Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New songs for November 23rd, 2016

here they are:

"Cocoon" by Milky Chance: Yes, this is the same German folk-funk-rock duo who brought you the 2014 smash hit, "Stolen Dance". "Stolen Dance" was a great song, but knowing how Milky Chance's second big hit, "Flashed Junk Mind", was basically a copy of that song, I wasn't sure how Milky Chance would fare with a third big song in their repertoire. Thankfully, "Cocoon" is a good song. It employs the same combo of acoustic guitar strumming and hip-hop beats as their others, but it's not in the same key, making it distinct from "Stolen Dance" and "Flashed Junk Mind". The use of an electric guitar riff as a backing instrumental sound during the chorus (and even a brief electric guitar solo in the middle) also gives "Cocoon" a fresh enough flavor for Milky Chance's fans to fall in love with their music all over again.

"Come" by Jain: Jain is a French singer/songwriter whose name is probably pronounced like "John", but with a sound like the "-sio" part of the word "television" at the beginning instead of the "J" sound. Her breakthrough song, "Come", is like a fusion of different genres coming together into a single piece of music. It utilizes elements of electronica, folk music, jazz, and various types of world music. Its chorus, consisting of the words, "come and I'll show you the world", seems to be a wide-eyed idealistic romp inviting the soul of the listener to explore his/her surroundings in a playful yet all-knowing manner. If you thought music was running out of originality, you might wanna take a listen to this song!

"On Hold" by The xx: For those unfamiliar with the following indie-pop group, their name is not pronounced "the twenty" (XX is Roman numerals for 20), and nor is it some strange pronunciation like "the chk chk" or "the double asterisk". It is pronounced "the ex ex", exactly how it looks. Much like fellow indie-pop group, Warpaint, did earlier this fall, The xx are an already beloved indie group whose latest song is a bit more electro-pop than their fans are used to. That song, "On Hold", filters Andy Summers-esque guitar riffs through an artificially processed electro-pop beat. The switching between male and female lead vocals gives this song an interesting touch that is often more associated with folk-rock than it is with electro-pop. There is a rather dreamy, hypnotic ambiance about this song that most electro-pop groups don't have, with the notable exception of Ben Gibbard's side project, The Postal Service.

"You And I" by Colony House: Colony House are an indie-pop quartet whose sound is similar to what Imagine Dragons or American Authors might sound like if U2's The Edge was their guitarist. The song doesn't bring a whole lot of originality to the table, although it does get interesting in the middle of the song when its beat becomes a bit more slowed down and unsteady. Perhaps unsteadiness was the vibe they were trying to give off in this song, though, as it is a song about trying to cope with a fragile and volatile world. During the chorus, they place the blame on themselves ("Maybe the world isn't crazy. Maybe it's you and I") instead of the rest of the world. If only that was somehow true.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye! R.I.P. Leonard Cohen (and 3 other songs)

Just received the news last week that Leonard Cohen is no longer alive. Since he also released a new song recently, I will do the honors of reviewing his latest (and last) song. What a major loss for this year! Before that, though, here are 3 more songs:

"Follow the Leader" by Foxygen: You never know what to expect with Foxygen, and perhaps that's what's made them so big among indie fans. They debuted back in early 2013, and highlights from their debut album included the avant-funk-rock song "Shuggie" and the Velvet Underground-esque "No Destruction". "Follow the Leader" marks the third time I've heard a Foxygen song and the first time I'm reviewing one. The results end up sounding like a cross between an Electric Light Orchestra song circa 1976 and a Beck song circa 1996. Also, who is "the leader" that we are supposed to be following here? Well, according to the lyrics of this song, "the leader is you". That's great advice for the modern era!

"Human" by Rag N Bone Man: Between the hip-hop beats of this song and Rory "Rag N Bone Man" Graham's deep, soulful voice, it's not surprising to see that many of the YouTube comments for this song were "I can't believe this guy isn't black". Well, he isn't. He isn't even American, actually. He's a large, white British dude. But so what?! Black, white, large, short, British, American, when it all comes down to it, he's only human, as he states so powerfully and emotionally in his debut song! In addition to transcending racial barriers, "Human" also transcends genre barriers, with its hip-hop and R & B influenced sound currently racing up the predominantly rock dominated alternative charts. Music, after all, is colorblind, and it doesn't judge people in any other ways either.

"Lost On You" by LP: It's been 4 years since LP last had a hit song. She broke through in the summer of 2012 with a free-spirited folk-rock tune called "Into the Wild", which, in addition to its iconic sound, contained equally iconic lyrics, like, "Somebody left the gate open", "Come save us a runaway train goin' insane", and "How do we not fade away into the wild?" Its use in a Citibank commercial throughout that summer solidified the song's popularity during that time. She didn't have any other hits that year or the next, so I thought "Into the Wild" pretty much sealed the deal for LP and that there was no way she could top it. It appears I may be wrong with the release of her latest song, "Lost On You". Like "Into the Wild", "Lost On You" is a sprightly, earnest folk-rock song, though its sound and lyrics are both a bit more melancholy than that one was. True to its title, "Lost On You" has been lost on American audiences so far, at least in comparison to the massive airplay its gotten in European countries like Greece. Let's hope that American audiences will catch onto it just as quickly!

"You Want It Darker" by Leonard Cohen: And now, the moment you've all been waiting for. You should know that with a title like "You Want It Darker", dark is exactly what you're gonna get. This song is a gothic tinged folk-rock tune of sorts, a bit like the songs Cohen typically did in the 1980's. As ominous as it may sound instrumentally, though, it's a very sad song lyrically. Like David Bowie's "Lazarus" from late last year, Leonard Cohen's "You Want It Darker" is a song that deals with a person who knows that they are going to die soon (This is most certainly where the "I'm ready, my Lord" parts of the song come from). Like Bowie, Cohen inspired generation after generation of alt and indie rock musicians. People that Cohen has influenced include R.E.M., The Smiths, Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith, and Bon Iver, all of whom mix a folk-rock sound with lyrics about isolation and loneliness. R.I.P. Leonard Cohen. You will truly be missed!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

New songs for November 2nd, 2015

here they are:

"Katchi" by Nick Waterhouse and Leon Bridges: What happens when a critically acclaimed surf-rock revivalist gets together with a critically acclaimed revivalist of '60s soul music?! You get one heck of a jazzy song, that's what! The "retro" flavor of "Katchi" is further enforced by its vocalized "doo-wop-a-doo-wop, dooby dooby doo-wop" opening. With its rhythmically choppy chords and blazin' hot sax, "Katchi" is pure retro-rockin' bliss! Just one question. What IS "Katchi"?! Nick Waterhouse says that his girl "gives him Katchi all night long" during the chorus but never explains what "Katchi" is. I guess I'll just leave that up to my imagination!!

"Rhythm and Blues" by The Head and The Heart: Since the more-successful-than-usual airplay The Head and The Heart had from their pop-iest song yet, "All We Ever Knew", I was curious nonetheless to find out what other songs on their newest album sounded like. "Library Magic" and "Colors" would not have been bad choices for the second single, but instead its "Rhythm and Blues", which is anything BUT a rhythm and blues song. As a matter of fact, it sounds almost as pop-y as "All We Ever Knew" did, except during its out-of-nowhere electric guitar solo. The song contains the lyrics "stepped on my blue suede shoes, you made Elvis go crazy", except it doesn't sound a THING like Elvis (Costello or Presley). The group's heart may be in the right place, but their head isn't. Oh well, one out of two ain't bad, right?

"S.O.S. (Overboard)" by Joseph: The all-girl indie-folk trio Joseph send an S.O.S. to the world in their second single (and apparently it goes overboard). Much like "Message In A Bottle" from decades before, "S.O.S." is a song that uses nautical metaphors to describe isolation from a loved one. While nowhere near as catchy (or literary) as The Police, Joseph's "S.O.S." is a fun song in its own right. The seaworthy metaphors in Joseph's song show up mostly in the chorus, with lyrics like "screaming underwater" and "alone and overboard".

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New songs for October 26th, 2016

here they are:

"Astral Plane" by Valerie June: Do you notice something different about Valerie June's latest song?! It doesn't have the roots-y flavor she usually goes for in her songs, but there is a very good reason for this. That is because "Astral Plane" was a song that was originally written for the smooth-jazz influenced trip-hop group, Massive Attack. "Trip-hop", for those who aren't familiar with it, is basically like a smooth, ethereal, and jazzy form of alternative pop music with electronics as backing instruments. There are no electronic instruments backing Valerie's version of "Astral Plane", but it still manages to maintain the billowy, blissful beauty of what Massive Attack's music typically sounds like. Much like Van Morrison's similarly titled "Astral Weeks", "Astral Plane" is a magical musical trip to heaven written in A major that's guaranteed to soothe all your troubled nerves!

"Glitter And Gold" by Barns Courtney: Throughout both the spring AND summer of this year, Barns Courtney had an unexpected but oh-so-catchy hit song with the blazing, hot song, "Fire", on both the alt and adult alt charts. It was only a few weeks ago that the possibility of a second Barns Courtney hit was hinted at, but perhaps I should have figured this was coming with "Fire" being one of the most successful songs of 2016. His newest song is called "Glitter And Gold" and contains a similar mix of blues-y spirituals and rock and roll attitude. "Glitter And Gold" is already pretty catchy and the vocalized "ting ting" in the chorus of the song brings a bit of humor along for the ride as well. "Glitter And Gold" seems to be about the desire for fame, but I doubt Barns really has such a desire anymore now that he's GOTTEN it! With "Glitter And Gold", his 15 minutes of fame might have just expanded to 30!

"Here In Spirit" by Jim James: Jim James is like the bearded roots-y folk-rock version of David Bowie in some ways. He's not afraid to experiment with other sounds and he's able to sound sweet and heavenly just as much as he is brooding and scary. Jim's "Here In Spirit" attempts to have a more heavenly sound, albeit with an R & B sounding backbeat. Fitting to its title, "Here In Spirit" has a rather spiritual message of peace and love, apt to the neo-hippie image Jim James has attempted to cultivate. As a warning to those who get lulled into James' hypnotic musical trance, there is a "hiccup" in either the keyboards or the percussion at about 3 and a half minutes into the song. It should be a smooth ride otherwise, though.

"In A Drawer" by Band of Horses: It's been awhile since we last heard Band of Horses come up with a solid ballad, and "In A Drawer" is proof that BOH still have potential to be a calmer band at times. The song's odd title seems to be a reference to all the memories that Ben Bridwell keeps finding throughout the song (he finds them in a drawer). As such, the song has a rather bittersweet, nostalgic quality. "Casual Party" might have been a more likely song to hook BOH fans into listening to a new record by them due to its catchiness, but I would have preferred to have "In A Drawer" as the first single off their new album. And who, you might be wondering, is that scraggly, quavering voice singing beside Ben during the chorus? Well that just so happens to be none other than J. Mascis, the lead singer of the legendary proto-indie and pre-grunge group, Dinosaur Jr. Pretty cool, huh?!

"Shine" by Mondo Cozmo: Our last entry of the week comes from the only group of musicians making their debut onto the blog. The other four have had entries on my blog before, but not Mondo Cozmo. Their name alone sounds pretty intriguing, doesn't it?! Well, wait 'till you hear their music! Although folk-rock is precious to me in general, I must admit that I haven't been THIS impressed by a folk-rock song since Mumford and Sons debuted back in 2010! (Or when The Tallest Man on Earth broke through 2 years later). There's something very striking and poignant about Mondo Cozmo's "Shine". Perhaps it's the chord progression or the way it's being played. Perhaps it's the "everything will be alright if you let it go" refrain in the chorus that can lend itself to multiple interpretations. Maybe it could even be the echoic choir sound that comes through as the song builds up. Whatever it is, though, "Shine" does exactly what its title suggests it would do, and how!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New songs for October 19th, 2016

here they are:

"Just Your Fool" by The Rolling Stones: It is in this song that The Stones have gone back to doing what they do best. Playin' the blues! "Just Your Fool" is a straight up blues number that sounds like something that could have easily been from the mid to late '60s. Using the same basic chord progression as many blues-rock numbers, such as Bob Dylan's "Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat", "Just Your Fool" is an earthy but catchy shuffle that could be lauded, in the musical sense, as the "sequel" song to their much longer and more grisly '69 blues-rock romp, "Midnight Rambler".

"Let Me Get There" by Hope Sandoval (featuring Kurt Vile): What do you get when you cross the lead singer of the blissful yet angst-y '90s avant-folk-rock group Mazzy Star with the lead singer of 2010's avant-folk-rock group The War on Drugs? You end up with something that recalls what a psychedelic, fuzz-drenched Fleetwood Mac might have been like, which is an accurate description for Mazzy Star as well. "Let Me Get There" creates a musical bridge between blissful soft rock harmonies and droning, strung-out psychedelia. This song is essentially a magic carpet ride for the mind that lasts for 7 and a half minutes. Hope's honey-sweet vocals tend to contrast a bit with the deep, creaky "dude" vocals of Kurt, but for anyone who wants to relive Woodstock and/or the Monterey Pop Festival, "Let Me Get There" will probably be a treat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2 Girls, A Blog, and October

How much better can you get?! Anyway, here are this week's songs:

"Emotions And Math" by Margaret Glaspy: Emotions and math?! I thought those were two completely different things!! That's like saying "chemistry and Shakespeare" to me. I guess the concept of two radically different heads being better than one is a good way to describe "Emotions And Math", the second single from raspy, angst-ridden indie gal, Margaret Glaspy. The song would fit pretty well lyrically with any song from Liz Phair's "Exile In Guyville", yet it also has a funky bass line that one might not typically associate with a musician like Phair. The title comes from Glaspy's description of what she thinks her love life is in the chorus of the song: "an ice cold bath of emotions and math". In other words, love is confusing and hard to handle. Yeah, we hear ya loud and clear, Maggie.

"Not Gonna Let You Walk Away" by LoLo: No, the name "LoLo" has nothing to do with "LOL" or any other sort of Internet slang. It is actually a nickname for the name "Lauren", singer Lauren Pritchard, specifically. LoLo's sound is as memorable as her unique moniker. Her debut single, "Not Gonna Let You Walk Away", mixes Alabama Shakes-ish distortion and alterna-soul vibes with the choppy syncopation on every even numbered beat that reggae music is known for having. LoLo's smoky, husky white-girl-with-soul vocals are the cherry on top of the cake that is "Not Gonna Let You Walk Away", a yearning mid-tempo ballad that put's LoLo's ex in a corner of guilt in a way that sounds more lovesick than it does accusatory.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New songs for October 5th, 2016

here they are:

"Classic Masher" by The Pixies: "Classic" is right when it comes to describing the music of The Pixies! Bands like Nirvana, R.E.M., Radiohead, and even Weezer wouldn't exactly be where they are without 'em. Their last album wasn't actually released that long ago, but it didn't receive near as much attention as this one has. The Pixies' odd but endearing combo of arena rock sized hooks and garage rock distortion and attitude returns big time with their latest song, "Classic Masher". Like many Pixies songs, this one doesn't exactly have a clear narrative upon its first listen, but with a band as innovative and quirky as they are, what does it matter?! As The Smashing Pumpkins (yet another Pixies influenced group) once said in their song, "Cherub Rock", "Hipsters, unite!"

"Longer" by Lydia Loveless: Lydia is a musician who really puts the "rock" in country-rock! She is loved by alt-rock legends, The Replacements, and even met their bassist, and the opening to Lydia's latest song, "Longer", sounds a bit like the roots-y indie group, The Gaslight Anthem. Those awesomely cheesy guitar riffs that play in between each line also make this song well worth the listen, I think. "Longer" is as bittersweet as it is just plain bitter, as if Lydia can't decide whether to be "Loveless" (get it?) or love-lost!

"Mama Can't Help You" by Doyle Bramhall II: You may not know who Doyle Bramhall II is, but he has worked with rock legends like Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, and he also happens to be Renee Zellweger's current boyfriend. How's THAT for credibility?! Bramhall II is a smooth, slick combination of rock and soul that doesn't sound too far off from Eric Clapton and also bears similarity to other '60s and '70s blues-rock acts like Canned Heat, The Allman Brothers Band, and Little Feat. If this doesn't get your toes a-tappin', I dunno what will! This is the perfect song to satisfy both your groovy side and your rockin' side!

"33 God" by Bon Iver: This song is about as weird as its title sounds! I mean what does "33 God" even MEAN?! However, it is weird in a good way (kind of), I assure you! To give you an idea of how weird this song is, imagine if a Kate Bush song was being remixed by an electronica group led by Alvin and The Chipmunks. Ummm...yeah. I could do without the electronic remixing and those messed up chipmunk vocals, but the soft, delicate piano is definitely something I would both expect and welcome from Bon Iver. This is a good song, but I'd kinda like Justin Vernon and co to release a "piano-and-Justin-Vernon-vocals-only" version of this song. If they did, I'd gladly start playing that in regular rotation instead of this version. I guess good things come to those who wait, though.

"Washed Up Together" by Knox Hamilton: Knox Hamilton are proof that the "sophomore slump" is still goin' on. Their first song, "Work It Out", was kind of a pop-y song, but with plenty of juicy guitar riffs to please a guitarist like me. "Washed Up Together" has guitar hooks as well, but they don't sound near as distinct as the ones from "Work It Out" (and no unusual instruments like xylophones in the intro to "Washed Up Together" either). Perhaps it was KH's desire to win the approval of Katy Perry (which they did) for "Washed Up Together" that makes it sound...well...washed up! Oh well, at least they sound washed up TOGETHER! Besides, nothing wrong with liking catchy pop songs once in awhile, is there?!

"Wasting Time" by Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats: More sophomore slumps here, and with a band who has made just one ALBUM, at that! Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats have now had three singles in a row with a solid gold Memphis soul influenced sound (most notably the enjoyably rowdy "S.O.B.") Their not-yet-a-single, "Howlin' At Nothin'", is pretty solid retro-soul music as well. So why, then, is the fourth single from NRATNS the super-mellow, country influenced, "Wasting Time"? As a fifth single, it probably wouldn't have been a bad choice, but come on! Part of the reason I dig their music so much in the first place is for their relentlessly high energy that they have in their songs, of which "Wasting Time" has none. I'm not hating on this song, though. "Wasting Time" has a similar acoustic guitar riff to one of my fave folk/country-rock tunes, "The Weight" by The Band, and it's a good song to just chill to after a long, hard, busy day. "Wasting Time" is not a waste of time, but it is the weak little runt in a litter of otherwise rowdy piglets.

"We Don't Know" by The Strumbellas: We don't know if you'll like the latest song from folk-pop group, The Strumbellas. What we do know, though, is that if bands like The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men are up your alley, that you'll probably like "We Don't Know". The same could probably be said if you happen to be a fan of groups like Imagine Dragons and Kaleo, which combine folk, rock, and electronica into one catchy, alt-pop-y package. Despite the uncertainty indicated in the song's title, "We Don't Know" is largely a song of hope, particularly during the part where they say, "If there's hope then we'll be okay." Pleasant, buoyant, optimistic folk-pop has been done many times before now, but it doesn't hurt to hear something like that again every now and then.