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".