Monday, October 8, 2012

ST&SP The Formative Years Pt. 2: High School

Awhile ago I made the announcement that this site would no longer be a weekly update on current musical trends and instead turn to more introspective periodicals. This week I continue to deliver that promise with a three part introspective about the music that shaped my life through key stages of growing up starting with "Elementary School-Middle School" through "High School" and ending with "College and Beyond." Today we continue with Part Two: High School.
                                  Arcadia High School (The Circle) Phoenix, AZ.

The one band that dominated my high school years and still continue to do so today is The White Stripes. I can remember seeing the video for "Fell In Love With A Girl" for the first time on MTV and just being blown away. For Christmas that year I asked for all of their CDs so I tore through White Blood Cells, De Stijl and The White Stripes. I immediately connected to their raw power and inventive nature. Back then they were still a buzzworthy band and had not risen to the titanic-sized household names that they would eventually become. I remember a lot of people predicting them to be a one-hit-wonder but I could sense that Jack White was here to stay. They are without a doubt my favorite band. Hell, this blog is named after one of their lyrics. I have sort of calmed down from my fanatic tendencies towards this band but there was a time where I ate slept and breathed everything White Stripes. I could write a novel of nothing but praise towards this band and how much they mean to me but I'll save that for another day.

The 2002 MTV VMAs were big for me. That particular awards show displayed some of the best rock bands around at the time. It was also the big day out for the onslaught of the 'The' bands. The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, The White Stripes and to a lesser extent at the time The Black Keys. The Hives caught my attention due to their matching suits and hyper personalities. Fans of The Strokes always liked to quarrel with fans of The White Stripes as to who was the more exciting band. I always thought it was a stupid argument because a) the two bands couldn't be more different from each other, and b) it's easily The White Stripes hands down. The White Stripes were able to completely deconstruct rock and roll to it's fundamentals and then slowly build upon it with each of their albums. The Strokes released two tremendous records that sound exactly the same, and then have suffered trying to branch out ever since. The Vines are a band that I feel will have a renaissance in a few years time. They had a whole lot more potential than their two hits "Ride" and "Get Free" it's just a shame singer Craig Nicholls's mental health is always so erratic they were never really able to hit their stride.

I Get Wet turned ten this year. It's one of those reminders of how quickly time passes.When Andrew WK busted into the limelight with I Get Wet it was an immediately divisive record that instantly made him a cult artist. Pitchfork named it one of the worst records in recent memory (they love it now). However, I think WK is a genius because that record has aged like a fine wine. Andrew WK is about one thing and one thing only: partying. So he set out to make an album that is essentially a party. What resulted is one of the most effortlessly fun and passionate rock albums in years. There are no slow songs. Every single song rocks hard and is a sheer riot. What's also crazy is not a lot of people know that Andrew WK is an accomplished concert pianist but you would never guess that from this record. Sometimes you've gotta say "fuck art, let's dance" and Andrew WK lives that mantra every day of his life.

Yes, the Beasties have been around before I was alive but it wasn't until high-school when I really got them. If there are an infinite amount of universes out there with an infinite amount of possibilities I'm glad I live in the one where three Jews from Brooklyn were the first to have a number one hip-hop record and subsequently brought the genre into the mainstream. MCA's death this year hit me harder than I thought it would. The Beastie Boys deserve every single accolade and praise that they have coming to them. I remember getting in line at Sam Goody waiting for To The Five Boroughs to come out. The world was a better place when the Beastie Boys were making music.

I'm not the biggest techno fan. It is the one genre I still haven't really explored. I'm the kind of person who is like "Skrillex who?" However I love Daft Punk, and I know a lot of people like me who listen to Daft Punk and no other EDM artist. Daft Punk have transcended being just another techno artist and have reached a echelon that I don't think any other artist are in except for maybe a few. They are mysterious robotic titans. Very little is known about them as people and hardly is known about their process. When they release records they are clamored over like gifts from the gods. They rarely ever tour and when they did it was a spectacle that is still being talked about in some circles today. I am still absolutely fascinated with how this duo works. Their records are insanely danceable yet are quite simple allowing other artists to sample their tracks. Discovery and Homework are two of the most essential dance records I can think of, although what I've been hearing through the rumor mill about their new album makes me extremely elated.

I wish I had a more hipster way of how I was introduced to Devendra Banhart but quite simply I heard "At The Hop" on a commercial for Fat Tire beer and I thought the song was lovely. I would have to say Devendra was the first hipster artist I ever got into. He had just released Nino Rojo and was still very much an underground artist, only a couple of my friends had a clue who he was. Folk music wasn't that popular in Phoenix Arizona. It wasn't until I moved out to California I realized that he had a very dedicated following and sold out large venues everywhere, just not in Phoenix.

I started listening to Arcade Fire because I liked the sound of their name. It's one of the few cases where I judged a book by its cover and got it totally right. I even made a music video for their song "Une Annee Sans Lumiere" I knew they would eventually be huge and by the time their third record came out they won Best Album at the Grammys. Arcade Fire just might be one of those bands that symbolizes my high-school and college generation. They got from the bottom to the top through sheer hard work and determination.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah came out around the same time as Arcade Fire and were on track to being a huge deal but they didn't and that's a damn shame. They are a very talented band even if Alec Ounsworth's voice is a little challenging. They were the first indie band to achieve a great deal of notoriety for being successful without having to sign with a label. That's how it works for them and they still continue to do it this way. After a long hiatus these guys are back making music and I couldn't be happier about it.

There was another period where I listened to Animal Collective a lot. I got hooked to them when Sung Tongs came out. Their music is so unbelievably challenging yet catchy at the same time. They are like an erratic pack of coyotes wailing on drums, synths and vocals. Their two main members Avey Tare and Panda Bear are polar opposites yet compliment each other quite nicely. Tare being the most animalistic with his screeches while Panda Bear offers a more harmonious Beach Boys vibe to the group. They are one of the groups that I never let me parents listen to because I just knew they wouldn't understand what I saw in them. Quite simply they are the most unchained experimental pop group around. Sure they have some terrible songs, but when they get it right they really hit the nail on the head.

The other extremely experimental group I listened to back in the day were The Flaming Lips. Of course Yoshimi is what introduced me to them, however it's The Soft Bulletin, At War With The Mystics, and Clouds Taste Metallic that turned me into a superfan. Their music goes hand in hand with their live show. Seeing a Flaming Lips show isn't so much a concert as it is an experience. Their shows are a participatory confetti-soaked celebration of life. I will never forget celebrating New Year's Eve with my dad and best friend at a Lips show and watching Wayne Coyne in a inflatable hamster ball descend from a giant UFO and walk on top of the crowd.

I am convinced that Mother Nature herself forged together the elements and created Sigur Ros. They sound so earthly yet so otherworldly at the same time. They are the band that exposed me to Iceland. I have been longing to go there since I was a junior in High School. The natural beauty and landscape of Iceland is something that I have been dying to see with my own eyes. I even set up a savings account with the sole purpose of using some of the money to go there. Someday.

I remember in the 8th grade a few mentions of a new band called The Format and by the time sophomore year hit they were everywhere. They are the hometown heroes for people my age living in Phoenix. I can't say I was the biggest Format fan, and I certainly could care less about Nate Ruess's other band Fun. However, a bunch of my friends have a ton of memories of high-school associated with The Format and so by association I must admit that The Format impacted my High-School years too. Looking back, I don't understand why I didn't like them more. Interventions and Lullabies is filled with catchy pop-hooks that harken back to the old AM-Radio days, and Dog Problems is straight up Sgt. Pepper-esque. They still are the best band to come out of Phoenix in a long time. I can only hope that fans of the mega-popular Fun. will branch out and give Ruess's first band a shot.

That's a pretty good sampling of what I listened to during my high-school years check back next week for the dramatic conclusion of The Formative Years with what was going through my computer speakers during College. Still, the main question I have is, what was the music of the day that you listened to when you were in High-School?

Below is a Spotify Playlist where you can listen to all of the songs I have mentioned in one sitting.


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