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Best Album Covers of 2016

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With the year coming to a close, it’s that time again to take a look back at some of the best that the music world had to offer in 2016. First up on the “Best of” docket is my annual “Best Album Covers” list. Throughout the year, I kept a list of album covers that I found strange, beautiful, and provocative.  This list is a compilation of my favorites from this yearlong collection.  Anyone who loves the album as an art form knows the importance of a powerful LP image, and the following 20 covers elevate their corresponding albums.

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Year of the Bowie: Episode #8

In this month’s episode of “Year of the Bowie”, we take a close look at David Bowie’s output during the 1980s, from “Let’s Dance” to Live Aid to “Labyrinth”. 

Check it out HERE, or better yet, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher (search: Year of the Bowie). 

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Year of the Bowie: Episode #3

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In this episode, we take a look at the inner struggles that arose in the Bowie camp when Angie Barnett came into David’s life. We also take a look at the creative awakening that came out of David’s collaborations with Tony Visconti and Mick Ronson.

Check the episode on HERE, or better yet, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher (search: Year of the Bowie).

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Year of the Bowie: Episode #2

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In the second episode of “The Year of the Bowie”, we take a look at Bowie’s struggle to find his own unique voice as a solo artist. You can check it out HERE, or you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher (search: Year of the Bowie).  If you enjoy the episode, “like” the video and give us a positive rating.

YEAR OF THE BOWIE: EPISODE #2

Below you’ll find some of the videos discussed in the episode. 

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BDWPS Podcast #41

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In this month’s podcast we check out new music from Thundercat, Kurt Vile, The Mantles, Beach House, Mike Krol, and Deerhunter. We’ll also discuss the new documentary “Keith Richards: Under the Influence” and take a look at the use of Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma” in the final Sopranos episode. Check it out HERE, or better yet, go subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Stitcher, or Podomatic (search keyword: BDWPS).

Tracklist:

Thundercat “Them Changes”
Kurt Vile “Pretty Pimpin'”
The Mantles “Hate To See You Go”
Beach House “SF”
Mike Krol “This is the News”
Deerhunter “Living My Life”
Muddy Waters “I Just Want To Make Love To You”
Bob Dylan “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”

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Destroyer “Poison Season”

Destroyer

Poison Season

[Merge; 2015]

Rating: 8.5

As I stood in line waiting to get into the Destroyer show at Fine Line Music Café in downtown Minneapolis, a couple of women in front of me turned around and asked, “So who do you think Dan Bejar sounds more like: Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen?” I hesitated to respond, jumping back and forth in my mind between the luminary songwriters. It’s probably a mix of both yet neither at all. As this episode revealed, it’s hard to define Dan Bejar’s work, a strange combination of a snarky stand-up comedian, mocking everything around him, and a poet, taking the nuances of life and revealing their frailty through insightful and distinctive metaphors.

My confusion continued an hour later as Destroyer and his six-man band came out. As smoke machines began masking the band and the stage, the guys standing in front of me began laughing maniacally, feeling they were in on Bejar’s apparent joke. No self-respecting artist would use the dated stage theatrics of a 20 dollar smoke machine unless it was for satirical purposes, right? Therein lies the uncertainty of Destroyer – is his music meant to be taken seriously or is it all one big joke that only the most skeptical of listeners are in on?

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Action Bronson “Mr. Wonderful”

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Action Bronson

Mr. Wonderful

[Atlantic/Vice; 2015]

RATING: 8

Remember when hip-hop was fun? My adolescence was filled with the entertaining, harmless anthems of MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, and Tone Loc. “Hip Hop Hooray,” “Jump Around,” and the “Humpty Dance” were the soundtrack to my middle school dances.  Kids wore their overalls backwards to emulate Kriss Kross and oversized Starter jackets like ABC (Another Bad Creation, yo!). Queen Latifah reigned supreme, Run DMC were the “Kings of Rock,” and Will Smith was The Prince of Bel Air.  Sure, acts like NWA and Public Enemy were anything but fun, but at that time, their hard-cutting verbal assaults were the minority to the more common, party approach to rap music.

Things changed with the dawning of gangsta rap. I’m not suggesting that Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg didn’t know how to have a good time, smoking their indo while sippin’ on gin and juice, but their songs took the genre into more violent, brooding territory. No longer was it cool to rap about how you can “Bust a Move” or how you wish you were a little bit taller, wish you were a baller, wish you had a girl, if you did, you would call her. Many artists tried to toughen up their image (gangsta MC Hammer was my favorite), but their efforts were transparent to fans that wanted stories of the streets from those who lived it.

Since that mid-90s mood shift, hip-hop has remained grounded in the more menacing approach, rappers boasting their worth in diamonds, clothes, and cars, MCs regaling their days as drug dealers and gang members. That’s what makes Action Bronson’s major label debut Mr. Wonderful so refreshing – it’s a throwback to the days when rappers were more interested in promoting a good time than themselves.

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