Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New songs for June 21st, 2017

here they are:

"Fool's Errand" by Fleet Foxes: Look up the phrase "fool's errand" online or in a dictionary and your answer will be, "a task with no hope or success". The Fleet Foxes song, "Fool's Errand", is NOT a fool's errand! Like many of Fleet Foxes' songs, "Fool's Errand" contains plenty of effort and emotion. For those who were a little miffed by the prog-rock-ish direction that Fleet Foxes took earlier this year with "Third of May", "Fool's Errand" might be a little easier to stomach, since it's more of a straight folk-rock song with no out of place meanderings in the middle. The "fool's errand" mentioned in the song, thankfully, is not the song itself, but a failed relationship, which is common subject matter in Fleet Foxes' songs, along with mysterious but alluring allegorical themes. Perhaps if I listen to this song more, I'll catch a hidden allegorical meaning(s) within it, but my first impression of this song is that it's already a good one!

"Golden Dandelions" by Barns Courtney: Barns Courtney blazed the alt and adult charts last spring and summer with his steamy, blues-y mega-hit, "Fire". This summer, he's already back with a new song, "Golden Dandelions". The hollow but catchy drumbeats that made "Fire" (and its followup hit, "Glitter And Gold") such a big hit are also present on "Golden Dandelions". A big difference between "Golden Dandelions" and Barns Courtney's previous songs is that it seems to want to sound more like a bright, energetic pop song, but even with that, "Golden Dandelions" still manages to win me over because it just sounds so unique! Plus, who wouldn't think of lyrics like "lay me down in golden dandelions" as being so full of vivid, poetic imagery?!

"The Man" by The Killers: The Killers release their first album in 4 years and we get...ummm...something that sounds like a cross between Daft Punk's "Da Funk" and The Who's "Eminence Front"?! Huh?!? How'd THIS happen?! Well, as weird as this description might sound, Brandon Flowers and co actually manage to make this song work in a way that only they can! So who is "the man", you might be wondering?! The answer is Brandon Flowers himself! However, no one is really sure if he's saying this because he has such a big ego (which I don't think he does, really) or because he's making fun of himself. The Killers' debut album from 2004 was actually filled with disco-meets-rock songs, so "The Man" actually sounds like an old Killers song instead of a new one! For those expecting the grandiose Springsteen/U2 type sound that The Killers had after their debut, you may be disappointed. For everyone else, Brandon Flowers really IS "the man"!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

New songs for June 14th 2017

here they are:

"Blue Magic" by Son Little: Son Little's debut song, "The River", brought 1950's style blues into the 21st century! Now, Son Little has turned more towards early 1970's R & B for "Blue Magic". Plenty of funky riffs interspersed with soothing wind instrumentation to be found here. Like its title implies, there is something magical about this song. It's as though you're floating on air when you listen to it!

"Call It Dreaming" by Iron & Wine: After a few albums of experimenting with a full band sound, Sam Beam returns to his acoustic roots with his latest song, "Call It Dreaming". There isn't a lot of instrumentation in this one aside from acoustic guitar and very light percussion. It may be getting close to summer right now, but for Sam, every day is autumn in bittersweet songs like this one. In the chorus of the song, he states, "Where we drift and call it dreaming, we can weep and call it singing". Pure poetry!

"Die Young" by Sylvan Esso: A song that came out around the time I was born by James Taylor stated, "never die young". Sylvan Esso take the opposite approach of what James did on their latest tune. This is evident as early as Sylvan Esso's opening lyrics for the song, "I was gonna die young", suggesting the song might be about an attempted suicide. The rather dour, minor key tone of "Die Young" isn't exactly heartwarming either. The soft to loud synth taking the lead on this song makes it seem like the folks at Nintendo decided to compose a grunge song. Live fast if you must, but please, never die young!

"Perfect Places" by Lorde: The New Zealand pop starlet continues to contemplate whether or not she wants such a status in her second big 2017 song, "Perfect Places". She repeatedly pines in the song how "it's just another graceless night" every time she goes out to hook up with someone. "Every night I live and die, meet somebody, take 'em home" is also a central line in this world weary song. By the end of the song, she wonders just what "perfect places" are to begin with, since every hookup she has just ends up in misery. This song might sound like pop music to the casual listener, but the lyrics seem to be the closest thing to Joy Division that an adolescent has attempted so far!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New songs for June 7th 2017

here they are:

"Driver" by Billy Raffoul: This song has a rather slow buildup, but once it reaches that point it explodes! Billy Raffoul's husky, roots-rock vocals mix with vaguely Peter Gabriel-esque world-music-cum-rock-music during the verses. Once the chorus comes along, the guitars get slightly louder and ultimately crescendo into a loud, triumphant arena rock roar, slightly reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen or U2 circa the mid 1980's. Billy's debut song, "Driver", appears to be about him wanting to be in control during certain situations where he feels helpless otherwise. "Driver" is a very driven song, in more ways than one!

"Everything Now" by Arcade Fire: An appropriate song title for a band who really has covered everything. Arcade Fire have done it all, from folk-rock to post-punk to psychedelic to prog-rock. One thing they haven't covered (to my knowledge) is disco. Until now, that is. "Everything Now" is a 5 minute song that mixes sunshiny harmonies and melodies with groovy, soulful beats. As if that wasn't disco-y enough, the string section in this song even sounds a bit like ABBA. Arcade Fire are not ordinarily this bubbly and optimistic sounding, though, so perhaps there's a layer of cynicism beneath its bright surface. Win Butler might be trying to warn us here that instant gratification, which seems to be the central theme of this song, is not always a good thing.

"Holding On" by The War on Drugs: Mixing the grandiose yet earnest arena rock of Bruce Springsteen with the more understated but pristine vibes of Roxy Music, The War on Drugs' latest song, "Holding On", would not have been out of place on The War on Drugs' 2013 record. It combines The WOD's two "hits" from their previous album, using the relentless beat of "Red Eyes" and mixing it with the relative F sharp major key of "Under the Pressure". The Springsteen-ian chimes that come in during the chorus really help to distinguish this song from some of their other ones. "Holding On" is nothing life changing or groundbreaking, but it's a great song to escape into after a long, hard day of school or work.

"I Dare You" by The xx: Aside from Beach House, The xx are probably one of the only contemporary bands out there whose music is influenced by "dream pop" from the late '80s and early '90s. The Sundays, The Cranberries, and Cocteau Twins were some of the better known names from this subgenre back when it was first starting out. Although The xx's approach to this uses more keyboards than it does guitars, their song "I Dare You" definitely evokes the lush harmonies and ethereal vibe that those types of groups typically went for. The exchange between male and female vocals also sounds quite lovely on this track. Listening to this song is like floating on a cloud, just as heavenly and just as fluffy.

"Living In the City" by Hurray for the Riff Raff: Not since Cowboy Junkies covered The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" in the late '80s has there been a song that blends country-rock with Lou Reed quite like this one does. Hurray for the Riff Raff's "Living In the City" is more upbeat than pretty much anything that Cowboy Junkies have done. HFTRR's lead singer Alynda Segarra is actually my age (29 years old) and hails from New Orleans, but this song makes it seem more like she's a New Yorker somewhere close to 70 with her spiky yet accessible urban lyrical poetry, slightly reminiscent of folks like Lou Reed and Patti Smith. As they say in "Rent", "Viva la vie Boheme!"

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

New songs for May 31st, 2017

here they are:

"Automatic" by Mondo Cozmo: Mondo Cozmo won the hearts of millions with their simple yet sentimental folk-rock tune, "Shine", back in fall of last year. You might be surprised to know that Mondo Cozmo's second big song, "Automatic", doesn't contain even a trace of "Shine"'s sincere, earnest folk-rock sound. Instead, it sounds a bit more like something Moby might have done, with its combination of melodic vocals and dance-pop-y music. Joshua Ostrander (who, by himself, is "Mondo Cozmo") was apparently influenced by Beck with both this song and Mondo Cozmo's other material, and how no Beck song sounds like the other. Joshua wants Mondo Cozmo to be perceived in the same manner. I'd say he's succeeded so far!

"City of Angels" by The Head and The Heart: What better subject matter for a song than falling in love with someone in my own hometown?! Well, while the topic of the song might be a good one, "City of Angels" seems to crank out more of the "new" Head and The Heart sound that they've had ever since spring of last year. The piano is still there, but the acoustic guitars are not present, just as they were absent on "All We Ever Knew" and "Rhythm And Blues". The sound of "City of Angels" suggests a slightly more rocking and roots-y version of Coldplay. One thing the song has going for it is how it becomes a bit slower midway through.

"He's Fine" by The Secret Sisters: The Secret Sisters might have been able to remain a secret from traditional FM radio stations, but adult alt and indie-folk audiences have known about them for quite awhile now. "He's Fine" looks like it will be their first significant adult alt radio hit, and not without reason. The sound of this song seems to emulate recent all-girl indie-folk acts, such as First Aid Kit and Joseph, as opposed to the bluegrass-rock sound they've become known for among fans. "He's Fine" might sound cute and fluffy on the surface, but upon closer listening, it becomes clear that the song is actually about a guy, Davey White, who has been seeing another girl and is still "fine" with the fact that he has betrayed his former lover's heart. Love might not be easy, but music always is!

"Mourning Sound" by Grizzly Bear: Grizzly Bear have often been known for their sleepy yet neo-psychedelic sound. Songs of theirs like "Sleeping Ute" and "Yet Again" are drenched with fuzzy guitar feedback, yet they still manage to sound dreamy. "Mourning Sound" is kind of like that, although it might be the first Grizzly Bear song to use artificial percussion instead of opting for the real thing. There is also noticeably more droning synthesizer used in "Mourning Sound" than there is on Grizzly Bear's other material. With a title like "Mourning Sound", I was expecting this song to sound bittersweet and melancholy. Instead, it sounds like a techno song mated with a psychedelic song that somehow got lost in the woods.

"Whiteout Conditions" by The New Pornographers: The NP's are really expanding their sound on their latest album! Their sound could typically be described as power pop, but their surprisingly big adult alt radio hit, "High Ticket Attractions", could be viewed as their hardest rocking track yet, recalling the sound of bands like The Cars, whose chunky, meaty guitar riffs were just as notable as their breezy, summery vibe overall. The title track of The New Pornographers' latest album, "Whiteout Conditions", also allows the band to explore previously uncharted musical territory. It might just be the most synth heavy NP's song yet. Its icy yet danceable sound recalls that of groups like Joy Division, The Cure, and Depeche Mode.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New songs for May 24th 2017

here they are:

"Second One to Know" by Chris Stapleton: I don't usually gravitate towards country musicians, but when I do they usually have at least a slight trace of rock music in their sound. This is most certainly the case with Chris Stapleton's latest song, "Second One to Know", which would not sound out of place on a Lynyrd Skynyrd or ZZ Top record. The song comes off like "Sweet Home Alabama" played two semitones lower. Chris seems to have an affinity for Southern rock musicians, as can be seen from a skit on Jimmy Fallon's show in which Jimmy, Chris, and Kevin Bacon perform ZZ Top's "Legs" while passing themselves off as ZZ Top in the process. I'm happy to be one of the first ones to know about "Second One to Know"!

"The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness" by The National: And the winner for longest song title in the world goes to...The National! 7 words used in a single song title is rare, but Matt Berninger and the boys pull it off here. What they also pull off in "The System..." is their first attempt at going from maudlin, orchestral indie-pop to a brooding yet more accessible attempt at just straight up rock music. The song even includes an electric guitar solo, for goodness' sakes, which may be a first for The National. A song like this one probably wouldn't sound too out of place on a Pink Floyd record.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New songs for May 10th 2017

here they are:

"Can I Sit Next to You?" by Spoon: The song's title suggests a simple plea for love, yet the instrumentation of the song tells a slightly different story. Its funky sound suggests that Britt Daniels has already "sat next" to the person in question that the song was directed to. This is definitely a song that makes you want to do anything BUT sit. Instead, it makes you wanna dance! Spoon usually have a way of balancing out soul and rock influenced material with more tender folk-rock-ish ballads on their albums. For their latest album, though, it's been two funky songs in a row so far. Can't go wrong with that!

"It Ain't Right" by Current Swell: I only know one other song by Current Swell so far besides this one, and that song is a buoyant yet quirky folk-rock song called "Too Cold". "It Ain't Right" has a bit less of the quirk element and less of the folk element than "Too Cold". Understandably, a few of Current Swell's original fans are a little disappointed by this one. While "It Ain't Right" definitely has a more commercial sound, I wouldn't call it a "sellout" song. It still has an "indie" enough sound to appeal to people like me, but now it's more indie-pop than indie-folk.

"Pleasure" by Feist: Feist is best known for pleasantly peppy folk-rock numbers like "1234", but her most loyal fans know that the true scope of her musical repertoire is more eclectic than that. The title of her latest song might be "Pleasure", but its sound doesn't exactly indicate that she is pleased. In fact, it sounds like she's a bit unsettled and shaken in this one. Its quiet verses/loud chorus dynamics are even reminiscent of grunge music. Feist uses the same sort of trick PJ Harvey did in her spooky '94 hit, "Down By the Water", in which she uses a disquieting, trembling sound that you would expect to build up eventually into a full blown, raging, manic rock song, yet it never does. Feist goes one step further than PJ here by providing no drums. Pleasure?! Only for the truly daring does that word describe this song!

"Sarah Surrender" by Gov't Mule: When jam band Gov't Mule last released a song together that was a hit on adult alt radio stations, it was "Funny Little Tragedy", which Elvis Costello was a part of, and which was probably the closest Gov't Mule got to a punk rock song! "Sarah Surrender" is definitely a calmer and less acerbic song in comparison. Fitting with its alliteration involving the letter "S", "Sarah Surrender" is a smooth yet spicy serenade that is sizzling, soothing, sultry, and steamy! Warren Haynes and the boys still rock it in this song, like usual, and there are some fine, slick guitar licks peppered throughout it. However, there aren't any prominent guitar solo parts like there usually are in Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule songs.

"Want You Back" by Haim: Haim, an indie pop trio consisting entirely of sisters with the last name "Haim", made a big splash in fall 2013 with their summery rocker, "The Wire". It's only a month away from summer now, yet Haim's latest song, "Want You Back", sounds more autumnal than summery. Like Fleetwood Mac, whom Haim covered early on in their career, Haim have the ability to rock out, be straight up pop, and be sentimental folk-rockers. OK, to call "Want You Back" a "folk-rock" song might be a bit of a stretch if you consider how funky the bass riffs are and how mechanical its percussion is, but hidden beneath the bass and drums is a more subtle but more organic sounding acoustic guitar and a lovely piano sound as well. Haim, you don't have to want me back. You've got me back already, along with thousands of other loyal listeners who will probably be playing this song ad nauseam this summer!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New songs for May 3rd 2017

here they are:

"Canyon" by Joseph: This song has the same sort of wistful, bittersweet vibe as the first two big songs Joseph have released, "White Flag" and "S.O.S. (Overboard)". A major difference is that "Canyon" is not written in D major, but instead in G sharp minor, giving it a bit more of a melancholy sound than their previous two singles. Lyrically, it seems to be about trying to attempt a relationship with someone else who does not want one. I'm noticing a little theme in their songs. "White Flag" symbolizes surrender, and "S.O.S." signifies a call for help. There's probably a number of ways to interpret the title and lyrics of the song "Canyon", but I would venture to say that it is most likely a metaphor for viewing relationships as deep, endless, and hard to fathom, much like canyons are in real life.

"J-Boy" by Phoenix: J-Boy?! What's a J-Boy?! Is it someone who goes on "Sesame Street" to talk about the letter J and carry it around?! Is it a boy whose name begins with the letter J?! Because the song's title isn't mentioned in the lyrics, we may never know the answer to this one. What we do know, however, is that Phoenix, the French indie-pop quartet best known for irresistibly quirky and danceable songs like "1901" and "Lisztomania", have released a new song that shows a bit more cynicism within its lyrical content than they have usually been known to do. "J-Boy" presents itself as a love song, but with lines like "The truth is that we're all to blame. There are lies and moral consequences", "Stealing money from a homeless girl", and "Kamikaze in a hopeless world", it becomes apparent that Thomas Mars might just be weeping for the future of humanity and masking his opinions with a catchy dance-pop sound designed to distract the "casual listener" from its lyrical content.

"The Night We Met" by Lord Huron: This song is now two years old, so why is it just now getting attention? Apparently, this is because the song was just recently featured in the controversial Netflix drama series, "13 Reasons Why". I know pretty much nothing about this series because I'm an old fogey (not really) who is more nostalgic about the shows of the past than those of the present, but "The Night We Met" is the slowest and saddest song I've heard from Lord Huron's "Strange Trails" album. A great number of those songs followed a pattern of going between F sharp minor and A major throughout, as does this one. It is the slow, almost waltz-like pace of "The Night We Met" that sets it apart from the others. The song is probably meant to be a way of expressing nostalgia for a lover that the leader singer knew in his past, but adding it to the soundtrack of "13 Reasons Why" seems to give it a sadder tone given how dark I've heard the series can be.

"Witness" by Benjamin Booker and Mavis Staples: The seamless blending of soul and rock makes Benjamin Booker's latest song, "Witness", sound a bit like a Joe Cocker song, albeit with more of a gospel flavor (perhaps the gospel influence in this song is due to Mavis Staples' presence on it). Mavis has been quite the busy lady this year, having appeared earlier on a notably fiery protest song by Arcade Fire. As for Benjamin, he is relatively new to the music scene in comparison, having released only one other album so far, and that was three years ago. His debut album had a very raw, in-your-face blues-rock sound. "Witness" continues the blues-rock pattern, but with a more soft, melodic flavor to it. It is yet another protest song, probably against the current state of American political affairs, that Mavis Staples has contributed to in 2017. The central point of the song could be summarized in the last lines of the first verse, "When your brother's dying, mother's crying, TV's lying, all the reasons in the world don't mean sh*t to me now!" Ben and Mavis both continue to inject their venomous yet righteous anger throughout this song!