Hey, it’s another Musicalphabet! After I fell on the second hurdle because I couldn’t decide on which band to actually write about I decided to rethink the approach a little bit. From now on, I am not going to write about just one band and album at a time, I’m going to present to you a handful of bands from each letter of the alphabet. Hopefully that will not only make the decision process easier for me, but also provide more variety in what kinds of music are represented in Musicalphabet. I’ve debated back and forth whether or not to start over with A, but ultimately it seems to make more sense to just go on as if nothing happened and treat the last installment of the Musicalphabet as a sort of pilot episode.
Anyway, enough with the introductory waffle about procedure, let’s get right to it. Let’s talk about bands with B.
In the B-category there are obviously lots of bands that start with Black (honorary mentions include The Black Keys, Black Pyramid, Black Tusk and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), but Black Rainbows are a natural pick for me here for various reasons, not least among which is their niche status. They don’t even have a Wikipedia page for christsakes!
So no one has heard of Black Rainbows. Which is a damn shame because their not-quite-unique brand of Psychedelic infused Hard Rock and Stoner Metal is, in a word, awesome. It’s beer drinking, air guitar playing, head banging, dancing like nobody’s watching, accelerator flooring, balls to the wall fun. This is the soundtrack to which you drive through the American midwest with an open-top Hot-Rod. Or the Australian Outback, since Black Rainbows with their driving and forceful riffs are quite often reminiscent of the almighty AC/DC, albeit a heavily downtuned version of the Australian Rock-Legend. But these guys are no American Rednecks, nor are they sunburnt Aussies. They hail from the land of good wine, leaning towers and Bread and Games – although they would probably say Beer and Concerts.
Ben L’Oncle Soul
Let’s stay in Europe for the moment, but migrate a bit to the west. Meet: Ben L’Oncle Soul, a French singer/songwriter who made his first appearance on the musical horizon in 2009 with a six-track EP of soul-y cover songs. Half a year later he puts out his full-length self-titled debut. The covers are gone – save for a brilliant rendition of “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes which also appeared on the previous EP, a song that should tickle everyone’s dancing bones in all the right places.
With this gentleman the clue is very much in the title: Soul is what it says and Soul (arguably with a capital S) is what you get. Now, I’m not necessarily an expert on the subject of soul, but tracks like Soulman or Petite Soeur are absolutely astonishing even to the uninitiated ear. The whole album is just immensely enjoyable, even when L’Oncle gets a little moody on songs like L’ombre D’un Homme.
Judging by the name and the cover, which is a throwback to the old Motown records of yore, I at first suspected this album to be a rather gimmicky affair, but there is no affected artsyness about anything on this record. It is simply earnest, strong song-writing from start to finish.
A band with members from both Norway and Sweden called Brutus. Is it just me or does that just scream (or growl*) Black/Death Metal to anyone else? But these five Scandinavians buck the trend with glorious 70’s inspired Stoner-Rock that should remind you, with its warm guitar sound and old-school arrangements, of Black Sabbath at every little twist and turn. Actually, if you’re a fan of 70’s Rock and Metal in general and Black Sabbath in particular, just stop reading right now and watch the video below this paragraph. You’re gonna love it, I guarantee it.
And if you’re not a fan of that type of music, well then I don’t know what to say to you. What is not to love about fuzzy, downtuned guitars, thunderous drums and intense, high-pitched vocals? What is not to love about sweaty, bearded, long-haired dudes in cut-off denim jackets? Actually, when you put it like that – you might have a point there. But this is not about how it looks, it’s about how it feels. And it feels awesome!
*Haha, Metal puns.
Alright, so we had three bands now that positively ooze fun from every note and beat. There is a time and a place for all that, but sometimes you don’t feel like drinking beer and dancing around like a mad chimp; sometimes all you want is to sit back in your leather armchair and relax. So let’s take a little break from all the merriment and turn up the melancholia instead. And melancholia is something that BADBADNOTGOOD excel at. They are a Toronto based Jazz trio that made waves in 2011 doing instrumental reinterpretations of hip-hop tracks. With their second record, BBNG 2, they developed their style towards more original material, while also experimenting with covers from other popular artists such as Kanye West and James Blake. All of this they did with aplomb, backed up by stellar musicianship and crisp production.
So BADBADNOTGOOD have created this fascinating amalgam of Jazz, Hip-Hop and modern electronic music, channelled through a fierce and fearless punk spirit. Their third Album, fittingly, if slightly unimaginatively titled “III”, sees them now kick away the training wheels of simply interpreting other people’s work and focus exclusively on original material. The jam-session feeling of their earlier output had to make way for a more concentrated approach which helps make the songs feel more like concise compositions, rather than improvisations. The instrumentation is rich and sometimes quite dense, but at the same time lush enough so that everything has enough room to breathe. There is experimentation in all kinds of directions, with songs sometimes feeling like post-rock epics and sometimes 80’s synth-pop anthems. All of which is just a roundabout way of saying that the song writing on this record is absolutely beautiful.
So if you have even just a passing interest in Jazz, give these guys a listen. They’re worth it.
Ok, full disclaimer: I am a massive fan of Baroness. From the very first time I heard Blue Record, their second LP from 2009, I was irrevocably in love. Actually, even before I listened to a single note Baroness had already made a lasting impression with their orgasmically beautiful cover designs, hand painted by frontman and all round artist John Baizley. If you’re at all into Art Nouveau, you should have a look at his work over at www.aperfectmonster.com.
But we’re not here to talk about painting, this is about music. As much of a talent as John Baizley is with a paintbrush, the musical genius he displays in Baroness is, at least to my mind, even greater.
The band has three full length albums under their belt, plus two EPs, each of which marked a distinct evolution in their sound. With each successive album, they became, for lack of a better word, more mellow. As is always the case, this upset some hardcore fans of the early day, but to me each step of the band’s evolution was just as amazing as the one before or the one that followed it. Yes, they lost a lot of the abrasiveness and aggression of their first EPs. Yes, they have become more mellow and restrained. But they have also become more intelligent songwriters, who have learned that always playing as hard and as fast as you possibly can may not necessarily be the best approach.
If you want to give these guys a listen, and you definitely should, it might be a good idea to start with their latest effort “Yellow and Green” and make your way backwards towards their earlier work. Unless, of course, you happen to be hugely into Metal already, in which case Red Album might be more to your taste.
And that’s it. Five of my favourite bands that start with B. I apologize for the lack of hip-hop or rap, but I simply don’t know enough about these genres to write about them. Let alone recommend lesser known artists. So this column will have a distinct bias towards Rock, in the broadest sense of the word. Write what you know, as they say.
Jonas was listening to remixed whale songs while writing.