LP Release Tuesday: August 23rd, 2011

By Joseph Giannone 2011-08-23 21:48:16
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The fascinating thing about the music industry, and the reason why I love it, is that any artist, musician, singer or group has the potential to get famous, regardless of where they hail from. That’s why it remains such a bastion of creativity. It’s expensive to make a movie and even more expensive to get it seen, but making an LP is cheap, securing local gigs is easy. A band doesn’t need a large following to start out with, but if they’re playing something people want to hear, they’ll slowly get bigger. Word of mouth works better in music than any other medium. That positive buzz grows the fan base, which in turn leads to bigger gigs, which in turn attracts record companies and radio stations. It’s not easy, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than Hollywood.

If you have talent and you work at it long enough, good things will happen. It doesn’t mean every band will be as popular as The Beatles, but with the right demo, fresh works of art can be achieved. Isn’t that the whole point of working in the arts anyway?

This week, The Green Album for the new Muppets film is joining together the musical forces of My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, OK Go, Amy Lee and Weezer for an astounding record. My review will be hitting the internet later this week, and I can tell you it’s not at all what you would expect. As I mentioned earlier this week in my review for Jeff Bridges' new self-titled album, most musicians trying their hand in acting is a bad thing, but Barbra Streisand has succeeded in both. Her new album, which is titled What Matters Most is sure to be as consistent as her acting career. Let’s just hope it’s not a Meet the Fockers dud. Rapper The Game is also returning to the scene after a three year absence and is coming out with The R.E.D. Album. What is so special about naming an album after a color that musicians seem to adhere too? I will answer that at the end of this week’s column. Here are this week’s LP releases:

LP Release Tuesday
5) Barbra Streisand What Matters Most
Many of you might not have known this, because I didn’t know it either, but Barbra Streisand has released over 30 albums since her beginning in the music industry. Starting in 1963, the famous singer and actress topped the pop charts with her hit singles “When the Sun Comes Out” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.” The Meet The Fockers star has been well known in past years for her delicate work in Hollywood but it would be anyone’s guess, maybe not for people my parents' age, that she was also a world renowned pop singer. Just saying that still surprises me.

What doesn’t surprise me though is that Streisand's latest release is up to par with her film credits in authenticity and aesthetics. What Matters Most is a record that plays like a glossy pop album with a tingle of somberness. Her soft voice has the punch of Aretha Franklin's emotional belt. It’s exciting to find new music out there, and it’s even more invigorating to find out that one of the finest actresses in the past thirty years is also an astounding singer. You learn something new every single day.

LP Release Tuesday
4) Stephin Merritt Obscurities
Stephin Merritt is a singer songwriter based in Los Angeles and formerly from New York. As I mentioned above, the fascinating thing about the music industry is that bands from all different genres and musicians of all eclectic backgrounds have a chance to make it big. And Merritt is a prime example of that. Starting off playing guitar and piano when he was young child, the musician got his break with his first band The Magnetic Fields. After starting that group he went on to create numerous other projects including The 6ths, The Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes.

“The Book of Love” hit-maker has made over 20 albums and it’s all because of his talents as a musician that thousands of fans revel over his music. This is something that doesn't happen in Hollywood all too often; letting a virtually unknown artist take a hold of his own career. Merritt’s latest album Obscurities brings together all the missing and unknown works that he’s made over the years. For any fans of his previous efforts, this will surely be another chance to open you to his whimsical charm. His music is weird, but the fact that he can play it for the world is magical.

LP Release Tuesday
3) David Stewart The Blackbird Diaries
David Stewart is another musician that benefits from his odd sound and even more bizarre albums. Records like Sly-Fi and Greetings from the Gutter showcase his solo career and highlight his own eccentricities while albums with his group Eurythmics like Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and Touch are nothing like what you’ve ever heard before.

His most famous song that was named after the title of its record, “Sweet Dreams ( Are Made of This),” is a tune that can both creep you out and bring chills down your spine. The deeply melodic synthesizers buzz through your mind as Annie Lennox’s vocals eat at your soul. The same can be said for Stewart’s latest solo work called The Blackbird Diaries. Sure, he’s probably slowed down his weird tendencies to a considerable pace with this effort, but more than likely it’ll protrude from the heavily synthesized songs in one way or the other. We can only hope so.

LP Release Tuesday
2) The Game The R.E.D. Album
The Game is a rapper who has made his name in the business since his breakout album The Documentary. Bringing together a lush group of gangster rap tendencies and also delving into a plethora of west coast hip-hop influenced beats, the album reminded us of what groups like N.W.A. and Jedi Mind Tricks were doing so many years ago. Since 2009, Game has been working on his role in the Keanu Reeves, Hugh Laurie, Forest Whitaker and Chris Evans film Street Kings. The rap aficionado community understood his absence, so we can just say that we’re glad to have him back.

Keeping up with the common act of naming an album after a color, Game is releasing his newest effort called The R.E.D. Album. Whether or not it will keep up with its close to perfect competitor, Jay-Z’s Black Album, is still up for question. Let’s just hope that this record has the same urgency and equally outstanding production that his last two records 2006’s Doctor's Advocate and 2008’s LAX had.

LP Release Tuesday
1) Various Artists The Green Album
As they say, “you keep the best for last,” and whoever “they” are, they’re absolutely right. The Green Album is the turning point for my faith in the music industry. Not only does The Green Album encompass so much passion in its music, it also brings together an eclectic group of musicians for a singular unified effort, proving that using art to sell a feature film and cashing in on millions of dollars isn’t always devious act of creative death. As long as the so-called “art’ being produced is worthwhile, then I am perfectly fine with using musicians to make a truck load of cash. The best aspect about the Green Album is that it not only is a worthwhile effort from so many fantastic musicians from our era, but it might also be one of the best albums this year. The fact that The Muppets still have a sense of clarity, like when they had a virtually unknown Steve Martin perform on their show in the 1970s, only proves that this once “retro” phenomenon is as hip as ever.

Not only does the group of puppets still provide hilarious laughs and insightful humor, you can see this in their hysterical set of teaser trailers that make fun of the most watered down slosh of movies to come out this summer, but it also proves that the Jim Henson creation is more relevant than ever. Bringing artists together like the award winning Weezer, the psychedelic rock outfit My Morning Jacket, The Fray, the magical Airborne Toxic Event, the heavy Matt Nathanson and my favorite of the groups featured on the record OK Go, shows how "with it" these sixty year old characters still are. Just the fact that Jason Segal and his cohorts have come together to bring all these amazing artists in for an album, means so much. It's a fantastic and utterly outstanding tribute to the work of Jim Henson. Alright enough gushing, just listen to the album already!

To answer my question from above: Like so many other bands that took the bold chance to name their record after a color like The Beatles did, or was it the fans?, with the White Album or how Weezer did with The Green Album, or the best, Jay-Z’s The Black Album, it’s either a miracle or a strange occurrence that those albums have always ended up being some of those group's best efforts. It’s comforting to know that when a band, or a group of artists releases a record under a color moniker, that it will certainly entertain the audience and will probably knock out a few surprises on the way. Here’s for the return of The Muppets! And for more color albums! We’re glad to have you back, guys.
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