Cheddar and apple pie is a tradition that seems to have gone out of style, but I can’t really figure out why. I grabbed a slice of pie left from Thanksgiving, cut a slice of sharp cheddar and threw it in the microwave.
Everyone in the room looked on in disgust, but apple and cheddar worked really well together. The cheese mostly stayed on top and worked as a nice added flavor. There weren’t really any surprises here, the flavors are both distinct and don’t dilute each other. It’s definitely worth a try for any cheese fan.
And what better album to go with apple pie and cheddar than Don McLean’s 1971 American Pie. I’ll be honest, the name was the obvious connection for this record and dish, but I’ve made a few more:
Like the apple pie and cheddar, it’s easy to scoff at McLean. While the title track is usually considered one of the greatest of all time, it’s a bit over-played (we can thank Madonna for the latest horrible resurgence). But seriously, “American Pie” is an undeniable classic. Unfortunately, most people haven’t heard the rest of the album.
And American Pie has quite a few gems. “Vincent,” a tribute to van Gogh, is a beautiful acoustic number. McLean matches the majesty of the artists’ Starry Night. The album has a few other equally moving songs, like “The Grave” and “Empty Chairs,” and more upbeat ones like the love song “Winterwood.”
As I kept listening, American Pie is exactly like my dessert. The album’s later folk tracks add depth to the well known title track. Although I was initially put off, it ended up being a pleasant surprise.
Electronic music isn’t all soulless beeps or mindless techno. Gold Panda, aka U.K. producer Derwin Panda, creates music rich with emotion and imagery on his debut album.
Lucky Shiner is a journey. Panda draws on his time studying culture, history and language in Japan to take the listener to the Far East. What’s truly fascinating about the songs, though, is that the nostalgia isn’t lost on the listener. Songs like “Same Dream China” draw on the traveler in all of us to create emotional connections. The stories become personal for each listener. The instrumental nature of his music allows Panda to produce intense images. Visions of a wintery night (“Snow & Taxis”) or the bustle of Mumbai (“India Lately”) instantly flood the listener.
The vivid imagery of Lucky Shiner makes for an incredible listen. Panda’s stories have no words, but the listener knows exactly what he’s saying.
I mentioned Chris Milk’s Arcade Fire project, The Wilderness Downtown, in my last post. The director’s latest project features an even bigger artist: Johnny Cash. Milk’s new video of the late Man in Black is actually a venture into crowd sourcing.
The Johnny Cash Project is a music video for “Ain’t No Grave,” Cash’s final studio recording. The site features a drawing tool, allowing fans to add a frame to the music video. According to a YouTube video about the project, over 250,000 people have already participated.
Traditional music videos might be on the way out. Watching isn’t enough anymore. Milk’s last two projects have capitalized on personalization and participation. It won’t be long before others follow suit. There’s a reason why MTV gave up music videos – it’s a dying medium, but innovators like Milk are changing the game to keep it alive.
Live albums usually get written off. But anyone who’s ever seen The Avett Brothers perform anticipates the band’s live recordings as much as new material. In their ten years together, the band has already put out three live albums. After one listen, it’s easy to see that The Avett Brothers could be in the same category as bands like the Grateful Dead: great on record but a completely different caliber live.
From the opening harmonies and banjo strums of “Pretty Girl from Matthews,” you can hear the two things that make The Avett Brothers so extraordinary live: energy and emotion. The album covers what have become the band’s standards, “The Ballad of Love and Hate,” “Colorshow,” and “Shame,” and newer songs like “I and Love and You” and “Kick Drum Heart.”
The regular set closer, “Paranoia in Bb Major,” is easily the high point of the album. The band peaks at their most energetic and the hometown crowd of Charlotte, N.C. couldn’t be happier. “Paranoia,” like the rest of Live, Volume 3, tells the listener everything about The Avett Brothers: their records are fantastic, but see them live to experience it all.