In Memoriam 2016: LxListening

2016 was not-so-great, and most pertinently here, it was the year the music died. Not only did we lose three stone-cold legends in David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen, we also lost many more way too soon.  So below is a brief tribute to some of those we will miss the most as well as an In Memoriam playlist with some of my favorite songs from these artists.

Sharon Jones

No one in 2016 brought more joy and energy to the stage than Sharon Jones. The soul singer, backed by Brooklyn’s soul revue band the Daptones, was the face of relentless joy and perseverance. Jones’s musical career didn’t start until her 40’s, where before she worked as a correctional officer on Rikers Island. Over the last 15 years, Jones has provided a shot of happiness everywhere she performed, including the last three years where she continued to perform even as she recovered from pancreatic cancer. However, she finally lost her battle to pancreatic cancer after a stroke on Election night that deteriorated her health after that. The world became a little less bright after her loss.

Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest

One of the most influential rap groups of all-time lost their short, fierce, and clever MC Phife Dawg aka Malik Taylor. Phife died from diabetes during the making of their latest album We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, their first in 20 years and one of their best.

Bernie Worrell of Parliament-Funkadelic and Talking Heads

A true musical pioneer and someone who expanded the role that keyboards and synthesizers play in rock music, Bernie Worrell wrote some of music’s most memorable keyboard riffs. From Parliament’s “Flashlight” and “Hit It and Quit It” to “Girlfriend is Better” by Talking Heads, Bernie brought the funk everywhere he went.

Alan Vega of Suicide

For those that love experimental electronic music, Suicide are sort of their Velvet Underground, the band that launched a thousand bands. The electronic New York duo made apocalyptic, avant-garde music that sounded frightening and like nothing else around. Vega died this year at 78, but his legacy lives today more than ever: where electronic music is now at the forefront of popular and independent music.

George Martin, Legendary Beatles Producer

There’s been countless arguments over who the “fifth” Beatle is, whether it’s often collaborator Billy Preston, early members Stu Sutcliffe or Pete Best, but I don’t think there is any doubt that the answer is George Martin, who produced almost every Beatles song you and I know and love. Martin expanded the studio as an instrument, and was a big proponent of why rock and roll became art and not just something fun for teens to dance to.

Leonard Cohen

I’m not sure there was ever a more poetic and graceful songwriter than Leonard Cohen. Dylan was certainly a greater political and urgent songwriter, but no one wrote more gracefully about love and death than Cohen. He was never the singer that he was a songwriter, and strangely his deep, husky voice in his 80s worked better for his subjects of aging and death than in his earlier year’s. Cohen’s voice and music aged like a barrel of bourbon, and his legacy will probably do the same.

Prince

Until high school, I thought Prince was just a weird, creepy, androgynous dude. Then my friend and fellow LxLer Austin introduced me to Sign o’ the Times, Prince’s ambitious 1987 double-album, and it was all downhill from there. From the perfect pop masterpiece of Purple Rain (I can’t name many other albums that I wouldn’t change a thing about) which is the perfect medium between pop and experimental Prince, to his legendary live performances (which I sadly never got to experience in person), to his surprisingly entertaining if somewhat troubled films, Prince could do more than almost any other artist. He could sing, dance, perform, write, play almost any instrument masterfully, dress, produce, create films, and so much more. I’m not sure there’s ever been a more wholly talented musician.

David Bowie

Perhaps more than any other musician, David Bowie was a voice for the outcast. I think that’s a big reason you see so many artists today, likely outcasts in their youth, see Bowie as their biggest inspiration and hero. Bowie was also a true musical chameleon, releasing almost 50 years worth of a music, from a musical-inspired Space Oddity, to an electronic music pioneer on Low, Bowie tried on a number of characters and genres throughout his near 50-year career. At the very end, the Thin White Duke released a prophetic final statement on death and the afterlife with Blackstar two days before his passing from liver cancer. His legacy will live on from his music and the many Kooks that followed him.

For more songs we love from artists that passed in 2016, check out this In Memoriam Playlist.

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The 10 Best Prince Songs or: The List Formerly Known as Our Favorite Songs by the Artist Prince

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Editor’s note: With the shocking and sudden death of Prince, the best way we know how to mourn is share his songs that we loved the most. With that, here is our list from 2014 of our favorite Prince songs of all time. Let all the doves cry out.

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I am sure that if you told Prince that you could order ten of his best all-time songs onto a list of ten, he would make the exact face above and sink it deep into your soul. It is hard to put together a list of such a beloved artist’s songs, especially after releasing thirty-three albums. His thirty-third and thirty-second of which were recently simultaneously released on September 30th. For the occasion (although late), we decided to take on the daunting task of trying to list our favorites anyways. The result is quite a crowd-pleasing list I would say. If you are looking for some serious deep tracks you should probably look elsewhere, but if you can argue the legitimacy of these legendary wonders of pop music, we would love to hear those arguments below. Now onto the list:
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Apocalypse NOW: The 10 Best Apocalyptic Tracks

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Editors note: This originally published in 2013. With the release of the new Walking Dead spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead, we revisit one of our favorite lists, our ten favorite apocalyptic tunes.

We all love us some Edgar Wright (and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for that matter), so with the opening of The World’s End this weekend, we thought it appropriate to dig up the top ten apocalyptic songs.  A few words about The World’s End first though.  I am endlessly excited to see this movie, but it just has the worst title ever.  The title is not bad in and of itself.  It is descriptive.  It is succinct.  But unfortunately it is too similar to another apocalyptic comedy from earlier this summer (This Is The End) as well as a Pirates of the Caribbean poopcicle (At World’s End).  This obviously won’t effect the quality of the movie, but its a pet peeve of mine from a differentiation standpoint.

Now that all that is out of the way, enjoy these top ten tracks for the end of times.

10. Prince – “1999”

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LxListening: Body and Soul

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My fall has been filled listening to two seemingly very different types of music: electronic music and soulful R&B. While on the surface this seems very much like a war between human and machine, the two find themselves in each others’ worlds quite often. So this is a mix of body (danceable electronic music) and soul (soul and R&B), and some that is both body and soul. While this has nothing in common with what I usually listen to in the fall, this is inevitably where I find myself, even though I am one of the least soulful and rhythmic people you will ever meet.
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2014 Musicians on TV Power Rankings

2014 Musicians on TV Power Rankings

Not only are movie and stage actors flocking to TV for more stable and quality roles, musicians have begun to get in on this golden age of television. Musicians are putting down their instruments and picking up their acting chops, getting major and minor roles on sitcoms and procedurals. We have always had late night television performances, but those have even been ratcheted up with the help of the Roots and more artists eager to collaborate on live television.  So in honor of this trend, I decided to put together a 2014 Musicians on TV Power Rankings. One disclaimer is I clearly can’t watch everything, so things like E-Street guitar player’s Steven Van Zandt’s starring role in the crime-drama Lilyhammer and Ice-T’s ongoing role in Law & Order: SVU are outside my purview.  Also, I decided to leave off reality and live TV shows, so the late night magnificence of the Roots won’t be recognized on this list, either will any role from anything like The Voice or American Idol. So this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s my best attempt based what I’ve seen and what I enjoy.
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Mo’ Meta Blues Review

Mo’ Meta Blues

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman

Mo' Meta Blues Book Review

One of the most admirable acts of the last 20 years has to be the Roots, a hip hop band that is really the last of its kind remaining, that sticks true to its convictions even though they now have a cushy gig on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Arguably the brains behind the operation, drummer and producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, not only has piloted the group to gradual greater and greater successes, but has taken on a variety of other notable projects over the years, from producing D’Angelo’s modern touchstones like Voodoo and Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Pt. 1 and 2 to musical director on the Chappelle Show. Questlove’s new memoir, Mo’ Meta Blues, is a refreshingly creative memoir that not only gives great insight into who Questlove is but also tells numerous insider stories that are fascinating and humorous.
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Janelle Monáe Review: The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe

The Electric Lady

 Janelle Monae The Electric Lady album cover art

The abundantly-talented Janelle Monáe burst onto the scene in 2010 with her full-length debut The ArchAndroid, an ambitious sci-fi neo-soul opera that was my favorite album of that year. For those unfamiliar with Monáe, the Kansas-born R&B star in some ways is sort of an ultra-talented female Bruno Mars: what Mars does in doo-wop and soul revue channeling Jackie Wilson and Frankie Valli, Monáe does in a similar fashion but channels Stevie Wonder, Judy Garland, Prince, Lauryn Hill, Outkast, Michael Jackson, James Brown, and even George Lucas. Monáe not only has an insane rock ‘n’ roll vocabulary, but she flips from sounding like Jimi Hendrix to James Brown to Judy Garland as effortlessly as an Olympic gymnast. On her second full-length album and third chapter of her sci-fi adventure, The Electric Lady (which shares a name with Hendrix’s famous New York studio), Monáe recruits R&B’s finest for an album that shows more of her versatility but also more of her heart and attitude.
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