Originally published on Thu August 16, 2012 10:09 am
Though John Lydon remains best known as Johnny Rotten, former lead singer of The Sex Pistols, his music career didn't end with the pioneering punk act's split in 1978. Lydon formed Public Image Ltd shortly thereafter and dropped his adopted stage name. Widely considered the first post-punk band, PiL experiments with a wide palette of sounds, including dub, rock and disco.
Call JD McPherson's style a throwback if you like, but don't mistake it for novelty. The former punk rocker and middle-school art teacher crafts a raw and energetic blend of jump blues, rockabilly and early rock 'n' roll on his debut album Signs & Signifiers, recording to 1/4 tape on analog equipment. Still, McPherson is as likely to cite The Smiths or Wu-Tang Clan as influences as he is Little Richard or Ruth Brown.
Vows' debut album Winter's Grave arrived to NPR folded carefully in a worn piece of paper xeroxed with hand-drawn artwork. True to it's packaging, Winter's Grave is delicately hand-crafted rather then sloppily home-spun.
Vows is a dreamy, atmospheric band with pop sensibilities from a small town in New Jersey. The album's title track has a satisfying blend of enchanting and eerie sounds. It opens with a vibrant riff that rattles over synth keys but slips into dissonant, creepy organ sounds.
We're a few weeks and a few polls into our summer search for the albums everyone can love, and so far the results have challenged some of our long-held assumptions. Most of you have never heard Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's soundtrack to the film Once(we thought it was wildly popular).
"These ideas of mine / percolate the mind," Fiona Apple sings in "Every Single Night," the song that opens her new album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Some people are going to listen to the entire record and come away with the feeling that the percolation in Apple's mind has bubbled over like a coffee pot left on a stove too long. But for me and perhaps for you, Apple's bubbling thoughts, words and music are thrilling — eager and direct, heedless about being judged or misunderstood.
There are as many ways to interpret someone else's song as there are to write one yourself, but covers needn't play out as complex deconstructions or intellectual exercises. Covers can be simple celebrations — a way of saying, "Damn, I wish this were my song."