Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A D-lightful pair of songs!

Only two songs this week, and they both begin with the same letter. Here they are:

"Darling" by Real Estate: A hypnotic, tantalizing swirl of psych-pop guitars and new wave synths grace the first minute and a half of this song without vocals. Once the vocals kick in, they sound halfway between sweet and dazed, fitting for this song. Not a whole lot here in the lyrical department, which is basically a love song with nature related images for its words, such as black and yellow finches, the sun, and the moon. The F, C, G pattern of the chords continues throughout this song too. The hazy, loopy, yet still melodic vibe of this song make me think that the "real estate" these guys bought was probably somewhere up in Santa Cruz, or maybe Haight-Ashbury!

"Devil's Teeth" by Muddy Magnolias: The eras this song goes for is basically any time but now! Soul, blues, bluegrass, and garage rock fuse into one genre for this song. No auto-tune, samples from other songs, or synthesizers to be found here. The spooky but fun title of this song makes it sound sorta blues-y, and that's pretty much exactly what you'll get when you hear this song! Come to think of it, the "Muddy" part of the band's moniker makes me think of legendary blues singer, Muddy Waters. I'm pretty sure that's not merely coincidence!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New songs for the day after Valentine's Day

here they are:

"Blame" by Bastille: You would have never expected the "Pompeii" hitmakers to pull off a song that uses glam rock style guitar fuzz, did you? Well, nor did I, but so far I'm liking the new direction Bastille have gone in. Queen seems to have been a particular influence on Bastille's latest material, as has been evident so far from the "Under Pressure" soundalike "Good Grief", and now with the blazing hot opening riffs of Bastille's latest song, "Blame", as well. Perhaps the forceful, compelling sound of "Blame" was intentional in order to reflect the dark lyrical themes of the song, centering around a gang fight. Musical battles haven't been this exciting since Michael Jackson told us to "Beat It" back in 1982!

"In A Black Out" by Hamilton Leithauser: If you were hoping that the next song I reviewed for the week would be more peaceful, then you got your wish! "In A Black Out" has a nice little rippling sound throughout that reminds me of the flowing of a river, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who notices that. It can be viewed as a peaceful song, but it can also be viewed as bittersweet due to some of the lyrics it has, such as "I live in a nameless town" and "many friends have said goodbye". The "blackout" Hamilton appears to be experiencing does not seem to be a scary or sudden one and is instead more of a state of sadness.

"Love Do What It Do" by Robert Randolph (featuring Darius Rucker from Hootie & The Blowfish): Hootie and The Blowfish provided some calm to the otherwise angst-y rock of the '90s. Nothing wrong with that, but when Darius went country I decided not to pay attention to him anymore. Until now, that is, because I do love me some blues-rock every once in awhile, and Robert Randolph knows how to lay down some mean blues! Surprisingly, the vocals of Hootie frontman blend in quite well with the blues-y guitar chops of Robert Randolph. The message of the song is pretty much spelled out in the title of the song, and is literally spelled out in the chorus as Darius passionately sings, "L-O-V-E, love! Let it do what it do!"

"Reverend" by Kings of Leon: Not nearly as compelling as their 2016 mega-hit, "Waste A Moment", but then again the sophomore singles from new albums tend to be like that. Still, though, "Reverend" is worth the listen since it does contain the 21st century indie-cum-arena-rock that KOL have now become known for. The chorus of the song uses a rather strange metaphor, comparing the passion of a lover to a "reverend on the radio". Huh?! Well, perhaps Caleb Followill is not speaking about his relationship with a partner, but his relationship with God. After all, the members of the band were all the sons of a United Pentecostal Minister!

"They Put A Body In the Bayou" by The Orwells: We're probably never going to know who put a body in the bayou, or what the name of the person was to whom the body belonged to, for that matter. What we do know is that The Orwells are one fiery, kickin' rock group whose sound blends garage rock with blues rock in a similar manner to groups like The Black Keys, The White Stripes, and the harder edged Cage the Elephant songs. The lyrics of "They Put A Body In the Bayou" center around a girl who died of drug addiction at an early age, but instead of treating this as sad or sorrowful subject matter, The Orwells inject all their fury and righteous anger into this powerhouse track that has woken up the monster that is rock and roll!

"Where's the Revolution?" by Depeche Mode: Not since their 2009 track, "Wrong", has there been such a heavily anticipated Depeche Mode song. It is because of the mysterious and tumultuous state of current political affairs that the notoriously gloomy 1980's electro-rock group Depeche Mode have decided to release a new track, and their complaints can be detected right from the title of their song! Where IS the revolution?! DM rage against the electoral college machine and answer the titular question as best they can with a palpable, scathing sense of anger! If it wasn't for the recognizable vocals of Dave Gahan, this could easily be a Nine Inch Nails track! As T. Rex's Marc Bolan once proclaimed in song during the Nixon era, "You won't fool the children of the revolution!"

"Young Lady, You're Scaring Me" by Ron Gallo: Actually it's a young MAN named Ron who's scaring ME into thinking that we've somehow traveled back in time to the mid 1960's! Echoes of many epic '60s rock tunes, ranging from Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" to The Chambers Brothers' "Time Has Come Today" to The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For the Devil" can all be heard in this psychedelic blues-rock tune! The song just seems to be about a guy falling in love with a girl, but the tune itself is enough to wake up dead rock and roll zombies and get them on their feet dancin' and jammin' the night away! Long live rock and roll!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New songs for February 8th 2017

here they are:

"Ballad of the Dying Man" by Father John Misty: Father John Misty continues to prove himself to be more indie than indie with each song he releases! This includes his latest song, the Beatle-esque "Ballad of the Dying Man". The chord progression is reminiscent of some of The Beatles' more progressive leaning tunes, such as "A Day In the Life" and "Sexy Sadie". Lyrically, "Ballad of the Dying Man" is also rather progressive, as it is one of the rare modern songs to take on a narrative perspective instead of a more direct one. It's obvious that FJM is trying to make his listeners sympathize with his character from the song's bittersweet lyrics and its equally bittersweet sound. What will he think of next?!

"Believer" by Imagine Dragons: Princess Peach from the "Mario" games is about to have her castle stormed by dragons! Imagine Dragons, that is, and I say this because it was a recent Nintendo ad that propelled Imagine Dragons' latest song, "Believer", on such a quick path to popularity among its listeners! As if that wasn't enough, it was also an ad featured in the Superbowl. Imagine Dragons never fail to excite, and "Believer" is definitely the sort of song to keep you on your feet when you're in the mood for it! As is typical of ID's material, "Believer" is a lively, dynamic song with somewhat sad lyrics behind it (about how "pain makes you a believer"). Given both the song's success in a video game company commercial and the in-your-face arena rock quality of Imagine Dragons' music, perhaps they should consider renaming themselves "Mario's Speedwagon"!

"Love Is Mystical" by Cold War Kids: Here is yet another song that has that indie-pop-cum-arena-rock type of sound! Cold War Kids started out being more straight up indie, but ever since the unexpected success of their song, "First", they seem to have adjusted their sound to be more fitting for a more massive mainstream audience. The song only has three chords, but it certainly makes its central statement known! Love is indeed mystical. It is also energetic and worth celebrating, as the vibe of this song has proven to me!

"Poetry" by Ray Davies: Yes, THAT Ray Davies! The lead singer of the legendary rock group, The Kinks. Those expecting a song like "Lola" or "You Really Got Me" might be a little disappointed, though. This song is more like a modernized update on the sorts of songs that Buffalo Springfield or Crosby, Stills, & Nash might have been likely to do, in terms of its sound. For those who know that alt-country group, The Jayhawks, are backing him up on this song, its Americanized folk-rock sound should come as no surprise. The song is a bittersweet lament on what the world is missing today - poetry! "Where is the poetry?" Ray mournfully inquires during the song's chorus. Ray, you're MAKING poetry just by performing this song and singing it!

"Ran" by Future Islands: There have been quite a few songs called "Run". Vampire Weekend, Collective Soul, Snow Patrol, and Eric Clapton have all done different songs with that same title. Future Islands, on the other hand, have now released what is, to my knowledge, the first song of which the title is the past tense of the word "run", as opposed to its present tense form. During the height of their popularity in summer 2014 with "Seasons (Waiting On You)", I saw them in concert and expected "Seasons" to be the only song they would be known for. "Ran" has proven me wrong. Similar to "Seasons...", "Ran" is a modern-day synth-pop song in the key of B flat major. The yearning, lovelorn lyrics of "Ran", combined with the key it is in, seem to make it serve as a "sequel song" to "Seasons...". In "Seasons...", Sam Herring sang about how he was "waiting on" his loved one for such a long time that it made him ache inside. In "Ran", Sam seems to come to the realization that he was waiting in vain, asking his lover, "What's a song without you, when every song is about you?" Those who will be single this coming Valentine's Day just got one more song to listen to thanks to Future Islands!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

New songs for February 1st 2017

here they are:

"High Ticket Attractions" by The New Pornographers: The indie-pop band with a scandalous name now has a song with an equally scandalous sound (in a good way)! "High Ticket Attractions" sounds like what The Cars would sound like without guitar solos. In true, biting-the-hand, indie-pop fashion, The NP's have crafted out a pop song that sounds mindlessly happy, but actually seems to be a "take that" to the music biz upon closer lyrical examination. Even the song's title, "High Ticket Attractions", sounds somewhat sarcastic, as though the band is mocking other groups who revel in their own success.

"Jackpot" by Nikki Lane: Nikki Lane's slick brand of country-rock never really hit me until now. "Jackpot" IS a jackpot, in a few different ways! The song gets its title and subject matter from its lyrical themes of scoring big bucks in Las Vegas, but Miss Lane also hits the "jackpot" by combining country music style twang with Little Richard style energy! The main riff in the song is similar to Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll" (which itself borrowed from Little Richard's "Keep-A-Knockin'"), and if that isn't a throwback enough to the early days of rock 'n' roll, Nikki also sings the words "Viva Las Vegas" during the chorus, which, of course, were first uttered exuberantly by Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'N' Roll himself! This song is proof that what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas!

"Keep It Between the Lines" by Sturgill Simpson: From country-rock to country-soul! The multitalented Sturgill Simpson, whose name has become a little more well-known lately thanks to his recent "Saturday Night Live" appearance, churns out another kickin' tune in his repertoire! "Keep It Between the Lines" combines the best of both Memphis worlds. It has Memphis soul with blaring, spirited saxes a la Otis Redding combined with guitars giving off a country twang in the background to remind people of the genre more associated with the famous Tennessee town. It might come as a surprise to some, then, that Sturgill isn't actually from Tennessee. He is from Kentucky, though, and they do call that the Bluegrass State!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New songs for January 25th 2017

here they are:

"All I'm Asking" by Band of Heathens: Band of Heathens have actually been around for awhile, but this is the first song I've heard of theirs so far. It is a roots-y rock number slightly reminiscent of acts like The Band. It starts out with a thumping, funky bass line, but as a honky-tonk sounding piano and various string instruments in the background start to come in, "All I'm Asking" starts to get a bit more of a shape as a song. The chord progression from A major to F sharp minor is a bit like The Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park". A song like this one wouldn't have been out of place in another decade, and it is only from the production of the record that you can tell that this is not actually an older song.

"Angela" by The Lumineers: First "Ophelia", then "Cleopatra", now "Angela"?! Is it just me, or does Wesley Schultz have more girls on his mind than just his bandmate, Neyla Pekarek?! Of the three titular girls, "Angela" seems to suffer less than the other two characters. Ophelia and Cleopatra both suffered in their respective songs, which I suppose makes sense since the names of both are synonymous with Shakespeare characters, but Angela is a more liberated character, one who feels "home at last", as the refrain in her song states. The epic saga of The Lumineers only continues from here!

"Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)" by Chicano Batman: You're not gonna hear bands with a name like "Chicano Batman" every day, are you?! Didn't think so! Well, as it turns out, you're not gonna hear their kind of music every day either! The weirdly named quartet (who are, in fact, Chicano, but sadly not alternate identities for Batman), have an eclectic blend of late '60s styled soul music, Latino rhythms, swirling psychedelic guitar riffs, and groovy organ riffs, all in one brightly colored package! To top off all the excitement you might be getting just from reading this, Chicano Batman happen to hail from my hometown, which is none other than Los Angeles!

"Hungry Ghost" by Hurray for the Riff Raff: It's not even the second month of the year and already I have a good song for this year's Halloween playlist! The mysterious, spooky (but fun) vibes of Hurray for the Riff Raff's "Hungry Ghost" go perfectly with its haunting title! The electro-rock instrumentation of "Hungry Ghost" is a bit closer to Bat for Lashes than it is for Hurray for the Riff Raff. Come to think of it, the lyrics the song has, largely concerning isolation and alienation, seem a bit inspired by Bat for Lashes as well. Happy Halloween, 10 months in advance!

"I Give You Power" by Arcade Fire (featuring Mavis Staples): With a sound that comes off as an unlikely cross between Talking Heads and Nine Inch Nails, Arcade Fire's latest song is, as you might have guessed, a protest song about the person who now occupies the position of being the 45th President of the United States of America. "I give you power", Win Butler sings, followed by, "and I can take it away", immediately afterwards. Soul mistress Mavis Staples joins Win on what could be described as her darkest song yet! Arcade Fire giveth, and Arcade Fire taketh away. No more Mr. Nice Indie Rocker! When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

"Push Off" by The Palms: "Palms", perhaps, refers to palm trees in this case, and not to the palms of our hands, but I guess we'll never know for sure. The reason I say palm trees is because the music of The Palms' debut song, "Push Off", is gentle like palm trees swaying in the breeze, at least in the musical sense it is. Lyrically, it's a bit more bitter. It's clearly about a relationship that the lead singer wants to brush aside and forget about, as evidenced by him calling his former lover a "push off" and then telling them to "push off" afterwards. What a calming song, though! This mostly acoustic guitar based rock song even has a soft piano solo in the middle of it to add to its already breezy flavor! If you've had a bad breakup but you still wanna play it cool, then this song is for you!

"Shakedown" by Valerie June: After the heavenly, ethereal "Astral Plane" from fall of last year, we now have the more gritty, blues-y "Shakedown" from Valerie June. Not as mean and funky as her debut song, "You Can't Be Told", but it still has a more electric guitar based sound than some of what Valerie's fans might be used to at this point. "Shakedown" is probably one of a growing number of songs that is reflective of how uncertain many people think the world has become today. With its rollicking, catchy, "Lust For Life"-like beat, though, some people might be more under the impression that "Shakedown" could just be your basic blues-y rock song about dancing and falling in love. Valerie June's lyrical themes have never been basic, though, so I'm willing to bet that there is some righteous anger behind "Shakedown".

"Strange Or Be Forgotten" by Temples: The leap from a '60s homage to an '80s homage seems to be becoming increasingly common in today's indie-pop groups. Temples debuted back in 2014 with "Shelter Song", which sounded to many like a long lost Byrds tune. The fluttering synths in Temples' second big tune, "Strange Or Be Forgotten", make it clear that their musical time machine can travel to multiple eras. "Strange Or Be Forgotten" is still somewhat an ode to psychedelia, but with more keyboards than guitars. This is the sort of song that would be likely to play during a scene in a movie when someone is tripping out on drugs at a dance club. So are Temples strange, or do you think they will be forgotten?! I would go with "strange"!

"The Lost Sky" by Jesca Hoop: Jesca Hoop (yes, that's how she spells her first name) is nominally a folk-rocker, but "The Lost Sky" truly has flourishes of folk music in comparison to the only other Jesca Hoop song I currently know, "Born To", which was essentially a blend of indie-pop and singer/songwriter with a sound that was more like a melodic electric guitar distortion than a pure acoustic sound. "The Lost Sky" is primarily an acoustic-guitar-and-vocals-only song and it seems to be the name of a fictitious location that Jesca uses as a metaphor for her means of escapism, presented in poetic lyrical fashion laden with vocals that are as bittersweet as the song itself. It is a place known only to the dreamers of the world, both the aspirational kind and the nocturnal kind.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New songs For January 18th, 2017

here they are:

"Bad Year For Rock And Roll" by Chuck Prophet: In this roots-y Springsteen-esque rock tune, Chuck Prophet accurately describes what last year (and probably the last 10 or 15, for that matter) has been for rock music. In a world full of Justin Biebers and Taylor Swifts, Chuck dares to be a man armed with an electric guitar instead of an auto-tune device. "Bad Year..." goes deeper than just pointing out rock's lack of popularity on the charts, though. It is also an homage to the loss of people like Prince and (especially) David Bowie who died last year. "The Thin White Duke took a final bow", sings Chuck in one verse. Here's hoping we won't lose as many rock 'n' roll greats in 2017!

"Hot Thoughts" by Spoon: Most of this week's (and last week's) songs were merely leftovers from 2016. "Hot Thoughts" by Spoon marks the first official release of 2017! This song is as danceable and funky as it is quirky and intellectual, bringing to mind groups like Talking Heads, albeit with more of an orchestral section than David Byrne and co have in their tunes. We're not exactly sure what "hot thoughts" are, but this song is so catchy that I don't really care. It's cool enough to even have a song like this one around!

"Peace Trail" by Neil Young: The ragged, grungy rock of Neil Young has never sounded so mystical! In spite of its serene sounding title, "Peace Trail" is not one of Neil's folkier numbers, but it still manages to be soft and melodic thanks to its steady flowing beat and Neil's sweet vocal delivery. Young's latest album is supposed to have an angry, political edge to it, but "Peace Trail" is neither. Seriously, what's more hippie-sounding than a "rainbow tepee sky"? The title of the song itself also suggests a turning back of the clocks a few decades to when peace and love ruled the world. If only Neil could be President. Songs like this one suggest to me that he'd make a mighty good one!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017: New songs for the New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone!! Yeah, I realize I'm 11 days late, but it took awhile for some new songs to come out this time around. Thankfully, here are 5 of them to help you kick this year into full blown musical action!

"Cold Cold Cold" by Cage the Elephant: After the stompin' garage rock of "Mess Around" and the calmer psychedelic folk-rock of "Trouble" comes a song that seems to strike a perfect balance between those two for Cage the Elephant, "Cold Cold Cold". This song is soft but still a little jazzy in a way that almost brings to mind what a psychedelic tinged bossa nova song might be like. A psychedelic blues-rock guitar solo comes in towards the end of the song, perhaps for CTE to maintain their image as a "rock band" or perhaps just to goof around and have some fun. Either way, "Cold Cold Cold" is a hot hot hot song as far as I'm concerned!

"Good With God" by Old 97's (featuring Brandi Carlile): 2016 was almost as terrible a year as 1971 was for the music world in terms of how many people we lost that year. Thankfully Rhett Miller and the rest of The Old 97's are still alive and kickin', yet it seems like Rhett can't help but feel in his latest song, "Good With God", like he might just be the next one to be swept up to Rock And Roll Heaven. In this "Ghost Riders In the Sky" styled number, he assures himself that he isn't afraid of possibility of this happening and that he's "good with God". And where does Brandi Carlile figure into all of this?! Well, as it turns out, she IS God in the context of this song. Considering how laid back (a bit TOO laid back for my taste) Brandi usually is, she does a pretty stunning and compelling performance as the (Wo)man Upstairs in this song!

"Name For You" by The Shins: Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on...into middle age, for The Shins' James Mercer. In "Name For You", a song that combines power pop with ska in a similar manner to how The Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" did, James reflects on being a dad who is a year past 45 (can you believe it?!) One of his little girls is at least 8 if not older, as The Shins guest starred on "Yo Gabba Gabba" on 2008 back when she wasn't even old enough to attend preschool, which is another thing that makes the once young and fresh indie pop star feel like he's inching ever closer to being viewed as "oldies" like his influences such as The Beatles, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and The Zombies are all viewed as and have been for awhile at this point. This may sound like the plot of some coming of age indie film written and produced by Zach Braff, but I can assure you that the events "Name For You" has been based on are 100 % real!

"Roll With the Punches" by Dawes: Mumford and Sons might have made folk-rock cool again, but Dawes have made folk-rock rock again! Dawes' organ driven rocker, "Roll With the Punches", is a gritty, roots-y song that sounds like it was pulled straight out of the Robbie Robertson/Levon Helm handbook (it bears a slight resemblance to The Band's "Chest Fever" to me). The song's shimmering Crosby Stills & Nash styled harmonies contrast slightly with the sizzling energy it has to offer. Not nearly as compelling as Dawes' song "When the Tequila Runs Out" from summer of last year, but still worth listening to if ya ask me.

"To Be Without You" by Ryan Adams: I can't believe my eyes! ANOTHER new Ryan Adams song?! But I just reviewed him last month! Oh well, on with the show, as they say. Those who thought Adams' "The Prisoner" would be full of high energy rock songs might be disappointed when they hear this one, but for others, "To Be Without You" might offer proof that Ryan Adams might finally be comfortable enough to include a rock song and a ballad on the same album! It seems that Ryan is copying his own material in "To Be Without You", which sounds a bit like his own "Everybody Knows", but it is a slightly longer and much more heartfelt song than that one was. The lyrics are exactly what you might think they would be on a song called "To Be Without You", sad and forlorn. Perhaps "Do You Still Love Me?" and "To Be Without You" were, respectively, question and answer songs for the same album.