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Riffs, Rants and Rumors: The Zombies and The Left Banke, Live in Baroque Pop Heaven

Like so many other things, it all began with The Beatles. The style that came to be known variously as baroque pop, orchestral pop, chamber pop, etc. can basically be traced back to 1966, when The Beatles started crafting their own brand of art songs with classically styled string arrangements, like “Eleanor Rigby,” right around the same time their American rivals The Beach Boys were getting orchestral themselves on Pet Sounds. Soon the world was awash in pop/rock combos with big ideas—  tinkling harpsichords, tugging cello lines, and tart violin phrases were placed atop ‘60s pop songs like frosted flowers adorning a wedding cake. While the style would forever after be associated with the ‘60s, baroque pop never really stopped influencing subsequent generations of bands, from ‘80s acts like The Three O’Clock and XTC alter ego The Dukes of Stratosphear to the Elephant 6 collective of the ‘90s (Olivia Tremor Control, Of Montreal, et al), and beyond.

But while the sound may have started in the busy brains of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney, baroque pop’s standard-bearers, the artists who truly came to epitomize the style, were The Zombies and The Left Banke. For British Invasion heroes The Zombies, their 1968 swan song, Odessey and Oracle [sic]—recorded in ’67—was a high-water mark both in the advancement of orchestral pop and the oeuvre of the group itself. On the other side of the Atlantic, young New York band The Left Banke was already at work on its second album of baroque-pop gems by the time Odessey was released. Their ’67 debut had included such heart-stoppingly gorgeous hits as “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina,” and even after boy-genius keyboardist Mike Brown departed, they soldiered on with 1968’s outstanding The Left Banke Too. But by the time 1969 rolled around, both bands were basically done, and only the aforementioned masterpieces were left to influence budding chamber-pop disciples.

Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants and Rumors: The Zombies and The Left Banke, Live in Baroque Pop Heaven’

Riffs, Rants and Rumors: The Sufis Serve Up Some Southern Psych

You don’t have to be stoned to be psychedelic. Sure, people tend to tag psychedelia as “trippy,” but that appellation has as much to do with the transporting quality of the best psychedelic music as it does with anything Timothy Leary ever espoused. After all, even Jimi Hendrix himself famously described the titular satori-like state described in “Are You Experienced?” as being “not necessarily stoned, but beautiful.” But if you’re after a more modern example, turn toward The Sufis, a young Nashville-based trio of psychedelic rockers whose driving force, Calvin LaPorte, observes, “Bands who say they’re psychedelic but don’t really sound like they are, we encounter them all the time, and it’s pretty much guys who just smoke a lot of weed, and the music sounds better when you’re stoned. I think that’s what that kind of ‘psychedelic’ is, but we wanted to hone in more on the arrangement of psychedelic music.”

Together with guitarist Jay Smith and drummer Evan Smith, multi-instrumentalist LaPorte pays homage to the swirling psych-pop sounds of the ‘60s on The Sufis’ self-titled debut album. And while his primary influences were making records before he was born, LaPorte comes by his inspirations naturally. He was first bitten by the paisley-patterned bug as a child, via his father’s record collection. “I’ve been listening to that kind of stuff since I was six or seven,” he recalls, “The Beatles, I heard [Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett-fronted 1967 single] ‘See Emily Play’ really early on, seven or eight. And he [LaPorte's father] had a lot of Beach Boys, that’s definitely one of the big influences.” Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants and Rumors: The Sufis Serve Up Some Southern Psych’

The Beach Boys Celebrate 50th Anniversary With ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’

America’s band is back, with their first new album in 16 years. That’s Why God Made The Radio marks the return of Brian Wilson; Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks work together to build a sea of close knit harmonies, layered over finely crafted pop tunes, with an undeniable SoCal aesthetic. The nostalgia works surprisingly well, and comes off as endearing, not corny. While there are plenty of references to hot-rods and turtle-wax, most have been replaced with retrospective themes, looking back on life. The album will never be able to compete with the seminal 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds, but it will serve as a nice book end to a glorious run as America’s greatest band. Enjoy your ride into the sunset boys, you’ve got our attention.

Superlatones: Best Hidden Talent

Lately, it seems that we are hearing more and more from new and unexpected partnerships between artists of different genres. This is why, through Superlatones, we are creating our very own directory—a musical wish-list, if you will—of artists who have yet to join the collaborative bandwagon.

As musicians, we come to understand music in a myriad of different ways. Depending on what instrument we play or value most, we tend to tune in to specific parts of a song: a drum solo, a complicated guitar riff, a fun bass line. This week, we feature artists known for their catchy tunes and great production quality; but instead of analyzing the composition of their songs, we are focusing on a different aspect of their music that the rest of the world seems to take for granted: their voice.

The Dynamic Duo:
Foster the People
and Gotye


Continue reading ‘Superlatones: Best Hidden Talent’

The Second Coming of The Beach Boys

Let’s face it, sometimes the past should stay dead. But when an awesome musical artist fades from popularity, their fans later wonder, “Where are they now?”  You may not know it, but many artists you loved in the past are still hard at work writing new albums or preparing to tour once more.  Fortunately, you now have Second Coming to reintroduce you to some of your favorite acts of the last few decades, and give you the scoop on what you can expect from them in the future!

THEN: The year was 1961 and a brand new musical soundscape was about to unfold. The three Wilson brothers (Brian, Dennis and Carl) along with their cousin and friend formed a band called the Beach Boys. The group had several hits, like “Surfin’ USA,” “I Get Around” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Besides serving up some sunny pop tunes, the band is also known for creating the first-ever concept album: 1966′s Pet Sounds. This record showed a departure from the simplistic beach hits of the group’s early days and pioneered new instrumentation and musical stylings. Though the band had every intention of continuing on after Pet Sounds, frontman Brian Wilson began to fall victim to mental instability and substance abuse. After Carl and Dennis both passed away, the band made sporadic appearances under the Beach Boys name, but they were still very clearly distanced from the close relationship they once had.

NOW: Rumors of a Beach Boys reunion have circulated for a few years, but it wasn’t until December of 2011 that the surviving members of the band confirmed the plans. If you tuned in to the 2012 GRAMMY Awards, then you may have caught the group’s first performance with Brian Wilson in over twenty years, which featured appearances from Maroon 5 and Foster the People. It may seem strange to call these seventy-year-olds “boys,” but it’s clear that everyone was feeling nostalgic during their performance of “Good Vibrations.” The Boys used the GRAMMYs as a chance to announce their Fiftieth Anniversary Tour, which includes a set at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Visit their official site for a complete list of tour dates and information on their upcoming album!

Take a trip down memory lane with this live television performance of “I Get Around”:

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