POSTED ON AUGUST 4, 2010:
Top of the Disc Heap
Artists pit their albums for one of the biggest honors -- Album of the Year
Nowadays an album can be almost anything -- everything from a collection of ghostly ambient drones to minute-long outbursts of teenage angst to a dozen minute variations on a solitary melody. The progression of recording technology and the evolution of our listening culture makes it so.
We, as a society, are saturated with sound. Music follows us to the grocery store and dentist office, on our jogging or dog-walking excursions to restaurants and bars. It finds us pumping gas and seeks us out while on the phone on hold waiting for customer service.
In public life, music is largely background noise and static: happenstance vibrations in the air.
Sometimes, however, a song or melody adheres to our consciousness and incidentally becomes the soundtrack to our lives. Music and accompanying lyrics are capable of taking us back to a specific time and place in our minds given the circumstance. Songs are able to incite nostalgia, sentimentality or a whole host of emotions often perilously so.
These are the musical moments worth celebrating. The following are "Album of the Year" nominees that Tulsa is celebrating. These are the vibrations that incite, the hum that demands attention, and the melodies that have yet to leave the summer breeze.
Act III -- Wasted Talent is the work of the most talented class clown one could come across, P.D.A. The rapper is a jack-of-all-trades effortlessly meshing hip-hop, dance, R&B, pop and rock in a way often unheard. In fact, out of all of the nominees for the category, P.D.A. covers the most ground stylistically and breaks the most rules. Throughout Act III -- Wasted Talent, his sense of humor and desire to get people on the dance floor at all costs, often shaking with a smirk, is apparent.
"Your Girlfriend" is an excellent example: an upbeat track led by a jangly piano where he recollects the dangers of regularly pursuing girls that already have boyfriends. But the true appeal of P.D.A. is the way he can flip a phrase in an unexpected manner, turning the cliché to cheeky.
Born Rebels by Chuk Cooley and the Demon Hammers is a hard rock album built around the percussive power of the acoustic guitar. You've never heard the instrument rock quite like this.
Born Rebels makes good on the previous potential of the group documenting the intensity and diversity of their edgy sound. "The Unheard/Without Wings" starts as a delicate classical guitar figure that evolves into something of epic status building in intensity and decreasing during seven-minutes.
At the center of the album is the songwriting of Cooley who pens very personal and autobiographical tales of darkness and redemption, hope and fear.
Love Gone Mad is a large slice of radio pop perfection. Vocalist Chris Cleveland effortlessly pulls the listener in with a whisper or unleashes a soaring emotive melody that will have one quickly singing along.
The songwriting of Love Gone Made is well crafted and the arrangements flow in a way only good pop songs can. The album covers quite a bit of ground from the vulnerable piano-led "Hoping for Tomorrow," to the upbeat rock of "Where Has Our Love Gone." Not a moment is wasted on the album, as every track is crammed with just the right amount of melody, instrumentation and repetition.
Restless Ribbon is a testament to the talent of Tulsa's youth. The self-titled release by the band Restless Ribbon is a musically mature affair, though the lyrics wrestle with thoroughly adolescent themes.
The band is undoubtedly the youngest participants in this category, and that fact manifests itself in the modern sound of the album. The material of Restless Ribbon is an accurate representation of today's newer trends in the rock and pop genres.
Step Lightly by guitarist Joesf Glaude and violinist James Ruggles might be the odd man out in "Best Album of the Year" category. The mellow instrumental album features guitar and violin duets of original material as well as renditions of classical compositions from composers such as Bach and François Schubert.
The simplicity of the instrumentation and the manner in which it was recorded is a huge strength of the song collection. The bare presentation allows the listener to focus on the intent of melody and the tones evoked by the players.
The nominees in the "Album of the Year" cover a huge swath of musical genres. The entire category is completely up for grabs -- it is truly up to the rabidity of an artist's fan base to see who comes up on top. It is time to figure out which album has yet to leave peoples CD players, which groups constant performance schedules will pay off, which melodies have yet to quit nibbling on the populations mind all season.
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