Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist w/ over a decade of experience. Lover of good music, fringe movies, day baseball & chicken shawarma. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
I’m old school when it comes to how I listen to music. I still prefer the physical format. The other week I was reminded of yet another reason why I’m such a fan of it.
I was at The Apple Stomp, a two night ska event put on by Asbestos Records at Irving Plaza in NYC. A bunch of old school ska bands came together just for the show, some of whom hadn’t performed together in years. One such band was What’s Your Problem Brian (pictured above, with friends, circa late 90s).
After What’s Your Problem Brian’s set one of the members of the band walked around with a box of CDs. I asked if I could buy an album, but he said he was giving them away because that particular album, Taste Your Own Medicine, was from 2000, and he and the lead singer have moved on to working on a different project. I gladly took one.
On the train ride home I bumped into a friend, singer/songwriter Jim Wolf, and we opened up the album to take a look at the liner notes. We were immediately greeted by pictures of the band. Wolf commented that everything looked very late 90s PacSun. It was a perfect description of what we were looking at, and on a much bigger level, it put the music, and the group, in a specific era, and therefore, historical context. This is something that’s really cool, and completely lost with the digital format.
We all recognize legendary album covers, but sometimes the images inside can be just as telling as to the who, what, when, and where of the album, and the artist/group. Looking at the images of What’s Your Problem Brian, Wolf and I remembered what we were doing during those late 90s years. I immediately went back to my time as an undergrad and was transported back to old dorm rooms, the Roosevelt Field Mall, and some of my favorite local hangouts, most of which are long gone.
Had What’s Your Problem Brian simply handed me a download card, or sent me to a website where I could check out their music, none of that would have happened. I would have enjoyed what I heard, but there would have been very little connection to it.
Obviously we are in the era of the mp3. CDs just barely beat out downloads when it comes to album sales. This makes me wonder what kind of memory triggers this era of music, and the current generation of music listeners, will have. Will a computer screen be required to be on for someone to reminisce? Will playing a song from this era give people a full view of the scene - the clothes, the trends, the vibe of the time? Personally, I don’t think it will.
The 80s is one of the most well remembered decades of music, but an important aspect of the 80s was the unique look each artist had. You can listen to a song by A Flock of Seagulls, but without the imagery you’d never know about their incredible hair! That hair triggers personal memories, indicates when the song was recorded, and creates a picture of what was going on at the time (and yes, I wrote that as “hair trigger” on purpose).
An mp3 might be convenient, it might be cheap, it might be easy to pirate, but it will never give the full view of an era. Something as simple as a few pictures in an album’s liner notes, however, can, and that’s something worth holding on to.
Every electronic music artist wants to hear their work pulsating from the professional sound systems of night clubs while packed houses dance until beads of sweat form on their foreheads and slowly trickle down their faces.
Robin KG, who is the founder of the electronic music label Kraftjerkz, and an electronic music artist himself, thinks that while the club is a great place, there's a better test of one's production skills. According to the Connecticut native, whose label is based out of NYC, "Laptop speakers, even though they're horrible, and they're not for audiophiles, they do separate the men from the boys."
Over the course of his career, which has spanned over a dozen releases, Sketch Tha Cataclysm has had one simple, yet ultimately complicated, goal - never do the same thing twice.
“I gotta keep changing, and evolving, or I get bored as fuck,” the current Minnesota resident who was born and raised in Connecticut explains. “When I was about to put out my first album, Tao Te Ching, I had this feeling like ‘man, now everybody’s gonna think I’m THIS,’ and that’s my inspiration for every project, to kinda go ‘fuck, now everybody’s gonna think I’m THIS guy.’ I want to be the Mike Patton of emcees, like I don’t just do THIS thing, I do this thing, and this thing...”
Sketch admits that although his creative lust fulfills him artistically, it hasn’t always been the best choice business-wise. “I think that’s probably something that’s stifled my career,” he says, “because people that do a specific thing, that’s them, that’s their shit, and more people do that, they subtly evolve, and I want to do just completely different shit every single time.”
Listeners will have the chance to hear what Sketch has been working on starting tonight, as he and fellow emcee Botzy are kicking off their 12 city The Thrill is Gone tour. As Sketch was preparing to hit the road, RapReviews caught up with him to find out more about the tour, and his next project. Sketch also revealed a few tour stories, including one involving swag murdering granola bars.
Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is celebrating its fourth anniversary. It’s wild to think I’ve been writing this column every week for four years. Like most anniversaries, I didn’t realize it was coming until it was too late to do anything special for it, so, in honor of four years of Pop Shots, I’m going to do what I’ve been doing every week for the past four years – embrace, and poke fun at, some of your favorite famous folks. This week, Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Kanye West showing off his super sized ego, to MTV giving viewers a heaping helping of music videos, to Nathan Sykes returning to The Wanted in front of one of the biggest crowds they’ve ever seen, and since it’s Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
* Kanye West has been quite the busy man. First he was accused of cheating on Kim Kardashian, which, if true, would give us the answer to the age old question, “What Would Yeezus Do?,” then he appeared in the New York Times, giving the most ego filled, detached from reality, interview in the history of mankind. He followed all of that up by becoming a father for the first time when Kim Kardashian gave birth on Saturday. Of course, if Kanye treats fatherhood like he's treated his rap career he'll have Rhymefest name the baby, but take all the credit for it himself.
* After 19 years of marriage, and five children, Billy Ray Cyrus’ wife, Tish, has filed for divorce from the former country superstar. There is no word on who will get custody of Miley’s twerking videos.
* MTV, along with VH1 and CMT, will celebrate the fourth of July by spending 12 hours doing what they used to do best - playing music videos. The video playlist will start at 6am, because apparently MTV thinks everyone should be up at the crack of dawn on a national holiday, and will reportedly give viewers the perfect playlist for their Independence Day festivities. You know, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, freedom sounds just like a Fall Out Boy megamix.
* Cher is going to be appearing, and performing, on The Voice’s season finale on June 18th. We can only hope her most legendary duet partners will be coming with her.
* In front of a crowd of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium in London, Nathan Sykes, who went under the knife for surgery on his vocal chords earlier this year, made his triumphant return to The Wanted during Capital FM’s Summertime Ball. While his return to form is impressive, being that he’s in The Wanted, and the majority of their fan base is screaming teen girls, Sykes could have come back with one of those voice boxes they put in cancer patients and nobody would have noticed the difference.
* Matt Pinfield revealed Nirvana co-founders Kurt Cobain and Kris Novoselic were arrested for something kind of funny when they were 18 years old. The two were hauled in when police caught them hanging out, and Kurt happened to be tagging the wall of an alleyway with an image of Scooby Doo and Shaggy in a sexually compromising position. Judging by his mugshot, had the era been right Kurt could have gone as Rob Thomas every Halloween.
* Rapper 2 Chainz was robbed at gun point in broad daylight in the streets of San Francisco this past week. Somewhere, Young Berg is thinking, “Maybe I have a chance to do a song with him now!”
* Finally, Selena Gomez is sending us some seriously mixed messages. First she tells us that when we’re ready we can “Come & Get It,” but now she’s saying we should “Slow Down” down the song. Well, what is it Selena? Can we come and get it, or do we need to slow down? Could you please make up your mind, all this start and stop driving is hell on my brakes.
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.
I’ve seen Blind Benny live three times, and although I’ve written about them in the past (including a great feature you can check out on Arena.com), this week I realized I’d never given them any time to shine here as a Vid Pick. Today I’m righting that egregious wrong with this posting of “Chewjitsu.” The song is a crowd favorite at their shows, and a personal favorite of mine, as well. I have no doubt that once you give it a listen you’ll understand why I’m such a big fan of the group, and the fantastic vocals of their lead singer, Jade. You can expect to see me at another one of Blind Benny’s shows before the summer is up.
Taking a myopic view of Holland, one might think tulips, clogs, and windmills are all the region has to offer. The area, however, is also the home to Skiggy Rapz, an emcee/producer who’s been making a name for himself throughout The Netherlands, and beyond, thanks to his mixture of high quality lyricism, and pop sensibilities.
Earlier this year, Skiggy released his sophomore album, Satellites, and this past week the video for the third single off of that album, “SuperHoney,” hit YouTube.
When I was extended an invite to Skiggy’s studio in Utrecht (via Skype. RapReviews may be a great site, but we don’t have THAT kinda budget), I took him up on the offer, and found out more about his city, his music, and how Satellites could have ended up a depressing album instead of being so upbeat. Skiggy also opened up about being eternally linked to Snooki.
The best part about writing this column, and being deep in the New York City music scene, is hearing such a wide variety of musical genres. The creativity, and musicianship, is so great that new and exciting sounds are conceived, and mature, on a regular basis. Some prime example are in this edition of Neighborhood Watch: NYC, which features the electronic dream pop of City Society, some summer ready surf rock from The Post Nobles, and a little bit of metal from Eye Ra Haze. Ferns gives us dream-punk, while Night Birds gives us classic punk, and singer-songwriter Jodi Good lets us know why different is to be embraced. We even have some old school ska straight from Asbestos Records' wildly successful two night event, The Apple Stomp. Leading things off, however, is the hand clapping, foot stomping, folk sound of Jim Wolf.
Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Miguel’s leg drop victim claiming to have some medical issues, to Paris Jackson’s unfortunate following in her family’s tradition of going under the knife, to Jennifer Love Hewitt announcing she’ll be in the market for a pediatrician soon, and since it’s Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
* The victim of Miguel’s infamous Billboard Music Awards leg drop is now claiming the incident has resulted in her having brain damage. Being that she was going crazy for a performance by Miguel, however, I’m betting it’s a preexisting condition.
* Because the internet isn’t filled without enough examples of bad parenting, Miley Cyrus is asking her fans to send in videos of themselves twerking to her new song, “We Can’t Stop” (if you don’t know what twerking is, Google it, witness it, then clear your search history immediately). Someone from her team will put together the wildest clips for a “best of” video that is sure to melt R. Kelly’s computer. Once the finished product is completed, everyone who watches it will have to register as a sex offender.
* Paris Jackson, the 15 year old daughter of the deceased king of pop, Michael Jackson, attempted suicide last week after her mother wouldn’t allow her to go to a Marilyn Manson concert. The suicide attempt reportedly involved taking 20 Motrin, and cutting herself with a meat cleaver. With all due respect to Paris, I think she got her bands mixed up. Cutting yourself is way more of a Papa Roach thing.
* Justin Bieber, and his agent, Scooter Braun, are planning to travel to space via Virgin Galactic. The six passenger space shuttle, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (what the heck happened to SpaceShipOne!?!), takes customers 62 miles above earth. I know Richard Branson has all the money in the world, so we can’t really bribe him to leave Bieber and Scooter up there, but there’s gotta be something he wants that can’t be bought with money, and I say we find out what that thing is and give it to him in exchange for what we want, even if it involves a human sacrifice. Obviously that’s not optimal on our end, but if it does comes down to that, Paris Jackson seems available.
* After a life saving liver transplant, legendary rocker Lou Reed says he is “bigger and stronger than ever.” When asked for comment, the liver said, “I’m where now? Son of a bitch!”
* Jennifer Love Hewitt has announced she is both engaged and pregnant. Her pregnancy means all the stars of I Know What You Did Last Summer have procreated, which I’m fairly sure opens a portal to another dimension.
* Beyonce’s team is telling anyone who will listen that Blue Ivy is not getting a little brother, or sister, as Mrs. Jay-Z is not, in fact, pregnant. For someone who’s so obsessed with being viewed as perfect you know it’s gotta grate on Beyonce that people are looking at her and thinking she’s with child. She’s probably already fired her personal trainer, midriff stylist (I don’t know if that’s a real job, but it sounds like the kind of thing she’d pay someone to do), and requested that when she arrives in a city every resident’s camera and cell phone be confiscated.
* Nine Inch Nails have announced a new album, Hesitation Marks, due out September 3rd, and a new tour, which will run from October 14th through November 8th. Groupies, however, may be disappointed to learn that due to his age, Trent Reznor will no longer be wanting to fuck anyone like an animal, instead opting to fuck them like someone who wants to take a nap before their show, and could really use some time to check out the Pinterest accounts he’s following.
* Gucci Mane gave some mentor-like advice to troubled rapper Chief Keef this past week. In an interview with Power 107.5FM in Columbus, OH, the man with the ice cream cone tattooed on his face said, “I take responsibility for some of that bad stigma that comes from me. A lot of the things I have done, I regret. And a lot of it [I warranted]. A lot of it, it be false claims... Media take it and make they own assumptions... A lot of things don’t have a lot of truth in them... My advice would be to him (Chief Keef), and any other young guy, is to learn from... try not to do the same thing that I did.” Seeing how Chief Keef’s mind has worked (or, more precisely, not worked) in the past, I imagine he’s in a tattoo parlor right now telling the artist, “nah, not an ice cream cone on my face. Gucci told me not to be like him. Let’s switch it up and make it a frozen yogurt.”
* Finally, Colette Carr’s “Mes Amis” is a perfect summer song. It should be part of the soundtrack to every bbq and party from now until September. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to find a video for it on the web, so here’s hoping this clip I’m embedding from a French site doesn’t get taken down by the time I post this.
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.