Category Archives: 30Hz Music

The 30Hz music-related ramblings

Old School Fridays, an introduction

I’ve been looking for new ways to keep the focus of this bl-g on music and nostalgia and still keep up with the regular demands of curating such a website. I’ve been consumed with the James Bond Social Media Project and posting lengthier stories hasn’t been in the cards. So today I’m giving birth to a new 30Hz series.

Old School Fridays logo

One of the passions from my teenage years that I’ve always carried with me, perhaps asynchronously, is my love of classic old school hip hop. Starting at around age 10 I confounded my parents by listening to Run D.M.C., De La Soul and LL Cool J, to name a few of those early favorites. I tried to pin the whole phenomenon on my dad’s Sugar Hill Gang record. I was a kid that grew up in rural Michigan, outside Kalamazoo… on a farm. Nobody in that two convenience store, two video store, two bar, one grocery store town of 2000 people listened to rap music… if you 12 and weren’t listening to Guns ‘n Roses (or New Kids on the Block in certain circles), you weren’t listening to music.

When I moved to Detroit in 1990, suddenly I had radio stations that only played hip hop… I could walk into a record store and find rap and hip hop music on just about every end cap. Though I may have listened to a little rap music before, now it became a crutch, a new identity. At one point I remember owning every record in the “rap” category in the BMG Music Club catalog. When someone stumbles onto my collection of records or CDs, there’s generally a pause followed by a statement that’s really a question cloaked in insecurity. How does one respond to such a discovery?

“You listen to a lot of rap music.”

For the longest time, I never knew how to respond . Who doesn’t? was never really an acceptable response, even in jest. After a few dozen iterations, I stumbled into a sweet spot, an answer that both humors and illuminates by implying partial truth and stereotype.

“I grew up in Detroit.”

“Ahhhh…. yes.” *nods*

But the truth is that I’ve always listened to all kinds of music… but rap and hip hop from the late 80’s and early 90’s struck a chord at exactly the right time of my youth. I was a fish-out-of-water farm boy suddenly attending a ritzy Grosse Pointe prep school with three-story gleaming white pillars out front. Dress code. Shirts with little horses, ties and khakis. Who was I? How did  I fit in here in this world of Polo shirts and mansions and in-ground pools? Though I made friends with, well, we’ll call it “relative” ease, I was more comfortable around other kids who also had a Detroit address. But why was that? Indeed, most of the kids with the Detroit zip codes were black, but just as many were confused Caucasians like myself who were just trying to fit in somewhere, anywhere. I don’t think of the Grosse Pointe/Detroit divide as some sort of modern Mason-Dixon microcosm, but rather as an artificial divide between the kids at my school who felt that there was no other place but “here” and those that didn’t know, exactly where “here” was. I just happened to live on the side of Mack Avenue that made me an outlier, that perhaps accentuated my pre-existing awkwardness. Detroit public schools were a disaster. At the school I would have attended had I not gone to private school, seven kids were shot when a guy just walked in from the street and started shooting in a hallway. I drove past this school every day to get to mine. This also makes me consider the sacrifices my parents had to make in order to send me through the doors surrounded by pillars and marble instead of metal detectors.

The question then was: How the $*%$ did I get here? …wherever “here” really was…

Now, I wonder who I would have been without those three surreal years between rural Southwestern Michigan and Pittsburgh. If I had to pinpoint one part of my life that left the strongest imprint, it’s Detroit. Without question. But do I understand why that city still resonates so strongly in my personal identity?

So, in honor of those confused, formative middle school years, I bring you Old School Fridays, at the frequency of 30Hz. And for my first entry, I bring you a song that dominated the radio in 1990, my first year in Detroit. When I hear this song I immediately recall my art class where we could always listen to whatever channel we wanted while we worked. When Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” came on, someone always rushed over and turned up the volume… and many of us would sing along… until our teacher wandered over, ever so casually, and turned the volume right back down from whence it came. BBD’s “New Jack Swing” sound wasn’t exactly rap — but it was the best gateway drug imaginable.

30Hz Recommended: Fanfarlo

You might have heard me plug the band Fanfarlo on here in the past (here, here and here). If not, no worries. I’ll catch you up. I dig Fanfarlo. Now that we’re up to speed, I should let you know that Fanfarlo released a new record today called Let’s Go Extinct. It’s a more unified sound than their past records — though everything they’ve done all hinges around the kind of mid-tempo pop music perfected by the Talking Heads. Let’s Go Extinct could be read as a kind of concept album, but I haven’t had enough time with it to really consider whether that notion carries. What I will do is share one of my favorite tracks off the new record. Here’s their video for “A Distance.”

30Hz Top 100 Songs of 2013

I’m only one dude. I essentially have four jobs. I have no idea when I find the time to listen to enough music to come up with 100 favorite tracks. My 2013 playlist contains more than 7 days worth of music. And that doesn’t even count all the stuff I check out on Spotify and dismiss. But even with all that listening, it’s blind, dumb, stupid luck when a certain song catches my fancy. On some occasions, a song is thrust in my face with the force of the 800 lb. mainstream music machine and those songs must endure hundreds of listens. Staying power, m’f’ers. See: Arcade Fire, Daft Punk. Other times I fall instantly in love with a record. The songs grab me immediately. Those are the easy ones. The bands and the songs I control. See: Frightened Rabbit, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Polica. And then there’s that final category. Hearing a song, being in the right frame of mind to accept its advances. You might hear a song a dozen times before it catches you at just the right moment. See: half the songs on this list. For every great song on this list, there are hundreds of equally worthy songs that I just didn’t hear or didn’t hear at the right time in the right place. And to those songs, my apologies. Try harder next time. Everyone else, enjoy the list. Find some new music. Support great artists and music worth listening to and so on and so forth. And keep in mind that the ranking system is just for fun. Any of these songs could movie ten spots in either direction given my mood…

The 30Hz Top 100 Songs of 2013

30Hz Best Songs of 2013 Continue reading 30Hz Top 100 Songs of 2013

30Hz Top 25 Albums of 2013

I never get to experience the broadest variety of music. There are only so many hours in the day. I don’t dabble as much as I’d like. 2013 in particular saw me stick pretty close to my favorite genres, micro-genres and retro-notions. And I have to say that for similar minded fans of music, 2013 was a very good year.

The comeback had been festering, just beneath the surface, for a number of years now, but 2013 may finally have brought about a pop music renaissance. I’m not talking about Top 40 – the days that permitted consistently “good” music on the Top 40 charts have long since disappeared. The term “pop music” doesn’t need to be derogatory – it should imply a level of accessibility, not the derivative and over-produced slush we’ve come to associate with the term. The new wave has been inspired by the deep wellspring of 1980’s pop sensibilities. Hall & Oates. Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. Tears for Fears. The Pet Shop Boys. New Order. Bands that crafted killer jams. Lyrics. A catchy hook. A solid beat.

When I think back to my favorite bands and tracks of 2013 the list is dominated by bands who sought inspiration from the pop music of their youth. 2013 was the year that put craftsmanship back into pop music. In most circles the bands still fall under the indie umbrella, but that term lost most of its luster long ago. It’s been distilled to dozens upon dozens of micro-genres. Indie isn’t so much a style of music as it is an identity. You either listen to “indie” or “Top 40,” but ever so slowly the gap between the two seems to be lessening. So-called indie bands are winning Grammies, topping sales charts and pulling requests on FM radio.

The 30Hz Top 25 Albums of 2013

Top 25 Records of 2013

The Almost Rans:

Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold, Arcade Fire – Reflektor, Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe, Danny Michel with The Garifuna Collective – Black Birds are Dancing Over Me, Depeche Mode – Delta Machine, Disclosure – Settle, Grey Reverend – A Hero’s Lie, Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat, Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle, Local Natives – Hummingbird, Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, We/Or/Me – The Walking Hour Continue reading 30Hz Top 25 Albums of 2013