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!