Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Talkin' bout (our) generation(s)?!

Funny thing, the two songs I'm reviewing span the "classic rock" (Stevie Nicks) and "modern/alternative rock" (Radiohead) generations, hence the title of this entry! Anyway, here they are:

"Lotus Flower" by Radiohead: It's amazing how "viral videos" will make a song that's barely a week old gain so much popularity. Such is the case with Radiohead's latest tune, "Lotus Flower", the video of which consists entirely of Thom Yorke doing a weird (but cool) dance, filmed in black and white. Anyway, on with the song. For those expecting the folk-rock-y guitars mingling with techno-y beats like they did on Radiohead's songs from about four years back ("Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and "House of Cards"), you'll probably be a bit let down, as this song has a bit more of an electro-rock focus to it. However, it does a fine job emulating "trip-hop" music (Bjork, for instance). With its Bjork-esque sound and strangely alluring video, Bjork oughta see/hear "Lotus Flower" if she hasn't already!

"Secret Love" by Stevie Nicks: Again, those expecting a folk-rock-y Stevie Nicks song a la Fleetwood Mac might be a bit disappointed. "Secret Love" is actually BETTER than I expected it to sound, though. The vibe to this song suggests Peter Gabriel and "Joshua Tree"-era U2, perhaps because Dave Stewart from The Eurythmics produced it. Though this song lacks both the aggression of "Edge of Seventeen" and the heart-melting qualities of "Landslide", "Secret Love" isn't bad, especially if Stevie is intending on expanding her audience to the Imogen Heap/Jem/Beth Orton type crowd (which it sounds like she is with this song). A job well done, I say!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

new songs for Feb. 16th, 2011

Here they are:

"100 Other Lovers" by DeVotchKa: DeVotchKa are an indie group perhaps best known for doing the opening song in the smash indie flick (and one of my personal fave movies of all time), "Little Miss Sunshine". The song was called "How It Ends", and it was a very poignant piece of work dominated by plaintive, melancholy vocals, gentle keyboards, and sighing violins. Five years later, DeVotchKa have still got it in them, but it lacks the emotional power of "How It Ends", perhaps mainly because, well, "100 Other Lovers" is more of a happy, bouncy tune without any emphasized minor chords. This is not to criticize "100 Other Lovers, as it is still a fine tune, and the orchestration is remarkably similar to "How It Ends", with its keyboards, violins, and vocals. However, in "100 Other Lovers", the keyboards have more of a tinkly sound, the violins sound more excited and energetic, and the vocals sound calmer. Overall, though, this song has a very relaxing, looking-out-the-window-on-a-Sunday-morning sort of vibe, so I still like it.

"Our Hearts Are Wrong" by Jessica Lea Mayfield: People who are familiar with Aimee Mann's charmingly quirky, folk-pop-y, solo career material will probably like what is becoming newcomer Jessica Lea Mayfield's first "hit", "Our Hearts Are Wrong". Despite the pessimistic sounding title of this song, it is actually a rather upbeat sort of tune with rather unique instrumentation, complete with a "We Will Rock You" type beat (only a bit more of a "softened" version if you know what I mean). "Our Hearts Are Wrong" centers largely around the percussion and acoustic guitar, though there are occasionally other instruments the song uses that set it apart from that of your average indie-pop/folk-pop female musician. There are occasional bursts of a somewhat "indie-fied" Creedence Clearwater Revival-ish electric guitar sound in some of the parts in between the song, and the sunshiny, bright and cheerful sound of the organ towards the middle might just be the best part of the entire song!

"The Afterlife" by Paul Simon: One of the most amazing things about songs from Paul Simon's solo career is that many of them, especially those he did in the '70s and '80s, incorporate a musical gumbo of many different styles. Sure, he might have started out with folk-pop numbers like "Kodachrome" and "Me And Julio Down By the Schoolyard", but not long afterward he expanded his musical terrain into reggae ("Mother And Child Reunion"), Latin jazz ("Late In the Evening"), and African influenced material (the entire "Graceland" album, as well as "The Rhythm of the Saints, the album that followed immediately after). Simon actually released a couple records in the '00s, but most of them lacked (or tried too hard to emulate) the World music vibes he went for in most of his solo career material. Thankfully, Simon's latest, "The Afterlife", has sought to correct all that! The World music influence has returned in "The Afterlife", and there's even the advantage of the lyrical cleverness Simon uses in the lyrics for those who are under the impression he is still merely trying hard to emulate his "Graceland"/"Rhythm of the Saints" period in his career. As one might expect in a song titled "The Afterlife", many of the lyrics deal with religion and philosophy. I especially admire the rhyme scheme in some of the lyrics ("I was finding it odd there was no sign of God", "Buddha and Moses and all of the noses", etc.), and I think that is what really makes this song worth listening to in my opinion!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's my first Blog-i-versary!!! (kind of)

I first started this blog on February 11th of last year (but that's not a Wednesday), so today I'm celebrating my first blog-i-versary!!! With 8 cool new tracks to review, too! So here they are:

"Helplessness Blues" by Fleet Foxes: I love how nostalgic and simply beautiful Fleet Foxes' music sounds. "White Winter Hymnal" has a very dreamy sound, and "Mykonos" has remarkably similar chord structure to The Mamas and Papas' "California Dreamin'", another personal fave of mine. That being said, I was pretty excited to hear Fleet Foxes released a new track this year!! "Helplessness Blues", once again, evokes the same dreamy, nostalgic qualities that most of their songs tend to. It almost sounds like it uses the same tuning as Joni Mitchell's "You Turn Me On I'm A Radio", and the mood of the song even seems somewhat Joni-like (and Dylanesque). Fleet Foxes have once again managed to win my heart over, and I hope they continue to do so!!

"Let the Light In" by Bob Schneider: Bob Schneider has been around for longer on the music scene than most people probably think he has been (since around 2003). It wasn't until 2009, though, that he started getting attention with songs like the marvelous, enchanting indie-pop/adult alt fave "40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet)" and the more subdued, somewhat Dave Matthews-ish "The Bringdown". I guess adult alt radio liked Schneider enough that they've decided to give him another chance. "Let the Light In", amazingly, lives up to its title. It's not bittersweet like "40 Dogs" or melancholy like "The Bringdown", but instead is a rather happy song, with sunny synths and exciting xylophones to set the mood! I wasn't sure whether to expect indie-pop or folk-pop with "Let the Light In", as Schneider has been known to do both, but this song meets somewhere in between, and I think I like that!

"Me Me Me" by Middle Brother: Imagine what it would be like if alumni from three somewhat roots-y indie rock groups (Delta Spirit, Deer Tick, and Dawes) formed into one supergroup and somehow landed a guest spot on "Happy Days". What would that be like?!? Well, wonder no more, for Middle Brother is a supergroup comprised of members of all three of the bands I just mentioned, and their first big hit (among the indie/adult alt crowds), "Me Me Me", sounds more like a song you'd expect to hear from Elvis Presley or Jerry Lee Lewis (albeit with a "fuzz" guitar solo in the middle) than you would from three bands who typically bear more similarity to acts like Bright Eyes, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket. It's a darn catchy tune that I would definitely like to hear more of for at least the late winter/Spring season!! Between the rockin' boogie vibe of this song and the Joni Mitchell-esque folk-rock of "Helplessness Blues" I can't decide which is my fave pick of the week!!

"Poison And Wine" by The Civil Wars: A bit of a late review here, but please bear with me. This song could easily be called "Falling Slowly - redux". It's a melancholy folk-rock tune that features a duet between a guy and a girl (though unlike Glen and Marketa, of "Falling Slowly" fame, I don't think The Civil Wars are Irish). "Poison and Wine" definitely seems like it was intended to be a tearjerker, yet I only get that emotion from the song about halfway. I guess "Falling Slowly" had such an authentically emotional grip on me that I didn't expect any song or band to try and copy it, yet lo and behold, The Civil Wars' "Poison and Wine" shows up about four years later! Perhaps I shouldn't care too much if one song is copying (intentionally or not) another, as I do typically love songs like "Poison and Wine"!

"The Roller" by Beady Eye: Hmmmm....who's "Beady Eye"?!? This sounds more like an Oasis tune. That's because, technically, this IS an Oasis tune. Beady Eye is the side project of one of the Gallagher brothers (though I forget which one at the moment), and "The Roller" really doesn't sound too different at all from the typical Oasis song. Oasis are one of my fave bands, though, so no problem here! The jaunty, toe-tapping feel of "The Roller" also helps to give it a little bit of flavor and distinction from most Oasis tunes (besides "Lyla" which had practically the same rhythm).

"Too Dramatic" by Ra Ra Riot: Ra Ra Riot's follow-up to "Boy" sounds like...well..."Boy". But it's still worth reviewing because it's a tune that's been catchy enough to get stuck in my head! And plus you gotta love a band who combines the reggae-tinged new wave sound of The Police with the "orchestral rock" vibes of groups like Arcade Fire! Perhaps one advantage "Too Dramatic" has over "Boy" is that the guitar seems to be used throughout the song (though "Boy" had a much more distinct guitar solo), and, since I play guitar, this does make a difference for me.

"When I'm Alone" by Lissie: Between this song and Lissie's previous hit, "In Sleep", I'm pretty convinced that Lissie is on her way to becoming the indie world's answer to Alanis Morissette! Both songs manage to combine a pop-y melody with minor key chords and world-weary, frustrated lyrics. "When I'm Alone" is a bit more of an intense tune than "In Sleep", though, I think, not only because of its more frenzied rhythm, but also because of the rushed way she delivers the lyrics in the verses, almost as though out of desperation. "When I'm Alone" uses a rhythmic technique that isn't really that common in pop/rock music these days, and the way Lissie manages to keep steady vocal patterns in the chorus over its frenetic instrumentation makes it all the more worth listening to!

"World Gone Crazy" by The Doobie Brothers: Back in the summer of last year, an updated version of The Doobies' 1972 song "Nobody" started (surprisingly) hitting the adult alt airwaves and (even MORE surprisingly) hit the Top 20 of the adult alt charts somewhere around mid-fall of last year. What made "Nobody" such a cool song was that it sounded like a vintage Doobie Brothers tune (the kind you'd be likely to hear on a classic rock station, not the Michael McDonald era Doobies). "World Gone Crazy" doesn't quite have the same vibe. It sounds a bit more like an updated version of an Eagles song (only more sax heavy). It does have two saving graces, though. First off, it's a catchy tune (I can't say that about too many of the Michael McDonald songs, save for possibly "Takin' It to the Streets"), but the best part is that the lead vocalist was the one who sang on all the pre-McDonald tracks (I forget his name, but I like him MUCH better than McDonald).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

new songs for Feb. 2nd, 2011

here they are:

"Architects And Engineers" by Guster: As if this song wasn't cool enough (which it is), the music video for this song seems to indicate that this song will become this year's "Tighten Up"!! Much like the (initial) video for that song (which eventually became my number one song of 2010), it features a singing puppet that has a name - Sing-Along-Paul. He looks somewhat like a cross between the later "Star Wars" movies' Jar-Jar Binks and the smart-mouthed goat puppet Rufus Leaking from the indie music showcase and quasi-children's show "Pancake Mountain". Musically, all the trademark folk-rock instrumentation and sunny Beach Boys-esque harmonies of the typical Guster song are present, but seriously, the music video for this song just takes the cake!! Someone needs to convince Guster to make a guest appearance on "Sesame Street" - between their quirky sense of humor and their charmingly child-like melodies, they'd be perfect for it!! You can find it on this link:


"Booty City" by Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears: 2009's best James Brown imitation is back!! Two songs made the adult alt airwaves from these funky retro-soul men back then, "Sugarfoot" and "I'm Broke", but I much preferred the former for its boogie vibe and James Brown-ish vocals and instrumentation. "I'm Broke" just wasn't as catchy, so I didn't know what to anticipate for "Booty City" (though the title alone seemed to indicate it'd be a pretty catchy song)! "Booty City" not only brings back the danceable, funky rhythm of "Sugarfoot", but it's also a bit more heavy on the guitar parts, which makes me happy! "Booty City" is a great song to get yer groove on if you ever feel like doing so!!

"Everybody Needs Love" by Drive-By Truckers: Just the name of this band automatically evokes images of a country influenced group, doesn't it? Well, more accurately, Drive-By Truckers are more of a country-rock group than just plain old country. They're a bit like The Black Crowes with their influences mixing hard rock with country and Southern rock, though "Everybody Needs Love", which is so far their breakthrough song, is a bit more like a "softer" Eagles song (think "Peaceful Easy Feeling", "Lyin' Eyes", etc.). That is, until it gets to the guitar solo midway through (and towards the end, for a second time around) the song, where it takes on more of an Allman Brothers-ish quality, a la "Blue Sky", "Midnight Rider", and "Melissa". "Everybody Needs Love" is a real tearjerker, and it manages to capture the feel of your typical '70s Southern rock/country-rock ballad pretty well, so I would highly recommend it for the fans of the more countrified side of The Allmans, Skynyrd, The Eagles, etc.

"Flirted With You All My Life" by Cowboy Junkies: What a neat concept, an indie-folk band covering indie-folk artist Vic Chestnutt (who, unfortunately, passed away last year). Having not heard Vic's version, I get the idea it's probably a pretty good song given the bittersweet vibe Cowboy Junkies have given it (plus I have a couple indie music loving friends who really seem to like both Vic and Cowboy Junkies). Cowboy Junkies' version almost seems to come off like Rilo Kiley covering The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" (it has practically the same chord sequence - A, E, B minor, D, with an F sharp minor occasionally replacing the D in "Flirted With You All My Life"). "Flirted With You All My Life" seems like one of those "drinking coffee on a Sunday morning" type of songs if you know what I mean (despite the fact I don't actually drink coffee).

"He Don't Live Here No More" by Robbie Robertson: Is it just me, or has Robbie Robertson wanted to stray farther and farther away from The Band's roots-rock sound ever since he left them? His two '80s solo hits, "Showdown At Big Sky" and "Somewhere Down the Crazy River" both sounded more like Peter Gabriel and the material from Paul Simon's "Graceland" album than they did like The Band. Though the "world music rock" trend that Gabriel, Simon, Joni Mitchell, Sting, and occasionally David Byrne from Talking Heads made possible in the '80s has pretty much faded by now, Robbie Robertson keeps the "world music rock" torch flaming in his latest, "He Don't Live Here No More". Robbie adds even more world music influence in "He Don't Live Here No More" with its flamenco guitar solo in the middle. But don't assume Robbie's forgotten how to rock, the beat of the song is still rock 'n' roll underneath it all!

"On Main Street" by Los Lobos: It seems odd to me that the rather somber, autumnal "Burn It Down" from Los Lobos' latest album ("Tin Can Trust") got noticed in the summer, yet it's taken until winter for the more summery, somewhat '60s rock influenced "On Main Street" to receive airplay on stations besides LA's KCSN. Perhaps I shouldn't let the "seasonal moods" of the two songs get in the way, though, as "On Main Street" is an easygoing feel-good kinda song. The fuzzy electric guitar riffs on "On Main Street" also provide interesting contrast with the mostly acoustic (until the end) "Burn It Down". The summery vibe of "On Main Street" evokes images of laying down underneath the sun on the beach just relaxing the day away. Could Los Lobos' next song be a stormy, ice-cold, wintry one?! I guess we'll find out!

"Second Chance" by Peter Bjorn and John: What do you get if you take the fuzz guitars of '60s psych-pop band Love's "7 And 7 Is", cowbells to keep the rhythm, and add just a dash of the new wave-y indie rock of Phoenix?! You get Peter Bjorn and John's latest song, "Second Chance"!! This is a pretty cool song coming from a band whose only other hit (so far) was the more subdued, quiet (except for the drum intro) indie-pop tune from '06, "Young Folks". Somehow I get the impression that the three Swedish indie-popsters were listening to The Black Keys' latest album, "Brothers" when they made "Second Chance", as it has practically the same sort of "fuzz guitars" as many of the songs on that CD! "Young Folks" was a mostly keyboard oriented song, so I was pretty surprised to hear not only that "Second Chance" even had a guitar to begin with, but that the solos seemed to be taken straight out of one of Led Zeppelin's songs!! Way to go, Peter Bjorn and John! Between this song and the video for "Architects and Engineers", I can't decide which one is my fave song of the week!!