Friday, December 23, 2011

The Top 20 Songs of 2011!!!

Here it is folks, the moment you've all been waiting for!! Countin' em down from 20 to 1. (Yeah I know, it isn't Wednesday, but it IS towards the end of the year, so why not?!):

20. "MoneyGrabber" - Fitz and The Tantrums
19. "Free" - Graffiti 6
18. "Options" - Gomez
17. "She Walks In So Many Ways" - The Jayhawks
16. "Lost In My Mind" - The Head and The Heart
15. "Called Out In the Dark" - Snow Patrol
14. "The Afterlife" - Paul Simon
13. "Lonely Boy" - The Black Keys
12. "Longing to Belong" - Eddie Vedder
11. "Tree By the River" - Iron & Wine
10. "The Cave" - Mumford and Sons
9. "Roll Away Your Stone" - Mumford and Sons
8. "I Might" - Wilco
7. "How Come You Never Go There?" - Feist
6. "Pumped Up Kicks" - Foster the People
5. "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
4. "Give Me Something" - Scars on 45
3. "Down By the Water" - The Decemberists
2. "Lucky Now" - Ryan Adams

And...the number one song of 2011..isss.....

"YOU ARE A TOURIST" BY DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE!!! :D Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and Happy Holidays to everyone, and a Happy New Year, too!! It's been great reviewing songs and sharing how I feel about them with everyone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

7 new releases, 2 Christmas songs, and a partridge in a pear tree...

Happy Holidays everyone!! :) 'Tis the season to review new Christmas songs from She & Him and The Killers, not to mention 5 other non-Christmas related tracks. Here goes:

"I Didn't Mean It" by The Belle Brigade: Why is the sky blue? Who (or what) created the universe? Of all these age old questions that have never quite reached a universally agreed upon answer, the one I'd like to know the most right now is this - why do so many great songs and artists end up on the "Twilight" soundtracks?! While I don't think I'll have an answer for that in quite a long time, it just so happens that the latest song to get attention from indie rockers The Belle Brigade is on the "Breaking Dawn" soundtrack of the "Twilight" series. This doesn't mean The Belle Brigade have become "sellouts" (yet), but I can't help but notice how strikingly different this sounds to their other big song, "Losers", released earlier this year in the summer. Where "Losers" was a somber, regretful folk-rock song, "I Didn't Mean It" approaches more of a catchy, alt-pop type sound, almost as if Ben Folds were female and tried covering the Linda Ronstadt version of "You're No Good". Perhaps most interesting of all is how, out of the two songs I know so far from The Belle Brigade, the slower, sadder one ("Losers") is written in a major key, yet the pop-ier, faster one ("I Didn't Mean It") is written in a minor key!! That being said, there must be some really clever people involved in that band!

"Lights" by Ellie Goulding: Is anyone here sick of how much attention Lady Gaga has gotten ever since she debuted? (I know I am!) Looking for a fresher, less sexually excessive alternative to her that sounds kind of like an indie-pop version of Lady Gaga? Perhaps not, but now there is one!! The first major song to get attention from British pop starlet Ellie Goulding, "Lights", is like a hip dance-pop song for those who prefer Tori Amos to Madonna. Like Gaga, Ellie's a blond haired girl who knows how to dance. Unlike Gaga, Ellie seems like she dances more for fun than for promiscuity and/or (desperate) attention. "Lights" is a unique, catchy song, and probably one of the few that can appeal to both the hipsters and the just plain hip!

"Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye: In the 21st century, the world-music-meets-rock-music flame that Peter Gabriel and Sting became well known for using in the '80s has been kept alive by musicians like Robbie Robertson and Paul Simon (both of whom also used that sound frequently in the '80s). Have there been any new artists that have been successful in using that sound, though?! With the possible exception of Vampire Weekend, probably not (and even Vampire Weekend's songs were a bit too bouncy to fully emulate the more reflective Gabriel/Sting sound). After all these years, however, someone has come along to return the world-music-meets-rock-music-sound to the music world as if it were fresh and brand new again, and he goes by the stage name of Gotye (pronounced GO-tee-yay). The ambiance of Gotye's first major song, "Somebody That I Used to Know" (not to be confused with the Elliott Smith song of the same title), is icy and haunting, and seems to borrow heavily from Peter Gabriel's almost equally haunting "Games Without Frontiers", and his vocals are somewhat similar to Sting's, especially as the song draws closer towards the chorus. The "cold shoulder" vibe of the lyrics, combined with the already frigid atmosphere of the song itself makes "Somebody That I Used to Know" the perfect non-Christmas listen for the winter season!!

"That Old Black Hole" by Dr. Dog: So far, Dr. Dog have gotten attention with two songs on adult alt radio, with the jaunty, Beatlesque "Stranger", and the folk-rock-y, Neil Young-ish "Shadow People" (which also manages to sound like The Beatles during the second half). Dr. Dog's latest song, then, "That Old Black Hole", marks a musical departure from the typical neo-psychedelic, "retro" indie-pop of their music, as it sounds more like the type of song a band like Modest Mouse might have done. Speaking of "mouse", another way Dr. Dog have, perhaps, sought for a larger audience in "That Old Black Hole" is through its video, whose only consistent image is of a hamster on a wheel. Other images appear in the video, but they are a bit too brief and surreal for me to find truly memorable in comparison to the hamster. The video for "That Old Black Hole" can be viewed here!! (

"The Christmas Waltz" by She & Him: 'Tis the season to be Zooey!! The most beautiful woman in indie-land (and her performing partner, fellow indie musician Matt "M." Ward) has released a heartwarming, sentimental version of the classic Christmas song that states the time it is performed in ("and this song of mine, in three-quarter time...") Zooey's vocals in this are absolutely irresistible!! Matt does a good job at this song too, though, bringing jazz chords to his acoustic guitar in the finest, most tender fashion since Sammy Davis Jr. The whole ALBUM ("A Very She & Him Christmas") that this is on is great, actually, but this song is a standout, for being the opening track, the track that's gotten the most attention so far on adult alt radio stations, and for having the most snuggly, cozy feel of all the songs on the CD!!

"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" by The Killers: Ever since 2006, Brandon Flowers and his fellow elves, umm, I mean, musicians, have released one Christmas song each December, perhaps the best of which was the one they put out during that year ("A Great Big Sled"). "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" might not be the best Christmas song The Killers have released, but it's a breath of fresh, energetic air compared to the decent (but dreary) "Boots" they released last year. The uptempo beat and tinkly keyboards set the mood for a Christmas song that takes place in the Wild Wild West, with quirky lyrics, and Brandon Flowers singing as though he had a slight "Southern" drawl in his voice. A surprisingly friendly, bubbly song for The Killers, but it still manages to work!!

"The Same Thing" by Cass McCombs: Before I get on with my review for this song, "Cass" might sound like the name of a female performer, but is, in fact, a guy in this case. Its sound is suggestive of Pete Yorn, while the lyrics take on a more Dylan-esque quality ("Nothing in common, our blood thicker than broth/We're cut from different sides of the same cloth"). Both Dylan and Yorn are known for composing melancholy folk-rock songs, and "The Same Thing" also has that sort of sound. Vocally, McCombs seems to derive from Elliott Smith, who, again, has a melancholy folk-rock sort of sound. Cass McCombs seems to have that "lonely guy with a sad, sentimental acoustic guitar sound" pretty good! Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is mine!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

new songs for December 7th, 2011

Here they are:

"Get Used to It" by Ben Lee: Ben Lee made his musical breakthrough back in the mid-'00s with the charmingly quirky, folk-pop-y "Catch My Disease". It didn't occur to me back then that his roots were not in folk-pop, but rather in power pop (i.e. Big Star, Elvis Costello, XTC, etc.) No song in Ben's catalog that I've heard so far illustrates his power pop influences better than his latest song, "Get Used to It". The sound of "Get Used to It" isn't the best part, though. It's how Ben takes a slow, slightly psychedelic detour midway through the song that makes "Get Used to It" really worth listening to for me! "Get Used to It", therefore, is the perfect title to a song that starts off catchy, gets a little weird (in a good way) midway through, and ends up as catchy as it was when it began. Now THAT's something to "get used to"!!

"Honolulu Blues" by Craig Finn: Craig is the lead singer of a roots-y, largely Springsteen influenced indie outfit called The Hold Steady, and, until now, has recorded pretty much all of his material with them. "Honolulu Blues" marks the first time Craig has struck out on his own, but he still retains the Springsteen-esque sound of The Hold Steady, and still has a (nameless) band backing him up! The opening chord sequence of the song seems like it's been used endlessly in rock/pop music (most recently, perhaps, in "Forget You [F**k You]" by Cee-Lo Green), but after that, "Honolulu Blues" becomes its own song. As indicated earlier, there's a definite Springsteen influence in this song, but it seems like this song goes back even further in rock 'n' roll history, as it also seems to heavily recall Chuck Berry (and perhaps The Rolling Stones as well) in its riffs! The angst-ridden but catchy poetic lyrics combined with the instrumentation also brings to mind even more rock 'n' roll greats, like Dylan during his "electric" period. Classic rock influences are present in nearly every song Craig has attempted, but none more so than "Honolulu Blues". Long live rock!!

"Serpents" by Sharon Van Etten: In a long line of "angry young women" in alt/indie rock, starting, perhaps, with Patti Smith, continuing with PJ Harvey and Liz Phair in the '90s, and carrying through to the '00s with acts like The Dresden Dolls and Company of Thieves, Sharon Van Etten is the latest to follow in their footsteps with her seductively dark song, "Serpents". "Quirky young women" (Feist, Regina Spektor, Joanna Newsom, Florence and The Machine, etc.) seems to have been the trend in the '00s/2010's, and, as great (and cute) as they are, sometimes it's good to have a little darkness to balance out the light! Sharon's voice might not have the same venom as Patti, Liz, and PJ, but the instrumentation here is pretty angst-ridden, as are the lyrics (which include, "You enjoy sucking on dreams, so I'll fall asleep with someone other than you"...Ouch!!). For those who like their gals with more of a gloomy, detached emotion in their music, I highly recommend "Serpents". Even the TITLE of the song indicates something not-so-friendly!

"Waiting For Something" by Nada Surf: The one regret I have about Nada Surf's music is that their most popular song, "Popular", sounded like a Weezer song (or, more accurately, a PARODY of a Weezer song), whereas all their other material is more beautiful and melodic than that, approaching the R.E.M./Radiohead category. Their latest, "Waiting For Something", continues in the beautiful but catchy alt-rock pattern of pretty much everything they released in the '00s (which was quite a bit, actually, and included songs like "Inside of Love", "Always Love", "See These Bones", and "Whose Authority"). "Waiting For Something" is a little different than the four songs I just mentioned, but in a VERY good way. Where those four songs were slower paced, "Waiting For Something" is a little faster. This is such a great song!! Great harmonies, great vocals, great instrumentation, tell-it-like-it-is lyrics (the chorus, for instance, "it always feels like I'm waiting for something"), what more could you ask for?! This is my fave release of the week and I highly recommend it!!