Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New songs for Apr. 27th, 2011

Here they are:

"Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People: I've always been somewhat entertained by the idea of "lyrical dissonance" in music, and "Pumped Up Kicks" is one such example of a newer song that uses this technique. The lyrics are very grim, as they are (probably) about someone going on a shooting spree, yet the music suggests something upbeat and danceable (though still with minor chords), slightly similar to Peter, Bjorn, and John's song "Young Folks". The title is also a bit deceiving, as "Pumped Up Kicks" sounds like it should be about dancing (or perhaps one of many strange metaphors for sexual intercourse), but it isn't. Clearly, Foster the People are a clever band if they can manage to come up with material like this!

"Roll Away Your Stone" by Mumford and Sons: It appears as though London's favorite Irish-sounding indie-folk-rock quartet are back a THIRD time around on the adult alt charts!! I adore the intro of this song, with its rhythm matching that of a typical "Irish jig" (and, also, the rhythm of the "Spongebob Squarepants" theme song), but once the vocals kick in and the rhythm speeds up, I can't help but think that American audiences probably WANTED this to be the third major Mumford and Sons song, as it really just sounds like a combination of the rhythm of "Little Lion Man" and the chords of "The Cave". M & S are really a much more diverse band than that, with the lively, muted-trumpet-dominated sound of "Winter Winds", the melancholy, regretful "White Blank Page", and even a sound that evokes Springsteen's "Nebraska" in "After the Storm". That being said, though, "Roll Away Your Stone" is certainly not a bad song, it just makes me a little afraid that if it gets popular enough that some American audiences will begin complaining that Mumford and Sons' songs all "sound the same", which, if you listen to the examples of the (currently) lesser known M & S songs I listed, you will find that such is not the case!

"The Last Crusade" by Sam Roberts: Canadian rocker Sam Roberts is a very eclectic one from what I've heard in his material so far, which includes the upbeat roots-y indie pop/rock of "Them Kids", and piano-rocker "Detroit '67". So how does his latest song, "The Last Crusade", fare in comparison?! Well, I think it's even better than those songs are, personally!! It seems to come off as a grittier, edgier version of some of the more "jam band"-oriented songs from The Dave Matthews Band (think "What Would You Say?", "Too Much", etc.) It fuses jazz, blues, and rock effortlessly like the typical DMB song, yet the "alternative" vibe that Sam Roberts tends to give off in this song is purely his own! We need more musically diverse songs/bands/artists like this in today's musical climate, I think!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Allman Brothers connection (plus one more song)

Interesting that TWO of the songs I'm reviewing this time have alumni of The Allman Brothers featured on the tracks! Here they are (plus one more song):

"Bound For Glory" by The Tedeschi-Trucks Band: A husband and wife match made in blues-rock heaven! Susan Tedeschi is a blues based musician with a heavy influence of Stax Records brand R & B (think Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, etc.) in her music as well, and Derek Trucks is a blues-rock guitarist that occasionally plays in legendary blues-rock combo The Allman Brothers Band. So what do they sound like together?! A powerhouse, that's what! Especially with Derek Trucks mad guitar skills in the middle of what would probably be more of a '60s R & B/gospel pastiche without his contributions. "Bound For Glory" is quite an apt title for a song that builds up to glorious proportions as it continues to chug along!

"Man In Motion" by Warren Haynes: Yet another (occasional) member of The Allman Brothers Band (as well as more contemporary blues-rock musicians, Gov't Mule). The vibe this song gives off is definitely more of a '70s classic rock one than that of the previous song, and in particular, it reminds me of the blues-gone-somewhat-hard-rock feel of Eric Clapton's mid-'70s rock anthem, "Cocaine". Once again, amazingly talented guitar skills show up in this song! What can I say, sometimes you just gotta let out your blues on the 'lectric guitar and ROCK OUT!!

"Will Do" by TV on the Radio: Amazingly, this is the ONLY song I'm reviewing this week that HAS an "indie" feel to it!! Weird, huh?! Anyway, to give you a background on the cleverly named TV on the Radio, they have been around since roughly the mid 2000's, and their material is typically somewhere between the more "experimental" side of classic rock (i.e. David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, etc.) and the more icy cold, claustrophobic, tensed up feel that bands of the post-punk era typically give off (i.e. Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Joy Division, etc.) "Will Do" is, quite possibly, the first TVOTR song that strips away the band's typical post-punk influence and instead goes for more of a '70s "soul ballad" vibe a la Marvin Gaye, though it still has the Gabriel/Bowie type sound dominating the tune. It is also one of the few (if not the only) song by TVOTR that I find has a memorable, catchy chorus ("Anytime will love"), delivered by the smooth, soulful vocals of lead singer Tunde Adebimpe. Though this song is atypical of their style, it's also the first song of theirs so far that's won my affection!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

new songs for Apr. 6th, 2011

here they are:

"Changing" by The Airborne Toxic Event: It's funny that this song has been around since February of this year, yet it's taken adult alt stations until now to add this into their playlists. Well, better late than never. Or is it? "Changing" is not a bad song, but somehow something feels lacking in it in comparison to songs from their debut from three years ago like the Springsteen-esque "Wishing Well" and the U2-ish alt-rock epic "Sometime Around Midnight". "Changing" just seems more...well...ordinary. Even the chorus seems to suggest an ordinariness about it ("You always want to talk about changing, changing/Well guess what I am the same man, same man", a bad choice in rhyming, but the catchiness of the song, and perhaps the rest of it, compensates for this). "Changing" is an apt title for this song, but perhaps not for the better. At least it has a memorable hook, and for some reason I like it (perhaps because it's an Airborne Toxic Event song), so I would think that would count for something.

"In Every Direction" by Junip: Swedish indie-folk sensation Jose Gonzalez (yes, he IS Swedish, despite how his name sounds) continues to have success with a full band in this song. Like their previous "hit", "Always", "In Every Direction" is written in D minor. Despite its similarity to "Always", "In Every Direction" is distinguishable from that song because it is slower, and also Jose's backing band seems to have more importance in this song than they did in "Always", particularly the rather forceful, dynamic organ section. As an aside, I have no idea what this "magic feather" Jose keeps referring to in the song is, but it's probably the lyric in "In Every Direction" that stands out the most to me!

"Just Fine" by G. Love: After G. Love's previous success in the acoustic-blues-y, fiery "Fixin' to Die", my faith in his musical ability and talent have been somewhat renewed. "Just Fine" only continues to prove this, perhaps even more so, with its mellow but somewhat spicy sound, suggesting something between the "softer" material of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Blues Traveler song "Hook". I especially like how "Just Fine" mixes acoustic and electric guitar sounds, only to come out with a gritty, sublime sound as a result. Despite the optimistic sounding title, "Just Fine" does seem to have somewhat angst-ridden lyrics, with the chorus hinting more at a "life sucks, but I'm doing just fine" kind of attitude than a "everything is just fine, and I like it" sort of vibe. For G. Love, who seemed to take a musical dive in 2008 with songs like the lightweight "Peace, Love, and Happiness" and his even MORE mellow-minus-the-substance song "Beautiful", which he did with folk-pop musician Tristan Prettyman, the angst of "Just Fine", combined with its juicy flavor, is a GOOD thing!

"Options" by Gomez: Is it just me, or have the members of Gomez suddenly taken such a liking to Spoon's "The Underdog" that they wanted to make their own version of it?! This is basically what "Options" sounds like, especially in the beginning of it. It is a song written in G major with a bouncy beat suggestive of Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" - which is EXACTLY what "The Underdog" was! Gomez start to shake things up a bit as "Options" draws closer to the chorus, adding in chords that are sharp/flat chords instead of "regular" ones. As the chorus closes, they add a unique chord that even I had trouble figuring out. Aside from being a "copycat" song of "The Underdog", "Options" does have some things going for it. Like I mentioned before, the change in chord structure during the chorus is one thing, but for another, it shows just how eclectic Gomez truly are. How many other bands can simultaneously pull off having influences like Oasis ("Nothing Is Wrong"), your typical bluegrass song ("How We Operate"), folk-pop ("See the World"), a combination of blues and indie ("Hamoa Beach"), The Flaming Lips ("Airstream Driver"), and a folk-pop/indie combination ("Little Pieces")?! Not many that I can name off the top of my head, that's for sure!!

"Sorry" by The Smithereens: The SMITHEREENS?!? The SAME guys who had hits in the late '80s with catchy rock 'n' roll tunes like "A Girl Like You", "Only A Memory", and "Behind the Wall of Sleep"?!? Yep, that's right!! The SAME guys!! This is pretty unbelievable to me considering that its been about 20 years since these guys last had a hit, let alone released a record!! Perhaps their big comeback moment was worth the wait, though, as "Sorry" actually sounds even BETTER than the three songs I mentioned! It's a "Satisfaction"-esque rocker, with the tuning just a half-step down from that song, and, for a band who was already "retro" enough in the '80s, The Smithereens have somehow managed to sound even MORE "retro" on "Sorry"! The one question I have is this. "Sorry" for WHAT exactly?! That we didn't get to hear this song sooner?!? That's the only thing I can think of they should be "sorry" for, this song ROCKS!!

"You Are A Tourist" by Death Cab for Cutie: Wow!! It's pretty clear from how fast this song has been climbing the adult alt (and "regular" alt) charts that both sides of the alt-rock "spectrum" just can't get enough Death Cab!! And rightly so, considering how guitarist Chris Walla makes his transition from quiet indie/contemporary folk-rock guitarist to an almost The Edge (of U2 fame) -ish earnest but passionate and skilled rock guitarist! I've always suspected U2 were an influence on Death Cab, but never as much as they have been on "You Are A Tourist"! If this song does NOT end up being one of my Top 20 of 2011 come December 23rd, I'll be pretty shocked!!