Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Unknown: Marie Danielle - Hustler


No one thinks of Los Angeles as a country music city.  Los Angeles is a city drenched in steamy asphalt roads, overpacked with tin cars on an eternal idle.  The urban sprawl is a desolate kingdom of industrialization.  This is the city that gave birth to heavy metal music that crawled its way out of the sleaze and grime of its underbelly.  It gave birth to a massive hip-hop culture that rebelled against the forced environment of the low-income slums.  It is not a city that brings to mind the heartfelt twang of an acoustic guitar.  But despite all that, Los Angeles is a desert.  Long before the skyscrapers, celebrities, and traffic nightmares, it was a western town snuggled up against a sandy beach.  If you rip off the superficial covering, you will discover that country is in LA's heart and soul.


Marie Danielle is not a country artist.  She is an LA artist.  Even though she's originally from the East Coast, her sound is born from the rich musical tapestry that makes Los Angeles such a layered bastion of musical expression.  On her new album, Hustler, Marie embodies all the great emotional baggage coursing through LA's veins.  The album opens with the heartbreaking "Tinseltown" subtly crafted with a hint of Don Henley's lonely howl.  On "Dreary Head" there is an inescapable Brian Wilson loveliness.   "One Night Stands" is sprinkled with Beck's heart-wrenching desperation of feeling alone in a crowded room.  There's Exene's boldness, Rivers' introspection, and even a touch of swagger from GNR Lies on the album's essential song, "Soldier."  Each of Danielle's song has its own identity, but Hustler as an album is even better than the sum of its parts.  

Hustler's crowning achievement is its ability to evolve over multiple listens.  Upon first pass, it hooks you with its sensitivity.  But with repeat visits, the listener is able to peel back the layers discovering emotional peaks and valleys tucked inside the melodies. For every moment of hope there's an air of darkness.  For every downfall there's a smile.  For every fluffy cloud there's a silver nitrate lining.  It's a conflict-laden journey with Danielle's sultry vixen-esque voice, guiding you along with its alluring seduction.  Her intimate tone wraps you in a comfortable blanket, holding you close as if you're the only person this album is made for.  The album's major appeal is how personal it feels.  Marie Danielle is everyone.  She's your neighbor, she's your sister, she's your ex-girlfriend.  She is your confident, and in this moment, she's confiding in you.


Being a musical artist in LA means you have to be a fighter.  Playing shows in LA means competing against narcissistic Angelenos who would rather hear the sound of their own voice than bother listening.  The artist must power over them...over the selfies and status updates.  To successfully come up in this environment, an artist must have internal strength and tenacity. It is a war of attrition and those who survive are stronger from it.  Danielle is a survivor.

Marie Danielle's album, Hustler, is a must.  It is the summer mixtape for that long drive up the coast or the late night drive to Vegas.  It will accompany you after a break-up and be your fan on a first date.  If you're still reading this review and haven't purchased it yet...well, you're wasting your time.

Marie Danielle - Hustler is now available from Marie Danielle Music and Itunes.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Unknown: The Cure - Disintegration (Re-Imagined)

This weekend was Record Store Day.  The greatest single event created for music fans everywhere.  And for all the haters, they're just bitter because they didn't think of it first.  Seriously.  Without Record Store Day, independent record stores would be out of business, not increasing in numbers.  So for any flaws it might have, the positives outweigh the negatives in extremes. This year, for Record Store Day, there were a few "alternate" versions of popular albums.  The Flaming Lips' alternate version of "Clouds Taste Metallic" and Fleetwood Mac's alternate "Tuck" are a couple that come to mind.  This got me thinking.  How can we re-imagine famous albums in a new way? Not necessarily a better way...but a new way.  Like visiting a best friend in a new house or a director's cut of a great movie.  Are there other ways to enjoy something we already love? My favorite album of all time is the Cure's "Disintegration."  It might be the perfect album.  To me.  It got me thinking...is there a new way to enjoy this album?  Even by merely re-ordering the songs...  Is there a new way to experience it?  I took the 12 songs from the original release.  I included the 4 B-sides and used the extended remixes of the singles in lieu of the current album versions.  With these 16 songs, I ventured out to create a new album. Immediately, I noticed one very important thing...the order of the songs is as important as the songs themselves.  Here's something to consider.  If I try to make a 12 song album, using these 16 songs, the possibilities of different albums number in the...get ready for this...billions.  Yes, billions.  There are over 800 billion different ways to order these 16 songs. Eight hundred billion.  This is true. It's called math.  Permutations, precisely.  Google it. So, of the 800 billion possible combinations, are there other combinations that work?  The answer is...yes.  Over the course of re-evaluating this album, I discovered two very different paths, creating two polarizing different albums: a dark album...and a light album.  So I have included them for you here.  Disintegration:  The Light and Disintegration: The Dark.  Listen to them both below...and enjoy a new journey into The Cure.  Even songs used in both alternate versions, come across with totally different feels in their new homes. A unique experience that can surely open the door into the listening of other favorite albums. Trying to stay on par with the original, I have capped the running length under 70 minutes.  Let me know your thoughts...and your own versions. The Cure Disintegration: The Dark     The Cure Disintegration:  The Light