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).