Rowland S. Howard – Life’s What You Make It

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Late 2009 saw the release of Pop Crimes the 2nd solo album by Rowland S. Howard. Famous for his stints in The Birthday Party, These Immortal Souls, and Crime & the City Solution – he was sometimes overshadowed by the antics of his band members. Make no mistake about it – Rowland was also a genius. The album arrived in October of 2009 and he was dead by December. Sadly, it was also his most cohesive artistic statement. Recording sessions were quick – he was given a limited time to live based on the condition of his liver and with a transplant unlikely, it became a statement of intent. Every song pulses and sways with abandon. Much like Joey Ramone’s last statement to the world it was clear that Rowland wanted to live. Life’s What You Make It  is the 3rd track on the album and a cover of the song written and originally performed by Talk Talk. The original showed Talk Talk edging away from their synth pop work – here, Rowland S. Howard & company add in some trademark guitar squall and lock into a motorik groove. Having Mick Harvey on drums only adds to the allure – a mini reunion of The Birthday Party alumni. The words ring true and lend the atmosphere a vibe of both euphoria & sadness. “Baby, life’s what you make it / Celebrate it / Anticipate it / Yesterday’s faded / Nothing can change it / Life’s what you make it”. RIP Rowland. 12-30-09.

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My Favorite Albums of 2016

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Another year gone by, another year filled with musical delights. We lost quite a few musical legends starting in December of 2015 – Scott Weiland, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, and George Michael to name just a few (and let’s not mention an overall list of artists who have left us in 2016). I lost my Aunt unexpectedly back in February the morning after attending a Black Sabbath show. The year was filled with unexpected highs and unexpected lows for me. As with anything in life, sometimes you have to feel bad to feel good (and vice versa). I made some friends, lost some friends, and reconnected with some old friends. Throughout it all, I had music playing. Here are my top albums of 2016:

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

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On Saturday, February 6th 2016 I was finally able to go see Black Sabbath in concert. I went with an old friend and had a blast posing with protesters, taking in the heavy metal music, and basically enjoying life. It was quite honestly a concert highlight for me, in a year that has seen me attending the most concerts of my life (cue up the mid-life crisis jokes). That night – me + a friend living out our heavy metal dreams – was also the last night of life in the Philadelphia suburbs for an Aunt that I was very close to.

I woke that Sunday to a somber message from my Mom asking her to call. Bleary eyed and confused, I called her. My Aunt had passed away early that morning after an unexpected asthma attack w/ complication. I had been very close to my Aunt in the days after college – I had even worked with her for a year after she put in a good word for me. The 3000-mile distance between Seattle and Philadelphia never felt far away when I saw her on my visits home. We had a natural relationship that I expected to last another 35 to 40 years. I broke down on the phone that day, then later again on the phone with my Mom and Great Aunt. Then…nothing. I’ve blocked out the pain and have distracted my thoughts when they present themselves.

In the summer of 2015 Nick Cave lost his 15-year-old son Arthur in a tragic accident. He died after falling off a cliff near Ovingdean Gap in Brighton, England. I remember reading the articles and wondering “How does someone recover from something like that?”. I felt the pain would almost be insurmountable. When Skeleton Tree – the 16th studio album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – was announced, I was intrigued. How can an artist regroup and move forward in the face of unimaginable tragedy? Little did I know, this album would help me to deal with the grief and pain that I have suppressed since my Aunt passed away.

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A Geek’s Guide to Music in 2013

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Another year gone by too quickly. Nothing left to do but try and recount all the great music releases of 2013. We saw the return of David Bowie, (3) new Mark Kozelek records, band reunions, and high-profile hip-hop releases. We also saw people upset with Miley Cyrus quite a bit and while I don’t enjoy her music I thought that the controversies were overblown. I was really looking forward to the new Eminem record but ended up liking only a few songs. Kanye West’s new record didn’t really do anything for me and I couldn’t get into the long-awaited My Bloody Valentine. My list is lacking some of those albums that are on other sites – some of them I didn’t dig all that much and some of them I just didn’t replay very much.What can I say? I march to my own beat. On the flip side, I loved every Mark Kozelek related album, discovered a few gems, and rocked out to Black Sabbath. So here’s a look at 50 music releases from 2013 that I played over and over again. I’ll see you in about a week with the 1st article of 2014.

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