Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Interview with Lydia Loveless

Hot on the heels of last Friday's release of Real, Lydia Loveless' highly anticipated brand new album on Bloodshot Records, we spoke with the fiery alt-country singer-songwriter for our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One. Loveless opened up about the songs on her new album, her lyrical evolution between releases, her approach to cover songs, and her thoughts on the IBM Selectric typewriter.

NoiseTrade: What can you tell us about the two songs from your new album Real (“Same to You” and “Longer”) appearing here on your NoiseTrade sampler?

Lydia Loveless: I think "Same to You" has more of a classic Lydia Loveless alt-country style, I suppose, with the classic feedback and crunch. Whereas "Longer" has a more subtle, layered approach that honors our love of pop music and harmony.

NT: For Real, you chose to work with producer Joe Viers again. What have you learned from him while working together on your last few releases and what went into choosing him again for your new album?

Loveless: I honestly learned work ethic from him. I used to really think of being in the studio as a chore where my opinion was unwelcome. Now, it's my favorite place to be. He helps me really listen to the song and what it needs. He's taught me to be confident and take risks. I really just felt like he belonged on this record to show how much we've grown together.

NT: You’ve contrasted the lyrics on your previous releases as being blunt and raw against the lyrics on your new album being honest and true. What do you see as the differences between those two lyrical approaches?

Loveless: I think I've just calmed down a lot and I was coming from a more heartfelt place. I'm a little more vulnerable on this record. Less desperate and demanding, I think.

NT: I love that you’ve included “Boy Crazy” from your EP of the same name on this sampler. How do you feel this beautifully fuzzy, in-and-out release fits within your catalog?

Loveless: It's one of my favorites we do. I think that EP really marked our departure from genre confines. That particular song went through many changes stylistically, from blues to Jesus and Mary Chain before we settled on a poppy feedback version. Pop and feedback are two of my favorite things.

NT: Over the years you’ve recorded some incredible covers of songs by Prince, Kirsty MacColl, Elvis Costello, Echo and the Bunnymen, and others. What determines whether or not you’ll cover a song and how do you go about making them your own?

Loveless: It's either really being able to relate to a song or really being able to make it my own. Sometimes, I just get stuck and want to channel someone's energy for a bit.

NT: Finally, I’m a huge fan of the “odd facts found on Wikipedia pages” game and your page certainly qualifies. Can you expound upon the entry “Loveless is an avowed fan of the IBM Selectric typewriter”?

Loveless: Well, I own one, ha. I like them because they're old and loud and clunky.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

Boyz II Men – Cooleyhighharmony and II [Vinyl Reissues] (Album Review)

While the Boyz II Men origin story is rich with R&B history – brought together by a love for a cappella doo-wop harmonies, named after a New Edition song, discovered by Michael Bivins (New Edition, Bell Biv DeVoe) – it was the group’s unbelievable string of hits in the early 1990s that cemented their own standout place in the R&B canon. With the vinyl reissue of their first two albums – Cooleyhighharmony and II – courtesy of Motwon/UMe and Respect the Classics, it’s easier than ever to remind yourself of their 90s-flavored vocal group superiority.

Cooleyhighharmony was Boyz II Men’s debut album and was first released on February 14, 1991. Since the single for "Motownphilly" was released in January of that year, I had requested the tape of Cooleyhighharmony as the #1 thing I wanted for my birthday in March. Because of my slight obsession with the group, I ended up getting three tapes of it from different people as presents. I wasn't the only one in love with it though. The album hit #58 on the Billboard 200 its first week of release and went all the way to #3 on the back of hit singles “Motownphilly” and “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” Cooleyhighharmony has been certified 9x platinum and is often placed on “best of” lists for 90s albums due to the foursome’s unmatched vocal interplay and their unique, coordinated aesthetic. While the band had two other non-album singles released around the same time – “End of the Road” from the Boomerang soundtrack and their cover of “In the Still of the Nite (I’ll Remember)” from The Jacksons: An American Dream soundtrack – this vinyl reissue maintains the original’s 10-song tracklisting and artwork, making it more of a rarified collector’s item than the last few reissued editions.

II was Boyz II Men’s follow-up to Cooleyhighharmony and it was released on August 30, 1994. It was the album that skyrocketed the group to national and international success. One of the most unique elements that watermarked the juggernaut success of Boyz II Men during this timeframe was their ability to not just top the charts, but top themselves as well. Their back-to-back #1 singles – “I’ll Make Love to You” and “On Bended Knee” – replaced each other at the very top of the charts, a feat that had only previously been achieved by Elvis Presley and The Beatles. “Water Runs Dry” also became a Top 5 hit for the group, reaching all the way to #2. Overall, the album spent five weeks at #1, it won the very first Grammy award for Best R&B Album, and it has been certified 12x platinum since it was first released. The very next year, Boyz II Men would do even more to solidify their supremacy by dueting with Mariah Carey on "One Sweet Day" from her Daydream album. When that one comes on in the car, you better believe I can make my way through all four parts.

Cooleyhighharmony and II launched Boyz II Men’s career and firmly sealed their legacy in the pantheon of R&B vocal groups. Listening back through these vinyl reissues – to both the hits and the deep tracks – it’s simply amazing to hear how quickly and completely it all started for the guys.

Friday, July 29, 2016

R.E.M. – Dead Letter Office and Eponymous [Vinyl Reissues] (Album Review)

For the first time since their initial releases in the late-80s, two of R.E.M.’s classic compilation albums are getting pressed again on vinyl for a July 29 release. Dead Letter Office and Eponymous are being reissued with the original artwork and liner note insert sleeves for a sonic and aesthetic presentation that is beautifully faithful to the original releases.

Dead Letter Office was first released in 1987 and marks R.E.M.’s first collection of b-sides, rarities, outtakes, and covers. Showcasing both the band’s unpolished, quirky side, as well as their varied musical influences, Dead Letter Office is a must-have for die-hard R.E.M. fans and functions as an incredibly interesting audio artifact in their catalog for casual fans. The 15-track collection brings together many of the band’s early original b-sides and also includes their left-of-center takes on songs by Aerosmith, Roger Miller, Pylon, and Velvet Underground, the latter of which gets three separate covers (“There She Goes Again,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” and “Femme Fatale”). Dead Letter Office is also memorable for guitarist Peter Buck’s track-by-track liner notes.

Eponymous was first released in 1988 and functions as the band’s first greatest hits collection. The album covers the band’s time on I.R.S. Records and was their last release for the label before they moved to Warner Brothers. Eponymous was actually released just a month before Green, the band’s first album for Warner Brothers. Never known to do things by standard protocol, the band actually included alternate takes of the more well-known album versions of “Radio Free Europe,” “Gardening at Night,” and “Finest Worksong,” as well as “Romance” which was previously only available on the soundtrack to the 1987 film Made in Heaven. Anytime I’m trying to turn anyone on to R.E.M.’s greatness with just a single album at my disposal, Eponymous is my go-to introductory blind date every time (followed closely by Fables of the Reconstruction).

As an added bonus, the band’s fourth proper studio LP Lifes Rich Pageant is also being reissued on the same day to celebrate the album’s 30th anniversary. Lifes Rich Pageant provided the band with their first Gold record and produced hit singles (and stellar videos) for "Fall on Me" and "Superman."

All three vinyl LPs are available for preorder here.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Greatest Hits [US Vinyl Debut] (Album Review)

While most band’s greatest hits album aren’t much more than a few solid singles sprinkled amidst a weaker smattering of fan favorites, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers aren’t most bands. Their accurately titled Greatest Hits album was first released back in 1993 and it quickly went on to become the band’s best-selling release. Currently sitting above the 12x platinum threshold, there’s a good chance that this Friday’s reissue of Greatest Hits – the first time it will be available on vinyl in the US - will provide an even bigger bump in its already impressive sales figures.

Spanning the band’s entire catalog (and Petty’s solo material) up to the point of its initial release in 1993, Greatest Hits is jam-packed with the band’s signature American heartland rock vibe and Petty’s unmistakable vocals. Listening through the album feels like a sonic survey through the heyday of classic rock radio and MTV. From the pulsing intro riff of “American Girl” to the snarling singalong chorus of “Refugee” to the psychedelic slink of “Don’t Come Around No More,” every Heartbreakers’ staple acts as an audible reminder of the band’s lasting impact since their 1976 debut. Plus, anyone alive during ‘80s-‘90s era of MTV will have their iconic videos playing along in their heads as each song plays.

The 18-track playlist features at least one track from every major Petty release except 1987’s Let Me Enough (I’ve Had Enough), as well as the three #1 hits (“I Won’t Back Down,” “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” and “Free Fallin’”) from Petty’s 1989 solo debut Full Moon Fever. Greatest Hits also included two new band recordings: a cover of “Something in the Air” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” the latter of which became the first #1 of the 1990s for the band.

This US vinyl debut spans 2 LPs, is pressed on 180-gram vinyl, and is presented in gorgeous gatefold packaging that features a plethora of cool candid photos filling its interior. This is such a stunning collection – both sonically and visually – and it’s incredibly fitting that it’s finally available on vinyl for US fans.