Here they are!
"Boots" by The Killers: Is it just me, or does it seem a tad weird to call a Christmas song "Boots"?!? It's such an enigmatic title!! (Though there have been other Christmas tunes with odd titles - Joni Mitchell's "River", The Pretenders' "2000 Miles", and The Pogues "Fairytale of New York" among them). I like this song, but I do have a couple complaints about it. First of all, come on Brandon, you could have picked a better title!! The Killers already have THREE Christmas songs in their catalog with more obvious associations with the holidays in the titles - "A Great Big Sled", "Joseph Better You Than Me" (as in the Biblical Joseph), and "Don't Shoot Me Santa". "A Great Big Sled" is probably my personal fave in The Killers' Xmas catalog. But getting back to the review, my second complaint is that Brandon Flowers really seems to have softened his music more than usual as of 2010. All of his most recent songs (including "Boots", with The Killers), seem to be on a level that sounds like a cross between Coldplay and U2, better than the former, but worse than the latter! The release Flowers put out the earliest this year, "Crossfire" at least had some nice electric guitar riffing, but "Only the Young" and "Boots"?! These songs seem to rely more on keyboards. I dunno, something about that just puts me off. But the lyrics are nostalgic (with the mention of things like "snowball fights" and "the smell of cinnamon" in the chorus), and thankfully, I COULD hear some acoustic guitar strumming towards the end of the song, which I liked.
"Fixin' to Die" by G. Love, and featuring The Avett Brothers: Not to be confused for the Country Joe and The Fish song of a similar name ("I Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag"). It seems as though the artist formerly known as Garrett Dutton and The Avetts are both trying to add a little down-'n'-dirty country-blues into their catalog. This song marks an especially welcome return for G. Love, who seemed to stray from his eccentric take on blues he had in the '90s and go more into being a Jack Johnson clone in the '00s. As for The Avetts, it took me awhile to get used to them. I'm still not fond of the "sleepers" (slower, more polished piano-pop style tunes) in their catalog, like "I And Love And You" and "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise"), but songs like the melancholy, vaguely Robbie Robertson-esque (his '60s/'70s era material) songs "January Wedding" and "Yard Sale" were both great songs that I warmed up to circa the summer of this year. Speaking of which, their more punchy tune, "Kick Drum Heart" is also being reviewed in this week's blog! "Fixin' to Die" is a really gritty, catchy, gutsy, bluesy tune for both Dutton (G. Love) and The Avetts, though! Highly recommended!
"Hey Ahab" by Elton John and Leon Russell: Much like "If It Wasn't For Bad" (see my late August/early September reviews on this site), it seems as though despite the fact that Elton is taking most of the vocal parts here, that Leon Russell is clearly the man when it comes to the instrumentation of the songs on his latest album with Elton John! Elton's melodic piano-pop sound isn't quite evident on "Hey Ahab" (and "If It Wasn't..."), but Leon plays a mean boogie-style piano a la The Band and Van Morrison on both of 'em. "Ahab" is a bit more of an adventurous and energetic track. Its length is almost five and a half minutes, it features R & B/gospel style female singers in the background, and its very fully orchestrated. Way to go, guys!
"Kick Drum Heart" by The Avett Brothers: I already made my opinion about these guys clear when I reviewed "Fixin' to Die" in this week's blog. "Kick Drum Heart" is a surprisingly punchy tune for the normally mellow neo-folk act. It's still mellow, but it's more energetic than most of their material. It's also one of their more piano driven tunes (like nearly everything they've done so far that's hit the airwaves). Perhaps it was the dreary (in my opinion) keyboards of "I And Love And You" and "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" that put me off about those songs, but the keyboards in "Kick Drum" are quite lively and stomp-y. Not bad for a country-rock influenced band!
"Terrible Love" by The National: A good word to describe this song?! "Fuzzy"!! Yes, "fuzzy". It sounds funny, but of course I'm not talking "fuzzy" as in "Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Bear", more as in "that song's got a fuzzy sound". In other words, somewhat muddy distortion on the recording (and guitar). For a band I've just come to know this year, I must say, The National is pretty cool!! Whether it's the pseudo-goth-rock vibe of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" (and "Anyone's Ghost"), the orchestral '60s-ish pop-rock of "Lemonworld" (my fave of theirs so far), or "Terrible Love", it's all good!! "Terrible Love" almost reminds me of a Beck song with its purposely old-sounding distortion and dark, yet still entertaining sound. Even the lyrics sound a bit Beck-ish ("It's a terrible love and I'm walking with spiders" - what is THAT supposed to mean?!) Beck would be proud!!