I do my best not to fan-girl. I really do. But occasionally it happens. So if you hate that sort of thing, please turn away now.
Every now and then, I find an artist (or in this case, a whole label) that their sound and aesthetic fit me in that point in my life so perfectly that I gobble up everything they offer shamelessly.
And right now, that thing is Jack White and his label Third Man Records.
I fell for Jack White’s music when I got turned onto The White Stripes. (My favorite songs by them will always be “Hello Operator,” and “I Fought Piranhas.”) I loved their stripped-down, gut-busting sound. They were fearless, and they had their shit together. You could tell they were more than a band. They were a business. A look. A feel. And I could respect that.
After Jack and Meg called it quits, I latched onto The Raconteurs. “Broken Boy Soldiers” was played on repeat while I was in high school. (In retrospect, I was a lot cooler than I realized.)
In 2008 they released their second album, Consolers of the Lonely, and while I missed it that year, I’ve been picking up on it in the last few (thanks in part to Spotify/Pandora) and the sound is so solid that it doesn’t age.
As of right now, the title track and The Switch and the Spur are my favorites. I’m a sucker for horn sections and sweeping instrumental riffs, and “The Switch and the Spur” fills that addiction for me.
As mentioned, Pandora and Spotify were playing a lot of Jack White’s music, and whenever I’d hear it, I had the same, “Who is that,” feeling. As soon as I saw the name, I knew this was something I needed to dig into deeper.
So when Jack released Blunderbuss, you can bet I was all over it. The blue and black artwork really lent a wash to his sound that made it unforgettable.
“Freedom at 21” was my biggest takeaway from the album, and I’m not going to lie: it’s in part to the music video. Hype Williams directed it, and the imagery doesn’t let go. At 1:36 in the video, White does some unusual hand motions that add a sparkle of character, where he is otherwise rather enigmatic.
Thanks to my addiction to Blunderbuss, when I visited Nashville, I was OBSESSED with the idea of visiting Third Man.
For my first go-round, embarrassingly, I only bought some shirts.
After leaving, though, and the release of Lazaretto, I made lists. And I went back prepared.
The night before Brandon and I’s wedding, the Third Man Records truck was outside of Shake It Records on Hamilton Avenue. Turns out, Olivia Jean was playing an in-store due to the release of her record, Bathtub Love Killings.
Cassie and I abruptly pulled a giant u-turn and ran back to the truck. I snatched up Lazaretto on vinyl (Cassie bought it for me – she’s a hell of a sugar mama), and three days later, Brandon and I trucked it to Nashville, where I dropped a pretty penny and bought Bathtub Love Killings, The Ghost Who Walks, The Black Belles and a few 7″ vinyls (including Elvira!!)
Let’s just say that when it comes to Third Man’s sound there’s a common thread. While White does a great job of distinguishing artists and drawing new attention to long-forgotten influences, there’s a timbre that ties them all together. Most of the artists sound like they could’ve been big 20-50 years ago. There’s blues/roots, garage rock, surf rock and folk. Everyone has an air of “cool.” This is definitely a label that seems to be a club.
The reason I so eagerly grabbed Olivia Jean’s album is quite simple: it’s amazing. “Reminisce” is a good indicator of if it’s your type of sound. As for Karen Elson, “The Ghost Who Walks,” is mesmerizing, haunting and kinda gothic. And I love it.
As I’m sure you’ve heard if you’ve done any research into the Third Man into the storefront, it’s pretty fucking whimsical – it’s packed with character. The walls are yellow and black and there’s everything from taxidermy to instant recordings and analog listening booths. It was recently expanded, so it’s no longer the size of a shoebox, and I’m pretty excited to see it again.
I won’t be dumb enough to liken Jack White to “Willy Wonka,” as others have (cough cough). But I will say that his aesthetic is like his fingerprint, and at this point in my life, it’s something I’m drawn to. I love the effort he puts into every piece of music and project he touches. Even if I don’t connect with him as an individual, I can deeply appreciate what he’s given me as an artist.
His appreciation for detail, and the desire to make music an experience is something that I think it’s time for again. The art of music has come back around.