Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Novemberists...ummm...I mean The Decemberists release a newbie (plus 6 other goodies!!)

here they are!

"Bitter Pill" by Mt. Desolation: Mt. Desolation is Tim Rice Oxley's side project for his more well-known band, the British contemporary soft rock group Keane, so, not surprisingly, "Bitter Pill" sounds a lot like a Keane song. It's funny, then, that I actually like this song despite the fact that I'm not a fan of Keane's music (except for possibly "Is It Any Wonder?") I guess the main thing about "Bitter Pill" that I LIKE is that it doesn't sound like Tim's trying too hard to emulate the more crowd-pleasing side of Coldplay's music that he often seems to emulate with Keane. Instead, it comes off sounding more like a lightweight yet genuine contemporary British alt-rock/indie tune, with the bouncy, charming qualities of Aqualung (the band, not the song), the honest, heartfelt qualities of Snow Patrol, and the lilting, wistful melodies of Travis (whose lead singer Fran Healy is going to be reviewed later during this blog!) While "Bitter Pill" definitely doesn't have the more lasting qualities of established "piano-rockers" like Elton John, Tori Amos, and Ben Folds, it definitely has a more unique sound quality than most "Britpop" piano-rock tunes.

"Down By the Water" by The Decemberists: Hmmmm...interesting...The DECEMBERists decided to release their latest tune in NOVEMBER!! This is just too funny!! (Their last release was in late February of last year, which wouldn't have been as funny). Also, this is not a cover of the sublimely dark PJ Harvey tune of the same name for those wondering. Joking aside, though, "Down By the Water" represents yet another eclectic facet of The Decemberists' career that I don't think they've taken on yet. So far, the adventurous indie rock group have taken on folk-rock of both buoyant ("16 Military Wives") and somber ("The Hazards of Love 1") qualities, R.E.M./Smiths influenced indie-pop tunes that have so far become their biggest hits ("O Valencia!" and "The Perfect Crime # 2"), minor key post-punk influenced tunes ("The Rake's Song"), and even various concept albums/songs worthy of Pink Floyd/Jethro Tull comparisons! So how does "Down By the Water" compare to their already diverse library of songs?! Well, it seems with this song, The Decemberists have explored yet another side of their inner classic rocker(s), as "Down By the Water" shares instrumentation somewhat similar to Bruce Springsteen's "The River" and chord progression similar to Tom Petty's "Flirting With Time". I'm just a little disappointed by this, as I was expecting more of either an adventurous and/or hypnotically melodic tune from The Decemberists, as opposed to the heartland/roots rock revival they have set up in "Down By the Water", but The Decemberists, so far, have a certain charm to all the songs I've heard of theirs that has never failed to please me. This song is no exception to the rule!!

"Golden State" by Delta Spirit: This song, the second single off Delta Spirit's 2010 release, "History From Below", should probably come as a breath of fresh air to those who found the first hit off the album, "Bushwick Blues", to be too punk-y and/or depressing. "Golden State" is neither of these things, and marks a return to the fun, bouncy, roots-y indie-pop/rock of their 2008 song, "Trashcan". It even has the exact same rhythm as "Trashcan", though perhaps that's just what Delta Spirit typically sound like when they're at their happiest. While "Bushwick Blues" certainly distinguished itself from other Delta Spirit songs (and probably became their most successful song to date, aside from possibly "Trashcan"), "Golden State" is the kind of song that doesn't NEED distinguishing, "different" qualities in order to make it stand out. It's fine the way it is!

"Howlin' For You" by The Black Keys: If The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, Kings of Leon, and/or Muse (or Wolfmother?) covered Gary Glitter's glam rock classic "Rock And Roll Part 2" (you know, the one with the guitar riff that goes "da-NANANA-NA-NA-nuh..HEY-EYYY!!...da-na-na-nahh...), it would probably sound a lot like "Howlin' For You". Actually, it also takes quite a bit of its vocal rhythmic patterns from The Yardbirds' "I'm A Man", in addition. The Black Keys are a band who wear their classic rock influences on their sleeve (especially T. Rex) and proudly so, but "Howlin' For You" actually sounds like a COMBINATION of classic rock songs that would sound as much at home on an alt-rock station as it would a classic rock station! It has catchy enough qualities to it that the very moment after one first hears it, it takes control of your ears in a very similar manner to "Rock And Roll Part 2", and should, someday, get played at sporting events like that song often does! Ordinarily I wouldn't say that about an indie song/band, but this one has potential! And sorry folks, unlike "Tighten Up" (and its mid-summer follow-up song, "Next Girl"), this song does NOT feature a video with Frank the Funk-a-saurus Rex (that I am aware of).

"Money Grabber" by Fitz and The Tantrums: I'm not aware of the show "Criminal Minds", but apparently this song became the surprise hit of early November 2010 because of that show (and also thanks to a T-Mobile commercial, apparently). Anyway, the name "Fitz and The Tantrums" sounds like the name of an indie band, right? Heheh...WRONG!! Well...kind of. It's really an "indie soul" group, in the manner of Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, and the later work of Jamie Lidell. For a good description of this song, imagine what it would've been like if The Temptations, The Four Tops, etc. covered Electric Light Orchestra's "Evil Woman". In other words, this song is probably what some would be tempted to call "retreaux" (a portmanteau of the words "retro" and "faux"). I'd say it's just plain "retrO", though, it's a catchy, feel-good song that captures the feel of a typical Motown tune without being too pretentious.

"Raise Your Right Hand" by Hill Country Revue: If you've heard Hill Country Revue's song "You Can Make It", which came out a year before this one, you probably wouldn't expect the same guys who did a mellow but kind of catchy country-blues influenced number like "You Can Make It" to follow it up with a Skynyrd/ZZ Top/Joe Walsh-ish powerhouse classic rock revival number like "Raise Your Right Hand"! I was pretty surprised by how hard-rocking (well, for Hill Country Revue, anyway) this song really is!! It even has about a minute long guitar solo that was probably influenced by the three classic rock acts I previously mentioned in this review! A band with a name like "Hill Country Revue" probably wouldn't be one you could expect to sell out arenas, but if they keep on churning out material like "Raise Your Right Hand", you can bet that'll happen one of these days!!

"Sing Me to Sleep" by Fran Healy (of Travis) and Neko Case: Perhaps this duet is trying to one-up the one Greg Laswell did with Ingrid Michaelson earlier this year. If so, it's doing a good job at it! For starters, I like Fran better than Greg, and Neko MUCH better than Ingrid. Where Greg and Ingrid's "Take Everything" was merely light, buoyant folk-pop, "Sing Me to Sleep" tugs a bit more at the ol' heartstrings. The chemistry between Fran and Neko's vocals is cute, romantic, and almost dreamy (for both of them!) If high school proms start playing indie tunes, this would make for a mighty fine slow dance song!