Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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

You heard right, folks - EIGHT new entries!!! Quite a bit to make up for my absence last week. So here goes!!

"Horchata" by Vampire Weekend: Honestly, this one should have been reviewed about a month ago when adult alt. stations started to spin this one, but it took me awhile to realize just how awesome this song (and band) is! I love the tropical vibe that songs like this (and VW's 2008 hit, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa") give off! Sounds almost like Ray Davies from the Kinks fronting Paul Simon's backing band from the '70s and '80s. I have no idea what "Horchata" is (from the lyrical context, an alcoholic beverage - "In the summer drinking Horchata"). Bottom line, this song makes me smile and makes me want to jump into a pool and cool off from the heat of the sun. A song this fun really should have been reviewed by me the moment it started getting attention, but at least I've reviewed it now!

"Hurricane J" by The Hold Steady: I've only heard one other song by this band (2008's Springsteen-meets-Wallflowers-ish "Sequestered In Memphis"), but MAN, this song ROCKS!! The Hold Steady seem to have abandoned their bar band schtick they had in "Sequestered", and gone more for a crowd-heavy, somewhat "Americanized" U2 type of sound. The Hold Steady could sell out arenas with this one, it's THAT good!! "Hurricane J" has just the right sound for an encore number in a rock concert (and if it gets popular enough, "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" oughta feature this song!!) It's official, folks - rock 'n' roll is here to stay with this song!! Long live rock!!

"Run" by Vampire Weekend: This song almost sounds like a sequel to VW's 2008 song, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa". Both songs have a uniquely swaying reggae-influenced rhythm, and are also both in the key of D major. The main difference between the two songs (besides the lyrics)? "Run" features a mariachi band! Pretty cool if you ask me! "Run" also seems to bear more of a rhythmical resemblance to Paul Simon's "Late In the Evening" (VW seem to be pretty huge Paul Simon fans!) The band Vampire Weekend remind me of the most is probably The Police, in that they both combine reggae rhythms/guitar riffs with eclectic instrumentation. If you're a Police and/or Paul Simon fan, chances are you'll enjoy this one!

"Shake Me Like A Monkey" by The Dave Matthews Band: Songs like this one and "Why I Am" (from the same album, "Big Whiskey And the Groogrux King") make me think that DMB were aware of their reputation of being a "softer" rock band, so they decided to amp things up a bit on both of those songs. "Shake Me Like A Monkey" seems to almost dive into Red Hot Chili Peppers-ish territory. It's not as heavy as the typical RHCP song, but it does maintain the funkiness, groovy staccato guitar/bass riffs, and wild 'n' crazy fun of the typical RHCP song. There are even lyrical tongue twisters in the middle of the verses (my personal fave: "I like my coffee with toast and jelly, but I'd rather be licked from my back to my belly") to go with the manic energy of this song. All that being said, this is a fun song to both rock out to and get up and groove to!

"The Rain" by The Swell Season: Another song from the actor and actress of the beloved indie flick "Once". Having heard three songs off their latest album, "Strict Joy", it seems like Glen and Marketa wanted to go more for the more "mixed instruments" sound of '60s folk-rock than the more stark, acoustic sounds of Cat Stevens and Nick Drake that they went for on the "Once" songs. One thing they've managed to maintain from those songs that they've brought into their latest material is a sentimental, wistful quality. I love how this song starts out entirely acoustic, and in a minor key at that. Perhaps Glen and Marketa weren't aware that the chord sequence in this song is similar to "The Beast" by fellow indie-folk-rock duo Angus and Julia Stone, but it's still a nice song to listen to, especially on a rainy day (which, of course, is apt to the title).

"Tighten Up" by The Black Keys: I love the "happy psychedelic" sound on this one. It's the kind of sound that I think would be likely to be featured on a car commercial (or perhaps even another James Bond spoof, a la "Austin Powers"). What takes the cake for this song, however, is the video. It's hilarious!! Jim Henson would be proud, since the entire video is a PUPPET DINOSAUR singing along to the song!! Sounds like the kind of thing that would be quirky enough to be featured in a '70s or '80s episode of "Sesame Street" (who were also quite psychedelia influenced back in those days). Somebody call the folks who did "Avenue Q" and tell 'em to watch the video for The Black Keys' "Tighten Up"!! It's a hoot!

"Vaporize" by Broken Bells: Not that "The High Road" (the previous hit from this band) was bad, 'cuz it wasn't, but this song just sounds more fitting for a band whose lead singer is James Mercer from The Shins. It sounds kinda like The Beatles (a huge influence on The Shins). Much like The Black Keys' "Tighten Up" (see above), "Vaporize" also takes a foray into '60s psychedelia. It takes a Beatlesque approach instrumentally by adding in "unexpected" instruments such as organs and muted trumpets. "Sgt. Pepper" fans, rejoice! Speaking of which, "Vaporize" seems like it'd feel right at home on that album.

"Your Hands (Together)" by The New Pornographers: If any of you have heard of the classical composer Haydn's "Surprise Symphony", this song is like the rock and roll reincarnate version. It starts out melodic and happy like the typical New Pornographers song, but right in the middle of each line is a crunchy, loud "DA-NA-NA-NA-NA!!" guitar sound that sounds more like it'd fit in a Black Sabbath song than a New Pornographers song. If you're ever feeling like you just don't want to get up in the morning, put this song on. It's BOUND to make you wake up and smell the coffee!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New songs for Mar. 17, 2010

Here they are. Enjoy, folks:

"A Perfect Hand" by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim (with Steve Earle on the vocals):

David Byrne and Fatboy Slim I could see doing something together, but Steve Earle?! Doesn't seem to be in quite the same caliber, but he makes it work in this song! Unlike Byrne's unlikely 2008 smash with Brian Eno, "Strange Overtones", this one moves away from the Modest Mouse-y territory and goes more toward a gentle, even-keeled sound that sounds suitable enough for Steve Earle. Byrne is not heard anywhere in the vocals, it's just Steve Earle, but like I said, he makes it work here! Typically, the only Steve Earle I'd really go for is his late '80s hit, "Copperhead Road", but this one's good too, though perhaps that's mainly due to the fact that David Byrne is (instrumentally?) featured on this track. Well, it's unique to say the least!

"Norway" by Beach House:

Don't be fooled by the name "Beach House", this isn't happy, upbeat music. It's more like dreamy, trance-y music with that arpeggiated folk-rock guitar sound that seems to have become commonplace in indie rock these days. The lyrics are disjointed enough to be as trippy as the song itself is (and furthermore, the title - mentioned in the one-word chorus - seems even less relevant to the song than the rest of it, lyrically). But the simultaneous trippiness and dreamlike quality this song provides make it a winner for me!

"Stranger" by Dr. Dog:

Unlike the previous song mentioned here, this song IS happy and upbeat! It almost sounds like a song from the '60s with its uptempo beat and brass instruments mingling with its somewhat psychedelic guitar sounds. Lyrically it's a bit hard to tell whether or not this song is sincere, particularly in the chorus ("I do believe/That there's no more tricks up my sleeve/The good old days have past/And the good times after that/And slowly I become undone/A stranger with a strange act"). Perhaps they're not meant to be sincere or insincere, but just quirky. If that's so, this is another surefire winner for me from the indie rock world!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

5 newbies!!

This week was a great week for new releases!! Here they are!

"Good Morning (The Future)" by Rogue Wave:

Gone are the days of the Rogue Wave with the hauntingly beautiful folk-rock tunes (like "Lake Michigan" and "Chicago X12"). However, this does not mean I dislike "Good Morning". In fact it kinda seems like Rogue Wave have taken a queue from Phoenix in terms of the way this song sounds, in that it combines techno-influenced guitar hooks with lush harmonies and melodies. Much like how "Lake Michigan" was an environmental lament, "Good Morning (The Future)" seems to be a lament on how screwed up life has become for some of us, like the main hook of the song says ("the future...isn't what it used to be").

"Sweet Disposition" by The Temper Trap:

Someone listen to this song and tell me they DON'T hear U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" in it!! The main hook is practically the same except it's played on a lower fret. "Sweet Disposition" and The Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around Midnight" could go head to head in a musical battle for which song sounds the most like "Where the Streets Have No Name", and "Sweet Disposition" would win, hands down!! But wait! This does not mean I dislike "Sweet Disposition". For one of the many alt and indie bands to follow in U2's footsteps, The Temper Trap are actually pretty sincere and heartfelt compared to some bands (*cough cough, Coldplay, cough cough*). "Sweet Disposition" is able to do something to me that most Coldplay songs (from their sophomore album on) can't do to me - it's one of those songs that takes me into a different world when I hear it. And that is what good music is all about!

"Swim Until You Can't See Land" by Frightened Rabbit:

This is probably my fave out of all five of the songs I'm reviewing for this week! When I first heard this song a couple days ago, I instantly fell in love with it! I barely know the lyrics (currently), but sometimes all it takes is an honest, heartfelt melody and harmony for me to find that central quality in a song I always look for. The guitar riffs are echoic of both The Byrds and Nick Drake, and I love how melancholy, but still innocent, both of them sound. Frightened Rabbit have preserved that '60s folk-rock sound pretty well for "Swim Until You Can't See Land", which makes it a surefire winner for me!! From what little I know of the lyrics (the chorus), "Swim Until You Can't See Land" seems like it's about perseverance, which only adds to how much I love this song. Please check this one out if you don't check out any of the others, it's an instant classic!

"The Mystery Zone" by Spoon:

With a name like "Spoon" it's gotta be quirky! And this song is just that. The guitar echoes with each riff that is played (including the brief but worthy guitar solo of the song), and the drums consistently hit on the "3" of the "1, 2, 3, 4" time signature each time. And what exactly IS this "Mystery Zone" they keep mentioning?! My best guess is that it's exactly what it sounds like, a state of confusion (as mentioned, or at least hinted at, in the lyrics, "How come it feels so familiar when you've never been there?") Existential lyrics with a danceable beat? Sounds like a rip-roarin' good time to me!!

"You Must Be Out of Your Mind" by The Magnetic Fields:

This one hasn't gained as much airplay as the other four, but I thought I'd review it anyway since at least three adult alt. stations I know of have added it to their playlist (and also 'cuz it's such a good song!) I had actually known of The Magnetic Fields for quite a long time, and they seem like one of the few bands in the indie crop whose unique brand of folk-rock is more folk than it is rock. "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" continues in that tradition, and it adds in stringed instruments (like the violin), perhaps to make it sound even more like it belongs in another decade. Pretty much every Magnetic Fields song seems to sound more suited to the '60s or early '70s than it does to the 2000's or 2010's. "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" also carries on the lyrical tradition of satire meets sincerity that The Magnetic Fields other songs have had (like "All My Little Words", for instance). Unlike "All My Little Words", however, "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" seems a bit MORE focused on the satirical element. It has a bittersweet melody coupled with a sarcastic chorus ("You think you can leave the past behind/You must be out of your mind"). But musical quirks like these are the reason I love bands like Magnetic Fields, so I strongly suggest that all you irony-lovers out there give this one a good listen!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

again, just two songs - but they're good ones

This time around, from Pete Yorn and Greg Laswell. Enjoy!

"Paradise Cove" by Pete Yorn: This song captures all that I love about most of Pete Yorn's material! It features lovely harmony, folk-rock influenced instrumentation, and a wistful, somewhat bittersweet melody. Funny how in the chorus, Yorn keeps repeating, "I got what I wanted and it wasn't enough". This IS enough for me! Love this song! Though I can't help but feel like musically it's basically a cross between Death Cab for Cutie's "Soul Meets Body" and Guster's "Satellite". But I love both of those songs, too, so this is worth checking out!

"Take Everything" by Greg Laswell: This one is off of Laswell's "Covers" CD (which features a cover of the song "The Killing Moon" by Echo and The Bunnymen, among others). So I was surprised to learn that this was a song that was originally done by '90s one hit wonders Mazzy Star (best known for "Fade Into You"). After listening to Laswell's version, I decided to take a listen to the original since I had never heard it before. I must say, I like the original a lot better! However, Laswell's stab at this song isn't bad. It retains (or at least tries to) the melancholy vibe of the original in a way that bands like Snow Patrol or Radiohead might do (and I love both of those bands!) But, surprisingly, the original is only melancholy for the first half. It uses an electric guitar to pick up the slack towards the middle and carries on through the end (it made the original sound a little like "What's Up?" by fellow '90s one hit wonders, 4 Non Blondes). However, Laswell's version is entirely acoustic (and about a minute shorter, too). So if you wanna check out Mazzy Star's version of this song, please do so! But it's worth checking out this version, too (though I highly recommend hearing the original first).