Music That Inspires: One More Light

It has been a week since Linkin Park’s Chester Bennignton committed suicide. I figured now would be a good time to review the last Linkin Park album One More Light.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been a fan of Linkin Park, especially Chester, since the group debuted. One of the things I appreciate about the band is their combination of styles. They merge alternative rock, metal, rap, EDM, electronica, and ambient music. This style was later categorized as nu metal. I think this is what made Linkin Park so popular. There is a little bit of something for everyone. However, they are artists, and as such they like to experiment. After the first two albums, they began to change their style on each album.

This angered some fans who preferred the nu metal sound. The latest album, One More Light, brought that anger to its zenith. The album received a ton of hate from fans and lackluster reviews from critics. I heard the first single Heavy, and liked it. However, the sound was completely different from the typical Linkin Park fare. After reading some of the reviews, I held off on getting the album.

Now that I have it, I must say that it is not as bad as people suggested. It is a good album. It just is not a Linkin Park album. The album is pure pop. It is not even pop rock. There is very little guitar work on the album, and most of the bass and drums are played with in post production. It does not make the album bad, yet it does remove that signature Linkin Park sound. Continue reading

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Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington committed suicide

Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, committed suicide. According to reports, he hanged himself, possibly on Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Authorities found his body Thursday morning around 9 a.m.

To say I am at a loss for words is an understatement. I apologize in advance if this post is rabbling.

I found out about Chester while checking my Facebook feed. I immediately assumed it was a hoax, but I checked the news feeds anyway. I was completely stunned. Within minutes I got eight different texts from friends and family, including my father and one of my uncles.

According to one of my brothers who I was with at the time, I sat in a daze for a while. Linkin Park is a fundamental part of my life. Their music, especially Chester’s lyrics, helped me cope with my past. I probably would not have managed those early years without the band. Continue reading

Music That Inspires: Temple of the Dog

On May 18th of 2017 singer and songwriter Chris Cornell took his own life. Cornell was the lead singer of Soundgarden, and one of the most influential musicians on modern rock history. Along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains, Soundgarden led the wave of the 1990s grunge music scene. Without Cornell’s writing and voice, hundreds of bands and thousands of popular songs would not exist.

The first time I remember hearing Cornell was from the Black Hole Sun music video. I had never heard anything like it before, and I was fascinated his voice. Cornell’s vocal abilities are impressive. He was one of few people who can scream sing and still be intelligible. You can feel the power of his voice even with the volume turned down.

Rather than comment on his suicide, I would like to focus on his music. There are so many good songs and albums to pick from. He fronted Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, and released five solo albums. I think, however, I will go with my favorite, Temple of the Dog by Temple of the Dog.

It is rare to find an album where every song is good. This is one of those albums, and why would it not be? It is Chris Cornell singing with Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, Jeff Ament, and Matt Cameron, i.e. the group that would become Pearl Jam.

The album resulted from Cornell writing two songs in tribute to his roommate Andrew Wood, lead singer of Mother Love Bone. Wood overdosed on heroin. Cornell had no one to talk to following Wood’s death, and wrote the songs Reach Down and Say Hello 2 Heaven to cope with his feelings. He later presented them to Ament and Gossard, who were members of Mother Love Bone. The rest of the album came together after that.

Because there is not a bad song on the album, it makes it difficult to choose what to highlight. However, I think I will go for the songs I like to listen to the most. Continue reading

Music That Inspires: Seal

I like Seal.

Not the animal, although I find them cute. I mean the musician Seal. I find his voice fascinating and his music and lyrics full of emotion. Over the last year I have bought most of his albums. I was already familiar with his music, but I did not have any full albums, only a handful of songs featured on soundtracks.

I have all of this studio albums except for the most recent and the two Soul compilation albums. Below are a selection of some of my favorite songs. In case anyone is curious, my favorite album is Human Being. The album did not fair well with critics, however, I enjoy the darker tone of the songs. My second favorite album is Seal: Commitment. The interesting part about both these albums is that Seal wrote them in response to his relationships, the first being with Tyra Banks and the second with Heidi Klum.  Continue reading

Music That Inspires: Rodriguez

I first learned about Sixto Rodriquez a few years ago. I watched a documentary about him called Searching for Sugarman. Rodriguez released two albums in the United States, but neither of them did well. However, they made their way to South Africa in the early 1970s, and found an audience among the young white liberals in the country during the middle of the apartheid-era. Rodriguez found similar appeal in Australia and New Zealand, however, he was completely unaware of the South African audience. They similarly knew little about him, and rumors went around claiming he was dead.

That proved untrue. Rodriguez is alive and mostly well (he is losing his eye sight). He still tours, and thanks to the Oscar-winning film has found a new audience.

It is quite a thing to consider. Rodriguez made two albums — Cold Fact and Coming from Reality — almost 50 years ago and nothing else since then. Yet these two albums hold up very well. Continue reading

Music That Inspires: Ten

Yes, I am one of those people who like Pearl Jam.

I do not remember the first Pearl Jam song I heard. The one that sticks in my mind is Jeremy, mostly because of the video, but I feel like I heard Alive or Evenflow first.

I consider Pearl Jam’s Ten a perfect album. I love every song. It has a special meaning for me because the summer of 1993. The album almost plays out exactly the that summer went. I remember listening to the songs and seeing parts of my life in the lyrics. The songs were not at all about the situations I experienced, but I saw them that way.

I also made my younger brother hate this album. I would make him listen to it, either by the stereo, headphones, or singing the songs. When moved in together years later, he banned from playing the album on anything he could hear. A running joke between us is that to annoy him I will sing the opening lines of GardenShe don’t wander in, don’t wander in here, she — which he usually follows up with something along the lines of “I swear to God….” and then offers a colorful threat. (Ironically, this is just happen. He heard me playing Evenflow and yelled at me, and now he is yelling at me and hitting me for adding this to the post.)

I think the reason I love the album is because of the raw energy of the music and lyrics. The way Eddie Vedder sings adds to this. He is similar to Bjork in that you cannot know what he will say next. It is as if he is finding the lyrics as he goes along.

Below of my favorite songs from the album. I ended up buying the European version of the album a few years ago to replace the original I left at home, which explains the inclusion of Dirty Frank. Continue reading

Being a Man: A Difficult Discussion

How do I tell him?  How much do I tell him?

I always intended to tell my godson about the things that happened to me. I see no reason to keep it from him. So much of who I am today comes from bonding with him. He deserves to know. However, the last thing I expected was to have that conversation this past weekend. Correction, the last thing I expected was that the death of a musician and one of his best songs would spur that discussion.

Prince died last Thursday. My foster father is a massive Prince fan, so our home was filled with Prince’s music over the weekend. My foster father has original vinyl pressings of Prince’s first three albums. No one was allowed to touch them, especially no one under the age of twenty. That seems petty, but he had a practical reason: none of them had ever held a vinyl record before, let alone put one on to play. The scratching potential alone was not worth the risk.

On Sunday we made it a day of Prince’s music. Like any true fan, my foster father has multiple versions of the albums, so he moved from the more fragile vinyl records to his digital collection. Since everyone was in a good mood and singing along with the songs, I decided to join in as well.

Some of the songs I had not heard in years, like Scarlet Pussy and Partyman (the best part with the latter song is that everyone but my foster father only knew the lyrics up to the point where the song ends in Batman). I am a fan of Prince’s music, primarily his music from the eighties. I always liked his videos and the few performances I got to see on television. He was a showman in the truest sense.

However, I also have an unpleasant memory involving one of his songs. That song, of course, would be the one my godson asked me to sing. Continue reading