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Celebration Rock Podcast

Celebration Rock Podcast

ABOUT:
Rock Critic Steven Hyden (“Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me”, “Twilight Of The Gods”) talks with rock stars and the country’s biggest music writers about what’s happening in rock.

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RECENT EPISODES

Our Favorite Albums of 2018

Every year of my professional life as a music critic, I’ve made year-end lists. Sometimes it was because I simply had to do it, but more often (especially when I was younger) I did it because I thought it was fun. Making a year-end list was like saying, “Here I am, this is what I think, and here’s why I believe you should actually care.” But now that I’m a little older and wiser, list-making feels more like work. In 2018, it was practically a job.

I don’t know if that has to do with my age or the fact that, to me, 2018 felt like a “good, not great” year for music. As always, there were scores of albums that I really enjoyed. But in terms of records that felt like instant classics, or at least inspired me to get obsessed for a good week or two, 2018 seemed a little fallow.

Nevertheless, the 10 albums on my year-end list did manage to strike a chord with me, and I was excited to talk about them with my friend Ian Cohen, who shared his own top 10 list. Surprisingly, there’s not a ton of overlap on our lists –- listen to us debate the merits of the 1975, Arctic Monkeys, Boygenius, Father John Misty, and Kacey Musgraves in this special “best of 2018” episode.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Contrarian’s Canon: Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home

This week we return with another installment of Contrarian’s Canon, our semi-regular series with Ryley Walker where we talk about great albums that for some reason have been maligned or forgotten about in the course of music history. This time, we explore an under-appreciated should-be classic by one of the greatest singer-songwriters ever, Joni Mitchell.

While Mitchell is rightly celebrated for landmark ’70s albums like Blue, Court & Spark, and The Hissing of Summer Lawns, she continued to put out excellent albums as she entered her 40s. After a fallow period in the ’80s, Mitchell forged a comeback with 1991’s Night Ride Home, an album that nodded to the jazzy folk sound of 1976’s masterpiece Hejira while also reflecting on the changes in her life as a middle-aged artist.

For Walker, Night Ride Home is one of the best albums that Mitchell ever made, and for him the highlight “Come In From The Cold” is one of her best ever songs, with a sophisticated musical and lyrical structure that is communicated with simple, straight-forward grace. We both also confess our love of other early ’90s albums by boomer-era rockers, including Jackson Browne’s I’m Alive and Van Morrison’s Hymns to the Silence. Are these late-career landmarks worth revisiting, or have Ryley and I slipped into an adult-contemporary coma? Step into the smoothness with us!


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Fantasy A&R: The Ultimate Mid-’90s Oasis Album

Last month, we started a new game called Fantasy A&R, where we take a classic album and attempt to improve/mutilate it by making our own stupid suggestions, such as adding or subtracting songs, swapping in alternate versions, and other probably ill-advised ideas.

The first time we played Fantasy A&R, it was with the Beatles’ “White Album.” This time, we decided to play with a band who’s even bigger than the Beatles, at least in their own minds: Oasis. Between 1994 and 1996, Oasis put out two classic albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, along with a series of classic singles that included scores of B-sides beloved by fans and later compiled on The Masterplan. 

But what if Oasis’ record company decided instead to take the best songs from the albums and singles to create a 14-track super album? What it would look like? How painful would it be to cut songs out of two ’90s masterpieces in order to make it happen?  In this episode, I’m joined by fellow music critic and Oasis fan Stuart Berman to come up with our own “ultimate” mid-’90s Oasis album. Naturally, we intensely disagreed when it came to our choices, particularly when it came to which Morning Glory deep cuts to include.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

The 2nd Annual Last Waltz Holiday Special

Back in 2016, I wrote a column in which I declared that The Last Waltz is the best Thanksgiving movie. “It affirms the faith in the power of ritual to heal — at least temporarily — whatever is awkward or unresolved or plain broken about your familial bonds,” I wrote. “Sometimes, that belief is just enough to make things okay for a little while.” Last year, I invited friend of the pod Hanif Abdurraqib to revisit the film with me, and marvel at the majesty of Van Morrison’s purple suit and Robbie Robertson’s ill-considered gold-plated guitar.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Fantasy A&R: How To Make a 12-Track Version of the Beatles’ “White Album”

In the week’s episode of Celebration Rock we introduce a new game called Fantasy A&R, where we take a classic album and attempt to improve/mutilate it by making our own stupid suggestions, such as adding or subtracting songs, swapping in alternate versions, and other probably ill-advised ideas.

The first album up for discussion is ripe for editing: The Beatles self-titled 1968 double-record, popularly known as “The White Album.” This masterpiece turns 50 on Nov. 22, a milestone recently commemorated with a pricey box set. But we’re not interested in making “The White Album” even longer. Instead, we’ve posed the opposite challenge: What would a tight 12-track version of this classic look like?

To help me figure this out, I’ve invited my friend Rob Mitchum to play Fantasy A&R with me. To be clear: We both agree that “The White Album” is better as a sprawling experience, in which weird curveballs like “Wild Honey Pie” sit next to undeniable bangers like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” However, it’s still fun to imagine what a shorter “White Album” would look like, if only because it’s our chance to finally wipe “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” out of existence. Or is it? That song is kind of good, isn’t it? Let’s find out!


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Contrarian’s Canon: Dave Matthews Band’s The Lillywhite Sessions

In the late ’90s, the Dave Matthews Band was one of the biggest bands in the world. Each of their first three albums went multi-platinum, and their improvisational live shows made them a stadium headliner. And yet this hippie-friendly collective couldn’t just put out any album that it pleased. In 1999 and 2000, they gathered at a house outside the band’s hometown of Charlottesville, Va. to record songs that were eventually shelved in favor of a much poppier record released in 2001, Everyday. But when those songs, subsequently dubbed The Lillywhite Sessions — after the band’s producer, Steve Lillywhite — leaked on Napster, they were adored by DMB’s hard-core fans.

In this episode, I revisit The Lillywhite Sessions wth one of those fans, indie-rock artist Ryley Walker, for another installment of our Contrarian’s Canon series. Unlike other albums discussed in Contrarian’s Canon, Ryley and I disagree sharply on The Lillywhite Sessions — he loves the album so much that he covered it in its entirety for an upcoming record due out Nov. 16, whereas I … can’t stand this album or DMB in general. But I am willing to be persuaded! Can Ryley pull off the impossible make me actually like the Dave Matthews Band, the scourge of my late-’90s college years?


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

October’s Top Indie Albums by Kurt Vile, Cat Power, and Pinegrove

On this week’s episode of Celebration Rock I invited Pitchfork senior editor (and now friend of the podcast) Stacey Anderson to discuss this month’s most notable indie-rock albums. Our discussion began with Pinegrove, who’s latest album Skylight is an affecting alt-country-leaning album that’s a worthy follow-up to the band’s 2016 breakout Cardinal. But much of the discussion of this band — or conspicuous lack of discussion — stems from the charges of sexual coercion levied against frontman Evan Stephens Hall that prompted Hall to voluntarily push back the album’s release and reschedule tour dates. Stacey and I explored whether it’s possible to set that baggage aside when listening to the music — or whether it’s even right to do that.

In the second half of the episode, we talked about two of the most reliable legacy artists in indie rock. Chan Marshall, who has put out records since the mid-’90s as Cat Power, returned in early October with her first album in six years, Wanderer, which ranks among her very best. As for Kurt Vile, he’s been putting out consistently strong albums on a regular basis for a decade now. While his latest Bottle It In doesn’t radically reinvent his formula of languid and meditative guitar jams, it suggests that his craftsmanship and lyrical insight are only growing richer with time.

Finally, Stacey and I share some recent recommendations: Robyn’s pop confessional Honey for her, and Colter Wall’s country throwback Songs of the Plains for me.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Twenty One Pilots vs. Greta Van Fleet

In the past few weeks, two of 2018’s most anticipated rock albums have been released: Trench by Twenty One Pilots and Anthem of the Peaceful Army by Greta Van Fleet. In my review of TrenchI noted that Twenty One Pilots have created a deep and fascinating mythology that extends over several albums, while also creating mild, kind of bland music that’s been hugely successful on streaming platforms. If Twenty One Pilots epitomize the trends that dominate pop in the current moment, Greta Van Fleet is a conscious throwback to the classic-rock past. The group is shamelessly derivative of Led Zeppelin, but is it possible to be good at imitation? For this episode, I invited my friend and Celebration Rock producer Derek Madden to discuss these albums. Turns out that we don’t quite see eye-to-eye: Derek likes Twenty One Pilots more than I do, and he also can’t quite excuse Greta Van Fleet’s “borrowing” of Zeppelin’s sound. Who’s right? Listen to us politely disagree!


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

Contrarian Canon: Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell

Last month, I invited great indie-rock guitarist and hilarious Twitter user Ryley Walker on the podcast to talk about an album that impacted both of our lives as teenagers, dc Talk’s ’90s Christian-rock opus Jesus Freak. It was so much fun that it inspired a new semi-regular series that I’m calling Contrarian Canon, in which Ryley and I will discuss an album that we love that hasn’t gotten a ton of love critically over the years. The latest record that we’re adding to the Contrarian Canon is 1994’s The Division Bell, which might very well be the least well-regarded Pink Floyd album ever. At the time, The Division Bell was controversial because it was made without Pink Floyd’s long-time leader and principal songwriter, Roger Waters. Over time, it has come to be regarded as an afterthought in Pink Floyd’s catalog, an empty artistic shell made by a once-great band. But Ryley and I both really like this record! While it’s true that The Division Bell doesn’t compare with indisputable classics like Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, it does a surprisingly good job of restoring Pink Floyd’s classic sound, with extra emphasis on David Gilmour’s majestic guitar playing. At the very least, we had fun revisiting the album recently while hanging out backstage and drinking Maker’s Mark out of plastic cups.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

A Tribute to The Stills and Other Overlooked Bands of the Post-Strokes Boom

This month is the 15th anniversary of Logic Will Break Your Heart, the debut album by Montreal quartet The Stills, one of many scruffy, post-punk bands that followed in the wake of the Strokes in the early ’00s. For a while, any band that sort of looked like the Strokes or sort of sounded like the Strokes had a shot at a major-label record deal. Many of those bands are now forgotten, but there are a handful of groups, like the Stills, that had at least one really good album in them. In this episode, critic Ian Cohen joins Steve in remembering some of those post-Strokes bands, including Secret Machines, Longwave, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Hot Hot Heat, and The Bravery.


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Dive into the archives and catch up on episodes you may have missed!: Celebration Rock archives

 

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