Friday, December 23, 2011

The Top 20 Songs of 2011!!!

Here it is folks, the moment you've all been waiting for!! Countin' em down from 20 to 1. (Yeah I know, it isn't Wednesday, but it IS towards the end of the year, so why not?!):

20. "MoneyGrabber" - Fitz and The Tantrums
19. "Free" - Graffiti 6
18. "Options" - Gomez
17. "She Walks In So Many Ways" - The Jayhawks
16. "Lost In My Mind" - The Head and The Heart
15. "Called Out In the Dark" - Snow Patrol
14. "The Afterlife" - Paul Simon
13. "Lonely Boy" - The Black Keys
12. "Longing to Belong" - Eddie Vedder
11. "Tree By the River" - Iron & Wine
10. "The Cave" - Mumford and Sons
9. "Roll Away Your Stone" - Mumford and Sons
8. "I Might" - Wilco
7. "How Come You Never Go There?" - Feist
6. "Pumped Up Kicks" - Foster the People
5. "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
4. "Give Me Something" - Scars on 45
3. "Down By the Water" - The Decemberists
2. "Lucky Now" - Ryan Adams

And...the number one song of 2011..isss.....

"YOU ARE A TOURIST" BY DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE!!! :D Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and Happy Holidays to everyone, and a Happy New Year, too!! It's been great reviewing songs and sharing how I feel about them with everyone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

7 new releases, 2 Christmas songs, and a partridge in a pear tree...

Happy Holidays everyone!! :) 'Tis the season to review new Christmas songs from She & Him and The Killers, not to mention 5 other non-Christmas related tracks. Here goes:

"I Didn't Mean It" by The Belle Brigade: Why is the sky blue? Who (or what) created the universe? Of all these age old questions that have never quite reached a universally agreed upon answer, the one I'd like to know the most right now is this - why do so many great songs and artists end up on the "Twilight" soundtracks?! While I don't think I'll have an answer for that in quite a long time, it just so happens that the latest song to get attention from indie rockers The Belle Brigade is on the "Breaking Dawn" soundtrack of the "Twilight" series. This doesn't mean The Belle Brigade have become "sellouts" (yet), but I can't help but notice how strikingly different this sounds to their other big song, "Losers", released earlier this year in the summer. Where "Losers" was a somber, regretful folk-rock song, "I Didn't Mean It" approaches more of a catchy, alt-pop type sound, almost as if Ben Folds were female and tried covering the Linda Ronstadt version of "You're No Good". Perhaps most interesting of all is how, out of the two songs I know so far from The Belle Brigade, the slower, sadder one ("Losers") is written in a major key, yet the pop-ier, faster one ("I Didn't Mean It") is written in a minor key!! That being said, there must be some really clever people involved in that band!

"Lights" by Ellie Goulding: Is anyone here sick of how much attention Lady Gaga has gotten ever since she debuted? (I know I am!) Looking for a fresher, less sexually excessive alternative to her that sounds kind of like an indie-pop version of Lady Gaga? Perhaps not, but now there is one!! The first major song to get attention from British pop starlet Ellie Goulding, "Lights", is like a hip dance-pop song for those who prefer Tori Amos to Madonna. Like Gaga, Ellie's a blond haired girl who knows how to dance. Unlike Gaga, Ellie seems like she dances more for fun than for promiscuity and/or (desperate) attention. "Lights" is a unique, catchy song, and probably one of the few that can appeal to both the hipsters and the just plain hip!

"Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye: In the 21st century, the world-music-meets-rock-music flame that Peter Gabriel and Sting became well known for using in the '80s has been kept alive by musicians like Robbie Robertson and Paul Simon (both of whom also used that sound frequently in the '80s). Have there been any new artists that have been successful in using that sound, though?! With the possible exception of Vampire Weekend, probably not (and even Vampire Weekend's songs were a bit too bouncy to fully emulate the more reflective Gabriel/Sting sound). After all these years, however, someone has come along to return the world-music-meets-rock-music-sound to the music world as if it were fresh and brand new again, and he goes by the stage name of Gotye (pronounced GO-tee-yay). The ambiance of Gotye's first major song, "Somebody That I Used to Know" (not to be confused with the Elliott Smith song of the same title), is icy and haunting, and seems to borrow heavily from Peter Gabriel's almost equally haunting "Games Without Frontiers", and his vocals are somewhat similar to Sting's, especially as the song draws closer towards the chorus. The "cold shoulder" vibe of the lyrics, combined with the already frigid atmosphere of the song itself makes "Somebody That I Used to Know" the perfect non-Christmas listen for the winter season!!

"That Old Black Hole" by Dr. Dog: So far, Dr. Dog have gotten attention with two songs on adult alt radio, with the jaunty, Beatlesque "Stranger", and the folk-rock-y, Neil Young-ish "Shadow People" (which also manages to sound like The Beatles during the second half). Dr. Dog's latest song, then, "That Old Black Hole", marks a musical departure from the typical neo-psychedelic, "retro" indie-pop of their music, as it sounds more like the type of song a band like Modest Mouse might have done. Speaking of "mouse", another way Dr. Dog have, perhaps, sought for a larger audience in "That Old Black Hole" is through its video, whose only consistent image is of a hamster on a wheel. Other images appear in the video, but they are a bit too brief and surreal for me to find truly memorable in comparison to the hamster. The video for "That Old Black Hole" can be viewed here!! (

"The Christmas Waltz" by She & Him: 'Tis the season to be Zooey!! The most beautiful woman in indie-land (and her performing partner, fellow indie musician Matt "M." Ward) has released a heartwarming, sentimental version of the classic Christmas song that states the time it is performed in ("and this song of mine, in three-quarter time...") Zooey's vocals in this are absolutely irresistible!! Matt does a good job at this song too, though, bringing jazz chords to his acoustic guitar in the finest, most tender fashion since Sammy Davis Jr. The whole ALBUM ("A Very She & Him Christmas") that this is on is great, actually, but this song is a standout, for being the opening track, the track that's gotten the most attention so far on adult alt radio stations, and for having the most snuggly, cozy feel of all the songs on the CD!!

"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" by The Killers: Ever since 2006, Brandon Flowers and his fellow elves, umm, I mean, musicians, have released one Christmas song each December, perhaps the best of which was the one they put out during that year ("A Great Big Sled"). "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" might not be the best Christmas song The Killers have released, but it's a breath of fresh, energetic air compared to the decent (but dreary) "Boots" they released last year. The uptempo beat and tinkly keyboards set the mood for a Christmas song that takes place in the Wild Wild West, with quirky lyrics, and Brandon Flowers singing as though he had a slight "Southern" drawl in his voice. A surprisingly friendly, bubbly song for The Killers, but it still manages to work!!

"The Same Thing" by Cass McCombs: Before I get on with my review for this song, "Cass" might sound like the name of a female performer, but is, in fact, a guy in this case. Its sound is suggestive of Pete Yorn, while the lyrics take on a more Dylan-esque quality ("Nothing in common, our blood thicker than broth/We're cut from different sides of the same cloth"). Both Dylan and Yorn are known for composing melancholy folk-rock songs, and "The Same Thing" also has that sort of sound. Vocally, McCombs seems to derive from Elliott Smith, who, again, has a melancholy folk-rock sort of sound. Cass McCombs seems to have that "lonely guy with a sad, sentimental acoustic guitar sound" pretty good! Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is mine!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

new songs for December 7th, 2011

Here they are:

"Get Used to It" by Ben Lee: Ben Lee made his musical breakthrough back in the mid-'00s with the charmingly quirky, folk-pop-y "Catch My Disease". It didn't occur to me back then that his roots were not in folk-pop, but rather in power pop (i.e. Big Star, Elvis Costello, XTC, etc.) No song in Ben's catalog that I've heard so far illustrates his power pop influences better than his latest song, "Get Used to It". The sound of "Get Used to It" isn't the best part, though. It's how Ben takes a slow, slightly psychedelic detour midway through the song that makes "Get Used to It" really worth listening to for me! "Get Used to It", therefore, is the perfect title to a song that starts off catchy, gets a little weird (in a good way) midway through, and ends up as catchy as it was when it began. Now THAT's something to "get used to"!!

"Honolulu Blues" by Craig Finn: Craig is the lead singer of a roots-y, largely Springsteen influenced indie outfit called The Hold Steady, and, until now, has recorded pretty much all of his material with them. "Honolulu Blues" marks the first time Craig has struck out on his own, but he still retains the Springsteen-esque sound of The Hold Steady, and still has a (nameless) band backing him up! The opening chord sequence of the song seems like it's been used endlessly in rock/pop music (most recently, perhaps, in "Forget You [F**k You]" by Cee-Lo Green), but after that, "Honolulu Blues" becomes its own song. As indicated earlier, there's a definite Springsteen influence in this song, but it seems like this song goes back even further in rock 'n' roll history, as it also seems to heavily recall Chuck Berry (and perhaps The Rolling Stones as well) in its riffs! The angst-ridden but catchy poetic lyrics combined with the instrumentation also brings to mind even more rock 'n' roll greats, like Dylan during his "electric" period. Classic rock influences are present in nearly every song Craig has attempted, but none more so than "Honolulu Blues". Long live rock!!

"Serpents" by Sharon Van Etten: In a long line of "angry young women" in alt/indie rock, starting, perhaps, with Patti Smith, continuing with PJ Harvey and Liz Phair in the '90s, and carrying through to the '00s with acts like The Dresden Dolls and Company of Thieves, Sharon Van Etten is the latest to follow in their footsteps with her seductively dark song, "Serpents". "Quirky young women" (Feist, Regina Spektor, Joanna Newsom, Florence and The Machine, etc.) seems to have been the trend in the '00s/2010's, and, as great (and cute) as they are, sometimes it's good to have a little darkness to balance out the light! Sharon's voice might not have the same venom as Patti, Liz, and PJ, but the instrumentation here is pretty angst-ridden, as are the lyrics (which include, "You enjoy sucking on dreams, so I'll fall asleep with someone other than you"...Ouch!!). For those who like their gals with more of a gloomy, detached emotion in their music, I highly recommend "Serpents". Even the TITLE of the song indicates something not-so-friendly!

"Waiting For Something" by Nada Surf: The one regret I have about Nada Surf's music is that their most popular song, "Popular", sounded like a Weezer song (or, more accurately, a PARODY of a Weezer song), whereas all their other material is more beautiful and melodic than that, approaching the R.E.M./Radiohead category. Their latest, "Waiting For Something", continues in the beautiful but catchy alt-rock pattern of pretty much everything they released in the '00s (which was quite a bit, actually, and included songs like "Inside of Love", "Always Love", "See These Bones", and "Whose Authority"). "Waiting For Something" is a little different than the four songs I just mentioned, but in a VERY good way. Where those four songs were slower paced, "Waiting For Something" is a little faster. This is such a great song!! Great harmonies, great vocals, great instrumentation, tell-it-like-it-is lyrics (the chorus, for instance, "it always feels like I'm waiting for something"), what more could you ask for?! This is my fave release of the week and I highly recommend it!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A long (start of) December...

...and there's reason to believe, maybe this year's song list will be better than the last. Especially if there's NINE SONGS!!! That's the furthest I've gotten since I did eleven songs back in September of last year! Here they are:

"Common Burn" by Mazzy Star: I betcha a lot of you reading this can't believe your eyes, especially if you remember Mazzy Star's one big hit of the '90s, "Fade Into You". Well, Mazzy Star are back, and are getting attention again for the first time since 1993!! Their latest song, "Common Burn", retains the uber-relaxed mode of "Fade Into You", and its slow, dragging sound combined with the harmonicas in the background could easily bring to mind contemporaries of Mazzy, like Cowboy Junkies. Where "Fade Into You" was a love song, though, "Common Burn" is more a song of heartbreak and remorse, but in a very calming, almost therapeutic sort of way. If you need a song to identify with how you feel after coming home on a rainy day, "Common Burn" should satisfy your soul!!

"Fall Right Now" by Josh and The Empty Pockets: People like Mike Doughty (coming up two songs from now) and Ben Lee seem to suggest that there's a small but significant section of Barenaked Ladies influenced musicians that have popped up in the mid 2000's and are continuing to thrive today. Josh and The Empty Pockets seem to capture the typical BNL sound perfectly, though (and quite a few other acts from the '90s seemed to have influenced them as well, like Duncan Sheik and Eagle-Eye Cherry). Lyrically there really isn't anything too special about "Fall Right Now" (except maybe the ending lyrics - "and it hurts...ouch!"), but anyone looking for their '90s alt-folk-pop nostalgia fix will probably connect instantly with this song! And yes, I am one such person with an affinity for '90s alt-pop, it's the best!

"Half Moon" by Blind Pilot: Blind Pilot's buoyant, relentlessly happy "We Are the Tide", released right at the cusp of late August/early September of this year, seemed to put them in the same company as public radio darlings like Gomez and Good Old War. Their latest, "Half Moon", seems to lean more towards the sentimental but still earnest alt-folk-pop/rock of bands like Alpha Rev and Scars on 45 (both of whom have had surprisingly huge success on adult alt radio stations). So how does the more yearning sound of "Half Moon" suit Blind Pilot?! Well, I honestly think Blind Pilot are better suited to bouncy, optimistic songs like "We Are the Tide" than to slower songs like "Half Moon", but "Half Moon"'s sound seems like it would be perfect for the soundtrack to a show like, say, "Grey's Anatomy" (if it hasn't been featured on there already). And if "Half Moon" is gonna get Blind Pilot more attention than they've gotten so far, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Holiday (What Do You Want?)" by Mike Doughty and Rosanne Cash: Sooo...the ex-lead singer of the quirky Beck-ish alt-pop band Soul Coughing duetting with country-rock legend Johnny Cash's daughter...somehow...equals...a good opportunity for a Christmas song?!? WHAAA?!?! It's an odd pairing, for certain, but perhaps they wanted to go for something along the lines of the infamous incident in which David Bowie and Bing Crosby duetted on their own version of "The Little Drummer Boy". Christmas-y imagery (and Christmas-y musical chimes) are heard throughout the song, but, in true Mike Doughty fashion, the song takes a tongue-in-cheek turnaround during the chorus, in which Doughty and Cash ask each other, "Hey, do you wish it was a holiday?" Do you WISH it was a holiday?! I thought a "holiday" was what this song was about!!

"I Love You Too Much" by The Rolling Stones: So I guess The Stones' previous "Some Girls" "outtake" ("No Spare Parts") just had such a country-ish sound to it that no one seemed to gravitate towards it enough. Thankfully, The Stones (and/or whoever their manager is) have sought to correct this by releasing the much more uptempo, rockin' "I Love You Too Much" as their next single of 2011 (though "I Love You Too Much" and "No Spare Parts" were both ORIGINALLY part of "Some Girls" from back in '78)!! A wise decision on their part, too, since it has a similar sound to other "Some Girls" songs like "Shattered", "Beast of Burden", and "Miss You". Mick Jagger's trademark attitude (and catchiness) are present throughout "I Love You Too Much". To paraphrase Mick himself, "If he can't rock you", well, I dunno who can!!

"Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men: Acoustic guitars, richly layered harmonies, a catchy tune, a jovial rhythm section, the adding of random instruments (accordions, in this case) for good measure, and, to top it all off, the trade-off between male and female vocals throughout the song!! Put all those ingredients together, and you've got a neat little song called "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men, the latest indie-folk ensemble that will probably garner significant attention from those who have become fans of bands like Mumford and Sons and The Decemberists (one of those people being yours truly - me!!) Though "Little Talks" is written in a minor key, it still manages to be quite a fun song to listen to! Perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of "Little Talks", though, is the lyrical dissonance it sets off, as its lively instrumentation hides a tale of a dissatisfied relationship. Highly recommended!!

"Parted Ways" by Heartless B*st*rds: Unfortunately, only a sample of this song is available at the moment from what I can find. However, it's given me a good idea of what it sounds like. For some reason the name of this group sounds a bit more suited to a hard rock band than a roots-y indie band, but "Parted Ways"' sound suggests much more the latter than it does the former. What little I got out of the lyrics (for instance, "the hum of the wheels, they are carryin' me home") also seems apt for a band with a rather earthy, organic sound to it. Fans of Dawes, Deer Tick, Alberta Cross, and the like will probably really like this song!

"Seer" by Motopony: Motopony are as eclectic as their odd band moniker would suggest they are! In the summer of this year, their "King of Diamonds" got moderate attention on adult alt radio stations, and it had a sound that combined electronic sounds with a "chill" sorta vibe. "Seer", on the other hand, is a bit more like an electric guitar-oriented indie song with slight influence by funk and jazz. The vocals in each song are also radically different from what I can tell!! (Do Motopony have multiple lead singers?!) At first, it sounds like "Seer" steals the main hook from Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson", but as "Seer" progresses, it seems to turn into a different song entirely!

"Show Me the Place" by Leonard Cohen: That's right, I've saved the best song (and artist) for last!! By coincidence, really, since it begins with the letter "S", and there are no songs with titles beginning with "T" through "Z" in this week's entry. But still, there's no denying what a powerful presence Leonard Cohen is!! (His son, Adam, has also released a new CD, though sadly, that one isn't getting as much attention). Be it the yearning "Suzanne", the spooky "Everybody Knows", or the seductive "I'm Your Man", Cohen always pours his heart and soul out in every song he does!! With his latest song, "Show Me the Place", it shows that Cohen's spirit is still as alive as it ever was!! It is a melancholy song, done mostly on piano, with occasional accompaniment from violins in the background (and various female singers on backing vocals). "Show Me the Place" is one of those songs that just takes me to another place when I listen to it! I am absolutely awestruck by it, and I hope you are too!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Bono? (and three other songs)

Thought this would be a clever silly title for my latest blog entry since U2's latest release is titled "Blow Your House Down". Anyway, here are this week's songs:

"Blow Your House Down" by U2: 1991 was an amazing year in music (if only I wasn't a toddler back then so I could appreciate how great the music was then)!! Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Pearl Jam's "Ten" were both released back then, as was U2's "Achtung Baby", of which "Blow Your House Down" is now a previously unreleased "outtake" of. And what an amazing song it is!! At seven and a half minutes, "Blow Your House Down" is certainly an epic among U2's already adventurous, innovative catalog of music! Its sound combines the best legendary, arena-rock worthy sound of The Rolling Stones with the experimental electro-funk-rock that David Bowie experimented with midway through his career. If Pearl Jam could make 5 and a half minute songs like "Jeremy" and "Alive" into the big hits they were back in '91, why couldn't U2 have been daring enough to release a 7 and a half minute song like "Blow Your House Down" back then?!? Oh well, better late than never, right?!

"Holy Moses" by Washington: With a name like "Washington", you wouldn't expect hypnotic but danceable alt-pop from an arty female performer, would you?! Surprise!! Whoever "Washington" is (perhaps the last name of the singer?), she must have been into more forms of expressive art than just music! The video for "Holy Moses" functions almost like an exotic performance art piece that's part circus act, part music video, and part musical! The lead singer's face makeup and somewhat seductive outfits seem to be drawing comparisons to Lady Gaga on YouTube, though I would say David Bowie might be a better comparison (at one point, the lead singer has red and blue face makeup, reminiscent of the cover of Bowie's "Aladdin Sane"). If you're looking for a catchy piece of music with flashy imagery, then I highly recommend "Holy Moses"!

"So American" by Portugal. The Man: Of the three songs Portugal. The Man have gotten attention on adult alt radio so far (including this one), I've started to notice they all have a similar mid-tempo-ish beat and they all have either a violin or a cello (hard to tell which, though probably the latter) in the background. Though "So American" uses the same structure as most Portugal. The Man songs, I still like it. The melody is fun and bouncy, and, though the lyrics of "So American" express political and religious dissatisfaction, Portugal. The Man do so here in their own original, quirky way, particularly in the opening lines ("If pain was a color to paint on you, your heart would be the color blue").

"Tumblebee" by Laura Veirs: With acts like Feist and Tilly and The Wall having both made appearances on "Sesame Street", it only seems fitting that the bouncy-sounding indie-folk-pop-ster Laura Veirs' latest release just happens to be a children's album!! "Tumblebee", then, might mark a first in adult alt radio - the first time a children's song is gaining airplay on stations that would normally play bands like R.E.M., Counting Crows, and Coldplay in heavy rotation!! Unfortunately, the whole song isn't available yet, but a 50-second sample is currently available, so I got a good impression of what the song was like. Though the lyrics might be simplistic (and somewhat "cutesy"), "Tumblebee"'s sound is pure indie, almost like a song off the "Juno" soundtrack. Now, if only people like Ben Folds, Belle and Sebastian, The Decemberists, and Mumford and Sons could all release songs on a Joe Raposo (songwriter of "Sesame Street" fame) tribute album, THAT would be amazing!! In the meantime, though, "Tumblebee" satisfies the kid in me just fine!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let's hear it for the gals!!

I think this is the first time my blog entry of the week has focused entirely on female performers! And what great names they have, too, Imelda May and Lana Del Rey (hey, that rhymed!!) Anyway, enough chatter, and on with the show!!

"Inside Out" by Imelda May: In the summer of this year, the sexy, jazzy, black-haired Irishwoman known as Imelda May caused a lot of "Mayhem", and this time around she's up to more of her old tricks with the saucy, slinky, seductive, soulful (and somewhat subversive) song, "Inside Out"!! The instrumentation of this song (and Imelda's steamy, passionate vocals) make "Inside Out" catchy enough, as though Gwen Stefani joined the Brian Setzer Orchestra, but it's the lyrics to the song that just crack me up and are worth mentioning!! Throughout the song, Imelda not only says she loves the subject of her song "inside out", but also describes why, pointing out how she loves each part of her subject's body on the way. It starts out relatively innocent ("I love your eyes, blue as the skies/I love your lips to your fingertips"), but it gets weirder as the song goes on, ultimately resulting in lyrics like, "I love your nails, even your entrails", and "I love your wits and your wobbly bits" (Whoa!! TMI, Imelda!!) She even admits that the way she loves the person in question is "kinda creepy", but that, at the same time, the person she's addressing "loves it deeply", and that he "know(s) (he)'s gonna keep (her)". Catchy AND funny (and attractive)?!? I think we got a winner here!!!

"Video Games" by Lana Del Rey: A good song about a subject I've never been crazy about (though practically all my friends are). Or so it would seem. Though "Video Games" might be the title of this song, that's not exactly what it's about. In fact, the term "video games", in this song, is probably more of a metaphor, suggesting either masculinity and/or an example of an activity Lana Del Rey doesn't like but is willing to endure to keep her boyfriend company. Lana tends to deliver the lyrics of "Video Games" in a rather dry manner, but with sweet, benign vocals, and instrumentation similar to acts like Feist, Florence and The Machine, and Joanna Newsom.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New songs November 9th, 2011

here they are:

“After the Gold Rush” by Thom Yorke: Radiohead’s enigmatic but passionate frontman performed his cover of the classic Neil Young song, “After the Gold Rush”, at Neil’s own Bridge School Benefit Concert, which are held annually to benefit children with disabilities who attend Bridge School (a school in Mountain View, California). I am a huge fan of both Radiohead and Neil Young, so I was very curious in knowing if their two musical worlds would meet or drift apart in Thom Yorke’s cover of “After the Gold Rush”. Though not as good as the Neil Young original, Yorke does “After the Gold Rush” justice by maintaining the melancholy but earnest feel of the original tune (and Yorke’s reedy tenor vocals match Young’s quite well, though perhaps unintentionally).

“Feeding Line” by Boy and Bear: This song does not really have any factors that distinguish it from other indie songs, but I like it anyway! I’m always a sucker for smooth harmonies, random whistling (which “Feeding Line” has towards the middle of it), and acoustic and electric guitars complementing each other in their sound. And, what can I say, I’ve become accustomed to the “lyrical dissonance” songs like this feature (lyrics like “Nevertheless when this pain in my chest seems to grow…” are juxtaposed against a catchy, vibrant melody in A major). Yeah, like I said, nothing particularly special about “Feeding Line”, but it’s still a fun song to listen to and sing along to.

“Games People Play” by Lissie: The folk-pop/rock musician known simply as “Lissie” onstage has made huge strides for herself this year! Up until last month, she was merely a two-hit wonder (for “In Sleep” and “When I’m Alone”), known among the indie circles but not much outside of that. In October of this year, though, she toured with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in order to boost the ratings of Los Angeles adult alt outlet, KCSN, which plays both Lissie’s and Tom Petty’s music on a regular basis! As if THAT weren’t enough major star power for Lissie, her latest CD is an all covers album, encompassing everything from country songs to heavy metal songs within the process! The first song off her collection of covers is “Games People Play”. No, this is not a cover of the Alan Parsons song, for those wondering, it is actually a cover of a song by country musician Joe South. Lissie does a fine job at covering it, though, remaining faithful to the original song by performing it in A major like Joe did, and even adding in the sitar-sounding instruments that his version had!

“Look Around” by Red Hot Chili Peppers: And now, we come to yet another musical act that has gotten major attention for their latest album this year! “Look Around” marks the FOURTH song to get attention from The Chili Peppers’ “I’m With You” (quite a lot of songs to get noticed from an album that came out only 4 and a half months ago)! “Look Around” seems to bridge the gaps between the original funk-rock sound The Chilis had in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, and the more melodic rock sound they developed ever since then. Flea’s bass playing is spectacular (and wild) enough here to win back their initial fanbase, yet Anthony Kiedis’ vocals shine enough here (especially during the title-only chorus) that I can’t help but want to harmonize with him when he sings! 25 years and still going strong!! Few other rock and roll bands have achieved such a feat, so congrats to them!

“No Spare Parts” by The Rolling Stones: And speaking of long-standing rock bands, The Stones have GOT to be one of the LONGEST lasting of them all!! Mick Jagger and co started rolling in the mid-‘60s and haven’t given up ever since! Their latest, “No Spare Parts”, has a rather country-rock sound to it. Not the first thing that comes to mind when The Stones are mentioned, but they’re certainly no strangers to country-rock (though it took them until “Wild Horses” was released to do a song that wasn’t a mockery of the genre). Being that this song was an “outtake” from the largely sarcastic, misogynistic, angst-ridden “Some Girls” album, “No Spare Parts” is probably more mockery than it is a “serious” song. Mick’s rather detached, weary sounding vocals on “No Spare Parts” also seems to hint at the insincerity this song might have. Yeah, I know, it’s (kind of) “only rock and roll” of them to pull off a half-hearted song like “No Spare Parts”, but I like it!

“Should We Fight Back?” by The Parlotones: Before I actually sat down and listened to “Should We Fight Back?” I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not I would enjoy it since I only knew The Parlotones for being a band that Coldplay selected to play with them on their latest tour prior to this song’s release to adult alt radio stations. The Parlotones, however, do not have a contrived, overproduced, adult-contemporary-meets-alt-pop type sound like Coldplay’s later (and latest) album(s) do. Instead, they are more an “indie-dance-pop/rock” band in the vein of The Killers, Phoenix, and Foster the People, all three of whom seemed to have instance success, both commercially and among more independent minded audiences, upon their debuts! So far, The Parlotones haven’t made quite the same impact with “Should We Fight Back?” but the way the guitars, drums, and vocals blend together seamlessly on this song seems to indicate it will do pretty well! Listener, beware, though. Beneath the irresistibly catchy sound of “Should We Fight Back?” are lyrics of political dissatisfaction. That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the song, though!!

“Tomorrow” by The Cranberries: And last, but certainly not least, how can you have a great November without some “Cranberries”?!? Dolores O’Riordan and her band of merry Irish alt-rockers haven’t had a successful record in 10 years (see also Ben Folds Five’s “House”, which I reviewed last week), but it’s definitely been worth the wait!! Unlike other major ‘90s rockers like Counting Crows and Goo Goo Dolls, The Cranberries haven’t veered an inch from the Smiths-meets-Sinead O’Connor type sound that made them famous! “Tomorrow” is a bittersweet but memorable slice of jangle-pop that recalls The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” throughout, albeit with a more hopeful sounding message. So what if it doesn’t have the “sonic-boom” guitar sound of “Dreams” or the pseudo-hard-rock sound of “Zombie”?! “Tomorrow” is STILL a great song, and probably my fave song of the week!! Highly recommended!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

new songs for November 2nd, 2011

here they are:

"House" by Ben Folds Five: Does anyone notice anything about the songs Ben released in the 2000's? Well, in case you didn't, here's what I noticed. None of them are with his "Five" (actually only two other musicians), they are all Ben Folds solo records. "House", then, marks an achievement for Ben that he hasn't done in ten years!! So how does "House" compare to other Ben Folds Five songs?! Well, it's not as heartbreaking as "Brick" and not as snarky as "Army", but it's still worth listening to. "House" actually sounds more like the melancholy but melodic, alt-rock version of Elton John of Ben Folds' solo records than it does the quirky, sarcastic sound of Ben Folds Five. Perhaps it's the lyrical narrative of "House" that gives it its "edge", that seems to be telling the story of an agoraphobic who has "had the nightmares, seen the counselors", but still doesn't want "to go back up in that house again".

"Lonely Boy" by The Black Keys: This garage-rock influenced indie band had the surprise hit of last year, "Tighten Up", which spawned two "viral" music videos (only one of which was made by the band themselves) and a spot as the number one song of 2010 on my blog!! The almost as catchy (but not quite) "Howlin' For You" followed in its footsteps with heavy airplay, but no memorable music video. The Keys' latest song, "Lonely Boy", continues, both musically and video-wise, in the direction of "Tighten Up"!! Already at spot number 14 on the Adult Alt Top 40 (and number 10 on the "regular" Alt Top 40) after a little less than a week of being on those charts, "Lonely Boy" is fast becoming all the rage both online and on the radio!! Its sound centers around a goofy but catchy surf guitar riff that mixes T. Rex's "20th Century Boy" with Cake's "The Distance". The music video for "Lonely Boy" also focuses on how catchy its sound is, with a middle aged African-American man dancing like crazy (in a good way) to the song throughout!! The video can be viewed here ( Enjoy!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New songs for October 26th, 2011

here they are:

"Monarchy of Roses" by Red Hot Chili Peppers: Like most of The Chili Peppers' material, the latest song from their most recent CD ("I'm With You") to get attention, "Monarchy of Roses" is quite catchy and danceable. The one factor that distinguishes "Monarchy of Roses" from the other tracks off of "I'm With You" is the fuzziness of the bass (and vocals) during the verses. The funk influence of RHCP's music (which shows up here in the chorus) shouldn't be that surprising considering it's long been an essential factor of their repertoire, but it tends to contrast here with the fuzzy, vaguely garage rock-ish sound used in most of this song. By the end of "Monarchy of Roses", a chord sequence pops up that doesn't seem to follow typical rock/pop chord progressions, perhaps to make it sound more creative, but the catchy, funky, (and fuzzy) parts of "Monarchy of Roses" are enough to make it memorable for me!

"Rewrite" by Paul Simon: Wow! I must say, Simon's latest CD, "So Beautiful Or So What" seems like it's ended up being his most successful one since, well, "Graceland" back in 1986! It has so far spawned not one, not two, or even three, but FOUR hit songs (including this one, and a Christmas song that got put on the CD after its initial release as a single during December 2010). "Rewrite" tends to deviate from the "Graceland" like sound of the other three songs that have gotten attention from "So Beautiful Or So What", but it still comes off as a pure, original Paul Simon song! It has a crisp, ripple-y feel to it and is done largely on acoustic guitar. Like the other songs from "So Beautiful Or So What", "Rewrite" also has clever lyrics! As its title suggests, "Rewrite" is about...well...a "rewrite", of a (perhaps metaphorical) book the character in the song has written. Can't exactly tell if "Rewrite" centers around a fictional person developed specifically for the song or Paul Simon himself, but either way, this song is brilliant!

"We All Go Back to Where We Belong" by R.E.M.: Surprise!!! Although the legendary Georgia alt-rock innovators recently announced they broke up, it turns out there was still a new song left over in their catalog! It also seems to be the most anticipated new song of this week! Both from a musical and lyrical standpoint, this seems to be the R.E.M. equivalent of some of the last Beatles songs recorded, like "Let It Be", "The Long And Winding Road", and "Across the Universe", as if this song was specifically written as a "goodbye song" from R.E.M. addressed to their fans. The Beatlesque guitar sound and Burt Bacharach influenced muted trumpets only seem to add to the already bittersweet vibes of "We All Go Back to Where We Belong". I barely know the lyrics to this song, but it already makes me feel sad (in a good way) just listening to it! "We All Go Back to Where We Belong" is such a fitting way to wrap up the almost 30 year long career of a band who started out introducing the "jangle-pop" sound of The Byrds to a whole new generation, and have continued to expand their musical horizons ever since!!

"Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" by My Morning Jacket: Thought that maybe the stomping yet somewhat improvisational sound of "Holdin' On to Black Metal" was an indicator that My Morning Jacket wanted their latest CD, "Circuital" to focus more on the "rock" side of the band. "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" has proven that theory wrong, but in a VERY good way!! A finger-picked, acoustic guitar oriented ballad, "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" sets the musical clocks all the way back to the '70s, reminding me of Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "Helplessly Hoping", Heart's "Dreamboat Annie", and Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" among others. The title of this song pretty much describes the way I feel when listening to it, "wonderful"! Though the chorus indicates a feeling of joy, the rest of the song has more yearning lyrical emotional quality to it, as Jim James pines for a place where there "ain't no fear", "the spirit is near", and there "ain't no police", and there "ain't no disease". Songs like this already take me to such a place - my imagination, when I listen to this song!!

"You're Too Weird" by Fruit Bats: Back in 2009, Fruit Bats made their big breakthrough in the music world and garnered a little bit of attention with a bouncy folk-rock-ish song called "The Ruminant Band", which sounded a bit like what it might have been like if Roger Hodgson from Supertramp fronted The Kinks on one of their more melodic, chipper songs. The falsetto vocals of Fruit Bats' lead singer, Eric D. Johnson, continue to show up on their most recent song, "You're Too Weird" (though he doesn't sound quite so Roger Hodgson-ish this time around). "You're Too Weird", well, ISN'T "too weird" (well, ok, maybe a little, but not in a bad way). It is a bright, catchy song that sounds like the upbeat, melodic British sounding indie pop of The Kooks (despite the fact that Fruit Bats are actually from Chicago) mixed with the unusually high pitched vocals of disco inflected alt-poppers Scissor Sisters. "You're Too Weird"'s breezy, summery sound might not be that fit for the fall season (especially with Halloween lurking just around the corner), but songs like that are welcome any time in my collection!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Songs for October 19th, 2011

here they are:

"Down In the Valley" by The Head and The Heart: Although The Head and The Heart's previous hit, "Lost In My Mind" has been one of the hugest successes so far on adult alt radio of 2011, I had always thought that they would be relegated to "one hit wonder" status. It took about 9 months for The Head and The Heart to prove me wrong about their "one-hit-wonder" status, but it's been worth it! "Down In the Valley" is an amazing song, with vocals and acoustic guitar similar to Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, and a piano sound similar to The Avett Brothers. There's something charming about the folksy-ness and quaint sound of The Head and The Heart's material, and "Down In the Valley" seems to emphasize these qualities. The change in rhythm between the verses and chorus is worth noting about this song, as few songs I know in indie/contemporary alt music tend to have this (Mumford and Sons' "Roll Away Your Stone" and The Avett Brothers' "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" are exceptions). Who knows, if they're lucky enough, perhaps The Head and The Heart will perform at the 2012 Grammys, just like Mumford and The Avetts did in 2011. They sure seem to be headed (no pun intended) in that direction!

"Without A Map" by Sam Roberts: Perhaps this song isn't as rollicking or energetic as Sam's song from earlier this year, "The Last Crusade", but "Without A Map" has an equally good (if not better) flavor to it! Unlike the electric guitar dominated sound of "The Last Crusade", "Without A Map" seems to rely more on acoustic guitar (with a "clean" distorted electric during the solo). The best part, for me, about "Without A Map" is its bouncy rhythm and the singalong vibe of its lyrical scheme. Think The Beatles' "Good Day Sunshine" if you want a good idea of how the rhythm sounds. "Without A Map" itself isn't as sunny as "Good Day Sunshine", but it's still a pleasant, benign song to listen to.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New songs for October 12th, 2011

here they are:

"All Eyes On You" by Diego Garcia: Before I get to reviewing this one, I'd like to apologize for overlooking Diego's previous "hit", "You Were Never There" from earlier this year. It's a very beautiful song and I'm sorry for not reviewing it when I should have. Well, that being said, hopefully my review for Diego's latest, "All Eyes On You" will compensating for my not reviewing his material earlier this year. "All Eyes On You" is a lovely song with beautiful string orchestration that manages to combine the seductiveness of the flamenco guitar with the sensitivity of the typical indie song. The sentimental, melancholy atmosphere of the song tends to make "All Eyes On You" the perfect sort of "sunset music" to me, as I can picture a romantic couple beneath the sunset watching it go down when I listen to this song!

"Come See About Me" by The Tedeschi Trucks Band: Not to be confused with The Supremes' song of the same name (though they are both written in D major), the third single from The Tedeschi-Trucks Band is a tasty rock-blues-'n'-soul romp! Its flavor, aptly enough, is between the brightly righteous soul music of the TT Band's "Bound For Glory", and the electric guitar fueled rock 'n' roll of their other big song, "Learn How to Love", as both the horns and guitar (and Tedeschi's husky, bluesy vocals) are prominently featured instruments in "Come See About Me". Perhaps the title is a sly wink at The Supremes' "Come See About Me", as Tedeschi DOES say "Come see about your baby" in the chorus in addition to the title of the song, which The Supremes also did in their "Come See About Me".

"Dawned On Me" by Wilco: It's been a busy (but exciting) year for Wilco, hasn't it?! There have been three successful songs from their latest CD, "The Whole Love", so far, including the adult alt radio mega hit, "I Might", and "Born Alone", the latter of which I just reviewed last week! Which brings me to their most recent song to get added to radio rotation, "Dawned On Me", which, melodically and vocally (at least in the verses), plays off somewhat like a "serious" version of The Rutles' "A Hard Day's Night" spoof, "I Must Be In Love". Just like The Rutles intentionally use opposites in the verses of "I Must Be In Love" ("I feel good, I feel bad, I feel happy, I feel sad"), Wilco uses the same technique in "Dawned On Me", with a similar rhythmic pattern, too ("I've been young, I've been old, I've been hurt, and consoled"). The chorus and instrumentation are more typical Wilco, though. Still, I'm pretty amazed (and amused) that I'm comparing a Wilco song to one from the self proclaimed "Pre-Fab Four"!!

"Free" by Graffiti 6: Alt-rock hasn't been as simultaneously bouncy and stylish since the days of David Bowie and INXS (of which this song has a somewhat similar sound to the latter band). The lyrics to "Free" tend to come off like the typical love song, nothing too special. The appeal to "Free" lies in its catchy, sleek instrumentation, its unforgettable rhythm, and the wide vocal range of Graffiti 6's lead singer. For a song with rather ordinary lyrics, "Free" is pretty remarkable, though. It's not only a song that doesn't easily leave your head, but its bell-like sounds and string instruments in the background also give it a very distinct flavor!

"Free My Mind" by Katie Herzig: Feels funny reviewing a Katie Herzig song, since I can remember back when she was an unknown "new" musician that got a song of hers played on the well-loved indie/folk public radio showcase, "Morning Becomes Eclectic", a couple years ago. I don't remember much about the song, except for that I liked it and that Katie's last name, "Herzig", sounded unique enough for me to remember it years later! So now, on with Katie's first big song, "Free My Mind". There are many things to like about this song, I think! First off, the instrumentation is rather unusual, even for an "indie" song, with its thumping bass at the beginning, that quickly gets joined by a swirly synthesizer, a somewhat synthesized, propulsive percussion section, and the "classical" sound of both flutes AND a string section backing up a song with an otherwise "contemporary" sound. Katie's cute but dry sounding vocals are also a notable feature of "Free My Mind", as are the lyrics (a sample of which would include, "Maybe this is what the world will see/A tiny little version of the tallest tree/An optical illusion of the human mind/Posing as a real life"). Welcome to the indie bandwagon, Katie. Enjoy the ride!!

"Shake It Out" by Florence and The Machine: For all you dancin' fools who think the title to this song sounds similar to booty shakin' classics like "Twist and Shout" and "Shake It Up", I'm going to issue a warning. "Shake It Out" is NOT supposed to be a "feel good" song. When Florence says to "Shake It Out" in this song, it's not instructions to dance, but rather a way of "shaking out" her inner demons, supposedly regarding a hangover (which also seems to be the theme of Florence and The Machine's biggest hit so far, "Dog Days Are Over"). Though the rhythm of "Shake It Out" IS somewhat danceable, it seems like it is more meant to be therapeutic than it is bouncy. Though I've never been (and likely never will be) one to engage in drinking alcohol, I can somehow still feel Florence's inner pain in this song, and for some reason, I love when songs have that effect on me!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tom Waits for no one (and he won't wait for me)

Can you believe it?!? Tom Waits released a new set o' songs!! Reviewing the first big song off his latest album (plus two more songs) today!! Enjoy!

"Back In the Crowd" by Tom Waits: Truly one of the most eclectic musicians of all time, Tom Waits is like David Bowie's lesser known, more growl-y voiced, jazzier musical cousin for his ability to leap from melancholy lounge music ("The Heart of Saturday Night"), to some of the most earnest, non-commercial rock ballads ever ("Downtown Train"), to some of the spookiest re-workings of beloved Disney songs (check out his very warped version of "Snow White"'s "Heigh Ho" if you don't believe me), to lovelorn piano ballads ("Ol' 55" and "Grapefruit Moon"), to plaintive folk-rock ("Hold On"), and so on and so forth. So what is it this time, Mr. Waits?!? It appears as though Waits has gone for a unique style of breezy Hawaiian influenced music with his latest tune, "Back In the Crowd". His trademark raspy, "Cookie Monster" vocals are still there, but they are used here to express a feeling of yearning, as opposed to how menacingly he uses it on other tunes of his. Reviewing this song on a rainy day like today only makes this song seem more special to me! Truly a stunning song to add to the already riveting repertoire of Waits' material!!

"Born Alone" by Wilco: Jeff Tweedy and co continue to explore their inner Velvet Underground on "Born Alone", a song with equal parts skilled guitar playing and druggy, hazy musical atmosphere. Perhaps they are taking poetic cues as well as musical ones from Lou Reed (whose latest project is with heavy metal legends, Metallica, of all people), as the lyrics for "Born Alone" were supposedly based on bits and pieces of various Emily Dickinson poems. Both the music and lyrics (i.e. "born to die alone"), suggest a sense of urgency, almost as though the music starts at a high point, and descends progressively lower as the song goes on. What can I say, Wilco's music never ceases to amaze me!!

"Whatever's On Your Mind" by Gomez: Gomez seem to have set up a pattern from which songs have gotten released during which time of the year for their last two albums. On 2009's "A New Tide", the bouncy, somewhat rockin' "Airstream Driver" got airplay first, followed by the more introspective "Little Pieces". For 2011, the bright, optimistic sounding "Options" came first (and was quite successful on adult alt radio stations), and after that, we appear to have stumbled upon the slower, more sentimental, piano-and-strings dominated title track of "Whatever's On Your Mind". The slower songs of Gomez' catalog, like "Whatever's On Your Mind" make for great songs to listen to during a rainy day (like today), or after a bad day, but personally, I think Gomez sound best when they stick to catchy, sunny music like "Options", "Airstream Driver", and "See the World" (of which only the latter song has the same vocalist as the one I'm reviewing now).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lucky number seven strikes again!!!

This is the third time within about a month long period that I've reviewed seven songs!! Must be my lucky month!

One more thing before I begin. An edit to last week's post, in which I referred to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. as one guy - they are actually two people, not one. I apologize. The kids these days and their weird band names, and their gadgets and gizmos and...ok enough of that. On with the reviews!!

"Did I Let You Know?" by Red Hot Chili Peppers: So how have RHCP decided to follow up their smash hit of summer 2011, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie"?! The answer to that is with "Did I Let You Know?", a song that delves into rather eclectic territory for The Chili Peppers, with its tropical island-y sound (and rad sax solos to boot!) The goofy but craftily delivered lyrics (i.e. "I want to lean on you/Get Jan and Dean on you", and "I like your cheeky/Oh so Mozambique-y") also seem to make it clear that RHCP probably intended the "island-y" sound they went for on this song, what with the references to surf music (Jan and Dean) and countries where the temperature is more likely to be warmer than colder (Mozambique). If The Chili Peppers had only decided to release their latest CD, "I'm With You" in late spring instead of mid-summer, "Did I Let You Know?" probably would have made the perfect summer hit!! Better late than never, though, I suppose.

"Don't Stop (Color On the Walls)" by Foster the People: Do Foster the People have a knack for making catchy songs, or what?!? Their late spring/early-to-mid summer smash, "Pumped Up Kicks", a song that brings to mind the lyrical dissonance of other happy, melodic songs with questionable lyrics like The Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays", became one of the most successful songs of the year (in multiple genres, at that). Where "Pumped Up Kicks" went for a rather mysterious, keyboard dominated, new wave-y sound, FTP's latest tune, "Don't Stop (Color On the Walls)" centers more around the guitar (both acoustic and electric are used here), is bouncy all the way around, and evokes the swirly vibes of neo-psychedelia. For those concerned about lyrical content, "Don't Stop (Color On the Walls)" provides an interesting contrast to "Pumped Up Kicks" in that context as well. The lyrics almost seem childlike in "Don't Stop..." (for instance, in the second verse, "We're all just having fun/Sleigh boat ride, piggy back ride/I'm going to show them all how I can ride/1, 2, 3, close your eyes and count to four, I like to hide behind my bedroom door/Crayons on walls, I'll color on them all")

"Miami Virtue" by Umphrey's McGee: If you put The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd's music and put them in a blender, you'd probably get a sound close to the half jam band/half progressive rock sound of Umphrey's McGee, a band with a considerable cult following, but who had never (until now) got airplay even on "underground" radio stations, probably because they were more about experimentation than melody and/or catchiness. Their latest, "Miami Virtue", definitely sounds more like Floyd than it does The Dead (with traces of Canadian prog-rock band Rush in there too, much to my surprise). Never would have expected so many flashy synthesizers dueling with '70s style electric guitar distortion in a song by Umphrey's McGee, but if that's what it takes to make people want to pay more attention to them, that's not necessarily a bad thing. "Miami Virtue" has enough memorable hooks to get stuck in one's head easily (something that probably can't be said about most of Umphrey's material). Just try to remember that if you hear this song mixed in with various indie, alt-pop, and contemporary folk songs that the station that played that has NOT switched over to a "classic rock" format without warning.

"Saw You First" by Givers: "Givers" seems like such a fitting name for a band with such a bright, optimistic sound (as though they're "giving" their music to share with all the world)! The irresistibly catchy "Up Up Up" was a great song to dance and sing along to in the summer of this year, and as fall approaches, their song "Saw You First" is also apt for the season it's come out in, with its more melancholy but still harmonious, chirpy sound. A bit more acoustic/electric mingling on "Saw You First" as well, which is another factor that makes it worth listening to in my opinion. In spite of the rather yearning emotions "Saw You First" tends to elicit, it's still a fun song to dance to! Please check this one out if you haven't already!!

"Surfer King" by A.A. Bondy: A.A. Bondy is one of those musicians who has been loved among indie fans for quite awhile now, but is only starting to gain attention on adult alt radio stations. If "Surfer King" ends up becoming the one song he's known for, it will probably end up representing his typical sound well (though I don't know for sure since this is the only song I really know by him so far). It is a gentle, sighing, breezy song that sounds a lot like the "softer" material of bands like My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses (it uses similar distortion to MMJ's "Thank You Too!" and BOH's "No One's Gonna Love You"). Even Bondy's vocals sound a bit like Jim James from My Morning Jacket in this song. "Surfer King" is an absolutely beautiful, poignant, poetic song that paints pictures of a purplish-pink sunset along the ocean waves in my head. I think this is my fave song of the week!! Highly recommended!!

"The Keeper" by Chris Cornell: In his glory days with the grunge band Soundgarden, the words "Chris Cornell" and "soothing" might not have been used in the same sentence very often. Chris started to explore more acoustic guitar once he went solo, however, and "The Keeper" is his most sentimental song to date, putting him in the same musical class as other rock 'n' roll giants gone folk such as Robert Plant and Eddie Vedder. Lyrically, "The Keeper" is a very sad song with a rather mysterious central message ("I may not be The Keeper of the flame/But I am The Keeper"). Perhaps this song might make some of Soundgarden's most loyal fanbase a bit upset, but it's nice to hear the quieter side of Cornell, away from the chaos and anger that surrounded songs like "Black Hole Sun" and "Fell On Black Days".

"Well Well" by Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa: Beth Hart was a singer/songwriter from the early '00s, best known for the vaguely Alanis Morissette-ish "L.A. Song". Joe Bonamassa is one of the few contemporary country singers not to have a "commercial" flavor or approach to his music. So what do they sound like together?!? A jammin' country-blues-rock duo, that's what!! A bit more fiery and Allman Brothers-ish ("One Way Out", anyone?) than most of the material either of them have done, "Well Well" serves a high point for both Beth and Joe! Who knew Beth Hart had such a convincing, powerful inner Janis Joplin?! I sure didn't, but she's good at it. Joe's vocal contributions to the song aren't as distinctive but he still manages to do a decent job at it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

new songs for September 21st, 2011

here they are:

"Holocene" by Bon Iver: Of all the songs I'm reviewing this week, this is by far the most serene, bittersweet, and just plain awe inspiring! Earlier, in June of this year, their latest album was released, and the song "Calgary" became the first song off of the album to get airplay on adult alt stations. Though I love Bon Iver dearly, "Calgary" seemed like their attempt at a pop song (albeit with Bon Iver's trademark icy yet ethereal emotional quality attached to it). The most recent song to get attention in Bon Iver's catalog, "Holocene", is a much better song, I think, due in large part to how stark, yet still hauntingly beautiful its instrumentation is. Justin Vernon's high pitched but breathy vocals also add a unique touch to to this song, and his echoing in the chorus of "I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles" might even outdo Pete Townshend's similarly worded chorus to The Who's "I Can See For Miles" (though probably not many people will agree with me on this).

"Knots" by Lisa Hannigan: The artist formerly known as Damien Rice's backing vocalist first made a name for herself as a solo artist about two and a half years ago, with a charming, lighthearted folk-pop ditty called "I Don't Know". In Lisa's latest song, "Knots", the folky part is still there, but the pop part? Well, not so much here, as "Knots" delves into more thought provoking sounds and more complex chord structures (especially how she goes from a regularly used chord and immediately leaps into a more exotic one afterwards during the verses). The music video for this song REALLY makes it stand out, though! It is a synesthetic treat, in which Lisa makes various colors in a paint set come to life as musical instruments, resulting in a fun, artsy mess!! The video for "Knots" can be viewed here (

"Same Mistake" by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: With "Same Mistake", the cumbersomely named indie-pop group, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, brings catchy, buoyant, somewhat Beatlesque three-chord pop 'n' roll to the table. Though it's obvious from listening that "Same Mistake" is a recent song, I can't help but feel like CYHSY are using 12-string guitars (which were more popular in the '60s than in other decades) in it, even though I know they really aren't (and that the trick they are using to make this song sound so "retro" and 12-string-ish is using the third fret of the thin "E" string for each chord, as well as the groovy distortion this song has). Vocally, "Same Mistake" also seems to be a time twister, in that, although the vocals sound too "modern" to have come from, say, Ray Davies, Roger McGuinn, Brian Wilson, or Paul McCartney, the way the harmony of the vocals flow in this song does seem to be influenced by such performers. Though sunny, happy songs like this seem to be getting increasingly more common within the indie world, there's really nothing wrong with 'em, and "Same Mistake" is certainly NOT a mistake, as far as I'm concerned!

"Simple Girl" by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: Before I get to reviewing this song, let me inform you, you are NOT hallucinating, and I did NOT make a typo, his name really IS Dale Earnhardt "Jr. Jr.", with the word "junior" repeated twice! And now, back to the song. "Simple Girl" is a simple song. In a good way, though, since it's one of the many indie-pop songs that have come out in the last couple years with an irresistible, somewhat childlike ambiance to it. It is also simple in its length, at slightly less than two and a half minutes. And the vocals are (here comes that word again) SIMPLE, with the repeating, infectious, "ba-da-ba, ba-da-ba-da-ba-ba-ba"'s in the chorus. This song totally fits its title, but like I said earlier, in a good way! I can only assume that the lyrics are, well, simple (but hopefully also somewhat clever).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

new songs for September 14th, 2011

here they are:

"Live It Up" by Chris Isaak: For those who forgot Chris Isaak is more than just the seductive balladeer who did smooth songs like "Wicked Game", his latest song, "Live It Up" is a reminder that Chris also has a rockin' side that easily brings to mind the pioneers of rock 'n' roll like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis! Frankly I'm quite surprised Chris's most recent song sounds the way it does, as he seemed to focus almost entirely on ballads throughout the 2000's ("Let Me Down Easy", "King Without A Castle", and "We Let Her Down" are three such examples). As someone who thought his sound got increasingly more generic with each attempt at a slower song he did in the 2000's, "Live It Up" is quite a refreshing song to hear!! '50s rock 'n' roll music was one of the first forms of popular music I was exposed to as a kid, so "Live It Up" is also very fun and nostalgic for me to hear! I hope Chris focuses more on his rock 'n' roll side as the 2010's progress!!

"Miss K" by Deer Tick: There have been plenty of bands that have attempted to emulate the "jam band" side of The Grateful Dead (Phish and Widespread Panic are two of the best known in this category), but not many are known for evoking The Dead's more country-folk-rock influenced side. "Miss K" by alt-country rockers Deer Tick might just be a first, then. Musically, it seems like what could have been the missing cut from The Dead's "American Beauty", with its slight resemblance to songs like "Friend of the Devil" and "Ripple" (though the beat of the song sounds more like "Bertha", which is from a different album and centers more around electric guitar than it does acoustic). Even the vocalist sounds a little like Jerry Garcia to me (though that comparison might be stretching it a bit for some people). So what are sleazy lyrics like "talk dirty, turn me on" doing in an otherwise beautiful song?! Oh well, "Miss K" is still very much worth listening to, I think!

"Second Song" by TV on the Radio: Really, they couldn't come up with a better title?! Don't get me wrong, TV on the Radio is great (well, their latest songs are anyway), but "Second Song"?! The words "second song" aren't found anywhere in the lyrics, and it is actually the FIRST song off their CD "Nine Types of Light". The only way in which the title is appropriate is that it IS the "second song" they've released as a SINGLE from "Nine Types of Light". Well, now that I've gotten that out of the way, on with the song itself. I can't help but be reminded of how "Alive And Kicking" by '80s new wave group Simple Minds might sound if it came out in the 21st century, as it uses practically the same chords and rhythm (though "Second Song" has a B flat that "Alive And Kicking" doesn't have). TVOTR also manages to set "Second Song" apart from "Alive And Kicking" with the saxophone solos that happen during various parts of the song. As for the lyrics? Well, let's just say that when Tunde Adebimpe sings parts of the song like, "Shaking hands move to tear my face away/And when the night comes I'm flaming like a pyro", it bears similarity to a song about a certain drug beginning with "H" that the grandaddy of all alt-rock bands, The Velvet Underground, sang about on their debut.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

7 MORE songs?!?!? WHAAA....?!?!

That's right!!! 7 MORE songs!! Perfect way to start the month of September! Here they are:

"Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine" by The Nightwatchman (a.k.a. Tom Morello, ex-Rage Against the Machine member): Would you have expected the guitarist of '90s hard rock group Rage Against the Machine to have suddenly reinvented himself as a Dylan-esque folk singer?! Probably not many of you would have, but around the mid 2000's he did so, and he did a mighty fine job at it too! The latest from Morello, "Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine" seems like where ends would meet for him, musically. While acoustic guitar and harmonica both play a central role in "Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine", the fast pace of the percussion makes it sound more like a rock song, and the chorus (just the song's title, really) is "sung-spoken" in an aggressive fashion more typical of a Rage song than a Dylan song. Hope to hear more of Morello channeling his inner Dylan sometime soon, he really does an excellent job at it!

"Bright Lights" by Gary Clark Jr.: Amazingly, there are three songs from blues musicians that are being reviewed this week, and this one is first in line! This song, Gary Clark Jr.'s ode to New York City (as he states in the opening line, "Woke up in New York City"), sounds more like it belongs in the 1970's than it does to the 21st century, with its flashy guitar solos and its propulsive boogie beat! Somehow, though, whoever produced this song made it sound polished enough that it sounds recent, in spite of the instrumental techniques used in this song. At 5 minutes and 13 seconds, the length of the song also seems more suited to classic rock than it does to modern/alt rock. Ultimately, though, it's songs like this one that make music all the more worth listening to in the 21st century, and it's also proof that rock 'n' roll is not "dead", despite what some people might think.

"Cruel" by St. Vincent: So how exactly does one classify a song like "Cruel"?! Electro-disco-classical-post-punk-hard-rock?!? Somehow, it kinda sounds like that. Aside from incorporating influences from multiple genres, "Cruel" also manages to evoke multiple emotions. The overall tone of the song is dark, yet the lead singer has very melodic (but sometimes desperate) vocals, and it's also a song that makes me want to dance AND play air guitar at the same time!! Yet I don't know if I'd feel entirely comfortable dancing to a song that's so ominous sounding, and also what is a rock 'n' roll guitar solo doing in a song that's supposed to be disco inflected...with post-punk creepiness?! There doesn't seem to be an easy way to define this song, but sometimes those are the best kinds of songs!!

"If I Had A Gun" by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: Oasis might not be as big as they once were in the '90s, but WOW, the members are definitely still active!! Around February of this year, the band Beady Eye (featuring Liam Gallagher from Oasis on lead vocals) came out and released a fun, jaunty Beatlesque tune called "The Roller". Now it's the other Oasis brother, Noel Gallagher's turn in the spotlight. "If I Had A Gun" provides an introspective, poignant contrast to the bouncy, pop-y aspects of "The Roller". In some ways "If I Had A Gun" almost sounds like a "sequel" to Oasis' biggest hit, "Wonderwall", as both songs are slow, sweet sounding, prolific, and even in the same key (F sharp minor, though "Wonderwall" was capoed). It's unfair, though, to dismiss "If I Had A Gun" as a "ripoff" of "Wonderwall", since it is a song that takes on beautiful, reflective qualities of its own!

"Love the Way You Walk Away" by Blitzen Trapper: Though I only know three songs (including this one) by Blitzen Trapper, I love pretty much everything they have released so far! Much like Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons, and The Decemberists (all of whom Blitzen Trapper have probably been compared to by now), Blitzen Trapper are a bittersweet sounding neo-folk-rock band that have made a name for themselves among indie rock fans (including me)! That being said, I was looking forward to hearing what their latest song, "Love the Way You Walk Away" was going to sound like. Its sound seems kind of country-folk influenced, in a very laid-back, "traveling back home on the highway" kind of way. Though I was expecting it to have more of a Donovan-esque "psych-folk" sound the way other Blitzen Trapper songs (especially "Dragon's Song") typically do, "Love the Way You Walk Away" does have a very earnest, heartfelt sort of sound. This one (and probably the Noel Gallagher song as well) are my fave releases of the week so far!!

"River's Gonna Rise" by Warren Haynes: Like his song released earlier this year, "Man In Motion", the part-time Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule guitarist lays down some mean blues licks once again on his latest effort, "River's Gonna Rise". Unlike the frenzied, enthusiastic guitar playing "Man In Motion" boasted, "River's Gonna Rise" is a bit of a calmer song. This does not mean Warren doesn't show off his chops on his axe, though, he most certainly does. However, the feel of this song is a bit more earthy like B.B. King, and not so much a "guitar hero" Eric Clapton type sound. Somehow, the title alone seemed to indicate to me that this would be a calmer song, as this song uses the word "river" in the title, and that's what rivers usually are.

"T-Bone Shuffle" by Johnny Winter: It's quite amazing to me that three of the songs I've reviewed this week are blues songs. "T-Bone Shuffle", however, is by far the blues-iest of the three!! No complex emotions or "deep" lyrics in this song, and no weird chords or odd song structure either, just your basic 12 bar blues. As much as the gentle, poignant, bittersweet songs I review have become close to my heart, sometimes it's fun to just play the blues! It's great to listen to, and fun to dance to. No song I've reviewed so far has come as close to reviving the spirit of the blues as "T-Bone Shuffle" has, with its feel-good, toe-tappin', guitar blastin' sound!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

new songs for August 31st, 2011

7 songs!! Just in time for going back to school/work! Here they are:

"Behold the Hurricane" by The Horrible Crowes: The title of this song is scarily apt for having come out during hurricane season!! And no, this band has nothing to do with The Black Crowes (despite the intentional misspelling of the word "crows" for each band). It is, in fact, a side project of Brian Fallon, the lead vocalist from the Springsteen-meets-The-Clash-ish indie group The Gaslight Anthem. The Horrible Crowes' debut single, "Behold the Hurricane", does a good job of retaining the roots-y, working class punk sound The Gaslight Anthem typically have, though its heavy use of arpeggiation and how it centers almost entirely around an A major chord (capoed at the first fret) tend to differ from the rougher, barre chord based sound of The Gaslight Anthem. The song's chorus, "I age by years and the mention of your name", sounds anthemic enough both within the context of the song and just as words by themselves that it sounds like something The Boss himself could have written and/or performed!

"Even If I Don't" by Rachael Yamagata: Funny how I was JUST reviewing a song from Rachael's latest CD two weeks ago. I guess people just weren't ready for the unusually dark sounds of "Starlight", so now we have the more pop-y sounding (but still compassionate and earnest) "Even If I Don't", which sounds like a slightly more upbeat version of one of Tori Amos or Fiona Apple's songs, and is also reaching more radio stations than "Starlight" has. The lyrics sound like they were written out of heartbreak, as Rachael's songs typically do, and her smoky, world weary vocals deliver the lyrics convincingly. This is a good song, but I don't know why "Starlight" ended up being a dud. Perhaps because people prefer the tinkly, Regina Spektor-ish piano sounds of this song to the dark alt-rock guitars of "Starlight". What can I say, can't blame 'em, as the piano in "Even If I Don't" is one of the central features of the song!

"Lucky Now" by Ryan Adams: This is one of the new releases I was really excited about hearing! Ryan is like a modern day Neil Young, meandering between somber, folk-y ballads and energetic but passionate alt-rock numbers, so it's always an adventure for my ears to know where he's gonna go next! "Lucky Now" is of the former category, a slow, bittersweet, folk influenced song. Perhaps he just wanted a break from the excitement of having a backing band (The Cardinals), so this song is mostly just Ryan and his acoustic, with some electric and faint traces of percussion added towards the middle of the song. The melancholy but heartfelt emotions this song gives off are also a perfect way of starting off the autumn season (even though it won't actually be occurring until around 3 weeks from now). So "Lucky Now" isn't as thrilling as I would've hoped, but it is one of those songs that tugs at the ol' heartstrings, and there's nothing wrong with that!

"Santa Fe" by Beirut: Never thought this band would ever make it even remotely big on adult alt radio stations, as they always seemed to be one of those "obscure among the obscure" kind of bands (though they DID have "cult favorite" songs among their audience, like "Elephant Gun" and "Postcards From Italy"), but now my expectations of Beirut have changed! It is a bit surprising that what could become Beirut's biggest hit to date only has three chords, is more keyboard dominated than guitar dominated, and lifts its chords directly from the chorus of The Grateful Dead's only Top 40 hit, "Touch of Grey". Perhaps the sparse, quirky minimalism of "Santa Fe" is what makes it worth listening to, though, almost as though Beirut could be viewed as a modern day version of Talking Heads. For all the weirdness "Santa Fe" has to offer, though, it's also a very catchy song!

"She Walks the Night" by Matthew Sweet: Matthew Sweet is an artist that typically lives up to his (last) name. His songs (or, in some cases, just his melodies and harmonies) are usually just so...well...sweet!! Bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, and Big Star (or, "the four B's", as I like to call them) are obvious influences on nearly all of Matthew Sweet's music. Some of his rougher edged songs, like "Girlfriend" and "Sick of Myself" became alt-rock radio hits in the '90s, but he faded into the distance almost as quickly until somewhere around the late '00s when he released a series of two CD's consisting of cover songs he dueted on with The Bangles' Susanna Hoffs. Since Matthew Sweet hasn't released any original material (to my knowledge) since 1995, "She Walks the Night" is a well-deserved comeback for the '90s power pop icon! It has all the best elements of Sweet's mellower material, including richly layered harmonies, Byrds-y guitar distortion, and catchy, memorable hooks. Highly recommend this one!!

"We Are the Tide" by Blind Pilot: The rise of "bluegrass rock" has already made a big splash in the 2010's with Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, and The Civil Wars. With Blind Pilot, the return of happy, pleasant, buoyant folk-pop will hopefully make a big impact, too! Bands like Good Old War and Gomez have already become known for this (though Gomez are a bit more eclectic than that), so I don't think my expectations for this are too far off! One of the neatest things about "We Are the Tide" isn't just its sound, but also the wide range of instruments used in the song! The acoustic guitar, as many of you reading have probably guessed, is at the center of the song, but the muted trumpets used in the chorus make "We Are the Tide" all the more lively and uplifting, and the barely audible (but still important) string section in the background also makes this song pure ear candy!

"What the Water Gave Me" by Florence and The Machine: In the alt/indie world, it seems like people just can't get enough of those feisty, foxy females!! Feist's latest release was heavily anticipated two weeks ago, and this time around, redheaded cutie Florence Welch is all the rage compared to the rest of the songs/artists reviewed this week! It's a bit surprising that after only about a year of being known, Florence and The Machine have ALREADY decided to release a sophomore CD!! But I guess they were just that popular! "What the Water Gave Me" is a slight departure from the bouncy, harp dominated indie-pop of most of the songs on Florence and The Machine's previous CD, but still very much a gem to listen to! It almost seems like the type of song that another quirky queen of fashion and music, Bjork, might have done, with its psychedelic but icy sound! At 5 minutes and 33 seconds, "What the Water Gave Me" could just be the most adventurous song Florence and The Machine have delved into so far! Looking forward to knowing what they'll come out with next!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

new songs for August 24th, 2011

here they are:

"Called Out In the Dark" by Snow Patrol: Though typically thought of as the Irish equivalent of the mopey British alt-pop of bands like Coldplay, Snow Patrol are really so much more than that! Their latest song, "Called Out In the Dark", is definitely proof that Snow Patrol are not your average European "mope rock" band. The flashy, new wave-y keyboards used during most of the song seem to give the impression that Gary Lightbody and co might have been listening to bands like The Killers. Snow Patrol already seemed to take their listeners by surprise with their more crunchy, somewhat hard-rock influenced songs like "Hands Open" and "Take Back the City", but "Called Out In the Dark" adds a whole new dimension to the band that I don't think any of their fans (including me) would have ever expected - new wave!!

"Go Outside" by The Cults: Not to be confused with the similarly named '80s hard rock/proto-grunge band, The Cult. The Cults are pretty much the opposite of that, actually, with the cutesy, almost childlike, irresistibly charming sound of their first big song, "Go Outside", which has already gained attention through TV commercials! Even the lyrics of the chorus ("I-I-ee-yi really wanna go outside") sound like they could be part of a children's song, in terms of both the naivete of the lyrics and the sweet, innocent sound of the song itself. With all the various indie bands that have made guest appearances on the children's show "Yo Gabba Gabba", The Cults seem like they would make the PERFECT guests! (At least with the impression they have left me with this song). Highly recommend this one, as I'm a total sucker for indie songs with an innocent sound like this one!!

"In Our Own Time" by Lindsey Buckingham: Is it just me, or do I sense a Fleetwood Mac reunion coming soon?! Fleetwood Mac's leading lady Stevie Nicks released a new CD earlier this year, and now, in the second half of 2011, their guitarist Lindsey Buckingham has released HIS latest CD!! Where Stevie got off on her soothingly seductive charm for her latest batch of tunes, Lindsey's vehicle for attention is clearly his guitar!! "In Our Own Time" showcases some of the finest work on the instrument Lindsey has ever done, and almost comes off as the Eddie Van Halen of the acoustic guitar, what with his mastery at both speed and his ability to lift his fingers on and off the guitar (and back again) in such a stunningly quick manner!! Fleetwood Mac might have been a "soft rock" band, but that shouldn't prevent people from seeing what a genius at guitar playing Lindsey is!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

new songs for August 17th, 2011

here they are:

"Do to Me" by Trombone Shorty: From start to finish, "Do to Me" is such a darn catchy song!! The feel-good New Orleans jazz of Trombone Shorty's sax player, combined with the juicy riffs of British classic rock guitar legend Jeff Beck go together remarkably well! There are only four chords throughout the entire song (including the F chord used towards the end of the song), but the rhythm, sax solos, and guitar solos make it so that it pretty much doesn't matter how many times the chords in this song are repeated. I highly recommend this song to fans of feel-good...well...anything, be it rock 'n' roll, jazz, blues, or R & B (as this song manages to combine all four effortlessly!!)

"Don't Give Up On Me Now" by Ben Harper: Once again, Ben Harper embraces his inner classic rock fan on his latest song, "Don't Give Up On Me Now". Unlike the usual Hendrix/Zeppelin type influences that pop up on his material with The Relentless 7, "Don't Give Up On Me Now" emphasizes more of a "roots-rock" flavor that one might picture Neil Young, Tom Petty, or John Mellencamp to use. It's not as though Ben does not do a good job at emulating his influences in this song, though, since he not only pulls off the typical instrumentation/distortion of a Neil Young type song in "Don't Give Up On Me Now", but also throws in the earnestness and strength of the typical Young (or Petty/Mellencamp) tune. Looking forward to knowing just how far Ben will go to show off his inner rock star next time around!!

"How Come You Never Go There?" by Feist: Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated song of the week is this one, from Canadian indie songbird Feist, best known for the deceptively childlike "1, 2, 3, 4". It's been four years since Feist last released something, so I was very excited to find out what her latest song, "How Come You Never Go There?" would sound! One of the best things about Feist is that you never know HOW she's gonna sound with every song she releases! She's done pretty much everything, from folk-y jazz ("Mushaboom"), electro-doo-wop ("Secret Heart"), icy cold alternative disco ("One Evening"), folk-pop ("1, 2, 3, 4"), dark alternative piano-rock ("My Moon, My Man"), and folk-rock ("I Feel It All"). "How Come You Never Go There?" could be considered a combination of quite a few of the (sub)genres I've already mentioned! It sounds a bit like a Fiona Apple song, but with more jazz piano (and rock guitar). Feist is as eclectic as ever here, and I don't think I could be more ecstatic about it right now!!

"Starlight" by Rachael Yamagata: Though Rachael Yamagata's work might not be the sunniest and happiest sort of music (except maybe "Be Be Your Love"), she has (so far) never gotten as dark (or rockin') as she has with "Starlight"! Copping a similar guitar riff to the main bass riff of The Zombies' "Time of the Season", "Starlight" takes on a mood that seems simultaneously angst-y and seductive, so much so, that I could easily imagine it being advertised on a promo for some show on HBO (even though I don't actually watch that station). The moody shift between A minor in the verses and the F and C chords in the chorus might also draw some comparisons of "Starlight" to Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon", which uses the same chords during (relatively) the same times in the song. To distinguish "Starlight" from both The Zombies and Fleetwood Mac, Rachael adds in a B flat in between the verses and chorus that neither of the songs I mentioned use. That being said, "Starlight" might just be the song that will get more rock 'n' roll fans interested in Rachael's music. What can I say, I can't say that would be a bad thing, that's for sure!!

"Wonder Why" by Vetiver: Got around a little late to reviewing this one, I realize, but at least my reviewing this song for this week will make my latest blog post end on a good note! "Wonder Why" is such a great song!! The melodic, power-pop-y feel of this song brings to mind a lot of the great "B bands" (i.e. The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Byrds, Big Star, etc.) of the '60s and '70s! It is so catchy, optimistic, and upbeat, that it's hard to believe Vetiver started out as a band that was more along the lines of the somber, decadent folk-rock of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. To add to "Wonder Why"'s already nostalgic sound is an even MORE nostalgic music video, with talking houses singing along to the song!! (which can be viewed here - So many great new releases/reviews for the week, but this one just might be my fave!! And on a final note, yes, I tagged "silly music videos with singing puppets" for this week's blog because of the video for this song, even though there's not actually puppets in the video (I figured singing houses done with what was probably computer animation was close enough!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

new songs for August 10th, 2011

here they are:

"Calamity Song" by The Decemberists: From the epic indie-folk band's latest couple of songs they've released, I've come to the conclusion that at least one (if not all) of the members of The Decemberists are HUGE R.E.M. fans!! "Down By the Water" had almost identical chords to R.E.M.'s "The One I Love", and in "Calamity Song", traces of quite a few early R.E.M. songs ("Catapult", "Talk About the Passion", "Gardening At Night", and "7 Chinese Brothers", to name a couple), can be heard. Interestingly, R.E.M.'s own Peter Buck plays guitar on BOTH of the aforementioned Decemberists tracks! Since this is a new song in which the lyrics are sung at a rather fast pace, I don't know if I can analyze the lyrical aspects of the song well quite yet. But the song itself is fantastic! R.E.M. is my absolute fave band, and this is a great imitation!

"Hearts On Fire" by Scars on 45: One of the very first songs of 2011, "Give Me Something", was released by Scars on 45, and has since become one of THE most successful adult alt/indie pop songs of the year!! Now, in the second half of the year, Scars have come back a second time around with "Hearts On Fire", a remarkably similar song to "Give Me Something" with its melancholy, yearning sound, acoustic guitars in the forefront, and smooth vocals. The piano in this song (and the guest female vocalist during the second verse) help to distinguish this song from Scars biggest (and previously, their only) hit. Somehow, it seems to help when melodic, moody British alt-pop bands use guitar instead of piano (the latter of which is pretty much now defined by Coldplay and Keane). In "Hearts On Fire", Scars manage to pull off the use of both instruments, and STILL make their song sound sincere enough for an audience whose taste for British alt-pop bands runs closer to Travis than it does (later) Coldplay!

"Na Na Nothing" by Mike Doughty: Na na no, this is na na not Mike Doughty's debut children's song about how "nothing" starts with the letter "N", and na na nor does it indicate that Doughty has trouble saying the word "nothing" (both comments that Doughty himself would probably appreciate given his wry, off-the-wall sense of humor). Doughty, the former lead singer for quirky '90s alt-pop band Soul Coughing, has made a surprisingly successful solo career for himself on adult alt radio ever since the mid 2000's, and deservedly so, too! Most of his solo songs have a sound that somewhat suggests what it might be like if Beck (of "Loser" fame) fronted The Dave Matthews Band. An odd sounding combination, to be sure, but Doughty manages to make it work each time, and his latest, "Na Na Nothing", is na na no exception!! It's a na na negative song lyrically, about Doughty feeling cheated in a relationship, but musically, it's very na na nice!! Chances are I'll na na never find a song quite like this one!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

brought to you by the letter "S"

Only two songs for this week, and they both start with that somber, sweet, spectacular, stupendous letter, "S" (same letter as my first name!!) So here goes:

"Sophia" by Laura Marling: Laura Marling's been a prominent member of the indie-folk scene ever since 2006, but it's only been recently that she's gotten the attention she has probably deserved for quite a while now, perhaps because of her work with other London indie-folk acts that have now become major among indie fans across the globe, such as Mumford & Sons and Noah & The Whale. "Sophia", perhaps Laura's first major song so far, reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel for a couple reasons. First off, the main riff of the song has similar notes to the chorus of "Bridge Over Troubled Water", and also, "Sophia" tends to give off a vibe that suggests something somber but still soothing and gentle to the ears. Lyrically, though, "Sophia" is a very depressing song, especially with its recurring line, "I'm wounded by dust". For some reason, though, I often view "depressing" songs as "romantic" if their melodies come across as being mellow enough, and "Sophia" is no exception!

"Stay Young, Go Dancing" by Death Cab for Cutie: Now why wasn't THIS the first single off of Death Cab's latest release, "Codes and Keys"?!? It's so much better than their first single of 2011, "You Are A Tourist" (though that song seems, so far, like it's MUCH more likely to win the title of "song of the year" for 2011!) Where "Tourist" boasted U2-style guitar riffs and an earnest but energetic sound, "Stay Young, Go Dancing" tends to have the opposite effect. Its sound is more suggestive of the "tragic folkie" sound of artists like Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and Jeff Buckley. Oddly enough, in spite of its bittersweet, yearning sound, "Stay Young, Go Dancing" is one of the most astounding love songs (WITHOUT any "downer" lyrics) that Death Cab has ever done!! When Ben Gibbard sings, "when she sings, I hear a symphony" in this song, I can't help but think that him and I are thinking of the same girl!! (Zooey Deschanel, to whom he is married now)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

new songs for July 27th, 2011

here they are:

"Different" by Ximena Sariñana: I don't even know how to pronounce this gal's first name (I'm guessing "shee-MAY-nah", but it's hard to know because of the initial "X"), and she's pretty new to the music scene (in English speaking countries, at least) but I'm already in love with her!! "Different" has two different music videos (one of which is a "lyric" video), and they're BOTH really good!! The "lyric" version revolves around a puppet that looks a little like a cross between Fozzie Bear and the typical "Sesame Street" monster, whose name is "Larry Puppe". He even has his own Facebook page, as seen in the video!! ( The second version features only humans (sorry, no puppets this time!) and revolves around Ximena at a pool party in which most of the girls there are wearing bikinis, but Ximena wears what appear to be mostly cocktail dresses made suitable for swimming, most likely because she is trying to express her individuality (like in the lyrics of the song), regardless of how "old-fashioned" everyone else thinks they look on her. The song itself could serve as an "outsider anthem", especially with lyrics like, "keep in mind I'm not here, I'm in a different world". Great song, great videos, and a cute girl!! Could it get any better?!? The "lyric" version can be viewed here (, and the "music video" version can be viewed here ( Enjoy!!

"Honeypot" by Bob Schneider: With only two chords (D and G) used throughout the entire song, "Honeypot" manages to be pretty memorable nonetheless! Its mellow, soothing vibes and '90s style folk-rock guitar sound easily bring to mind the earlier material of bands like Counting Crows, and the repetitive but infectious "la-la, la-la"'s at the end of the song add to the catchiness of an otherwise gentle but somewhat substance-less song. This is a good song, but for me, there will be no finer Bob Schneider moment than his indie-pop masterpiece of '09, "40 Dogs (Like Romeo And Juliet)". Kinda wish he'd release more material like that one, but in the meantime, songs like "Honeypot" aren't bad replacements.

"King of Diamonds" by Motopony: Just about everything in this song basically SCREAMS "quirky", and the band's name (which I'm guessing is pronounced "MOE-toe-poe-nee", though it could also be "MAH-toe-poe-nee) is just the tip of the iceberg here! The lyrics of the song seem to revolve around metaphors dealing with card games, its sound seems like a trip-hop/folk-rock combination that brings to mind many of the songs that Beck (the quirk-master himself) did, and even the video to the song is somewhat random, with its appearances from a Pee-Wee Herman lookalike and a man dressed in a Mickey Mouse costume wandering around the streets of Vegas. Dunno how any of this information relates to each other (other than how they are all aspects of this song), but I'm thinking that a lot of these aspects were purposely eccentric, which makes me like this song all the more!!

"Losers" by The Belle Brigade: Of all the songs that have been released so far in 2011, I don't think there has been more of an "outsider anthem" (see also "Different" by Ximena Sariñana, reviewed earlier in this article) than this song!! Even the opening lyrics ("There will always be someone better than you, even if you're the best") suggest this! Musically, this song is a melancholy neo-folk-rock tune, but lyrically, it's a rant, especially in the chorus, during which lead singer Barbara Gruska sings about how she doesn't care about being a "winner" OR a "loser", and how she rejects many aspects of "popularity" (i.e. "being the life of parties", "going out on Fridays", etc.) "Nerds", "geeks", "dorks", and any other sort of "outsiders" should take refuge in the lyrics of this song, knowing (once again) they're not the only ones out there that have felt ostracized by the "normal" crowd!!

"Up Up Up" by Givers: Well, it's official. Now, Vampire Weekend aren't the only indie band to be influenced by Latin jazz and reggae wrapped up into a contagiously sunshiny package. Newcomers The Givers are doing the exact same thing with "Up Up Up". I wouldn't call it a "ripoff" of Vampire Weekend's material, though, as the vocalists in the song definitely sound different than Ezra Koenig does, and the guitars in the song have lighter distortion than the typical VW song. It's also quite apt that "Up Up Up" was released in the summer of this year, with its tropical sound, and cheery optimistic chorus. "Up Up Up" does exactly what its title suggests it's supposed to - it makes me feel "up up up" every time I listen to it!! I officially declare this song to be the "summer jam" of 2011!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

new songs for July 20th, 2011

here they are:

"Junk of the Heart (Happy)" by The Kooks: I love how happy, free-spirited, and melodic The Kooks are!! That being said, when I heard they released a new song, I was pretty excited! The best part?! "Junk of the Heart (Happy)" sounds even BETTER than I expected it to sound!! In addition to the Beatles/Kinks-ish bouncy Britpop sound The Kooks typically have, there are also some Burt Bacharach-esque major 7th chords in this song that set it apart from The Kooks' other material. It's only fitting that lead singer Luke Pritchard's refrain in this song consists of the words "I wanna make you happy", because he does exactly that, and quite successfully, too!!

"Miracle Worker" by Super Heavy: What do Mick Jagger, Bob Marley's son Damian, neo-soul songstress Joss Stone, and The Eurythmics' Dave Stewart all have in common?! Well, aside from being rock 'n' roll royalty, they're also part of the aptly named supergroup, Super Heavy! Their first big song, "Miracle Worker" (which, in case any of you are wondering, is NOT about the biographical Helen Keller film of the same name), seems like it is clearly Damian's song, with its reggae beat and pulsating, syncopated guitars. Damian, Joss, and Mick all share vocals on the song, though (albeit, at different parts of it). With all that being said, this song ultimately comes out being a three-star song, despite the big names involved in it. Something just seems missing in this song! Perhaps it's that Damian just doesn't have the forceful, dynamic delivery his dad typically did, or that Mick doesn't seem to be maintaining the same amount of energy and fervor he typically had in The Stones. Well, nevertheless, "Miracle Worker" isn't a bad song, and the four people involved in its performance all seem like they tried giving it their best efforts.

"Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart" by Fountains of Wayne: I still find it fascinating how Fountains of Wayne's best known song has become the Cars-esque "Stacy's Mom". It really isn't that representative of their typical sound, which is more like The Beatles or The Kinks (see also The Kooks' "Junk of the Heart", reviewed earlier in this article). "Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart" continues in the direction of The Fountains' typical sound, which I really like! Nothing particularly special about this one, musically, but what can I say, I'm a sucker for songs with a great melody and a catchy beat, and Fountains of Wayne seem to be experts at that! Perhaps another thing they're good at is just being quirky, as evidenced by the fact that the opening lyrics to this song are, "Staring at the sun with no pants on". Makes me wonder if the pants-less one they're referring to is Adam Schlesinger (the lead singer) himself or a girl he really likes.

"The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" by Red Hot Chili Peppers: Before I get into the song itself, let me just state that I LOVE the title to this song!! It sounds like the name of a comic book series of some sort! Well, now, on with the song! The title is really better than the song itself, which seems vaguely similar to one of those half-disco/half-rock type songs The Rolling Stones did in the late '70s/early '80s. It IS a catchy song, in typical Chili Peppers fashion, but I personally think they've done better material than this one. One advantage "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" has is its seemingly random, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. I can't quite figure out what this song is about, but it almost seems like that's the point of it!

"Walk" by Foo Fighters: Of the two songs released of The Foos' latest CD, "Wasting Light", "Walk" seems like the better song so far! "Rope" just seemed too full of anger and intensity for me to fully appreciate it. "Walk", however, leans more towards the melodic side of their catalog! It's still a rocker, but more in the even-keeled, steady manner of "Learn to Fly" and "Times Like These" than the frenzied, frantic one of "All My Life" and "I'll Stick Around". The echo-y, jangly guitars in the beginning of "Walk" already indicate a more positive theme in the song. And lyrically, "learning to walk again" sound like words that can lead in a more positive direction than the more desperate, disconnected delivery of "gimme some rope I'm coming loose" (from "Rope", released earlier this year). My one complaint about this song is that sometimes Dave Grohl sounds like he's a bit TOO enthusiastic, as though he's about to scream his head off (mostly in the middle of the song), but other than that, I think this one's a winner!