Monday, October 25, 2010

The Snapshot

It’s always interesting to me when creators write a sort of explanation to their creations. Whether it’s a writer, visual artist or musician, it seems that artists commonly write a sort of treatise on their work. Since I’m working on an album at this very moment, I thought it would be enjoyable and beneficial to make one of my own. Much of these ideas have been covered in earlier blog posts but I’m ploughing ahead anyway.

First and foremost, an album is a snapshot. Just like anything, it came to be thanks to a series of events. Songs are inspired my experiences or thoughts that happened to the writer around the time of the album. The artist should act as a photographer and capture as much as he can in one shot.

This isn’t to say that an album shouldn’t represent more than a particular time for a particular person. In fact, if that was all that the audience could possibly get from an album, then it would be a failure. However, the artist shouldn’t attempt anything more though the snapshot should naturally depict more than initially meets the eye. The interpretation belongs to the audience not the creator.

Nonetheless, the artist should keep the audience in mind in writing from his/her own experiences. The ultimate goal of art is to reach others through exploration of ones own expression. It’s not about screaming “Look what I did for you!” or “I don’t care what you think of what I did.” The middle path is the one that should be taken. The art should invite the listener into the artist’s world and hopefully connect somewhere along the way.

Finally, it is important to be a unique voice in the ongoing conversation of tradition. This goes back to drawing from one’s own experiences. No two people have the exact same history so therefore artists should be as varied as people are. The artist must respect those who came before him/her without modeling him/herself after any particular figure from the past.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Gold Medal: Natty Dread by Bob Marley and the Wailers

This has been my favorite reggae album since I first heard it. Released after Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh went their separate ways, this is the first album with Marley taking full creative control. Natty Dread is the perfect blending of the genre’s polar emotions: protest and chill. Underneath Marley’s incredible voice, the arrangements are top-notch, featuring incredible guitar work as well as horns and female background vocals. It’s captivating from being to end, never falling into the “all sounds the same” camp of so much reggae. Instead, the nine tracks fly by, with highlights like “No Woman, No Cry” and “So Jah Seh" representing the best Bob Marley ever recorded.

Silver Medal: No Other by Gene Clark

Better than anything the Byrds ever made, Gene Clark’s solo masterpiece is one of the most underappreciated albums in existence. After founding and later leaving the Byrds, Clark recorded a handful of country-tinged albums, culminating in this crowning achievement. What makes this album so fantastic is the perfect harnessing of energy with of every song. Each track starts out innocent and unassuming but blossoms into a gripping climax that sends shivers up the listener’s spine. Recorded impeccably with the help of Thomas Jefferson Kaye, the album is a wash of wonder. This is arguably the best country-rock has to offer.

Bronze Medal: Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s first album with a full band, Court and Spark presents Joni stepping elegantly in to the world of jazz without leaving her singer/songwriter roots. One of the finest voices of her generation, Joni Mitchell proves herself here (as always) as a master storyteller who can get more emotion across in her music than just about anyone else. This album showcases a stellar cast of session musicians, mixed together brilliantly. After meticulously writing and recording the album, Joni produced her most commercially and critically successful album yet. It’s remarkable yet somehow unsurprising that she made such an ambitious jump seem so easy.