sirf nasha karte hain aur drugs le ke jhoomte hain stage pe” (What is Shizu listening to these days? These bands are all addicts and do nothing but take drugs and freak out on stage). Shizu is my nickname by the way and I had to really convince my mom on that one. Phew! Then eventually I had to move on to CDs but we couldn’t afford them. So what I’d do was download songs individually from Ares (I was blissfully oblivious to the existence of torrents back then) compile them together, burn them in the order that the tracks appeared in that album and make myself my own Album CD. I even had this one particular CD, a compilation of tracks handpicked by me that I’d put on every time I’d go to sleep because it helped me to.

My Sad Songs playlist.

My Sad Songs playlist.

I also choose my songs and playlist according to my mood. So it is unsurprising that when I was going through my puberty ridden-jilted lover phase, I made myself a sad songs playlist, most of them with lyrics that I could relate to.

Being a music man has its down sides as well. For a start, your mom thinks you are this elevated mixture of Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen with a touch of Amit Trivedi as well. So needless to say, I’ve had times when I was coaxed by my mother into playing a couple of songs for guests and relatives at my place. Imagine my plight when I have to sing and play for these aunts and uncles and the kind of children that get on your nerves, people I haven’t seen since my childhood, people I’m seeing for the first time and people I’d rather not see and worse, their pats on my back and unnecessary flattering comments. Secondly, you have this tendency of being asked about your guitaring skills. “Is gaane ka tune guitar pe nikal sakte ho?” (Can you play this tune on your guitar?) should be voted the worst question of the decade, followed by “So, what songs can you play?”. It doesn’t work like that! And you don’t judge someone’s playing skills solely by what songs he or she can play. If I’m singing and playing rhythm, I can play just about any song in this world and I can play those tunes on leads as well but can I play those riffs or solos with accuracy and precise timing? Can I improvise? Can I compose? Do I understand scales? Can I tune the guitar by ear? These are the kind of questions one should really be asking.

Well, enough of the Shiraz-nama then. As you might have fathomed, there’s nothing really special about me I guess. I’m just another avid music lover, a commoner among the myriad of music aficionados and connoisseurs walking the earth. You know them. They are everywhere. Amongst us. One of us. Another brick in the wall. Some not as conspicuous as the others, nevertheless equally fanatic. They can be seen walking around with exploding headphones and lips humming to the tunes of their favourite numbers. They can be seen in fast cars deriving their kicks from the loud music. They can be seen at concerts and stage shows in rows, banging their heads in a mad frenzy.They can be seen on Carter Road, belting out Blues licks as the guys on either side of them sell ‘Parathas‘ and ‘Momos‘ respectively.

Bambai Street Collective, performing at Carter Road right in the midst of Lassi Te Parronthe and Khepchaki Momos.

Bambai Street Collective, performing at Carter Road right in the midst of Lassi Te Parronthe and Khepchaki Momos.

They can be seen struggling, working hard to earn themselves that one gig that might end up changing their lives. They can be seen in front of the television, eyes speaking of forsaken dreams and long-forgotten ambitions, glued to reality music shows. They can be seen in the long queues of these reality shows, waiting patiently for their one moment of glory. They can be seen at discotheques, letting their bodies do the talking. And sometimes they can also be seen in their own reclusive world, penning down their thoughts, fiddling with their guitar strings and wondering what next to do with their music blog.

Intro

Posted: July 11, 2014 in Indie, Music
Tags: , , ,
The Wedding Singer...that's me!

The Wedding Singer…that’s me!

My name is Shiraz Hasan and while my friends believe it to be a farce of the millennium, I actually study in Goa. BITS Goa BITS Pilani, KK Birla Goa Campus, for the ones particular about details. Well you know how it is. Goa. Beaches. Parties. Drugs. Alcohol. Girls. Girls. A lot of girls. Foreigner girls. White girls. Black girls. Girls in bikinis. Girls naked. A lot of people ask me if that has been the summary of my life for the past 3 years. I’ve never answered that to be honest. Well I could but then I like the idea of keeping people guessing. I suppose I could laugh too but then the irony of it is so colossal, it’s not even funny.

Those who know me would swear that I’m actually pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering degree…in Management & Humanities. Imagine their horror and disappointment when I tell them that in reality I’m on my way to becoming an Electronics and Instrumentation Engineer. And though I still have as much clue about Norton and Thevenin as I have about the mating habits of a Giant Tarantula, I do have managed to understand how Kirchoff’s Laws work, thanks to a neat little Course titled Analog Electronics.  Engineering has certainly helped me. Like countless other engineers, I still don’t know what I want to do but I’ve figured out what I absolutely cannot and won’t do and I think that’s quite an achievement. Also, I think my record of XX leaves (Can’t be disclosed for a lot of reasons) in one semester is going to stand unbroken for a very long time. Among a smaller section of my college fraternity however I am also known for my unconditional and irrevocable adulation and reverence for music. Music in any form. Music in any language. Music with all its inordinate diversity.

Apart from Music, curiosity is said to be one of my most innate traits. I am known for being quite the curious cat. So it shouldn’t come out as a surprise that I enjoy Quizzing. I happen to be the co-founder of a network of quizzing enthusiasts responsible for organizing inter-school quizzing competitions in my hometown (Ranchi). My curiosity also manifests itself in my love for the Adventure genre in Video Gaming and Crime Fiction in Literature. And that reminds me that I absolutely love reading too. While not sticking to one genre in particular, like I said I have a thing for Crime Fiction. Also, having read sixty four out of sixty six detective novels written by the Queen of Crime, I’m one of those (few?) that prefer Poirot to Holmes.

I can also play the guitar and very little drums. I sing too, a little bit. Having been playing the guitar for seven years now, ideally I should have been a guitar superstar by now, impressing men and women alike with my hair-raising solos and thundering guitar riffs. Ideally. But owing to long periods of stagnation (The longest of them as you would have thought, involved a rather unfortunate obsession with a girl…*Goes red with embarrassment*) my guitaring skills just about hover around mediocrity. I had started taking drumming lessons too. And just when things were beginning to get interesting I had to quit them because I really wanted to be an engineer then. Well, a lot of us did. And for the past 3 years, the loud sound of my voice and guitar emanating from my room heralds my homecoming, tells my neighbours that I’m back.

The title of this blog is a result of my word play with the name of a song (At the Indie Disco) and a band     (Panic! at the Disco) and perhaps also because I love Indie Music. I hope to use this blog as a vent to my thoughts and feelings about the multifarious forms of music I’ve grown listening to. I hope to do my own personal assessments of artists and their albums, give recommendations, share trivia or some interesting anecdotes, upload engaging videos and maybe cover a couple of songs as well. Well, you get the drift. Mostly I just hope that this blog will be a sort of forum involving healthy exchanges of anything pertaining to music. Cheers!