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".