Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Top 20 Songs of 2012!!!

IT'S FINALLY HERE!!! The moment you've all been waiting for! Here they are, from 20 to 1, the best songs of the year!

20. "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men
19. "Chains of Love" by Ryan Adams
18. "Runaways" by The Killers
17. "Never Go Back" by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals
16. "I Ain't the Same" by Alabama Shakes
15. "If Only" by The Dave Matthews Band
14. "North Side Gal" by JD McPherson
13. "Mercy" by The Dave Matthews Band
12. "Mountain Sound" by Of Monsters and Men
11. "Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers
10. "Doom And Gloom" by The Rolling Stones
9. "Reboot the Mission" by The Wallflowers (and Mick Jones from The Clash)
8. "Love Interruption" by Jack White
7. "Live And Die" by The Avett Brothers
6. "Gold On the Ceiling" by The Black Keys
5. "Hold On" by Alabama Shakes
4. "I Will Wait" by Mumford and Sons
3. "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers
2. "Simple Song" by The Shins

annnnddd....the number one song of 2012 is...


Well, that's it for this year folks. Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Last blog of the year!! (Before the Top 20 of 2012)

Only two songs, but hey, what else can you expect for December?! Anyway, here goes:

"February Seven" by The Avett Brothers: Like "Live And Die", The Avetts' smash hit on adult alt stations from earlier this year, "February Seven" also hearkens back to The Avett Brothers' pre-fame sound, using more guitars than pianos. As far as the emotional quality of "February Seven" is concerned, though, it is a much more bittersweet song than "Live And Die", but then again, bittersweet music is what The Avetts have become known for. Scott and Seth set out on another search for truth down the open road put to a Springsteen-ian lyrical stance and bluegrass instrumentation. The words "February seven(th)" are never mentioned anywhere in the song, so why is it called that?! Well, thankfully, I just found out. It has to do with how the lyrics are based on a life lesson Scott Avett learned on February 7th one year.

"Miss Atomic Bomb" by The Killers: Yet another "follow-up" single to an adult alt summer smash ("Runaways"), the explosive title of "Miss Atomic Bomb" fits its somewhat arena-ish, dynamic sound quality. Lyrically, however, it is another attempt for Brandon Flowers to write and perform Springsteen-esque lyrics (just like the last song I talked about in this week's blog) to capture the feel of a romance he experienced back in his "glory days" (if you'll pardon the pun, heheh). Flowers referring to a woman of his affections as "Miss Atomic Bomb" is probably just a reference to how "hot" the woman in question is, but somehow, I always end up picturing a girl in a radiation suit when I hear this song instead!! Perhaps that's just the literal side of my mind talking again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Songs for twelve-twelve-twelve!!

We don't have twelve songs this time around, but there are four, and three times that makes twelve! So here goes:

"Call Me the Breeze" by Beth Orton: Not to be confused with the more boogie-woogie style, hard rocking Lynyrd Skynyrd song of the same title, Beth Orton's "Call Me the Breeze" sounds more, well, breezy! It is soft and billowy, like listening to a cloud, and it also shows just how much she has departed from the "folk-tronica" she started out with in her career. "Call Me the Breeze" is just pure and simple folk-rock. No electronic instruments or synthetic drumbeats to distract from the essence of the song here. "Call Me the Breeze" plays out almost like a children's song, with its repetitive "call me the..." verses ("Call me the day, call me the night, call me the dark, call me the light", for instance), interrupted only by its chorus ("hear my call, hello-lo-lo-lo, lo-lo-lo-lo, lo"). Definitely a good song to start out the morning with!

"Lover of the Light" by Mumford and Sons: The third single of 2012 from the unlikely folk-rock sensations Mumford and Sons is, perhaps, unlike any they have ever done! Hearing this song live during their "Gentlemen of the Road" tour was already pretty uplifting, and thankfully, M & S retain the magic of the song for the studio version of it! "Lover of the Light" is the first M & S song to feature a percussion section, and it is also the first song in their catalog that is TRULY "folk-rock", with an electric guitar providing a backbone to their more expected use of acoustic guitar and banjo. "Lover of the Light" has a similar rhythm (and sound, somewhat) to The Dave Matthews Band's "Crash Into Me". Unlike Mr. Matthews' song, "Lover of the Light" is not seductive in any way, shape, or form (for it to be so would be a shock for fans of M & S), and is instead, honest and heartfelt to the very core ("So love the one you hold, and I'll be your goal, to have and to hold, a lover of the light")! The Mumfords continue to amaze me with every song they do, and I hope they will continue in that direction for as long as they can keep a musical career!!

"Maybe On Monday" by Calexico: "Maybe On Monday" is both a sadder song and an edgier song than most of Calexico's material. The electric guitar makes a surprise appearance in this song by a band who is typically more known for their acoustic-y stuff (though "Maybe On Monday" can still be called "folk-rock" nonetheless), and there is no horn solo in the song, which is incredibly unusual for a Calexico composition. The subject matter of the song also leaves a lot of questions floating around in the listener's mind. For instance, why do the opening lyrics ("Woke up on Monday and wrote you a love song/Well the pen stopped and the paper flew out the window, and the notes rang down the road") sound as though Calexico's lead singer is somehow equating a painful relationship with writer's block?! Can't say I know too many songs that are like this one, but that's just all the more reason to like it!

"Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights") by JD McPherson: JD's success among adult alt audiences (particularly with the catchy, Little Richard-esque "North Side Gal"), came as a big surprise (but a darn good one) to listeners everywhere! Perhaps that's why JD felt like the time was right for him to do a Christmas song, even though he's only had two hits so far! The whimsical lyrics and jingle-bell sound of "Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights") recalls a lot of the Phil Spector Christmas songs from the early '60s, but the rhythm of the song, like most of JD's material, is pure '50s rock! Merry Christmas and a rockin' New Year!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Have A Holly Jolly Hipster Christmas - special blog dedicated to "Holidays Rule"!!

I don't normally post on days other than Wednesday, but the new CD "Holidays Rule", showcasing mostly contemporary folk-rock and indie-pop, has soooo many good songs that would just be too much to blog about if I added them into another blog entry for non-Christmas/non-holiday related songs! There actually too many songs on this CD to be covering in one entry, so I'll be reviewing my personal faves from the CD today. So here goes! Hope you like it!!

"Auld Lang Syne" by Andrew Bird: Ever the quirky indie musician, Mr. Bird has decided not to choose a Christmas related song, and opt for a New Year's one instead! And his arrangement of it is...ummm...interesting!! Instead of being sung with reverence, it is treated more like a jaunty, honky-tonk song! No Andrew Bird song is complete without a string section instrument, but Bird continues to surprise his listeners by choosing a fiddle this time instead of a violin or cello like he usually does. It's also pretty impressive that Andrew Bird knows more than just the first verse of "Auld Lang Syne", since most people (including myself) only remember that verse!

"Baby It's Cold Outside" by Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten: The ultimate boy/girl duet Christmas song is performed this year by eclectic music extraordinaire Rufus Wainwright and angst-ridden folk-rocker Sharon Van Etten. Presented only with piano and vocals, Rufus and Sharon deliver an endearing duet (in which Rufus, as always, steals the show) that is bound to make one curl up inside with a cup of hot cocoa by the fireplace with his/her loved one. Van Etten's nearly deadpan vocal delivery provides an intriguing contrast with Wainwright's expressively operatic vocals, but they still manage to make it work! If only Zooey Deschanel didn't perform this song TWICE (once with Will Ferrell and another with M. Ward), I'd opt for her to sing the "girl" parts of this song, but otherwise, well worth the listen!

"Blue Christmas" by Heartless B*st*rds: A band whose name is both a curse word and an insult doesn't exactly seem like one that would be in the Christmas spirit, does it?! Surprise! Erika Wennerstrom is no Grinch! However, she did choose a more brokenhearted holiday song for "Holidays Rule", "Blue Christmas", a song that I initially thought had only been done by Elvis Presley, but has been covered by many others ever since. The HB's give "Blue Christmas" a melancholy country-rock treatment, complete with a sighing, twangy guitar solo in the middle. A big ol' heart melter, like most of the "Holidays Rule" songs, but that's why I like it!

"(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With the Bag" by Black Prairie: With a title that's a clear reference to Santa Claus, you'd think a song like this would be pretty energetic. And it is! But...not at first. The first 30 seconds or so of "Man With the Bag" build up suspense to a song that soon begins to sound like The Decemberists got taken over by Feist leading a band of jolly little elves! A surprisingly fun song for a band whose only known song so far is called "How Do You Ruin Me?" This could land Black Prairie a guest spot on "Yo Gabba Gabba" if they're not careful, heheh.

"Green Grows the Holly" by Calexico: Not one of the obvious Santa/Rudolph type Christmas songs, but it's songs like Calexico's "Green Grows the Holly" that adds a bit of diversity in subject matter to the "Holidays Rule" song collection. A very mournful holiday song, too, but not without a unique, Calexico-style horn solo in the middle of it to make it perk up, if only for a minute. Calexico are typically more lively than they are on this acoustic-guitar-and-horns-only track. Where I would normally envision a Calexico song taking place around the Mojave Desert in the middle of summer in the afternoon, this one seems more to take place around dusk, near winter, with holly and ivy growing in place of the cacti.

"I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day" by The Civil Wars: John and Joy turn a solemn Christmas song into a more charming one simply by using their signature harmonies to make the song complete, but the sentiments of requesting peace on Earth and good will to men in a world of cynical people are still there. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar, The Civil Wars show, once again, how their brand of quiet is the new loud, enough to make listeners stop and become entranced by both the mellifluous melodies and universally uplifting utterances of their take on an old Christmas fave.

"It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" by Fruit Bats: The formerly cheery Christmas song, "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas", gets a makeover from indie-folk-rockers Fruit Bats, with a sound that's halfway between a classic country song and Hawaiian music. Though The Bats have made this song lose some of the pep it once had, it is not completely without its bouncy beat. It's not as though Fruit Bats have added minor chords in place of the major ones, that's still a part of the song in this version. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but more like the kind of Christmas you'd want to spend inside your house, and not outside in a mall.

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" by Punch Brothers: An interesting selection for "Holidays Rule", and an even more interesting version! Among the recent "bluegrass-rock" boom, Punch Brothers are probably one of the few (if not the only) band of the bunch that could be considered "progressive bluegrass", since their verses and choruses are often in completely different keys to one another. They continue to demonstrate this oddly amazing talent in their take on "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel", one of those songs that, "keeps the 'Christ' in 'Christmas'", so to speak, as its title and subject matter are both references to Jesus. Punch Brothers do not lose an ounce of reverence in their rendition of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel", in terms of both vocal and instrumental quality. Perhaps this means that Punch Brothers are "brothers" in more ways than one might expect?!

"Sleigh Ride" by fun.: I have truly underestimated fun. With each song they release, their instrumental talents continue to impress me more and more. With the combination of "modern" instruments (like synths), and more "traditional" ones (like violins and flutes) all set to a giant indie-pop wall of sound, this version of "Sleigh Ride" could have been done by Arcade Fire with the exact same arrangement (but with different vocals, obviously)!! It even dips into psychedelic, echo-y territory a la "Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles towards the end of it! I think fun. are gliding through more than just a wonderland of snow in their version of "Sleigh Ride". They are gliding through a wonderland of SOUND!! Now that's what I call "ear candy"!

"The Christmas Song" by Paul McCartney: Sir Paul must be quite overwhelmed that he is both performing a song AND having a song he originally did covered by someone else ("Wonderful Christmastime") on the same album!! Macca's arrangement of the time-honored Christmas tune that begins with descriptions of "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" and "Jack Frost nipping at your nose" is not a bad one, but a B effort, or perhaps even a C one, in comparison to the Nat King Cole version I'm used to hearing. It must also feel weird for Paul to be the only "classic rock" musician on a record of mostly indie-pop musicians of the '00s and 2010's. Perhaps that's why his efforts feel only so-so on "The Christmas Song", but this IS a song that seems to be good, regardless of who's singing it.

"What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" by The Head and The Heart: Aside from Andrew Bird's contribution to "Holidays Rule", this is the only post-Christmas December related song on the CD. I realize just now that this is The Head and The Heart's first major song with romantic sentiments attached to it. Their topics previously revolved around homesickness ("Lost In My Mind"), being a world weary traveler ("Down In the Valley"), and speculations about the paranormal ("Ghosts"). So how do The Head and The Heart fare at choosing more personal subject matter into their music?! Quite effectively, if I do say so myself. The song carries a sweet, but not sappy, message of hope to spend New Year's Eve with one's significant other, and is perfect for a cozy, warm, stay-at-home December.

"Wonderful Christmastime" by The Shins: And last, but not least, it's Paul McCartney! Ummm...I mean...The Shins COVERING Paul McCartney! Kind of. James Mercer's love of The Beach Boys is more obvious in this version of McCartney's signature Christmas tune than his love of The Beatles, what the "Good Vibrations"-ish organ to start off the song. The lyrics get either goofed up or added on to at certain parts, so it doesn't exactly feel like a sincere cover, but those who prefer have their holiday tunes sound more psychedelic than plain ol' happy might get a kick out of this version.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New songs for November 28th, 2012

here they are:

"Long Emotional Ride" by Graham Parker: Once upon a time, in Britain, during the late 1970's, there were four musicians who attempted to mix the anger of punk rock with the catchy, clever qualities of pop music - Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe, and Graham Parker. All four of them, it turns out, are still active in the music biz! Elvis Costello was active throughout the '00s, Joe Jackson turned more to piano pop towards the end of the '00s, and Nick Lowe released a country-rock album just last year. So where does that leave Graham Parker, best known for the Costello-esque mid '70s rocker, "Local Girls"?! On a "Long Emotional Ride", that's where! It seems the angst that Graham once had has been lost in the haze for now, and the electric guitars have been toned down from rock to more of a soulful flavor, but "Long Emotional Ride" is still quite a welcome comeback for Graham Parker! Don't worry, Graham, we're here for ya, riding through all your emotions with you!

"Up Against the Wall" by Fiction Family: Along with Nickel Creek, Fiction Family were a band from the '00s who were predecessors to the now prevalent "bluegrass-rock" movement in indie/alt music. Their first song, "When She's Near", had a unique chord structure and a bubbly, upbeat sound, both of which are lacking in "Up Against the Wall", which is a sad song with standard chord changes. Perhaps Fiction Family just felt like they couldn't keep up with more successful bluegrass-rock acts like The Civil Wars and The Avett Brothers, so they just figured that they might as well come up with something more "regular" sounding to avoid competition. Even the lyrics (e.g. "Our love is a puzzle that can't be solved") seem to cry out in desperation for someone to listen. However, there's definitely something to be said about the melancholy nature of "Up Against the Wall", I just can't figure out what else to say about it at the moment.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

13 Songs On A Dead Man's Chest (A.K.A. Flood of Songs After the Drought)

THIRTEEN!? Most I've ever had so far!! So, without further ado, let's begin!!

"Carry On" by fun.: "If you're lost and alone, and sinking like a stone, carry o-o-o-o-on!!" So begins the chorus of the latest song from the somewhat aptly named band, fun. This is probably their most sensitive, most melodic song yet, and for that reason, I can't help but like it! Though the song itself is kinda dark in terms of its lyrics, it still has quite an uplifting, almost inspirational chorus, reminding its listeners to stay strong through the good times and the bad. Nate Ruess and co sure have come a long way since the far more pop-y "We Are Young", and I hope they will continue to strengthen their sound and their lyrics in the future!

"Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns" by A.C. Newman: The New Pornographers were always a quirky band, in spite of how their name might sound (it was actually taken from something someone said about how music is the "new pornography"). That being said, it only makes sense that their lead singer would come up with a song where even the TITLE sounded quirky! I mean, how many songs do you know of have titles that even sound CLOSE to "Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns" (try saying THAT five times fast!)?! I sure don't! (Then again, this IS the same guy who came up with even weirder song titles like "Sing Me Spanish Techno"). The song itself is quirky, power pop-y fun at its best! A happy song with bubbly harmonies and a weird title?! Only A.C. and The New Pornographers!!

"Good Times" by Matt Costa: Matt Costa doesn't seem to get enough credit for how eclectic (and clever) he truly is! He seemed to have been pegged as a singer/songwriter type based on how his debut song, "Cold December" sounded, but he has expanded his repertoire ever since to include Donovan-esque psychedelic pop ("Witchcraft") and "Pet Sounds"-ish orchestral beauties ("Drive"). His latest song, "Good Times", takes on a sound that illustrates a combination of folk-rock guitars and triumphant trumpets, a bit like Feist's "1234", as well as practically any song from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. Don't be fooled by how happy "Good Times" sounds, though, as even its chorus sings about how "Good times are comin' to an end". The dichotomy "Good Times" has between its fluffy sound and cynical lyrics only make me love the song more, though!

"Harder Before It Gets Easier" by The David Wax Museum: With the surprise success of records from people like Paul Simon and Robbie Robertson last year, it only makes sense that there would be someone this year that would carry on the rock-music-meets-world-music torch. It's not an older musician, though, or even a well-known one, at that. This year's ethnic rock experience comes from The David Wax Museum, a band that is, perhaps, unlike any other from 2012! Instead of relying on folk-rock or power pop, like most 2010's bands seem to do, The David Wax Museum create a lush musical soundscape based on African rhythms and mariachi instrumentation. To top it all off, at the center of the DWM's breakthrough song, "Harder Before It Gets Easier", is its chorus, which reminds people that sometimes you need to experience tougher times in your life in order to get to what you really want!

"Heartbeat" by The Kopecky Family Band: Of the many bands I'm reviewing this week, none of them seem to put the "pop" in "indie pop" quite like The Kopecky Family Band! Their debut song, "Heartbeat", has it all! Irresistibly bubblegum-y harmonies, handclaps at the beginning, a catchy, memorable chorus, purposely ridiculous lyrics (e.g. "you make my heartbeat beat a beat"), you name it! "Heartbeat" is the perfect song to dance around in your room to when no one's watching!

"How Do You Ruin Me?" by Black Prairie: And now we move from a goofy, lighthearted band to a more somber one. Even this song's title, "How Do You Ruin Me?" sounds melancholy, and the song itself is, too. With its sighing string section, G minor key, and world-weary vocals, "How Do You Ruin Me?" is one of those songs you'd want to put on during a rainy day to elicit emotions of both sadness and sympathy. It is a tale of unrequited love that expresses the pain and sorrow we probably all feel inside when going through such a phase. Call it a case of schadenfreude if you will, but what is "ruining" the singer brings me a sense of pleasure, but the pleasure derives from knowing that I'm not the only one who has felt cheated or let down in a relationship.

"I've Got This Friend" by The Civil Wars: It's been over a year since John Paul Williams and Joy White first became successful as folk-pop duo, The Civil Wars, yet there is still one song from their debut album that has JUST begun to receive airplay on adult alt radio stations, and that song is "I've Got This Friend". "I've Got This Friend" provides quite a contrast from the blues-y stomp of "Barton Hollow" and the bittersweet "Poison And Wine". There is nothing very bitter, or even bittersweet, about "I've Got This Friend", in fact it's kind of a cute song, if I dare say so! John and Joy take turns telling each other about these "friends" that they have during the song, though, upon listening to the lyrics, it becomes apparent that John and Joy are actually telling each other about...well...each other! However, they are doing so in a way that suggest a precious, almost naive sense of romance. Can I have another "d'awwww"?!

"Mojo Fix" by Martin Harley: A "review-come-lately" here, as this song has been around since late August of this year, but it doesn't seem like it's gotten decent airplay until around the past couple of weeks, so I thought maybe now would be a good time to review it instead. On with the song, though, doesn't even the title of the song "Mojo Fix" sound kinda blues-y?! Well, that's because it is, and a mighty fine blues song at that! With its chugging hook, raw vocals, and saucy slide guitar licks, "Mojo Fix" is enough to satisfy anyone's mojo!!

"Nancy From Now On" by Father John Misty: You probably wouldn't expect such a downhearted song from a guy with a quirky moniker, who put out esoteric songs like "I'm Writing A Novel", but keep in mind that "Father John Misty" is actually the alias of the ex-drummer of melancholy folk-rock kings, Fleet Foxes, and "Nancy From Now On" will probably make a little more sense. Even the opening lyrics, "Pour me another drink, and punch me in the face" are enough to depress a lot of Misty's listeners. "Nancy" is also not the name of a girl in this song, but rather, a derogatory name that Misty uses to refer to himself, perhaps suggesting that he is "weak" in some way. The chord changes and piano arrangement in this song remind me of people like Rufus Wainwright. Perhaps Rufus and Father John are pals?! Wouldn't surprise me. Also, I detect a huge Harry Nilsson influence in this song, so to describe Misty as the lovechild of Nilsson and Rufus Wainwright would be a great way of summing him up!

"River" by Civil Twilight: As I read the comments for this song on YouTube, many people seem to think that this sounds like a Radiohead song, and it does (it lifts pretty heavily from "Jigsaw Falling Into Place", in particular). Though "River" will never hold a candle to Radiohead, it's still a good song in its own right! It is probably Civil Twilight's best song, actually, given how it centers mostly around acoustic guitar instead of keyboards, the latter of which is a more typical instrument for Civil Twilight. The lead singer of Civil Twilight tends to nail Thom Yorke's vocal intonations, and the swooning backing vocals wouldn't sound too out of place in a Radiohead song either. However, this is Civil Twilight, not Radiohead. Still, it wouldn't hurt Civil Twilight to continue going in a neo-folk-rock direction!

"So Beautiful" by The Dunwells: Along with the Martin Harley song, "Mojo Fix", this song is another "review-come-lately" for me, I guess partly because this song pales in comparison quite significantly to The Dunwells' Mumford-esque song, "I Could Be A King", from earlier this year. However, I decided to give "So Beautiful" another chance, and I'm glad I did, because, although it isn't nearly as good as "I Could Be A King", it is still a good song, and it stuck in my head after the second time I heard it, so I knew it was a good one. It still has a somewhat Mumford-and-Sons-ish sound, but it sounds more like M & S being backed by the '70s soft rock group, America (the solos in the song sound like they were performed in a similar distortion to America's "Sister Golden Hair"). Still worth listening to, though.

"Time to Run" by Lord Huron: And last, but certainly not least, is the hypnotically folk-rock-y "Time to Run", from Lord Huron, a band who are slowly but surely getting more attention than I thought they would! This song is like a dream to me, and I don't mean that in a corny, metaphorical way. I mean that it's literally like a dream! It starts off with an orchestra of echoing wind chime type percussion that goes on for about a minute, before settling into its mellow, entrancing groove that takes hold of the rest of the song, as though one is falling asleep, and then settling into his/her dream for the rest of the night. This song is one dream I don't want to wake up from!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Songs for the day after Election Day!!

Before I begin my next review, just wanted to say congrats to Barack Obama for getting elected into office for another four years!! :) (My apologies if you disagree here, as I realize some of you reading this might). Now that I've said that, here are this week's songs:

"Cry For Judas" by The Mountain Goats: Though the only other song I know from The Mountain Goats besides this one is "This Year", I remember that something about that song made me fall in love with it immediately! The same could be said (perhaps more so) for The Goats' latest song, "Cry For Judas". Beginning with an acoustic guitar strumming a similar sounding chord progression (and rhythm) to Joni Mitchell's "Help Me", with muted horns, a thumping electric bass, and a percussion section kicking in immediately afterwards, "Cry For Judas" is neo-folk-rock at its finest! Beneath the triumphant sound of "Cry For Judas" are scathing, cynical lyrics, such as "Long black night, morning frost, I'm still here, but all is lost", but even with that known, the song still doesn't lose its "innocent" flavor. At least for me it doesn't.

"Pigtail" by Trey Anastasio: The daddy of post-Grateful Dead jam-rock decides to amp it up once again after his mostly acoustic previous hit, "Let Me Lie". Lyrically, Trey sounds almost as "psychedelic" as he does musically in "Pigtail", with the imagery he creates with pigtails being dipped in ink, becoming conscious again, and stars lining up in the sky. As if the song's words weren't tasty enough, we are treated to a horn solo towards the end of the song. Have a groovy time listenin' to this song, cats and chicks!

"Ride" by Lana Del Rey: For a pop star, Lana Del Rey sure is melancholy! No song of hers seems to illustrate such emotion like her latest song, "Ride", though. It demonstrates more depth than her previous material as well, especially during its chorus, which consists of four chords and an upward/downward progression of the chords. As "Ride" goes on, bittersweet lyrics like "Dying young and playing hard/That's the way my father made his life in art" are sung over soaring string sections. A very sad song, but still well worth the listen!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!! :D

I must say, it's been an interesting year! One post on a leap year, another on the 4th of July, and NOW one on Halloween!! :D Sorry, no "scary" songs this time around, hehe, but I've got three good ones that I think you're gonna like! So here goes.

"Babel" by Mumford and Sons: The Celtic influenced folk-rock quartet known as Mumford and Sons have ruminated on religious themes before ("can you kneel before the king, and say I'm clean?", for instance, from their "White Blank Page" could refer to Jesus for all I know!), but they've never had a song title so far with a religious/biblical reference until now (though they mispronounce "Babel" as "BAY-bul" instead of "BAB-ul"). Given the point of reference here (the Tower of Babel, from which the word "babble" supposedly comes from), I would think that "Babel" might be about problems in terms of communication. This is part of what "Babel" is about, but the meaning behind its lyrics go deeper than that. It is more about the fall of mankind (which can be interpreted from the lyrics, "So come down from your mountain and stand where we've been/You know our breath is weak and our body is dead"), and about trying to reach God directly, but struggling to do so in the process (for which the lyrics, "Press my nose up to the glass around your heart, I should have known I was weaker from the start" are sung). For a band whose first big hit had the "f" word in its chorus, Mumford and Sons are quite an honest, intelligent, and soul searching band (and yes, I even love the song I just referred to by them in that sentence)!!

"Here Comes My Man" by The Gaslight Anthem: A sequel to The Pixies' "Here Comes YOUR Man", perhaps?! 'Fraid not, this song doesn't sound anything close to The Pixies. "Here Comes My Man" is just Brian Fallon and the rest of the members of The Gaslight Anthem doing what they do best - mixing the earnest, heartfelt approach to roots-rock of Bruce Springsteen with the "thinking man's punk rock" sound of The Clash. The Springsteen influence is pretty obvious here, perhaps more so than any other Gaslights song, from the Phil-Spector-goes-rock sound of the percussion to the "sha-la-la"'s in the chorus (all that's missing is a killer sax solo!) As if having Springsteen and The Clash as influences wasn't enough of an old school rock move for The Gaslights, Brian Fallon also takes on an interesting perspective in the lyrics that was previous reserved for people like Joni Mitchell. Much like how Joni sang "I was a free man in Paris", instead of "HE was a free man Paris", Brian also takes on the opposite sex perspective, with lyrics like "Don't you think I knew about all your pretty girlfriends?", and of course, the chorus, in which he sings "here comes MY man", from a woman's point of view to (presumably) another guy. Thank you, Brian Fallon, for bringing lyrical narrative back into music, I appreciate it very much!!

"I Don't Believe A Word You Say" by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite: So, what happens when rock 'n' roll chameleon Ben Harper teams up with bluesman Charlie Musselwhite?! Powerhouse rock 'n' roll, that's what!! "I Don't Believe A Word You Say" captures the feel of some of the best known classic rock anthems, from its "Mississippi Queen"-ish rhythm, and its combination of hard rock guitars and blues harmonica, which recalls songs like Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks". The lyrics are repetitive, but in a song in which the main focus is on jamming (for both the guitar AND the harmonica) instead of singing, that shouldn't really matter too much. The song is aiming to please fans of blues music and classic rock, and if it does so, then mission accomplished, and rock on!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New songs for October 17th, 2012

here they are:

"Doom And Gloom" by The Rolling Stones: "A rolling stone gathers no moss", or so the saying says. Mick Jagger, on the other hand, has gathered his fair share of "moss", as even the title of his latest song, "Doom And Gloom" indicates. Mick doesn't go down without a fight on this song, though, as an army of electric guitars and passionate vocals go up against current events, and how "All (he) hear(s) is doom and gloom!" It's clear here that Mick is sick of politics (trying saying THAT ten times fast!), so he diverts from the topic in the chorus of the song, urging his listeners to "take a chance" and "dance" with him. The Stones just keep on rolling in "Doom And Gloom", and just in time for Election Day, too!

"Hero" by Family of the Year: While on the subject of classic rock musicians, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith (of all people) apparently really likes Family of the Year, so much so, that he referred to them as "The Mamas and Papas on acid"! This description is probably quite fitting for a band like Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, but does it do justice to describing Family of the Year?! Perhaps, but "Hero" sounds more like a Fleetwood Mac song to me (albeit with male vocals), nothing "acid"-like about it, just a gentle, bittersweet folk-rock song about how FOTY's lead singer doesn't want to be anyone's "hero", and how he, instead just wants to be like an everyday person. So basically, "Hero" is a song with "Landslide" style acoustic guitar picking about trying to fit in. Sounds like my kinda song!

"Now Is the Start" by A Fine Frenzy: So far, the 2010's seem to be a decade of change for Allison Sudol from the one-woman band A Fine Frenzy. She's dyed her hair blond, as opposed to the darkish shade of red it once was, and she seems to be channeling Florence more than she is Fiona (the latter of whom is a more typical influence for her) on her latest AFF song, "Now Is the Start", which also seems to have a dash of Killers influence in there. Allison's experimentation with electronic sound is definitely a departure from the average AFF song, but she seems to ease into "Now Is the Start" quite naturally, without trying too hard at any point in the song. In fact, she actually seems to be having fun with what she's doing in this song!

"Tore Down" by Wanda Jackson: Back when rock 'n' roll was young, Elvis Presley was proof that a white man could sing the blues! But what about a white WOMAN singing the blues?! Well, that would be Wanda Jackson, who was around during Elvis' era, but isn't nearly as well known! Wanda is quite convincing as a blues musician here, nailing not only the typical blues structure, but also the smoky, world weary vocals, lovelorn lyrics, and flawless transitioning from chords to guitar riffs! Even the two and a half minute length recalls blues music from the days of old. What can I say, it's always great to hear a new take on an old style!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New songs for October 10th, 2012

here they are:

"All Your Gold" by Bat for Lashes: Natasha Khan, better known as "Bat for Lashes", could be called a 21st century Bjork. She is a mysterious, but strangely charming figure in the music world, whose music is both dark and unpredictable. Her last big song, "Daniel", was a moody, hypnotic combination of electronica and rock, with some classical violins tossed into the mix for good measure. "All Your Gold" retains the mystique that Natasha put into "Daniel", but with even more of a sense of unpredictability. During the first minute or so of "All Your Gold", the listener is led into thinking that he/she won't get much more than a faintly thumping bassline and a light, ticking percussion sound. As "All Your Gold" progresses, though, more instruments (both acoustic and electric guitar, synthesizers, and string sections) get thrown in, and Natasha's voice gets increasingly higher and more dramatic. You never know what you're gonna get in a Bat for Lashes song, and "All Your Gold" continues to prove this!

"Default" by Django Django: And the weirdness continues in our second song of the week, "Default" by Django Django. It isn't just the repetitive name repetitive name of Django Django that makes them "weird". Their song "Default" also has some of the most bizarre mix of instruments (and even vocals) since some of Beck's songs from the mid-'90s! The lyrics don't seem to make a lot of sense either (e.g. "Forget about the cause, press rewind then stop and pause"). Yet, like Beck, Django Django are as out there as they are catchy! "Indie" doesn't always mean "quirky" like it used to, but Django Django are determined to put the "independent" back into "indie". And how!!

"Flavor" by Tori Amos: Been waiting for Tori to put out a song that's both tender and haunting like she did throughout the '90s! She put out quite a bit of material in the '00s, actually, but most of it was largely unnoticed in comparison to gems of hers like "Silent All These Years" and "Cornflake Girl". Tori's inner poet seems to be largely rejuvenated in "Flavor". Instead of writing almost embarrassing attempts to be sexual (like the "M-I-L-F, don't you forget" part of "Big Wheel"), or lyrics that are angst-y but generic ("Welcome to my world of hurt", from "Welcome to England"), Tori is now waxing philosophical about God ("Whose God, then, is God? They all want jurisdiction in this Book of Earth. Whose God spread fear, spread love?"), much like she did in some of her more classic songs like "Crucify" and "God". Unlike some of her peers from the '90s (i.e. Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, etc.), Tori has continued to attempt to straddle the line between "alternative" and pop music even after the '90s, instead of just going straight for pop. She has struggled along the way, but now, with "Flavor", it seems as though she has finally come full circle!

"Midnight On the Interstate" by Trampled By Turtles: Trampled by Turtles tugged at quite a few heartstrings earlier this year in spring, with their bittersweet song, "Alone". Their second big song, "Midnight On the Interstate", isn't exactly "bittersweet", but it still has the tender, mellow feel of "Alone". There aren't a lot of lyrics in "Midnight On the Interstate", but its beautiful melody and harmonies speak for themselves. Somehow, TBT are able to paint a picture of traveling down the highway in the dead of night just by playing their instruments in "Midnight On the Interstate". The lyrics, of course, are important in the song, but "Midnight On the Interstate" seems like the kind of song that could function just as well with lyrics as it could without.

"Picture This" by Rhett Miller: Whether he's singing about losing his cat ("Murder Or A Heart Attack") or losing his girlfriend ("Every Night Is Friday Night Without You"), the Old '97s frontman never seems entirely happy with anything he sings about, and is often snarky in the process of delivering his lyrics. "Picture This" is a departure from this. The lyrics are completely sincere, and they revolve around "living together happily, never a dull moment" with his girlfriend. The gentle, swaying melody of "Picture This", combined with its earnest, heartfelt lyrics, make the song seem almost nostalgic in a way.

"Santa Ana Wind" by Everclear: Much like Alanis Morissette, Everclear are '90s rockers that usually sound better when they're angry than when they're not. "Santa Ana Wind" is a notable exception to this. Art Alexakis and co aren't trying too hard to be pop-y in "Santa Ana Wind" like they did in "Wonderful" and "AM Radio". It has a catchy enough guitar hook that you would almost expect Art to explode with fury like he did on some of Everclear's best known material like "Santa Monica (Watch the World Die)" and "Father of Mine". But no, "Santa Ana Wind" is mellow throughout. The weird thing is, it actually WORKS here!! No lyrics about "watching the world die", arguments with parents, or "making me feel like a whore" here. Instead, they revolve around things like "Sunshine and Mexican food on a Christmas day", and "almost see(ing) the blue sky in the middle of the day". Some classic Everclear lyrical themes, like escapism from the frustration of everyday life, are present in "Santa Ana Wind", though, and the music, while not "hard" rock, is still rock enough for Everclear's original fans to enjoy it.

"Waiting" by The Whigs: Not to be confused with proto-grunge group The Afghan Whigs, The Whigs are also an interesting brand of alternative rock, but more in the power pop-y direction of Fountains of Wayne or Dandy Warhols (albeit a bit harder edged than both of them). "Waiting" is a pretty simple song, built mostly around A major and D major chord progressions, and not much else. While its nothing new, it doesn't mean that "Waiting" isn't an enjoyable song! It still boasts an incredible riff and passionate vocals, enough to get stuck in one's head at the end of the day!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New songs for October 3rd, 2012

here they are:

"Better Weather" by Good Old War: The bouncy folk-rock trio of Goodwin, Arnold, and Schwartz are back for a third time around this year with a song whose title echoes the sentiments that Sacramento residents such as myself wish were going on right now (I REALLY wish we had "better weather" up there right now!!) "Better Weather" almost seems to recall earlier GOW songs like "Coney Island" (only with more of a "studio" sound behind it) with its shiny but still roots-y folk-pop sound. The "weather" in this song could be a metaphor for just better times in general, though some of the lyrics (e.g. "Maybe tomorrow the storm will blow over") tend to indicate otherwise. What works in "Better Weather" is what works in pretty much every GOW song, and that is how it has an upbeat vibe to it that never fails to make me smile!

"Do the Trick" by Dr. Dog: Of all the indie-pop groups that have cropped up within the past couple years, I'm honestly quite surprised that Dr. Dog hasn't achieved major success beyond the indie and adult alt crowds! Every song they have ever done is catchy (and often clever). They don't fit the indie "stereotype" of being ultra-mellow and/or morose, and they are instead known for their circus-like post-psychedelic organ sound and upbeat, quirky tunes! "Do the Trick" is no exception. Clever lyrics (like "My tock is a nervous tick", brilliantly punny line!!) pop up in "Do the Trick". This aspect, combined with the rapid fire rhyme schemes and the song in general make Dr. Dog seem almost more like Dr. Seuss in "Do the Trick". "Will you do the trick?", asks the lead singer of the band repeatedly. Yes, he does "do the trick" for me, and quite well at that!!

"Into the Remembering Sun" by The Brew: Not sure if "The Brew" was the best choice for the name of a band that sounds like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and what an "American-ized" version of Snow Patrol might be like, since those are only two bands and not a "brew" of different ones. Nevertheless, their debut song, "Into the Remembering Sun" is a good one. Perhaps the most entertaining feature about this song, aside from its dynamic sound, is how the lyrics personify natural non-living elements. The sun, of course, can't actually "remember" anything, but that is part of the poetry of "Into the Remembering Sun", whose opening verse also has the moon "give no shoulder", the wind "feel old", and the stars "find a cloud to hide behind". Almost sounds like a love song set to Native American folklore!

"Unfinished" by Ben Sollee: And yet another Springsteen-goes-indie homage for this week's blog comes from Ben Sollee, who could be described as the "lovechild" of The Boss and indie-pop violin virtuoso Andrew Bird. It's interesting to note also that "Ben" seems to be the most common name for male solo indie/alt performers, led by Ben Folds, and followed by people like Ben Harper, Ben Lee, Ben Gibbard (from Death Cab) and Ben Kweller (even band names such as "Ben's Brother" are evidence of this!) Our latest "Ben" combines Springsteen-ian guitars with a weeping, sweeping cello sound, as well as raw, passionate vocals. Given that the song's subject matter revolves around feeling incomplete, I would say that Ben has a good reason to sound as passionate as he does on "Unfinished"!

"Walk Like A Giant" by Neil Young: No more Mr. "Heart of Gold"!! Almost every Neil Young song that has come out in the 21st century (with the notable exception of "The Painter") has been a crunchy hard-rock number, and "Walk Like A Giant" is no exception! It also has a sound that doesn't sound too different from what Neil was doing in 1969 with songs like "Cowgirl In the Sand", "Down By the River", and "Cinnamon Girl", made more distinct by its whistling in between the verses. What's especially interesting here is that "Walk Like A Giant" is not only Neil's second big song of 2012, but it's also from his second big ALBUM of 2012!! Yep, he released two albums in one year! Neil is definitely walking like a giant here - a rock 'n' roll giant, that is!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New songs for September 26th, 2012

here they are:

"Blood Red Youth" by California Wives: California Wives are a band whose name does not indicate who they are. They are neither from California (they are Chicagoans) nor are they wives (all the members are dudes). Their sound recalls the best gloomy but shimmering alt-rock from days of yore, particularly groups like The Cure and Radiohead, though the chugging, anthemic nature of "Blood Red Youth" is probably closer to groups like U2. Lyrically, "Blood Red Youth" is very angst-ridden and detached, (esp. the opening words to the second verse, "When information's out and your head's full of light/And they serve you a drink, like you hope they might") which seems to fit the mood of the song itself. Not since the days of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "How Soon Is Now?" has depression sounded so powerful in a song!!

"If Only" by Dave Matthews Band: In "If Only", DMB continues in the direction of the bittersweet folk-rock of their previous single, the massively successful "Mercy". Unlike "Mercy", though, "If Only" deals with more personal problems, rather than being a cry for help to the whole world. "If Only" seems to be about Dave being afraid to admit the insecurities he had in whatever relationship he was in at the time he wrote this song. Quite an interesting turnaround for Mr. Matthews, who used to be quite the seducer (as evidenced by his two biggest hits, "Crash Into Me" and "Crush"). Guess that means Dave is growing up. Not a bad thing, though, especially since he is able to keep up his trademark jazzy folk-rock sound even without his former sax player LeRoi Moore.

"Land of Hope and Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen: Considering that The Boss's birthday was just a couple days ago, it seems like my review for his latest song, "Land of Hope and Dreams" has come right on time! At six and a half minutes, this song seems like it would be one of Bruce's more "epic" tracks. It might not be "Jungleland" or "Born to Run", but I can tell that Bruce put a lot of thought and effort into "Land of Hope and Dreams". Aside from the almost Mumford-and-Sons-ish "Death to My Hometown", "Land of Hope and Dreams" is probably my favorite song The Boss has done in 2012!! Although it is a political song lyrically, like pretty much every song on his latest CD, "Land of Hope and Dreams" is a more uplifiting, almost spiritual composition in comparison to the angst and dissatisfaction on songs like, say, "We Take Care of Our Own". This song is well worth the listen, I say!

"Mountain Sound" by Of Monsters and Men: Iceland's answer to Mumford and Sons had one of the most successful songs of late last year and the early to middle parts of this year with the surprisingly catchy "Little Talks". So how do OMAM follow it up?! With the similarly Celtic folk-rock-y song "Mountain Sound", which, like "Little Talks", also brings to mind older folk-rockers like The Mamas and The Papas, with its vocal section being traded off between the male singers and female singers of the band. Having never heard any successful Icelanders in the music world aside from Bjork, I have to say that OMAM sound more like they're from Ireland (or perhaps Scotland) than Iceland. The lyrics of the song, which include phrases like, "Alone we traveled on nothing but a shadow", as well as the chorus's "Through the woods we ran, deep into the mountain sound", almost seem like they'd be quite fitting in a movie like "Brave", since it both centers around epic adventure and takes place (largely) in a European woodland area.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New songs for September 19th, 2012

here they are:

"Ain't Messin' Around" by Gary Clark Jr.: Does Gary Clark Jr. have his own schedule or something?! His juicy, blues-rock song "Bright Lights" came out LAST September, and now he's releasing a song in September AGAIN?!? Was this on purpose?! Well, perhaps not, but what is on purpose is Mr. Clark Jr.'s solid delivery of jazz, blues, and rock wrapped up into one tasty slice of music! Coachella's best (and so far, only) bluesman boasts a riff in E major similar to INXS's "New Sensation", only with cleaner distortion and more saxophone backing it up in "Ain't Messin' Around". Bottom line is, when Gary says he "Ain't Messin' Around", you'd better believe him!!

"Change" by Churchill: Somehow, the name of this band doesn't exactly paint an accurate picture of who they really are. I would think that "Churchill" would be a folks-y band with a male lead singer. It's not! It's actually a slick alt-pop group with a female lead singer! Nothing particularly special about this song, as far as I can see, except for how bouncy and danceable it is. Churchill's lead singer is also pretty good at what she does. However, I could easily see "Change" being written off by some as a "Gwen Stefani lite" song. Not bad, but there have definitely been better songs for 2012, as far as I'm concerned.

"Disappear" by Patterson Hood: Supposedly, Patterson's band, Drive-By Truckers, used to have a "jam band" element to their music. However, his two best known songs so far, this one and the Truckers' "Everybody Needs Love", are both more like moody brands of country-rock than jam band music. "Disappear" delves even further into the country-rock subgenre. Where "Everybody Needs Love" at least had a guitar solo, "Disappear" does not. However, given what a bittersweet song "Disappear" is, both lyrically and musically, I don't think it needs one. The violins in the background already provide enough instrumentation for "Disappear" to tug at the heartstrings. A line in the middle of the song, ("Simply disappear, and vanish into thin air, sometimes it's better to just not be there") defines "Disappear" pretty well. It is a song about escaping the pressures of everyday socialization. Though we are social creatures, I think we all feel like escaping from that every once in a while, and Patterson Hood echoes this sentiment quite well!

"Home" by Phillip Phillips: Typically, when "American Idol" goes in a rock direction, it's usually hard rock, as Bo Bice, Chris Daughtry, and James Durbin would all be willing to tell you. It isn't usually folk-rock. Thankfully, Phillip Phillips has proved to be an exception to this. Though I'm not an "Idol" viewer by any means, I must say that I am impressed by Mr. Phillips. "Home" is a song that is influenced by people like The Dave Matthews Band, though it has a more Mumford-esque sound than that as far as I'm concerned. It really does not sound like a typical "Idol" song at all!! There is no big band or production sound backing it up. Just Phillip, his acoustic guitar, backing vocalists, and a light percussion section (and later, a keyboard section). Who knows, perhaps Phillip will start a trend of indie/folk influenced musicians on "American Idol", which would make it a much more watchable show for me! But if not, he'll be remembered as the one participant who made one of the most mainstream shows in American pop culture seem more indie, if only for a moment!

"Little Lizzie Mae" by The Chris Robinson Brotherhood: For the ex-Black Crowes member's second big song with his side project, Chris has decided to kick out the jams once again! But this time, he seems to be drawing from an unlikely source - Van Morrison! The main riff of "Little Lizzie Mae" sounds almost exactly like Morrison's "Blue Money". Sure, there's plenty of Allman Brothers style noodling in "Little Lizzie Mae", but it feels more like jazz-rock than jam rock. Lyrically, "Little Lizzie Mae" sounds like it's about a girl who's (probably) playing Chris Robinson for a fool. That being said, I can't help but feel like Robinson is playing his listeners for fools! Van Morrison isn't exactly the kind of influence I would expect for a "jam band" song, so one might not expect to have a guitar solo between each verse (perhaps a sax solo instead?!) Nonetheless, though, "Little Lizzie Mae" is very much of a "feel good" song in terms of its sound, and you can't go wrong with that!!

"The Ballad of John and Yoko" by Widespread Panic: And speaking of jam bands, here is a (now) legendary jam band covering...a legendary Beatles song?!? Whaaat?!?! Widespread Panic do a decent job at covering the infamous Lennon tune, though. Not as good as the original, but WP put their own unique spin on it! Interestingly, acoustic guitar (and a neat li'l honky tonk style piano) are the main instruments on this version! The electric guitar takes a backseat here. The way I see it, if Jimi Hendrix can take on TWO Bob Dylan tunes, then Widespread Panic can take on (at least) one from The Beatles!!

"Wind and Walls" by The Tallest Man on Earth: Like "1904", the TMOE's hit from earlier this year, "Wind and Walls" is only two things, acoustic guitar and vocals. For such a simple setup, though, The Tallest Man on Earth manages to sound beautiful nonetheless. The lyrics are somewhat enigmatic (for instance, "Singing songs of rivers tied to accidents within/Telling people lies of lions, treasures, and kings"), but that is part of the charm of The Tallest Man on Earth, and how, no matter what he sings, he still manages to make his songs sound soft and sweet (bittersweet, in this case). Highly recommended!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New songs for September 12th, 2012

here they are:

"Fire Bug" by JD McPherson: The greatest '50s rock sensation that never was had a big hit on the adult alt charts earlier this year with "North Side Gal", and now he's burnin' up those charts again with his latest song, "Fire Bug"! With its pounding Jerry Lee Lewis style pianos, Chuck Berry style guitars, and soulful saxophones, "Fire Bug" sounds like the perfect song for a 1950's diner to be playing. Like "North Side Gal", "Fire Bug" is yet another song about an object of JD's affections. An ordinary subject, but an extraordinary song, so much so, that it probably wouldn't matter what JD sang about, as long as he delivered it with enough passion and energy!

"Let Me Lie" by Trey Anastasio: For a jam band aficionado, you'd probably expect a more complex, or at least a more electric guitar oriented song from Phish's leading man. But no, Trey has decided to mellow out and unplug for his latest song, "Let Me Lie". Even the lyrics ("Gonna take my bike out, gonna take my bike, gonna ride it slowly, ride it just how I like") suggest that Trey doesn't want to go all Jerry Garcia on us this time like he usually does, he just wants to take a break from all that fast paced life out on the road. For a man who's been jammin' his brains out for more than 20 years, both with and without Phish, I'd say that "Let Me Lie" is a well deserved break for Trey. Not that I don't enjoy it when he jams, though, he's great at that!!

"Love Is A Fire" by Courrier: With a sound that comes halfway between Snow Patrol and The Killers, Courrier already seem poised for success with their debut single, "Love Is A Fire". Somehow, though, even though Courrier have a solid, dynamic, appealing sound, something seems missing from their music. Perhaps because their lyrics (like the chorus, "Can you hear my heart, hear my heart now? Love is a fire and it's burning me down") seem ordinary in comparison to those that Gary Lightbody and Brandon Flowers typically deliver in their music. Courrier don't even seem to have the "tight harmony" concept that make songs by groups like Scars on 45 so profound sounding to me. Yet somehow, I still like Courrier, and I still like this song. It's not bad. I just think it needs a little improvement, and I think that Courrier have potential to make better songs.

"1957" by Milo Greene: Has it somehow become a trend to use 20th century years in indie-pop/rock song titles?! First there was Phoenix's "1901", and earlier this year, The Tallest Man on Earth put out a song called "1904". Now, thanks to Milo Greene (a band, not a person), we have our third "year song" in the indie-pop category, "1957". "1957" also utilizes other trends in indie-pop/rock. Like Of Monsters and Men, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, The Civil Wars, and The Lumineers, Milo Greene are a band that plays bittersweet folk-rock with a guy and girl sharing vocals, somewhat like a modern day Mamas and Papas. The video for the song is particularly interesting, in that it plays out like a three and a half minute version of current indie flick, "Ruby Sparks". The guy in the video appears to be writing a story about this girl, he falls for her, she appears to be real, but she turns out to (more than likely) just be imaginary. Surreal enough for ya?! The video can be viewed at

"Teardrop Windows" by Benjamin Gibbard: So Death Cab's leading man has finally decided to go solo, eh? Well, it sounds like...ummm...not that different from Death Cab themselves. However, "Teardrop Windows" is a relief for me since its sound hearkens back to the bittersweet folk-rock Death Cab initially became known for, as opposed to the more electronic flourishes of more recent Death Cab songs like "You Are A Tourist" and "Underneath the Sycamore". As you might expect from a song with the word "teardrop" in the title, "Teardrop Windows" has both a moody sound and moody lyrics (even the opening lyrics, "Teardrop windows crying at the sky, he's all alone and wondering why"). But Ben doesn't let the tears flow too hard in "Teardrop Windows", since the song has a somewhat catchy backbeat, as well as a good balance of major and minor chords throughout the song.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New songs for August 29th, 2012

here they are:

"Duquesne Whistle" by Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan was a master at blending the acoustic guitars and storytelling aspects of folk music with the driving beat of rock music in the 1960's and '70s. After that, he seemed to have dropped off the face of the Earth for about 20 years, and once the 21st century came around, Dylan found a new genre to blend rock 'n' roll with - the blues (makes sense considering that the blues was a dominant influence on rock music). The swingin' "Someday Baby" and the almost Latin-tinged "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" are among Dylan's blues-y gems from within the past 10 years, and it looks like his latest song, "Duquesne Whistle" (pronounced DOO-kain) is about to join the ranks of those songs! There seems to be a bit of jazz and shuffle influence in "Duquesne Whistle" as well. "Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin'", Dylan creakily croons during the song's refrain. We hear the whistle blowin', Bob. The whistle of creativity, that is!!

"The Way It Is" by The Sheepdogs: The Sheepdogs made the cover of a "Rolling Stone" issue back when they were barely known, about a couple months ago from what I recall. I can see why people wanted them on the cover, though, since their debut single, "The Way It Is" proves the 'Dogs to be Canada's answer to The Black Keys!! Their sound is just a couple notches heavier than The Keys, actually, recalling the juicy hard rock of Led Zeppelin at certain times. The lyrics are a bit repetitive ("Everything's the way it is, that's got to be the way it is"), but The Sheepdogs aren't a band whose main focus is writing songs. Their main goal is getting people to rock out like it's 1971 all over again, and they do a mighty fine job at it, I must say!!

"We're Alright Now" by John Hiatt: John Hiatt could be called the male Bonnie Raitt (Bonnie even covered Hiatt's song "Thing Called Love" on her breakthrough record, "Nick of Time"). Like Bonnie, John spent much of the '70s, '80s, and '90s alternating between blues-y rocker and folks-y singer/songwriter. Hiatt continued recording many records in the 2000's as well, but those just didn't have the same flavor as his material from previous decades did. With "We're Alright Now" (and his song from last year, "D*mn This Town", which I sadly overlooked at the time), though, it appears as though Hiatt is getting back up on his feet again, by adding a somewhat John Mellencamp-ish roots-rock sound back into his repertoire! "We're Alright Now" also boasts a stick-in-your-head hook and catchy, memorable chorus, so much so, that it might just end up sounding like the best classic rock song you've never heard!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New songs for August 22nd, 2012

here they are:

"Heart of Rhythm" by Ryan Bingham: Much like Grace Potter before him, Ryan Bingham is a former country/pop-rock musician that wanted to turn up his amps once his sophomore album came around. And boy, does he ever!! Never expected Ryan to pound out a rock 'n' roll anthem influenced by the likes of Chuck Berry, and The Rolling Stones, among others, but he does so on "Heart of Rhythm" with reckless abandon and passionate enthusiasm! During the song's chorus, Ryan proclaims he has a "heart full of rhythm and rock 'n' roll". If I hadn't heard this song I don't think I would have believed him. But now I do! More than I ever would have expected to!!

"Magpie" by Beth Orton: On the flipside of the pounding electric guitars and racing drums of the only other song I have for this week is the quieter, more soothing sound of Beth Orton, a brilliant singer and songwriter whose music combines the bittersweet folk-rock of Joni Mitchell and the ethereal electro-pop of Annie Lennox. Beth seemed to have a steady flow of three albums between the late '90s and mid 2000's. After 2005, though, Beth Orton's fans were left Beth Orton-less for 7 years. Until now, that is!! "Magpie" is a song whose lyrics evoke nature, particularly birds (magpies, crows, and blue jays are all mentioned in the song), and whose sound seems like it might as well have come from a bird, with Beth's sweet voice, and instrumentation consisting of both acoustic guitars and a lovely string section. Welcome back, Beth! Missed you madly for many years!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New songs for August 15th, 2012

here they are:

"Do It Anyway" by Ben Folds Five: Ben Folds and his "Five" (actually just two other people) are like what a cynical, sarcastic version of Elton John might be like, in that they are known for their soft, sensitive side, but occasionally they can dabble in other more energetic material as well. "Do It Anyway" is an example of the BF5's more energetic side. The typical Folds deadpan factor is here as well, as he talks about various troublesome situations, but urges the listener to "do it anyway", without a lot of sincerity attached to the statement. Folds does break from his deadpan-ness in the middle of the song to sing that he "used to not like (the subject of the song), but now (he) thinks (he/she)'s o...KAAYYYY-yeah-yeah-yeah!!!", with the "kay" part of the word "okay" marking the exact point that Ben not only creates a brief shift in the mood of the song, but also the only part of "Do It Anyway" in which he lets out a somewhat Dave Grohl-ish "scream".

"Spectrum (Say My Name)" by Florence and The Machine: For those thrown off by the "Say My Name" part of the title of the song, let me assure you that, no, Florence has NOT gone the way of Beyonce! However, this song does have a bit more disco influence than most of Flo's material. I don't know of any actual disco songs with harps in them (and especially not one with a harp SOLO), though, so "Spectrum (Say My Name)" is a song that is in Flo's own unique style! The word "spectrum" does not appear in the chorus of the song, but there are quite a few references to color throughout it, (such as "as every color illuminates, we are shining"). Funny to think that one of the stations I know of that spins Florence and The Machine's music is CALLED "The Spectrum". I can only wonder what they would think of playing a song whose name is the same as their own station!!

"Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers: So where do The Lumineers go from the surprise success of the folks-y but catchy "Ho Hey"?! Well, with another folks-y but catchy song! Well, kind of. The folks-y part of The Lumes' latest song, "Stubborn Love", is definitely there, but it is mostly a minor key song with darker lyrics (even the opening lyrics, "She'll lie and steal and cheat, and beg you from her knees, and make you think she means it this time", prove this). In its own way, though, "Stubborn Love" IS catchy, since it has a strong enough backbeat, though not nearly in the same way "Ho Hey" was. The instrumentation here is slightly reminiscent of Bob Dylan's "Hurricane", especially the cello part, though the percussion here is more light tambourines than heavy drums (which brings about yet another Dylan connection - he DID sing about a "Tambourine Man", didn't he?!)

"This Gift" by Glen Hansard: I don't think I've known an Irishman so far with more success in both music AND movies than Glen Hansard! He first became noticed with the bittersweet ballad "Falling Slowly" from the indie flick, "Once", and now, Glen has yet another song from a movie soundtrack, although this time it is the more family friendly (but still quirky) film, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green". "This Gift" is probably the most amazing song I've heard from Glen SINCE "Falling Slowly", actually. Glen proves here that with just two chords, he can still pull at the ol' heartstrings! The harmonizing vocals backing Glen up on "This Gift" only make it even more memorable! It is never mentioned what exactly the "gift" in the song is, but one could probably easily imagine that it is love, or perhaps even life itself. Whatever it is, though, "This Gift" still makes for quite a memorable song!

"Yet Again" by Grizzly Bear: Taking our only detour into electric guitar oriented music for the week (with a post-psychedelic flavor, in this case), Grizzly Bear reach new heights of both intriguing and weird with "Yet Again". Much like how they did with "Sleeping Ute" merely a month ago, The Grizzlies continue to push the indie envelope with "Yet Again". The song features a rather complex chord structure in comparison to most contemporary bands/songs with the "indie" label, and by the time "Yet Again" gets to its last minute, it dissolves into a swirly noise-fest in which it becomes trickier to tell which chords are being used. In a world full of Byrds-y and Simon-and-Garfunkel-ish bands, Grizzly Bear want to be like the Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, or perhaps an even more exotic band like King Crimson.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New songs for August 8th, 2012

here they are:

"Give A Little" by Everest: The second song to get attention from indie-pop band Everest, "Give A Little" doesn't have the funky, catchy factor of their previous single, "Let Go", but the unique chord progression of "Give A Little" makes it a memorable song for me to listen to. Some guitar solos are added into the second verse to give "Give A Little" even more of a distinct flavor than it already has. Nothing particularly special about this song lyrically, but the fact that Everest can deliver a song with with more than four chords in only two verses with a sticks-in-your-head hook prove that they can "give" more than just "a little" when they want to carve out a solid song!

"I Will Wait" by Mumford and Sons: More like "I CAN'T Wait"!!! And, really, I can't!! M & S were talking about making a new CD ever since November of last year, and I thought it would come pretty soon after that. The folk-rock quartet teased us with a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" earlier this year, but that was not on any of their CD's (it was actually a track they lent their vocals to by bluegrass musician Jerry Douglas). So I had to wait 10 long months for Mumford and Sons to release a follow up to their debut CD, "Sigh No More". At long last the wait is over!! The question is, was it worth all that waiting?! Yes, it was!! The band's signature style of delicate harmonies and intense but refreshing banjo playing is 100 % present on "I Will Wait"! Marcus, Ben, Ted, and Winston don't stray a bit from what made people like them initially on this song. They even add muted trumpets in for good measure towards the end of the track like they did on "The Cave" and "Winter Winds". I'm almost too sure this will end up as one of my Top 20 Songs of 2012 come December!! We'll see, though.

"Old Friend" by Sea Wolf: Sea Wolf were a band I almost got to see back when they weren't even a well-known band among "indie" audiences, so I feel a special connection to their music whenever I hear it! At their core, Sea Wolf are a folk-rock group, but they have tied in quite a bit of "outside" influences in their songs, like the Elliott Smith/Jeff Buckley type sound they had for "You're A Wolf", as well as the much brighter, more orchestral, Arcade Fire type sound they had for "Wicked Blood". For SW's third major song, "Old Friend", they dress up their folk-rock guitar sound with shimmering electric guitars in the background, and a "soft electronic" sound in the drums, a la Imogen Heap or Beach House. "Old Friend" almost feels like a "You're A Wolf" rewrite in some ways, with its stark instrumentation, bittersweet vocals, and even its E minor key, but in other ways, it stands out. For instance, there is no violin or cello sound on "Old Friend" (though that sound was present on both "You're A Wolf" and "Wicked Blood"). Instead, Sea Wolf opt for an echoic but relaxing electric guitar distortion for "Old Friend". Overall, though, "Old Friend" is an impressive song, like most of Sea Wolf's material tends to be.

"Splitter" by Calexico: Calexico could be described as a band that (kind of) sound like their name. "Calexico" is a portmanteau of "California" and "Mexico", and a lot of Calexico's songs tend to sound like a cross between Americana (roots-y country-rock type material), and mariachi band music. Their latest song, "Splitter", is no exception. It has a more upbeat, somewhat surf music type vibe than most of their songs do, but still, the acoustic guitars and muted trumpets that tend to define Calexico's songs are present on "Splitter". It's one of those songs that would fit equally well with traveling down a freeway or traveling to the beach!

"That's What's Up" by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros: In "That's What's Up", Alex, Jade, and the rest of The Magnetic Zeros do what they do best, combine the easygoing, sing-song vibes of children's music with those similar vibes of psychedelic pop music. Even the opening lyrics of "You be the church, I'll be the steeple, You be the king, I'll be the people", sound vaguely like the sort of lyrics that a children's performer like Raffi might come up with. The faux-cutesy lyrical pattern of "That's What's Up" continues throughout the song ("You be the words I'll be the rhyming"). Ed and The Zeros seem like they already made "Home" their signature song upon their debut, but if "That's What's Up" becomes more popular than it is, it could be the next "1234" (the song by Feist that goes "1, 2, 3, 4, tell me that you love me more...")!! Nothing wrong with that, after all, Paul McCartney also toyed with the idea of children's music in "All Together Now" ("1, 2, 3, 4, can I have a little more? 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, I love you", etc.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New songs for August 1st, 2012

here they are:

"Charmer" by Aimee Mann: Just a mere 3 years ago, Aimee Mann released a song called "Freeway", which was more of a country-pop song than that of Aimee's usual style of quirky, vaguely Beatlesque power pop. Thankfully, "Charmer" marks a return to Aimee's signature musical style! Aimee's sense of subtle sarcasm is also present on "Charmer" ("when you're a charmer, you hate yourself"). The goofy yet irresistible synths on "Charmer" are also likely to draw its listeners in. To sum it all up, "Charmer" lives up to its name. It has "charmed" me into listening to it more, and it has also restored my musical faith in Aimee Mann!

"I Am Not Waiting Anymore" by Field Report: Fans of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and Iron & Wine will probably like the melancholy but gentle folk-rock flavor of Field Report. Their debut song, "I Am Not Waiting Anymore", definitely puts the emphasis on the melancholy part in terms of the lyrics. The raspy vocals of Field Report's lead singer seems to double the emotion in this already emotional song. My favorite part of "I Am Not Waiting Anymore" is probably in the final verse, in which Field Report's singer talks about how he has spent "8 long years, working on (his) screenplay", and how that screenplay is a "teen movie with young actresses that plays to the middle ages". Somehow the description of this "movie" cracks me up!! It sounds almost like the typical indie film, which would be quite fitting considering this is an indie song!

"Meth Lab Zoso Sticker" by 7Horse: Earlier this year, 7Horse gave us one of the spiciest, catchiest, most rockin' songs of the year with "Low Fuel Drug Run". Now, the roots-rockers known as 7Horse are back with another '70s rock throwback with "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker", of which even the title references classic rock ("Zoso" is what the runes on the cover of Led Zeppelin's 4th album spell out). The lyrics of "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker" are sung so fast, it almost feels like they're rapped, even though they're not. The chug-along rhythm and Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque guitar riffs evoke images of a truck barreling along the freeway as much as they do a car commercial. To top off the classic rock homages in "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker", 7Horse's lead singer even lets out a Steve Miller-esque "Woo-hoo!" during the chorus a couple times!

"Outta My System" by My Morning Jacket: The fifth song to get noticed so far from My Morning Jacket's CD "Circuital" (which is over a year old by now) is "Outta My System". MMJ have ran the gamut on "Circuital", with their unique attempts at straight ahead rock ("Holdin' On to Black Metal"), psychedelia ("You Wanna Freak Out"), jazz-rock ("First Light"), and bittersweet folk-rock ("Wonderful [The Way I Feel]"). So with all that musical diversity already tackled on one CD, what have Jim James and the boys thought up next?!? Well, "Outta My System" is a song that combines the harmonies and instrumentation of a "Pet Sounds" type song with shimmering country influenced guitar riffs. The combination described might sound a bit uneven, but it works out spectacularly, creating a soaring, winsome song as a result! MMJ continue to impress me immensely with "Outta My System", and I look forward to knowing what they'll come up with next!!

"Underwater" by Joshua Radin: Ahh, Joshua Radin! One of those musicians I've always found to have a wistful, yet crisp and solid sound! "Underwater" adds a dimension to Radin's music that I haven't previously seen (although then again I don't know that many songs by him), and that is a side of whimsy! The song basically seems to be about how, in times of trouble, Joshua Radin's preferred way of escaping is "underwater", seemingly the opposite of "Up On the Roof" (although that song is about the same thing, escaping from the pressures of everyday life). The bittersweet vibe and universally relatable subject matter of "Underwater" already draws the listener in, but the appeal of the song builds up midway through when a sweeping string orchestra joins in with the acoustic guitar leading the song along. "Underwater" only makes me want to rise above the water, and into my imagination to see where it takes me when I listen to this song!

"(Won't Be) Coming Home" by Robert Cray: This song might be from 2012, but it still sounds like it's from another time when Robert Cray's slick, polished brand of blues-rock competed with rock 'n' roll giants like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
"(Won't Be) Coming Home" seems to dabble in the nostalgia of Robert Cray's original sound, with a full band backing him and Clapton-esque guitar riffs throughout the song. Cray did release an album midway through the 2000's, but its sound was more earthy and organic. I was hoping Robert Cray would continue with that sound in
"(Won't Be) Coming Home", but instead, he opts for a sound that is halfway between blues and 1980's classic rock. Nevertheless, though, "(Won't Be) Coming Home" is still worth listening to, even if it is just for its surprisingly throwback-ish sound.

"Would That Not Be Nice?" by Divine Fits: Anyone who mistakes "Would That Not Be Nice?" for being the latest song from Spoon has a good reason to do so. It not only sounds like a Spoon song, but its band, Divine Fits, is also the side project of Spoon's lead singer, Britt Daniels. "Would That Not Be Nice?" is also a song that sounds bright enough and catchy enough to be a summertime anthem! The quirkiness of the typical Spoon song is evident in both the song and the lyrics (particularly the added alliterative appeal of the verse where Britt sings about a "cup of coffee" and a "candleabra from California"). Just when you thought this song couldn't get any quirkier, Britt pulls a "false ending" on us towards the end of "Would That Not Be Nice?", with about a minute extra of just instrumental jammin'. "Would That Not Be Nice?" Yes, it WOULD be "nice"!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New songs for July 25th, 2012

here they are:

"Bottom of the River" by Delta Rae: Bluegrass and rock have made a charming musical "odd couple" for a couple years now, but Delta Rae's "Bottom of the River" takes the combination of genres one step further! Rather than coming off like a newer version of The Band or Buffalo Springfield like most of their peers, Delta Rae sound more like the new Leadbelly or the new Odetta! There are barely any instruments in this song, actually, aside from tambourine and a tinkling piano sound in the background. Lead vocalist Liz Hopkins bares her soul in "Bottom of the River" like a more smoky voiced, gospel inflected version of Adele, with lyrics that sound like they came from an old gospel hymn ("it's a long way down to the bottom of the river"). If "Bottom of the River" sounds like it belongs to another century when the term "rock and roll" wasn't even known, remember, it's supposed to sound that way!

"In the End" by Snow Patrol: Not to be confused with the much more aggressive (and more popular, so far) Linkin Park song of the same name, Snow Patrol's third single from "Fallen Empires", "In the End", gives off a mood that comes halfway between the chunky alt-pop of "Called Out In the Dark" and the tender balladry of "This Isn't Everything You Are", both of which are also on "Fallen Empires". "In the End" has a bit too fast a beat to truly be classified as a "ballad", but something about it still comes off as one. Perhaps this is because the fast rhythm of the song is contrasted by its reflective, earnest lyrics ("There's nothing more to life than love, is there?"), and Gary Lightbody's passionate, yearning vocal delivery. "In the End" isn't as good as the other two songs from Snow Patrol's latest album that have gotten attention, so it makes sense that it was chosen as the third single. "In the End" is still well worth the listen, though!

"Reboot the Mission" by The Wallflowers (featuring Mick Jones from The Clash): First Counting Crows gained their Neil Young-ish grit back, then Blues Traveler turned up both their amps and their sense of humor, and now...The Wallflowers get funky?!? The "softer" side of '90s rock music is really making a fresh comeback this year isn't it?! Yep, the "One Headlight" guys have traded in their typical Dylan/Petty influenced brand of neo-folk-rock for disco-inflected punk rock, a la "Rock the Casbah" and "The Magnificent Seven". And it's no wonder it sounds the way it does, since Mick Jones from The Clash helps out both vocally and instrumentally on The Wallflowers newest song, "Reboot the Mission"! Perhaps the combination might sound about as likely as John Mellencamp duetting with The Ramones, which would probably end up sounding messy and uneven, but somehow Mick Jones and Jakob Dylan have managed to make one of the catchiest songs of the summer with "Reboot the Mission"! Could a Toad the Wet Sprocket or Gin Blossoms reunion be far behind, and if so, would they change their sound as well?!?

"Tear It Up" by Delta Spirit: So, we both began and ended this time with bands with the word "Delta" in their name, though their sounds are probably on opposite ends of the musical history time scale. Actually, Delta Spirit USED to sound more roots-y and "old" than they do on "Tear It Up", which sounds more like a song with disco beats and Modest Mouse style guitars. Though I do like The Deltas' new material, I can't help but wish they would go back to the more earthy sound they started out with, instead of this new wave/disco combination they're doing now. Blondie and Talking Heads would have both beat them to such a sound many years ago. Still, "Tear It Up" is catchy, and as long as Delta Spirit continue making music with a memorable sound I'll still like what they do.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New songs for July 18th, 2012

here they are:

"I Ain't the Same" by Alabama Shakes: Alabama Shakes came on strong earlier this year with their CCR-meets-Memphis-soul mega-hit, "Hold On". After all that surprise success, frontwoman Brittany Howard is on her feet again, but is still proclaiming that she "ain't the same", as the title of Alabama Shakes' latest song suggests. "I Ain't the Same" is a good reminder to people of where the "blues" part in "rhythm and blues" came from! This song has enough grit (and enough use of the electric guitar) to earn comparisons to people like Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker, both of whom were just as soulful as they were rockin'! Yet Brittany Howard's gutsy, raw, passionate vocal delivery is more along the lines of Mavis Staples, or perhaps even James Brown. After listening to this song, all I can say is that "I ain't the same" either!!

"Knock Knock" by Band of Horses: Knock knock! Who's there? Abanda! Abanda who? Abanda Horses, that's who! Joking aside, though, "Knock Knock" is a pretty good song, but it does have its flaws. First off, it's built pretty much entirely around a G major chord capoed at the first fret. Some people are masters at the "one chord vamp", but I don't think Band of Horses rank among them. Also, it seems like BOH are trying too hard to get a "hard rock" sound this time around. Though they do have that "quiet-to-loud" dynamic in some of their best songs ("Is There A Ghost", "The Funeral", etc.), they don't usually rock out all the way through in any of their songs. However, if BOH were intending on making songs that stick in peoples' heads this time around, they've succeeded this time around with "Knock Knock"! Catchy songs aren't exactly what BOH are known for, and nor is it really their strong suit, but still, it doesn't hurt to try (or hear) something new once in a while!

"Runaways" by The Killers: After two years of living the solo life, Brandon Flowers has reunited The Killers. Their latest song, "Runaways", is a fitting title for a song that has a sound that wants to "run away" into the past, specifically the 1980's. Being that The Police and (especially) U2 are some of The Killers' most prominent musical influences, this shouldn't be all that surprising. Much like the typical U2 song, "Runaways" has a dynamic, compelling enough sound to be a concert fave, but it also has an earnest, heartfelt enough sound to win over the more soulful side of The Killers' fanbase (myself, for instance, haha). All in all, though, "Runaways" is an impressive comeback for a band that hasn't been terribly active in about 4 years!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New songs for July 11th, 2012

here they are:

"Light of Day" by Brendan Benson: Much like his better known partner from The Raconteurs, Jack White, Brendan Benson is a new school rocker with an old school sound! Brendan's latest song, "Light of Day", is a hard rockin' but oh so fun song to listen to! The chorus of the song ("Candlelight upon your face/And your darkness is my saving grace/I don't care if I ever see the light of day") seems to indicate that "Light of Day" is a love song, albeit one with quirky lyrics. If you listen to this song and feel like you just stepped out of a time machine that took you back to when The Kinks ruled the world, remember, it's supposed to make you feel that way!

"Little Black Submarines" by The Black Keys: Wait a minute!! This song starts out with acoustic guitars! Is this REALLY The Black Keys, the same guys who are known for their garage-meets-glam, fuzzed out guitars?! Yes, it is! If Led Zeppelin could make about 80 % of their entire third album acoustic, then The Black Keys can do that for one song! "Little Black Submarines" actually has the vibe of an acoustic Zeppelin song, with a chorus that seems to borrow from the part of Jethro Tull's "Aqualung", in which Ian Anderson sings, "Aqualung, my friend, don't you start away uneasy. You poor old sod, you see, it's only me" (Dan Auerbach sings, in a very similar manner to Ian Anderson, "I should have seen the glow, but everybody knows that a broken heart is blind"). The acoustic guitars of "Little Black Submarines" get blown out of the water (pun intended, haha) at about 2 minutes into the song, in which Dan and Patrick rock with reckless abandon for the remainder of it!

"Sleeping Ute" by Grizzly Bear: Their most popular song is called "Two Weeks", yet it's taken a little over two YEARS for Grizzly Bear's biggest fans to wait to have them come out with their sophomore album! And now, they finally have. In "Sleeping Ute", The Grizzlies prove that they're even more "indie" than the average indie band! Instead of taking their cues from The Byrds or Simon & Garfunkel like most of their peers tend to do, Grizzly Bear pay homage to the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd here! "Sleeping Ute" is a song that sounds almost as weird as its title (what IS a "Ute"?!), but enjoyably so! "Sleeping Ute" is almost more like progressive rock than indie rock (hence the Pink Floyd comparison), in that it seems more like two or three songs strung together into one song than an individual one with a consistent pattern. It also has a sound that manages to be fuzzy and dreamy simultaneously. I always knew Grizzly Bear were an eclectic band, but not this much! It's refreshing to hear that there are still bands out there willing to take on the more adventurous side of rock and roll, though!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's the 4th of July!!!....

...annnddd...only two songs?!? Oh well, better than nothing, right?!

"Live And Die" by The Avett Brothers: Those who got on to the Avett Brothers bandwagon in late 2009/early 2010 might not be expecting something so banjo oriented from them for their next big song, since "I And Love And You", "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise", and "Kick Drum Heart" were are centered around the piano. However, those who were familiar with The Avetts from before that will probably take pleasure in the fact that their latest song, "Live And Die", hearkens back to their original, bluegrass-y sound. Therefore, it was an interesting choice on Scott and Seth Avett's part to seek out Rick Rubin, known mostly for producing the records of hard rock groups such as AC/DC, to produce the Avetts' latest record. That being said, I was expecting something a bit rawer sounding from The Avetts this time around, but instead I got a down-home-y, roots-y bluegrass sound. But hey, I'm not complaining! For The Avett Brothers, this is their signature style, and what I like most about their music!

"Mercy" by The Dave Matthews Band: "Mercy" sounds a classic DMB ballad (though not near on the same level as "Crash Into Me" or "Crush"), even though it was just released! In the '00s, DMB were pretty successful at crafting out more rock-sounding songs ("I Did It", "American Baby", and "Why I Am" among them), but until "You And Me" from 2009, their ballads just weren't as good as they were in the '90s. Thankfully, "Mercy" is a refreshing change to this. With its poignant orchestration and powerful message of having hope through hard times, "Mercy" is a song that Dave Matthews and co obviously put a lot of thought and effort into! In its unedited form, "Mercy" is even better, as the band take on their jam-band-with-a-jazz-sound stance with about a minute and a half of saxophones, violins, light drumming, and pianos melting into one dreamy slice of ear candy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New songs for June 27th, 2012

here they are:

"Cherokee" by Cat Power: Chan Marshall, better known by her stage name "Cat Power", is a musician whose range of musical experimentation is both as unusual and as memorable as her moniker. Having dabbled in a unique blend of jazz, folk, and rock for her last two albums, Cat Power has now taken on a new musical direction, somewhat reminiscent of Patti Smith's material from the late '70s and '80s. "Cherokee" is a haunting, stark song that also manages to be catchy with a steady drumbeat pulsating in a lively manner through otherwise sad, gloomy instrumentation and yearning, passionate vocals.

"History's Door" by Husky: Contemporary folk-rock quartet Husky manage to stand out among the increasingly large amount of similar sounding bands to themselves in their breakthrough song, "History's Door", though this is primarily through the rhythmic patterns of this song. The first minute or so of "History's Door" is fingerpicked, almost like a pre-rock folk song, but after that minute, the drums and various other background instruments kick in, altering the rhythm slightly and giving the song a bit more of a "rock" flavor (though, again, this is through rhythm, and not through amplification). Another distinguishing factor about Husky (whose lead singer, Husky Gawenda, just happens to be the namesake of the band), is their country of origin. You might think they come from either Britain, Canada, or else some mountainous or forest-y area of the U.S., but they are actually Australian! "History's Door" has become Husky's first big hit for a couple reasons. First off, it was produced by Noah Georgeson (who has also produced music for indie darlings such as Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart) in Los Angeles, and not long afterwards, the track was entered into a contest for Aussie radio station station, Triple-J Radio, and it WON!! Talk about your unlikely success stories!

"Jericho" by Rufus Wainwright: Perhaps the song "Out of the Game" was a fluke (albeit a successful one) in the Rufus Wainwright catalog. The George Harrison-esque folk-rock sound of that song provided a contrast between just about every other song Rufus had ever done, and that includes his latest song to get noticed, "Jericho", which marks a return to the folk-meets-cabaret sound he's become known for. Guitar is still present on "Jericho", but it serves as merely a backing instrument here for the most part, in comparison to the pianos, brass instruments, and classical string instruments that dominate the song. Like most of Rufus's songs, "Jericho" has major key verses and a minor key chorus (which resolves back into major shortly afterwards). Not terribly different from most of his material, but the structure of his songs is memorable and lively enough to be charming, and that's what Rufus's fans (including myself) like the most about his music!

"Lay Down" by Alberta Cross: Their name might bring to mind the country of Canada, yet Alberta Cross's best-known song so far is the roots-y, American sounding "Old Man Chicago" (with their second best known one being the defiant, British rock sounding "Money For the Weekend"). So what now for the New York band with a Canadian sounding name?! Well, more British sounding rock, in this case! But more like the sweeping, epic grandeur of songs like Oasis' "Champagne Supernova" this time around than their previous attempt at British influenced rock (the Stones-y "Money For the Weekend"). The similarity between this song and "Champagne Supernova" doesn't end with how dynamic the guitars sound, since even the distortion of the lead guitar here sounds like it was stolen from Noel Gallagher! Thankfully, though, "Lay Down" isn't a "word salad" song like "Champagne Supernova" was. Instead, the lyrics actually mean something here (i.e. "And I'm trying to live my life in a better way").

"One More" by Jimmy Cliff: When American audiences mention the words "reggae" and "legend" in the same sentence, they are probably referring to Bob Marley. They tend to forget there was another reggae musician recording around the same time Marley was that also became successful in the U.S., and that musician was Jimmy Cliff. Save for a cover of The Clash's "The Guns of Brixton" that Cliff did with Rancid's Tim Armstrong last year, Cliff hasn't had a hit song since the 1970's, so I was surprised (but pleasantly so) to hear he was going to come out with a new song! The upbeat, almost party-like nature of "One More" is closer to ska than it is to reggae, but Cliff still manages to deliver a memorable performance on the song, with a sizzling, simmery sound that has come out just in time for all the latest beach parties and pool parties!

"What Makes A Good Man" by The Heavy: "The Heavy" fits the name of this band well, since they have such a dynamic, unforgettable presence in their music! With a sound that combines the blues-y garage rock of The Black Keys with '70s funk music a la Sly and The Family Stone, The Heavy are pretty much MADE of hit-making material for the 2010's!! The song is mostly defined by its simple but catchy chorus ("Tell me now, and show me how, please understand, what makes a good man"!) Not a lot of depth to the lyrics here, but there doesn't have to be, in this case, because the appeal of "What Makes A Good Man" is in the groove and the spirit of the song! So sit back, relax, and stay groovy! Also, to me, the answer to "what makes a good man?" is talent, which The Heavy have plenty of!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New songs for June 20th, 2012

here they are:

"Anna Sun" by Walk the Moon: Anna SUN by Walk the MOON?! Did they title this song the way they did on purpose?! Well, anyway, "Anna Sun" is one of those songs that took a little while to catch up to the adult alt airwaves, but after about 3 months or so of being on regular alternative stations, "Anna Sun" has finally made an impact on adult alternative stations. It is a catchy song with melodic vocals. Never have lyrics like "this house is falling apart" sounded so infectiously vibrant! I recall that I heard the chorus to the song somewhere long before I reviewed it, so perhaps it was on a commercial somewhere. Not sure who exactly "Anna Sun" is, but the title of the song fits its mood. It's a very sunny, danceable song, and it's arrived (for me, at least) just in time for summer!!

"Give It Away" by Andrew Bird: Not to be confused for the Red Hot Chili Peppers song of the same name. This is, after all, a song from the quirky, orchestral indie-pop musician Andrew Bird, not a rock 'n' roll anthem good for parties. After the angst-ridden, orchestra-less "Eyeoneye" from earlier this year, it's nice to hear Andrew Bird get back to his classical-meets-folk-meets-rock sound he's known for on "Give It Away". There's a neat little twist to this song that makes it sound almost like a "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys song, though. The chorus of the song is fast and bouncy, where as the verses are more subtle and slower. Almost like the typical Moody Blues song, only here, the electric guitars and classical string instruments seem to "converse" with each other, instead of leaving one instrument section for one part of the song, and the other section for another part.

"Who" by David Byrne and St. Vincent: "Who?" "Who", indeed!! You could say that, together, the Talking Heads frontman and indie-pop-ster St. Vincent make the "Laurie Anderson connection". Byrne seemed to influence Laurie (the avant-pop musician best known for her charmingly odd song, "O Superman"), and St. Vincent seems to be influenced BY her. "Who" seems to be much more of a David Byrne song than a St. Vincent one, though, in which jazzy saxophones mingle with more contemporary, electronic sounding instruments. If this track were more St. Vincent-focused, it would probably be a lot more moody and/or ethereal sounding than this song. Pretty much the entire song is a series of questions, beginning with "Who will be my Valentine?", and ending with "Who is going to be my friend?", with the questions in the song getting increasingly more interesting towards the middle of it. Your question is "Who?", the answer is "People who are awesome!!"