Results for rock

interviews

Steve Earle

Steve Earle is Jim and Greg's guest this week. The singer/songwriter who can also add actor, novelist, radio show host and playwright to his credits visited the show with his duet partner, muse and seventh wife Allison Moorer. That's right: seven. But Steve is obviously not a man who is afraid of risks. After years living and working in Nashville, he moved to New York. And after years making rock music, he decided to incorporate hip hop beats and electronic elements on to his most recent record Washington Street Serenade. You can hear stripped down versions of the tracks, "Tennessee Blues," "Days Aren't Long Enough," and "Sparkle and Shine" during the show.

Go to episode 122

The Besnard Lakes

This week's guests are the members of Canadian indie rock group The Besnard Lakes. The band is one of many up and coming acts to come out of the Montreal rock scene, including recent guests Arcade Fire. Jace Lasek, Olga Goreas, Steve Raegele, Richard White and Kevin Laing came to town for a tour in support of their second album The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse. Jim and Greg first became fans after seeing the group perform at this year's SXSW Festival.

Husband and wife Jace and Olga are the primary songwriters in The Besnard Lakes. The pair met after Jace saw Olga playing bass, and immediately became smitten. The two moved to Montreal in 2003 to start a recording studio, and they didn‘t form The Besnard Lakes until after they put their first record together. Their name comes from Jace and Olga’s favorite spot for R&R: a lake in northern Saskatchewan. But, Jim and Greg wonder if the band has gotten enough vacation time in recent years; there are very dark themes running through the record — devastation, destruction — and Jace explains that he loves writing sad and emotional songs. You can hear three such songs during the course of the interview.

Go to episode 89

Robyn Hitchcock, Peter Buck, and Scott McCaughey

Robyn Hitchcock, the man who Jim and Greg call a cross between Bob Dylan and Syd Barrett, visits the show this week. He is joined by his Venus 3 band mates, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, whose day jobs as members of R.E.M. aren‘t too shabby. All of the band members share a deep love of music, and a history of finding inspiration in record stores. Peter and Scott explain that this is how they initially became familiar with Robyn’s music. Greg remarks that they're all just a buncha rock geeks — our kind of guys!

Robyn and the Venus 3 have a new album out entitled Olé! Tarantula. According to Jim, it's a return to an earlier Hitchcock sound full of jangly melodies and multiple harmonies. And of course, you can count on the singer/songwriter for inventive lyrics. Sound Opinions H.Q. won't attempt to summarize his explanation of the concept behind Olé! Tarantula and the album's artwork, but offers this and this as reference points. You can hear the band perform this song, as well as "Adventure Rocket Ship," Syd Barrett's "Dominoes", and the bonus track, "N.Y. Doll" written about deceased New York Dolls member Arthur Kane.

Jim and Greg don‘t neglect to ask Peter Buck about his other gig. The R.E.M. guitarist and songwriter explains that he has written a lot of material and hopes to get together with some of the other band members soon to work on songs for their next album. Ideally he’d like to avoid spending“a lifetime.”An example of the band's more immediate work is the song "Final Straw." Buck wrote that piece of music while they were working on Automatic for the People, but he continued it to use it as a guitar warm-up. Lead singer Michael Stipe was struck by the tune and inspired by in the Middle East, and within a day it was recorded and put on the web.

Go to episode 59

The Alabama Shakes

The Alabama Shakes have only just released one full-length album and its members are only their early 20s, but already they are receiving a staggering amount of praise. Their fans include critics as well as Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers and Jack White. Jim and Greg think they deserve every accolade they get for successfully bringing back and updating that great soul and rock sound of the south in the '60s and '70s. The quartet includes lead singer Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson, plus touring keyboard player Ben Tanner. And Brittany and Heath explain to our hosts that they have diverse musical tastes, but are certainly very influenced by the Muscle Shoals sound. Another key to loving the Alabama Shakes? Brittany's voice, of which she's too modest.

Go to episode 333

Rivers Cuomo

Rivers Cuomo

During our feature segment Jim and Greg are joined by Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo. However, it's not Weezer that accompanies him. It's the Chicago rock band The Cathy Santonies. Before visiting the studio, Rivers asked Jim and Greg to choose his songs and choose his backing band. Then after a brief sound check, they launched in completely unrehearsed. It's a return to Rivers‘ garage rock roots that preceded Weezer’s massive 1994 self-titled debut. He and the band have gone on to record a number of successful albums since then. But, as he explains to Jim and Greg, life as a musician has not been without conflict. In fact, Rivers Cuomo might be one of the most angst-ridden front men out there. Whether it's being accused of being too soft (Pinkerton) or too much of a sellout (The Red Album), Rivers has always had his critics. Despite that, he seems to be having fun, especially when rocking out.

The Cathy Santonies are guitarist-vocalist Mojo Santoni, bassist-vocalist Radio Santoni, guitarist Jane Danger and drummer Kaylee Preston. They are named after an often talked about but never seen character on Full House.

Go to episode 221

Secret Machines

From Dallas to Brooklyn, and now to Chicago, Secret Machines have stopped by to talk with Jim and Greg and play a rare acoustic performance. The band is known for their full-blown, spacey rock sound, which Greg explains was perfect for the outdoor setting at Lollapalooza this summer. It's interesting, therefore, to hear them so stripped down. Listen to brothers Benjamin Curtis and Brandon Curtis on guitars and Josh Garza on percussion as they perform "Daddy's in the Doldrums" off their most recent album Ten Silver Drops and a cover of "Rest of the Day," by fellow Texans Bedhead. You can also check out the bonus track "1000 Seconds."

The Machines talk about their evolution as a band, which wasn't ordinary. They moved to New York and set up recording time in a studio before they had ever even played together. Their do-it-yourself attitude has paid off though. Both Ten Silver Drops and their debut Now Here is Nowhere were recorded by the band, despite requests from big name producers like Bob Ezrin. Thank God for Eno's "oblique strategies."

Go to episode 57

Keven McAlester

One of rock's most influential and interesting figures is former 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson. After performing with the psychedelic band in the '60s and as a solo artist in the '80s, the singer's mental and physical health took a severe decline. But in the past couple of years, Roky's sights have improved, and Jim and Greg took this opportunity to celebrate his legacy. During this you'll hear their discussion with Keven McAlester, the director of the film biography You're Gonna Miss Me. McAlester spoke to Jim and Greg after a special screening of the film at Chicago's Music Box Theatre.

Jim and Greg highlight two of their favorite Roky Erickson tracks from different points in his career. The first is a 13th Floor Elevators song called "Reverberation Doubt," which Jim explains is an example of how psychedelic the band was. The song was not only influenced by psychedelic drugs, but it conveys the experience of using them. Jim discusses the term“synesthesia,”which refers the drugs' ability to allow you to actually see musical notes, and“Reverberation Doubt”has a similar effect. As he states, it gives you the "sense that the entire world is vibrating."

The second is a solo track from a later period in Roky's career. "Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)" was recorded after Roky came out of Rusk State Mental Hospital in Texas, and wasn't in very good shape. But, musically he was very productive, and became one of the American artists to really lay the groundwork for punk music. Roky's songwriting at this time was influenced greatly by horror movies, and the title of this song gives a sense of where his mental state was. Greg describes“Two-Headed Dog”as a brutal, but wonderfully hard-hitting song.

You'll also hear a montage of covers from the tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye:

  • R.E.M., "I Walked with a Zombie"
  • ZZ Top, "Reverberation"
  • T-Bone Burnett, "Nothing in Return"
  • Butthole Surfers, "Earthquake"
  • Julian Cope, "I Have Always Been Here Before"
Go to episode 91

Wayne Kramer of the MC5

wayne

It's been 50 years this month since the Detroit rock band the MC5 recorded their debut album live, Kick Out the Jams! This week, our guest is MC5 guitarist and solo artist Wayne Kramer, author of the new autobiography The Hard Stuff. The MC5 were known for its political lyrics, energetic onstage charisma and punk attitude. The band influenced artists like The Clash, The Ramones and Rage Against the Machine. Since the breakup of the MC5 in 1972, Wayne has put out some great solo records and found success as a film and television composer. Kramer talks with Jim and Greg about the political music he was making in the MC5, the Detroit rock scene and about the thrill of performing live. He also discusses how he overcame his drug and alcohol addictions and what he learned from his two year stint in prison.

Go to episode 671

Vic Mensa

Vic Mensa is a young rapper who hails from the South Side of Chicago and isn't afraid to write about taboo topics like violence, racism and social injustice. While Mensa is a protégé of rap legend Jay-Z, he has his own unique style and swagger: he loves skateboarding, is gregarious and has a pretty stellar singing voice. His debut studio album, The Autobiography, is an ambitious record chronicling the entirety of his 24 years of life, and it's full of hard hitting beats and impactful (and sometimes hilarious) lyrics. Jim and Greg talk to Vic Mensa about overcoming drugs, his love for rock music and how he made a record that plays like a book.

Go to episode 635

Robert Wyatt

Jim and Greg are joined by Robert Wyatt in the next segment. While he may not be a household name, Wyatt is one of the most influential musicians of the rock era. As a drummer with 1960s group Soft Machine, Wyatt reinvented prog rock, and was a pioneer of jazz-rock fusion. He was later ousted from Soft Machine, and in 1973 a terrible fall rendered him a paraplegic. But, as his interview with Jim and Greg reveals, Wyatt never ceased to be an innovator. Jim explains that Wyatt's been having a career resurgence in recent years. He was not only up for the prestigious Mercury Prize in England in 2003, but he is releasing a new album, Comicopera, on Domino Records, the label that is also home to Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys.

Greg begins by asking Wyatt about his appeal to a younger generation of musicians, including Thom Yorke and Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Wyatt can‘t explain this phenomenon, but he imagines that people respect how he does his own thing and makes music for music’s sake. It's inspirational for young musicians to see that you can maintain artistic integrity and, at the same time, longevity.

Wyatt formed the Soft Machine with three other schoolmates, and he never imagined that they'd eventually be opening up for Jimi Hendrix on his 1968 tour. The music of that time influenced his politics as well as his sound. But while contemporaries like The Rolling Stones looked to the blues, Wyatt and the Soft Machine looked to jazz. After his accident, though, Wyatt was forced to approach drumming differently than other jazz musicians. By eliminating the element of acrobatic virtuosity that jazz drummers often focus on, Wyatt was free to focus on the beats and the sounds. But, listeners shouldn‘t confuse Wyatt’s experimentalism with an anti-pop attitude. He says, "Pop music is the folk music of the post-industrial era, and folk music is the most important music in the world."

Go to episode 100

Powerhouse Sound

This week Jim and Greg welcomed Powerhouse Sound, a veritable who's who of avant garde jazz and rock musicians. Ken Vandermark, world-renowned reeds player and MacArthur Genius grant winner, assembled this bi-coastal motley crew to experiment with fusing jazz, rock, funk, blues and reggae. With him on the U.S. side of this project is bass player Nate McBride, as well as drummer John Herndon and guitarist Jeff Parker of the group Tortoise. The group has a new album out comprised of recordings done both here and in Norway entitled Oslo/Chicago Breaks.

Ken explains to Jim and Greg that the idea for Powerhouse Sound was inspired by Miles Davis' experiments with blending jazz and popular music. In the 1970s, Davis began working with a diverse group of musicians to create an improvisational sound that is as much funk as it is jazz. Greg notes that this was a heavily controversial period for Davis; jazz purists saw it as a commercial sell out. But, like Davis, the members of Powerhouse Sound are not interested in boundaries and musical dogma. The sound is the key. You can hear this freedom in their performance of "Shocklee/Broken Numbers." Check out the piece in its entirety here.

Go to episode 114

The Hold Steady

Jim and Greg welcome The Hold Steady this week. The Minneapolis born, Brooklyn bred band are on tour to promote their 2008 album Stay Positive. Our hosts talk to lead singer Craig Finn, guitarist Tad Kubler and keyboardist & accordionist Franz Nicolay about their“meat and potatoes”style of rock and roll. Greg notes that comparisons are often made to Bruce Springsteen, but the band also cites Nick Cave and Bob Dylan as influences. Jim explains to the band that he was not immediately a Hold Steady fan, and was only converted after seeing them live. Craig, Tad and Franz explain that they are happy to convert him. That, of course, is the power of rock.

Go to episode 165

Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean Last year at South By Southwest, Jim and Greg discovered a young, talented Brooklyn rock band called Sunflower Bean. The group is made up of bassist and singer Julia Cumming, guitarist and singer Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber. What makes the members of Sunflower Bean so interesting is their pursuit of a career in rock music despite growing up in the home of hip hop and in the age of EDM. However, that doesn‘t mean they don’t have diverse influences, channeling artists like Syd Barrett, The Beach Boys and Neu! at times on their debut album Human Ceremony. Greg sat down to chat with the band when they were in Chicago, and they talked about musical influences, Sunflower Bean's origin and how the group held the title of most shows played in New York City in 2014. Plus, they'll give a fun live performance.

Go to episode 590

Mudhoney

For almost 30 years, rock band Mudhoney has been a staple in the Seattle music scene. While contemporaries like Nirvana and Soundgarden earned more commercial success, Mudhoney always stayed true to themselves and Jim notes they're one of the few bands that“never sucked.”The group first garnered attention for the EP Superfuzz Bigmuff that pioneered the distorted sound big labels would later market as "grunge." Jim and Greg talked with the members of the Mudhoney: vocalist Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, drummer Dan Peters and bassist Guy Maddison, at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle in front of a live audience. The hosts chatted with Mudhoney about their signature sound, musical collaborations and they also performed several songs from the span of their critically-loved career.

Go to episode 563

Pere Ubu

Pere Ubu live It is rare that true pioneers grace the Sound Opinions studio, but this week Jim and Greg are joined by punk progenitors Pere Ubu. Many credit the famous (and often infamous) Cleveland band for being on the ground floor of the punk movement, but band leader David Thomas doesn‘t really buy into that label. In pure Thomas form, the singer/songwriter grouses about punk’s corporate co-opting, and prefers to think of himself as a folk singer. Whatever you want to call it, Sound Opinions thinks it rocks. Check out their performances of songs "Babylonian Warehouses" and "Caroleen," off their new album Why I Hate Women.

The title of Pere Ubu's new album, Why I Hate Women, is certainly a conversation starter. But, as discussed, these views don‘t represent those of David Thomas or Pere Ubu. Like many of Thomas’ songs, the tracks on this album are written from the perspective of a character, in this case inspired by the fictional writings of pulp novelist Jim Thompson. Thomas explains that most songs are just stories, defying the notion that 20-year-old rock stars have any true angst.

Go to episode 51

Ernie Isley

Few groups can claim the sustained success of The Isley Brothers, in no small part due to the contributions of our guest Ernie Isley. The Isley Brothers formed in the 1950s as a doo-wop vocal group in Cincinatti, scoring huge hits with the wedding staples "Shout" and "Twist and Shout." They managed to survive the British Invasion, assisted by the incredible playing of their young guitarist Jimi Hendrix. With the addition of two more brothers, Ernie and Marvin, the band started to branch out into funk, soul, psychedelia, rock, and disco. It's this willingness to defy categorization that's led to the Isleys' longevity – the band scored the rare feat of charting in six consecutive decades.

Ernie Isley picked up where Hendrix left off on guitar, creating an unmistakeable tone featured on hits like "That Lady" and "Summer Breeze." But his contributions as a songwriter were just as vital, including a pair of sociallly conscious anthems in 1975: "Harvest for the World" and "Fight the Power," which Ernie penned in the shower before a trip to Disneyland. The Isleys' influence continues to be heard today in the hip-hop realm. Artists from Ice Cube to Notorious B.I.G. to Kendrick Lamar have crafted iconic songs from Isley Brothers samples. The band is now being honored with a massive boxset called The RCA Victor & T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983), and even that just scratches the surface of the Isleys' long career.

Go to episode 509

A Giant Dog

A Giant Dog is a rock band out of Austin, Texas, whose power and charisma on stage make the outfit unique. Made up of Sabrina Ellis, Andrew Cashen, Andy Bauer, Graham Low, and Daniel Blanchard, Greg fell in love with this band when he saw them several times at SXSW in 2017. Greg interviews the band about how they came together, signing with Merge Records and how their antics onstage have changed over the years. Plus, they perform live.

Go to episode 641

Parts and Labor

This week Dan Friel, B.J. Warshaw and Chris Weingarten of Parts and Labor visit the show. The experimental indie rock band formed in 2002 after Dan and B.J. worked together at New York's famed Knitting Factory. All of the members bonded over their love of the noise-meets-melody formula perfected by bands like Mission of Burma, Hüsker Dü and The Boredoms. But, with a low-budget aesthetic that includes the use of toy keyboards, cheap foot pedals and distortion devices, the band has carved out a unique sound of their own that can be heard on their most recent album Mapmaker. Greg for one is already a fan of Mapmaker and says that if you like rock at all, you have to like Parts and Labor.

Parts and Labor are as striking visually as they are audibly. The band had a complicated setup of gizmos, toys and instruments — none of which are more expensive than $200. The result is not a rinky-dink sound, though. The band is known for its anthemic songs, and their performance at Chicago Public Radio literally shook the station's walls. But, Jim and Greg note that if you strip the songs of their big effects, they could hold up as quiet, acoustic tracks. In fact, one of the band's original missions was to include politics in their songwriting. Now, with this third release, things are getting more personal.

Go to episode 78

Anthony Bourdain

Many people know Anthony Bourdain from his many books, his TV show "No Reservations", and his successful restaurant Les Halles. But, you may not know that he's a die-hard rock and roll fan. Bourdain recently chronicled his punk past in the Spin essay“Eat to the Beat,”and when he was in town on a book tour, Jim and Greg invited him into the studio to talk turkey (and rock).

Anthony, or Tony as he likes to be called, explained to Jim and Greg that there are a lot of connections between members of the food world and the music world, the first of which is simply the hours. Both subcultures are nocturnal pleasure-seekers who often frequent the same greasy spoons and the same dive bars. But on a more cerebral level, music geeks and foodies are both obsessed, both opinionated, and both hate Billy Joel. Tony explains that when he's serving up grub to guests he prefers the tunes of Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, and even Connie Francis.

Go to episode 113

The Decemberists

When Colin Meloy visited the show last year he promised to bring back his entire band, The Decemberists, next time they were in town. This week he makes good on his word. Meloy, Jenny Conlee, Chris Funk, John Moen and Nate Query join Jim and Greg for a conversation and performance. The band was in Chicago to perform a show and promote their most recent album The Crane Wife. This orchestral pop concept album is harder rocking than previous efforts, much to the delight of Greg, who only recently became a Decemberists‘ convert. Colin explains, "We’re really interested in rocking."

The band came into Chicago only a couple of weeks after the Virginia Tech massacre. Greg asks the band how that had affected their live shows. Colin responds that he was horrified by the incident, and was struck by how the media glommed onto the shooter's“macabre aesthetic.”In this case, these were perhaps warning signs, but Colin hopes people don't become unnecessarily paranoid about young people expressing their dark sides. Greg agrees, saying that art can often be the best way to respond to violence or tragedies.

The night Jim and Greg saw the Decemberists play live, Colin spoke about the Virginia Tech shootings, and the band followed that with a performance of "I'll Come Running," by Brian Eno. Sound Opinions listeners know that Jim has a special place in his heart for Eno, and he appreciated the choice of this song, which is about love and helping a friend. You can hear this song, as well as a rousing rendition of the three-part suite "The Crane Wife" in the course of the interview.

Go to episode 80

Robert Schneider

For this week's feature Jim and Greg dive into the psychedelic world of Elephant 6. For those new to this crazy universe, Elephant 6 is a label and musical collective that was started by childhood friends in Ruston, Louisiana. The bands that came out of this group of music-lovers include Of Montreal, Beulah, Elf Power, with the most notable being Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and Apples in Stereo. Jim and Greg will focus on those three Elephant 6 acts, discussing why they're so important in the rock landscape and which tracks and albums you should check out.

Sound Opinions always likes to begin any consideration of a band, label or movement with the music. Here are the three songs you sample first (you can find a list of all other song titles at the bottom of the page):

  • "Memories of Jacqueline 1906" by Olivia Tremor Control
  • "Two Headed Boy" by Neutral Milk Hotel
  • "About Your Fame" by Apples in Stereo

One of the key players in the success of the Elephant 6 Recording Company is Robert Schneider. Schneider is the chief songwriter, producer and lead singer of Apples in Stereo and co-founded the collective along with William Cullen Hart and Bill Doss of The Olivia Tremor Control and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel. Jim and Greg wanted to find out from Schneider how so much great music came from Ruston, Louisiana. Schneider explains that because of the college music scene, he and his friends were exposed to a lot of great music. Schneider and Jeff Mangum took up music early as a way to escape mundane, small town life. Eventually all of these friends decided to start a label and call it Elephant 6.

Greg describes Schneider as the“pop craftsmen,”of the bunch and Jeff Mangum of the Neutral Milk Hotel as the“soul child.”The Olivia Tremor Control were then the trippiest. He and Jim discuss their debut release, Dusk at Cubist Castle, a double album whose subtitle,“Music from an Unrealized Film Script,”points to the music's psychedelic nature. The Olivia Tremor Control tried to capture the feeling of a live performance and made a dense album full of layers and layers of sound. This was also the case on their second album, Black Foliage, but OTC disbanded soon after that.

Next Jim and Greg discuss Neutral Milk Hotel, the band that probably has the largest fan base. In fact, Jeff Mangum holds a mythic standing among music fans that parallels only that of Kurt Cobain. Mangum went for a soulful, more stripped down approach that was moving and easily identifiable for many listeners. This is evident in the band's 1998 release In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a concept album about tragedy, and at times, the story of Anne Frank. Mangum wanted the star of this album to be the acoustic guitar, his voice and his words. This sometimes caused conflict between the songwriter and Robert Schneider, his producer, but the result is one of the most innovative and important albums of the 1990s.

Go to episode 70

Tim Fite

When Jim and Greg were in Austin, TX for SXSW they met with music artist Tim Fite. In 2007, Fite made Over the Counter Culture, one of Jim and Greg's favorite albums of the year and released it for free. Now he's back with a new record called Fair Ain't Fair that he's releasing the old-fashioned way. But, the artist explains that the subject matter of this album isn‘t as political and anti-consumerist, and therefore would be appropriate for sale. Plus he’s happy to support a great record label like Anti. Fite's music is hard to classify, but you can hear the folk, hip-hop, rock, blues mix in the songs performed on the show, as well as in a special bonus track.

Go to episode 124

Hinds

Hinds

This week, Jim and Greg are joined by the two leading members of the Spanish rock band Hinds! Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote are from Madrid where women-led rock bands are extremely uncommon. They tought themselves how to play and sing in their late teens and formed the band, choosing to sing their songs in english in the hopes of reaching audiences outside of Spain. It worked! Hinds regularly plays sold-out shows in the U.S. and has released two successful albums, Leave Me Alone (2016) and I Don't Run (2018). We talked to Ana and Carlotta about how they write their brand of rock and roll, how they perceive America and about navigating the music industry.

Go to episode 656

Saul Williams

This week's guest has an incredible portfolio: poet, screenwriter, actor, activist, and, of course, musician. But, while we have many words to describe Saul Williams, it's hard to describe his music. Saul blends rock, funk, hip hop and electronica with political lyrics. This combo was most recently heard on an album Saul made with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor. Last year they released The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust exclusively on the web. Now Saul is again getting attention through his involvement in a Nike ad campaign. The singer, and admitted activist, explains to Jim and Greg why he agreed to let the corporation use his song "List of Demands," in a recent commercial. He believes that the ad calls more attention to his song than it does the product, and therefore spreads the message of his music. You can hear that song performed live on the show, as well the Niggy Tardust tracks, "Banged and Blown Through" and "Convict Colony."

Go to episode 129

Don Was

Don Was This week, our guest is musician, producer and label president Don Was. Was hails from Detroit and since the early '80s has been a part of the group Was (Not Was). In Was (Not Was,) Don is the bassist, a songwriter and a producer, creating unique music that blended the genres of jazz, pop, rock and dance music. He then found a second career as a super producer, working with Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt and more. Then beginning in 2012, Was became the president of the legendary jazz record label Blue Note Records. He talks with Jim and Greg about the methodology behind Was (Not Was), working with The Rolling Stones throughout the decades and his transition into being a label head.

Go to episode 639

Jac Holzman

Jac Holzman

Before there was a Merge or a Matador there was Elektra Records. The great American label recently celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, and its founder Jac Holzman is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month. Jim and Greg talk to Jac about launching Elektra as an independent folk label out of his dorm room in 1950. Eventually the roster grew to include every genre of music – blues, rock, funk, world and pop. It became the home to The Stooges, the MC5, Love and Queen, and, Jim adds, some notoriously difficult personalities. But Jac insists no artist was too hard to handle. He did use caution when out drinking with Jim Morrison, however.

Go to episode 275

Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini of Sly & the Family Stone

In the 1960's, Sly & the Family Stone, with its multi-racial, co-ed lineup, broke down barriers of how a band should look and sound. It also bridged rock, funk, R&B, soul and jazz, thanks in large part to its virtuoso musicians: guitarist Freddie Stone, bass player Larry Graham, drummer Greg Errico, keys player Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson and sax player Jerry Martini. Then, of course, you have Sly Stone, one of the most charismatic frontmen in music history. But, once the charming star who stole the show at Woodstock and on Dick Cavett, Sly Stone dropped out of public life in 1975. We've had occasional glimpses since then, but for the most part his legend only lives on in recordings. Luckily fans have a new box set called Higher! Upon its release, Jim and Greg spoke with Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini.

Go to episode 431

The Baseball Project

TheBaseballProject3rd Summer has finally arrived, bringing us sunshine, days spent lounging on the beach—and, of course, baseball. While the game is America's official national pastime, some Sound Opinions listeners may think rock n'roll deserves that title… Thankfully, five baseball-obsessed musicians are bringing the two together. In 2007, Peter Buck and Mike Mills of R.E.M., Scott McCaughey of Minus 5 and The Young Fresh Fellows, Linda Pitmon of Zuzu's Petals, and her husband, The Dream Syndicate founder Steve Wynn created The Baseball Project, a supergroup devoted to making music about the sport. Steve and Scott tell Giants-fan Greg and baseball-ignorant Jim about why they love the game, their favorite baseball tunes, and how they're exploring the unsavory side of the sport.

Go to episode 445

Mike Heidorn of Uncle Tupelo

You can trace alternative country's roots to the 1960's when rock musicians such as Gram Parsons, The Byrds and the Flatlanders began dabbling with and reinvigorating country music. It was part of a wider investigation of American roots music in rock, a move toward more“authentic”styles. These rockers looked to country greats like Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard for inspiration — Bob Dylan famously collaborated with Cash on "Girl From the North Country." In the '70s and early '80s, a new generation of punk rockers started digging into traditional country for inspiration, including X, The Mekons, Rank & File, Jason and the Scorchers and the Long Ryders. Then third wave of alt country hit in the late '80s and early '90s, led by The Jayhawks out of Minneapolis and Uncle Tupelo, the trio of Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, out of Belleville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. Uncle Tupelo's debut album,“No Depression,”took its name from a Carter Family song, "No Depression in Heaven," and it's one of many the key albums in defining the alt-country movement of this era. We have this band to thank for groups like Farrar's Son Volt, Tweedy's Wilco, Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, the Drive-By-Truckers and the Old 97's …and not to mention No Depression Magazine. Legacy Recordings recently reissued No Depression, complete with some never before released demo tracks from 1987 to 1989. And to talk about it, Jim and Greg are joined by Uncle Tupelo's founding drummer Mike Heidorn.

Go to episode 442

Roger Ebert

bwebert Last week fans of movies and criticism in general felt a big loss. Roger Ebert died at age 70 after a long battle with cancer. Jim and Greg remember their friend and colleague and talk about how Ebert and his partner Gene Siskel provided them inspiration for their own show. Jim worked with Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times, and Greg worked with Siskel at the Chicago Tribune. And whether it was in print, on TV or via Twitter, Roger Ebert was full of Sound Opinions. In 2006, the three critics sat down to talk music movies and Ebert's own rock ‘n’ roll past, which includes a remarkable meeting with the Sex Pistols. This ended up being one of Ebert's last recorded interviews before losing his ability to speak.

First, Jim and Greg ask Roger Ebert to rate music movies. He calls Woodstock the greatest rock documentary ever made. In fact, he thinks it's just one of the best movies ever made. He also recommends Hard Day's Night and Gimme Shelter. One movie he did love was Martin Scorcese's film Don't Look Back. In Roger's original review, he took Dylan to task for being kind of a jerk. He reconsidered the movie years later.

One of Jim and Greg's favorite rock ‘n’ roll movies was actually written by Roger Ebert himself, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. He and Russ Meyer followed that up with a Sex Pistols movie entitled Who Killed Bambi. The movie never came to fruition, but it provided memorable experiences meeting Sid Vicious and John Lydon.

Go to episode 385

Rosanne Cash

Considering that Rosanne Cash was born into music royalty, she's a veteran of the business. But that hasn't stopped her from blazing her own trail. The eldest daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne, too, is something of a maverick, never fitting into any proper "Country" or "Rock" cagetories. She eschewed the binding confines of Nashville for New York City, where she lives with husband and musical partner John Leventhal. Rosanne recently released her 13th studio album, The River and the Thread, and she joined us for a special live performance at the WXPN studios in Philadelphia. She talked with Jim and Greg about her father's legacy, working with her husband, breaking away from the Nashville industrial complex, and how she can write a beautiful song based on a tweet.

Go to episode 452

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson is a rock survivor, and with each decade comes a new successful era—whether it's Fairport Convention in the 1960's, with Linda Thompson in the '70s or as a solo artist. (You can check out producer, Joe Boyd, talking about Thompson & Fairport Convention here.) In fact, he's one of only a handful of artists, along the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who have sustained a high level of artistic intensity and integrity since the '60s. And to further set him apart, he's one of few guitar heroes from that generation without an obvious debt to the blues. Instead, you'll hear blends of Eastern tones, jazz, Scottish balladry and Celtic folk. Jim and Greg agree he's one of the most underrated guitarists and songwriters in folk history and would urge acts like Mumford & Sons to“Listen and Learn.”The first step would be to study his live performance, which includes a gem from the "Capitolyears," the yet to be released "Fergus Lang," and the Richard and Linda classic "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight." Plus, check out the bonus track, Greg's request, "Dimming of the Day," which may be his most beautiful love song to date.

Go to episode 446

Best Coast

Jim and Greg are joined by the members of Best Coast. The indie trio, named for lead singer Bethany Cosentino's beloved California region, has a unique combination of shoegaze rock and '60s throwback harmonies reminiscent of the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. Their debut Crazy for You was a surprise hit for an indie release-reaching the Billboard Top 40. Cosentino talks to Jim and Greg about her own musical roots (Dad performed with 70's rock band War), rock heroes (Stevie Nicks) and personal writing style. She's joined by band mates Bobb Bruno on guitars and Ali Koehler, formerly of The Vivian Girls, on drums for a live performance in the studio.

Go to episode 258

Joe Nick Patoski

This week Jim and Greg are joined by Texas music authority Joe Nick Patoski for a discussion about the life and career of Willie Nelson. In his many decades making music, Willie has never fit into any boxes—rock/country, religious/profane. But, as Patoski reveals in his book Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, that is what makes him such an amazing musician and such a thriving American icon. Jim and Greg discuss with Joe Nick the difficulties Willie had in making the transition from a songwriter to a successful solo artist. They also talk about his family history, his outlaw status, both literal and figurative, and his role as the“zen bubba”of pot.

Go to episode 180

Bat Fangs

Bat Fangs

Jim and Greg sit down with Bat Fangs, a new rock duo comprised of guitarist/vocalist Betsy Wright (of Ex Hex) and drummer Laura King (of Flesh Wounds). Bat Fangs released a self-titled album in February and came on our hosts' radar after a stunning showing at SXSW. Wright and King talk to Sound Opinions about how '80s hair metal inspired them and the ways their music counters the toxic masculinity of that genre. (There's also a digression about how getting matching tattoos played into the band's founding.)

Go to episode 667

Warpaint

Jim and Greg are joined in the studio this week by the Los Angeles band, Warpaint. The band is made of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman on guitar and vocals, Jenny Lee Lindberg on bass, and drummer Stella Mozgawa. The band combines rock, electronica, r&b and a host of other genres into a mix that they like to call“sexy,”apt for a band formed on Valentines Day of 2004. Jim and Greg talk to them about musical influences, why it takes so long between records and what is was like working with production superstars, Flood and Nigel Godrich. The band plays us 3 songs from their latest self-titled album, Warpaint.

Go to episode 444
specials

Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz

Charles Mingus If you've had trouble getting into jazz, you are not alone – even Jim and Greg took a while to figure it out. Jazz is an iconic product of the African-American experience, but there are a variety of barriers of entry that rock listeners often have to overcome. To begin with, jazz has existed for twice as long as rock, meaning that there's an intimidating ocean of music to navigate. That's why we've enlisted the help of jazz writer and curator John Corbett to create the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz. John refutes the notion that jazz is“fuddy-duddy”music from a bygone era. Instead, it's an exhilarating, joyful genre that continues to develop today.

There are many potential entry points to jazz that share certain sensibilities with rock music. The hard bop stylings of Sonny Rollins, for example, have a sense of forward propulsion familiar to rock fans. Even though some listeners think of swing as polite, genteel music, John can cite examples of Duke Ellington recordings that have the verve of any good rock guitar solo. Rock and jazz intersect in a very real sense in the jazz-fusion records of Miles Davis in the late 1960s. And bands from The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth have drawn inspiration from the boundary-pushing free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. But jazz is really best appreciated live, so fortunately there are many exciting young jazz artists performing today who exhibit a punk rock sensibility.

Go to episode 491

When Jim and Greg Were Wrong

Music fans tell Jim and Greg they are wrong all the time, but the critics are not too big to admit it themselves. This week they come clean with some of their critical errors. Here are Greg's self-confessed mistakes:

Go to episode 139

Bubblegum Pop

Bubblegum Pop acts like Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers are all the rage now, but a look back at the history of rock shows that teen and tween-oriented acts have always dominated the charts. Ever since music executives discovered how successful you could be marketing to kids, they have been manufacturing Bubblegum Pop acts for each new generation. But while not all of these teen idols can claim to be artists, many produced terrific, upbeat, well-crafted songs. Here are some of Jim and Greg's favorites:

  • Ricky Nelson
  • 1910 Fruitgum Company
  • Ohio Express
  • The Archies
  • The Banana Splits
  • Jackson 5
  • New Edition
  • Boys II Men
  • Backstreet Boys
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Naked Brothers
  • Hilary Duff
Go to episode 155

Remembering Prince

Prince Remembered

"Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last." Yet the party ended much too soon for music legend Prince, who died on April 21 at the age of 57 at his Paisley Park home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Volumes have been said about the late Prince Rogers Nelson in the past week, but Jim and Greg draw attention to aspects of his music and career that aren't acknowledged enough. Growing out of the Minneapolis funk scene, Prince refused to be boxed into a single genre, fearlessly blending funk, pop, rock, soul, new wave, and R&B to create a sound all his own. He was known as a guitar god, but could really play any instrument he touched and often was the only musician on his recordings. Prince carried on the Marvin Gaye and Al Green tradition in R&B of mixing the sacred and the profane, sex and salvation. On records like The Black Album, he created some of the most lascivious music ever, but at the same time, Jim and Greg argue he showed a deep respect for women. Not only did he mentor and collaborate with up-and-coming female stars, but he also was eager to help out his idols like Chaka Khan and Mavis Staples.

Prince was unafraid to explore psychedelia, especially in the crucial three album run of Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Parade in the mid-80s. He spent the rest of his life toiling away at Paisley Park, churning out recording after recording – not without quality control issues. But in the past couple decades, Prince was defined by his unpredictable and often transcendent live performances. Prince was ahead of his time in recognizing the internet as a way to sell music directly to his fans without a label. But his greatest legacy will of course be his music, and his influence on generations of artists is immeasurable.

Go to episode 544

Supergroups

This week Jim and Greg ponder the history of the Supergroup. This is the rock phenomenon where musicians from different bands blend together to form a new group. Take one 1 guitar virtuoso, sprinkle in a legendary drummer and add a dash of star singing-sometimes this is a great success, and sometimes the ingredients just don't mix. Recently there have been a number of new supergroups such as The Good, the Bad and the Queen, Them Crooked Vultures, Tinted Windows, Dead Weather and Monsters of Folk. For Jim the keys to a winning supergroup are that the members be individually“super,”and that they have chemistry together. Greg adds that there needs to be something especially compelling about the super-union for it to be more than just business.

Here are some hits and misses throughout history:

  • Traveling Wilburys
  • Chickenfoot
  • Million Dollar Quartet
  • Cream
  • Blind Faith
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young)
  • UK
  • Golden Palomino
  • Electronic
  • Temple of the Dog
  • Audioslave
  • Lucy Pearl
Go to episode 369

Rock & the Environment

Bill McKibben Musicians have effectively protested war, the AIDS crisis, and nuclear energy. Jim and Greg have talked about the central role music played in the Civil Rights Movement. But with global temperatures rising, are artists doing their part in battling climate change? To examine rock's relationship with the environment this Earth Day, we're joined by environmentalist Bill McKibben. Not only is Bill an author, scholar at Middlebury College, and co-founder of the grassroots climate organization 350.org, he's also a noted rock fan. They discuss the carbon footprint of the music industry from festivals to touring to recorded music manufacturing. But Bill argues the deeper problem is that musicians haven't adequately become part of the movement to influence culture through writing songs about the environment. But Bill, Jim, and Greg highlight the handful of successful environmental protest songs that do exist, from Joni Mitchell to Dr. Octagon.

One musician who's taking an active role in fighting climate change from within the industry is Adam Gardner, guitarist/vocalist for Guster. He's also the co-founder of REVERB, a non-profit dedicated to making bands' tours more sustainable, working with Alabama Shakes, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews Band, and more. Adam also discusses REVERB's efforts to raise awareness of how endangered woods illegally make their way into our guitars.

Go to episode 543
classic album dissections
Let It Be (Expanded Edition)Let It Be available on iTunes

The Replacements Let It Be

This week's feature is a Classic Album Dissection of The Replacements' 1984 release Let It Be. Unlike previously dissected albums like Revolver and Songs in the Key of Life, Let It Be wasn‘t a major critical or commercial success. But, Jim and Greg believe it’s one of the greatest albums ever made. It was the fourth album from the Minneapolis band, which was comprised of four“scruffy”members: Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars. As Jim and Greg explain, this album put the band on the map and helped to define what we know today as“indie music.”To learn more about the making of Let It Be and why it's so special, Jim and Greg talk with longtime Minneapolis music journalist Jim Walsh who has written an oral history of the band called "The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting."

Jim, Greg and Jim Walsh discuss what a radical change Let It Be was for The Replacements. While their previous albums were dominated by noisy, silly tracks, this recording sprinkled those trademark Replacements songs ("Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out," "Gary's Got a Boner") with more mature, heartfelt songs penned by Paul Westerberg. An example of this is the track "Unsatisfied," which Jim and Greg both believe is the highlight of Let It Be. Greg describes the song as“emotional bloodletting,”and an indication of how much Westerberg had grown as a songwriter. He also points out how inventive the instrumentation, which includes 12-string and lap steel guitar, was for the band and punk music in general. Jim calls "Unsatisfied" the "Satisfaction" of the post-punk generation. The song asks a question everyone can relate to:“Is this all there is in life?”But, as Jim notes, there was more in store for The Replacements after the release of Let It Be. It cemented them as an important band in rock history, and even though Westerberg and the band didn't go on to achieve similar greatness, Let It Be will go down as one of the great albums in the rock canon.

Go to episode 97

Big Star Radio City

Jim and Greg celebrate the 40th anniversary of Big Star's debut album by revisiting their Classic Album Dissection of the band's first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. #1 Record might be nearing middle age, but the pop sound Big Star pioneered in the seventies is as vibrant as ever. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music, without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for American“Power Pop”and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg's guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called "Feel." The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn't see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like“Feel,”illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics-many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called "September Gurls." As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim's not sure what the song means, but for him it's more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and“pan-sexuality”it's a power pop classic.

Go to episode 365
RevolverRevolver available on iTunes

The Beatles Revolver

Revolver recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. To honor that, our own rock scientists, Drs. DeRogatis and Kot, decided to dissect The Beatles' masterpiece. In their discussion, as well as in their interview with Geoff Emerick, the man who engineered the album at Abbey Road, you‘ll hear an in-depth breakdown of what made the music so revolutionary. Here’s a sampling of fun-facts and analysis listeners will hear about the different tracks:

Tomorrow Never Knows

The last song on Revolver was actually the first one written. In December 1965, after a mind-expanding acid trip, John Lennon wrote what would later become "Tomorrow Never Knows." The completely unique four-track song, with its organ drones, backward guitar, bird calls, and megaphone vocals, perfectly encapsulates what Revolver was about: revolution. Two interesting points come up in Jim and Greg's discussion with Geoff Emerick about Lennon's lack of technical prowess. Not being able to really communicate how he wanted his vocals to sound technically, he simply asked Emerick to have his voice sound like monks singing on the top of a mountain. Also, the backwards guitar part was merely a happy accident. Lennon, not knowing how to run a reel-to-reel machine, simply loaded the tape backwards and liked what he heard.

Rain

The interesting thing about "Rain" is that it wasn't even released as part of the original Revolver album. It was the B-side of a single (paired with "Paperback Writer") that was recorded during the same session. EMI expected the Beatles to write and record not only an amazing album, but hit singles as well. Jim recommends fans burn their own complete Revolver with the addition of these singles.

Yellow Submarine

Geoff Emerick's description of recording "Yellow Submarine" is one of the most entertaining in his book. The session was attended by a raucous group of notable guests including Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithful and Patti Harrison. In the middle of recording Lennon decided that he wanted to sound like he was singing underwater, and in fact, suggested that he do just that. Out of desperation, the engineer relented and agreed to try it with the microphone placed in a milk bottle filled with water. In order to protect the microphone he used a condom provided by longtime Beatles roadie Mal Evans.

Eleanor Rigby

Emerick was really innovative in how he recorded different instruments. This is particularly evident on this song, written by Paul McCartney, which incorporates an eight-piece string section. In fact, none of The Beatles actually played on "Eleanor Rigby." In order to get the best possible sound, Emerick placed the microphones just inches away from the two violas, two cellos and four violins. Beatles fans are so used to hearing this song so it's hard to imagine what it would be like to experience it for the first time in 1966 on the same record with more traditional sounding rock songs like "Good Day Sunshine" and "Got to Get You Into My Life."

Taxman

Revolver marks significant growth in the band's sound, as well as for the individual Beatles. George Harrison really matured as a songwriter during the recording of this album, which has an unprecedented three songs written by him, as opposed to chief songwriters Lennon and McCartney. While Harrison is often thought of as the more transcendental Beatle, Jim notes that "Taxman" expresses a very normal, earthy concern: paying taxes. While, Harrison grew as a songwriter, Emerick admits that he still struggled with the guitar during some of the recording of this album. After wrestling for almost nine hours with the famous“Taxman”guitar solo, the part ended up being handed over to Paul McCartney, who hit it in one take.

Go to episode 117
Astral Weeks (Expanded Edition)Astral Weeks available on iTunes

Van Morrison Astral Weeks

Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 41 years ago, and to celebrate he released a live version of the album. This gave Jim and Greg a perfect opportunity to look back at Astral Weeks with a Sound Opinions Classic Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. In addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.

Go to episode 171

Van Morrison Astral Weeks

Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 45 years ago, and to celebrate, Jim and Greg conduct a Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, in rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. But, in addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.

Go to episode 414
London CallingLondon Calling available on iTunes

The Clash London Calling

Next up is a patented Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection-this time of one of the greatest double albums of rock history: London Calling by The Clash. London Calling recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and it was a huge leap forward for the English band. All four members seemed to be at their peak during writing and recording: Joe Strummer on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mick Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Paul Simonon on bass and Nicky“Topper”Headon on drums. They were paired with the unconventional Guy Stevens and engineer Bill Price and were able to draw from a ton of new influences-reggae, ska, rockabilly, jazz and rock. Also, the songwriting team of Strummer and Jones was at a high point. Jim and Greg are both moved by Strummer's lyrics, which demonstrate a sophisticated worldview, and play two standout tracks: "Spanish Bombs" and "The Clampdown."

Go to episode 228
reviews
American V: A Hundred HighwaysAmerican V: A Hundred Highways available on iTunes

Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways

This Independence Day also marked the release of a new posthumous album from country legend Johnny Cash. American V: A Hundred Highways is the latest in a series of collaborations between Cash and producer Rick Rubin. As Jim and Greg explain, this was an unlikely partnership resulting in extraordinary music. Rubin, who has mostly worked in the rock and rap arenas with such acts as Run DMC and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, brought a new perspective to Cash's music. He highlighted the strength of Cash's vocals and introduced him to songs by Roberta Flack and Nine Inch Nails. But, both Jim and Greg agree that the collaboration was less than amazing this time around. Cash began recording these songs in 2003, after the death of his wife June Carter and shortly before his own, and you can hear his failing health in his voice. Greg likens the experience to that of listening to Billie Holiday's final recording, Lady in Satin. Both albums leave the listener feeling like a voyeur intruding on the singer's pain and sadness. Jim misses the sense of joy and triumph that Rubin helped bring to Cash's work in the last few years. He wishes that the music had a little more“middle finger”in it, referring to the team's famous Billboard ad in which Cash gives the country music establishment the bird. Therefore, both critics can only give American V a Burn It rating, and instead direct fans to two other releases: Personal File and the American Records box set, Unearthed.

JimGreg
Go to episode 32
Ce available on iTunes

Caetano Veloso

Legendary Brazilian composer Caetano Veloso has a new album out this week called . Veloso first emerged as a member of the Tropicália movement in Brazil in the 1960s. Now he's back with his 40th album, but is proving to be as experimental as ever. is Veloso's version of a rock album; He is backed by musicians three generations his junior, and his son is the album's co-producer. While neither Jim nor Greg speak Portuguese, both critics are impressed with the lyrics' translations. Jim, however, does not think this is a success from beginning to end. Greg, on the other hand, doesn't think Veloso has ever sounded better. He finds the artist to be improving with age. Therefore, gets a split vote of Burn It and Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 65
The Odd CoupleThe Odd Couple available on iTunes

Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple

Next up is a review of an album that's sure to make news in 2008. Gnarls Barkley has released their highly anticipated second album The Odd Couple. This is the follow-up to 2006's successful release St. Elsewhere, which featured the hit single "Crazy." The genre-blending duo consisting of singer/songwriter Cee-Lo Green and DJ Danger Mouse went for an even darker mood on this album, and both Jim and Greg think it's a success. Jim loves the psychedelic universe Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse created-one that's part soul, part rock, part hip-hop. He admits that there are no "Crazy"-style singles, but gives The Odd Couple a big Buy It. Greg was impressed by how the two men take traditional pop genres like British invasion and Motown, and update them for the 21st century. And beneath the psychedelic swirl of sounds are great melodies and complicated lyrics. Greg seconds the Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 122
Game Theory (Bonus Track Version)Game Theory available on iTunes

The Roots Game Theory

Philadelphia hip-hop group The Roots have an album up for review entitled Game Theory. The rappers and musicians largely changed the way hip-hop was perceived by incorporating live instrumentation and rock-style jams into their recordings and performances. Greg has always been a fan, and loves songs like the dark track "In the Music," but doesn‘t think the record is consistent enough. There’s an entire eight minutes of music dedicated to the recently departed producer J Dilla that he can't really excuse—so he gives it a Burn It. Jim believes Game Theory is the best record the group has done since 1999's Things Fall Apart. He loves the dark tone of the record and emotional content of the lyrics, and doles out a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 39
RevelationsRevelations available on iTunes

Audioslave Revelations

Audioslave, the best-selling rock act of the decade, released its third album this week. The band is composed of remnants of successful '90s bands: Lead singer Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden, is joined by Rage Against the Machine's Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, and super-guitarist/activist Tom Morello. Jim and Greg are both big fans of Morello as a person and a musician, but they can't find much redeeming about Audioslave. At least on this album, Revelations, there appears to be an effort to politicize the music's content. However, it still lacks substance, and the music itself is formulaic. Both hosts give Revelations a Trash It. In fact, Jim says if he had four copies, he‘d trash all of them. Greg adds that there’s only one revelation here—"that this band is really bad."

JimGreg
Go to episode 39
Interpretations: The British Rock SongbookInterpretations: The British Rock Songbook available on iTunes

Bettye LaVette Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook

What happens when a veteran soul singer takes on classic British rock tunes? The answer is actually not as exciting as one might think. Both Jim and Greg were really looking forward to Bettye LaVette's Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook. The album came out of LaVette's Kennedy Center Honors performance of "Love Reign O'er Me," by The Who. She put her unique, alto rasp to use on subsequent covers of songs by Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. But, as Greg explains, the album's sleepy, slow-burn pace didn't do her voice or the songs justice. Jim agrees, and also wishes LaVette had chosen more original songs by these famous artists. They both regrettably give the record a Trash It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 235
Modern TimesModern Times available on iTunes

Bob Dylan Modern Times

As fall approaches, record companies begin to roll out some of the year's biggest albums in time for the holidays. This week, Jim and Greg review some of the most notable, including the 44th studio release from rock veteran Bob Dylan. Modern Times is actually not a very modern album at all. In fact, Dylan recently dissed all of the music of the past 20 years, including that made by his son. Rather, he opted to record this music in a lo-fi style reminiscent of the music of the '30s and '40s. Jim appreciated Dylan's ever-growing sense of humor and irony, but couldn‘t take some of the tracks’ Bing Crosby/Rudy Vallée style of crooning. He gives it a Burn It. Greg doesn't think that Modern Times is as good as Dylan's previous two releases, possibly because the band seems to be intimidated by their leader, but this effort still merits a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 39
Washington Square SerenadeWashington Square Serenade available on iTunes

Steve Earle Washington Square Serenade

The album up for review this week is Washington Square Serenade by veteran roots-rocker Steve Earle. This is Earle's 12th studio album, and was partly inspired by his 7th wife. The singer/songwriter has always combined rock, folk and country with strong political messages, but, now he's adding“happiness”to the mix. As you can hear in many of the album's songs, Earle is very much in love with new wife Allison Moorer, who also appears on the record. Another new person in Earle's life is Dust Brothers producer John King, who has previously crafted albums for Beck and the Beastie Boys. King brought in elements of hip hop and Latin music, and Jim loves the results. It took him longer to get into Washington Square Serenade, than any other Earle album, but with the exception of two bum tracks, he gives it a Try It. Greg is less pleased with the happy Steve Earle. He explains that with the new wife, producer and location, this effort has all the trappings of a“mid-life crisis”recording. Only some of it works for Greg, and he misses the political broadsides of previous albums. Greg also gives Washington Square Serenade a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 97
Researching the Blues (Bonus Track Version)Researching the Blues available on iTunes

Redd Kross Researching the Blues

Jim and Greg review Researching the Blues, the new record from California rock veterans Redd Kross. Adopted as the“little brothers”of L.A.'s hardcore punk scene when they first formed in 1980, Redd Kross always tended more Beach Boys than Black Flag in sound. Their 1990 record Third Eye was a harbinger of later alt-era successes (Nevermind for one), but the band itself never achieved Nirvana-level success and went on hiatus in 1997. Researching the Blues, the band's first new record in 15 years, reunites the“classic lineup”of Jeff McDonald, Steve McDonald, Robert Hecker, and Roy McDonald. Both Jim and Greg agree they're glad to have these boys back. Redd Kross have cut all the fat, Greg says. They get in, give you a great guitar solo and some killer harmonies, and then get out. Past records have been rife with seventies pop-culture references. Greg thinks Redd Kross are taking themselves a bit more seriously this time around, though Jim points out there are still enough kitschy references to Dracula and Frankenstein to keep things light. Researching the Blues gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 350
In RainbowsIn Rainbows available on iTunes

Radiohead In Rainbows

While there's a lot of buzz about Radiohead's release experiment for In Rainbows, Jim and Greg believe that the album is actually one of the band's more subtle and modest efforts. It's 10 songs, 42 minutes of beautiful music, all of which feature the band's characteristic electronic elements, guitars and strings, but it's less straight-up rock than fans are used to. And, as Jim pointed out in his review of Thom Yorke's solo album Eraser, the Radiohead frontman has really refined his singing in the past couple of years. The result is almost a soul record according to Greg. It investigates human beings‘ need for love, despite the heartache it can bring. And, Jim adds, like almost all of the band’s releases, it also investigates the good and bad that can come from increased technology. Whatever themes you take from the record, Jim and Greg are confident that you will be happy to own this record — whether you pay for it or not. In Rainbows gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 99
It's a Bit ComplicatedIt's A Bit Complicated available on iTunes

Art Brut It's A Bit Complicated

This week is an all out reviews blowout beginning with the sophomore album from British rock act Art Brut. Jim and Greg were both Art Brut fans from the get-go. They saw them at last year's SXSW Festival and invited them on the show. And once the band's debut album Bang Bang Rock and Roll was released in the States, it immediately soared to the top of both critics‘ Best of 2006 lists. So it’s no exaggeration to say that this follow-up has been highly anticipated. On It's A Bit Complicated, the band sticks to their three-minute garage rock formula that, ironically enough, isn't very complicated at all. But, Jim and Greg explain that Eddie Argos and the band have stepped up their game and amped up the hooks. Argos' earnest and self-deprecating lyrics are still there, making his stories completely relatable, especially for fellow rock obsessives like Jim and Greg. It's A Bit Complicated gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
Era VulgarisEra Vulgaris available on iTunes

Queens of the Stone Age Era Vulgaris

Era Vulgaris is the fifth album from rockers Queens of the Stone Age. Ever since Josh Homme left the stoner rock group Kyuss in 1995, he's been celebrating and satirizing heavy metal as the lead singer of this band. He's often joined by a revolving door of musical guests, which this time around includes Trent Reznor and Julian Casablancas. Jim thinks that Homme and the band have done a great job of bringing brains, melody and psychedelia back to heavy metal. But, he hasn't loved the last two records. He worries that Homme is beginning to phone it in and only gives Era Vulgaris a Burn It. Greg has always been struck by how sensual Queens' music sounds. They embrace using sexy rhythms when most heavy metal acts abandon them, creating a completely unique sound. He calls Era Vulgaris a terrific record and recommends listeners Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
Skeleton TreeSkeleton Tree available on iTunes

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree

Australian rock band Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds are back with a new record called Skeleton Tree. The album is particularly dark, even by Cave's standards, and deals with the aftermath of the death of Cave's teenage son. Jim thinks it's a hard listen, even for fans. He wishes that the album had a moment of redemption at the end, but recognizes that perhaps Cave has not yet found it. For those reasons, he gives Skeleton Tree a Try It. Greg agrees that the record is harrowing, meditating on questions of the pointlessness of life and how to carry on after losing a loved one. The way Cave interprets these songs is tragically beautiful, with vocals unlike any he's ever provided, and Greg feels he's working toward the light. While Skeleton Tree may not be something you want to listen to all the time, he gives it a Buy It for its earnest beauty.

JimGreg
Go to episode 565
Chrome Dreams IIChrome Dreams II available on iTunes

Neil Young Chrome Dreams II

Fellow rock rebel Neil Young has a new record out called Chrome Dreams II. Chrome Dreams I was a 1977 album that Young decided to scrap, despite the fact that it had some early versions of some of his most famous songs. None of those original songs are on this second effort, but you definitely get the sense that the musician is taking stock. This makes sense considering that it's been only two years since Young suffered a brain aneurysm. As Greg describes, it's a patchwork of different eras made with a bunch of different musicians, and many of the songs can be interpreted as prayers. Greg was surprised to hear such spirituality, but he found the album quite moving. He gives it a Buy It. Jim didn‘t hear as much heaviness on the album. He heard goofball moments as well. Young is looking back at his life, but he’s laughing at himself too, and Jim loves it. He also gives Chrome Dreams II a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 99
Hazards of LoveThe Hazards of Love available on iTunes

The Decemberists The Hazards of Love

With their new album The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists are poised to reach their biggest audience to date. And neither Jim nor Greg think listeners, old or new, will be disappointed. The songs are typically fanciful and epic, but rock harder than ever. In fact, Greg thinks keyboardist Jenny Conlee deserves an award for her Deep Purple stylings. Both he and Greg give the album a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 173
The ArchAndroid (Deluxe)The ArchAndroid available on iTunes

Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid

On the other end of the rock spectrum is Janelle Monáe. The alternative R&B singer's debut album is called The ArchAndroid. It's a dense science fiction concept record that incorporates hip hop, soul, funk, rock and big bandsounds. Jim hears the most ambition from an R&B singer in a long time. He loves Monáe's universe and gives The ArchAndroid a Buy It. Greg goes even further, calling this record the best he's heard this year. Spend time with it and you will love it. The ArchAndroid gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 234
Long Road Out of EdenLong Road Out of Eden available on iTunes

Eagles Long Road Out of Eden

So consumers are excited about Long Road Out of Eden, but how do Jim and Greg feel? Greg explains that with the exception of mentions of“cell phones”and“SUV's,”this album could just as easily have been made in 1980 as 2007. Don Henley and Glenn Frey are still up to their old tricks, mixing country and rock with a hint of sentimentality. In fact, while their country-rock fusion sound was radical in the 1970s, it's the norm in Nashville today. Greg hears nothing on this record that needs hearing, and recommends fans of the band check out their 1990 greatest hits album. Jim completely agrees; he doesn't want to hear Don Henley preaching about the sorry state of the world, particularly when the band agreed to sell its soul to Wal-Mart. But, more egregious than the terrible lyrics is the sleepy sound. The Eagles managed to be both irritating and boring, so they get a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 102
Crack the SkyeCrack the Skye available on iTunes

Mastodon Crack the Skye

And just when you thought we couldn't rock any harder, Jim and Greg get to their review of heavy metal band Mastodon's latest release Crack the Skye. The quartet also faces bigger exposure with this album, and the question in fans' minds is if they can do it without selling out. Jim and Greg's response: definitely. For Jim, Crack the Skye is dark and disorienting, as metal should be. But, producer Brendan O'Brien helped keep the music melodic and on course. Greg believes the songs‘ emotions will help draw more people in, but without sacrificing Mastodon’s hardcore metal roots. Crack the Skye gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 173
Wilderness Heart (Bonus Track Version)

Black Mountain Wilderness Heart

Vancouver quintet Black Mountain also has a new album out called Wilderness Heart. Don't let the name make you think this is another folky, beard rock band. Black Mountain is straight up classic stoner rock ala Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, and they make no bones about it. Jim describes it as heavy, psychedelic, sultry, trippy-how could he not like it? Greg is happy to hear Black Mountain bringing their sound and influences forward. The songwriting is great, not to mention the mellotron. It's a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 254
Years of RefusalYears of Refusal available on iTunes

Morrissey Years of Refusal

Morrissey is back with a new album, Years of Refusal, and an old attitude. The songs on his last release Ringleader of the Tormentors showed a softer, happier side of the Irish rocker. But, as his fans know, Moz is best when he is miserable. Greg compares his newfound mid-life aggression to that of Nick Cave. The quips aren't as witty as some of Morrissey's best, but the music is as good as ever. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim agrees. This is some of the best work Morrissey has ever done. He also gives a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 169
In BetweenIn Between available on iTunes

The Feelies In Between

The New Jersey rock band The Feelies has just released their sixth album in four decades called In Between. The group is noted for its cohesion and consistency over its long tenure. Greg thoroughly enjoys this record, and admires The Feelies‘ skill in combining elements of rock with zen and existential messaging ("make a plan, let it be.") He also appreciates the band’s ability to perform as one voice, which speaks to how close these guys are. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim couldn't agree more, and he expresses his deep admiration and love for The Feelies. He finds this record to be well worth the wait, and praises the group for their combination of the best sounds of The Velvet Underground and Brian Eno (ding!) Without hesitation, Jim gives In Between an enthusiastic Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 588
Near To The Wild Heart Of LifeNear to the Wild Heart of Life available on iTunes

Japandroids Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Canadian rock band Japandroids have just released their first album since 2012, Near to the Wild Heart of Life. Many people thought this band wasn't going to return to the road or the recording studios, but both Jim and Greg were fans of their previous two albums. Greg thinks this album is just okay, and many of the songs clocking out several minutes longer than they should. He admires the ambition of Near to the Wild Heart of Life, but thinks that the group ended up sacrificing their fun, signature rock and roll sound in the process. Greg gives it a Try It. Jim thinks Greg is being a little grumpier than he needs to be about this record. He thinks they get the“barroom sage poet”element just right. He also likes the instrumental experimentation, and gives this album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 584
No Line On the Horizon (Deluxe Edition)No Line on the Horizon available on iTunes

U2 No Line on the Horizon

Irish super rockers U2 have a new album out called No Line on the Horizon. It's the band's 12th album, and after a brief stint with producer Rick Rubin, they've returned to working with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Greg was pleased to hear that after a couple of“U2 by numbers”albums, they‘ve returned to emphasizing sound. They’ve restored the sense of mystery and atmosphere on a handful of tracks. But, Greg wishes the entire album was like that. He doesn't feel they quite pulled it off and gives No Line on the Horizon a Try It. Jim is shocked to hear himself say it, but he disagrees. Bono was wrong to suggest this record is the band's best, but Jim thinks they are definitely still relevant. And he finds the good tracks so extraordinarily good that they overshadow the bum ones. Jim gives the new U2…a Buy It!

JimGreg
Go to episode 170
American BandAmerican Band available on iTunes

Drive-By Truckers American Band

The Georgia rock band Drive-By Truckers are back with their 11th studio album, American Band. While the southern rock group has been playing together for around 20 years, their latest record is very much in the now, discussing hot button issues like immigration, race relations and gun control. Jim loves this record and he respects the band for still thrilling listeners all these years later. Jim thinks that this album interprets the important issues of today in a way that measures up to what Neil Young and Crazy Horse did at the height of their powers. He gives American Band an enthusiastic Buy It. Greg agrees, and feels the album has a great balance between the band's signature guitar-based anthem rock and introspective, moodier tracks. He likes the record's social consciousness, and thinks it's just damn good music to boot. Greg gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 568
Dig in DeepDig In Deep available on iTunes

Bonnie Raitt Dig In Deep

Forget about these young whippersnappers featured on today's show. Bonnie Raitt has just released her 20th album! Called Dig In Deep, it has the blues rock veteran working overtime as artist, producer and label head. But, as Jim and Greg remark, there's nothing tired or stale here, Greg exclaims, "let us all bow down to her slide guitar tone" and gives Dig in Deep a Buy It. Jim goes with a Try It, explaining that while he appreciates the up-tempo tracks, he isn't moved by the ballads.

JimGreg
Go to episode 536
A Head Full of DreamsHead Full of Dreams available on iTunes

Coldplay Head Full of Dreams

Over the past 15 years, Coldplay has arguably become the biggest rock band in music. The group returns with their 7th album, A Head Full of Dreams, which lead singer Chris Martin says is the band's last effort. Greg thinks that in the past the group has presented some interesting and layered material, but not in 2016. This is their most pop/danceable album yet Greg feels there's a lack of conviction. Coldplay just didn't take it far enough, and the lyrics are pretty awful to boot. Greg gives it a Trash It. Jim agrees and thinks the Coldplay of yore was a very good band indeed. But the Coldplay of today doesn't go anywhere new. Even bringing in the big guns like Beyoncé and President Obama can‘t save this record. It’s a double Trash It for A Head Full of Dreams.

JimGreg
Go to episode 528
RevelationsRevelations available on iTunes

Shamir Revelations

Singer-songwriter Shamir is back with a new album called Revelations. While his debut Ratchet sported a lot of house music and festival hooks, Revelations is a much more mid-fi effort that mixes genres like folk, soul and rock. Jim finds the record to be a shocking departure but in a good way. Shamir is singing about what's on his mind: racism, sexism, gender, sexuality, etc. He articulates his thoughts wonderfully with a sonically interesting blend of musical styles. Jim is a fan of Revelations and gives it a Buy it. Greg agrees, and loves that Shamir is asserting his independence and uniqueness as an artist. He also loves Shamir's allusions to other artists he admires, like the Ronettes and the Pixies. Greg finds this album to be inspired and interesting, and gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 624
AccelerateAccelerate available on iTunes

R.E.M. Accelerate

One of the most buzzed about events at the festival was the debut of songs from R.E.M.'s new album Accelerate. The band played its first show at SXSW, as well as Austin City Limits. (You can hear their live performance of "Fall On Me" during the show.) Jim and Greg both saw the rock veterans perform and have listened to the new album. So what's the verdict? Jim's feelings are mixed. R.E.M. is a band that has meant a lot to him in the early part of their career, but has disappointed him in the past decade. They've never reached the peaks they did with albums like Life's Rich Pageant, Murmur and Automatic for the People. He thought the ACL live show was better than recent tours, but not amazing. And the same can be said of Accelerate. They've returned to their roots, but not to form, and Jim can only give it a Try It. Greg was actually pleasantly surprised to hear the band re-invested again-for the first time since losing drummer Bill Berry. That was an incredible loss for the other three members, and Accelerate is the first album in years that can stand up to their earlier work, according to Greg. He hears a renewed urgency in Michael Stipe's voice and the emphasis placed once again on Peter Buck's guitar. Greg gives Accelerate a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 121
Icky Thump

The White Stripes Icky Thump

Jim and Greg spend the last leg of the show discussing the new album from Detroit natives Meg and Jack White. Icky Thump is The White Stripes‘ sixth studio effort in nearly ten years. Jim and Greg trace the duo’s trajectory from their 1999 self-titled debut, to most recently, their 2005 commercial success and sonic departure, Get Behind Me Satan. Icky Thump continues this development, demonstrating how one of the biggest rock acts in the world are truly junk collectors. You hear them flirting with mariachi and flamenco music, referencing Scottish folk songs, and even covering traditional pop singer Patti Page. The album shows exactly how well-listened Jack White truly is. Greg calls Meg White,“terrific,”standing behind the oft-discredited drummer. He doesn't think Icky Thump is a beginning-to-end perfect album, but believes it's the band's best work to date. He gives it a Buy It. Jim goes even further calling this release“a masterpiece.”That gives the White Stripes latest a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 82
Real AnimalReal Animal available on iTunes

Alejandro Escovedo Real Animal

Alejandro Escovedo has been making music since the late '70s, and now he's back with a new album called Real Animal. Escovedo has had a checkered career that's been mostly under the radar, but has worked with some of the most influential musicians in rock history. A lot of these names pop up on Real Animal, but as with other releases, Jim doesn‘t think Escovedo delivers the goods on record. He’s much more impressive live. Jim can hear the riffs pilfered from Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Lou Reed and doubts he'll ever listen to this album again. He gives it a generous Try It. Greg thinks Jim missed a good deal of the album. To Greg, the pilferings are more homages, especially to Mott the Hoople's Ian Hunter. The emotional temperature of this album is so high that Greg thinks listeners should Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 134
Sound of SilverSound of Silver available on iTunes

LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver

The final review of the show is of LCD Soundsystem's second release, Sound of Silver. LCD Soundsystem is helmed by James Murphy, the DFA producer many credit with defining the New York club sound. His merging of disco and rock with the debut LCD release was hugely successful among critics and music fans. Now Murphy and co. are back with a second release that veers more towards the disco than the rock. Fans of the first release might be disappointed initially; this album doesn't suck you in as fast. But, both Jim and Greg urge listeners to give it more than one try. Some of the songs are less accessible, but music fans (and frustrated critics) will appreciate the many inside jokes and reference points. Sound of Silver gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 68
Anthem of the Peaceful ArmyAnthem of the Peaceful Army available on iTunes

Greta Van Fleet Anthem of the Peaceful Army

The rock band Greta Van Fleet just released its anticipated debut album, Anthem of the Peaceful Army. The young band hails from Frankenmuth, Michigan and its members are students of rock and roll, which is obviously evident on Anthem. Greg says there's no denying that GVF is imitating the titans of rock history, Led Zeppelin, but notes that they aren't the first to do so. From vocals to sonic style to costumes to lyrics, this band tries to emulate the magic of Led Zeppelin I. While Greg believes the group has musical chops, he wishes the band would create an original sound and album. Jim pokes fun at the albums' serious and dramatic lyrics by reciting a poem made up of one line from each song on the record. He feels like the band members are in costume, wishes they would be more original and take themselves a little less seriously.

JimGreg
Go to episode 674
MomofukuMomofuku available on iTunes

Elvis Costello Momofuku

Elvis Costello has a new album out called Momofuku, which is named after the creator of instant ramen. Costello made news after he decided to release a vinyl record a month before the digital/CD release, but Jim thinks the real news is the speed at which the singer/songwriter made it. Costello has released a number of albums and dabbled in a number of genres, but he isn‘t known for his expediency. Greg wishes that Costello didn’t dabble so much and would stick to his stripped down rock roots. Jim agrees, citing Costello's fantastic, pared down performance during his tour with Bob Dylan. Both critics wish this Ramen concoction had fewer ingredients. Greg gives Momofuku a Try It, and Jim gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 128
West (Bonus Track Version)West available on iTunes

Lucinda Williams West

It may not be fair, but Lucinda Williams gets to follow the Ramones. Her new album, West, was released last week. This is Williams‘ eighth album in a 28-year career that has established her as one of music’s premiere singer/songwriters. Williams grew up steeped in literature and poetry as well as rock, country and folk music, and that background has really affected her sound. This album is in the same vein, but takes a somewhat different turn with producer Hal Wilner. Jim loves what Wilner contributes to the album. It feels like you are right there with Lucinda, who is“venting her spleen.”But, Jim has to wonder if everything is OK in the Williams household. The album is just too dark, and too oppressive. He gives it a Burn It. Greg agrees that people should hide their razor blades while listening to this album, but notes that Wilner is really effective at setting a mood and putting William's voice in the forefront. He just wishes that she varied the musical palette more on West. He'd like to hear more songs like the fiery "Come On." It's another Burn It for Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 64
Honey MoonHoney Moon available on iTunes

The Handsome Family Honey Moon

The Handsome Family has a new album out this week called Honey Moon. Like the title, many of the songs on the album relate nature to love. Love songs are a dime a dozen, but both Jim and Greg are hugely impressed with what the husband and wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks do with the topic. Brett has mastered their home studio, bringing their alt-country sound to a more pop one. And, according to our hosts, Rennie is one of the greatest songwriters working in rock today. Both Jim and Greg give Honey Moon a Buy It, and Jim also encourages listeners to go back to the duo's 1998 masterpiece Through the Trees.

JimGreg
Go to episode 178
Ghost StoriesGhost Stories available on iTunes

Coldplay Ghost Stories

In 2011, not even Jim and Greg's disapproval could keep Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto from taking the band to new heights of arena rock success. Three years later, Chris Martin and his plaintive falsetto are back for more with Ghost Stories, the band's sixth studio album. Initially, Greg appreciated Ghost Stories's move away from the anthemic sing-alongs of Mylo Xyloto into a more sparse musical landscape, not unlike the band's melodic debut Parachutes. Ultimately, though, Ghost Stories never quite reaches the same heights as that album, with both critics put to sleep by Martin's (newfound) heartbreak-filled lyrics set to somber music that's molded in part by EDM producer Avicii and hip hop Timbaland. Jim and Greg both say Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 443
Teeth DreamsTeeth Dreams available on iTunes

The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams

Minneapolis-born, Brooklyn-bred Beat-rockers The Hold Steady have undergone a few changes since their 2009 visit to Sound Opinions. The band took a break after the departure of keyboardist (and moustache idol) Franz Nicolay, while frontman Craig Finn put out a solo album. Now the boys are back, with an extra guitarist, Steve Selvidge, and a sixth album called Teeth Dreams. It's their first venture with producer Nick Raskulinecz (best known for his work with Foo Fighters, Rush, and Evanesence), and as Greg points out, their sound is“slicker”than ever. Perhaps too slick — while the band can still rock, the album is bogged down with slow, melodramatic experimentation. Greg has to say Try It. Jim scoffs at the lyricist's literary bent — with Finn so obviously ripping off Raymond Chandler and Jack Kerouac, this host has to wonder if it's parody. Regardless, Jim prefers The Hold Steady live, in their bombastic, Springsteen-ian element — as for Teeth Dreams, it's a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 436
The VoyagerThe Voyager available on iTunes

Jenny Lewis The Voyager

It has been 6 years since California folk-rock siren Jenny Lewis released her last solo album, and Jim and Greg have been chomping at the bit to see what her most recent release has to offer. The former child actress turned indie songstress lived through some turbulent stresses during that time, including the death of her estranged father, a bout of insomnia and the break-up of her band, the power pop group Rilo Kiley. All of this made its way onto The Voyager, a slow syrupy overflow of calming soundscape reminiscent of California's late 60's/early 70's Laurel Canyon sound. Greg was taken by its deceptive smoothness. His only critique points toward the balmy sweetness of the music. However, that sound provides a great foil to the complicated lyrics. He says Buy It. Jim agrees, though he's less of a fan of Lewis' obvious inspiration (Fleetwood Mac to name one). But, he describes the album as brave and seconds the Buy It.

Check out Jenny on Sound Opinions

JimGreg
Go to episode 452
The Boxing MirrorThe Boxing Mirror available on iTunes

Alejandro Escovedo The Boxing Mirror

Eno's occasional partner in crime, John Cale, also makes an appearance in this week's show, having produced the latest release from Alejandro Escovedo. The Boxing Mirror is the ninth album from the musician, who can only be described as part-punk, part-country and part-rock. Escovedo grew up admiring the Velvet Underground, and Jim and Greg agree that the match between him and Cale is one made in heaven. Jim has never been a major fan of Escovedo's singer/songwriter style, but he thinks this is his best solo effort, perhaps due to Escovedo's newly found lust for life. He survived a life-threatening outbreak of Hepatitis C a couple years ago, and the music demonstrates that he is indeed very happy to be alive. Greg agrees and compares Escovedo's renewal to that experienced by Neil Young. Both albums give The Boxing Mirror a Buy It and urge fans try to see Escovedo, along with musicians like Susan Voelz, perform live.

JimGreg
Go to episode 23
Sound & ColorSound & Color available on iTunes

Alabama Shakes Sound & Color

Alabama Shakes has the sometimes difficult task of topping a great debut album. With its new release, Sound & Color, Jim and Greg both think Shakes cleared the hurdle with flying colors. Greg says that the band has really utilized the studio to offer a multitude of soundscapes and Brittany Howard's deeply personal lyrics are a great compliment to the sound which mixes soul, rock and blues. Jim thinks the sound of this album is kaleidoscopic, and, like Greg, gives this album a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 496
Boys and Girls In AmericaBoys and Girls in America available on iTunes

The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America

Next up is the third release from New York rock group The Hold Steady. Boys and Girls in America continues the band's streak of "bar band" music, but our hosts disagree about this record's big musical influences. Greg hears a lot of AC/DC and '70s hard rock in the songs, but Jim really only hears one thing: Bruce Springsteen. As Sound Opinions listeners know, for Jim, this is not good. He calls The Hold Steady's music“lousy,”and finds their blue-collar lyrics really put-upon. Greg doesn't think that Jim is giving head songwriter Craig Finn enough credit. He finds his storytelling smart and very believable. Boys and Girls in America gets a Trash It from Jim and a Buy It from Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 46
Lost On the River (Deluxe Version)Lost on the River available on iTunes

The New Basement Tapes Lost on the River

Who knew that one summer in a basement in upstate New York in 1967 would become such a big deal? But fans of Bob Dylan and The Band are still poring over the material that came out of those musicians‘ one-take, slapdash recording sessions, decades later. It’s amazing considering that those Basement Tapes weren't even supposed to go public. Now, more lyrics from that time have surfaced and have been turned into new music produced by T. Bone Burnett and performed by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons. The result is Lost on the River by The New Basement Tapes. Greg particularly admires the bluesy, pre-rock sound contributed by Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But, for the most part, he doesn't hear any of the magic of The Basement Tapes. And that's not surprising considering it was a contrived project with the manufactured setting of the basement of Capitol Records in L.A., not rural New York. He can only say Try It. Jim thinks Greg is being kind. He doesn‘t think you can separate Dylan’s lyrics and poetry from Dylan's music and voice. This collaboration is nothing like the successful Wilco/Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie project Mermaid Avenue. He says Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 468
The EternalThe Eternal available on iTunes

Sonic Youth The Eternal

Rock veterans Sonic Youth have released their 16th studio album, The Eternal. With a lineup shuffle and label change, they have returned to form according to Jim and Greg. Neither critic hears anything groundbreaking or new, but the urban surf grooves are back in a big way. Jim hasn't enjoyed anything the band has done in 17 years, but finally hears some truly great songs. The Eternal gets a Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 184
Push the Sky Away (Deluxe Edition)Push the Sky Away available on iTunes

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push the Sky Away

Nick Cave, of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, is a modern renaissance man-novelist, poet, actor, playwright, and of course rocker. Now, with his band, he's released the ensemble's 15th album called Push the Sky Away. Greg is impressed with the scope of the lyrics-from the God Particle to Hannah Montana. This record is more introspective and more minimalist, and Greg says Buy It. Jim is disappointed and wishes the tracks were less monotonous and less quiet. He misses the punk explosion and can only recommend you Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 378
Crosseyed HeartCrosseyed Heart available on iTunes

Keith Richards Crosseyed Heart

Keith Richards is, at times, more of a myth than a man. His riffs are legendary, and his ability to survive his own rock lifestyle is almost supernatural. But his new solo effort, Crosseyed Heart, is an opportunity to show the real Keith, grit and all. The bare-bones production style is admirable, as are personal tracks like "Amnesia," which references his 2006 brain surgery. But, for the most part, this is Keith-by-numbers, nothing great. So Greg says Try It. Jim thinks he's being kind and can't understand why anyone would need to sample this record, let alone own it. He notes that The Rolling Stones, solo and together, have been letting us down three times longer than they were good! When they were good, they were very good. But this record ain't that. Trash It, says Jim.

JimGreg
Go to episode 514
Together Through LifeTogether Through Life available on iTunes

Bob Dylan Together Through Life

Another rock icon, Bob Dylan, has a new album out this week called Together Through Life. This is Dylan's 33rd studio release, and for this effort he's enlisted some help including David Hidalgo of Los Lobosand lyrics writing partner Robert Hunter. The release of this record took Jim and Greg by surprise, and to Greg it feels a bit tossed off. The lyrics especially don‘t feel as important as what you’d expect from this legendary wordsmith. Greg calls the album“mid-tier”Dylan and gives it a Try It rating. Jim admits that the lyrics aren't full of gravitas, but to hear the rocker jamming for pure joy at the age of 68 is wonderful, especially with the squeezebox stylings of Hidalgo. He gives Together Through Life a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 180
RuinsRuins available on iTunes

First Aid Kit Ruins

The Swedish duo First Aid Kit is returning with their fourth studio album, Ruins. The band, made up of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, is known for their beautiful and intricate harmonies. While Jim loves these harmonies, he finds that Ruins relies on that strength a bit too much. He loves when the duo ups the production with a big backing band sound that pushes them out of their comfort zone. He thinks Ruins is half a great album and gives it a Try It. Greg really enjoys First Aid Kit, and loves when they show a different, rocking side to them. He loved when the band performed a cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" when he saw them on tour in 2015. He also loved their single "You Are the Problem Here," a song that eviscerates men who abuse their power to harass women. Greg wishes he would have seen more of the duo's intense side, but he enjoys the harmonies and beautiful vocals the band supplies. He gives it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 636
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful WorldWhat a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World available on iTunes

The Decemberists What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

Portland folk-rock band The Decemberists has steadily ascended the ranks of rock stardom over their career, even hitting #1 on the Billboard charts with their previous album The King Is Dead. But it's been four years since that record dropped, and in the intervening period the band has developed a new diversity in their sound. Their new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World experiments with a variety of pop styles not found in previous records, while still featuring the trademark hyperliterate lyrics of leader Colin Meloy. Greg is happy to hear the band in top form, nicely complemented by the harmony vocals of Rachel Flotard and Kelly Hogan. Jim loves how they manage to flirt with the prog rock sounds of Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer without a hint of pretentiousness, all thanks to Meloy's self-deprecating sense of humor. Both critics give it a Buy It, with Jim going so far as to call it the first masterpiece of 2015.

JimGreg
Go to episode 477
High LifeSomeday World available on iTunes

Karl Hyde & Brian Eno Someday World


Pop/Rock icon (and enabler of the Sound Opinions drinking game) Brian Eno boasts a tremendous library of groundbreaking work, as well as a long history of rich collaborations, including joint projects with artists such as the Talking Heads, David Bowie, U2, and Coldplay. Most recently, Eno joined forces with electronic Underworlder Karl Hyde. The partnership produced two albums, Someday World and High Life, both released in rapid succession this year. Jim believes the that the two albums must be considered together, with the latter, High life, simply an extension of the first and former Someday World. That one was a“poppier”album, mostly comprised of Eno's previously unfinished pieces bolstered by Hyde's intervention. From Jim's perspective, the duo's attempt to combine Phillip Glass-minimalism with afro-beats is“not the greatest in the world”(a staggering response from the "unofficial president of the Brian Eno fan club). And most importantly it fails to provide Eno fans with what they truly want: more singing Eno. That said, an ever-faithful student, he asserts a Buy It stance for himself and a Try It for the rest of us.

Unlike Jim, Greg argues that these two albums must be viewed as two distinct entities—separate endeavors each with their own merits and shortcomings. Although he dishes out a borderline Trash It rating to the patchwork Someday World, he remarks that“the duo really hit their stride,”with this second, more experimental attempt and gladly jumps on board Jim's Eno train to give High Life a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 450
Black IceBlack Ice available on iTunes

AC/DC Black Ice

According to Dr. North's study if you like harder rock you tend to be gentle and creative, but also suffer from low self-esteem, and a bad work ethic. On the plus side you will probably be happy to hear the next review. Classic hard-rock group AC/DC is back with a new album called Black Ice. After waiting eight years for a new release, fans are probably curious to hear what's new. The answer is not much. While they are trying out a new distribution model by making their album available only at Wal-Mart, AC/DC is not trying out a new sound. On Black Ice you‘ll still hear the band’s hallmark rhythms and riffs. Jim and Greg aren‘t disappointed though. They’ve heard this sound for over 30 years and it's still a great one. Greg just wishes their new release was as short and sharp as their former ones. He gives it a Try It, and Jim goes with a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 151
dijs

Jim

“Starship”MC5

There's no better desert island track for the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz than "Starship" by MC5.“Starship”comes from the band's debut album Kick Out the Jams and showcases its musical influences. The perfect merger between the two genres, the godfathers of punk took a poem by jazz icon Sun Ra and turned it into a song. This eight minute long track exemplifies a wild free jazz experience where the band is leaving the earth and the stage. For Jim and many others, MC5 was a gateway for rock fans to jazz. Do you have a question, comment or suggestion? Contact us here.

Go to episode 491

Greg

“Mala Vida”Mano Negra

With France in the air this episode, Greg thinks back to one of his favorite French rock acts: Mano Negra. Co-founded by musician Manu Chao, the band deftly combined rock, reggae, afropop, punk and ska. Their track "Mala Vida," from their 1989 release Puta's Fever truly gives new meaning to the term“world music,”and it's a song Greg wants to groove to on the desert island.

Go to episode 235

Greg

“Moody”ESG

This week it is Greg's turn to choose a song for the Desert Island Jukebox. He goes back to the late '70s and early '80s, the era when rock and dance music merged. This period has been referenced a lot during discussions of contemporary bands like Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem. For his pick, Greg goes to one of the sources—ESG. This South Bronx group made up of four sisters worked with Martin Hannett, best known as the producer of Joy Division. While not skilled musicians, the Scroggins Sisters had a unique sound that greatly influenced house and post-punk bands. Their track "UFO" is actually one of the most heavily sampled songs in music history. But for his DIJ, Greg chooses to play "Moody," which is both atmospheric and danceable. Listen for the conga solo by the sisters' friend Tito.

Go to episode 7

Greg

“She's Lost Control”Grace Jones

As a nod to Peaches‘ irreverent, gender-bending ways, Greg digs deep down in his music collection for this week’s Desert Island Jukebox pick. He chooses a track by '70s and '80s model/pop star/diva Grace Jones. Before Peaches, or even Madonna, shocked and awed people with their controversial lyrics and style, Grace Jones was crossing lines between genders and musical genres. She was beautiful, but also masculine. Her music was rock, but also disco. So, like David Bowie, Jones had audiences questioning the idea of identity. But it wasn't until she collaborated with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and his Compass Point house band that she made music that could be taken seriously. Greg chooses to play her cover of Joy Division's song "She's Lost Control." In her version, Jones assumes the role of the woman on the verge of a losing her mind. And after listening to the song, you may find that this role wasn't such a stretch.

Go to episode 34

Greg

“Tangerine”Led Zeppelin

According to Greg, Jim hit the nail on the head with his Led Zeppelin III reference. That's exactly where he went for this week's Desert Island Jukebox pick. The band was often misunderstood and merely a hyper-masculine rock act. They had a substantial reflective side, and that's evident on III. Plant was also wrongly categorized as simply a“banshee screamer.”He could also be subtle, conversational and moving. You can hear the softer side of Led Zeppelin in Greg's DIJ choice, "Tangerine."

Go to episode 100

Jim

“(Say No To) Saturday's Girl”Human Switchboard

The new year has inspired Jim's pick for this week's Desert Island Jukebox. Jim celebrated many a New Year's Eve at the bar Maxwell's in Hoboken. Recently, he was thinking about the December 31st evening he spent watching the group Human Switchboard perform. Human Switchboard was a band out of the Cleveland, Ohio scene that blended elements of rock, funk and punk to create their own unique sound. Once they moved to New York City in the '80s, they played clubs in and around the city back when people used to dance to New Wave music. Jim chose the track "(Say No To) Saturday's Girl" and it has him grooving in the new year.

Go to episode 632

Greg

“De-Luxe”Lush

Greg gets the first Desert Island Jukebox pick of 2008. Inspired by the collaboration between Markéta and Glen, he started thinking about other songwriting teams in rock history. Most bands have one central songwriter, or perhaps a team, but very few have more than one person contributing their own songs. One of these exceptions is the band Lush. The U.K. band came out of the shoegazer scene of the late '80s/early '90s, but didn't get as much attention as their peers. Songwriters Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson created a sound that Greg describes as falling somewhere between My Bloody Valentine and The Cocteau Twins. The fragile female vocals paired with a cyclonic gust of guitars can be best heard in the track, "De-Luxe," from the band's 1990 album Gala.

Go to episode 111

Jim

“Acknowledge”Screeching Weasel

This week, it's by Chicago punk band Screeching Weasel. For Jim, Screeching Weasel is key to understanding the current pop/punk explosion of bands like Blink 182, Sum 41 and fellow Chicagoans Fall Out Boy. In addition, this band has one of the best-documented histories in rock. A few years ago Ben œWeasel Foster put out a highly autobiographical novel that alludes to his time in the band. Recently, his Weasel partner John Jughead Pierson released his fictional response, Weasels in a Box. Despite their great influence on rock, many people have not heard of the band. One of the reasons for this, Jim notes, is that Foster suffered from agoraphobia, preventing the band from touring much. They were highly prolific, however, and recorded almost an album a year for 13 years. "Acknowledge" was released on Screeching Weasel'™s last album before disbanding. In the song, both Weasels sing about agoraphobia and substance abuse, but without losing their punk rock sense of humor or catchy, Ramones-style three-chord structure. It'™s this combination, says Jim, that makes Screeching Weasel one of the best bands Chicago has ever produced.

Go to episode 8

Greg

“Nowhere Again”Secret Machines

Music fans experienced another loss over the holidays: Benjamin Curtis, one of the founding members of Secret Machines died at age 35 after a battle with cancer. He, brother Brandon and cousin Josh Garza, visited the show in 2006, and Greg fondly remembers their distinctive sound. While contemporaries like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes were steeped in a New York punk and New Wave sound, Secret Machines had a more experimental and psychedelic edge. And when people lament the lack of great modern rock bands, Greg refers them to this one. So to remember Ben Curtis and Secret Machines, Greg adds "Nowhere Again" from the band's 2004 debut Now Here is Nowhere to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 424

Jim & Greg

Go to episode 42

Jim

“True Love in a Day”Lori Wray

The Jayhawks were brought up briefly during the Dixie Chicks review, and Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick also features the Twin Cities rock band. Before they were The Jayhawks, Gary Louris, Marc Perlman and Mark Olson backed up a fellow Minnesota singer named Lori Wray. While Wray has not achieved a lot of success outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Jim thinks that her voice surpasses that of Natalie Maines. He explains that she adds a Lulu-like '60s pop sensibility to her singing, making her voice perfect for heartbreak tunes like his DIJ pick, "True Love in a Day."

Go to episode 26

Jim

“Silver Bullet”Jack Bruce,Golden Palominos

Cream bassist Jack Bruce recently passed away at age of 71, and as Jim explains, he played an important part in the '60s English music scene. Bruce had a long career as an underground musician playing jazz, rock and avant-garde music. To pay homage to him, Jim chose a song for the Desert Island Juxebox that was actually not from his time with Cream. Instead, he goes with "Silver Bullet" by the Golden Palominos. Jim had the pleasure of seeing the larger-than-live Bruce perform this track live, and he'll never forget it.

Go to episode 467

Greg

“If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up”Betty Davis

Miles Davis has been on Greg's mind lately, and his revolutionary string of early '70s albums(including Bitches Brew, Live-Evil, and On the Corner) have been fixtures on Greg's turntable for weeks. Miles' rock and funk explorations can be partially credited to (or blamed on, depending on your point of view) his then wife, Betty Davis. She put out her own series of great records after their divorce. For his Desert Island Jukebox pick this week, Greg turns to the first song on Betty Davis' 1973 self-titled debut, "If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up." Betty put together an incredible band of Santana and Sly Stone sidemen (including Larry Graham on bass!), and wrote parts for them that contained more than enough grit and grime to complement her raspy blues roar and bawdy lyrics. Even Prince personally told Greg that he uses this song as a frequent source of inspiration!

Go to episode 379

Greg

“Who Do You Love”Bo Diddley

Greg takes us back to the desert island with a selection by an artist that Jimmy Page recently cited as an inspiration for the founding of Led Zeppelin: pioneering rocker Bo Diddley. Bo Diddley introduced the hambone beat to rock, which later became known as the Bo Diddley beat - a rhythm with Afro-Carribean roots. His signature sound and swagger are clear on Greg's pick, "Who Do You Love." While Led Zeppelin's debut celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, Bo Diddley's self-titled debut album celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Go to episode 675

Greg

“Nadine”Chuck Berry

Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize for Literature got Greg thinking about other great rock lyricists and the people who influenced them. Chuck Berry is often thought of for his pioneering work with the guitar but he's also a masterful lyricist. Greg points specifically to the 1964 song Nadine and the vivid imagery that Chuck conveys.

Go to episode 569
lists

Unsung Heroes of Rock

Now it's time to hail the Unsung Heroes of Rock. The Micks and Bonos of the world may get all the acclaim, but it's often the little guy who deserves much of the credit. Jim and Greg have gone through the rock canon to honor these lesser-known musicians.

Jerome Green

Without Bo Diddley, there wouldn't be a Mick Jagger as we know it. And without Jerome Green, there wouldn't have been a Bo Diddley. His maracas helped to create Diddley's signature“shuffling freight train”sound, and his cool attitude helped to create the performers signature style — one that would be emulated by many.

Hal Blaine

Blaine is responsible for one of the most famous drum intros in rock. Just listen to "Be My Baby," by The Ronettes, and you‘ll hear how Blaine is as important to that era’s sound as producer Phil Spector was.

Ben“Bosstone”Carr

There's a history of go-go dancers in rock, but of course, they're hard to showcase on the radio. Jim thinks Ben“Bosstone”Carr deserves credit for bringing style and maniacal energy to the band.

Augie Myers

The name might have you drawing a blank, but Myers is a critical figure in rock. Greg is most impressed by how his vox continental organ managed to add a greasy, Texas sound to what was essentially another imitation British invasion band.

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones deserves credit simply for keeping his own among the three biggest figures and egos in rock. He could pretty much play anything he got his hands on, but it was with the bass on songs like "Black Dog," that he really shone.

Ringo Starr

Onto a man who was easily the least important member of a very important band. Or so you might think. Jim says he'll fight anyone who underplays his drumming. He was never a show-off, allowing the vocals and guitars to shine when they needed to. But when there was an opportunity to come to the center, Starr accepted the challenge. Jim's been trying to master the drumming in "Rain" since he was a kid.

James Jamerson

The Motown band members weren't even given credits on most of the songs they played on, but the reason you“move your butt”to most of those songs is because of James Jamerson. He not only played rhythm, but bass melodies, injecting a whole new style into rock.

Malcolm Young

With his knickers and beanie, everyone recognizes younger brother Angus. But, it was Malcom who gave AC/DC their signature riffs. And one of their best, and one of the best in all of rock music according to Greg, is "Highway to Hell."

Go to episode 112

Valentine's Day Live

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Sound Opinions decided to have an intimate celebration — just Jim, Greg…and a couple hundred of their closest friends. They invited listeners to join them in a live taping at the Chicago Cultural Center. They were also joined by alt-country troubadour Robbie Fulks and his wife Donna. Robbie and Donna agreed to act as the Paul Shaffer of the show and perform the hosts‘ favorite love, lust and anti-love songs. They also treated the audience to some of Robbie’s own songs.

There are so many different types of love songs in rock and roll, that Jim and Greg had to divide their picks into 3 different categories:“Love Stinks,”"Endless Love," and“Carnal Love.”These hit all the notes of heartbreak, romance and lust that run through rock music. Jim and Greg picked out some of their favorite love songs and asked Robbie and Donna to perform them. Here are the selections featured on the show:

Love Stinks

  • Jim: Rolling Stones, "Dead Flowers"
  • Greg: Richard and Linda Thompson, "Walking a on Wire"

Endless Love

  • Jim: Mudhoney, "If I Think"
  • Greg: Smokey Robinson, "You Really Got a Hold On Me"

Carnal Love

  • Jim: The Troggs, "I Want You"
  • Greg: Amazing Rhythm Aces, "Third Rate Romance"

The audience also got a chance to get in on the action. Here are some of their favorite love songs:

  • Sebadoh, "Not a Friend"
  • Extreme, "More Than Words"
  • Neutral Milk Hotel, "In The Aero Plane Over The Sea"

Sound Opinions H.Q. also dug up some trivia on two famous rock couples. Biographer Michael Streissguth, who wrote Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece, believes that Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash's“song”would have to be "Meet Me in Heaven." While "Ring of Fire" encapsulated their relationship early on,“Meet Me in Heaven,”is a song the couple loved to perform together later in their life. The lyrics really expressed how Johnny felt about growing old with June.

Also, Charles Cross, who wrote Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain, told us that Kurt and Courtney Love's song was an odd one. "Seasons in the Sun," by Terry Jacks was a favorite of the punk-loving couple. This was the first song Kurt Cobain ever purchased on a 45, and he appreciated its origins. The song was based on a French story by Jacques Brel called "The Dying Man." He wrote it for the Beach Boys, but that band thought it was a little too dark for them to record. Sounds perfect for Kurt and Courtney.

Go to episode 63

Musical Grand Slams

With Chicago baseball trying to keep their heads up during this World Series, we thought we'd inject a little joyous noise into this baseball season. Jim and Greg team up with Len Kasper, TV voice of the Chicago Cubs, to pay homage to their version of a Grand Slam. We all know how this works in baseball (though sports-phobe Jim DeRogatis is still getting the hang of the rules). A batter hits a home run with bases loaded, sending four players to home plate. In music, Jim and Greg define a grand slam as four masterpiece albums in a row. Which artists have achieved this rarest of rock feats? Jim and Greg sit down to compare stats.

Go to episode 518
rock doctors

Rachel

Next up Drs. Kot and DeRogatis call another patient in from the waiting room. Rachel from Chicago, IL describes her musical symptoms as that of being stuck in a rut. She explains that she hasn't purchased any music in the past few years, and only listens to albums or mixes that her friends give her. Rachel is eager to improve her musical health though, and is willing to take her medicine — however bad it tastes. In order to steer Jim and Greg in the right direction, Rachel gives her medical/musical history . She counts U2 (during the Joshua Tree-era) and Tom Petty as two of her favorite artists, and explains that she really appreciates melody and lyrics in her music.

Dr. Jim gives the first prescription. He clues into Rachel's heartland rock leanings, but also wants to challenge her more. He decides to give the patient a dose of Wilco. Like '80s-era U2 and Tom Petty, Jeff Tweedy and the members of Wilco are strongly influenced by guitar-based American folk and rock. There is a strong emphasis on lyrics and on telling stories of the American condition. But like U2, who chose to work with avant-garde producer Brian Eno on The Joshua Tree, Wilco can also be very experimental. Jim finds this is especially true of their last album A Ghost is Born.

Dr. Greg is up next. He suspects that one of the things Rachel likes so much about her favorite music is how anthemic it is. Both Bono and Petty are strong frontmen that get a rise out of their audiences. He believes this is also the case with the music of Montreal band The Arcade Fire. In fact, U2 opened up their last tour with a performance of the song "Wake Up" off their debut album Funeral. Again, the Arcade Fire might be a little more stylized than what Rachel is used to, but Greg hopes she will appreciate their epic sound.

A week later, the patient returns. Rachel relays that she is feeling a bit better, but is not totally cured. She realized that some of the Wilco and Arcade Fire songs were actually already in her iTunes collection without her even knowing it. Rachel enjoyed both albums, but not completely from beginning to end. She liked the more anthemic songs on Funeral like "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Crown of Love," but found some of the tracks a little noisy. However nothing was as noisy as Wilco's 15-minute experimental jam "Less Than You Think." But, even Jim and Greg agree that it's OK to skip past that“test”to more traditional pop/rock compositions like "Theologians" and "The Late Greats." Rachel doesn‘t think she’s replaced her favorite standards, but looks forward to keeping up with these two bands and getting more new music like… The Shins (up next in the show).

Go to episode 61

Jessica

Once again, it's time for the Rock Doctors to put on their white coats and stethoscopes. During this appointment, Jim and Greg attempt to treat a fast spreading musical virus. Their patient is Jessica from Montreal. Jessica comes to the Rock Doctors Clinic with a bad case of“musical mailase, lyric lethargy, and beat fatigue.”Jessica has become uninterested in the rock music of today, which she perceives as redundant and insincere. The doctors' job is to help her reignite her passion for her favorite genre.

Jessica is well-versed in rock music, and spends a good amount of time listening to independent radio station WFMU with her husband, a rock DJ. Jessica loves rock music's focus on instrumentation, and her favorite album of 2014 was Brand New Day by The Ugly Beats, a young garage rock band out of Texas.

Greg's prescription is the album MCII from San Francisco multi-instrumentalist Mikal Cronin, while Jim recommends the album Slow Gum from Australian singer-songwriter Fraser A. Gorman. During their follow-up appointment, Jessica shares that she really enjoyed both records. She appreciates the balance of honest, personal lyrics with dynamic instrumentation, and found that both artists avoided the musical cliches that once plagued her. Greg and Jim decide that Jessica's knowledge of rock music would make her quite the rock critic.

Do you need to see the Rock Doctors? Or know someone who does? Fill out new patient form and send to interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 508

Sandy

Once again, it's time for the Rock Doctors to put on their white coats and stethoscopes. During this appointment, Jim and Greg attempt to mend a broken heart with some great new tunes. Their patient is Sandy from Chicago. She's recently divorced after 17 years of marriage. She wrote Sound Opinions saying it“was an eye-opening and heartbreaking experience.”Sandy is now in her early 50s and feels like she“lost or squandered her youth.”The doctors' job is to help her awaken her musical self.

Sandy was completely open to new genres of music but tends to favor classic rock. Some of her favorite artists include Led Zeppelin, Heart and Van Halen, however she also enjoys more eclectic artists like St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs. While she is a consultant by day, she has a background in acting and singing opera. Sandy is looking for music that will make her feel a sense of exhilaration like she does when she's performing and making art.

Jim's prescription is the album Show Us Your Mind from Portland's Summer Cannibals, while Greg recommended Fantasies by Canadian rock band Metric. During their follow-up appointment, Sandy shared that she really enjoyed both records. She liked the strong voices of the female lead singers as well as the instrumentation. Greg and Jim decide that Sandy might be the nicest patient the Rock Doctors have ever treated and are glad to have helped her.

Do you need to see the Rock Doctors? Or know someone who does? Fill out new patient form and send to interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 484

Dan

Health care reform is a huge issue for every American - even rock fans. This week Jimand Greg again become Rock Doctors to help a listener with a musical-medical problem. Their patient: the newly 40-year-old Dan from Oakland, CA. Dan contacted Sound Opinions complaining of a musical midlife crisis. He spends most of his time listening to FM radio, which these days is dominated by commercial countryand hip-hop. What he likes about country music and hip-hop is the storytelling, so that is where Jim and Greg start with their prescriptions.

Dr. DeRogatis recommends former Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle's debut solo record Yours Truly, the Commuter. Lytle isn‘t a country singer, but he weaves complicated tales in his music. And as Dan explains, just add a pickup truck and a bottle of beer to some of his stories, and you’re all set.

Dr. Kot prescribes Real Animal by Alejandro Escovedo. The rock veteran takes a musical tour of his life, referencing a number of artists that influenced him along the way. Dan was completely sucked in by this rock life story and will definitely take this medicine again.

Check out Jim and Greg's conversations with Jason Lytle and Alejandro Escovedo.

To apply for an appointment with the Rock Doctors or nominate someone in need of urgent assistance, send a message to interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 193
features

Obit: Dolores O'Riordan

Dolores O'Riordan Jim pays tribute to the late Dolores O'Riordan of the '90s Irish rock band The Cranberries. Jim plays "Zombie," the Cranberries‘ impassioned political hit that embodies all the conviction and strength of the late lead singer. O’Riordan died in mid-January at the age of 46, the cause of death is still unknown.

Go to episode 635

SXSW '06

This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.

  • First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.

  • Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.

Beastie Boys at SXSW 2006

  • In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.

  • Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…

  • Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.

Tim Fite at SXSW 2006

  • We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.

  • The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.

  • Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.

  • One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?

  • White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.

  • Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.

  • Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.

Go to episode 18

Rock & The Occult

occultcover Ozzy Osbourne famously serenaded "Mr. Crowley," in his 1980 track. But, poet, novelist and noted occultist Alesteir Crowley has been name-checked, celebrated and explored in hundreds of rock songs. And he's just one example of how the occult has influenced rock and roll, or how it saved it, according to author Peter Bebergal. He talks to Jim and Greg about his new book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll on this Halloween edition of the show. First off, we're not talking about satanism here. There's no great definition of“occult,”because it carries so much baggage. But Bebergal explains that occult beliefs are a conglomerate of bits of mythology, religion and actual experience, which take the form of mystical or other states of altered consciousness. Despite darker connotations, occult beliefs attempt to understand reality in a way traditional religious practice cannot or chooses not to explore.

Then Jim and Greg get into the music. The occult has trickled into popular music since early blues recordings at the beginning of the last century. That evolved into the hoodoo-inspired sounds of Elvis Presley, the mystical references to the east in the music of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and even the Illuminati imagery of modern hip-hop.

For more great occult tunes, check out Peter Bebergal's playlist by following us at Beats Music.

Go to episode 465

Hooked On Sonics: Jody Stephens of Big Star

Hooked on Sonics is a segment where musicians share the songs that made them fall in love with music. Drummer Jody Stephens helped form pivotal Memphis rock group Big Star, alongside vocalist and songwriter Alex Chilton. Big Star, is, in many ways, more famous now than they were during their first 1970s incarnation. In the 1980s and 1990s, a whole new generation discovered the group after The Replacements and REM cited them as influences. Today, Jody works at the famous Ardent Studios down in Memphis; but as a kid, it was music from a completely different part of the world that got him Hooked on Sonics. That song was I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles. But, as you'll hear, it all came around full circle.

Go to episode 606

In Memoriam: Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman Musician Gregg Allman died May 27 at the age of 69. Gregg was a crucial member of The Allman Brothers Band, a group at the forefront of the southern rock genre, though they didn‘t like to be labeled as such. The band’s combined the blues, jazz, rock and psychedelia to make for a original sound. Gregg was the voice of the band, the organ player and the primary songwriter, writing hits like "Midnight Rider," "Whipping Post" and "Melissa." Greg Kot pays tribute to Gregg Allman with a track that's actually a demo called "Dreams."“Dreams”was the song that first helped the band take him seriously as a songwriter.

Go to episode 601
news

Music News

For the third year in a row the Lollapalooza Music Festival took over Chicago's Grant Park for a weekend. Jim and Greg were both there to report on how the festivities went down, and both critics agree the highlight was, by far, Iggy Pop and the Stooges. The punk rocker's high-energy performance toed that line between good fun and danger, something Jim wishes there was more of in rock and roll. Something Jim also wished there was more of at the festival was less of a“shopping mall”environment. He asked Lollapalooza impresario Perry Farrell about the need for such extensive VIP sections and the effect that things like the“radius clause”have on struggling bands and struggling clubs. Greg actually thought the festival was run quite well and treated fans with respect; there was plenty of food, water and bathrooms — something he can‘t say about all other festivals. This critic’s major beef with Lollapalooza is mostly aesthetic. He would like to see fewer stages, fewer filler bands, and more emphasis on thoughtful bookings. We'll just have to wait until Lollapalooza 2008 to see if they take this free advice.

The news takes a slightly darker turn next, with two stories involving Adolf Hitler and Hitler memorabilia. The first concerns the pop purveyor of all things dark: Marilyn Manson. The goth-glam rocker is being sued for $20 million by his former keyboardist, known to fans as Madonna Wayne Gacy. He claims that Manson spent band profits on personal items, including coat hangers used by Adolf Hitler, a handbag owned by Eva Braun, and the full skeleton of a four-year old Chinese girl. Manson says the claims are ridiculous, adding, "I would never spend my money on a Chinese girl skeleton… That would be crossing the line. It's a Chinese boy, for the record.‘’

Another surprising news item: Around 100 records apparently belonging to Adolf Hitler have been discovered in a former Soviet intelligence officer's attic. The collection reveals that while Hitler was publicly heralding“racially pure”German music, his musical taste included some artists forbidden in the Third Reich. Some of the findings were not shocking: Wagner, Beethoven and Anton Bruckner. But, the dictator also appears to have owned works by Jewish and Russian performers like Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninov and Artur Schnabel.

To quote Elton John's own song, "The Bitch is Back." The singer/songwriter has popped up in the news again, this time expressing his beef with…the Internet, of all things. In a piece in British tabloid The Sun, John contends that the web has destroyed music, and explains, "I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole Internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span." Sir Elton adds that he's doing his part by shutting out iPods and cellphones, and, we can only guess, communication with the world. Apparently this musician hasn't had the same experience with music on the internet as fellow Brits Lily Allen or Pete Townshend.

Just a week after Jim lauded his new album Cake or Death, psychedelic cowboy Lee Hazlewood died of cancer at the age of 78. The musician is best known for writing and producing hits for others, including "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" for Nancy Sinatra. But, Jim and Greg discuss how he developed a cult following in later years, and became legendary for his innovation and independence. This earned him the adoration of a new generation of rock musicians that includes Nick Cave and Sonic Youth. Jim and Greg pay tribute to Hazlewood by playing his song, "Some Velvet Morning."

Go to episode 89

Music News

Chris Squire, a celebrated bassist and founding member of the British rock band Yes, died last Saturday in Phoenix at the age of 67. Squire announced earlier in the summer that he would not be joining the band for its summer and fall tour as he was receiving treatment for leukemia. Squire was the only member of Yes to play on each of the band's twenty-one albums and to participate in every tour over their four decade career. Squire sought to create a“cinematic trip for the mind”through his work with Yes, and Jim greatly admires this nuanced approach to making music. Greg and Jim remember Squire by playing "Heart of the Sunrise" from the band's hit 1972 album Fragile.

Go to episode 501

Music News

Jim and Greg kick off the show by celebrating the life of another great artist: saxophonist and free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, dead at the age of 85. While critics sometimes loosely toss around phrases about musicians changing music, in this case, it is an undisputed truth. Coleman forever set jazz on an entirely new path, with an influence spreading into the world of rock, as well. Artists like Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground, and Sonic Youth all stood in the shadow of Coleman's innovations. He developed a musical philosophy he called "harmolodics," which set aside the traditional approach of adhering to chord changes and instead created intricately layered melodies that favored each instrument equally. Though sometimes dismissed as dissonant noise, Greg contends that Coleman had one of the greatest ears for melody in music. As an example of Ornette's unique approach to ensemble playing, Greg plays "Jump Street" from Ornette Coleman's 1979 album Of Human Feelings.

Go to episode 499

Music News

In the UK, pop has overtaken rock as the most popular genre of music in terms of chart success. Acts like Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Sam Smith have helped propel pop to its highest sales since 1999, but it's a different story in the United States. In 2014, rock music claimed 29% of sales, while pop only generated about half of that. These numbers have Jim and Greg thinking, are more rock fans buying physical products than fans of other genres of music?

The Library of Congress has selected new music for its National Recording Registry and there certainly is a range. The National Recording Registry is a list of recordings that are“historically, culturally or aesthetically important.”Some of the 2015 selections include Steve Martin's stand-up special A Wild and Crazy Guy, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Joan Baez's self-titled album, the song "Stand By Me" and Sesame Street's "Rubber Duckie."

Go to episode 494

Music News

Proving the adage that everyone is a critic, the Vatican has released its first official Top Ten List of albums. The official Vatican paper, L'Osservatore Romano, has endorsed records by Oasis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Fleetwood Mac. And perhaps for the title alone, they also included Carlos Santana's Supernatural. It made a point of not including Bob Dylan, however, on the grounds that generations of less-talented Dylan acolytes have "harshly tested the ears and patience of listeners with their inferior imitations, thinking that their tortured meanderings might interest somebody."

In other music news, rock producer Ian Burgess passed away last week. As Jim explains, Burgess was one of the architects of the hyper-aggressive, yet melodic, indie rock sounds of the 1980's. He worked with a number of Midwest bands such as Naked Raygun, Pegboy and Big Black. He also served as a mentor to Big Black founder-turned producer Steve Albini. To honor Burgess, Jim and Greg play "I Don't Know" off Naked Raygun's 1985 album Throb Throb.

Go to episode 221

Music News

Music legend James Brown died earlier this week at the age of 73, so the first part of the show is spent paying homage to the“hardest working man in show business.”Jim and Greg discuss Brown's long-running career from the soul era up through today's hip hop music. In fact, Greg explains that Brown's track "King Heroin" is a rap tune that pre-dates hip hop. And, Brown is one of the most sampled musicians in rock history. To illustrate this fact, our hosts take the track "The Payback" and play some of the major hip hop songs that are built on it.

Go to episode 57

Music News

745%. That's the increase in vinyl sales on Amazon. While vinyl sales still account for only 2% of the music industry, that's a number other retailers cannot ignore. Even Whole Foods! Want an LP with your tapenade? In Los Angeles, the food store is getting in on the vinyl action.

Last week, Jim and Greg spoke with Steve Jordan about who might win Canada's prestigious Polaris Music Prize. This week the winner was announced: Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Certainly this experimental rock group won't be walking away with a Grammy anytime soon. But, it seems that even this award might be too commercial or mainstream for the famously leftist group. Godspeed didn't show up to accept its award, and check out its response.

News broke that the N.F.L. has been secretly waging a $1.5 million war against rapper M.I.A. because of her un-ladylike conduct at last year's Superbowl halftime show. Well, compared to the violence and misogyny of the N.F.L., not to mention Madonna's underage dancers, M.I.A. says flipping the bird is nothing. Here's her response.

Go to episode 409

Music News

After the RIAA started to crackdown on the selling of mixtapes a few months ago, Universal Music has decided to sell legal, corporate sanctioned versions of the tradionally grassroots compilation. These "Lethal Squad Mixtapes," will sell for $5 to $6, but it's unclear whether there is a market for a series like this. Part of the appeal of mixtapes is that they are underground, and, as Greg notes, Universal is about as“street”as the next company they discuss in the news. Fellow corporate giant Walmart announced that it will sell DRM-free downloads at a lower price than competitor iTunes. Jim and Greg are surprised that the music industry would agree to sell their digital songs for lower prices, but Walmart is the world's largest retailer. Also, this fits into the big box store's M.O.: give consumers what they want at lower prices, even at the expense of other retailers.

Auto manufacturers such as Toyota's Scion brand, are planning on getting into the Internet radio business to provide special content to their drivers. Jim and Greg think this is an interesting move considering the recent hikes in webcasting royalty rates and their effect on small webcasters. And, this follows suit with Scion's attempt to establish a“cool”identity for itself. The Toyota brand was one of the few corporate sponsors of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and now they've tapped Vice Records and Ninja Tune Records to program their channel. But, despite this indie pedigree, Greg points out the reality: "You can't buy cool."

This summer's biggest blockbuster movie, Spiderman 3, racked up well over $300 million in the U.S. In fact, there were a number successful films that eclipsed the $300 million mark. The music industry, however, cannot boast such impressive figures. They were banking on big name releases from the likes of 50 Cent and Kelly Clarkson, but of those two, one got bumped, and the other tanked. The number one selling album of the year so far is from an American Idol rejectee Chris Daughtry, but that was actually a 2006 release. So, in light of these industry discrepancies, Jim and Greg wanted to invite New York Times music reporter Jeff Leeds on to the show to discuss the summer season. Jeff explains that movie studios have many sources of revenue from a film like Spiderman (DVDs, toys, etc), but record labels depend on a single revenue stream. Their only saving grace is concert sales; a live music experience, like a live movie screening, can't be replicated with a download. These three critics are curious to see what big fall releases have to offer.

Famed jazz percussionist Max Roach died last week at the age of 83. Roach was the last link to the Bebop era of jazz, but Jim and Greg explain that his love of music and his style of playing continually evolved. Greg explains that it's impossible to talk about rock drumming and hip hop without mentioning Roach. Unlike some jazz purists, the musician saw those contemporary forms as natural extensions of African music, like jazz. You can hear his unique style in the composition "Freedom Day," which also features vocals from his wife Abbey Lincoln.

Go to episode 91

Music News

Go to episode 617

Music News

With the release of Nielsen's SoundScan year-end sales figures for 2013, Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines has officially been crowned the top-selling single of the year with 6.5 million units. Hot on Thicke's heels were Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' Thrift Shop and Imagine Dragons' Radioactive with 6.15 million and 5.5 million respectively. Turning to albums, Justin Timberlake claimed the top spot with 2.43 million copies of The 20/20 Experience sold. Though, Jim and Greg note that the album's numbers happen to be the lowest sales for a #1 record in Nielsen history.

The report also revealed other interesting trends in the music industry. Vinyl record enthusiasts continued to show the love for LPs in 2013 with sales up 33% over the year before. People loved streaming their music, as well, but digital sales were down 6%. This has Jim and Greg wondering: is the stream going to kill the download?

Speaking of death and downloads… Last week, Jim and Greg reported the loss of pioneering country rocker Phil Everly. Apparently they weren‘t the only ones mourning. In the week after Phil’s passing, fans downloaded 18,000 Everly Brothers songs, a whopping 696% increase from the previous week. Dying, it turns out, can be a great career move.

Coachella Music Festival has released its full 2014 lineup. In addition to top headliners Arcade Fire, Muse, and OutKast (who are reuniting for the first time since 2007), the desert super-show will feature Girl Talk, Lana Del Rey, Motörhead, Lorde, plus two bonus reunions: The Replacements and Neutral Milk Hotel.

In other live music news, the NFL has beefed up its plans for the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show. Just in case main act Bruno Mars wasn‘t enough to satisfy America’s burning need for overhyped pop spectacle, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be joining him onstage. What a combination, Greg laments.

If the Nielsen numbers were any sign, streaming music is here to stay. And now another big player is hoping to break into that (already crowded) market: Beats Music. Spearheaded by Dr. Dre, Trent Reznor, and record exec Jimmy Iovine, the new streaming service aims to offer a more curated listening experience than its competitors. Rather than using algorithms to help users find music, Beats will rely on experts from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone—and your esteemed Sound Opinions hosts! But Jim and Greg wanted to know how the service compensates artists and labels, something for which Spotify and Pandora have taken flak. CEO Ian Rogers explains that because Beats Music won‘t be available for free, the company will pay extra for each song streamed. With the majority of every subscription fee going toward giving rights holders their fair share, Rogers says that what’s good for Beats Music is good for the industry.

Go to episode 425

Music News

Since the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina earlier this summer, debate over the use of the Confederate flag in American popular culture has become even more heated. The flag has been featured in rock lyrics and performances for decades, most notably by the Texas heavy metal band Pantera in the '90s and also in performances by Tom Petty, Blake Shelton, and Zach Wild. Musicians such as Kid Rock and Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers have joined the debate surrounding the flag, with Rock dismissing the issue and Hood criticizing the flag's continued presence in modern music and culture.

Apple Music, the new music streaming service from Apple, launched on June 30th, making it yet another competitor in the global streaming market. In order to attract new users, Apple has offered a three month free trial to any iOS user interested in testing out the service for no cost before committing $10 a month for a subscription. While early reviews of the service have been mixed, two general complaints about Apple's latest innovation have emerged, including criticisms of its somewhat jumbled presentation and its lack of the social networking features that have made Spotify such an attractive streaming option. Jim thinks we'll have to wait and see how many trial users decide to commit to the paid subscription to really get a sense of how Apple Music stacks up against its many fierce competitors.

Go to episode 503

Music News

"All the squares, go home!" Cynthia Robinson, famed trumpeter for Sly and the Family Stone, has passed away at the age of 71 from cancer. Robinson, a former guest on Sound Opinions, moved from flute to clarinet before ultimately becoming one of the great trumpet players in rock. She was childhood friends with Sly Stone and co-founded Sly and the Stoners with him in the mid-'60s. That band would become Sly and the Family Stone, scoring huge hits like "Dance to the Music," "Everyday People," and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)". According to Greg, not only was the band groundbreaking musically in its mix of rock, funk, and soul, but he also credits its biracial co-ed makeup for embodying the counterculture better than any other band. As tribute to the great Cynthia Robinson, they play "Underdog," an early horn feature from 1967.

Go to episode 523

Music News

Nielsen Soundscan recently announced a 15% drop in total album sales, and a 19% drop in physical album sales in 2007. It's fair to assume that CDs are on their way out, but Wall Street Journal Online columnist Jason Fry wonders if the album itself will follow suit. He talks to Jim and Greg about changing listening patterns in the digital age as well as alternatives. Consumers have become disillusioned by CDs, and may start to only want singles. Jim notes that this would be a return to the dawn of rock, when singles were king. He suggests that the album might stick around though — it will just be composed by playlist-makers rather than record companies. Jason adds that musicians might be well-served to follow the advice of Mark Cuban. The multi-media mogul recommends artists release series of songs rather whole albums.

Go to episode 114

Music News

Capitol Hill continues to hear from the rock world this week as they conduct hearings on the Performance Rights Act. One of those testifying before our nation's lawmakers is Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan. Corgan is one of many artists who support a bill that would insure that musicians are paid for radio broadcast performances just as songwriters already are. As Jim and Greg explain, for a long time radio was able to respond to pleas for additional royalties by saying that radio airtime is like an advertisement for musicians. But, now that the landscape of radio has changed, they can no longer make this claim. Fewer and fewer artists are able to use radio as a publicity tool. What was Congress‘ response to this problem? Work it out and learn to play nice, because you can’t afford for us not to intervene.

In other royalty-related news, a verdict came down last week in a case that could have dramatically changed the way artists are paid for their music. Two Detroit producers who had a hand in Eminem's 1999 album The Slim Shady LP sued Universal Music over payments on ringtones and digital downloads. The producers claim they were shortchanged, but according to a Los Angeles jury, the label can continue doing business as usual. This was lucky news to the music industry, according to our hosts. In today's dying music business, digital revenue is looked at as a saving grace.

Go to episode 172

Music News

First in the news Jim and Greg discuss the controversy over the censorship of political lyrics in a song by Pearl Jam during the AT&T Blue Room webcast of their recent Lollapalooza performance. While Pearl Jam criticized this kind of censorship on their website and posted both versions of the song, it appeared that the audio editing was a fluke. In the days following the festival, though, it was revealed that this was not the first time such censorship had occurred, sparking interest from advocates of Internet neutrality. Both Jim and Greg agree that webcasters have a public responsibility to broadcast what actually happens at events, and concert promoters have a responsibility to tell bands whether or not they're giving up their right to free speech. Both critics are anxious to see how things play out in the weeks leading up to the next big festival, Austin City Limits.

Another news story confirms our suspicion that music fans have better brains. Or at least more active brains. Researchers at Stanford Medical School recently released findings that show that music increases brain receptivity and reception. To find out about the study Jim and Greg speak with the paper's senior author, Dr. Vinod Menon, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of neurosciences at Stanford. Dr. Menon explains that the greatest amount of activity occurred during moments of transition or pauses. While he used the tunes of 18th-century English composer William Boyce, it's interesting to think about how this research applies to rock music. Check out the MRI for yourself here.

In another miracle of science, (most of) the original members of '80s rock group Van Halen announced they are reuniting this fall for a series of concerts. The band's first lead singer, David Lee Roth, will perform with the band for the first time in 22 years. Fans expected this announcement a few months ago, only to be left disappointed by guitarist Eddie Van Halen's trip to rehab. But now the Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone-haters will get their wish… sort of. Founding bassist Michael Anthony has been given the boot, and Eddie's son Wolfgang van Halen will replace him. Not only were the names Anthony and Hagar omitted from the group's press release, but Anthony's image had been airbrushed from a picture of the band's album cover on the website. As quick as history was revised, it was re-revised, though, and Anthony is back in the picture. Only literally of course.

Record label owner, broadcaster, journalist, pop impresario and nightclub founder Anthony Wilson died last week at the age of 57. Wilson is the man who put the Manchester music scene on the map, a scene that included Joy Division, New Order and The Happy Mondays. He ran Factory Records in the late 1970s and the Hacienda nightclub in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many listeners will remember Steve Coogan's portrayal of Wilson in the semi-fictional story of the Hacienda, 24 Hour Party People. But, Jim and Greg choose to remember Wilson through the music he influenced.

Go to episode 90

Music News

Jim and Greg take time to pay tribute to Buck Owens. The country pioneer died recently at the age of 76 and was buried this week in his hometown of Bakersfield, CA. While most of the headlines simply refer to Owens as the“star of Hee Haw,”he made significant contributions to rock and country music. According to Greg, he was one of the first musicians to use the Telecaster. You can hear some of that great, gritty fuzz tone in "Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass." He also played with the original alt-country rebel, Merle Haggard. Owens was not the cornpone country singer that Hee Haw made him out to be, and for this reason he was respected by people like The Beatles, Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle.

Go to episode 19

Music News

Pioneering DJ and producer Frankie Knuckles passed away this week. Knuckles' musical legacy is arguably as important to dance music as Chuck Berry's is to rock or Kraftwerk's is to electronica. In the early 1980's, Knuckles helped cultivate House music's sound from the ashes of disco at a venue on Chicago's south side called The Warehouse. (Hence the name, House). The space was an oasis for misfits of all shapes, sizes, and colors to come together and celebrate being alive. As Knuckle's musical stature grew over the years performing at various clubs and remixing other artist's songs, he never lost his generous spirit. In a 2012 conversation with Jim and Greg at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Knuckles remarked that he‘d never regarded music as a competive sport.“Even though you have people on the dance floor, and people that come out and say this DJ is better than that one, I’ve never looked at it that way and I‘ve never let that influence me because I’m too busy having a good time and showing people a good time,”said Knuckles. He was 59 years old.

Go to episode 436

Music News

Another Pitchfork music festival has come and gone in Chicago's Union Park. The festival - put on by the taste-making webzine of the same name - often serves as a useful barometer for where underground pop is headed in the next year. This time around, the message was a little muddled. While relative newcomers Ty Segall and Willis Earl Beal impressed both Jim and Greg with their intensely heartfelt performances, headlining sets by established artists like Feist and Vampire Weekend made them wonder if Pitchfork is losing its edge.

Rock lost a great organist and keyboard player Monday. Jon Lord of hard rock group Deep Purple is dead at age 71. A country boy from Leicester, Lord founded Deep Purple in London in 1968 with the goal of fusing his classical piano training with American R&B and blues. This he accomplished by plugging his Hammond organ into a giant Marshall stack. The distinctive growl of that Hammond became a trademark of the band's super heavy sound (a sound Greg credits with paving the way for metal). In remembrance of Lord, Jim and Greg play the track "Highway Star," featuring a killer organ solo, from the band's 1972 album Machine Head 9.

Go to episode 347

Music News

The original manuscript to Don McLean's 1971 hit "American Pie" sold to an anonymous bidder at Christie's for $1.2 million – enough cash to buy a new Chevy and maybe even finally saturate that levee. McLean has always been cryptic about what his lyrics mean, but the 16-page document may offer some clues. Greg reads the song as a crash course in rock ‘n’ roll history of the years between Buddy Holly's death and the writing of the song.

There's still another chance to bid on some pop memorabilia, however: the estate of Davy Jones is putting several items belonging to the late Monkees singer on the auction block in May. If you're lucky, you might be able to snag some of his gold records, guitars, or costumes. But Jim is most excited about the tambourine for sale – after Linda McCartney of Wings, Jones may be the most famous tambourine player in rock.

Go to episode 489

Music News

Some interesting chart news this week: Despite being music vets, Tom Petty and Weird Al Yankovic, both just achieved their first #1 in the past month. Over on the Jazz charts, Tony Bennett, who himself took 54 years to produce #1, has reached another hight, this time with strange bedfellow Lady Gaga. Comic book fans are showing their support for Marvel's most recent super-powered adventure, Guardians of The Galaxy. The soundtrack for the flick, an eclectic mix of '70s rock, soul, and pop staples, is the current chart topper, beating out the prolific Now series, Volume 51. Over on the vinyl end of things, Jack White's most recent release, Lazaretto, is making history with its soaring sales. The LP has already sold over 60,000 copies, the most since Pearl Jam's 1994 album Vitalogy.

Go to episode 455

Music News

Rock lost two behind-the-scenes heavyweights last week: America's first rock critic Paul Williams, and record producer Phil Ramone. Williams launched Crawdaddy! magazine while still in college, beating Rolling Stone to the rock-criticism game by a year. Never one to dwell on the rock's celebrity aspect, Williams found less commercial success than prot‘eg’e Jann Wenner, but his intellectual criticism was an inspiration for rock critics to come (Jim and Greg included).

Phil Ramone's contributions to classic records like Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and The Band's self-titled album made him a sought-after producer for over half a century. But Greg says it's his work with Paul Simon that cements his reputation. Greg plays Simon's "Gone at Last" in remembrance of Ramone.

Go to episode 384

Music News

A couple of stories this week speak to the listening habits of kids — and the experts want parents to be worried. The first study, from the NPD Group, says that up to 70% of U.S. kids aged (ages 9-14) download music in a given month. Almost half use iTunes, but the remainder are engaging in (illegal) file-sharing. The research group blames parents for not monitoring their children's computers, but as dads, Jim and Greg can attest — that's a fairly impossible feat in today's world.

The second report, released by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, states that teenagers listen to nearly 2.5 hours of music per day. To Jim and Greg, that's good news. But, what's in those songs you ask? According to the pediatricians, the average adolescent is exposed to approximately 84 references to explicit substance use per day, or 30,732 references per year. That's a large figure, but rock fans have been defending their devil music for years. Jim and Greg think the best defense for protecting innocent minds is discussing music with them. After all, on Sound Opinions everyone's a critic — and that includes kids.

Americans don't have the monopoly on peer-to-peer downloading. In fact, it just got a whole lot easier in Italy. The Italian parliament passed a new copyright law that essentially legalizes file-sharing. But this may not have been their intention. The law creates a provision that allows music files to be shared as long as they are non-commercial and degraded. Well, the not-so-tech-savvy legislators failed to realize that most digital music files are degraded.

NASA is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and to mark the occasion they've decided to beam The Beatles' song "Across the Universe" directly into outer space. This would be the first song ever played“across the universe,”and Jim and Greg wonder if it's smart to start with such a friendly, welcoming song. They think death metal or Barry Manilow might fend off alien invasion better.

The Grammy Awards are also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Jim and Greg don't traditionally like to give much airtime to the awards, which notoriously overlook deserving artists, but they thought it would be fun to honor one of their favorite Grammy winners. This is a man whose first album won three awards and shot him to the top of the charts-beating Elvis! That man is none other than Bob Newhart. Bob's first comedy album The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart won Best Album of 1960, Best New Artist and Best Spoken Word. It also went on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time. The curse of the Best New Artist certainly didn‘t seem to affect the successful comedian. We can’t say same about the Starland Vocal Band.

Go to episode 115

Music News

The end of year numbers are in, and the the music industry has something to celebrate. Sales increased by 3% in 2012, driven mostly by digital music. And, what was long suspected has now been confirmed: Adele has topped the charts two years in a row, making her the first artist in the SoundScan era to do this. 2012's other big winners? Taylor Swift, One Direction, Justin Bieber, and the only act in this year's top 10 to come close to "rock" - Mumford & Sons. At least Jim and Greg can take solace in the fact that vinyl sales were up yet again.

Go to episode 372

Music News

The RAND Corporation recently released the findings of their study on music lyrics and teen sexual behavior. According to the think tank, teens who regularly listened to music with“degrading”lyrics at the start of the study were more likely to start having sex over the next two years than teens who listened to music that was sexual, but not necessarily degrading. Of course, degrading is in the eye of the beholder, and Jim and Greg are a little bit suspicious of the RAND Corp.'s goals. They are reminded of previous attempts to thwart dangerous rock music, like those of the Parents' Music Resource Center in the '80s and people concerned with future Columbines in the '90s. So Jim, Greg and many experts caution against scapegoating one single thing when it comes to teens having sex. Plus, rock and roll has always been about sex, and after speaking with a number of teenagers in downtown Chicago, Sound Opinions is convinced that tastes have not really changed. Most of these young listeners seemed to be channeling Dick Clark: They just want a great beat they can dance to.

Go to episode 37

Music News

It's been a sad couple of weeks for rock. Music lost Divinyls singer Christina Amphlett, P-funk bassist Cordell“Boogie”Mosson, and Woodstock singer Richie Havens. But the musician Jim and Greg are missing most is Scott Miller of the bands Game Theory and The Loud Family. Miller died last week at age 53. Jim remembers Game Theory as a Big Star revival band that played jangly pop with a literary edge. Albums like Real Nighttime and Big Shot Chronicles we sprawling, sophisticated constructions, he says. Jim plays "Regenisraen" from 1986 in tribute.

Go to episode 387

Music News

Susan Boye Last week Jim and Greg reviewed the new album by The Black Eyed Peas, and this week they were sure it would be a #1 hit. But if there's anyone that can give the Peas a run for their money, it's…Susan Boyle? The Britain's Got Talent winner is the top seller of the week with her new album The Gift, beating out not only The Black Eyed Peas, but Kanye West and Taylor Swift. This news is further evidence that the physical album chart is dominated by people who still buy physical albums, a.k.a.“older folks.”Which leads to the next story…

Billboard has recognized that its standard album chart might not be a fully accurate representation of what's“popular”in music. In today's world, an artist's tweets, followers, fans, friends and hits are just as important indicators as record sales. So with that in mind they've launched the new Social 50. At the top of Social 50 are artists like Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Eminem and Nicki Minaj – all performers who sell records. But the chart also has the potential to recognize non-traditional acts like Widespread Panic, Girl Talk and Robyn, who consistently sell out shows, but don't have a big retail presence. Jim and Greg welcome Billboard to the 21st century.

Still shopping for holiday gifts and got a few thousand to spare? Well, you could get your loved one the original lyrics to Bob Dylan's song "The Times They Are a-Changin." And by a few thousand we mean $300,000. That's how much the sheet of unruled notebook paper is expected to go for at an upcoming auction. December certainly seems to be the month of rock memorabilia sales. Johnny Cash's jumpsuit, which he wore during his concert at San Quentin and made famous in this image, went for $50,000. Michael Jackson's glove sold for $300,000, and a decades old legal letter featuring John Lennon's original lyrics to "I'm Only Sleeping" is expected to go for over $500,000.

Go to episode 263

Music News

Fans continue to mourn the death of David Bowie, who died January 10th. His most recent album, Blackstar, released two days before his death, rose to #1 in America as fans and strangers alike tuned in to hear Bowie's last artful words. Blackstar's huge sales represent a trend found in Nielsen's 2015 music report, which says rock music is going strong. According to Nielsen, rock is the #1 genre for album sales—33% of albums sold in North America were rock. Though pop and R&B may be topping the charts, rock gets sold the most.

Music streams continue to be popular with listeners and are up 93%. But, there's hope for high fidelity fans too: MusicWatch reported an estimated 25 million U.S. consumers are willing to pay more money for higher sound quality. And while we live in a digital world, radio, surprisingly, remains people's #1 source for music discovery.

Adele The biggest winner in 2015 was, of course, Adele. Her record 25 accounted for 3.1% of all album sales in 2015 and 16% of all album sales during the six weeks following its release. So, it's not surprising that she was the most searched artist according to the BBC and Shazam. The BBC allows you to find out what people are searching for in your city, and also, that city's“musical twin.”Here in Chicago, our listening matches up with Johor Bahru in Malaysia.

Go to episode 530

Music News

Last weekend was the famous Eurovision Song Contest, the“World Cup”of music. A fixture in Europe since 1968, past winners include ABBA, Celine Dion and Katrina and the Waves. Eurovision never fails to feature weird music and geopolitical controversy, and this year was no exception. Singer Jamala from Ukraine beat out Australia and Russia for the top prize. Russia was irked by Jamala's song choice, a track called "1944," about Stalin's exile of the Crimean Tatar population – with obvious connections to today's crisis in Ukraine. Better the countries fight via silly pop songs than actual guns, Jim argues.

Get your sunscreen, hats, and wallets out for the first Desert Trip! The new music festival will be held in the same location as Coachella, and with its septuagenarian lineup, it quickly acquired the nickname "Oldchella." Desert Trip will feature six major acts from the 1960s rock scene: The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who. Ticket sales have already exceeded a record $150 million – thanks to ticket prices reaching into the thousands. That's not to mention the $6,500 resort packages. Jim thinks that for that price, they ought to air condition the desert.

Go to episode 547
world tours

Sweden

Jim and Greg have always insisted that rock ‘n’ roll belongs to the world. In our new series, the Sound Opinions World Tour, they prove it by zeroing in on countries that've made big contributions to global rock and pop. Their first stop is the largest exporter of music per capita in the world: Sweden. Swedish DJ and public radio host Stefan Wermelin is our guide through the country's musical history. Stefan explains that in the '50s and '60s, Sweden was a pop music backwater. Musicians churned out cut-rate covers of American and English hits. The '60s hippie“Progg”movement injected some originality and artistic ambition into Swedish music, but things didn't really change until ABBA hit it big with "Waterloo." According to Stefan, ABBA set the template for Swedish success. The band created big hits by co-opting the best bits of global pop music and stitching them together with meticulous production. That tradition of pastiche continues today with Swedish producers like Max Martin, the man behind a hundred-and-one Billboard Top Ten hits (Britney Spears' "…Baby One More Time" and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" among them). But today, Sweden's also experiencing an indie renaissance in genres as varied as death metal, dance music, and Americana. Decades after ABBA, artists like The Knife, Lykke Li, Robyn, Opeth, and First Aid Kit are staging a second Swedish invasion.

Go to episode 379

Japan

Two months ago, Jim and Greg kicked off the Sound Opinions World Tour with a musical survey of pop powerhouse Sweden. This week, our series on global rock and pop continues with a stop in Japan. Jim and Greg recruit Tokyo-based music journalist and podcaster Daniel Robson to be their guide through the contemporary Japanese music scene. As Daniel explains, it's a scene that's at once similar and very different from that of the Americans and Europeans. Consider this: the Japanese music industry is still profitable, and physical sales still outpace digital. That's in large part to the stranglehold J-pop production companies have on the domestic market. But for every saccharine commercial confection like AKB48, Daniel says there's an underground group sure to thrill indie ears. Mamadrive and Shinsei Kamattechan are just two bands poised for Western success in the tradition of Japanese experimenters like Boris, Melt Banana, Acid Mothers Temple, and The Boredoms. Another point of difference with the West? Japanese musicians are roughly 50% women. Today singers like Shiina Ringo and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu carry on the tradition of eclectic rock and J-pop pioneered by all-women groups from Shonen Knife to Puffy AmiYumi.

Japanese artists featured in this episode:

  • Puffy AmiYumi
  • Shonen Knife
  • Happy End
  • Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
  • Boris
  • MoMoiro Clover Z
  • Melt Banana
  • Shinsei Kamattechan
  • Shiina Ringo
  • The GazettE
  • Judy and Mary
  • Mamadrive
  • Perfume
  • Number Girl
Go to episode 388