Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sorry folks - only two for this week

Well, I figured two was better than nothin'. So here goes:

"New Morning" by Alpha Rev: Nothing like a bittersweet, melancholy indie-pop/rock song to get me in the right kinda mood. And Alpha Rev delivers this well with their latest, "New Morning". This seems to evoke a sound similar to Radiohead (circa "The Bends"), Jeff Buckley, and Coldplay (back when they debuted in 2000 with "Parachutes"). It is a very earnest, winsome song, in such a way that although I don't know the lyrics well enough yet, it has already won me over!

"The Bringdown" by Bob Schneider: Not quite a "new" song, since it's been gaining airplay on the radio for a good two or so weeks now, but since I haven't reviewed it yet, I figured that now would be a good time to do so. It's a good song, but it pales deeply in comparison to Schneider's previous adult alt. radio hit, "40 Dogs (Like Romeo And Juliet)". Where "40 Dogs" was earnest, catchy, and lyrically clever, "The Bringdown" seems to live up to its title - it's more watered down. Like I said, it's not a bad song, but I'm pretty sure Schneider could do better than this.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New songs for Feb. 17th

Got 5 new ones just waitin' to be reviewed!! And here they are:

"Ain't No Grave" by Johnny Cash: Yes, it's another Johnny Cash cover song released after his death. This one's a little different than the others that have been released since "Hurt", in that it's a traditional folk song, rather than an alternative rock song, that is being covered. It really makes me wonder just how many songs Cash recorded in the double zeroes. Oh well, it's still a good song.

"Beat the Devil's Tattoo" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: It's interesting how ever since BRMC broke through with "Shuffle Your Feet" and "Ain't No Easy Way" back in 2004, all their songs since have sounded like an attempt to mix The White Stripes with acoustic blues. Supposedly, that's not the way they sounded before those songs came out (though I don't know this for sure). But "Beat the Devil's Tattoo" continues in the tradition of mixing The White Stripes with acoustic blues. I like the primal rhythm in this song 'cause it kinda reminds me of "Wild Thing" by The Troggs. Perhaps BRMC have been listening to The Raconteurs, since "Beat the Devil's Tattoo" starts out (vaguely) acoustic, and then picks up with an electric guitar backing it up in the middle - much like The Raconteurs' "Old Enough" and "Top Yourself"

"In the Sun" by She And Him: You know I love my Zooey Deschanel!! And she's back (with M. Ward) with a new song. I have only heard one other song from this dynamic duo, "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" and this one sounds significantly different. In "...Stay Here", Zooey went for an old-fashioned sound that almost sounded like it belonged in another decade - like a very happy, piano-based country-rock sound. Zooey gets her indie on, so to speak, in "In the Sun" (not to be confused with the poignant Joseph Arthur song of the same name). It's still bright, happy, and toe-tapping, like "...Stay Here", but it uses more instruments and production techniques that make it sound more like sunshiny indie-pop a la "Silver Lining" by Rilo Kiley. That being said, "In the Sun" is probably the one I like less out of the two songs I've heard from She And Him, but it's still worth checking out!

"Lisztomania" by Phoenix: If you've heard Phoenix's other big song, the mega-hit, "1901", you probably know one thing about Phoenix - they love making rhythmic music! "Lisztomania" picks up where "1901" left off. Instead of having techno inspired beats and a chunky guitar sound like "1901" did, "Lisztomania" has a more happy, toe-tapping sound, a looser guitar sound, and a tinkly piano sound added in for good measure. Interestingly, both songs are in the key of C major, though "Lisztomania" is consistent about this, whereas "1901" had A minor verses with a C major chorus. It's interesting to compare the two songs, since they are the only two so far I've heard by Phoenix, but the diversity of influence between the two songs proves what a talented band Phoenix are! So I highly recommend checking "Lisztomania" out, if you haven't already!

"Valleys of Neptune" by Jimi Hendrix: Interesting that both the song I began with AND ended with this time are "undiscovered" releases by dead rock stars! I almost held off on this one (it actually debuted last week), because it's just so darn weird having a Hendrix song on so many adult alt. stations. Guess there's a ringer every year, though (last year's was Depeche Mode's "Wrong", which also came out around February). Not that I have anything against Hendrix (after all, classic rock was my main musical love before I discovered adult alt. music), but most of his material seems a bit too heavy to be included on most adult alt. stations. What's even more perplexing is that "Valleys of Neptune" is no "Wind Cries Mary" or "Castles Made of Sand" - it sounds a bit more like a "faster" Hendrix track, like "Crosstown Traffic". Perhaps the stations that are playing this want to move beyond their standard fare of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam to show that they also have equal respect for those who influenced them. Could a new Led Zeppelin or Who track be far behind?!?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New songs - Wednesday Feb. 10th, 2010 (sorry it's a day late folks...)

Hiya!! I decided it would be a better idea if I just reviewed the songs I liked - I'd be guaranteed to find at least one per week (at least I hope so). Anyway, since the chances of me finding a couple new faves per week seems more likely to happen than to find songs suitable for my reviewing on the Adult Alt. Top 20 at least once per week, I thought I'd change my focus a bit. Not to worry, though, I'll still be sticking to reviewing the same type o' songs. So here goes!! Also, before I begin, I realize that about half these songs came out the week before last, but I thought I'd give my opinion on 'em anyway:

"Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)" by Monsters of Folk - The alumni of My Morning Jacket and Bright Eyes have done it again! Unlike the Traveling Wilburys-ish first single, "Say Please", this one seems to have a bit more of a trip-hop influence (with some nice, lush string arrangement added in!) Lyrically, it seems like a more positive, less confrontational version of the similarly titled "Dear God" by XTC. Only instead of questioning and denouncing a belief in God, like XTC did, this song seems more fit for those who think God exists, but who just don't understand why He allows people to suffer. Kudos to the stations who have chosen this as the second Monsters of Folk single - it's a nice choice!!

"Lay There And Hate Me" by Ben Harper - Ben continues to show his diversity with this sultry funk-'n'-blues track. His backup band for his latest record, The Relentless 7, is pretty aptly named considering that that's how they seem to be in pursuing both musical talent and musical diversity - relentless!! In "White Lies For Dark Times", they've gone through Led Zeppelin-esque hard rock ("Shimmer And Shine"), tender folk-rock-y ballads ("Fly One Time"), and now, Ben Harper's funky side comes out on this song. Just like on the other two songs that became "hits" off of "White Lies For Dark Times", Ben pours all his heart and soul out into the lyrics when he sings them! Looking forward to knowing if anything else off the album will be up for grabs sometime later this year.

"Set the Fire to the Third Bar" by Snow Patrol (w/Martha Wainwright on backing vocals)-
This is actually NOT a new song (it came out back in 2006), but I guess now that Snow Patrol put out a "best of" collection and included this song as one of the songs, adult alt. stations are finally starting to pick up on how poignant this song is. Personally, I would have preferred "An Olive Grove Facing the Sea" (truly one of THE most beautiful songs I've ever heard - and that's not just counting Snow Patrol songs) to be the next single off the album, but this song's pretty cool, too. In addition to the sincerity of (lead singer) Gary Lightbody's vocals and lyrics, it also has very moving chords (perhaps because they are all major 7ths - those are the melodic 7 chords, not the "bluesy" ones), and Martha Wainwright's vocals sound beautiful and harmonize excellently with Gary Lightbody's. If only ALL of Snow Patrol's "softer" songs could be like this...

"Song Away" by Hockey: What kind of a name for a band is HOCKEY?!? Oh well, no matter - "Song Away" is still a cool song. Musically, it seems very derivative of The Killers (and a bit of the mid-2000's power pop band, Rooney), but the lead singer of Hockey's vocals seem more uneven and Dylanesque than the more straight, melodic vocals of Brandon Flowers from The Killers. Hockey's lead vocalist even "sing-speaks" the parts right before the chorus as though he WAS Bob Dylan - perhaps its even a lyrical satire on Dylan, since he keeps saying "This is (fill in random word here) music" throughout those parts of the song (my fave line - "This ain't no Roxy Music" - not that I have anything against Roxy Music, in fact I love what I've heard of theirs, but I like the line because of the potential pun involving the word "music"). All that being said, this is a pretty quirky song - so check it out!!

"Summer Is the Champion" by Laura Veirs: I was pretty excited when I heard Laura Veirs was gonna release a new album for 2010 since I loved her 2005 song, "Galaxies". It was really unique, even among the already (mostly) unique indie rock/pop categorization, because it had weird lyrics and a spaced-out (but endearing) sound. Laura continues to show what a quirky little girl (bonus points for those who get the reference) she is on her latest album, "July Flame", which I have already heard two songs off of, and this is one of them. It's kinda like Feist's "1234" meets Van Morrison's "Moondance", done with a Burt Bacharach-ish instrumental arrangement. A very charming mix of influences if you ask me. It's just too bad that so far only one station I know of (Sirius XM's The Spectrum) has bothered to play this. Oh well. Maybe soon more stations will play this one.

"Wide-Eyed, Legless" by Laura Veirs: Another example of Ms. Veirs' cutesy but cryptic brand of folk-rock. This one is a bit more melancholy than the above, but in a very sweet, precious sort of manner. The creepy, death-related lyrics create somewhat a lyrical dissonance in comparison with the bouncy (but minor key) melody and rhythm of the song. I guess sometimes the musical mood of a song can compensate for the lyrical mood of a song, and this is one of those times. I know I didn't give this one as lengthy a review as the one above, but it's pretty cool, so check it out!