One Writer's Most Profound Musical Man-Crushes

Categories: Whatever

Photo by Jim Bricker
Childish Gambino at House of Blues last month
The Man Crush. It's what made John Wayne an American icon. When The Duke was riding, it wasn't entirely acceptable for another man to admit an overwhelming fondness for him or his true grit. But, c'mon -- those movie theaters screening his films weren't exactly teeming with women.

Nowadays we men are much freer to acknowledge there's something we admire so deeply about, say, George Clooney. We just wanna hang with him, gabbing over whiskeys and staring deeply into that woman-slaying grin all afternoon.

Look, I'm an old, happily married, hetero male who is entirely comfortable admitting there's something about guys like Humphrey Bogart and Bruce Willis that I find extraordinarily appealing. No shame in my game. And women do this sort of thing all the time -- and have for a while now -- because they're typically not so insecure or foolish as to attach sexuality to every semblance of admiration for someone, male or female. It's nice to see us XYs catching up.

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Five Better Producers for Michael Jackson's New Album

Categories: Dig This

No one was more disappointed than I was with the fact that producers were deciding to capitalize on unreleased Michael Jackson material with the album Michael just one year after the King of Pop passed away. It was a crass, money-making maneuver, and the album showed it.

They're doing it again this year with a new record called Xscape, produced by a collaborative team headed up by Timbaland and due in May. The saddest part of the whole deal is that Michael probably did leave behind some worthy scraps for producers to craft into a new record, but the people in charge of that unreleased material are picking the wrong producers to work with it.

I propose that we could actually experience a legitimately great posthumous work by Jackson if it were in the right hands. These five producers, for example, might actually do something cool with those tracks now in the MJ vault.

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The Everlasting Joys of "Let's Work Together"

Lonesome Onry and Mean was pondering the greater meaning of all things with the aid of a cold bottle of Thought Elixir when Dwight Yoakam's version of the old Wilbert Harrison R&B smash "Let's Work Together" came up in the iPod mix. Harrison's original has been part of our DJ sets since Day One, but hearing Yoakam's twang version reminded us of Bryan Ferry's glam hit with his cover of the tune which was tearing up Europe just as we arrived there in 1976.

Thought Elixir being what it is, down the YouTube rabbit hole we plunged in search of our past. While Ry Cooder and Buckwheat Zydeco, Bob Dylan, Kentucky Headhunters and others have covered the tune, these are our favorites beginning with Harrison's 1970 masterpiece.

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Die Young Never Stray From Their Chosen Path

Categories: Listen Up!

Photo courtesy of Die Young
Die Young heats up Iceland, late 2000s
Less than a year after one of Houston's best hardcore bands was resurrected upon front man Daniel Albaugh's return from Philadelphia, Die Young is back with an EP that is short on running time but very long on a peculiar brand of confessional, compelling metalcore. Chosen Path is all you would expect on the surface, with Albaugh's throaty screams over the pounding pulse of Wendel Lopez's avalanche drums, but breaking down the release into its emotional canon reveals a lot about the man Albaugh has become.

True to its title, Chosen Path lays out a journey of self-discovery and the regret of rage. Die Young's 2009 breakup was precipitated by the exhaustion exacted by their grueling tour schedule, as well as the band's protracted legal problems with bannings and their name. Albaugh and his mates had grown bitter, and felt that they needed to step away. Eventually the singer fled Houston in search of a new start, but managed to find some interest still here in his hometown to return.

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The Seven Toughest Pop Songs to Understand

Categories: Dig This

Island Records
U2, some time before they became "Numb"
Recently, Rocks Off looked at the most difficult song lyrics to understand in all of music, period. While that was fun, my editor brought it to my attention that virtually all of modern death-metal could qualify for that list. Since the advent of screaming, including metal in a list like that is like playing Mortal Kombat with cheat codes on.

So with his blessing, I embarked on a much more challenging route: discovering the most difficult song lyrics to understand in all of pop music, where understandable lyrics are part of the appeal. Almost all popular music in the last 50 years has focused on the same lyrical content for a reason.

A pop song with incomprehensible singing is a rare beast indeed, but I have tracked down some of the most difficult in existence. If you can recite the following lyrics from the top of your head, you are probably a true karaoke master.

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The Rocks Off 200: Erin Rodgers, the Keys to Glass the Sky

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the original Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Photo courtesy of Erin Rodgers
Who? Describing Glass the Sky's music is difficult, the way describing a dream is difficult. It's not a fully-formed thing most of the time. Instead, their largely improvisational and atmospheric songs weave in and out of structure, yet never seem to lose their firm, melodic grip.

One of the linchpins of the band's sound is Erin Rodgers, who lends an ethereal keyboard and vocal presence as well as some clarinet when the situation is called for. Music has been her life for as long as she can remember; she says a song is playing somewhere in her head 100 percent of the time. In school she focused on the clarinet, and eventually learned the piano after her parents acquired an ancient model that had been on someone's front porch for years.

Though Rodgers picked up the guitar to try and get into the live-music scene, she disliked the instrument and jumped at the chance to ditch it after a former band broke up and Glass the Sky started auditioning for a keyboard player. She's been with them ever since.

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For No. 42: Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

Categories: Weird Holidays

Bob Sandberg via the Library of Congress
While most of us are off sweating our taxes today, there is at least one cause for celebration. Today is Jackie Robinson Day, celebrating the anniversary of Robinson's first taking a major-league baseball field with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. As the first African-American MLB player, Robinson blazed a trail that ended 80 years of segregation in the sport and paved the way for generations of gifted athletes.

Since 2004, it's become an annual tradition to honor the man who in many ways most defined the true national pastime, embodying as he did both skill undeniable and the place of freedom and equality that America is supposed to represent in ballparks across the nation. This year, for instance, Historic Dodgertown will host an exhibition game, and each player at tonight's Astros-Royals game at Minute Maid Park will wear Robinson's jersey number, 42. That number has become symbolic of the movement towards equality in professional sports, and has been retired at every MLB park. So honor No. 42, here's a playlist of songs about the one and only Jackie Robinson.

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The 13 Best Things About Coachella's First Weekend

Note: The first weekend of Coachella, Southern California's version of FPSF, has just concluded Sunday (or early Monday) in the high desert outside Palm Springs. Our friends at LA Weekly and OC Weekly made it through the whole blessed thing, and kindly brought us this recap.

Photo by Timothy Norris
Round one of Coachella is over and damn, was it a good one! We're all sore, sunburned and smiling. Here's the best of what we saw during another memorable weekend in Indio.

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Old Testament Tales That Fit Today's Musicians

In April 2014, one of the hottest figures in Hollywood is an old-timer called God. He's the subject of Noah and God's Not Dead, two films that have somewhat surprisingly charted multimillion-dollar grosses this Easter season.

Whether the actors and producers are true believers isn't the point. Their personal salvation might not be assured, but it seems their bottom lines have been saved by bringing The Big Guy to the big screen. But in secular music entertainment, God's archrival gets all the run.

Whether the Stones are sympathizing with him or Jay-Z is illuminating on him, Satan rules, and folks like Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne have ridden Old Scratch's coattails all the way to the bank. The only time music artists ever mention God is when they're receiving a trophy at some awards show, right before they head off to a drug-laden orgy.

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The Nine Worst Things About Coachella's First Weekend

Note: The first weekend of Coachella, Southern California's version of FPSF, has just concluded Sunday (or early Monday) in the high desert outside Palm Springs. Our friends at LA Weekly and OC Weekly made it through the whole blessed thing, and kindly brought us this recap.

Photo by Timothy Norris
Coachella's first weekend was amazing this year! Except when it wasn't. Here are the parts of the festival that rubbed us the wrong way.

Saturday Night dust storm (above)
Conditions may not have been as bad as they were during last year's Red Hot Chili Peppers set, but Saturday night's dusty conditions were still pretty awful. The winds started picking up when the sun started going down, and by dusk, the sky had turned a coffee-stain brown and festivalgoers were wiping desert residue from their eyeglasses and exposed skin.

Dust got everywhere -- in the cracks of your smartphone, for starters, and then, later, in your scalp, nose and bronchial tubes. It's a disgusting affair and a reminder to bring a handkerchief next time. ADAM LOVINUS

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