Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A long (start of) December...

...and there's reason to believe, maybe this year's song list will be better than the last. Especially if there's NINE SONGS!!! That's the furthest I've gotten since I did eleven songs back in September of last year! Here they are:

"Common Burn" by Mazzy Star: I betcha a lot of you reading this can't believe your eyes, especially if you remember Mazzy Star's one big hit of the '90s, "Fade Into You". Well, Mazzy Star are back, and are getting attention again for the first time since 1993!! Their latest song, "Common Burn", retains the uber-relaxed mode of "Fade Into You", and its slow, dragging sound combined with the harmonicas in the background could easily bring to mind contemporaries of Mazzy, like Cowboy Junkies. Where "Fade Into You" was a love song, though, "Common Burn" is more a song of heartbreak and remorse, but in a very calming, almost therapeutic sort of way. If you need a song to identify with how you feel after coming home on a rainy day, "Common Burn" should satisfy your soul!!

"Fall Right Now" by Josh and The Empty Pockets: People like Mike Doughty (coming up two songs from now) and Ben Lee seem to suggest that there's a small but significant section of Barenaked Ladies influenced musicians that have popped up in the mid 2000's and are continuing to thrive today. Josh and The Empty Pockets seem to capture the typical BNL sound perfectly, though (and quite a few other acts from the '90s seemed to have influenced them as well, like Duncan Sheik and Eagle-Eye Cherry). Lyrically there really isn't anything too special about "Fall Right Now" (except maybe the ending lyrics - "and it hurts...ouch!"), but anyone looking for their '90s alt-folk-pop nostalgia fix will probably connect instantly with this song! And yes, I am one such person with an affinity for '90s alt-pop, it's the best!

"Half Moon" by Blind Pilot: Blind Pilot's buoyant, relentlessly happy "We Are the Tide", released right at the cusp of late August/early September of this year, seemed to put them in the same company as public radio darlings like Gomez and Good Old War. Their latest, "Half Moon", seems to lean more towards the sentimental but still earnest alt-folk-pop/rock of bands like Alpha Rev and Scars on 45 (both of whom have had surprisingly huge success on adult alt radio stations). So how does the more yearning sound of "Half Moon" suit Blind Pilot?! Well, I honestly think Blind Pilot are better suited to bouncy, optimistic songs like "We Are the Tide" than to slower songs like "Half Moon", but "Half Moon"'s sound seems like it would be perfect for the soundtrack to a show like, say, "Grey's Anatomy" (if it hasn't been featured on there already). And if "Half Moon" is gonna get Blind Pilot more attention than they've gotten so far, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Holiday (What Do You Want?)" by Mike Doughty and Rosanne Cash: Sooo...the ex-lead singer of the quirky Beck-ish alt-pop band Soul Coughing duetting with country-rock legend Johnny Cash's daughter...somehow...equals...a good opportunity for a Christmas song?!? WHAAA?!?! It's an odd pairing, for certain, but perhaps they wanted to go for something along the lines of the infamous incident in which David Bowie and Bing Crosby duetted on their own version of "The Little Drummer Boy". Christmas-y imagery (and Christmas-y musical chimes) are heard throughout the song, but, in true Mike Doughty fashion, the song takes a tongue-in-cheek turnaround during the chorus, in which Doughty and Cash ask each other, "Hey, do you wish it was a holiday?" Do you WISH it was a holiday?! I thought a "holiday" was what this song was about!!

"I Love You Too Much" by The Rolling Stones: So I guess The Stones' previous "Some Girls" "outtake" ("No Spare Parts") just had such a country-ish sound to it that no one seemed to gravitate towards it enough. Thankfully, The Stones (and/or whoever their manager is) have sought to correct this by releasing the much more uptempo, rockin' "I Love You Too Much" as their next single of 2011 (though "I Love You Too Much" and "No Spare Parts" were both ORIGINALLY part of "Some Girls" from back in '78)!! A wise decision on their part, too, since it has a similar sound to other "Some Girls" songs like "Shattered", "Beast of Burden", and "Miss You". Mick Jagger's trademark attitude (and catchiness) are present throughout "I Love You Too Much". To paraphrase Mick himself, "If he can't rock you", well, I dunno who can!!

"Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men: Acoustic guitars, richly layered harmonies, a catchy tune, a jovial rhythm section, the adding of random instruments (accordions, in this case) for good measure, and, to top it all off, the trade-off between male and female vocals throughout the song!! Put all those ingredients together, and you've got a neat little song called "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men, the latest indie-folk ensemble that will probably garner significant attention from those who have become fans of bands like Mumford and Sons and The Decemberists (one of those people being yours truly - me!!) Though "Little Talks" is written in a minor key, it still manages to be quite a fun song to listen to! Perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of "Little Talks", though, is the lyrical dissonance it sets off, as its lively instrumentation hides a tale of a dissatisfied relationship. Highly recommended!!

"Parted Ways" by Heartless B*st*rds: Unfortunately, only a sample of this song is available at the moment from what I can find. However, it's given me a good idea of what it sounds like. For some reason the name of this group sounds a bit more suited to a hard rock band than a roots-y indie band, but "Parted Ways"' sound suggests much more the latter than it does the former. What little I got out of the lyrics (for instance, "the hum of the wheels, they are carryin' me home") also seems apt for a band with a rather earthy, organic sound to it. Fans of Dawes, Deer Tick, Alberta Cross, and the like will probably really like this song!

"Seer" by Motopony: Motopony are as eclectic as their odd band moniker would suggest they are! In the summer of this year, their "King of Diamonds" got moderate attention on adult alt radio stations, and it had a sound that combined electronic sounds with a "chill" sorta vibe. "Seer", on the other hand, is a bit more like an electric guitar-oriented indie song with slight influence by funk and jazz. The vocals in each song are also radically different from what I can tell!! (Do Motopony have multiple lead singers?!) At first, it sounds like "Seer" steals the main hook from Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson", but as "Seer" progresses, it seems to turn into a different song entirely!

"Show Me the Place" by Leonard Cohen: That's right, I've saved the best song (and artist) for last!! By coincidence, really, since it begins with the letter "S", and there are no songs with titles beginning with "T" through "Z" in this week's entry. But still, there's no denying what a powerful presence Leonard Cohen is!! (His son, Adam, has also released a new CD, though sadly, that one isn't getting as much attention). Be it the yearning "Suzanne", the spooky "Everybody Knows", or the seductive "I'm Your Man", Cohen always pours his heart and soul out in every song he does!! With his latest song, "Show Me the Place", it shows that Cohen's spirit is still as alive as it ever was!! It is a melancholy song, done mostly on piano, with occasional accompaniment from violins in the background (and various female singers on backing vocals). "Show Me the Place" is one of those songs that just takes me to another place when I listen to it! I am absolutely awestruck by it, and I hope you are too!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Bono? (and three other songs)

Thought this would be a clever silly title for my latest blog entry since U2's latest release is titled "Blow Your House Down". Anyway, here are this week's songs:

"Blow Your House Down" by U2: 1991 was an amazing year in music (if only I wasn't a toddler back then so I could appreciate how great the music was then)!! Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Pearl Jam's "Ten" were both released back then, as was U2's "Achtung Baby", of which "Blow Your House Down" is now a previously unreleased "outtake" of. And what an amazing song it is!! At seven and a half minutes, "Blow Your House Down" is certainly an epic among U2's already adventurous, innovative catalog of music! Its sound combines the best legendary, arena-rock worthy sound of The Rolling Stones with the experimental electro-funk-rock that David Bowie experimented with midway through his career. If Pearl Jam could make 5 and a half minute songs like "Jeremy" and "Alive" into the big hits they were back in '91, why couldn't U2 have been daring enough to release a 7 and a half minute song like "Blow Your House Down" back then?!? Oh well, better late than never, right?!

"Holy Moses" by Washington: With a name like "Washington", you wouldn't expect hypnotic but danceable alt-pop from an arty female performer, would you?! Surprise!! Whoever "Washington" is (perhaps the last name of the singer?), she must have been into more forms of expressive art than just music! The video for "Holy Moses" functions almost like an exotic performance art piece that's part circus act, part music video, and part musical! The lead singer's face makeup and somewhat seductive outfits seem to be drawing comparisons to Lady Gaga on YouTube, though I would say David Bowie might be a better comparison (at one point, the lead singer has red and blue face makeup, reminiscent of the cover of Bowie's "Aladdin Sane"). If you're looking for a catchy piece of music with flashy imagery, then I highly recommend "Holy Moses"!

"So American" by Portugal. The Man: Of the three songs Portugal. The Man have gotten attention on adult alt radio so far (including this one), I've started to notice they all have a similar mid-tempo-ish beat and they all have either a violin or a cello (hard to tell which, though probably the latter) in the background. Though "So American" uses the same structure as most Portugal. The Man songs, I still like it. The melody is fun and bouncy, and, though the lyrics of "So American" express political and religious dissatisfaction, Portugal. The Man do so here in their own original, quirky way, particularly in the opening lines ("If pain was a color to paint on you, your heart would be the color blue").

"Tumblebee" by Laura Veirs: With acts like Feist and Tilly and The Wall having both made appearances on "Sesame Street", it only seems fitting that the bouncy-sounding indie-folk-pop-ster Laura Veirs' latest release just happens to be a children's album!! "Tumblebee", then, might mark a first in adult alt radio - the first time a children's song is gaining airplay on stations that would normally play bands like R.E.M., Counting Crows, and Coldplay in heavy rotation!! Unfortunately, the whole song isn't available yet, but a 50-second sample is currently available, so I got a good impression of what the song was like. Though the lyrics might be simplistic (and somewhat "cutesy"), "Tumblebee"'s sound is pure indie, almost like a song off the "Juno" soundtrack. Now, if only people like Ben Folds, Belle and Sebastian, The Decemberists, and Mumford and Sons could all release songs on a Joe Raposo (songwriter of "Sesame Street" fame) tribute album, THAT would be amazing!! In the meantime, though, "Tumblebee" satisfies the kid in me just fine!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let's hear it for the gals!!

I think this is the first time my blog entry of the week has focused entirely on female performers! And what great names they have, too, Imelda May and Lana Del Rey (hey, that rhymed!!) Anyway, enough chatter, and on with the show!!

"Inside Out" by Imelda May: In the summer of this year, the sexy, jazzy, black-haired Irishwoman known as Imelda May caused a lot of "Mayhem", and this time around she's up to more of her old tricks with the saucy, slinky, seductive, soulful (and somewhat subversive) song, "Inside Out"!! The instrumentation of this song (and Imelda's steamy, passionate vocals) make "Inside Out" catchy enough, as though Gwen Stefani joined the Brian Setzer Orchestra, but it's the lyrics to the song that just crack me up and are worth mentioning!! Throughout the song, Imelda not only says she loves the subject of her song "inside out", but also describes why, pointing out how she loves each part of her subject's body on the way. It starts out relatively innocent ("I love your eyes, blue as the skies/I love your lips to your fingertips"), but it gets weirder as the song goes on, ultimately resulting in lyrics like, "I love your nails, even your entrails", and "I love your wits and your wobbly bits" (Whoa!! TMI, Imelda!!) She even admits that the way she loves the person in question is "kinda creepy", but that, at the same time, the person she's addressing "loves it deeply", and that he "know(s) (he)'s gonna keep (her)". Catchy AND funny (and attractive)?!? I think we got a winner here!!!

"Video Games" by Lana Del Rey: A good song about a subject I've never been crazy about (though practically all my friends are). Or so it would seem. Though "Video Games" might be the title of this song, that's not exactly what it's about. In fact, the term "video games", in this song, is probably more of a metaphor, suggesting either masculinity and/or an example of an activity Lana Del Rey doesn't like but is willing to endure to keep her boyfriend company. Lana tends to deliver the lyrics of "Video Games" in a rather dry manner, but with sweet, benign vocals, and instrumentation similar to acts like Feist, Florence and The Machine, and Joanna Newsom.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New songs November 9th, 2011

here they are:

“After the Gold Rush” by Thom Yorke: Radiohead’s enigmatic but passionate frontman performed his cover of the classic Neil Young song, “After the Gold Rush”, at Neil’s own Bridge School Benefit Concert, which are held annually to benefit children with disabilities who attend Bridge School (a school in Mountain View, California). I am a huge fan of both Radiohead and Neil Young, so I was very curious in knowing if their two musical worlds would meet or drift apart in Thom Yorke’s cover of “After the Gold Rush”. Though not as good as the Neil Young original, Yorke does “After the Gold Rush” justice by maintaining the melancholy but earnest feel of the original tune (and Yorke’s reedy tenor vocals match Young’s quite well, though perhaps unintentionally).

“Feeding Line” by Boy and Bear: This song does not really have any factors that distinguish it from other indie songs, but I like it anyway! I’m always a sucker for smooth harmonies, random whistling (which “Feeding Line” has towards the middle of it), and acoustic and electric guitars complementing each other in their sound. And, what can I say, I’ve become accustomed to the “lyrical dissonance” songs like this feature (lyrics like “Nevertheless when this pain in my chest seems to grow…” are juxtaposed against a catchy, vibrant melody in A major). Yeah, like I said, nothing particularly special about “Feeding Line”, but it’s still a fun song to listen to and sing along to.

“Games People Play” by Lissie: The folk-pop/rock musician known simply as “Lissie” onstage has made huge strides for herself this year! Up until last month, she was merely a two-hit wonder (for “In Sleep” and “When I’m Alone”), known among the indie circles but not much outside of that. In October of this year, though, she toured with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in order to boost the ratings of Los Angeles adult alt outlet, KCSN, which plays both Lissie’s and Tom Petty’s music on a regular basis! As if THAT weren’t enough major star power for Lissie, her latest CD is an all covers album, encompassing everything from country songs to heavy metal songs within the process! The first song off her collection of covers is “Games People Play”. No, this is not a cover of the Alan Parsons song, for those wondering, it is actually a cover of a song by country musician Joe South. Lissie does a fine job at covering it, though, remaining faithful to the original song by performing it in A major like Joe did, and even adding in the sitar-sounding instruments that his version had!

“Look Around” by Red Hot Chili Peppers: And now, we come to yet another musical act that has gotten major attention for their latest album this year! “Look Around” marks the FOURTH song to get attention from The Chili Peppers’ “I’m With You” (quite a lot of songs to get noticed from an album that came out only 4 and a half months ago)! “Look Around” seems to bridge the gaps between the original funk-rock sound The Chilis had in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, and the more melodic rock sound they developed ever since then. Flea’s bass playing is spectacular (and wild) enough here to win back their initial fanbase, yet Anthony Kiedis’ vocals shine enough here (especially during the title-only chorus) that I can’t help but want to harmonize with him when he sings! 25 years and still going strong!! Few other rock and roll bands have achieved such a feat, so congrats to them!

“No Spare Parts” by The Rolling Stones: And speaking of long-standing rock bands, The Stones have GOT to be one of the LONGEST lasting of them all!! Mick Jagger and co started rolling in the mid-‘60s and haven’t given up ever since! Their latest, “No Spare Parts”, has a rather country-rock sound to it. Not the first thing that comes to mind when The Stones are mentioned, but they’re certainly no strangers to country-rock (though it took them until “Wild Horses” was released to do a song that wasn’t a mockery of the genre). Being that this song was an “outtake” from the largely sarcastic, misogynistic, angst-ridden “Some Girls” album, “No Spare Parts” is probably more mockery than it is a “serious” song. Mick’s rather detached, weary sounding vocals on “No Spare Parts” also seems to hint at the insincerity this song might have. Yeah, I know, it’s (kind of) “only rock and roll” of them to pull off a half-hearted song like “No Spare Parts”, but I like it!

“Should We Fight Back?” by The Parlotones: Before I actually sat down and listened to “Should We Fight Back?” I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not I would enjoy it since I only knew The Parlotones for being a band that Coldplay selected to play with them on their latest tour prior to this song’s release to adult alt radio stations. The Parlotones, however, do not have a contrived, overproduced, adult-contemporary-meets-alt-pop type sound like Coldplay’s later (and latest) album(s) do. Instead, they are more an “indie-dance-pop/rock” band in the vein of The Killers, Phoenix, and Foster the People, all three of whom seemed to have instance success, both commercially and among more independent minded audiences, upon their debuts! So far, The Parlotones haven’t made quite the same impact with “Should We Fight Back?” but the way the guitars, drums, and vocals blend together seamlessly on this song seems to indicate it will do pretty well! Listener, beware, though. Beneath the irresistibly catchy sound of “Should We Fight Back?” are lyrics of political dissatisfaction. That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the song, though!!

“Tomorrow” by The Cranberries: And last, but certainly not least, how can you have a great November without some “Cranberries”?!? Dolores O’Riordan and her band of merry Irish alt-rockers haven’t had a successful record in 10 years (see also Ben Folds Five’s “House”, which I reviewed last week), but it’s definitely been worth the wait!! Unlike other major ‘90s rockers like Counting Crows and Goo Goo Dolls, The Cranberries haven’t veered an inch from the Smiths-meets-Sinead O’Connor type sound that made them famous! “Tomorrow” is a bittersweet but memorable slice of jangle-pop that recalls The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” throughout, albeit with a more hopeful sounding message. So what if it doesn’t have the “sonic-boom” guitar sound of “Dreams” or the pseudo-hard-rock sound of “Zombie”?! “Tomorrow” is STILL a great song, and probably my fave song of the week!! Highly recommended!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

new songs for November 2nd, 2011

here they are:

"House" by Ben Folds Five: Does anyone notice anything about the songs Ben released in the 2000's? Well, in case you didn't, here's what I noticed. None of them are with his "Five" (actually only two other musicians), they are all Ben Folds solo records. "House", then, marks an achievement for Ben that he hasn't done in ten years!! So how does "House" compare to other Ben Folds Five songs?! Well, it's not as heartbreaking as "Brick" and not as snarky as "Army", but it's still worth listening to. "House" actually sounds more like the melancholy but melodic, alt-rock version of Elton John of Ben Folds' solo records than it does the quirky, sarcastic sound of Ben Folds Five. Perhaps it's the lyrical narrative of "House" that gives it its "edge", that seems to be telling the story of an agoraphobic who has "had the nightmares, seen the counselors", but still doesn't want "to go back up in that house again".

"Lonely Boy" by The Black Keys: This garage-rock influenced indie band had the surprise hit of last year, "Tighten Up", which spawned two "viral" music videos (only one of which was made by the band themselves) and a spot as the number one song of 2010 on my blog!! The almost as catchy (but not quite) "Howlin' For You" followed in its footsteps with heavy airplay, but no memorable music video. The Keys' latest song, "Lonely Boy", continues, both musically and video-wise, in the direction of "Tighten Up"!! Already at spot number 14 on the Adult Alt Top 40 (and number 10 on the "regular" Alt Top 40) after a little less than a week of being on those charts, "Lonely Boy" is fast becoming all the rage both online and on the radio!! Its sound centers around a goofy but catchy surf guitar riff that mixes T. Rex's "20th Century Boy" with Cake's "The Distance". The music video for "Lonely Boy" also focuses on how catchy its sound is, with a middle aged African-American man dancing like crazy (in a good way) to the song throughout!! The video can be viewed here ( Enjoy!!