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!!