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!