Thursday, December 23, 2010

and now...the moment you've all been waiting for!!!!!

I know it's not Wednesday, but today, I present to you....(drum roll please) THE TOP 20 SONGS OF 2010!!! Here they are in order from 20 to 1:

20. "New Morning" - Alpha Rev
19. "In the Sun" - She & Him
18. "Anchor" - Alejandro Escovedo
17. "Father's Son" - Fistful of Mercy
16. "Sick of You" - Cake
15. "I Should Have Known It" - Tom Petty
14. "Just Breathe" - Pearl Jam
13. "Dog Days Are Over" - Florence and The Machine
12. "Take Everything" - Greg Laswell
11. "Crossfire" - Brandon Flowers
10. "Do You Love Me?" - Guster
9. "Dead American Writers" Tired Pony
8. "Song Away" - Hockey
7. "Little Lion Man" - Mumford and Sons
6. "Home" - Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
5. "Angel Dance" - Robert Plant
4. "Radioactive" - Kings of Leon
3. "The High Road" - Broken Bells
2. "Laredo" - Band of Horses

And the number one song of the more drum roll, please)...


Enjoy!! See you all next year. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year, too :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

new songs for Dec. 22nd, 2010

here they are:

"Discoverer" by R.E.M.: It seems as though when R.E.M. have caught peoples' attention the most within the past couple years is when they just rock out! "Supernatural Superserious" was a surprisingly hard-rockin' song for the Georgian alt-rock group, and it was the first one that got noticed of theirs back in '08. It seems as though the same case can be made with "Discoverer", another rockin' tune that bears similarity to their '87 song "Finest Worksong". "Discoverer" has a bit of a steadier beat than the rather loose one of "Supernatural Superserious", but it's still very much of an attention grabber. As a big R.E.M. fan myself, I'm proud to say, welcome back, guys!!

"Louder Than Ever" by Cold War Kids: Cold War Kids have been around for almost 5 years by now, and have received their fair share of attention through the "edgier" alt-rock stations with songs like "Hang Me Up to Dry" and "Something Is Not Right With Me". So my question is, how come it's taken until now for adult alt radio to catch up with Cold War Kids, a band who has a rather indie-fied take on U2's sound?! "Louder Than Ever" really doesn't sound that much different from CWK's other material. It still has the same U2-ish sound as their other material. Personally I would have thought "Hang Me Up to Dry", with its piano dominated sound, would have made it to the adult alt airwaves successfully, but it didn't. Well, enough griping and wondering. "Louder Than Ever" is still an awesome tune with a great melody and fresh guitar sounds!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New songs for Dec. 8th, 2010

Here they are!

"Boots" by The Killers: Is it just me, or does it seem a tad weird to call a Christmas song "Boots"?!? It's such an enigmatic title!! (Though there have been other Christmas tunes with odd titles - Joni Mitchell's "River", The Pretenders' "2000 Miles", and The Pogues "Fairytale of New York" among them). I like this song, but I do have a couple complaints about it. First of all, come on Brandon, you could have picked a better title!! The Killers already have THREE Christmas songs in their catalog with more obvious associations with the holidays in the titles - "A Great Big Sled", "Joseph Better You Than Me" (as in the Biblical Joseph), and "Don't Shoot Me Santa". "A Great Big Sled" is probably my personal fave in The Killers' Xmas catalog. But getting back to the review, my second complaint is that Brandon Flowers really seems to have softened his music more than usual as of 2010. All of his most recent songs (including "Boots", with The Killers), seem to be on a level that sounds like a cross between Coldplay and U2, better than the former, but worse than the latter! The release Flowers put out the earliest this year, "Crossfire" at least had some nice electric guitar riffing, but "Only the Young" and "Boots"?! These songs seem to rely more on keyboards. I dunno, something about that just puts me off. But the lyrics are nostalgic (with the mention of things like "snowball fights" and "the smell of cinnamon" in the chorus), and thankfully, I COULD hear some acoustic guitar strumming towards the end of the song, which I liked.

"Fixin' to Die" by G. Love, and featuring The Avett Brothers: Not to be confused for the Country Joe and The Fish song of a similar name ("I Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag"). It seems as though the artist formerly known as Garrett Dutton and The Avetts are both trying to add a little down-'n'-dirty country-blues into their catalog. This song marks an especially welcome return for G. Love, who seemed to stray from his eccentric take on blues he had in the '90s and go more into being a Jack Johnson clone in the '00s. As for The Avetts, it took me awhile to get used to them. I'm still not fond of the "sleepers" (slower, more polished piano-pop style tunes) in their catalog, like "I And Love And You" and "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise"), but songs like the melancholy, vaguely Robbie Robertson-esque (his '60s/'70s era material) songs "January Wedding" and "Yard Sale" were both great songs that I warmed up to circa the summer of this year. Speaking of which, their more punchy tune, "Kick Drum Heart" is also being reviewed in this week's blog! "Fixin' to Die" is a really gritty, catchy, gutsy, bluesy tune for both Dutton (G. Love) and The Avetts, though! Highly recommended!

"Hey Ahab" by Elton John and Leon Russell: Much like "If It Wasn't For Bad" (see my late August/early September reviews on this site), it seems as though despite the fact that Elton is taking most of the vocal parts here, that Leon Russell is clearly the man when it comes to the instrumentation of the songs on his latest album with Elton John! Elton's melodic piano-pop sound isn't quite evident on "Hey Ahab" (and "If It Wasn't..."), but Leon plays a mean boogie-style piano a la The Band and Van Morrison on both of 'em. "Ahab" is a bit more of an adventurous and energetic track. Its length is almost five and a half minutes, it features R & B/gospel style female singers in the background, and its very fully orchestrated. Way to go, guys!

"Kick Drum Heart" by The Avett Brothers: I already made my opinion about these guys clear when I reviewed "Fixin' to Die" in this week's blog. "Kick Drum Heart" is a surprisingly punchy tune for the normally mellow neo-folk act. It's still mellow, but it's more energetic than most of their material. It's also one of their more piano driven tunes (like nearly everything they've done so far that's hit the airwaves). Perhaps it was the dreary (in my opinion) keyboards of "I And Love And You" and "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" that put me off about those songs, but the keyboards in "Kick Drum" are quite lively and stomp-y. Not bad for a country-rock influenced band!

"Terrible Love" by The National: A good word to describe this song?! "Fuzzy"!! Yes, "fuzzy". It sounds funny, but of course I'm not talking "fuzzy" as in "Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Bear", more as in "that song's got a fuzzy sound". In other words, somewhat muddy distortion on the recording (and guitar). For a band I've just come to know this year, I must say, The National is pretty cool!! Whether it's the pseudo-goth-rock vibe of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" (and "Anyone's Ghost"), the orchestral '60s-ish pop-rock of "Lemonworld" (my fave of theirs so far), or "Terrible Love", it's all good!! "Terrible Love" almost reminds me of a Beck song with its purposely old-sounding distortion and dark, yet still entertaining sound. Even the lyrics sound a bit Beck-ish ("It's a terrible love and I'm walking with spiders" - what is THAT supposed to mean?!) Beck would be proud!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New songs (kind of) for December 1st, 2010

Here they are - enjoy!

"Dilly" by Band of Horses: "Dilly" - just the NAME of the songs sounds so...well...cute!! (Like that Disney song, "Lavender's Blue, Dilly Dilly"). Band of Horses return to their indie roots on this song, the third one I've heard off their latest CD, "Infinite Arms". And yes, "Dilly" does have a very cutesy sound, in an indie sort of way. It's bouncy, melodic, and just plain fun! Even the YouTube comments for this song seem to be more positive than the ones for the CCR-ish "Laredo", and the vaguely Three Dog Night-ish "Compliments". No late '60s/early '70s classic rock influence here, just good times and great music!

"Holiday" by Vampire Weekend: This song has been circulating on (some) adult alt stations since January of this year, yet it's taken many others until just about a week ago to add it on to their playlists. And why?!? Well, because there is a commercial using this song, simply because the word "Holiday" is in its title ('tis the season, folks!) It's silly, really, that it's being put into commercial use for this reason. Although I adore "Holiday"'s bouncy, Police-y rhythm and harmony, I really think people should take a listen to what this song is about before they add it to their Christmas playlists. IT'S ABOUT A PROTEST AGAINST WAR, PEOPLE!!! And it's not even about Christmas (or any holiday, for that matter), for goodness' sakes!! (sample lyrics, in the bridge, "A vegetarian since the invasion, she'd never seen the word 'bombs'/She'd never seen the word 'bombs' blown up to 96 point Futura/She'd never seen an AK/In a yellowy Day-Glo display/A T-shirt so lovely it turned all the history books gray"). At least songs like John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" were ABOUT Christmas, while simultaneously getting across a political statement/commentary. This is going to go down in history next to Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" and The Police's "Every Breath You Take" as being one of the most misinterpreted songs in rock history!

"We Used to Wait" by Arcade Fire: The hits just keep on comin' from Win Butler and co! Like the title track from AF's latest CD, "We Used to Wait" also makes fine use of the piano. Like the other two tracks ("Ready to Start" and "Modern Man") I've heard from "The Suburbs", however, "We Used to Wait" is also a track that evokes more feelings of intensity than it does jauntiness (which makes me think the title track from "The Suburbs" might have been a fluke as far as the rest of the CD is concerned!) The first three tracks I reviewed from "The Suburbs" all came in succession! The first in June, the second in July, and the third in August, so it's kind of odd that "We Used to Wait" didn't hit the adult alt airwaves until around mid to late November. Better late than never, though!

"You Can't Buy My Love" by Robert Plant: Is it just me, or does it make sense that a song called "You Can't Buy My Love" would sound a little like The Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love"?! The happy, but still rocking mood of this song makes me prefer this much more than the previous single Led Zeppelin's mighty frontman had, a cover of Los Lobos' "Angel Dance". The excessive airplay "Angel Dance" got is probably what spoiled its appeal, so hopefully "You Can't Buy My Love" will have enough airplay to become a song I can memorize, but not one that loses its flavor like chewing gum. Hopefully Plant will churn out more material like this - it's what made his 2007 duet with country singer Alison Krauss, "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" so memorable!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Novemberists...ummm...I mean The Decemberists release a newbie (plus 6 other goodies!!)

here they are!

"Bitter Pill" by Mt. Desolation: Mt. Desolation is Tim Rice Oxley's side project for his more well-known band, the British contemporary soft rock group Keane, so, not surprisingly, "Bitter Pill" sounds a lot like a Keane song. It's funny, then, that I actually like this song despite the fact that I'm not a fan of Keane's music (except for possibly "Is It Any Wonder?") I guess the main thing about "Bitter Pill" that I LIKE is that it doesn't sound like Tim's trying too hard to emulate the more crowd-pleasing side of Coldplay's music that he often seems to emulate with Keane. Instead, it comes off sounding more like a lightweight yet genuine contemporary British alt-rock/indie tune, with the bouncy, charming qualities of Aqualung (the band, not the song), the honest, heartfelt qualities of Snow Patrol, and the lilting, wistful melodies of Travis (whose lead singer Fran Healy is going to be reviewed later during this blog!) While "Bitter Pill" definitely doesn't have the more lasting qualities of established "piano-rockers" like Elton John, Tori Amos, and Ben Folds, it definitely has a more unique sound quality than most "Britpop" piano-rock tunes.

"Down By the Water" by The Decemberists: Hmmmm...interesting...The DECEMBERists decided to release their latest tune in NOVEMBER!! This is just too funny!! (Their last release was in late February of last year, which wouldn't have been as funny). Also, this is not a cover of the sublimely dark PJ Harvey tune of the same name for those wondering. Joking aside, though, "Down By the Water" represents yet another eclectic facet of The Decemberists' career that I don't think they've taken on yet. So far, the adventurous indie rock group have taken on folk-rock of both buoyant ("16 Military Wives") and somber ("The Hazards of Love 1") qualities, R.E.M./Smiths influenced indie-pop tunes that have so far become their biggest hits ("O Valencia!" and "The Perfect Crime # 2"), minor key post-punk influenced tunes ("The Rake's Song"), and even various concept albums/songs worthy of Pink Floyd/Jethro Tull comparisons! So how does "Down By the Water" compare to their already diverse library of songs?! Well, it seems with this song, The Decemberists have explored yet another side of their inner classic rocker(s), as "Down By the Water" shares instrumentation somewhat similar to Bruce Springsteen's "The River" and chord progression similar to Tom Petty's "Flirting With Time". I'm just a little disappointed by this, as I was expecting more of either an adventurous and/or hypnotically melodic tune from The Decemberists, as opposed to the heartland/roots rock revival they have set up in "Down By the Water", but The Decemberists, so far, have a certain charm to all the songs I've heard of theirs that has never failed to please me. This song is no exception to the rule!!

"Golden State" by Delta Spirit: This song, the second single off Delta Spirit's 2010 release, "History From Below", should probably come as a breath of fresh air to those who found the first hit off the album, "Bushwick Blues", to be too punk-y and/or depressing. "Golden State" is neither of these things, and marks a return to the fun, bouncy, roots-y indie-pop/rock of their 2008 song, "Trashcan". It even has the exact same rhythm as "Trashcan", though perhaps that's just what Delta Spirit typically sound like when they're at their happiest. While "Bushwick Blues" certainly distinguished itself from other Delta Spirit songs (and probably became their most successful song to date, aside from possibly "Trashcan"), "Golden State" is the kind of song that doesn't NEED distinguishing, "different" qualities in order to make it stand out. It's fine the way it is!

"Howlin' For You" by The Black Keys: If The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, Kings of Leon, and/or Muse (or Wolfmother?) covered Gary Glitter's glam rock classic "Rock And Roll Part 2" (you know, the one with the guitar riff that goes "da-NANANA-NA-NA-nuh..HEY-EYYY!!...da-na-na-nahh...), it would probably sound a lot like "Howlin' For You". Actually, it also takes quite a bit of its vocal rhythmic patterns from The Yardbirds' "I'm A Man", in addition. The Black Keys are a band who wear their classic rock influences on their sleeve (especially T. Rex) and proudly so, but "Howlin' For You" actually sounds like a COMBINATION of classic rock songs that would sound as much at home on an alt-rock station as it would a classic rock station! It has catchy enough qualities to it that the very moment after one first hears it, it takes control of your ears in a very similar manner to "Rock And Roll Part 2", and should, someday, get played at sporting events like that song often does! Ordinarily I wouldn't say that about an indie song/band, but this one has potential! And sorry folks, unlike "Tighten Up" (and its mid-summer follow-up song, "Next Girl"), this song does NOT feature a video with Frank the Funk-a-saurus Rex (that I am aware of).

"Money Grabber" by Fitz and The Tantrums: I'm not aware of the show "Criminal Minds", but apparently this song became the surprise hit of early November 2010 because of that show (and also thanks to a T-Mobile commercial, apparently). Anyway, the name "Fitz and The Tantrums" sounds like the name of an indie band, right? Heheh...WRONG!! Well...kind of. It's really an "indie soul" group, in the manner of Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, and the later work of Jamie Lidell. For a good description of this song, imagine what it would've been like if The Temptations, The Four Tops, etc. covered Electric Light Orchestra's "Evil Woman". In other words, this song is probably what some would be tempted to call "retreaux" (a portmanteau of the words "retro" and "faux"). I'd say it's just plain "retrO", though, it's a catchy, feel-good song that captures the feel of a typical Motown tune without being too pretentious.

"Raise Your Right Hand" by Hill Country Revue: If you've heard Hill Country Revue's song "You Can Make It", which came out a year before this one, you probably wouldn't expect the same guys who did a mellow but kind of catchy country-blues influenced number like "You Can Make It" to follow it up with a Skynyrd/ZZ Top/Joe Walsh-ish powerhouse classic rock revival number like "Raise Your Right Hand"! I was pretty surprised by how hard-rocking (well, for Hill Country Revue, anyway) this song really is!! It even has about a minute long guitar solo that was probably influenced by the three classic rock acts I previously mentioned in this review! A band with a name like "Hill Country Revue" probably wouldn't be one you could expect to sell out arenas, but if they keep on churning out material like "Raise Your Right Hand", you can bet that'll happen one of these days!!

"Sing Me to Sleep" by Fran Healy (of Travis) and Neko Case: Perhaps this duet is trying to one-up the one Greg Laswell did with Ingrid Michaelson earlier this year. If so, it's doing a good job at it! For starters, I like Fran better than Greg, and Neko MUCH better than Ingrid. Where Greg and Ingrid's "Take Everything" was merely light, buoyant folk-pop, "Sing Me to Sleep" tugs a bit more at the ol' heartstrings. The chemistry between Fran and Neko's vocals is cute, romantic, and almost dreamy (for both of them!) If high school proms start playing indie tunes, this would make for a mighty fine slow dance song!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

5 newbies and 2 oldies-come-lately

Well, here goes:

"40 Day Dream" by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros: One of the two "oldies-come-lately", as listed in the title of this week's review. This song seems to have been circulating on adult alt. stations since the summer of this year, but has only seen a big increase within the last week. Ed and The Zeros' song "Home" has been around since February of this year (a week before I made this blog!), and seems to have become a fave among both adult alt and "regular" alt audiences (surprisingly), probably for its nostalgic, Mamas-and-Papas-ish vibe and lush, melodic, harmonizing vocals. Their second big hit, "40 Day Dream", retains the nostalgic vibe of "Home", but uses more keyboards (the old-timey kind, not electronic), and has a slower rhythm. It seems a bit incongruous that the chorus of this song seems to lift from the exact same chords of the chorus of Journey's "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'", as Journey seem to be built on being "crowd pleasers", where Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros seem more about recreating the quirky but catchy folk-rock sound of The Mamas and The Papas and The Lovin' Spoonful. Comparisons aside, though, "40 Day Dream" is still nostalgic and catchy enough to win my heart over!

"I Want the World to Stop" by Belle and Sebastian: When hearing the term "critic's darlings", Belle and Sebastian are typically the FIRST band that come to mind! The fact alone that they were named after a British children's TV show should be a hint as to what Belle and Sebastian's music typically sounds like to those who are unfamiliar with them - very warm-and-fuzzy, childlike, nostalgic, etc. B & S also manage to put a little "zing" into their music sometimes, by making their music energetic, as opposed to just wistful, as they had done with their 2006 song, the somewhat Todd Rundgren-esque "Funny Little Frog". "I Want the World to Stop" continues in "Frog"'s footsteps, only the energy level is sped up a bit, and it has more of a mid-'70s disco feel than early '70s Todd Rundgren. The trademark muted trumpet solos that nearly every B & S song seem to have continues in "I Want the World to Stop", though, so that helps it to retain the typical B & S spirit that it might have lacked if not for that.

"Only the Young" by Brandon Flowers: If the synthesized intro in the otherwise guitar-oriented "Read My Mind" from Flowers' band The Killers were extended, it would probably sound like "Only the Young". If Flowers' previous solo effort, "Crossfire", was his attempt at a Springsteen/U2 song, then "Only the Young" seems more like an attempt to emulate Sting's mid-to-late '80s solo works. I know what some of you might be thinking, but this isn't necessarily a BAD thing! It does yield more disappointing results than "Crossfire" did (which I initially gave a somewhat harsh review to, but it grew on me the more it played). "Only the Young" at least makes an effort to TRY to sound good, though, and maybe it will grow on me eventually, too.

"Save My Love" by Bruce Springsteen: Hmmmm...this sounds like a VINTAGE Springsteen tune. That's because it IS!! It's an outtake from The Boss's 1978 masterpiece, "Darkness On the Edge of Town". It sounds like it belongs on there, too, for it's not the Van Morrison-esque jazz-rock of Bruce's first two albums, and nor is it the Phil Spector-meets-Bob Dylan epic rock of "Born to Run" (the album AND the song), but rather the tinkly but still rollicking piano-rock that is purely The Boss's own! This is a great track! My only question is, why did Springsteen stop releasing songs of this quality once "Born In the U.S.A." came around?!?

"Telephone" by Black Angels: As The Black Keys, Carney, and (to a certain extent) of Montreal's latest tunes have proven, 2010 has proven to be a year of renewed interest in '60s garage rock!! Even the name of the band, "Black Angels", was taken from a Velvet Underground tune, the violent violin-rocker "Black Angel's Death Song". The irresistibly cheesy organs of this song, and even the little-over-2-minute length of it make it seem like it could have been used by the same guys who did the "BBC" song in the credits of one of the "Austin Powers" movies! Its simplistic, repetitive rhythm, chord structure, and frustrated-by-love lyrics all convey the same vibe "Louie Louie" and "96 Tears" did many years ago! A must for fans of '60s rock!!

"Terrible Things" by April Smith and The Great Picture Show: Beginning with Lily Allen and Kate Nash, and continuing to this day in bands like Florence and The Machine, there seems to have been a trend in the late '00s/early 2010's for eclectic but sassy female alt-rock/indie musicians. The latest to jump on the bandwagon are the super-eclectic, ultra-catchy, melodic soul-inflected indie-pop of April Smith and The Great Picture Show. The eclectic qualities of this song are definitely worth discussing, as "Terrible Things" combines, reggae (in the beginning), jazz, soul, and even some subtle elements of punk into one big auditory party!! April Smith's Gwen Stefani-esque vocals tend to add to the sexiness and slinkiness that "Terrible Things" already has going for it! Within the sudden slew of songs that have come out in October 2010, this one might just be my fave so far!

"The Cave" by Mumford and Sons: Just like the first song reviewed this song, this last one is also an "oldie-come-lately". It's been receiving airplay on adult alt. stations since summer of this year, yet it's only been within the past 2 or so weeks that stations besides Sirius XM's Spectrum have started adding it in regular rotation. Even among bands already classified as "indie", Mumford and Sons have a special quality to each of their songs, which typically feature an old Celtic folk sound, a dobro (think a cross between a mandolin and a banjo), and almost Crosby-Stills-and-Nash-ish vocal harmonies. I've known about these guys since Sirius XM first featured "White Blank Page" back in January of this year, and since their now smash hit, "Little Lion Man", had made an epic journey across many adult alt and "regular" alt stations. The Celtic folk/dobro/harmony factor is present in pretty much every Mumford and Sons song, yet what sets apart "The Cave" from the rest of their material is the muted trumpet solo at the end of the song! It's my favorite part of the whole thing!! Though each of their songs seems to take on a similar rhythmic pattern, the chord structures are not usually the same, so "The Cave" is also memorable for that factor as well. If you haven't heard these guys, PLEASE do!! I initially thought they were an Irish group (only to find out from various sources that they're actually from England), but their influences almost CERTAINLY seem to be rooted in Irish folk - another reason I like them SO much - I'm Irish, too, in my heritage.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

brought to you by the letter "F"

Interesting that both of the songs I'm reviewing this week just happen to begin with the same letter of the alphabet! So here goes:

"Faith" by Alejandro Escovedo: The best Springsteen/Mellencamp musical descendant of the '00s seems like 2010 might just be his lucky year! Seems like every song he's churned out so far from his latest CD, "Street Songs of Love" has that heartland rock vibe that he first broke through with back in '08 with his song, "Always A Friend". "Faith" almost seems like somewhat a copy of John Mellencamp's '91 song, "Get A Leg Up", in which the then disillusioned folkie made a brief return to the country-blues tinged rock and roll he started out with. Sure, the message of "Faith" seems pretty simple ("You gotta have faith in the one you love"), but the song is still pretty cool by my standards.

"F**k You (a.k.a. 'Forget You')" by Cee-Lo Green: GASP!! Already in the "scariest" month of the year we have what could be (for some) the "scariest" song TITLE of the year! Don't let the swear in the Gnarls Barkley frontman's title get to you, though, for it's quite a catchy (and melodic) tune! In fact, it almost seems to hearken back to the days of the smooth, sensual '70s soul of people like Al Green and Stevie Wonder (only a bit more uptempo). Lyrically, the "f**k you" in the title and chorus is more of a friendly tease than it is a threat, especially in the free-spirited attitude Cee-Lo delivers the song in. As a final note, for those who more faint of heart, the song is also available, alternately, as "Forget You".

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New songs for Sept. 29th, 2010

here they are!

"My Time" by Minus the Bear: What can I say? Some indie bands are good at simultaneously pulling off a cool song with a cool music video to go with it!! "My Time" by Minus the Bear is one such song! The psychedelic rainbow imagery of the video tends to synch up well with the Gnarls Barkley-meets-MGMT feel of the music. "My Time" has enough of a groovy electro-pop feel in its music to land it a spot on a car commercial (it's probably already been on one, though it's hard for me to say since I don't watch much TV these days). The music video will probably become a "viral video" on YouTube if it hasn't already. To sum it all up, "My Time" is gonna go somewhere, I can just feel it!

"National Ransom" by Elvis Costello: The "other Elvis" seemed like he almost had some sort of musical bipolarity in the '00s, switching off between awesomely spiteful indie rock numbers ("No Hiding Place", "Monkey to Man") and more low-key material with equally clever lyrics (most notably "Complicated Shadows"). So what's he up to this time?! He's decided to turn his amp up once again, folks!! Though one could probably tell quite easily from the production of the song that it's not one of his late '70s songs with The Attractions, it seemed like he tried to evoke that vibe with "National Ransom", with its electric guitars going face to face with the same organs he was famous for using on songs like "Radio Radio" and "Pump It Up". As one of the many "classic rock comebacks" of 2010, Elvis continues to stand out among them!

"Precious Stone" by Pete Yorn: Yorn's uniquely grunge-y brand of indie rock gets grungier than ever in this tune! The beginning of it almost sounds like a Pearl Jam song, as does the solo (which Pete Yorn typically doesn't have in his music!) "Precious Stone" might as well BE a Pearl Jam song in all but the vocals, which are uniquely Pete Yorn. But seriously, Yorn has even managed to capture the FEEL of a typical Pearl Jam number in "Precious Stone", with its lovesick, but somewhat sullen, achingly bittersweet vibe. To me, though, Yorn and Vedder are both masters in their own right, so "Precious Stone" is still a winner for me!

"Sick of You" by Cake: And speaking of Pearl you never thought Cake, who made two of the most enduring songs on alt-rock radio of the '90s ("The Distance" and "Never There") would come back after 2001. But...SURPRISE!!! They did! The same fun-loving, self-consciously goofy spirit Cake had in "The Distance", "Never There", and "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" can be found once again in "Sick of You". The organs, the pseudo-surf-turned-alt-rock guitar riffs, their trademark brass section, and of course, John McCrea's wry, detached sing-speak vocals and sarcastically quirky lyrics - it's all there!! Unfortunately, the "sing-speak" vocals don't come in until the later half of the song, but other than that, no complaints! This one's clearly a winner!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

new songs for Sept. 22nd, 2010

here they are!

"Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)" by Old '97s: "Alt-country" just seems to get a bit lackluster after awhile, as Wilco have demonstrated time and again with the more "experimental" side of their catalog. This time, the second best loved alt-country band, Old '97s, gets their Dramarama and Pixies on in this tune! Borrowing a beat from Dramarama's "Anything Anything" and chords from The Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man", fans of '80s "college rock" will probably take an immediate liking to this song! Rhett Miller and co. truly have a well-crafted, fun song on their hands with this one! As many of the best Lou Reed and T. Rex songs can demonstrate (this song sounds a little similar to both, in my opinion), any homage to "classic alternative" doesn't have to be unsteady "experimental" noise-fests a la Sonic Youth (even SY THEMSELVES had somewhat catchy tunes on occasion like "Kool Thing" and "Bull In the Heather") to get the crunchy, angst-y feel across to its listeners. This song is just 3 or so minutes of pure bliss and I love it!

"Father's Son" by Fistful of Mercy: Are "indie supergroups" a trend all of a sudden? It would appear so, with Monsters of Folk (Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, M. Ward), and Tired Pony (R.E.M., Belle and Sebastian, Snow Patrol). Let's now welcome the latest addition, Fistful of Mercy, onto the bandwagon, which features contemporary music connoisseur Ben Harper, indie-folk-rocker Joseph Arthur, and George Harrison's son Dhani. I don't know who out of the three of them leads this group, but in "Father's Son", it would most likely be Ben Harper, for its bluesy-folk sound that seems to be somewhat common in Harper's catalog. This mostly acoustic song is a fun, "clap-along" number that would be neat to sing around a campfire while toasting marshmallows and (as Buzz Lightyear of "Toy Story" fame once said) "delicious hot 'shmoes'"! I would also suspect that at least one (if not all) of the members of Fistful of Mercy have been listening to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, as this song easily reminds me of all the songs of theirs that have gotten attention on adult alt. radio stations ("Ain't No Easy Way", "Shuffle Your Feet", "Beat the Devil's Tattoo").

"Walk With Me" by Neil Young: Funny I mentioned Lou Reed and Sonic Youth earlier in this week's post, as this song kinda sounds like BOTH of them (particularly Lou Reed)!
Though this song is getting airplay on what appears to be the "softer" side of contemporary rock stations, don't let that fool you! This is one hard-rockin' song! (and it doesn't need drums or bass to back it up, either!) This plays out like an outtake from The Velvet Underground's second album (the one with "White Light/White Heat", among others), and specifically an awful lot like The Velvets' "I Heard Her Call My Name", a song with ear-splitting feedback which Lou Reed starts as a conventional rock song, and then pretty much destroys the tune of afterwards. Though Neil Young's "Walk With Me" doesn't go THAT extreme, it comes close. It, too, starts out as a "conventional" rock song, but about 2 minutes into it, things start to get a little weird! The final moments of the song just seem to be electric guitar feedback that doesn't know whether to be beautiful or noisy. What would you expect, however, with Young's latest album being titled "Le Noise"?!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Eleven songs?!? THIS is gonna be GOOD!!! Here they are:

"Boy" by Ra Ra Riot: This song has done two fantastic things for me! First of all, it's keeping the uniquely quirky new wave influenced indie sound of bands like Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, and Phoenix alive and well, but it also has an incredible music video. Why? 'Cuz it has KITTIES!! (I'm a cat lover, so please bear with me here). An orange tabby cat (and his orange tabby cat friends, or perhaps clones of his) appear on and off throughout the video, and during the chorus, their eyes glow in the dark to make one giant cat's eye! As if that wasn't neat enough, the instrumentation in "Boy" is also very well-crafted. Unlike the typical Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, or Phoenix song, this song does NOT start out with a guitar, but rather a new wave-y keyboard sound backed up by a loud, thumping bass. The guitar comes in during the chorus, as does some random orchestral instrumentation (Arcade Fire, anyone?) There's also a brief guitar solo in this song as well. All in all, "Boy" is a very entertaining, catchy, and well-thought out piece of music.

"Buttercups" by Fran Healy: Make no mistake, "Fran" is not a girl's name in this case. It is, instead, the name of British indie-folk-rock band Travis's first name. "Buttercups" could easily be mistaken for a Travis song, rather than just one by the lead singer of the band, for its full-band instrumentation, passionate vocals, and wistful tones. Travis' songs typically have quirky lyrics and one-word titles (the most well-known being "Sing" and "Side"), and "Buttercups" continues in that tradition, of being both one word long and having charmingly unusual lyrics (The best one being, "If I had a diamond ring, I'd wear it through my nose". I'd like to see Fran Healy try to do THAT sometime!!)

"Coquet Coquette" by of Montreal: "Coquet Coquette"?!? Is there an echo in here, is there an echo in here?!? No, there isn't, it's just the title of of Montreal's latest tune that seems to be influenced largely by the "retro rock" sounds of such bands as The White Stripes and Muse. For of Montreal, I'm not sure if this shift in sound is a good thing or a bad thing. It's not like this is the first time the oddly named indie band has gotten attention, as "Wraith Pinned to the Mist And Other Tales" was featured in an Outback Steakhouse commercial, and they even did a children's song about brushing teeth for the neo-"Sesame Street"-ish kid's show "Yo Gabba Gabba" that received a fair amount of attention as well. However, both of those seemed more like psychedelic pop tunes than attempts to receive airplay on major alt/modern rock stations. "Coquet Coquette" still features the psychedelic element that is present on most of of Montreal's material, but it seems to be filtered through '70s classic rock a la Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, etc. the way that many of The White Stripes and Muse's material seems to be. Nevertheless, "Coquet Coquette" is still worth listening to. Oh, and one more thing, "coquette" is a term that basically means "flirt" and mainly applies to women (I believe of Montreal made up the counterpart term, "coquet", to add more flavor to the song).

"Indecision" by Steven Page: The former Barenaked Ladies member proves he still has the flair for catchy melodies and clever lyrics, even as a SOLO artist! Some feat for a man from a band that's been around for nearly 20 years!! Instrumentally, Page tweaks up his typical sound a bit (think "The Big Bang Theory" theme mixed with a Sergio Mendes tune!) Who would have thought he'd use Latin jazz-style instrumentation in the verses of "Indecision" and STILL sound good?! As in the usual BNL lyrical fashion, there are some witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics to be found in this song as well (like in the chorus, in which Page sings, "Then again, my addiction to indecision keeps me here"). "Addiction to indecision" sounds like it could function simultaneously as an oxymoron AND a tongue-twister. Some of my own poetry and music has a tendency to sprinkle in some wordplay like this does. What can I say, great minds think alike!

"Lasso" by Phoenix: If I had to describe Phoenix's music in one word, I'd choose the word "catchy". "1901" and "Lisztomania" have already been stuck in my head numerous times, and probably in the minds of many others as well since they both became massive hits! Though "Lasso" hasn't quite received the amount of attention that the aforementioned two songs have, I think it has the potential to do so sometime soon. It uses the basic Phoenix formula of danceable, stick-in-your-head song, easy to memorize chorus ("Where would you go, where would you go, would you go with a lasso?/Could you run into, could you run into, could you run into me?"), and quirky lyrics (see the chorus that I typed earlier in this sentence). "Lasso" also seems to be more straight-up rock music than the techno/rock hybrids that "1901" and "Lisztomania" ended up being. It has a sound that's probably comparable to bands like The Killers and the "edgier" side of Snow Patrol. Think of those two bands, backed by a consistently organized rhythm section, and add just a small dash of The Police's "Message In A Bottle", and you should have a pretty good idea of what "Lasso" sounds like!

"Paris (Ooh La La)" by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals: Grace Potter normally has a sound that might remind one of the organic, earthy country sounds of Lucinda Williams. This year, however, Grace and The Nocturnals proved they could rock out with the best of 'em, earlier this year with their cover of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", and now with the Lenny Kravitz-esque "Paris"! Perhaps Grace is trying TOO hard to let out her inner rock star with the lyrics of this song (i.e. "You got me up on your swing/So when you gonna shake that thing?", a BIG departure from the down-home-y, humble flavor of "Ah Mary", her debut single). However, "Paris" is a darn catchy song with guitar riffs that would make Jimi Hendrix proud! (Or at least entertained). And if Grace wants to be more of a Janis than a Lucinda, well then, she's found just the right sound to please my ears!!

"Radioactive" by Kings of Leon: Ever since their 2008 breakthrough record, "Only By the Night", all sides of the rock 'n' roll spectrum just couldn't seem to get enough of Kings of Leon. With their latest release, it's seems like KOL fever has only continued to rise, as it has received IMMEDIATE attention on the adult. alt charts, the "regular" alt charts, and the mainstream rock (combination of classic rock and "harder" modern rock) charts simultaneously!! So how does "Radioactive" measure up to the contagious melodies and hooks of "Sex On Fire", "Use Somebody", and "Notion"?! It could easily join the ranks of those songs for sure! (It already HAS on many rock stations of all kinds!!) However, a major difference between those songs and "Radioactive" is a shift in influence from '70s rock to '80s rock. "Radioactive" sounds like a mix of U2 and some of the more "spacey" David Bowie songs (i.e. "Ashes to Ashes"). Perhaps it doesn't matter what era of music KOL want to emulate, as long as their music is able to stick in the heads of millions of fans!!

"Spectacular Girl" by Eels: Despite their slimy name, Eels have a rather mellow sound for the most part, much like many of the songs Beck did in the 2000's. Sometimes it almost seems as though E (Eels' frontman, born Mark Oliver Everett) and Beck have composed songs cut from the same cloth (in fact "Spectacular Girl" reminds me a great deal of Beck's '08 hit, "Orphans"). Both "Orphans" and "Spectacular Girl" use electronic instruments in a soothing fashion, and add in more typically calming instruments, such as flutes, as the songs progress. Although "Spectacular Girl" is basically a Beck soundalike, it's still a great song to me, with its breezy, chillout vibe that I often crave in the songs I listen to to make me feel happy and satisfied inside!

"Witchcraft" by Matt Costa: Most people who are familiar with Matt Costa's music probably know him best for taking an indie rock approach to the "ultra-mellow" sounds of musicians like Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews. However, Matt decided to trade in that mellow acoustic sound for some Donovan-esque psychedelia and turn up his amp on "Witchcraft"! Though Costa is not British, his voice (and a little bit of his music) sounds much like The Zombies' Colin Bluntstone, who is British, on this track. If Costa continues in this psychedelically influenced trend, he'll likely be remembered as a 21st century version of Donovan for going from folk-rock to psychedelia. Even the theme of this song tends to evoke Donovan somewhat ("Season of the Witch", anyone?!) Lyrically, it takes on the familiar '60s rock theme of singing about a girl who messes around with a guys emotions (so much so, in this song, that Matt Costa proclaims in the chorus that the girl in question "must be using witchcraft"). This song is an absolute must for any fans of The Zombies, Donovan, Jefferson Airplane, etc!

"Wrote A Song For Everyone" by Mavis Staples: The former '70s soul woman returns after many years with a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover! Staples seems to cover the CCR tune pretty accurately, to the point of which it SOUNDS like something CCR (or similar acts, like The Band) might have done, complete with a guitar solo! Her version actually seems more rock 'n' roll oriented, at times, than CCR's original version. It's neat to hear an early '70s musical icon covering yet another early '70s musical icon! I would love to know John Fogerty's reaction to Mavis Staples' version!

"You Can Dance" by Bryan Ferry: Before I begin, is it just me, or is it a bit odd that both of the leading musicians in Roxy Music were named "Brian"?! (the other being Brian Eno) The two of them are both fairly well-known both in Roxy Music and as solo performers in the music world, though Ferry went in more of a pop-oriented direction, and Eno in a more "experimental" one. Ferry continues doing the same "sophisticated" pop music he did with his biggest hit of the '80s, "Slave to Love" (in fact "Slave to Love" and "You Can Dance" actually sound quite similar). "Slave to Love" was probably a more compelling, seductive sort of song, but Ferry's attempts to repeat this on "You Can Dance" aren't bad. However, I would still recommend his older material much more than "You Can Dance".

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

new songs for Sept. 1st, 2010

four of 'em this time - enjoy!!

"Dead American Writers" by Tired Pony: What do you get when you mix Snow Patrol, R.E.M., and Belle and Sebastian in a blender (with Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody in the lead)? You get indie rock supergroup Tired Pony!! This is a group that combines alumni of the three aforementioned bands, and kinda sounds like all three of them as well! Their first single, "Dead American Writers" takes the typical "twangy" guitar sound of fellow rock supergroup Traveling Wilburys and combines it with bittersweet minor key indie/alt instrumentation. All in all, this song is like an indie rock fruit salad - it combines the best flavors of bands with many different approaches to music with delightful results!

"If It Wasn't For Bad" by Elton John and Leon Russell: Never thought Sir Elton would make a grand comeback to rock 'n' roll after the mid-'70s, but after many years, he has! Well, kind of. It still has the trademark piano sound Elton has become known for, but with Leon Russell on board, Elton's latest track gets jazzed up a bit (and even has a brief guitar solo!) With their combined musical efforts, "If It Wasn't For Bad" ends up sounding more like Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, The Band, and Jackson Browne than it does Billy Joel or James Taylor like one might expect at first. Anyone who liked the more upbeat performances on "The Last Waltz" would probably dig this song! I know I did.

"People Say" by Portugal. The Man: OK, first of all, to clear up any confusion you might have, the name of this band IS, in fact, "Portugal. The Man" (complete with the period and the capital "T" in "The"). With a name as quirky as this, I figured that Portugal. The Man, were an indie group, and I was right. However, they are not a folk-rock-y indie like most of the acts that get classified under such a label. In fact, hardcore punk bands like Suicidal Tendencies and Fugazi are some of their biggest influences! However, "People Say" is NOT a hardcore punk song. Instead, it's almost like R & B-inflected indie, with chords that seem to echo The Beatles' "Let It Be" (think of a more laid-back version of Gnarls Barkley). If I had to sum up "People Say" in just a couple words, I'd say that it adds a more unique, almost gospel-influence flavor to the ever expanding world of indie rock!

"The Sweetest Thing" by JJ Grey and Mofro: Much like their '08 adult alt. radio hit, "Orange Blossoms", "The Sweetest Thing" once again showcases the unique brand of R & B, jazz, and blues influence JJ Grey and Mofro have (probably) made trademark in their music. For adult alt. radio stations themselves, "The Sweetest Thing" is like a breath of fresh air! It has a vigorous, youthful toe-tapping energy that the mostly wistful and melancholy lineup of such stations seem to lack (for the most part, at least). Sometimes us R.E.M. and Snow Patrol fans need something to get up and boogie down to to shake off our blues! Songs like "The Sweetest Thing" give us a perfect opportunity to do so!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New songs for Aug. 25th, 2010

here they are!

"In Sleep" by Lissie: Having a name like "Lissie" is enough to make one think that there's something unique and kinda cool about her. And there is! Her first breakthrough song, "In Sleep", she almost effortlessly combines country, folk, straight-ahead rock, and slight traces of neo-psychedelia into one song! Altogether, it sounds like an indie rock Fleetwood Mac (the guitar solo at the end reminds me a little of "Go Your Own Way", only it's about a minute and a half longer!) Lissie's cynically smoky vocals make me think that fans of Jenny Lewis (also on this week's blog), Neko Case, and other Stevie Nicks-influenced indie females would really like this song (and artist)!

"Modern Man" by Arcade Fire: As if having Eric Clapton on this week's list and countless other classic rock musicians making their big "comebacks" in 2010 wasn't enough, Arcade Fire's latest pretty much steals the main chord structure of A major and F sharp minor of John Mellencamp's "Hand to Hold On To". Arcade Fire must be making their classic rock influences want to shine out more in their latest material (as I also compared "Ready to Start" to Golden Earring's "Radar Love" as if covered by The Cure). Though "Modern Man" has enough "alternative" instrumentation to avoid being completely mistaken for Mellencamp, I can't help but notice a similarity between the two songs! Another interesting thing is that it seems like Arcade Fire are releasing singles on a MONTHLY basis off their latest album (June - "The Suburbs, July - "Ready to Start", and August - "Modern Man"). One can only wonder what Win Butler and co. have waiting for us in store in September and if it, too, is classic rock influenced!

"Run Back to Your Side" by Eric Clapton: There's an old joke that goes like, "What do Eric Clapton and coffee have in common? They both suck without the 'Cream'". While I don't entirely agree with that statement, I can certainly see why one would think such a thing - ever since Clapton's solo career took flight, he seems to have gotten "softer". In the '00s, he was a bit unpredictable. While it seemed like he wanted his blues-y side back then more than any other decade, he went about it rather strangely. "Revolution" (not to be confused with the Beatles song of the same name) was his take on reggae, he let his inner soul man shine with a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground", and his "Ride the River" with fellow blues-rocker J.J. Cale, seemed more like blues-folk than blues-rock. Thankfully, Clapton's inner blues man has finally been set free once again on "Run Back to Your Side". While it lacks the heavy intensity of Cream, it is certainly more rock-and-roll friendly than most of what he has put out in the past 20 or so years, so much so that if it weren't for Clapton's unmistakable vocals, this might be mistaken for a long lost Allman Brothers track!

"Scissor Runner" by Jenny and Johnny: I love this song already!! For one thing, Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley is in it! (along with fellow indie musician Jonathan Rice, a.k.a. "Johnny" in this side project/band) For another, I love the neo-psychedelic, melodic, folk-rock-y feel of this song! It almost hearkens back to the days of early R.E.M., Yo La Tengo, and the "mellower" side of bands like The Velvet Underground and Pavement. It's really bouncy and just plain fun, too! Favorite line in the song so far? "She ain't a princess/But she's an artist/Painting a portrait/All over my heart". Now THERE's the kind of girl I'd like to meet someday!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

rhyme time!!

This week's songs? "From Above" and "Rhythm of Love" - kinda funny how the titles rhyme (hence the title of this week's post) - so here goes!!

"From Above" by Ben Folds: Ben might have been a one-hit wonder on the Top 40 charts with "Brick" back in the mid-'90s, but on adult alt. stations, he's been played plenty of times since! Perhaps it's that irresistibly snarky combination of Elton John style melody with Elvis Costello style cynicism that makes him so likable on such stations. "From Above" is MUCH more Elvis Costello than it is Elton John, though. It sounds like a very upbeat new wave song, with a rhythm that's been used in many rock songs through the ages, from The Doors "Touch Me" to Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?" The lyrics are more Costello-esque as well, telling the story of a love affair gone wrong, with Ben giving his opinion on the situation during the chorus ("It's so easy from above/You can't really see it all" - basically Ben's commentary about how relationships aren't as easy as they seem). Leave it to Ben Folds to continue to expand his horizons, both musically and lyrically!

"Rhythm of Love" by Plain White T's: This is probably going to end up being the "guilty pleasure" song of the summer for me! This song is so catchy and almost kid-friendly in a way, that it's no wonder The T's turned their biggest hit, the bittersweet "Hey There Delilah" into a "Sesame Street" song about the letter "T". Pretty much all of their hit songs after that one ("1, 2, 3, 4" among them, not to be confused with the Feist song of the same name) seem like they wouldn't be too out of place on the "For the Kids" compilations, which feature contemporary folk-pop/rock and alt/indie musicians doing children's songs, quite a few of which happen to be from "Sesame Street". "Rhythm of Love" kind of sounds a little like Jason Mraz, whom I typically can't stand, but somehow the T's have managed to make me smile with their latest little ditty! Perhaps it's because they're one of the few bands in the alt-rock universe that come off so...ummm...cute, for lack of a better term. Whether bittersweet like "Delilah", or catchy like "Rhythm of Love", their songs are still "cute" to me. And perhaps that's not such a bad thing!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

new songs for Aug. 11th, 2010

here they are!

"Always" by Junip: Nick Drake and Damien Rice fans rejoice! Singer-songwriter extraordinaire José Gonzalez has a new band!! José has always had a knack for turning electro-pop tunes into heartbreaking folk-rock songs, such as The Knife's "Heartbeats", Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and Massive Attack's "Teardrop" (and in return, bands like Zero 7 have covered some of his own tunes, like "Crosses"). "Always" sounds like an attempt to mix José's signature neo-folk-rock sound with the electronic(a) acts he frequently seems to cover, with its mixture of acoustic guitars and its synthesizers backing it up. It's also the first José tune I've known to have a rhythm section (though perhaps I should have expected that, after all it is his BAND, not José by himself). Despite the newly added instruments, "Always" still manages to be as charmingly soothing as the typical José Gonzalez song!

"Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and The Machine: A bit of a late entry, considering this has been out since early 2010, but some major adult alt. stations, such as Sirius XM's the Spectrum and WRNR, have JUST started playing this, so I thought I'd review it now. Having just listened to this song, I get the impression that female indie-popsters like Cat Power and Feist might be accurate comparisons. "Dog Days" actually seems like the perfect candidate for some of the increasing amount of car commercials that feature indie songs (Phoenix's "1901" and Airborne Toxic Event's "Wishing Well", to name a few), because of its bright, bouncy melody and clap-along chorus. The mandolin-like instrument that seems to function as the central instrument of the song only adds to the cutesy-ness of it. With all that being said, Florence and The Machine have officially won my heart over with this song!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I like that old time rock and roll...

No, Bob Seger did not release a new record this week, and nor am I in the mood to imitate the infamous dance scene from "Risky Business". I titled my latest entry "I like that old time rock and roll" because all three of the acts I'm reviewing this week are classic rock bands. So here goes!

"Angel Dance" by Robert Plant: It's funny that this song is a Los Lobos cover, and that Los Lobos just happen to be next in line for my reviews this week! Anyway, this song seems to be a joyous celebration of the Led Zeppelin frontman's inner folkie, which he seemed to bring out in his music quite frequently in the 2000's more than any other decade. Of course, Zeppelin have experimented with folk-rock ever since their debut, though it probably became more evident to fans of the band about a year later when they released their third album (which included "Gallows Pole", "That's the Way", and "Tangerine"). Unlike the bittersweet melancholia of "That's the Way" and "Tangerine", "Angel Dance" is a more upbeat, high-spirited romp (it's no wonder he called his backing group "Band of Joy" this time!!) Perhaps "Angel Dance" is not as memorable as the typical Zeppelin song, but it's still worth checking out!

"Burn It Down" by Los Lobos: With the "fiery" title of this song, I was expecting to hear the rockier, Santana-ish side of Los Lobos this time (as in "Mas Y Mas" and "The Road to Gila Bend"), but "Burn It Down" is, instead, a laid-back, mellow, folk-rock-y song. Perhaps the title doesn't always have to fit the song, though, as "Burn It Down" is a pretty decent song that seems like it would be most ideal to listen to sometime in the fall (more specifically, November) watching the leaves fall down from the trees. Perhaps the "autumnal" nature of this song threw me for a loop, too, as it has both a fire-related title AND it was released in August, typically the hottest time of the year for me!

"Nobody" by The Doobie Brothers: Much like the R.E.M. song I reviewed a couple weeks back, this song is also an oldie but a goodie that saw its release date later than expected...well, kind of. It was actually included on The Doobies' debut back in 1971, but no one really knew who they were back then. Many fans of The Doobies are familiar with the classic rock/adult contemporary standard "Black Water", and "Nobody" is kinda like that, only a bit faster. Both songs have that laid-back folk-rock-y feel to them, though in my opinion, "Nobody" is a bit better for its unique but catchy sound. It's pretty surprising to me that this song didn't get airplay during its initial release, but I guess the world wasn't ready for The Doobies back in '71, though it only took a year later until The Doobies and other classic rock/adult contemporary faves with a distinctly mellow California sound (i.e. The Eagles, Jackson Browne, etc.) made their "official" debut.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

new songs for July 28th, 2010

here they are:

"Do You Love Me?" by Guster: Not to be confused with the early '60s R & B song by The Contours of the same name, but still a great song! It's Guster, after all, and I was pretty jazzed to hear that they were releasing a new album after FOUR YEARS!! They still have that charmingly folk-rock-y sound they started with a little over a decade ago in "Do You Love Me?", which is built around a C major chord with the third fret played on the thinner E string (see also Foo Fighters' "Big Me" and The Beatles' "Getting Better"). Guster seem to have a reputation for sunny, summery melodies, but this song seems to take the cake more than their previous works for it! I am already in love with this song, and it seems adult alt. radio is too, with its rocketing up the Triple-A charts from down in the 100's all the way up to the 30's within ONE DAY!! Here's to wishing nothing but the best for Guster in 2010!

"High In the Morning" by Tom Petty: It only seems fitting for Petty, a huge fan of both Bob Dylan and blues-ier rock like The Rolling Stones, to have a song that combines the general vibes of both artists. Specifically, the Dylan that he evokes on "High In the Morning" is similar to that of "Highway 61 Revisited" with its bluesy instrumentation coming from both electric guitars and organs. With the smoky flavor of this song and the Led Zeppelin-y stomp of "I Should Have Known It", it's no wonder Tom Petty chose to call his latest album "Mojo" (as in "Got My Mojo Workin'", a classic Muddy Waters blues tune). Rock on, Petty!

"Let Go" by Everest: The comparisons I have found to Everest tend to be to roots-rock influenced indie rockers such as Blitzen Trapper and Wilco. With "Let Go" being the first song I've heard from Everest, I don't understand these comparisons, as its sound seems to be much closer to Modest Mouse, with a slightly more neo-psychedelic bent than MM typically have. The chord structure in this song reminds me a lot of Modest Mouse's "Float On", even though that song was built around C sharp major, and "Let Go" seems to veer between E major and G sharp minor. Though "Let Go" might not be the most original indie rock song of 2010, it's certainly worth listening to!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm ba-ack!! With ANOTHER EIGHT new entries!!

not bad for returning after a two-week hiatus, eh? Here they are!

"Dirty Side Down" by Widespread Panic: Unlike the Lynyrd Skynyrd-ish "North", the title track from Widespread Panic's latest album shows a more earthy, roots-y feel to it. It almost has a Grateful Dead-ish sound to it, albeit the more folk-y side of their material. Frankly, I'm surprised adult alt. radio stations DIDN'T pick up on this one first since it has such a folk-rock-y, almost hippie-ish vibe to it, but I guess the band wanted "North" to be released as a "hit" first, since it has a more catchy, radio-friendly sound. Fans of The Grateful Dead and The Black Crowes (also reviewed this week) should enjoy this song very much!

"London Calling" by Bruce Springsteen: Before I review this one, let me just point out that it's pretty amazing how much classic rock material has been dominating adult alt. radio lately! This week there's five (Springsteen, The Black Crowes, John Mellencamp, R.E.M., and the classic rock-ish Widespread Panic). Anyway, on with the review. For most of the 2000's, The Boss put out material that I personally thought he could've done better with. A lot of seemed like contemporary folk-rock-ish material a la Dave Matthews Band, Train, Counting Crows, etc. Not that there's anything wrong with those bands (except for everything Train released AFTER their debut), but it just doesn't seem to fit Springsteen's free-spirited brand of rock and roll he's become known for. Thankfully, the hard-rockin' "Radio Nowhere" was released in Fall 2007 and revitalized his youthful energy. The Boss's cover of The Clash's classic hit from 1979 attempts to recapture that same youthful energy he had about 3 years ago with "Radio Nowhere", complete with a guitar solo that seems to rival the original! However, the original version of "London Calling" is just untouchable in my opinion. The Clash already made that one into a solid gold rocker! Though Springsteen's attempt at the song is certainly not bad, I much prefer the original!

"My Morning Song" by The Black Crowes: Unfortunately, the version of this song that's hitting adult alt. radio stations, from the Crowes' all-acoustic album, "Croweology", is something that I haven't found anywhwere yet. However, I can still review the original version in the meantime. Though it's an old song (1992), I still want to review it since I haven't heard it before. From what I can tell, it has very much of a Led Zeppelin-y sound, filtered via Southern rock. It borrows quite heavily from Zeppelin's "Traveling Riverside Blues" (which itself borrows from Zeppelin's own "The Lemon Song", both musically and lyrically). The Crowes were unlike any band from the '90s in that they were SO influenced by classic rock, that most "alternative" rock stations wouldn't touch their music (despite the fact that similar sounding bands, such as Spin Doctors, received heavy airplay on such stations at the time they debuted). Likewise, "Hard to Handle" and "She Talks to Angels" are some of the few songs of the '90s that classic rock stations WILL touch. With "My Morning Song"'s pure rock-and-roll flavor, it will be quite interesting to hear what the newly released acoustic version will sound like - I'll keep you guys posted and re-review this song once I finally hear that version!

"My Own Sinking Ship" by Good Old War: If I had to name any indie band as "snuggly", "cute", or "warm and fuzzy", it'd be Good Old War, despite their name! Every song of theirs just makes me want to reach out and hug somebody, and this is no exception, despite the subject matter (probably about a crumbling relationship, from what I can tell). Much of GOW's material seems like an update on that of Simon and Garfunkel's, though "My Own Sinking Ship" also adds in a vaguely harmonica-ish instrument that S & G (I don't think) ever had in their songs. If you like your indie music folk-rock-y and precious, this one's for you!

"No Better Than This" by John Mellencamp: Like Springsteen (see "London Calling", also reviewed for this week), Mellencamp was another classic rocker who had his ups and downs for the material he made in the 2000's. Towards the end of the decade, Mellencamp found his inner-rock-star amidst the disillusioned folkie he seemed to be for most of the decade with a song called "My Sweet Love". The song had a feel to it that resembled '50s rockers like Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley (the same schtick fellow classic rocker Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders seemed to be using right around the same time!) "No Better Than This" almost sounds like a "sequel" to "My Sweet Love". It seems to use the same beat and even same guitar distortion to "My Sweet Love". Of course he's not the only rocker to rip off his own material (a famous case of this is John Fogerty, whose "The Old Man Down the Road" sounded almost exactly like his Creedence Clearwater hit, "Run Through the Jungle"). As far as clones of rock songs done by the exact same artist go, this one's pretty cool!

"Ready to Start" by Arcade Fire: Compared to their release earlier this year, "The Suburbs", I was a bit disappointed with this one, so I wanted to hold off on reviewing this one when I first heard about it, but by now it's hit enough adult alt. stations that I felt like I should give it another try. Where "The Suburbs" was bright, jaunty folk-rock at its finest, "Ready to Start" sounds a bit more depressing (though still upbeat), almost like The Cure trying to cover '70s rockers Golden Earring's "Radar Love". "Ready to Start" takes the beat of the latter and mixes it with the world weary, heavy burden-ish vibe of the former. A bit of an uneven mix if you ask me, but I suppose that the catchiness of the song has been what's won over adult alt. radio stations. I MUCH prefer "The Suburbs", but as far as Arcade Fire songs go, this one's not bad. I guess it just reminds me a little too much of the post-punk-ish material they did on their debut, as opposed to the more orchestral, but fun flavor they went for on "Neon Bible".

"The Ghost Inside" by Broken Bells: It's interesting to see the order in which the songs from Broken Bells' album have been chosen to make their mark on adult alt. radio stations. The first song, "The High Road", which has been around almost since the beginning of 2010, was the perfect mix for a band whose alumni are members of indie-folk-rockers The Shins and electro-pop-rockers Gnarls Barkley, as it was equal parts indie-folk-rock and electronic pop music. The second song, "Vaporize", was clearly a James Mercer (Shins) song as far as I could tell with its jaunty, Beatlesque vibe. Now, the third single off Broken Bells' album, "The Ghost Inside", is making its way onto the adult alt. airwaves. This one sounds more like a song Cee-Lo (Gnarls Barkley) probably wrote/composed. The sing-song-y melody of the other two songs is still present, yet "The Ghost Inside" is MUCH more of an electro-pop song than a contemporary folk-rock song. At times, it almost seems like a new-wave-y update of Foreigner's '80s sax-driven rocker, "Urgent" (though only by the notes that are being used in the song, as there is no sax in "The Ghost Inside"). I don't think that "The Ghost Inside" is as good as the other two songs off Broken Bells' album, but who knows, over time I'll probably grow to like it, just like I have with most of the songs I've blogged about.

"Throw Those Trolls Away" by R.E.M.: This is actually an old R.E.M. song (and kinda sounds like one) from the band's 1985 album, "Fables of the Reconstruction", which featured such classic R.E.M. songs as "Can't Get There From Here" and "Driver 8". However, they decided to wait until this year to release it. My question is, why?!? It has that great vintage R.E.M. sound that meets at the intersection of The Byrds, The Beatles, and The Velvet Underground. Perhaps what makes "Throw Those Trolls Away" unique, besides its retro sound in a new decade, is that it seems like it reflects one of the few times that R.E.M. are comfortable just goofing around (there's even a part in the middle where Michael Stipe says, "Turn the guitar up, will ya?") Amidst the typical folk-rock and light psychedelic influences R.E.M. had in the '80s, there's also a bit of Chuck Berry influence in "Trolls" in the way that the A and D chords are being played around with. Pre-fame R.E.M. material is often the best from the band in my opinion, and thankfully we've got yet another example of this now!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

new songs for June 23rd, 2010

four of 'em - Enjoy!

"Compliments" by Band of Horses: Though "Laredo" is still a hot item on the Adult Alt. charts, "Compliments", the second single off of BOH's "Infinite Arms" is rapidly getting attention on adult alt. stations as well. Longtime fans of BOH will probably take more of a liking to this song than "Laredo" since it goes more for a '60s pop/rock sound (a la The Beatles' "Getting Better" and Three Dog Night's "One", at least rhythmically) than "Laredo"'s John Fogerty/Neil Young-ish vibe. Lyrically, I can't tell whether it is supposed to be sincere or tongue-in-cheek, especially during the somewhat ambiguously worded lyrics in the chorus ("If there's a God up there/Someone looking over everyone, at least you've got someone to fall back on"). Apparently, many of BOH's most loyal fans seem to have taken both the lyrics and the song itself to be a vain attempt for the band to garner more radio airplay than they've previously had, though personally, I think "Laredo" already took care of that. I still wouldn't call BOH "sellouts", though. They still have good music, it's just going in a slightly different direction at the moment.

"Crossfire" by Brandon Flowers: Of all the "indie" bands out there, Brandon Flowers' band, The Killers (who aren't always viewed as "indie" due to their popularity among listeners of more "mainstream" modern rock stations), is probably the one that is most influenced by that crop of bands who tend to overlap the boundaries of musical time by being played on both classic rock and alternative rock stations (i.e. The Police, U2, The Pretenders, etc.) Flowers seems to have only gotten MORE intent on displaying these influences with each new record he makes. It's not as though this is a bad thing, necessarily (as I much prefer the U2-ish "Read My Mind" to the more Depeche Mode-ish sounds of "Somebody Told Me"), but in "Crossfire", it seems like he's trying a bit TOO hard to emulate the U2 sound. He also seems to employ the use of pseudo-philosophical lyrics whenever possible (like the chorus's "lay your body down"), in what seems like a desperate, almost fanboy-ish effort to please Bono and maybe Bruce Springsteen as well. In spite of how harsh this review might sound, though, I must admit that I LIKE this song! Flowers might not rank so high on originality in "Crossfire", but he gets an A for effort, catchiness, and accessibility.

"If You Let Me" by JP, Chrissie, and The Fairground Boys: During The Pretenders' reign of popularity, Chrissie Hynde was almost like a female Neil Young in her ways of alternating between heartfelt, bittersweet songs like "Kid", "Talk of the Town", and "2000 Miles" and tough, unapologetic rockers like "Tattooed Love Boys", "Mystery Achievement", and "Middle of the Road". These days, Chrissie seems to want to go more in between the two moods. In her latest effort, "If You Let Me", she pulls off a distinctly classic rock vibe a la The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty, just as she pulled off a decent Chuck Berry/Bo Diddley in her 2008 songs, "Boots of Chinese Plastic" and "Break Up the Concrete" with The Pretenders. While "If You Let Me" lacks the in-your-face vibe of her nearly punk-ish early days in The Pretenders, it is certainly no "Kid", "Talk of the Town", or "2000 Miles" either! It is clearly a rock and roll song, from beginning to end, complete with a catchy, memorable guitar riff. Welcome aboard the S.S. Classic Rock Renaissance of 2010, Chrissie!

"Stranger Here" by Cowboy Junkies: In spite of their name, Cowboy Junkies are not called "Cowboy Junkies" because of their love for country music. It was basically just a random name they came up with, supposedly (see also The Grateful Dead, R.E.M., and Indigo Girls, each of whom got their names by flipping through a dictionary). However, Cowboy Junkies are basically a country-rock band masquerading as an alt/indie band. Even on their debut album, they covered a Hank Williams tune, as well as a Patsy Cline song. Their latest song, "Stranger Here", is also pretty country-rock influenced, but with the past 5 or so years of adult alt. radio being dominated by indie groups, it seems as though the sound of this song is probably more commonplace than it would've been during their debut in 1988. Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley, in particular (and perhaps the whole band) would probably appreciate a song like this, since she knows from the blatantly country-rock sound of "Carpetbaggers" (which she did with Elvis Costello) what it's like to be an indie/alt act with country influences. Personally, I would have preferred Cowboy Junkies to release something more along the lines of their bittersweet, lushly orchestrated 2007 song "Brand New World", but "Stranger Here" is still a good song nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

new songs for June 16th, 2010

four of 'em. Enjoy!

"Do As I Say Not As I Do" by Ed Harcourt: In the indie rock world, Ed Harcourt is one of the most simultaneously soothing and intriguing musicians, so I was pretty psyched to find out he was releasing a new album! Perhaps a good way to describe Ed would be "Burt Bacharach music interpreted via Andrew Bird", the latter an indie musician himself who is also '60s pop inspired. Ed's benign yet clever delivery of pop/rock music continues in "Do As I Say Not As I Do", which isn't too much of a departure from such gems of his as "Watching the Sun Come Up" and "Born In the '70s", except for the fact that it has an electric guitar solo in between the chorus and verses, though Ed even manages to make that part sound charming. If you like your indie music to sound nostalgic but still somewhat relevant, this song's for you!

"Dragon's Song" by Blitzen Trapper: Ever since their debut (which was only about a year ago), Blitzen Trapper have become a pretty well-loved band in the indie universe. Adult alt. radio kinda-sorta caught on to "Black River Killer" from their debut (though it was only a mild hit on such stations), but I guess it's taken until their latest album to come up with a song that looks like it will be (slightly) more popular on such stations. Much like Ed Harcourt (see above), Blitzen Trapper are very much of what I like to call a "'60s Renaissance" band, meaning that they sound like they're from the decade even though they're not (an increasingly common theme in indie music). Blitzen Trapper tend to come off to me like what Donovan might have been like if he named his backing group, in that, though their roots lie in folk, they're not afraid to experiment with more "psychedelic" sounds (often within the same songs). "Dragon's Song" is no exception to the rule. It starts out sounding like an "acoustic" Bob Dylan song, yet once the drums kick in, pretty much every other instrument starts to as well, notably the synthesized keyboards in the main parts of the song, and the groovy electric guitar solo in the middle of it. "Dragon's Song" truly seems like it would be a trip back in time had I been around during the '60s. Even the title of the song sounds like it came from that decade!

"Saturday Sun" by Crowded House: Despite the fact that their biggest hit, "Don't Dream It's Over", was somewhat of a Tears for Fears soundalike (though smoother and more soulful), fans of most of Crowded House's other material tend to be drawn to them for their emulation of the "three B's" (The Beatles, The Byrds, and The Beach Boys). Their '91 album, "Woodface", has some fine examples of their influence by these bands (especially "It's Only Natural", and a lot of "Weather With You". For awhile, that seemed like that album was going to be the last of Crowded House, though in the mid-2000's they came back with an unexpected but instantly welcomed smash hit on adult alt. radio, "Don't Stop Now". As much as I love Crowded House, that song didn't exactly ring well with me, as it sounded like they were trying a bit TOO hard in that song to imitate contemporary "piano-pop", and not of the Ben Folds variety either - more like that of the blander radio-friendly sounds of The Fray and later Coldplay. Thankfully, Crowded House's latest, "Saturday Sun" is not like this. However, fans of Crowded House's '60s pop/rock-oriented style should take note that the band have once again shifted direction in their style for "Saturday Sun". With the exception of the guitar solo towards the end of the song, most of it sounds more like it was influenced by the gentle "trip-hop-lite" sounds that Massive Attack and Portishead originated and that Zero 7 and Frou Frou made more popular. Though songs like "It's Only Natural" have a special place in my heart for their irresistible, cute, sunny melodies, it's also refreshing to hear Crowded House successfully take on more contemporary sounds in "Saturday Sun".

"Shadow People" by Dr. Dog: This song is proof of how eclectic Dr. Dog truly are! Their last effort, "Stranger", released earlier this year, was an energetic, happy, fully orchestrated song, yet "Shadow People", in some ways, seems to be the opposite of that one. Instead of taking on vibrant sounds (until midway through the song, for some reason), it has a more folk-y, calming vibe, that instantly brings to mind one of Neil Young's acoustic songs. Unlike the quirky, brightly delivered lyrics of "Stranger", "Shadow People" seems like it goes for a more melancholy vibe, with its yearning lyrical vibe ("Where did all the shadow people go?"), even through the sunnier second half of the song. Intelligent AND introspective - what more could you ask for?!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

new songs for June 9th, 2010

Three of 'em. Enjoy!

"Change" by The Young Veins: When you think of the words "Panic at the Disco", do you think of bands like The Monkees and Tommy James & The Shondells?! Probably not. That's why "Change" by The Young Veins, which features two former Panic members, Ryan Ross and Jon Walker, is such a cool song!! Panic at the Disco seemed like the one "emo" band who just absolutely hated the label, as evidenced by the two Beatlesque songs on their "Pretty Odd" CD, "Nine In the Afternoon" and "Northern Downpour". Both of those songs had a pretty "retro" flavor to them, and "Change" continues in that direction, perhaps even more so! "Change" really lives up to its title - it's "change"-ing the way indie music is going, and, hopefully, will continue to go!

"Every Subway Car" by Barenaked Ladies: Do BNL have the sophomore curse, or what?! Their 2005 album, "Barenaked Ladies Are Me" had its first single, "Easy", as a bland folk-pop song this side of John Mayer, but its second single "Wind It Up", was a tongue-in-cheek, hard-rockin' (for BNL, at least), fun song with clever lyrics (i.e. "I was a baby when I learned to suck/But you have raised it to an art form"). Their latest CD, "All In Good Time", seems to have suffered from the same problem. The first single, "You Run Away", was a song that just didn't fit the BNL spirit. I didn't know whether to call it "sappy" or "depressing", as it was kinda both, and that just isn't the vibe I like from my BNL songs! Thankfully, "Every Subway Car" has sought to correct all this! Musically, it sounds kinda like a lighter, but still power pop influenced song from Fountains of Wayne (kinda like Fountains of Wayne's "Someone to Love", but with a slower beat). Lyrically, the cleverness makes a welcome return, especially in the beginning ("My backpack's faded black/But now it's all blue/It looks whack but it's compact/And it works like brand new"), and just like in their biggest hit, "One Week", the name-dropping also continues ("I'm on my own/I'm Sly Stallone"). Welcome back, BNL, we missed ya!

"If I Had My Way" by Robert Randolph (featuring Ben Harper): Occasionally, indie and contemporary folk-rock aren't enough to satisfy the adult alt. audience, and this is one such instance. This song is actually a cover (so I've heard) of an old 1930's blues song. I wouldn't be surprised if this was true, considering how it sounds a lot like a Robert Johnson Delta blues recording. For Ben Harper, this isn't too surprising, considering he's been all over the map musically, especially in the past year or so with The Relentless 7. For Robert Randolph, this seems like a first. His past works, particularly his most well-known song, "Thrill of It", were definitely blues influenced, but more in the Jimi Hendrix/Santana manner of mixing blues with rock and the occasional R & B. As much as I like the indie and folk-rock that seem to dominate adult alt. radio, it's refreshing to hear a song like this once in a while!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

new songs for June 2nd, 2010

here they are:

"Fingertip" by Aqualung: If you only know Aqualung for their soothing Brit-pop-ish hit, "Brighter Than Sunshine", you might want to think twice before listening to this one! No, it's not "edgier" than that song (as Aqualung have always been a pretty benign band in my opinion), but it's definitely a lot quirkier! The opening "Doo-doo...doo-doo...doo-doo...doooo's" don't sound like Matt Hales (they are sung by a female from what I can tell). The rest of the song, which Matt does take the lead on, takes on a sort of vibe one might get if Coldplay had a catchier sound and were covering a Ben Folds song, and the lyrics seem to go for a technique that is equal parts surreal and cutesy. Songs like this remind me of what the "indie spirit" is all about - doing whatever you want and having fun with it!

"The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire: If Arcade Fire took on hip-hop, they could just be called the Beck of the early 21st century (but they haven't...yet). So far, though, they've taken on just about everything else, ranging from post-punk ("Neighborhood # 2), U2-ish alt-pop ballads ("Une Anee Sans Lumiere"), anthemic baroque-ish piano-based songs ("Wake Up"), and even Springsteen inspired material ("Keep the Car Running", which The Boss joined in with them on a live version of the song!) Arcade Fire's latest, "The Suburbs", takes on a jaunty honky-tonk sound (which emulates the rhythm of a song released earlier this year, "Heaven Can Wait" by Charlotte Gainsbourg). This could be viewed as a "stripped down" version of what most Arcade Fire songs sound like, since it lacks (or at least doesn't have as much of) the full-on orchestration of most of their other material. But I guess they wanted to go in a "different" direction this time, and who can blame 'em?! Seems like that's what they always do! Looking forward to whatever else they foray into later on!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New songs for May 26th, 2010

four of 'em - enjoy folks!

"Amongst the Waves" by Pearl Jam: This song seemed like it was long overdue for making its way onto the adult alt. airwaves, as Sirius XM's Spectrum has been playing this one since January. Other stations, however, seemed to have taken until now to catch up with this song. Of the three songs on Pearl Jam's latest CD, "Backspacer", this might just end up being the one I like best if it doesn't receive overkill airplay like the other two ("Just Breathe" and "The Fixer") did. However, it's more than just airplay that makes (or would make?) "Amongst the Waves" better than those songs. It serves as a perfect balance between "The Fixer"'s rough garage rock sound and "Just Breathe"'s gentle folk-rock sound, as a sound that seems to hearken back to classic Pearl Jam songs like "Black" and "Yellow Ledbetter", with its melancholy blues-rock inspired vibe. Here's to hoping "Amongst the Waves" will do well, but hopefully not TOO well on adult alt. stations!

"Call Back" by Truth & Salvage Co.: With both well-established bands like My Morning Jacket, The Hold Steady, and Wilco and newcomers like Alberta Cross and Dawes, it seems like classic rock revivalism is becoming increasingly more common in indie rock (if it can even be called that anymore...) Truth & Salvage Co. are the latest to jump onto this bandwagon with their song, "Call Back". The feel of this song is not only rootsy, but very earthy as well. Add to that its well-produced sound, and it comes off sounding like the typical Joe Walsh-less Eagles song (think "Take It Easy", "Peaceful Easy Feeling", "Lyin' Eyes", etc.) Perhaps "alt-country" would be a better way of describing this song than "indie" since that's just how organic (for lack of a better term) this song comes across.

"Fixed" by Stars: Amazingly, this is probably the only song I'm reviewing for this week that DOESN'T have a classic rock-ish feel to it (unless of course you consider Depeche Mode and/or The Cranberries classic rock, which I don't). To give a background to what Stars generally sound like, they often sing chirpy songs with dark subject matter ("Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" is a good example of this). "Fixed" is a departure, both lyrically and musically, from the typical Stars song. Instead of sounding like a somewhat macabre Burt Bacharach type of song, "Fixed" takes on a sound that more suggests, like I pointed out earlier, a cross between Depeche Mode and The Cranberries (with a bit of a Killers sound mixed in there for good measure). Lyrically, the subject matter isn't exactly positive, but it seems to deal with more general subject matter (a crumbling relationship, from what I can tell) than their other songs. This isn't the Stars that I'm used to, but it's still a good song.

"North" by Widespread Panic: In the '90s, there were two major "cult" jam bands - Phish and Widespread Panic. The former could easily be likened to a modern-day Grateful Dead, while the latter typically take on a more Allman Brothers-ish sound. "North", however, seems to trade in the bluesy improv of the typical Widespread Panic song for a more radio-friendly Southern rock sound that is especially evident in many Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. The philosophical lyrics of "North" tend to provide an interesting contrast to its barn-burnin' Southern rock sound (much like how Skynyrd used their typical upbeat bar band sound to disguise the dark nature of "That Smell"). For people hoping for an epic worthy of a song like "That Smell", "Freebird", or "Sweet Home Alabama", you might be a little disappointed in "North" since it's only three and a half minutes long. It does, however, give off the general vibe of such songs (particuarly "Sweet Home Alabama").

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

new songs for May 12th, 2010

three of 'em this time. Enjoy!

"Anchor" by Alejandro Escovedo: Alejandro Escovedo is one of those alt-country artists (think Old '97s, early Wilco, etc.) who proudly wears his classic rock influences on his sleeve. His previous single from 2008, "Always A Friend", even had a live version with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band backing him up on it! The follow-up single from his 2008 album, "Sister Lost Soul" was a bit weaker, emotionally, to me, so I didn't know what to expect for Alejandro's latest effort, "Anchor". Thankfully, he has once again cranked up his amp on this one, a la Neil Young! Perhaps Alejandro is one of those musicians whose "electric" songs are actually better. Keep up the good work!

"Bushwick Blues" by Delta Spirit: Yet another band who hasn't made a record since 2008 (it's like 2008 all over again this year!!) Delta Spirit were one of those bands who were indie even AMONG indie audiences. They did manage to score a hit on adult alt. stations that year with the sunny, catchy, '70s pop-rock-styled "Trashcan" (and a modest one with the slightly more indie-leaning "People C'mon"), but they still haven't gotten as much recognition in the indie rock world as much as, say, Spoon, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, or even slightly lesser-known bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, for that matter. "Bushwick Blues" has a bit less of a "retro" feel than either of the other two songs I know by Delta Spirit, so hopefully this will make them more well-known to indie audiences. It comes off sounding like a cross between Spoon and The Strokes, and it ends up with a musical flavor that's more unique than either of them!

"I Should Have Known It" by Tom Petty: Is this the year for classic rock comebacks or what?! The Stones and Hendrix have already landed songs on adult alt. (and mainstream rock) radio this year (as has Johnny Cash, though I'm not sure if everyone would count him as "classic rock" - he kinda predates it in my opinion). Petty has managed to, surprisingly, make what could be the most hardest rocking of all these songs with "I Should Have Known It", with its nearly Led Zeppelin-y stomp (not to mention the faster pace and epic guitar soloing at the end of it!) Petty hasn't rocked out this hard since "Runnin' Down A Dream" in '89, and "I Should Have Known It" has more of a juicy, spicy feel than that song. Petty has long been a staple of adult alt. stations, but although this song is no "Free Fallin'" or "I Won't Back Down", they haven't shyed away from this one. With the inclusion of this song and the Stones and Hendrix songs, I'm thinking 2010 will go down in adult alt. radio history as the year such stations got more "edgy"!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

from A to Z

decided to title my latest entry as such since my first song begins with an "A", and my last song, a "Z". Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of these have only gotten airplay on a couple stations. Shame, since they're all great songs.

"American Slang" by Gaslight Anthem: For a band who was initially labeled "punk", they sure don't sound like it in this song. In fact, they have more of a classic rock vibe, a la Springsteen and Neil Young. This seems to be a trend (albeit a small one) in indie rock lately, as The Hold Steady, Band of Horses, and My Morning Jacket seemed to have all taken on this aesthetic at least once in their careers. "American Slang" also boasts an epic, catchy riff that's instantly memorable upon first hearing it. This song is proof that indie rock doesn't have to be all about weird, random instrumentation. Sometimes it's good to just go back to the basics!

"American Troglodyte" by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim: Unlike the first single off their latest effort ("A Perfect Hand", featuring Steve Earle), this song manages to capture the offbeat-but-catchy vibe of Byrne's unlikely 2008 smash with Brian Eno, "Strange Overtones". The beat (and instruments) aren't the only cool thing about this song, though. The lyrics are also pretty interesting. Beneath its insanely danceable hooks, the ex-Talking Heads frontman sings about disappointed he is with current American culture. Lyrical dissonance doesn't always work, but somehow, in this song, it just seems right!

"Big Jet Plane" by Angus and Julia Stone: I'm mainly including this one since I loved their previous song, "The Beast", so much, that as soon as I heard they had a new record/single out, I just had to hear it! And it's pretty good, though it's got more of an uneasy (yet still melodic) feel to it than the wistful, bittersweet qualities that "The Beast" had. The guitar hook almost makes this sound like one of Radiohead's later efforts (like "I Might Be Wrong", or Thom Yorke's solo song, "Black Swan"), yet the violin (and Julia Stone's vocals) make "Big Jet Plane" distinguishable from such songs. When listening to this song, I don't know whether to call it angst-ridden or sad, since at times it sounds like both, but perhaps that's what makes this song so unique!

"Bloodbuzz Ohio" by The National: Even within the already eclectic world of indie rock, The National are one of those bands who manage to take that eclectic-ness a step further than most indie rock bands (except for possibly Wilco and Beck). They have been influenced by country-rock, contemporary British rock, and power pop ("power pop" would be bands, largely between the '70s and '90s, that sound a lot like The Beatles and The Kinks, often with Beach Boys-esque harmonies), and "Bloodbuzz Ohio" seems to reveal a new facet to their already diverse musical pallet - that of the gothic rock of Joy Division and Nick Cave. Vocally, The National's lead singer even sounds like Joy Division's lead singer, Ian Curtis, on this song. "Bloodbuzz Ohio", in fact, reminds me a great deal of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" for a couple reasons. Both songs are in A major, despite their gloomy sound. They also tend to both have an atmospheric quality with their "walls of sound" (use of multiple instruments that sound orchestral, in a rock and roll kind of way), and they both manage to compensate for their depressing nature with their fast drumbeats (at least to me they do). And, yes, they both have downbeat (and somewhat creepy) lyrics. Yet the non-synthesized keyboards and the almost continual transition in "Bloodbuzz Ohio" from A major to F sharp minor manage to make it distinct from "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Nevertheless, if bands that sound like a cross between Joy Division and Wilco are your thing, then "Bloodbuzz Ohio" is a surefire winner for you!

"Love Me Chase Me" by Carney: Don't be fooled by this song's slow, churning intro. This song's a real kicker from the chorus on up! It almost sounds like a modern-day update on one of the songs from The Beatles' "White Album". Its sound is like pop music that somehow manages to sound somewhat blues-y in its riffs, almost like one of The Raconteurs' songs. The lyrics are a bit simplistic from what I can tell ("if you love me, chase me"), but the riffs are both chunky and pop-y. Who knew the best guitar soloing on this week's list would come from a pop-rock band?! Not me. But I sure am glad someone out there is trying to preserve the sound of good ol' British rock and roll!! ("British" by sound, that is, as I'm not sure if Carney are actually British or not)

"Numbers Don't Lie" by The Mynabirds: I love the "retro" sound of this one! (Though practically all the songs on here have a "retro" sound, so I'll specify in the next few sentences 'bout that). This one has almost a "girl group" sound (a la Phil Spector) to it instrumentally that sounds like Chan Marshall (better known as "Cat Power" to you indie fans!) is taking the lead on vocally. Beneath the chirpiness that the vibe of this song gives off, "Numbers Don't Lie" is actually a very bitter, angst-ridden song lyrically. The chorus pretty much states it all ("Baby if you want to be right, I will let you be right, I will let you be right/You know that the numbers don't lie, you know the numbers don't lie, two wrongs will not make it right"). This technique of blending a happy melody with confrontational/controversial subject matter is nothing new, though (The Shirelles, anyone? "Will you STILL love me tomorrow?" The lyric there is both demanding AND sexual) The Mynabirds are just here to remind us in "Numbers Don't Lie" how to mask a tale of a relationship gone wrong with a harmonious, uplifting melody!

"Zebra" by Beach House: Not since "Zoot Suit Riot" back in '98 has there been a song that begins with the letter "Z" that I've really liked! (and "Zebra" is WAY better, to me). This has got to be one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard! And it doesn't take a minor key melody to do that in this song. "Zebra" is written in G sharp major, but still manages to make me cry on the inside. The word "zebra" isn't mentioned anywhere in the song (though the chorus mentions a "black and white horse", which I think is close enough). It's interesting that color seems to be a theme throughout the song (examples include the opening lyrics "You know you're gold", and "Your love is stag in the white sand"), yet none of these are colors of the rainbow. Perhaps this is symbolic of how beauty can be found in unlikely, seemingly "dull" places. The simplistic but elegant nature of this song is to die for! I highly recommend this one!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

new songs for Apr. 21st, 2010

here they are!!

"Crash Years" by The New Pornographers - Unlike the previous single from The New Pornographers' most recent album ("Your Hands Together"), this song is a bit more typical of the New Pornographers style. It's melodic, somewhat folk-rock and '60s pop influenced, and is also clever enough to pick up on musical "trends" indie rock songs have had, such as whistling (Don't believe me? Listen to Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks", Andrew Bird's "Fitz And the Dizzyspells", Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros' "Home", and The Black Keys' "Tighten Up" - they ALL have whistling!!) As an added bonus, indie rock songbird Neko Case takes the lead vocals here, giving "Crash Years" an almost Fleetwood Mac-y vibe (much like fellow indie band Rilo Kiley, whose lead singer Jenny Lewis also qualifies, to me, as a modern day Stevie Nicks - musically, not vocally). Like Fleetwood Mac, The New Pornographers consists of both male and female lead vocalists, and the female ones in both bands seem more distinct - they give the bands some flavor. If you prefer hearing more consistently melodic music coming from the New Pornographers (like I do), then give this one a listen!

"I Learned the Hard Way" by Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings: Indie SOUL?! Though such a term hasn't been applied (at least to my knowledge) to any particular musician or band, it oughta!! Especially in the case of Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings whom, despite their Aretha Franklin-ish sound, have received massive praise from both indie fans and indie publications (and some pretty major ones, at that)! Neo-soul is a term that has existed for quite awhile, and probably first became a household name with artists like Macy Gray, and shortly afterwards, Joss Stone. The trend continued in the mid-to-late-2000's with Amy Winehouse, Duffy, and Adele. However, there's something that all five of those musicians have had that Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings haven't yet received - mainstream recognition. I hate to sound like a "music snob", but mainstream recognition for neo-soul musicians almost seems to be a kiss of death, making a once vibrant and unique sound seem more commonplace. Thankfully, Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings are in no such position! The best thing about songs like "I Learned the Hard Way" is that they sound like they really ARE from the '60s - if I hadn't known better I would've thought this was a previously unreleased Aretha Franklin (or some similar artist) track!

"Junebug" by Robert Francis: This song has been out since November 2009, so why has it not gotten recognition by adult alt. stations until now?! This really boggles my mind, especially considering that this truly is a GREAT song!! I've always been a huge Ryan Adams fan, as well as a big Cranberries fan, and this song seems like a combination of the two. "Junebug" OOZES emotional quality of the finest sense, in a wistfully romantic and bittersweet way that still somehow manages to rock (which might explain the comparisons it's gotten by others to U2 and Springsteen). It's one of those songs that makes me "cry on the inside" so to speak, because it's just THAT beautiful and haunting. I think this is the best song I've reviewed for this week, so please check it out if you haven't done so already!!

"Laredo" by Band of Horses: The great thing about Band of Horses is the emotional quality (once again) that just oozes from songs like "Is There A Ghost?", "The Funeral", and (especially) "No One's Gonna Love You". All three of those songs seem to meld Velvet Underground-ish experimentation with "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys harmonies. "Laredo" is, well, a little different. It almost sounds like they're trying to be the indie rock version of Creedence Clearwater Revival in this song, so it's definitely not as good as the other three Band of Horses songs I know of. However, though the music might have changed a bit, the harmonies are still the same. Those harmonies just always tug at the heartstrings for me! And plus, BOH could be going for something worse than a CCR vibe (since there are plenty of things that are much worse than Creedence Clearwater Revival, who are a good band, but just not one that I would picture Band of Horses going after stylistically - and no, the lead singer of BOH does NOT sound a THING like John Fogerty on this track - I was referring specifically to the musical style here). Perhaps the other thing worth note about "Laredo" is that it still manages to get in an arpeggiated folk-rock-y guitar pattern a la The Byrds' "My Back Pages", which, it seems, is a surefire way to make a song likable in the indie rock world.

"Plundered My Soul" by The Rolling Stones - Those who are "true fans" of The Stones know that despite the "bad boy" image they cultivated throughout the '60s and '70s that they do have a softer side, be it the bittersweet folk-rock of "Angie" and "Wild Horses", or the heartfelt smooth R & B of "Time Waits For No One" and "Fool to Cry". The Stones continue to show their softer side (well, kind of) on "Plundered My Soul". Musically, it combines country, blues, and R & B like only The Stones can, making it seem like the one track they decided to leave off of "Exile On Main Street". Lyrically, however, "Plundered My Soul" is more along the lines of the sarcastic, cheeky mock-country of "Dead Flowers" than it is the sincere, soulful pop of "Waiting On A Friend" (particularly in the chorus, when Mick says "I f**ed your women for money, but you plundered my soul" - not exactly what I'd call "sincere"). Whether you like the harder or softer side of The Stones more, this should appeal to you if you're a fan of theirs even a little bit.