[Note: This was originally published in the AV Newsletter, available every other month at the Music, Movies & More desk.]
The music world suffered a devastating loss on March 17th, when Alex Chilton died of a heart attack at the age of 59. Starting out as a member of the Box Tops, Chilton went on to form Big Star, as well as releasing a number of albums under his own name. Chilton may have never been a superstar, but his legacy runs deep. Hundreds of bands now cite him as an influence, and even if you don’t recognize the name, you most likely recognize his shambling, jangly power-pop sound. In this installment of the column, we’ll take a look at Chilton’s sonic descendants.
We’ll start with a look at some of the biggest names to have followed in Big Star’s footsteps. Perhaps the most significant group is R.E.M., the Athens, Georgia foursome (later a trio) who shot to multiplatinum alternative stardom in the late 80′s. Michael Stipe’s poetic, enigmatic lyrics blended with Peter Buck’s melodically haphazard guitar work helps to further the sound that Chilton made his own. Start with Document, and work your way through their entire catalog.
For a more rootsy version of the Big Star sound, look no farther than Wilco, who mixes the Chilton musical recipe with a world-weary tone and country overtones. They’ve been a Chicago favorite for some time now, so you’d be well-suited to check them out. Fans of the Chiltonesque pop-n-roll genre would be well suited to give Summerteeth a spin. If you like that one, try out the slightly less pop-influenced Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
It may seem to the casual observer that this genre is a men’s game. While the gender distribution does favor the Y-chromosome, there are a number of notable talents cranking out high-quality power pop, most notably Anna Waronker. The daughter of record producer Lenny Waronker, she’s certainly made her own mark, first with That Dog. and lately on her solo album Anna. Featuring crunchy power chords, and insanely catchy melodies, Waronker brings to mind artists like The Bangles or Matthew Sweet.
And we’ve only scratched the surface! From Sloan to Dr. Dog to Pavement, the Library has your jangly guitar-pop bases covered. If you’d like to hear samples of each artist, check out our Guitar-Pop Essentials Playlist on Grooveshark!
Who are your favorite guitar-pop groups? Let us know in the comments!
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