Tag Archives: albums

To Make My Stand

In 16 days, the voters of Madison and Wisconsin go to the polls to vote for races like Wisconsin Supreme Court, mayor, alder, school board and more. On April 2nd, my campaign work is done and I will find out if we were successful. With a little over two weeks to go, I struggle to explain how I’m feeling. Then, it hit me. A campaign is like creating an album. You are probably thinking that my sleep deprivation and cold is wrecking havoc on my brain. While you might be right, I think I can explain this.

Work with a team on a common goal

In order for band’s like Duran Duran to make an album, they need a team behind them. They not only need themselves but producers, engineers, other musicians (if necessary) and so much more. They also need people to create the art and packaging along with the promotion team to get the word out. Campaigns are not much different. There is usually a core group of people working on it. I’m super lucky in that the team I’m working with are great. Of course, we bring in others as necessary with various elements, including media and promotion. I know that over time I have grown close to the members of the team. After all, we are spending a lot of time together and experience all of the joys and frustrations that can happen. I’m willing to bet that making albums are similar. I’m sure that there are days when the music just falls into place or the best lyrics are created. Of course, there are probably other days that nothing is working or that someone criticizes what has been done. It isn’t always smooth sailing as people on the team might disagree with a decision or direction. That happens on campaigns, too. By the end of the experience, it is not uncommon to view the people on the team as family.

Both album making and campaigning have goals. In the case of a campaign, the object is to win, to get more votes than one’s opponent. An album needs to sell a lot of copies like votes. It needs to be thought of as better than the rest to win awards and more.

Both have deadlines

Typically, once an album gets close to being completed there is a date assigned as the release date. On that date, the artist gets to find out if their hard work pays off. A campaign has a definite date, too. Then, we get to wait and watch for results. Election nights can be great or they can be devastating. Many times they can be agonizing as the votes slowly roll in, creating much nervousness. Yet, once the polls close and once the album is released, that’s it. There is nothing you can do to but trust that you did the best you could and that your choices will lead you to success.

It is not always a healthy way to live

I’m willing to bet that Duran Duran is not always the healthiest during their album making process especially during their early days. They probably didn’t get a decent amount of sleep or eat well. There might have been too many substances consumed. Campaigns aren’t that different. I haven’t gotten no where near the right amount of sleep for months now. There are many days, especially lately, in which my eating habits are beyond bad. Sometimes, I don’t eat dinner as I’m too busy running from one event to the other. Other times, I eat a lot of junk food. My “drug” of choice is caffeine. I have had a lot of coffee. I do get out and walk some to knock on voters’ doors but this year that has been tough as the winter was beyond grueling. At one point, my mom fell and hit her head which caused an ER visit. (Thankfully, she is fine!) Another team member cut her finger on ice. I generally don’t get sick (teachers have immune systems of steel) but I’m on my second cold. Needless to say, there has been blood, sweat and tears on this campaign.

At the end, you have mixed emotions

As I count down the days, I find myself having many mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m so excited to not have work so much. I look forward to a lot more sleep and a lot less stress. I have no doubt that the band might feel the same way at the end of making an album. It is the little things that I might be excited for like eating properly or not having to answer hundreds of various messages a day. Yet, at the same time, I’m going to miss the people I have worked so closely with. We have created inside jokes and have shared something powerful in terms of working together towards a common goal. It reminds me of the end of Sing Blue Silver when at the end of the tour the band is so emotional. As they hug and wonder what they will do next year, I’m sure there is a big part of them that is happy to be done, happy to not have the insane schedule anymore while knowing that they will miss it at the same time.

You learn a lot

Despite or maybe because of the process, you learn a lot. Not only do you learn a bunch about how to create the best campaign or album, you find out more about yourself and what you are capable of. You get to know new people and get to know others better. It also makes you feel good knowing that you gave it your all, no matter the level of success.

I can tell you this much. Now that I have realized how similar campaigns are to making an album, I’m going to look at finished albums in new light. While I still might have opinions about the quality of the music, I think I’ll be far kinder and far more understanding and appreciative of the work that went into it.

-A

Makes My Hair Stand Up On End

Synchronize but don’t comprehend

Lately, I’ve been stealing topics from Twitter. Shout-out to @BoysMakeNoise for drumming up such great discussion topics through his album surveys. (He’s also the brilliant mind from yesterday’s blog, and I failed to credit his genius directly!) They get me thinking, and that leads to writing.

The fact is, I have little to discussion in terms of actual “fandom” practices these days (give me time, because shows will be happening and I’m sure there will be much to discuss). So I’ve been going back through albums, listening and rethinking. Today is an Astronaut day.

What got me started on this particular album was a survey that @BoysMakeNoise posted on Twitter. It was a simple question – “What do you listen to more often?” The choices were Astronaut and All You Need Is Now.

All You Need is Now won by a virtual landslide, in case you were wondering.

Another moment I commit

The question itself is interesting because of its wording. He didn’t ask which album is preferred, just which one is listened to more often. Upon first thought, one might scoff and say it’s the same answer, but I’d challenge you to think again. For example, if you posed Notorious against Red Carpet Massacre and asked me – LATELY – I’d have to say RCM. I’ve been listening to that a lot lately for a number of reasons, but I still prefer Notorious!

So back to Astronaut. It was the first, and only album, for the fab five post reunion, and that alone caused me to listen to it non-stop for a long time. I knew every subtle nuance, every change in dynamics, and each drum fill. (probably just like anyone else reading!) However, after the Astronaut tour, I admittedly got tired of it. I put the album away, only to listen to a few songs here or there.

I’ve pulled Astronaut out every once in a while, and each time I do – I notice that I don’t need to hear it from start to finish. I tend to choose a few songs, skip around, and then I don’t need to hear it all again for a while. I can still remember how I felt when I first heard the album: mixtures of pride and excitement leveled with a teeny bit of disappointment that some of the demos I’d originally heard weren’t included or that songs were changed.

I’m addicted to the state you’re in

For a long time, I didn’t differentiate my excitement for being involved in the fan community, the joy of the band being back together, or even the elation of traveling to be with friends and go to shows, from the album itself. Those feelings were all entwined, tangled together, indecipherable from one another. Time has done it’s job, and I feel a bit less biased these days than I might have at the time it was released in 2004.

When I listen to Astronaut now, the album shows some age now. There are a few standout songs for me, like the title track, Sunrise, Chains, and even Still Breathing, but I find that a lot of the rest of the album is easy to leave behind. Unlike albums such as Paper Gods, or Rio, or even Seven and the Ragged Tiger, the songs don’t necessarily flow from one to the next. The theme of the album…if there is indeed one (I’d argue there is not), isn’t carried. There’s very little cohesion. Now, that’s not necessarily a fault of the band as much as it might have been the recording style of the day – I’m just glad that they’ve gone back to recording an album as though it is one complete story from the first song to the last.

Where it’s gonna end up, anybody knows

Oddly, these points don’t make Astronaut less endearing to me. I still love it because of what time it represents during the band’s history. I think there is much to love there – who would have thought in 1997 or 1998 that a brand new album from the original five members was just around the corner?? Instead, I find a great deal of satisfaction from being able to sit back and thoroughly examine Astronaut’s chapter in Duran Duran’s history.

I also think this discussion provides a great springboard into the topic of listening to complete albums versus playlists. Is there still merit to recording a full-album? I have to wonder how the band feels, as well as how fans feel about it in 2019…but that will have to wait for another day.

-R

Trampled but Still Breathing and Reaching for the Sunrise!

Good morning, everyone! (It’s still morning in California!)

This is going to be a crazy week, and I feel compelled to share. I don’t know what anyone else did over the weekend,  but I rebuilt part of our back patio cover, alongside my husband and son. This morning, every part of my body is loudly reminding me that I am no longer a teenager.  I’m very thankful that at the last-minute, my husband decided to hire a painting company instead of going with the original plan to do it all ourselves (a task beginning this morning, as I type).  Today it’s only the outside being washed and painted, but tomorrow they’ll be prepping inside for similar treatment. Not a single wall is to be spared, and we’re going with the popular millennial color choice of “minimalist grey” to clean and update the inside of the house. We’ve hired a realtor, and within the next couple of weeks the house will be on the market. Writing the blog continues to be my source of refuge, particularly during the insanity of this moving process!

I love some of the questions that DDHQ has posed to the community over social media lately. While some of them allow me to answer within a second or two, others challenge me to really think. Today’s question nearly has me stumped.

“Of all the FIRST and LAST songs on Duran Duran albums, which opener and closer do you think make for the most powerful combined listening experience?”

Initially, all I could think about was that I hadn’t yet had my standard cup of coffee and that this question was far too deep for a Monday morning. Or at least my Monday morning.  I also was envious, because it is a great question, and I wish I’d thought of it myself so that we could have used it for Daily Duranie!

It is generally easier for me to consider the most recent album – in this case Paper Gods – because I’ve been listening to it for the past few years. So my knee jerk reaction was to say “Paper Gods” and “Universe Alone. The thing is, if I were in charge, I’d put “Before The Rain” as the opener and “Universe Alone” as the closer.  Not that I don’t like “Paper Gods”, but I personally feel that “Before The Rain” is a stronger song (For me.  Perhaps not so for you, but for me.), and  would have been an outstanding opener for any album. Granted,  “Before the Rain” and “Universe Alone” are on two completely different albums, and “Before the Rain” wasn’t even an opener!

The best news in this case, is of course, that I’m not in charge.

So I’m back at square one. I have to go back and actually look at all of the albums now, which is both pathetic (shouldn’t I know this offhand by now?) and also diligent. (if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right!)

Right off the bat, there are album openers/closers that I discarded. I’m not going to say which ones, but for me, there are albums that just don’t seem to have strong openers or strong closers…or maybe an album has a strong opener but not a strong closer, or vice versa. I’ll be honest, I found this to be the case more often than not at the beginning of their career as opposed to more recently. Whether this is because I have a serious lack in good judgment (!!!) or because the band has gotten better about the song order of their albums is hard to say. (both??)

For me, the answer to this question does not have a lot to do with whether or not I “like” an album. After all, I love the albums of the 1980s, but song order never entered into that. (For me) One of my strongest contenders would be the opener “The Valley” and the closer “Last Man Standing” because I always felt that both of those songs were strong, and even conveyed where the band stood in that moment, and yet Red Carpet Massacre is not one of my more beloved Duran Duran albums.

For me, it comes down to three:

“[Reach Up for the] Sunrise” and “Still Breathing”

“Big Thing” and “Lakeshore Driving”

“The Valley” and “Last Man Standing”

Of these three, I struggle at first, thinking I must pick a favorite. In the midst of my short reverie, I realize that the question isn’t about my favorite, but what is the strongest opener and closer for an album. When I think about that, I think the choice is clear – “Sunrise” and “Still Breathing”.  Aside from maybe “Rio”, I really can’t think of a Duran Duran song written that conveys more joy.  It is a very strong opener, and in my mind, “Still Breathing” is a strong, introspective way to close an album. The song isn’t incredibly loud, but it is powerful in meaning, and even musically – I think the word I’m looking for is “stoic”.  No, it’s not world-ending in the same way that “The Universe Alone” might be, but I have to love that the band chose to end an album meant to signify the reunification of the fab five with a song titled “Still Breathing”. As they were then, as they are now. And so are we.

-R

What is the function of a single in 2018?

My “Day in Duran History” desk calendar reminds me that on this day in 2011, BB2 announced that “Girl Panic” was the next single off of All You Need is Now.

Although I am the first to admit my memory isn’t what it used to be, I do remember hearing that “Girl Panic” would be the next single. I found that fascinating because up until that point, I hadn’t heard “All You Need is Now” more than a couple of times on the radio, if at all. I didn’t really understand the point of naming a single, unless of course we were talking about the physical release of a single – like on a 45. Sure, I’m dating myself here, but I really didn’t see the point, particularly if land-based radio wasn’t going to play anything the band released anyway.  I did buy the vinyl single, and like everyone else I waited on pins and needles for the video. But beyond that, I never quite got the necessity of the single.

My questions about singles lingered on through the release of Paper Gods, although on second thought I wonder if it’s simply that I have the wrong expectations in my head for what a “single” really means. Take “Pressure Off” for example. I never once heard the song played on any of the radio stations in Southern California. Not once. I didn’t hear about it being played anywhere, either. I don’t remember any kind of physical release, CD, vinyl, or otherwise for it…so what’s the point?

On the other hand, I know LA radio pretty well. In this market, there really isn’t a station that plays a genre that lends itself to recent Duran Duran. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard “Rio”, “Girls on Film”, “Ordinary World”, “Come Undone” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” on at least three, if not four stations in my area. It is rare that I can get into my car and drive the whole way home from work (45 minutes on a bad day) without hearing one of the above songs played. That said, as far as LA radio is concerned, Duran Duran hasn’t released even one song since 1993.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need to go into a full diatribe on that kind of stupidity, so I won’t.

I do have to ask though – what is the point behind putting out a single these days? Is it beneficial for Spotify? For subscription services like Sirius XM? What about internet radio? Does a band really need to release singles? I suppose that leads me to the question of an album, too. Are albums still necessary?

I know that recently Nick suggested that perhaps the studio time the band has casually thrown around in mention during their Katy Kafe wouldn’t necessarily lead to a full album. He’s said similar things in the past. I can’t say I’ve liked the idea enough to shout from the rooftops about it. I’m a big fan of full albums, myself. I like the idea of a complete story being told through music. I hate the idea of losing that format.

Are albums really any more necessary today than singles? I’m not sure.  Let’s not confuse this with whether we want more albums and singles. Rather, let’s consider their necessity and usefulness in this current business model and market.

-R