Wednesday, December 6, 2017

New songs for December 6th 2017

here they are:

"Midnight Train to Memphis" by Chris Stapleton: "Southern rock" might not be a thing anymore to most musicians, but to Chris Stapleton, it is! Having already stormed the adult alt radio charts with "Second One to Know" in the summer of this year, Chris is now back a second time around with "Midnight Train to Memphis", a song whose sound used to be just plain ol' country that Chris has now spruced up with more of a rock sound. The title alone of this song conjures up the typical Southern rock and country imagery of traveling down the highway (or railway) at night. It may be getting close to winter, but Chris Stapleton still wants to fire up the barbecue grills down a blazing hot road right now!

"Queens of the Breakers" by The Barr Brothers: The only other track for this week is a country-rock song as well, but more in a sentimental way than in a rockin' one. The song was actually named for band member Brad Barr's group of friends he hung out with when he was a teenager. Not exactly sure what the origin of the name "Queens of the Breakers" is, but that's not as important as the overall bittersweet nostalgia the song tends to evoke. Over the course of 5 and a half minutes, The Barr Brothers meld country, bluegrass, jam band sounds, and rock to create a yearning, winsome story in this song.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Holidays Rule Volume 2 songs!!

The sequel to 2012's indie holiday extravaganza, "Holidays Rule", has arrived! And I've got 6 songs to review from it, so here goes!

"Baby It's Cold Outside" by Barns Courtney: There's a certain roots-y, earthy, soulful quality to pretty much all the songs Barns Courtney has put out so far (especially his first and biggest hit, "Fire"). His rendition of the lyrically questionable but musically fun Christmas tune, "Baby It's Cold Outside", attempts to inject some soulfulness, but ends up sounding more like a 2010's alt-pop song with a hip-hop beat. It starts off sounding like an old jazz standard, but as soon as the percussion comes in, it becomes a whole different song. And yes, as with all versions of this oddly charming holiday song, there is a female vocalist in here as well, and her name is Lennon Stella, best known as one half of the country-pop internet sensations, Lennon and Maisy.

"I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" by Lake Street Dive: Undoubtedly one of the goofiest Christmas songs of all time, soul/blues-rock combo, Lake Street Dive, add a Latin twist to this song, making it stand out even more among holiday songs than it already did! This is the first time Lake Street Dive have sounded more like rhumba than R & B, but they do a good job at it! With a "shaka-laka" percussion section and sultry horn section, I can guarantee that a song about hoping for hippos on the holidays has never sounded more unique than this one! Make no mistake. Rachael Price does NOT want crocodiles or rhinoceroses, she only wants hippopotamuses. Nothing wrong with that, right?!

"Jesus Christ" by The Decemberists: Unless you're a big fan of Big Star, who are probably the only "proto-alternative" band besides The Velvet Underground to gain a large cult following among alternative rock fans despite having zero chart success, you might not know the original version of this song, an unusually reverent song for a somewhat irreverent and quirky band. It only makes sense, then, that The Decemberists, who are quirky, irreverent, and have a huge cult following themselves, would cover Big Star's "Jesus Christ", the only Christmas song that Big Star ever did. Like Joni Mitchell's "River", "Jesus Christ" might not have been intended to be a Christmas song, but has been viewed as one anyway ever since its release. This version stays faithful (no pun intended) to the original until its solo, which uses guitars in place of the sax solo on the original. As a side note, "Jesus Christ" might have also been the only Big Star song to use a saxophone. Most of the others I've heard by them don't use that instrument.

"Pipes of Peace" by Muna: Yet another cover of a modern Christmas song, as opposed to a "traditional" one. Many people know (and are sometimes somewhat averse to) Paul McCartney's uber-happy "Wonderful Christmastime". They might not know that Sir Paul also released a quieter, more reflective Christmas song in 1983 called "Pipes of Peace". This is that song, performed by indie-pop group, Muna. Muna seem to have a thing for middle-of-the-road classic rock, as they have also covered Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen" and U2's "With Or Without You" in concert, which is interesting considering how Muna sound more influenced by electronica than they do rock. Muna maintain the quietness and reflectiveness of the original, molding a bittersweet holiday rock song into an equally bittersweet holiday indie song.

"The Christmas Song" by Judah and The Lion: Not since Mumford and Sons has there been an indie-pop band known for playing banjo. Judah and The Lion typically take it one step further than Mumford and Sons by using a pop music framework to showcase their mad banjo skills, as opposed to a more folky one. Here, Judah and The Lion use the same technique on "The Christmas Song", a song first made popular by Nat King Cole in 1945 and covered many times since. JATL's rendition of this Christmas classic is a fun one, to be sure, but the banjo solos might just be the best part of this whole song!

"What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" by Andrew McMahon: This song was already covered by The Head and The Heart on the original 2012 edition of "Holidays Rule". I think their version is much better. However, that doesn't mean I'm going to just ignore Andrew McMahon's version of a holiday song originally recorded by jazz musician Ella Fitzgerald in the mid 1940's. Andrew does a decent job, but his version comes off too...well...keyboard-y for my taste. The song is supposed to have piano, which this version does, but he layers it with a synth sound that doesn't exactly sound fitting for this song. Head and The Heart extend the length of this song and add in some guitar in the background. This version has no guitar and is relatively short in comparison. Stick with the original "Holidays Rule" rendition of this song (or the original Ella version) if you want a quality version of this post-Christmas tune. It's not a bad version, though, by any means.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

new songs for November 15th 2017

here they are:

"I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" by Jim James: The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" is widely considered to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time (despite getting virtually no airplay on today's "rock" stations). There's a good reason it is, though. The album, along with The Beatles' "Rubber Soul", which it was inspired by, were some of the first albums to showcase rock as an emotionally diverse art form. With the news spreading that My Morning Jacket's Jim James was going to be covering one of my favorite songs from that album, "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times", my first thoughts were, "You can't top a classic!" As much as I love Jim and MMJ, it's a hard feat to pull off trying to cover the sweet but troubled genius work of Brian Wilson. However, I'll still give Jim credit where credit is due. He doesn't drastically change the song in any way, and he tries his best to stay faithful to the bittersweet, sympathetic tone of the original. He alters the melody of the chorus a bit, and he also adds in some brass instruments where they aren't needed, but other than that it's a pretty decent cover!

"Losing All Sense" by Grizzly Bear: As if by coincidence, our next song is inspired by "Pet Sounds" as well! However, it is not a cover of a song from the album. The ultra eclectic, artsy indie quartet, Grizzly Bear, have always tried experimenting with different sounds on each of their albums. Their latest song, "Losing All Sense", sounds similar to "Two Weeks", the song that first made Grizzly Bear popular among indie fans, and it also contains a brief "slow" section like their song "Sleeping Ute" did. Its happy, piano and orchestra based sound seems like it might be derived from Beach Boys songs like "I Know There's An Answer". "Losing All Sense"'s spacey, psychedelic lyrics (for instance, "Like a rogue wave, you wash right over me") seem like they'd fit right in with some of the best '60s rock songs.

"Motion Sickness" by Phoebe Bridgers: You might not have heard of Phoebe Bridgers yet, but other musicians you might like have heard of her. Her debut record was released under Ryan Adams record label, and she has toured with Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes. Fans of Adams and Oberst would probably be fans of Phoebe Bridgers as well, as she evokes a similar sense of pathos and sensitivity to such musicians. The "motion sickness" she mentions, as she states in the song, is an emotional one. The song is basically Phoebe's sad but sweet sounding attempt to try to right all the wrongs in her life. Between the hushed but weary vocals and the sighing of the instruments in the song, it's pretty easy to tell what's going on here!

"Plastic Soul" by Mondo Cozmo: Mondo Cozmo are a rarity in this decade. On their first album alone they've gone through folk-rock with "Shine" and Beck-ish attempts at blending hip-hop with alternative pop with "Automatic". Their third hit, "Plastic Soul", does not sound like either one of those songs. Instead, it has a piano based '60s R & B sound that samples from an actual '60s R & B song, "Piece of My Heart" by Aretha Franklin's older sister, Erma (yes, this was the same "Piece of My Heart" that Janis Joplin later made famous - Erma did it first). "Plastic Soul" is very soulful, but it sure ain't plastic! This is the real deal, folks!

"Run For Cover" by The Killers: With all the people who have been accused of sexual abuse lately, I'm sure glad The Killers aren't one of 'em! Why am I bringing this up in my review for this song? Because "Run For Cover" is actually a song that speaks out against those who have been sexually abused. In this song, the beat of which is reminiscent of INXS's "Don't Change", Brandon Flowers points a finger at all the carnally depraved men out there, perhaps one in particular, given such lines as, "Are your excuses any better than your senator's?", "It's even harder when the dirtbag's famous", and even a brief mention of "fake news". I don't think it's too hard to figure out who this might be about, but it's ultimately up to your imagination to figure that one out!

"Whatever It Takes" by Imagine Dragons: Imagine Dragons aren't what you'd call a "hard rock" band by any means, but some songs of theirs are still softer and more melodic than others. "Whatever It Takes" just happens to be one of the softer songs in Imagine Dragons' catalog. Starting with a pristine piano that gets taken over by artificial percussion, "Whatever It Takes" has a similar sound to Imagine Dragons' other songs, except for in terms of how it is sung (or rather, delivered). Lead singer, Dan Reynolds, does the closest thing he's ever done to a rap during the verses of the song, speaking a bit too fast for anyone to understand him upon the first few listens of this song. The way Dan rhymes in this song could even be compared to people like Eminem (although Dan is far more wholesome in terms of his lyrical content).

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New songs for November 8th 2017

here they are:

"Glow" by Big Head Todd and The Monsters: Colorado jam band quartet, Big Head Todd and The Monsters, have been around for almost 3 decades. 2017 looks like it's gonna be their biggest year since 1997, during which they had a few alternative and adult alternative radio hits with songs like "Boom Boom", "Please Don't Tell Her", and "Resignation Superman". They've been in and out ever since then, but usually only one song from each subsequent album has become successful. During summer of this year, the rocking, joyous, "Damaged One" was already a big adult alt radio hit, and with "Glow", it looks like they'll be dominating fall of this year on adult alt radio as well. "Glow" is a rocker, like most of their material, but it has a bit more of an anthemic, somewhat U2-ish flavor, giving it a marked contrast to the rest of BHTATM's material. "Why don't you glow?" urges lead singer "Big Head" Todd Park Mohr. He certainly glows in this song, along with the rest of the band!

"On And On" by Curtis Harding: The last few years have not been good for post-millennial soul musicians who sound like they're from the '60s and early '70s. We lost Sharon Jones last November, and we lost Charles Bradley this summer. Thankfully, people like Curtis Harding have been working to keep the spirit of neo-soul alive and well! Harding is one of the most eclectic neo-soul musicians of the 2010's, having also dabbled in neo-psychedelia, punk, blues, and even spoken word on occasion. "On And On" is not Harding's first song, but it does appear to be his breakthrough, and what a breakthrough it is! It's a catchy, relentless song about never giving up. Groove on, bro!

"Rorschach" by Typhoon: You know from the title alone this is gonna be kind of a weird one! (Rorschach was the name of the guy who had those inkblot paintings that were supposed to look like different things to different people). It kind of is. It's a song that manages to be both sad and adventurous, and it comes off sounding like an unlikely cross between Death Cab for Cutie and The Pixies, with some odd, distorted vocals in between parts of the song. The song appears to be about uncertainty, and it gets its title from the lead singer mentioning how what he was looking at was really "blood spilled on the canvas (he) admired just like some Rorschach painting".

"Sea of Clouds" by Deer Tick: Roots-y indie-rockers, Deer Tick, seem to take a lot of inspiration from Neil Young, ranging from their veering between raging electric songs and sweet acoustic songs to the rather depressing subject matter of most of their songs. The booziness of Deer Tick might also bring to mind groups like The Replacements, who were also known for veering between the hard and the soft. Deer Tick already had a scorching rocker for this summer with "Jumpstarting". As we head into the mellow cool of autumn, Deer Tick now have the softer and more bittersweet, "Sea of Clouds", sounding a great deal like something from Neil Young's "Harvest" album, and a bit like The Replacements' somber but soothing folk-rock song, "Skyway", as well. Clocking in at a total of 5 and a half minutes, there appear to be two distinct halves to "Sea of Clouds". The first half has no percussion, and percussion gets added in during the second half.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New songs for November 1st 2017

here they are:

"Do I Have to Talk You Into It?" by Spoon: The third single so far from Spoon's latest album, "Do I Have to Talk You Into It?" is an interesting song. Musically, it comes off as a happier, major key version of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer". The song is accompanied by a weird music video with the lead singer's face being photoshopped and then being taken apart as though melting. You probably won't be able to sleep tonight if you see it, but for the truly daring, the link to the video is: You just never know what you're gonna get with these guys!

"Heartstruck (Wild Hunger)" by Hamilton Leithauser and Angel Olsen: The Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser, in some ways, is like a scratchier voiced Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. Musically, Hamilton has something in common with Alex as well in his new song, "Heartstruck", which straddles the line between orchestral doo-wop and indie-folk (a bit like Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros' "40 Day Dream"). The song's chorus of, "Wild hunger, rise up with the currency", is a bit hard to figure out the meaning of, but the song itself is a pleasant, billowy waltz that will probably appeal to fans of both Hamilton and Angel.

"Wild And Reckless" by Blitzen Trapper: The song itself isn't exactly wild and reckless. In fact, it actually starts out as a slow, sorrowful country-rock song. However, about a minute into it, it starts to speed up a little more. Though not quite as much a rocker as some of Blitzen Trapper's other songs, it's still fun to listen to. Musically, it seems like the alt-country version of either Bruce Springsteen's "The River" or The Eagles' "Take It Easy". Not a remarkable song, but still a good one for traveling down the freeway.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New songs for October 25th 2017

here they are:

"Holy Mountain" by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: With constant comparisons to The Beatles, Noel Gallagher's first major band, Oasis, was never a band to stick to current trends. Perhaps the same could be said of Noel Gallagher's side project, The High Flying Birds. Evoking the sound of such glam rock classics as "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" and "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting", "Holy Mountain" is a lively, hip-shakin' rock 'n' roll song which, like its glam rock ancestors, is basically about girls and rock 'n' roll. If you need to indulge your escapist fantasies into a song, then try this one!

"Ti Amo" by Phoenix: Half neo-psychedelia and half disco, Phoenix's "Ti Amo" (Spanish for "I love you") is a celebration of just how eclectic the French indie-pop quartet's musical taste is! Name dropping many musicians from punk rockers, The Buzzcocks, to classical master, Beethoven, and a mention of "unsophisticated soft rock" as well, "Ti Amo" seems like one of those songs in which the lyrics were just randomly cobbled together, but that is definitely one aspect of it that makes it so entertaining! English and Spanish are not the only languages used in the song either. There also a brief lyrical interlude in French, though this shouldn't be surprising considering where Phoenix come from.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New songs for October 18th 2017

here they are:

"End of the World With You" by Calexico: And here we have yet another indie-folk-rock group with a song that spews political commentary in 2017 (you could probably guess by the title). However, like most of Calexico's songs, "End of the World With You" is still a very mellow song. Interestingly, the "-exico" suffix that makes up Calexico's name doesn't seem to carry as much significance on this song as they did on their previous albums. The jaunty horn sections of mariachi bands are almost always present on Calexico's songs, but not on this one. A stray electric guitar seems to take its place. Lead singer Joey Burns sings about love and time "in the age of the extremes" in this song. It's tough to survive in this day and age. That's why music is here to save the day!

"Live In the Moment" by Portugal. The Man: Who would have guessed that Portugal. The Man would have one of THE biggest hits of the year with "Feel It Still"?! I sure wouldn't have! The song was big enough for Miley Cyrus to lip sync on Jimmy Fallon's show, though. Who can blame 'em?! The song was pretty catchy! "Live In the Moment" continues PTM's newfound knack for catchiness, which has never come on quite as strongly as it has this year. With an electro-pop sound and a beat that recalls Gary Glitter's "Rock And Roll Part 2", "Live In the Moment" will probably be another mega-hit for PTM. Of course, this will probably lead some people to believe that they're "selling out", but I see it as just another step of artistic growth for the band!

"Matter of Time" by Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings: It was only a matter of time before Sharon Jones exited the world in November of last year in her early 60's after a battle with pancreatic cancer. The energetic, feisty soul singer injected new life into the R & B genre in the mid 2000's and early 2010's that sounded far more like Aretha Franklin than it did like Beyonce. Thankfully, Sharon's record company decided to release another song of hers that was unreleased during her lifetime. "Matter of Time" is probably one of the bluesiest songs in her catalog, built almost entirely around E7 and A7 chords, and even a brief bluesy guitar solo in between some of the verses. "Matter of Time" is a song of hope, and it's a good song to listen to. The only thing I'm wondering is this. Why couldn't this song have been released right before she died?! I'm sure it would have helped a lot of people if that was the case!

"No Roots" by Alice Merton: Take the bass riff of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" and make it into a pop song. What have you got?! You've got "No Roots" by Alice Merton, a song that's as daring as it is fun! Lyrically, the song is like Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" if it was a more optimistic and happy song. "No Roots" is basically about how Alice is the type of person who doesn't stay in the same place for too long of a time. She can't find her way home. However, instead of despairing, she seems to take this as an opportunity to explore who she is and how she fits into society.

"Pain" by The War on Drugs: "Pain" is probably the first word that comes to mind for people who grow weary of the prog-rock and jam band influenced meanderings that The War on Drugs often take in their songs! There's a beauty in this pain, though. In this 5 and a half minute swirl of hypnotic, smooth, neo-psychedelic pop, Kurt Vile spills deep thoughts and turns them into lyrical poetry. "He had a fear in his eyes that I could not understand", "Am I movin' back in time? Just standin' still?", and "Like a demon in a doorway waiting to be born", are just some of the weighty, existential lyrics in this song, in which light acoustic guitars and keyboards are offset by fuzz drenched screeching electric guitars during the instrumental parts.

"This Is It" by Lo Moon: The chill yet mysterious aura of this song reminds me of something that new wave pioneers, Roxy Music, might have done on their "Avalon" album from 1982 (perhaps, more accurately, if it was crossed with the progressively atmospheric to anthemic vibe of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" from only a year earlier than the Roxy Music album). This is the kind of song that leaves the listener in suspense. "This is it". WHAT is it?! The lead singer of Lo Moon never specifies this. Yet listeners of this song can't help but be drawn into it as well. The song starts off billowy and cloudy, only to wake up your ears as soon as the lead singer shouts the title of the song during its chorus.