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Consequence of Sound Turns Four

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4th anniversary Consequence of Sound Turns Four

Four isn’t five, but it’s also not three. One is the loneliest number, yet two is for hipsters. Seven is considered lucky, while six is the result of dividing 666 by 111. We’re okay with four — at least for now. This week — check it, September 15th, 2011 — marked the fourth anniversary of Consequence of Sound. Back in 2007, on one lazy Saturday afternoon in New York, Alex Young decided to start a blog. What you see here today is the ongoing result.

But it’s not the result that’s mind-boggling. It’s the journey. Covering four years of every major music festival — from the barbecue-laced heartburn in SXSW to the muddy confines of Bonnaroo to the concrete jungle that is Lollapalooza — or chopping out block after block of news stories or checking off each season’s album release schedule or… you get the picture. The steps count. The turns matter. The articles entertain.

Since its inception in 2007, Consequence of Sound has published nearly 17,000 articles. We’ve worked with over 100 different writers, editors, and photographers. We’ve been to almost every state in America, and elsewhere. Like we said, it’s the journey that’s mind-boggling.

And that’s why we’re okay with four — simply because we’ll be at five, six, and seven in no time. For now, though, let’s have some fun with the number, starting with four thoughts from our CEO/Publisher Alex Young and President/Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman…

Four Thoughts From Alex Young…

4. My dream of a collaborative album between Jay-Z and Kanye West came to fruition this year.

3. My dream of a collaborative album between Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Jack White remains just that — a dream.

2. We Listen For You’s Soundcast is the best thing to hit the Internet in 2011.

1. Sorry, Chuck, but The Wire is the greatest television show ever.

Four Thoughts From Michael Roffman…

4. I’ve fallen in love with four women over the past four years: Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast), Annie Clark (St. Vincent), Lykke Li, and Heather Kaplan (CoS photographer). No particular order there. Just kidding.

3. I still subscribe to Rolling Stone. Though, when it comes to print, the best writing is in Vanity Fair or Playboy. No lie.

2. My ideal article remains to be written: Paul Westerberg announces fall tour.

1. Regardless of all the music I’ve discovered over the past four years, I still haven’t found a better song to sing along to in the shower than Toto’s “Africa”. I am open to suggestions.

Four Most Influential 4th Movements

By: Jake Cohen

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4. “Mahler, Symphony No. 5, fourth movement, Adagietto”

Mahler’s output is full of stunning and painfully delicate strains. But the slow movement of his fifth symphony, purportedly written as a love letter to his new wife, may be his most sublime melody. He approaches a very classical melody with modern sound colors: A low harp accompanies low strings, which carry the tune. Mahler’s ability to express the entire emotional spectrum in his music appears in this short movement, as he traffics with joy, heartbreak, hope, pathos, and love.

3. Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, fourth movement, “March to the Scaffold”

How could anyone write a symphony after what Beethoven did in his ninth? Well, for starters, you could give your symphony a story: A love-struck artist is ultimately rebuked by the woman he loves, takes a massive amount of opium to kill himself, but instead, he just trips his face off and watches his own execution by guillotine. Berlioz was writing a perfectly nice symphony until he fell down the rabbit hole in the fourth movement, with martial drums, bone-rattling violins, celebratory crowds, and one last isolated thought of his beloved before the guillotine offs with his head. Romanticism, indeed.

2. Schoenberg, String Quartet No. 2, fourth movement

Arguably, this is the moment when classical music lost its grasp on tonality, the harmonic system that had endured for more than two centuries and on which our modern pop music is still based. Schoenberg took Wagner’s progressive harmonic language and went even further, shattering the system of keys. A soprano voice, itself an anomaly for a string quartet, sings the German words “I feel the air of another planet.” It was, quite literally, the opening to a new world of musical opportunities.

1. Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 “Choral”, fourth movement

Beethoven mind-fucked the entire 19th century when he inserted a chorus singing Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” in the final movement of his final symphony. All hyperbole aside, it’s the moment when everything changed for every composer who came later. Turning his simple tune into a fugue, a Turkish march, and a solemn chorale, Beethoven proclaimed the brotherhood of all humanity in one sweeping 25-minute masterpiece.

Four Best Songs Suited for the Fantastic Four

By: Ben Kaye

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4. Genesis - “Invisible Touch” (Invisible Woman)

Sue Storm has always deceived casual FF fans who just see a sexy blonde chick in skintight spandex. The truth is that she’s probably the most powerful member on the team. While Collins was speaking figuratively, Invisible Woman literally could “[reach] in and [grab] right hold of your heart.” And squeeze it ’til it popped. Her invisible force fields have almost limitless applications, and even the space gods known as Celestials have “fallen, fallen for her.” Sue used to be called “Invisible Girl”, but she adopted the “Woman” right around the time this song came out. Her massive power could really “mess up your life” and more than warrants the change.

3. Queen – “We Will Rock You” (The Thing)

A classic fight song for a classic brawler. Queen unwittingly wrote a mini-biography for Ben Grimm with this track. Growing up a poor Jewish kid in New York’s Lower East Side, Grimm was made a “hard man” at an early age by the gang murder of his older brother. After gaining his rocky visage, he turned the anger over his monstrous form into the fuel to “take on the world” as the FF’s heavy hitter. Yet still, even after decades of adventuring and super-heroing, even after time as an Avenger, deep down, The Thing just wants a bit of “peace some day” and to be regular Ben Grimm again. Until then, though, it’s clobberin’ time.

2. Boysetsfire “Rocket Man” (Elton John cover) (Mr. Fantastic)

As it was his own theories, stubbornness, and rocket that got the team cosmically irradiated on that “timeless flight,” Reed Richards has always carried a self-alienating, lonely weight of guilt. Occasional attempts to “cure” his teammates and a preoccupation with bettering the world through science frequently ostracize his wife, Sue, and put his children, Franklin and Valeria, at great risk. Add on the family’s adventuring lifestyle, and there’s practically been “no one there to raise” the kids. In the end, Richards’ greatest flaw is his need to “[burn] out his fuse up here alone,” despite being surrounded by a loving, capable family. So why the cover version? It drives far harder than the original, and he’s still a superhero who can pack a (very enlarged) punch, after all.

James Taylor – “Fire and Rain” (Human Torch)

In memoriam: Johnny Storm, November 1965 – January 2011. The Human Torch met his death recently in Fantastic Four #587 at the hands of Annihilus and his hordes of Negative Zone aliens, marking the end of an era and the end of the team. At his own request, Torch was replaced by Spider-Man on what is now the Future Foundation. Though odds are he’ll rise from the ashes (see what happened there?) in typical comic book fashion before too long, may he rest in peace for now. This one’s for you, Johnny. Just change “Suzanne” and picture it sung in The Thing’s craggily voice.

Four Best Quartets of the Last Four Years

By: Dan Caffrey

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4. Wild Flag

This may be a tad unfair in that Wild Flag is more or less a super-group consisting of Riot Grrrl matriarchs, but the all-female quartet is bar-none one of the most exciting quartets of late. With one LP, Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, Mary Timony, and Rebecca Cole culled the best parts of their time from the alt-90’s and blended them into the catchiest rock record of 2011. Wild Flag never sound lazy or indulgent as many supergroups do. Their 2011 debut showed a band working together and highlighting the best in each other’s work to form a professionally balanced album with succulent rock bombs.

3. Surfer Blood

Randy Newman’s ode to Los Angeles “I Love L.A.” works so well because it embraces the City of Angels as much as it satirizes it. Surfer Blood must view Florida in the same way. With a beach bag full of catchy guitar riffage and alienated lyrics, the West Palm Beach natives clearly don’t fit in with the inherent hip-hop and death metal in the southern region of the Sunshine State, but they also can’t deny the appeal of bright harmonies and nautical imagery, which swirl all over their stellar debut, Astro Coast. In a way, perhaps they’re the most Floridian band of all, celebrating the state’s environment while sonically breaking through the cliches of its music scene.

2. Bon Iver

The locked-in-a-cabin mythology of Justin Vernon’s debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, has since been decried by its creator, who insists his recording environment wasn’t as secluded and destitute as people believe. He did, after all, have the entire series of Northern Exposure with him on DVD, which led to the Bon Iver moniker. With his second full-length, Vernon seemed determined to debunk any misconceptions, expanding his lineup to a proper four-piece and drenching the record in a lovelorn wall of sound teeming with complex traditional orchestration and even maudlin synthesizers on the closing track, which has no right to work but somehow does. The subject matter may be the same, but make no mistake: These guys are a band.

1. Vampire Weekend

With afro-percussion, a singer with a fake Spanish accent, and lyrics about the joys of Ivy League, Vampire Weekend looked destined to fail when they arrived on the scene in 2008. But they haven’t. After a whimsical yet surprisingly deep debut, the quartet of Columbia alumni avoided the sophomore slump by a landslide with their second album, Contra, shrugging off the bad vibes of their detractors by continuing to crank out thoughtful pop with sincerity, whimsy, and a lack of pretension, regardless of their backgrounds. Bonus points for rhyming horchata with balaclava.

Four Best Four-Track Recordings

By: Michael Roffman

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4. Daniel Johnston – “Worried Shoes”

You can’t talk about four-track recordings without mentioning Daniel Johnston. He’s the heir to the process. To date, the bipolar songwriter has written 18 full-length albums, in addition to hundreds of songs he’s recorded solely on the four-track recorder. It’s quite a chore to listen to each one, but one particular album comes to mind: 1983’s Yip/Jump Music, namely because it’s drawn so much attention. But with good reason. It contains one of Johnston’s most iconic songs in his exhaustive back catalogue: “Worried Shoes”. It’s rough. Really rough. Some might consider it grating, but they’d be missing the point. What separates Johnston from most artists is his inherent need to do this. And with “Worried Shoes”, the melody and the lurching chord organ feel as if Johnston’s wringing out his soul. You’ve probably cried to it, but most likely when Karen O sang it for the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack. Still…

3. The Beatles – “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Chills. Just sugar-laced chills. Believe it or not, but the Fab Four actually recorded on a four-track, and for one of their most landmark releases: 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Okay, so technically they taped over a few four-track recorders, but nonetheless, they were four-tracks. Now, some might argue that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” would be a more fitting selection, especially since it contains a 4/4 beat. However, the encapsulating (and always stuffy) “Strawberry Fields Forever” shines more — at least in this particular format. The layers, the amount of scruffy detail, and its lo-fi psychedelia just coat the ceiling, man. When the cello hits during the chorus, it sounds like it was recorded in the bow of a sinking ship. And Paul McCartney’s introduction on the Mellotron! It still feels like it was carved out on some bedroom floor one soggy, foggy morning — November 24, 1966, to be exact.

2. Bruce Springsteen – “Atlantic City”

As Bruce Springsteen wrote on the liner notes of his Greatest Hits release, “Atlantic City” ran The Boss’s bill up to “…..$1050 (the cost of the 4 track Tascam recorder), mixed through an old Gibson guitar unit to a beat box.” To this day, it still feels like that. (And what do you know, it’s also four minutes long, too! Double-hitter.) Though the song tells the tale of a man’s inevitable death through organized crime, the images this track conjure up hardly bring that story to mind. Blame it on its album’s iconic production. In 1982, the great Jersey bard locked himself away in his home, where he carved out the eight tracks that would make up 1982’s Nebraska. Shortly after, he tried re-recording the album with the E Street band in a studio, but even the producers understood its raw, intimate power. Take one listen to “Atlantic City”, and you will, too. If you get a chance, though, pick it up on vinyl. There’s nothing like it. If anything, you’ll be forever haunted by the eerie black-and-white photo of Springsteen standing alone in his hallway.

1. Elliott Smith – “No Name #3”

Elliott Smith’s 1994 debut, Roman Candle, was recorded on a four-track in his basement. With the exception of a couple of tracks, it’s really just Smith alone to himself, and that’s what the end result sounded like. It’s hard to listen to Smith nowadays, not only because his tragic suicide lingers around every chord progression and Lennon-like melody, but because his music just hurts. It’s filled with aching pain, it feels isolated. So many artists attempt to commit their hearts to tape day after day, but Smith figured it out on his first attempt. “No Name #3” acts as the dark, lonely tunnel. The tender songwriter croons so lightly that at times it’s easier to just listen to the grainy chords. It stings. It taps at the eyes. It sours the tear ducts. And if it weren’t for its lo-fi nature, it just wouldn’t work. Smith just wouldn’t be the same. In some ways, his recordings felt more human than the man himself. Very tragic.

Four Best Songs Containing the Word “Four”

By: Chris Coplan

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4. Led Zeppelin – “Four Sticks”

For whatever reason, becoming a fan of Led Zeppelin is some kind of unspoken rite of passage into manhood for boys the world over. Perhaps some of us missed out on that train to chest hair and adult-sized worries. Even those people, brave souls with equally valid music tastes that they are, can still enjoy a track like “Four Sticks”. It’s the very sound even the most proud non-fan conjures up when thinking of the Zep (that’s a nickname, right?): a grand, rollicking fury that is as sonically diverse as it is prog-ish and nerdy. Thank you, rock gods, for this offering, though we never have worshipped you.

3. CAKE – “Friend Is a Four Letter Word”

CAKE have made a career out of being weird. But they drop all the goofy, borderline comical pretenses entirely on “Friend Is a Four Letter Word”. Mysterious and aloof, the track is missing on some crucial details (like, all of them) of the friendship being portrayed. Even still, it’s as powerful and stirring as any other demonstration of betrayal ever outlined in pop music format. They’ve got a great talent for illustrating painful emotional concepts, but this one takes the band’s name for most effective and haunting. Plus, who didn’t try to figure which specific four-letter word the band was referring to? My money is on, and will always be on, “shit.”

2. Feist – “1234”

Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist knows the power of simplicity. Shortening her stage name to simply Feist, she made a hugely popular song simply by counting. And she didn’t even need to go into double digits! “1234” is elegant in its minimalism, simple enough to be on Sesame Street. Call it Feist’s voice, the strummy nature of the whole effort, the grandiose chorus, or some magic combination of each, but the track is mesmerizing despite how very little was heaped together to make it. That may speak to some greater truth about songs with numbers in them: They’re basic because, at least sometimes, that core essence and bare-bones approach is all you need in a truly great song.

1. The Beatles – “When I’m Sixty-Four”

Love is a truly beautiful and wonderful thing. It’s also scary, confusing, and, at times, violent. We all want to know if we have it or not and whether or not it’ll be here to stay with us for good. In aiding folks in that eternal struggle, the Beatles laid out the perfect thought experiment for lovers everywhere to pose to one another: Will you still be with me when I’m an old fart, needing 24-hour care and support? It’s the ultimate litmus test of romance and devotion, arguably expressed in the most bubbly, fun-loving pop song the Fab Four ever crafted. As far as Beatles songs go, it’s one of the more popular of all the popular ones (and there are a lot of ’em), but it deserves its distinction not only for its catchy-ness but for how truly succinct it is. Vera, Chuck, and Dave would be proud for sure.

Four Best LPs With Four Tracks

By: Paul de Revere

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4. Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music

“Anyone who gets to side four is dumber than I am,” Lou Reed famously snarked about this 1975 release. Which means it’s a prank and a cathartic “fuck you” to his label at the time RCA… right? If so, it’s the most accidentally significant prank in experimental music history. The careers of gritty New York experimental mavens Suicide and Glenn Branca, Steve Albini’s Big Black, and every young-and-restless noise band ever owes pretty much everything to Metal Machine Music. Personally, I side with dean of American rock critics Robert Christgau on this one. “For white noise,” Christgau said. “I’ll still take ‘Sister Ray’.”

3. Can – Future Days

Krautrock milestone makers Can don’t get enough credit for being, essentially, a funk band. Sure, Future Days and Can’s four peak-era releases with vocalist Damo Suzuki are better known as antecedents to Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Flaming Lips, and any number of indie, electronica, post-rock, shoegaze, and post-punk bands preceding them. But “Moonshake” stands up to all of the well-produced ‘70s funk from American bands. It’s just a lot more subtle. But a jittery, improvisational German “funk” band with a Japanese vocalist whispering and muttering barely comprehensible lyrics doesn’t really sell in the States. But Future Days is funk — weird, lo-fi funk. It was Suzuki’s fourth and final record with the band, which came to a more minimalist sound than ever before. After leaving the band soon after the recording of Future Days, Suzuki took a wife, a German Jehovah’s Witness, and married into her faith. Though, I’m not sure that’s any weirder than the whispered, barely comprehensible lyrics “You hide behind a borrowed chase/For the sake of future days” off the album’s title track. Play weird, live weird, I guess.

2. Tangerine Dream – Phaedra

On 1974’s Phaedra, Tangerine Dream pioneered virtually every cool electronica sound effect with Moogs and Mellotrons we take for granted today, perhaps most notably of all: some of electronica’s first arpeggiation melodies over washes of synth, which almost every electronica act since 1980 has done. And Tangerine did this in the early ‘70s! But the band is German (Berliners, no less), so, you know, it’s not that unusual. The band started in 1970, but Phaedra, Tangerine’s fifth album, defined its sound, defying the standard Krautrock motorik of its day, leaving ambient space in its Terry Reilly-esque staid melodies. Truly, when this came out, everyone from Brian Eno (who released two classics, Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), in the same year Phaedra was released) to Robert Fripp to Giorgio Moroder perked their ears up and listened carefully.

1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

I’m 26 years old, and I’ve written about Lift Yr Skinny Fists.. at least a dozen different ways and listened to it dozens more. It’s been a soundtrack to key points in my life over the last decade. It’s somehow both personal to me and bigger than myself and my own personal interpretation. I’ve proselytized to friends (okay, and strangers) about how amazing it is if you just “give it a chance, man.” I’ve used the words “bruising,” “cathartic,” “maudlin,” “washes of sound”, and so on to describe its dystopic, aural beauty. But it must be listened to, nay experienced (ideally with eyes closed, good headphones, a comfortable resting place, and an uninterrupted 1:27:22), to be understood. The martial first movement of the first disc’s first track, “Storm”, is a triumphant, hopeful, and gorgeous open salvo to a black-and-white feature film never made: somewhere in the creative ether between Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers (and its rickety-clack score by Ennio Morricone) and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows. In a word: bleak. Godspeed You! Black Emperor may never cut another record again, but Lift Yr Skinny Fists will influence decades of not just post-rock but all epic music to come. Count on it.

Four Fourth Tracks From Each of the Top Four Selling Albums of All Time (In Order of Sales, from Lowest to Highest)

By: Joe Marvilli

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4. Whitney Houston – “Run To You” from The Bodyguard (44 million)

Surprised yet? That’s right, Whitney Houston’s soundtrack for 1992’s The Bodyguard is the fourth best-selling album of all time. A good portion of those sales were carried on the mega-success of “I Will Always Love You”. But there’s more to this soundtrack than one smash hit. The fourth song of this album, “Run To You”, fits Houston’s style wonderfully. Originally written as a breakup song, it was transformed by the movie’s production into a love ballad instead. True, those swelling strings may seem somewhat cheesy by today’s standards, but Houston’s passionate performance is a saving grace.

3. Pink Floyd – “Time” from The Dark Side of the Moon (45 million)

While many songs can be considered Pink Floyd’s magnum opus, “Time” has a lot going in its favor. It’s the centerpiece of The Dark Side of the Moon, it’s the only song on the album credited to all four band members, and it features vocals from David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Roger Waters. That’s before we even dive into the music. It starts with an introductory passage of chiming clocks, recorded by engineer Alan Parsons, and a two-minute drum solo by Nick Mason. Gilmour’s defiant vocals follow, channeling Waters’ refusal to succumb to time or be led by destiny. Oh, and then there’s the astoundingly powerful guitar solo that seems made to rip through time itself. While the band would run into plenty of issues down the line, this effort is the work of Pink Floyd as a whole.

2. AC/DC – “Given the Dog a Bone” from Back in Black (49 million)

Back in Black is a musical miracle when you think about it. How many bands have been forced to replace their frontman and keep their previous level of success? AC/DC not only met their past heights but greatly surpassed them with this album. There are so many classic hard rock hits here that the other tracks get overlooked. Some may think of “Given the Dog a Bone” as one of those songs after “Shoot to Thrill” and before “Back in Black”. But it’s pretty damn enjoyable when you stop and listen to it. Angus Young’s dirty guitar riff is worthy of head-banging and Brian Johnson’s vocals alternate between an elated shout and a nasty growl. How can you go wrong with a song like that?

1. Michael Jackson – “Thriller” from Thriller (110 million)

While some albums on this list may come as a surprise, Thriller definitely isn’t one of them. The sixth studio album from Michael Jackson is one of the most legendary releases in modern history. Everyone knows about it and everyone has heard at least one song from it. The record has permeated our culture in a way that few other pieces of art ever do. So what better song to look at than the title track? “Thriller” is the song that sets off the string of hits on Jackson’s masterpiece, as it’s followed by “Beat It” and “Billie Jean”. There’s not a stronger trilogy in pop music. The track itself combines a slippery bass with explosive horns and Jackson’s playful, almost dangerous vocals. Then there’s the 14-minute short film that passes as the song’s music video, proving that these promotional tools could be an art form as well. The peak of success? Yeah, it deserves this title.

Four Best Studio Guitar Solos Over Four Minutes Long

By: David Buchanan

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4. The Smashing Pumpkins – “Starla”

Rarely do the Smashing Pumpkins get much credit in the lengthy solo department, especially given the lack of popularity such a technique really had during the early ’90s alternative era. This squelching Pisces Iscariot B-side leads on the first six minutes in standard melancholy before clawing steel nails on chalkboard come the last five–a certifiable audio nutshell of the band’s best phase, according to some.

3. Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Little Wing” (Jimi Hendrix cover)

When Jimi Hendrix covers a song, he expertly makes it his own to soaring applause; when a Hendrix song is covered by a late Texas bluesman, the lyrics disappear and we receive something akin to stringed instrument serenity. Heavenly harps never sounded this pleasant.

2. Santana – “Samba Pa Ti”

Carlos Santana, believe it or not, was once a highly respected and revered Latin-American guitarist. Before the shameful plugging and collaboration-weighted Supernatural, Santana made a mark via the soulful dance of “Samba Pa Ti”, and people could practically find God behind these chords (or a little black magic).

1. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Free Bird”

An in-joke at other artists’ expense is to mockingly shout out a request for “Free Bird” at any given concert performance. Despite having lost its humorous luster in recent years, this almost irritatingly popular cut from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut LP gets name-dropped on many lists for many reasons – soloing is one.

Four Best Albums Named Primarily “Four”

By: Jeremy D. Larson

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4. Blues Traveler – four

If you only know the Blues Traveler singles, you may think the only thing that separated Blues Traveler from those other 90’s bands who all may or may not have written the theme song for Friends, is John Popper and his harmonica. Lead single “Run Around” does actually sound like “Roll To Me” does actually sound like “Two Princes” does actually sound like a plasticine fart. But four [stylized as such] is more than the honkey pop that Spin Doctor Hazel Del Amitri trafficked in. Part blues stomp, part post-hippie jam band, and part radio-pop, Blues Traveler turn in a solid fourth (yup) album of their career with a fun album to drink beer in a barn to. “Hook” remains a staple of advance karaoke artists to this day.

3. Foreigner – 4

Speaking of karaoke, Foreigner’s 4 locks in at least three singles for the memories, but its Mick Jones (not of The Clash fame) whose compositional chops are on display. The frayed, acid-washed rock and roll on 4 that blasted out of Dodge Chargers everywhere in 1981 is a timepiece for one of the better AOR albums, and that’s not just indulgent riffs couched inside of greeting-card choruses. OK, there’s some of that here, but those moments are especially justified on the way-better-than-any-Bon-Jovi-rock-and-roll-dream-song “Juke Box Hero” and a precursor to new wave rock with the groovy “Urgent” which features Junior Walker sax and none other than Thomas Dolby on synths!

2. Scott Walker – Scott 4

Scott Walker still sits proudly high atop the Brit-pop family tree. Walker’s hyper-literate baroque and chamber pop still plumes through the speakers like fine London tobacco. The Smiths, Pulp, Belle & Sebastian, The Divine Comedy, and so many others are all cut from this velvet. His fourth album from 1969, Scott 4 , is Walker at his most dark, personal, and forthcoming — and still includes a song about Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” backed by spaghetti western strings. After all these years, his burgundy baritone on “Duchess” as he sings at the very end “I’m lying, she’s crying” is a good litmus test to see if your heart works properly. (Neko Case does a fantastic cover it as well.)

1. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV

In spades. I’m not entirely sure Zeppelin IV is even an album anymore — it’s an epoch unto itself. It’s a symbol of something personal for me and historical for music. Its legendary status as the best rock album of all time has grown so absurdly out of proportion that the album itself has become immune to any sort of glib take-down essays or contrarian think-pieces. It’s a fortress of rock & roll that after years of sieges still stands as powerful as the day it was built. Plus it’s even got “Four Sticks” on it just to really nail it home.

Four Historic Fourth Albums

By: Mike Madden

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4. Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan

“There aren’t any finger-pointing songs here,” Bob Dylan once said of Another Side. Yup: There’s a surreal, romantic quality to nearly every track here, contrasting the accusative nature of some of Dylan’s first three albums. A lot of people complained about that, but they shouldn’t have – this is one of Dylan’s best and most underappreciated efforts. Though certainly not by artists. Following its release, Johnny Cash, The Turtles, and The Byrds all took stabs at the album’s songs, proving that there really is no side to Dylan that anyone’s opposed to – which only makes him that much more sacred.

3. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town

Follow ups can be difficult. Carving out something after an album like  Born to Run is an exercise of the mind, body, and soul – a thousand times over. Due to some legal mumbo jumbo between The Boss and his sometime manager and producer Mike Appel, Darkness on the Edge of Town arrived a long three years after its ambitious, head-turning predecessor. In that time, the band took on a different approach to writing and recording. Many of the songs were captured with the full band together, and at times immediately after Springsteen had finished writing them. Blame it on the surrounding support, but the New Jersey legend didn’t just follow up Born to Run, he delivered an LP that gave its predecessor’s title a new meaning. To this day, fans continue debating on which album is better. Springsteen certainly made it difficult for them, what with “Badlands”, “Racing in the Street”, and “Candy’s Room” to chew on. And to think, that’s hardly scratching the album’s surface, too.

2. Outkast – Stankonia

Sonically falling somewhere between raw Dixie rap and the playfulness of, say, The Pharcyde, Stankonia was Outkast’s grandest breakthrough. It also remains their most focused and ambitious effort to date. Singles “Ms. Jackson”, “B.O.B.”, and “So Fresh, So Clean” were three of the most ubiquitous radio hits of the early aughts. In addition to the cosmic, genre-bending production, this 73-minute album found Big Boi and André 3000 rhyming with unheard of charisma, versatility, and technical deftness if not from the genre, then definitely in their career. It’s arguable that this sort of breakthrough creativity cracked them – given that they’ve never truly delivered a proper, concrete follow up that didn’t feel like a solo-album-titled-something-else – yet nevertheless their influence here is paramount. History schmistory, Stankonia is the sound of rap realizing its creative potential. Break!

1. The Replacements – Tim

Tim was The Mats’ major-label debut, and also their most frenetic, at least structurally-speaking. It would be the last album fans would hear from the original line up, as lead guitarist Bob Stinson would be kicked out the following year. And while that happened following the album’s release, those sort of “bad vibes”, if you will, carried onto the album. But it didn’t stunt it. In fact, it made for a better LP, especially one to follow up the group’s diamond LP, 1984’s Let It Be. There are two angst-ridden anthems (“Left of the Dial”, “Bastards of Young”), two drunken shakedowns (“I’ll Buy”, “Dose of Thunder”), two cynical portraits of one’s heart on a sleeve (“Hold My Life”, “Kiss Me on the Bus”), two lonely melodies (“Swingin’ Party”, “Little Mascara”), one mandatory road-rock crooner (“Lay It Down Clown”), one “You bastard!” inclusion (“Waitress in the Sky”), and one final goodbye (“Here Comes a Regular”). Similar to how early Hold Steady records sound to our generation today, Tim acts a framed portait of the band at play. It just probably could have benefited from some less-than-tidier production, and yeah, this album’s version of “Can’t Hardly Wait” is still the best.

Four Strings: Four Unbelievable Bass Solos

By: Winston Robbins

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4. Rush – “YYZ”

When you write a song without any lyrics and still get stadiums full of people to sing along with you, that’s usually a pretty good indicator that you’ve written quite a piece of music. Geddy Lee’s bass extravaganza on “YYZ” is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The man shreds with such speed it’s nearly impossible for your ears to keep up. Unless you know Morse code, that is.

3. Led Zeppelin – “The Lemon Song”

Here’s how good John Paul Jones is at plucking the bass: We literally could have chosen any one of three dozen songs and made a well-founded argument as to why it’s his best. But we went with “The Lemon Song”, because, well, have you heard it? It’s a song completely surrounded by Jones’ mind-numbing bass. Heaps of adoration are given to Bonham, Plant, and Page, deservedly so, but Jones was the unsung hero of Led Zeppelin. See: the last minute of this song where he goes out of his mind shredding up and down that fretboard.

2. Metallica – “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”

Cliff Burton was an active member of Metallica for only four years due to his tragic and untimely death, but his legacy is long from forgotten because of early pieces such as this. Burton was as talented a bassist as rock and roll has ever seen, and “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth”, was written for the express purpose of showcasing that fact.

1. The Beatles – “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”

Paul McCartney is all too often overlooked when it comes to fundamentally great bassists. “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is a reminder of why that shouldn’t ever happen. In essence, the song is just eight minutes of Macca doing whatever the hell he wants on his bass while the song goes on behind him, and never does it once fall anything short of superb.

Four Best Performances at the Big Four Festivals

By: Harley Brown

Coachella

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Daft Punk (2006) – It’s Daft Punk, come on. This appearance marked their first performance on American soil in almost 10 years, and the French duo proved that they’re more than Human After All (I couldn’t help myself, I’m still dehydrated from dancing to “Around the World”). But seriously, no encore?

Rage Against the Machine (2007) – The year before Bush was ousted in a legendary election, Rage Against the Machine reunited at Coachella for the first time since the festival’s beginning in 1999. Frontman Zach de la Rocha proclaimed that the current political environment needed them, and boy, were they right.

Roger Waters (2008) – Pink Floyd’s founding member played Dark Side Of the Moon in its entirety. ‘Nuff said. (Well, it should probably also be said that he performed other Floyd hits like “Mother”, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, and “Wish You Were Here” with the aid of a giant, Democratic inflatable pig and a dazzling pyrotechnic display.)

Paul McCartney (2009) – Participants in 2009’s Coachella were encouraged to “take comfort in knowing… there’s a Beatle here.” And when you can’t have the whole band, Paul McCartney proved himself a more than acceptable, sporting substitute, playing a handful of Beatles songs and more than a few encores.

Bonnaroo

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Photo by Max Blau

Neil Young (2003) — Almost 70 years old, Neil Young proved he’s still more than willing and able to rock the free worlds of 80,000 people in the middle of a hot-as-expletive Tennessee summer under a full moon, playing half-hour versions of hits like “Cinnamon Girl” and “Cortez the Killer” for three hours.

Radiohead (2006) –  Radiohead probably could have stopped after the opening drum rolls of “There There (The Boney King Of Nowhere)” and still have put on one of the best, if not the best, shows I’ve ever seen. You just had to be there (there).

My Morning Jacket (2008) — “It feels awesome to be bathed in beautiful golden rain.” Well-said, Jim James. Bonnaroo stalwarts My Morning Jacket played for four hours in intermittent rain in the wee hours of the morning, making up for the wet, late set with an Erykah Badu cover and a guest appearance by Zach Galifianakis.

Phish (2009) – This one’s a toss-up between their official set with Bruce Springsteen and their late-night jam session. Never-ending experiential music arguments aside, Phish’s reunion, after years of solo appearances at Bonnaroo by Trey Anastasio and other members, warranted both outstanding sets.

Lollapalooza

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Photo by Ashley Garmon

Pearl Jam (1992) – It’s almost cliché how Pearl Jam is the quintessential band to see live: helping avoid Lolla’s sophomore slump, Pearl Jam’s band members smashed guitars Pete-Townsend style, jumped off monitors, and stage dived. The audience got in on the action, too, jumping onstage and throwing mud.

Billy Idol (2005) – What better way to ring in Lolla’s first year in Grant Park but with Billy Idol? Even though it rained again (that’s the thing about summer thunderstorms) during Idol’s set, “Rebel Yell” managed to get everyone riled up. It’s Billy fucking Idol, baby!

Arcade Fire (2010) – Riding high after The Suburbs’ release earlier in the week, Arcade Fire was “Ready To Start” (again, it was just too easy). Their spectacular show finished with thousands of concertgoers—hell, maybe even some pedestrians – singing “Wake Up” at the top of their lungs in the streets of Chicago.

Foo Fighters (2011) – A universal CoS fave, Foo Fighters played for three hours on Saturday night at the Metro in addition to their official set the next day. Like Phish at Bonnaroo, it’s hard to pick just one as the better performance. Dave “I don’t give a fuck if it’s raining tonight!” Grohl gives it his all each and every time.

Austin City Limits

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Ween (2002) – Gene and Dean Ween cemented their status as Austin City Limits perennials at the festival’s inauguration in 2002, with their always dependably weird, spectacular performance helping to keep jam bands represented at future ACL’s.

R.E.M. (2003) – With Michael Stipe’s famous words, “We’re R.E.M., and this is what we do,” the threesome proceeded to rip through two hours of hits and obscurities dedicated to Ben Harper and Johnny and June Carter Cash. With an inexplicable blue stripe painted across Stipe’s face.

Elvis Costello (2009) – Even though he had just released Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane, Elvis Costello pleasantly surprised listeners with more than a few songs from his debut My Aim Is True. And on a few songs from his newest album, Costello sang duets with country maven Patty Griffin, bowling over an audience already impressed with his warm persona and talented musicianship.

Muse (2010) – I would say Muse were brown-nosing when they declared Texas their favorite state, but after seamlessly moving from the national anthem to “Hysteria” to The Doors’ “House of the Rising Sun” as an opener, they pretty much schooled those other American bands in the ways of British arena rock.

 

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