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Sunday, February 23, 2014

New Song: Beautiful Screaming

This is a demo of a new song I just wrote called "Beautiful Screaming."  To be more accurate, I wrote the verse guitar part in February of 2009, the chorus and bridge guitar parts in March of 2011, and all of the lyrics over the past weekend.  I put it all together and laid this demo down on Saturday.  

If you like it, please share it with others you think might dig it.  

Thanks for visiting my blog today and listening to this song.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!!! New Video with Corey Landis

I can't think of a better way to kick off and celebrate the new year than sharing this performance.  I moved to Los Angeles from San Diego back at the end of October.  Among many other things, this has meant that I now live in the same city as my good friend Corey Landis, a singer-songwriter I have admired for years.  A few weeks after I made the move, I had the idea to do a cover of this song with Corey.  Fortunately for me, he was game.  Big thanks to Corey's long-time friend, and my new friend, Herb Russell, for doing such a great job filming this.  I hope you enjoy watching and listening to it as much as I enjoyed performing it.  And I hope 2014 is a fantastic year, bringing joy, wonder and lots and lots of exciting new things to us all.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Home and New Song: Landed

Long story short, I moved to Los Angeles, California six and a half weeks ago.  I am very happy here already and very excited.  For my life as a whole and for the next exciting chapter of my music.  My first days have been full of learning my way around, seeing old friends, making new friends, and looking for a long-term place to live here.  But I recently wrote and recorded this song, and wanted to share it.  Check it out, I hope you enjoy it.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers: #1-5

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally made it.  We’ve finally arrived.  It’s the tenth and final installment of my series on my 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers of All Time.  I want to thank each of you who have read all of the first nine parts, and landed here with me. 

Together, we’ve gone 5 entries at a time, from The Subways’ Young for Eternity at #50, all the way up to the cover of The Police’s Synchronicity album at #6.  So here we are. At the very top.  Without any further fanfare, let’s take a look at my five favorite album covers, ever.

#5: Hüsker Dü – Land Speed Record 

Much, much later in their history as a band, this Twin Cities trio would find themselves playing radio-friendly rock love songs on the Joan Rivers talk show.  But here, back at the very beginning, they were at the least in the running for the loudest, fastest, angriest, most abrasive punk outfit ever.  So the image on this cover – a black and white version of a photo of coffins with dead soldiers returning to the U.S. from the Vietnam War, was a perfect match to the band’s sound.  It’s still impressive that this one image can say so much, about injustice, corruption, slavery to dogmatic ideas and beliefs, and the cost and insanity of 20th Century war. 

#4:  Drive-By Truckers – The Dirty South

This band, since its beginnings, has been such a unique group, impossible to duplicate.  So their partnership with the artist who did this amazing cover, and a great deal of other artwork for the band, is a perfect match.  The intricate and involved imagery here is everything one hears on the record – foreboding, whimsical, heart-felt, fun, and straight-up powerful.

#3:  Drivin N’ Cryin – Fly Me Courageous

I love art that aims for size, not for the sake of “bigger is better,” but to use its opportunity to create the most profound impact possible on its audience.  To me, this cover screams big and loud.  The highway pavement and massive steering wheel broadcast tales of a big journey with big possibilities.  The whole composite picture has all the sublety of a Louisville Slugger-wielding mailbox-basher, hanging out the window of a Ford Mustang, doing 90 miles an hour.

#2:  Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights

If you want to see what a lot of my first few years in New York City felt like, just gaze at this deceptively simple black and red cover for a few minutes.  Better yet, listen to the sharp, haunting, smartass, arrogant-with-every-right-to-be-so songs on the record while you do.  One look at this cover, and a whole film reel of my most wonderful NYC moments flashes through my mind.

#1:  Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade

I love all the covers on this list, but I really ought to have a 10-foot-by-10-foot print of this one hanging above my bed.  It somehow evokes all the essence, power, rebellious spirit and wonderful creativity that punk, true Indie, DIY, and underground rock has brought into the world.  As I continue to study it, it pulls me in different directions from moment to moment…silly and joyful at one point, sad and morose the next, hopeless alienation in one instance, and exhilarating freedom the next.  

That’s it, folks!  All 50 of my favorite rock album covers of all-time.  Thank you again for visiting my blog here, reading my thoughts and impressions, and looking over these fantastic works of art.  I hope you’ve had some fraction of the fun and excitement I’ve felt sharing all of them with you.  I suppose this was inevitable, but I feel incredibly excited about whatever my own next album cover will look like.  I think among many things, these 50 covers show what a powerful and meaningful form of art they can be in their own right.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

My 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers: #6-10

This is Part Nine in my series listing my 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers of All Time.  We’ve made it to the Top 10, ladies and gentlemen!  I’m really excited to share the next 5 entries, which together feature some great covers from the 1980’s, and a couple others from one of my all-time favorite bands, who start us off at #10.  Let’s do this.

#10: Band of Susans – The Word and The Flesh 

This was the only LP I owned for a long time from this NYC band from the early 1990’s, before I wised up, bought their entire catalog, and began my rock worship of them.  This cover is the second of theirs to make my list – the cover of Veil came in at #36.  This one is a stark, simple image that might mislead the observer as to the sound on the record behind it.  BOS had three electric guitars blazing on nearly every song throughout its history.  The strummers behind all of them were talented and genius enough to blend all three axes into a completely unique musical fabric of howling, buzzing, and whirling beauty.

#9:  U2 – October

This isn’t just one of my favorite album covers ever, it’s also one of my favorite band photos of all time.  It continues to fascinate me…knowing what mega-huge, global super-stars these four have been for so long, and then thinking back to their humble beginnings as young men fired up to conquer the world.

#8:  Billy Joel – Glass Houses 

Billy Joel has never been one for subtlety in his music, has he?  I mean, when he wanted to write a song about dating an Uptown girl, he titled it “Uptown Girl,” and when he wrote one about his own experience being a piano man in a bar, he titled it “Piano Man.” 

So it makes sense that on this cover, he appears, rock in hand overhead, positioned in front of a house of glass.  The famous saying he drew upon, of course, is “Don't throw stones, if you live in a glass house,” meaning, it is foolish to criticize someone else for something one is doing themselves.  I just realized for the first time in writing this, however, that as the subject of the photo, he is standing outside the glass house, not inside.  Hmmmm…

#7:  Band of Susans – Here Comes Success 

I think from here on up, I’m going to keep asking myself, “Why wasn’t this one #1?” BOS' third and final entry on my list is a stunning visual achievement, a whole feature-length film in one still-shot.  Which is all the more impressive, given that the only two human characters are small in stature, compared to the simply gorgeous 1960’s Rambler Marlin sports car that takes up most of the cover.

I just look at this and keep wondering about the story unfolding within it…why wear a suit for a simple joyride with your lady?  Did you go for a classy dinner and then suddenly decide to go driving on a whim?  Why is she looking back at the car, instead of the vista he’s looking off to?  Is she more impressed with the car than with its driver?  Or does the car represent some ongoing sense of adventure, she’s worried will pass her by when he drops her back home…?

#6:  The Police – Synchronicity

If you’ve read the rest of the whole list up ‘til now, you know my fondness for bright and bold colors, especially the primary variety.  So put red, yellow and blue swatches across an album cover, and you can’t really go wrong with me.  But it’s the incredible assembly of black-and-white photography of the three band members behind the color swatches that truly amaze.  

45 down, only 5 more to go, including my choice for the top spot.  A certain band who did not score a single entry in positions 6 to 50 somehow managed to score 2 in the Top Five.  A band from the 2000’s representing New York City and another from the South also make their marks, but who will it be at the top?  

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers: #11-15

This is Part Eight in my series listing my 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers of All Time.  We are oh-so-close to the top, drawing just shy of the Top 10.  This group of five, Numbers 11 to 15, contains the designers’ answers to some very interesting sounds, and has strong representation from the early 1990’s – probably my favorite musical era.  Let’s peruse these next five visual gems.

#15: My Bloody Valentine – Loveless 

The color in this is just phenomenal to me.  It’s so rich and layered.  That, combined with the blurred and textured nature of the guitar image, is the perfect visual reflection of the record’s dense, drenched sound that broke so much musical ground.

#14: The 101 – Green Street

I don’t know if this image is of a street in the band’s native neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or not, but if it isn’t, it certainly could be.  The bright light of the sky, with the dark shadows on the cars and street below, is such a great look.  It doesn’t telegraph the sound of the record to me, but it gives me a definite sense of mood.

#13: The Belltower – Popdropper

One of the earliest uses of pixilation on an album cover?  Could be.  These benefactors of the earlier MBV Loveless album also did an admirable job of matching the image on the cover to the sound on their record.  Dreamy, spacey, gooey…awesome.

#12: Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff 

It’s widely known the songs on this record are what got America ready for Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the entire Grunge/Indie/Alternative explosion of the 1990’s.  But before that occurred, this cover, with its photo of the band members in full losing-their-minds-and-control-of-their-bodies performance mode, got plenty of people interested in what the hell was going on there up in Seattle. 

#11: Delerium – Euphoric

Like Green Street, this cover gives me the exact mood of the record.  It doesn’t tell me exactly what it will sound like – it could be metal, or maybe something like Sarah MacLachlan or Enya, with the dial turned quite a bit darker.  Haunting, disturbing, beautiful, elegant.  Some might argue this is not a rock album.  Although it employs a lot of electronic elements and sampling, there’s enough industrial banging and clanging to meet my standard.

Coming next – we will arrive at the lofty heights of the Top 10!  In the next five entries, the 1980’s are heavily featured, as well as two covers from one single band.  And I would bet quite a lot of money you don’t know which band it is. 

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Monday, August 12, 2013

My 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers: #16-20

This is Part Seven in my series listing my 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers of All Time.  This group of five, Numbers 16 to 20, contains one of the most iconic covers ever produced, and two from the very same artist, back-to-back in rankings.  Let’s roll on through ‘em.

As I’ve said throughout this series of posts, if you have a favorite album cover or two you’d like to share, please post it/them in the comments on the blog here, on my Facebook page, or Tweet it to me @collindaniels.

Collin's 50 Favorite Rock Album Covers of All Time

#20: Corey Landis – 14 Old Messages

Sometimes the image on a cover will have little – or absolutely nothing – to do with the album title.  Here, there is a direct link, but I love how the title appears as a practical part of the image.  The answering machine indicates it I still saving 14 old messages. Younger readers may wonder at this point what the heck an answering machine is (was). The image and title are instantly evocative, because the viewer of course wonders, why were those messages saved, why are there so many, who are they from, and what do they say?

#19: Corey Landis – Feast of Scraps

Again with Mr. Landis we have the title/cover image-direct-link-method.  This drawing is so unexpected to me as the cover of a rock album.  It summons feelings of royal courts and Medieval Europe, and projects a vibe of gluttony and greed.  Without hearing the music, as a viewer I would be completely intrigued as to what sort of sound lies behind this curious image. 

#18: Metroplex – Everything is Chrome in the Future

Now that I’m seeing it in its place on this list, this cover makes me think of Blondie’s Parallel Lines at #34 and Rival Schools’ United by Fate at #29.  This one seems to prove you don’t even need people or figures to make a cool cover, all you need is a bunch of lines, cleverly arranged. 

#17: Love Battery – Dayglo

This is one of the most flat-out fun covers on my list.  The object is of course one possible illustration of the name of the band – not the album, a battery which puts out love instead of good ol’ electricity.  I totally dig the childlike/old-school-comic-book spirit to this, the little drawn lightning bolts shooting out of the top, the “Lot’s o’ Volts” written on the side.  And the album title is represented by nothing more than the color of the background – pretty sweet.

#16: Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

What did I just say up above about a bunch of lines, cleverly arranged?  I love this cover because it’s so iconic.  I mean, one look and you just wanna KNOW what band put this out, what they sound like, what the hell they’re THINKING, ya know?  And of course, the band and record in question did anything but disappoint.

Coming soon, we nudge closer, ever-closer! to the top.  Just three more parts, and 15 covers left to go. 

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