Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Eleven songs!!! (For the first time in over a year!!)

How exciting!!! Who knew this many songs would come up during the first half of 2012?!? Well, I'm sure glad they did!! Anyway, here they are:

“California” by Delta Spirit: Well, at least I THOUGHT this was Delta Spirit. Sounds more like the latest Killers song, though. Is it really such a bad move for the typically Springsteen-goes-indie sound of Delta Spirit to suddenly veer towards a more new wave-y sound?! Well, yes and no. I personally think Delta Spirit should have stuck to their usual sound because it just suits them better! However, The Deltas were probably thinking ahead when they made this song in terms of wanting to gain a larger audience. The songs “Bushwick Blues” and “Golden State” from their last album, “History From Below” seemed to get Delta Spirit more of a taste of the limelight than anything from their debut album, “Ode to Sunshine”, so if they’re doing a flashy song with dueling synths and guitars like “California”, it’s probably because they enjoyed the surprise success of their last album and they want to move forward from there! I like “California”, but it’s also a disappointment in comparison to the other Delta Spirit songs I know.

“Caught Me Thinking” by Bahamas: Before “Caught Me Thinking”, all I knew from Bahamas was a cover of the lone Christmas song from folk-rock legends, The Band, “Christmas Must Be Tonight”. That being said, I was curious to know what Bahamas sounded like otherwise. Turns out their sound (at least for “Caught Me Thinking”) is very similar to their name, in that the smooth vibe of the song, combined with the echo-y distortion of its electric guitar, evoke a pleasantly “island-y” image, much like the actual island of Bahamas would. The mellow surf-rock feel of “Caught Me Thinking” provides perfect juxtaposition for its break-up-song lyrics, and it also seems as though the lead singer of Bahamas is trying to trick us with the title of the song, which is not mentioned, and instead, the words “GOT me thinking” are sung in the chorus. The title is not a mistake, though, it has been listed as “Caught Me Thinking”, and not “Got Me Thinking” everywhere I’ve seen it posted, which is in quite a few places by now.

“Downward Facing Dog” by moe.: This song is a long overdue release that has been on the adult alt radio airwaves since November, but sadly, I wasn’t able to find a decent copy of it until last week! It’s a good song, though. It also makes me curious to know if every underrated “jam band” besides Phish needs to go for a somewhat ‘70s hard-rock-ish sound in order to make their big breakthrough as musicians. Widespread Panic’s “North” sounded like Lynyrd Skynyrd, and it has been their biggest hit so far, and Umphrey’s McGee’s “Miami Virtue” had a Pink Floyd/Rush type sound and has been their only song CLOSE to a hit so far! “Downward Facing Dog” is the closest that the jam band formerly known as Five Guys Named Moe has gotten to a “classic rock” sound, specifically recalling the Southern blues-y rock sounds of bands such as ZZ Top and The Black Crowes. Moe. are usually a jazzier, more freeform band than how they come off as on “Downward Facing Dog”. Another aspect that makes this song interesting is that it slows down its tempo in the middle. “Downward Facing Dog” is a good song, I just wish that “jam bands” like moe. could be accepted more as jam bands than as “classic rock revival” bands.

“Easy Come, Easy Go” by Great Lake Swimmers: Great Lake Swimmers have been a fave among indie fans for quite awhile now. “Easy Come, Easy Go” marks the first time that The Swimmers have finally gotten noticed (slightly) beyond their core audience! It doesn’t seem too different than the typical indie song, though. That, however, is a GOOD thing for bands that were previously relative unknowns like Great Lake Swimmers, in that, instead of compromising their sound to reach a more “mainstream” audience, they have kept it just the way it is! The acoustic guitars, violins, and soothing vocals create a dreamy atmosphere surrounding “Easy Come, Easy Go”. A combination like that is already enough to win me over, but the fact that Great Lake Swimmers are staying loyal to their fanbase in terms of their sound earns “Easy Come, Easy Go” an extra bonus point!

“Eyeoneye” by Andrew Bird: Andrew Bird has always been somewhat of an oddity, even in the indie rock world! For starters, his song titles are…well…different, to say the least. His most popular song so far, “Fitz and The Dizzyspells” sounds more like the name of a band than the name of a song, andthetitletohislatestsonghasthewordsallsmooshedtogetherintoonewordaswell. He also uses unusual instrumentation, like violins (which take on a quality all their own in his songs), and pretty much every Andrew Bird song features him whistling. “Eyeoneye” is just one more touch of weirdness in the Andrew Bird catalog, in which he seems to be attempting his own version of punk rock (which comes out sounding a bit like a cross between The Velvet Underground and the ‘60s psychedelic rock group, Love). Not only are the guitars (slightly) amped up on “Eyeoneye”, but so is the angst of the lyrics (opening with a snide, sarcastic, “Go ahead and congratulate yourself”), and the way they are delivered. “Eyeoneye” might not sit quite comfortably with most Andrew Bird fans, but it’s fine with me. Andrew Bird is just one of those musicians who does what he does, and manages to sound good no matter what!

“Hurry Hurry” by Jessie Baylin: “Hurry Hurry” is one of those songs that sounds a lot older than it actually is! It comes off like somewhat of a “sequel” to old bossa nova songs like “The Girl From Ipanema”, and Jessie Baylin’s smooth, billowy, yearning vocals only add to the nostalgia factor of this song! I was expecting a folk-rock or singer/songwriter influenced sound to this song, but instead I got a cross between bossa nova and the female equivalent to “vocal” singers like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. This wasn’t a letdown for me, though, in fact, quite the opposite! Seems like the type of song that might be on during a romantic, candle-lit dinner. Didn’t think I was going to hear anything like that during the 21st century, but something in me tells me it’s a good thing I did!

“I Could Be A King” by The Dunwells: What if Mumford and Sons decided to cover The Sundays’ bittersweet alt-pop classic, “Here’s Where the Story Ends”? Well, it would probably end up sounding a lot like “I Could Be A King”, the first major song from neo-folk-rockers The Dunwells. It uses the same uniquely styled “G” chord that “Here’s Where the Story Ends” used, yet the bluegrass-y sound of the guitar and banjo, as well as the low yet reedy vocals of the lead singer both bring to mind bands like Mumford and Sons. “I Could Be A King” sounds like a song that is as yearning as it is playful, and the lyrics to the song, in which the singer fantasizes about being a king, a poet, and a superhero, among other things, seem to justify that it is both a quirky and poetic song. That being said, this song is an instant winner for me!

“Jealous Girl” by Ben Kweller: In “Jealous Girl”, Ben Kweller sticks to the music he does best, melodic, somewhat Beatlesque power pop with angst-ridden lyrics on the side. Though the title alone to this song indicates negativity, Ben is clever enough here to disguise it as a high-spirited, happy pop song. The backing “ooh-ooh” vocals, the bright piano sound, the song’s major key, and even Ben’s intentional stuttering on the letter “J” in the word “jealous” all help to make “Jealous Girl” seem like it came straight out of the British Invasion (even though Ben Kweller is actually American). This song seems like it would make the perfect song to listen to in the spring and/or summertime, so why Ben chose to release it during winter is beyond me. I’m so glad he did, though!

“Moonshine” by My Pet Dragon: The name of this band alone was enough to tell me this song was probably pretty cool!! I mean, it sounds like the name of some obscure children’s book (and it very well could have been – the indie group Tilly and The Wall named themselves after a children’s book by Leo Lionni). “Moonshine” is a pretty cool song, just like I thought it would be! Of course, that’s not just because the name of the band that did it is called “My Pet Dragon”. It’s also because of the melodic vocals of the lead singer and the shimmering, glistening sound of the guitar! The title of the song might sound like something pretty, but don’t be fooled. The “moonshine” in this song is actually the name of an alcoholic beverage. Still, that doesn’t prevent me from thinking about how truly awesome this song is!

“Strike the Motion” by Mike Doughty: Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised that this is a somewhat rockin’ song (albeit with acoustic guitars as the main instrument) by the typically folk-y Mike Doughty, since he started out in the alternative rock outfit, Soul Coughing, but this sounds like a fast paced and somewhat angst-y song for Mike! It still retains the typical Doughty-isms, like odd but clever wordplay (take, for instance, the assonance used in the ending lyrics, “ferocious commotion, you choked, you got lockjaw”), but even that sounds scathing coming from the normally composed Doughty (notice I utilized the same technique for assonance that he did for the words “normally”, “composed”, and “Doughty” used consecutively!!) Still, a little bit of snarky never hurt anyone, especially if it is from someone known for being tongue-in-cheek like Mike Doughty!

“We Take Care of Our Own” by Bruce Springsteen: Much like “The Rising”, inspired by the 9/11 attacks from about a decade earlier, “We Take Care of Our Own” is also an anthem of political frustration from The Boss, most likely about the “Occupy” movement. This, of course, is not a new subject for Springsteen. What is new, however (and quite tragic) is that his sax man, Clarence Clemons, died last year, so there are none of the trademark sax solos typically featured in Springsteen’s material on “We Take Care of Our Own”. Bruce’s best work, to me, was in the 1970’s. His combination of jazz, folk, soul, and rock, along with his often narrative, poetic lyrical stances, was quite fresh and exciting in terms of the music that came out during that time! After that, his music often leaned towards either arena rock (most of the Born In the U.S.A. album), or soft rock that lacked the intensity of his work in the ‘70s (an exception being the sublimely ethereal “Secret Garden”, perhaps one of his most poignant songs ever recorded). The only song of his so far that has even come close to what he did in the ‘70s is the joyously hard-rockin’ “Radio Nowhere” from 2007. Sure, “The Rising” was a great attempt at raising political awareness, and it was a powerful song, but it lacked the spark and showmanship of songs like “Born to Run” and “Rosalita”. I feel similarly about “We Take Care of Our Own”. It’s a good song with a dynamic message, but the rollicking, swept away feeling of his songs of olden days just isn’t there. Perhaps I should expect this since Bruce is pushing 60 by now, but it just doesn’t feel the same to me!