Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New songs for May 30th, 2012

Here they are:

"Blue Jeans" by Lana Del Rey: With the seemingly mundane titles Lana Del Rey chooses for her songs ("Video Games", "Diet Mtn. Dew", "Blue Jeans"), you would think that people who don't know Lana Del Rey's material might dismiss it easily because of how the titles of her songs come off. As the saying goes, though, still waters run deep (and thankfully, largely due to word of mouth on the Internet, there are more Lana Del Rey fans now than I would have thought possible). Like Lana's last successful song, "Video Games", "Blue Jeans" is a dark, smoky, alt-pop ballad about a relationship gone sour. The moody and hypnotic, but still pop-y atmosphere of songs like "Blue Jeans" seem to put Lana in the current position of Florence Welch's "little sister", musically speaking. Doesn't mean LDR can't rise above that position, though!

"Ghosts" by The Head and The Heart: The bittersweet neo-folk-rock of The Head and The Heart's "Lost In My Mind" and "Down In the Valley" caught on immediately with the indie and adult alt crowds! The Head and The Heart's latest song to get attention, "Ghosts", seems to be taking a little longer to catch on, but its on its way. Musically, "Ghosts" is a rarity in contemporary popular music, in that it changes key from B flat minor in the verses to D minor in the chorus (and it switches yet again to F major later on in the song). Name one other song from the past 50 or so years with as much of an abrupt key change! "Ghosts" isn't exactly a bittersweet song as much as it is like a jaunty, honky-tonk style version of Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky". Definitely different than most songs you're likely to encounter these days, but that's a good thing, right?!

"How Do I Know?" by Here We Go Magic: "Here We Go Magic" is quite an apt name for a band with a sound that is as upbeat and innocent as it is swirly and psychedelic! A chunky, pulsating electric guitar draws the listener in initially, and as soon as the vocals kick in, the "magic" of "How Do I Know?" starts up! A relentlessly happy drumbeat backs up the guitars, as lead vocalist Luke Temple yearningly asks "How do I know that I love you?", "How do I know that I know you?", and similar questions to lure in the listener even more than they already are! An echoing, prog-rock-y Moog synthesizer hook that sounds like it was lifted directly from Van Morrison's "Wavelength" kicks in at about a minute into "How Do I Know?", continuing the mesmerizing, magical mystery tour of this song! Truly a wonder to behold!!

"1904" by The Tallest Man On Earth: Yeah, hate to burst your bubble, folks, but "The Tallest Man On Earth" is NOT Shaquille O'Neal's folk-rock alter ego!! It is, instead, the stage name of Swedish folk-rocker Kristian Mattson (which, personally, I prefer, as I've never been a sports person). Don't let the title fool you either, it's not a sequel to Phoenix's similarly titled "1901" (that new wave-y song from a couple years ago with the "fallin', fallin', fallin', fall-innn..." chorus). Now that you know what "1904" is NOT, let me tell you what it IS! "1904" is a song with surreal lyrics and quirky, yet memorable vocal delivery. His unusual but still hauntingly beautiful guitar tuning in this song (and most of his material, apparently) hearken back to the original folk-rock generation, particularly Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, the latter of whom is a huge influence on The Tallest Man On Earth. Not exactly sure what The TMOE means by the refrain of "since they shook the Earth in 1904", but perhaps lines like that are better left to the imagination to interpret.

"Only For You" by Heartless B*st*rds: The name of this band might sound a bit intimidating to some, but the origin of their name is more humorous than it is disdainful (it comes from how a contestant on a game show thought that "Heartless B*st*rds" was the name of Tom Petty's backing group!!) Their sound isn't bad either, almost like Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon joining a roots-y, country influenced indie group. Their first big song, "Parted Ways" showed a rougher, more ragged side to Heartless B*st*rds, so it seems fitting, in a way, that they followed it up with a "ballad" with "Only For You". "Only For You" still has that "tough country" sound to it, but it definitely has a sweeter sound to it than "Parted Ways". One more thing to add that I thought would be worth pointing out, is that this band, along with fellow roots-y indie rockers Alabama Shakes, both have lead singers who sound like men with tenor vocals (to me, at least), when in fact, they are women! I don't suppose that's becoming a trend, is it?!

"Sunshine" by Matisyahu: A Jewish reggae musician?! Now I've seen everything! Of course, Matisyahu's fans are familiar with this aspect about him, and that seems to be part of what makes him so appealing! But it's also how simultaneously inspirational and catchy Matisyahu makes his songs that has gotten him so many fans. "Sunshine" is no exception to the rule. It's sunny, optimistic vibe has arrived just in time for summer! Lyrics like "reach for the sky, keep your eye on the prize" would probably sound cliche from any other musician, but Matisyahu manages to make it work, in such a way that it almost sounds like he invented those sorts of phrases! Next time you hit the beaches and there's a dance party going on, expect to hear this song!

"That Time Is Gone" by The dB's: One of the premiere acts in the "college rock" scene of the 1980's, The dB's seemed to be more of a "cult act" than one that scored any major hits (or minor hits, for that matter). But, as the title of this song indicates, "That Time Is Gone", and after ummm...what...30 years?!?...the dB's finally have a song that's getting them noticed beyond their core audience! I guess good things really DO come to those who wait!! My first impression of this song was that it combined the quirkily energetic keyboards of Elvis Costello's songs with the jangly alt-rock guitars of the typical R.E.M. song. R.E.M. and Costello are both some of my all-time faves! If the dB's material usually sounds like that, then I honestly don't see why they weren't such a big hit back in their day!! This song and the Here We Go Magic song are probably my two faves of this week. Highly recommended!!

"The Way We Are" by Scars on 45: A British alt-pop band with "soft rock" influences and lofty harmonies? Sounds like I'm describing Coldplay or Keane at first, doesn't it? Nope! I'm actually describing Scars on 45, a band whose more guitar-oriented approach to Britpop sounds closer to Snow Patrol or Travis than it does to Coldplay or Keane. Their previous two songs that garnered attention in the adult alt world, "Give Me Something" and "Heart On Fire", both became huge hits among that audience. "The Way We Are" seems to have the same formula as those two songs: laid-back yet pensive harmonies and neo-folk-rock instrumentation, so it won't surprise me if this becomes a huge hit for Scars on 45 as well (though so far it has some catching up to do). Somehow, even though Scars' songs sound similar to each other, they manage to win me over each time! Maybe it's just "The Way (They) Are"!! (rimshot)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New songs for May 23rd, 2012

here they are:

"Everybody's Talkin'" by The Tedeschi-Trucks Band: Didn't think Miss Tedeschi was gonna cover Harry Nilsson, but apparently she has now!! This being The Tedeschi-Trucks Band, though, it doesn't have the winsome, folk-y sound of the Nilsson version, but rather, a raw, blues-y, earthy one that suggests a cross between Creedence Clearwater Revival and Wilson Pickett. Personally, I'm a sucker for the bittersweet vibe of the Nilsson version, but Tedeschi and Trucks do it justice nonetheless. For their first attempt (that I know of) for a cover song, The TTB deliver a performance that gives a shiny new direction for a beloved old favorite!

"Heartbeat" by Jjamz: do you PRONOUNCE the name of this band?! The first two letters are two "J"s, of which there is no such word in the English language. A website I went on said the pronunciation was "Juh-JAMZ", as though the pronunciation requires intentional "stuttering" on the first letter. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, on with the song! According to the comments I've read about this song so far, it is apparently a favorite of pop sensation Katy Perry. Though I could ordinarily care less about what Katy Perry thinks, I can see why she likes this song. It has that sort of new-wave-y 1980's groove she likes to put in her songs from time to time. From the detached vibe of "Heartbeats", though, as well as the electric guitar solo in the middle of the song, I would say the song is more alt-pop than just plain old pop, which typically earns a song extra bonus points for me. The name of this band fits it well considering how danceable this song is.

"I'm Writing A Novel" by Father John Misty: No, despite how a moniker like "Father John Misty" might sound, you're not hearing a song from some old blues or country musician who suddenly decided to make a comeback. As a matter of fact, Father John Misty is actually the alias of Fleet Foxes' ex-drummer Josh Tillman. "I'm Writing A Novel" is one of the more interesting songs for this week, as far as I'm concerned. The lyrics seem rather stream-of-consciousness ("I'm not no doctor, but that monkey might be right", and "That Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me" provide a couple examples of how random the lyrics get for this song!), and the way Father John combines acoustic guitar with a catchy beat and organ sound that wouldn't sound too out of place in a Monkees song results in quite a memorable sound for this song! Fleet Foxes were known for having a sound that paid homage to the more somber sounding folk-rock bands of the '60s and early '70s, so it only makes sense that their drummer would do a song with a similar sound. As much as I love Fleet Foxes, though, I have to admit that "I'm Writing A Novel" is a far catchier song than anything Father John did with the band!

"Rosalee" by The Chris Robinson Brotherhood: In yet another example of a rock 'n' roll time warp, the lead singer of The Black Crowes sets the dials back to the mid-1970's, with a jam band anthem that heavily recalls "Franklin's Tower" by The Grateful Dead. Even the lyrics to the song (i.e. "Is the air getting thinner, are we getting high?") would seem rather fitting for a Grateful Dead song and/or concert. Like the typical Dead song, "Rosalee" is a mellow song with complex guitar work. Even as I pictured a "music video" to this song in my head, it was of Chris Robinson and his band performing in front of a crowd at Woodstock! Woodstock was a one-time-only event, though. Perhaps Coachella isn't too far off in The Chris Robinson Brotherhood's future, though. If blues-rocker Gary Clark, Jr. got to perform there earlier this year, I don't see why Chris Robinson couldn't be next in line!

"Some Nights" by fun.: Fans of fun. who are also followers of my blog might have noticed that I skipped out on their biggest hit so far, "We Are Young", when it came out. To me, "We Are Young" had too much pop and not enough alt! It sounded like the sort of song that might be featured in a cheesy '80s teen flick. Thankfully, fun.'s latest song, "Some Nights" has sought to correct this! One of fun.'s biggest influences is Queen, and the influence of Queen is illustrated quite well in "Some Nights". The opening vocal section sounds a little like the opening vocal sections of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Fat Bottomed Girls", among others, and the contrast between "Some Nights"' overall pop music sound and its crunchy hard-rock electric guitars also seem like typical Queen. "Some Nights" comes off like Queen trying to cover Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" (especially during the chorus). The marching band drums of "Some Nights" also manage to make this song fun (just like the name of the band!)

"The Boxer" by Mumford and Sons (featuring Paul Simon and Jerry Douglas): Was waiting for quite awhile for Mumford and Sons to come out with a newbie, and I finally got my wish! Well, MORE than that, actually!! I also got the Celtic influenced folk-rock sensations covering a Simon and Garfunkel song, WITH Paul Simon backing them up! I always thought Mumford and Sons were a little like a modern-day Simon and Garfunkel, and I guess from this version of the folk-rock classic, my comparison wasn't too far off. This version has a bit more orchestration behind it than the original, and its played at one fret above that version, but other than that, it stays quite faithful to S & G's version. I'm quite impressed. Never thought a cover song would be my fave new release of any week, but for the first time, this appears to be so, and I couldn't be happier!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My 100th post...could it be?!?

According to what I read on my dashboard for this site, it is!! :D What better way to celebrate than with nine new songs?!? Here goes!!!

“Eyes Wide Open” by Gotye: It’s gotta be tough to follow up a song that’s both as unique and popular as “Somebody That I Used to Know”, but Gotye has finally done so after almost half a year since that song first the airwaves! Gotye continues in a Peter Gabriel-esque, world music meets alternative pop/rock type direction here for the sound of “Eyes Wide Open”, with enough exotic sounding but thrilling orchestration in the background to make it sound like something from “The Lion King”! The music video for “Eyes Wide Open” is, perhaps, even more impressive than the song, in which Tim Burton-ish robot monsters run rampant in a post-apocalyptic landscape across the ocean! The video for “Eyes Wide Open” can be viewed here Here’s hoping more songs (and videos) from Gotye’s catalog will make it into this blog, and onto playlists, sometime in the near future!

“Full Circle” by Ben Kweller: And here is yet another musician getting a second song noticed from his latest CD! Ben seems like the ‘60s would have suited him well, I must say! In January of this year, I reviewed his “Jealous Girl”, which sounded like a “missing” song from the British Invasion. And now, Ben’s latest song, “Full Circle” shows another side to him, a more subdued, gentle side that recalls the sunny country-rock vibe of The Byrds circa ’68. Ben’s chipper disposition in “Full Circle” is matched by both the sage advice (“There’s so much that you don’t see/Don’t judge anyone, because everybody comes full circle”) and surreal imagery (“Sand-shark tooth girl won’t cry for you”) in the lyrics of the song. I don’t think Ben’s QUITE come “full circle” YET, though. There should be plenty more songs of his coming up around the corner for people to hear!

“Hey Jane” by Spiritualized: Perhaps not the most immediately likable song on this week’s list, but certainly one of the most interesting! The first three minutes of “Hey Jane” recall the tougher, more rock-and-roll oriented songs Lou Reed did for The Velvet Underground, with its defiant, New York influenced attitude (even though Spiritualized are actually British!) Coincidentally, both the title of the song (“Hey Jane”) and the title of the album it appears on (“Sweet Heart, Sweet Light”) recall The Velvets’ material (“Sweet Jane” and “White Light, White Heat”, respectively). After the three-minute mark, “Hey Jane” lifts more from the trippy, just plain weird part of The Velvets’ catalog, to the point of where it almost becomes unlistenable, unless maybe you like progressive rock, free jazz, or some other form of complex, lengthy, surreal music. If you prefer your music to be more casual, though, spare yourself by only listening to three out of the eight minutes (and eleven seconds) of “Hey Jane”. It’s one of the only two songs in which I prefer the edited version (the other being Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart”, which was also around 8 minutes in its unedited form).

“Lucky That Way” by Joe Walsh: Joe Walsh was usually the man who turned rock legends, The Eagles, from a country-rock band to more of a hard rock band! His solo songs were typically in a hard rock vein as well. Not this time, though! “Lucky That Way” sounds a bit more like a song from the country-rock side of Tom Petty’s musical repertoire (think “Into the Great Wide Open”). The lyrics are simple, but honest, just Joe reflecting on how good his life is. Perhaps the mellowness of this song, as opposed to most of Joe’s other material, is just indicative of him getting older, or maybe wanting to surprise his listeners with another style of music. Whatever the case, though, Joe is doing what he does best on “Lucky That Way”, and I don’t mean playing guitar. I mean having fun!

“Somebody” by Jukebox the Ghost: You can’t tell me you don’t feel happy when listening to this song! Well, I guess you CAN tell me that, since everyone has his/her own opinion about songs, but this is the type of song that just sounds so upbeat (and different) that it would appeal to just about anybody! It has a stick-in-your-head chorus reminiscent of Annie Lennox’s “Walking On Broken Glass” (only a bit catchier), a danceable beat (with hand clapping in the background), and a theme that everyone can relate to (wanting a relationship). “Somebody” has just as much potential of hitting the Top 40 charts as it does indie and alternative charts, and it would probably hold equal appeal to both audiences! The verses are mostly piano-based, but they build up to a more guitar-oriented chorus. There are just too many things I like about this song and I hope it reaches a larger audience someday soon! Highly recommended!!

“Spread Too Thin” by The Dirty Heads: I was reluctant to explore the music of The Dirty Heads at first, but I soon found their blend of folk, rock, and reggae to be quite appealing! They had three songs that became popular from their debut album and now I feel kinda bad I didn’t blog any of them! Well, it’s never too late to catch up, though, right? So now that their sophomore album has come out, I feel like I should discuss how I feel about their latest song, “Spread Too Thin”. The lyrics to the song are actually a lot more angst-ridden than the song itself is. Where The Dirty Heads’ most popular song so far, “Lay Me Down” was a song that reflected their sound, about just having a good time out on the beach, “Spread Too Thin” is more about trying to deal with pent up emotions (most obvious on the line, “I’ve bottled up all these emotions, babe/A monster ‘bout to rage”). I guess The Dirty Heads know that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, and “Spread Too Thin” is some of the best musical “lemonade” I have ever tasted!

“The Only Place” by Best Coast: Just the name of this band reminds you of California, doesn’t it? Well, no surprise there! Best Coast are from LA, and this song is about California, perhaps the best one since Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”, as lyrics to “The Only Place”, like “We’ve got the babes, we’ve got the sun, we’ve got the waves”, illustrate oh so well (lead singer Bethany Cosentino IS a “babe” coincidentally). California dreamin’, on such a summer’s day! It seems like that’s the vibe “The Only Place” sends out with its bright energetic chords and rhythm contrasted by its more wistful sound. Best Coast started out with a more surf guitar influenced sound a little over a year ago, but “The Only Place” sends them in a new direction, with more influence from the bittersweet but fun, folk-y flavor of bands like The Byrds, R.E.M., Big Star, and The Lemonheads! Being a Californian myself who was born and raised the same city Bethany was, I can’t help but love this song!

“We Almost Lost Detroit” by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: Between the sunny indie-folk-pop of “Simple Girl” and the more organ-driven, Zombies-meets-Foster-the-People sound of this song, I’d say Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are a band whose choice in sound is as quirky and unpredictable as their name!! Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are from Detroit, as the song title indicates, but the way this song sounds, they sound more like some British band, or perhaps even a band that came from outer space! “We Almost Lost Detroit” was originally a protest song from the late jazz musician Gil Scott-Heron, but DEJJ put a whole new spin on it! Their version is more upbeat, and their video for it (which seems to be becoming somewhat of an underground “hit”) depicts Detroit as a city that is still surviving, rather than the bleak vision Scott-Heron offered of it back when a nuclear meltdown outside of one of Detroit’s power plants inspired him to write and perform the song. The video can be viewed here (

“You Don’t Have to Love Me” by Blues Traveler: Blues Traveler were a nostalgic but catchy (and sometimes clever) band back in the ‘90s. Once the next decade rolled around, though, it seemed as though the harmonica-loving jam band was left in the dark with songs that just didn’t have the spark of their old material! After twelve long years, though, Blues Traveler are back on their feet again with “You Don’t Have to Love Me”!! With John Popper covering Sublime and providing harmonica solo on reggae band Rebelution’s most recent track earlier this year, though, I kinda knew BT were bound for the “cool radar” once again. I had no idea how good they still were though! For the first time since “But Anyway”, John Popper and co now have a song with just as many harmonica solos as there are guitar solos! BT haven’t been this gritty in quite a long time! The contrast between the apocalyptic opening lyrics concerning global warming and the more generic lyrics of the chorus (“You don’t have to love me, tonight I’ll be your man”) show that they still have their sense of humor as well! Welcome back, guys, I’ve missed you for ever so long!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New songs for May 9th, 2012

here they are:

“Nothing to Hide” by Diego Garcia: Every song Diego has done is one he has poured his heart and soul into, but so far, none have done so like “Nothing to Hide”! Its sound suggests that of an orchestral version of R.E.M.’s “Man On the Moon” (and of Cowboy Junkies’ even more emotionally aching “Angel Mine”). No percussion, synthesizers or electric guitars to be found here! Just the winsome, sweeping sound of acoustic guitar and a string orchestra to support the guitar! Well, that, and Diego’s tender vocals, and tell-it-like-it-is lyrics (you can’t get more “tell it like it is” than “In my heart, I’ve got nothing to hide”, can you?!) “Nothing to Hide”’s instrumentation is stark, but its overall sound is complete nonetheless! Nothin’ like a Diego Garcia song to tug at the ol’ heartstrings, eh?!

“Oh Susannah” by Neil Young: Neil Young is heavily influenced by folk music, and this is a cover of a beloved American folk song. But don’t expect your ears to be soothed when you listen to this version of “Oh Susannah”. Neil rocks it once again here, turning what was once a gentle song with a benign enough melody to make it suitable for a children’s song into a powerful, jammin’ rock ‘n’ roll anthem!! He tweaks the lyrics a little here, too, turning the “Banjo on my knee” part into “B-A-N-J-O on my knee” (spelling out the word “banjo”, as opposed to just saying it). Perhaps not the best song if you’re a folk music “traditionalist”, but for the classic rock fans, as well as those who are looking to expand their musical vocabulary, Neil Young’s take on “Oh Susannah” is well worth the listen!!

“Trojans” by Atlas Genius: Pleasant folk-rock and funky, spacey new wave collide in the latest (and first) song to get noticed from indie-pop-sters Atlas Genius (not to be confused with fellow alt/indie-rockers Atlas Sound). In addition to having an odd sound and a weird band name, the lyrics to this song are equally cryptic (someone please explain what, “Your Trojan’s in my head” is supposed to mean!!) On the plus side, though, the song is catchy, and the rhythm is straightforward. There’s no surprise dips into what seems like a completely different song during the middle part, so it keeps pretty consistent throughout. If anyone has ever heard “Cool For Cats” by the new wave band, Squeeze, “Trojans” actually sounds a lot like that, only with acoustic guitar as the backing instrument instead of piano. A funky, disco-in-space sounding electric guitar throbs at the heart of “Trojans”, which is probably the catchiest element about this song!

“Used to Rule the World” by Bonnie Raitt: Since Bonnie’s last successful song was a cover of a Gerry Rafferty song, I was thinking that maybe this was a cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” under a different name (like how Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” was a cover of Moby’s “Run On” under a different name). Boy was I wrong (and I’m glad I was!) “Used to Rule the World” is a blues-y vamp, recalling the faster, grittier side of Raitt’s catalog. Many of the songs on Bonnie Raitt’s latest CD, “Slipstream”, are cover songs, but (as far as I know) this one isn’t. Once again, I think this proves that Bonnie is the best when she sticks to her own material!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My biggest blog everrrr!!! TWELVE SONGS!!!

This calls for a celebration!! I have officially broken my record of having eleven songs being the most I've reviewed. So, without further ado, here are this week's songs!!!

“Amalia” by Melody Gardot: In the early 2000’s, vocal driven jazz-pop was pretty much reduced to Norah Jones and others of her ilk. A couple years later, a singer/songwriter named Melody Gardot came along and proved that her style of vocal jazz-pop was unlike any other musician who dabbled in that musical subgenre. Melody has probably received comparisons to Norah, but personally, I think Melody is better, and that’s not just my tendency to “root for the underdog” talkin’ here. Melody’s latest song, “Amalia”, picks up where Joni Mitchell’s musical career left off sometime in the mid-‘70s (Joni even has a song with a similar title from that era, “Amelia”). Melody’s seemingly effortless ability to combine jazz, folk, and pop in “Amalia” is proof (to me, at least) that she is not just your average mellow Sunday, coffee-sippin’ Starbucks type musician. She is much more than that!

“Amazing Eyes” by Good Old War: Lyrically, Good Old War have had better songs than “Amazing Eyes” (like their pleasantly quirky debut song, “Coney Island”, for instance). Musically, though, “Amazing Eyes” is probably one of the best songs GOW have ever done! It shimmers, shines, and sparkles like no other GOW song, and it almost sounds like The Decemberists trying to cover The Eagles’ “Hotel California” without the flashy electric guitar solos (or, in this case, no electric guitars anywhere, as GOW are primarily a folk-pop band). How to appreciate this song is quite easy to do. Just close your “amazing eyes”, open your even more amazing mind, and be prepared for a glistening, musical magic carpet ride!

“Blue” by First Aid Kit: Take the preciously bittersweet vibe of Big Star’s classic indie-pop masterpiece, “Thirteen”, the folk-pop-y harmonies of your typical Nicks/McVie era Fleetwood Mac song, sad, aching lyrics, and chimes that sound like they came from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”, and you’ve got a neat little song called “Blue” by the band First Aid Kit. The lyrics of the song tell the story of a relationship on the line, but the music tells an entirely different story! The kind of story that might bring you back to simpler days when teddy bears gathered for picnics on the grass in the springtime, and majestic, winged horses frolicked through fields of flowers. Perhaps “Blue” might be best described as the ultimate “dance in the rain” song. It has both a rainy mood in the lyrics, and a “run-through-the-rain” musical sound! In any case, I’m pretty much in love with this song (and whoever the lead singer of this band is, too!)

“Ceiling of Plankton” by Givers: The title to this song is quirky enough, and the lyrics seem to dance to the beat of their own drum (literally!) Such is the appeal to The Givers, though! They’re like what Jethro Tull might have been like if they were a relentlessy happy indie-pop band, since flute solos tend to punctuate their music somewhat. Electronica meets an almost “H.R. Pufnstuf” style of psychedelic pop in “Ceiling of Plankton”. It’s no wonder The Givers’ shiny aura was welcomed at the annual modern day equivalent of Woodstock known as Coachella, their musical style and harmonies are perfect for such an event! Also, what IS a “ceiling of plankton”?! I have no idea, although I usually picture Plankton from “Spongebob Squarepants” being stretched out to the length of a ceiling whenever I hear this song!!

“Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple: Fiona has never strayed far in terms of her lyrical themes of disappointment with life (she even has claimed that “I Know” is the only “happy ending” song she has ever done!) That being said, though, she has had a VERY interesting musical development with each album she has done! She started out when she was just 19 years old with an album that sounded like a jazzed up version of Tori Amos, and a couple years later, she released another album with a similar sound. Fiona’s “comeback” album from 2005, “Extraordinary Machine”, however, marked a creative leap in sound for her! With people like Feist, Cat Power, and Regina Spektor suddenly citing Fiona as a musical influence, Fiona herself decided to pay them all tribute by releasing a quirkier sounding “piano-pop” album in the vein of these artists, particularly Spektor, from what it seemed. 7 years later, and Fiona’s still got it!! “Every Single Night” has an even more Spektor-esque sound than her previous material, actually! It starts off with instruments that sound like they could have been used on a children’s lullaby, and progresses from there, not once adding any percussion along the way! Fiona is truly something else!!

“Generals” by The Mynabirds: Who would have thought a band who sounded like an indie-pop version of The Shirelles and The Crystals would get so lowdown and nasty for their next big song?!? I sure didn’t!! It seems like it’s getting The Myna’s more attention than they previously received in 2010, though! Perhaps it IS because of that “Whoa, didn’t expect to hear THAT!!” factor that just seems to grab at peoples’ ears that “Generals” is getting the Myna’s more noticed. Instead of a tinkly piano like they used in their only other known song so far, “Numbers Don’t Lie”, a psychedelic-blues-y guitar takes over as lead instrument for “Generals”. With an F-bomb dropped in the middle of the song, and the lyrics “So get your warpaint on/Let ‘em know we’re out for blood” closing the song off with a punch, you KNOW The Mynabirds mean BUSINESS here, and you’d BETTER listen to what they have to say!!!

“Heroin Lovers” by Robert Francis: Robert’s late 2009/early 2010 song, “Junebug”, pretty much had me convinced that he’d be a one hit wonder! “Junebug”, which sounded like a cross between Ryan Adams and The Cranberries, was a song unlike any other for its time, and there were no other songs from Francis that gained very much attention. Until now, that is. “Heroin Lovers” isn’t quite as impressive or stellar as “Junebug” was, but it still has its high points (no pun intended). One of the highlights of “Heroin Lovers” is that Mike Campbell from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers plays the twangy guitar solo towards the end of the song! Not exactly what I’d expect for a melancholy alt-rocker, but part of the fun of listening to the songs I review are the surprises within the songs! Fans of Pete Yorn and (once again) Ryan Adams will probably enjoy this song, though I can’t help but feel like it comes off as a “poor man’s” version of both Adams and Yorn. Oh well, still a worthy comeback for the man who graced us with “Junebug”!

“Lonesome” by Dr. Dog: I have a question. Is there any song by Dr. Dog that is NOT catchy?! Because so far, I haven’t heard a single song by them that hasn’t gotten stuck in my head! This includes their latest song, “Lonesome”, which is a much happier sounding song than its title would suggest. Driven by a blues-y, somewhat psychedelic sounding slide guitar riff in A major, “Lonesome” is a song that both asks a question (“What does it take to be lonesome?”), and answers that question (“Nothing at all”) during the chorus. Both the question and the answer of “Lonesome” are the parts of the song that get stuck in my head the most, as if that was the central theme of the song (which it probably is). Though the lyrics to “Lonesome” are probably much more of a downer than the song itself, “Lonesome” still sounds like a song that is anything but what its title suggests it is. That being said, I’ve got four more words to close off this song review. Rock on, Doc Dog!!

“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” by Glen Hansard: The one time “Once” actor is probably the closest thing to Van Morrison that the indie audience can get, with his free-flowing, almost spiritual blend of folk, soul, jazz, and rock. It’s not as though Glen hasn’t let out his inner soul man before (“Low Rising” is a good example of this), but “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” is perhaps the most soulful he’s gotten so far! Glen’s acoustic guitar is supported on this song by a tight, catchy rhythm section and a lively horn section. The lyrics are typical Glen, an aching plea for love gone lost to be found again, but it’s incredibly hard to resist “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” with the way he delivers those lyrics, not to mention how naturally they seem to flow with the instrumentation of the song!

“Man of the World” by Alejandro Escovedo: The gutsy, raw vocals and Chuck Berry style guitar riffs riding on top of the roots-y twang of Alejandro Escovedo’s “Man of the World” might make you think you’ve just discovered a long lost John Mellencamp song! But, surprise! You’re really just hearing the latest song from Springsteen’s occasional contemporary music collaborator Alejandro Escovedo! Every song I hear from Alejandro makes me rather surprised he hasn’t had such a huge impact among people who listen to rock music! Alejandro’s songs wouldn’t sound too out of place on a classic rock station if it weren’t for the fact that they were recent. “Man of the World” is a song that’s as much of an anthem as it is a just plain fun song. Sometimes, those are the best kinds of songs rock ‘n’ roll has to offer!!

“Out of Love” by Rhett Miller: Rhett, the frontman of roots-y alternative rock group, The Old ‘97s, might be typically thought of as an “alt-country” musician, but his musical influences run much deeper than that! His most recent tune, “Out of Love”, seems to mix elements of the more bittersweet side of Elvis Costello’s catalog with that of the typical “jangle-pop” sound of R.E.M. “Out of Love” provides an interesting contrast to Rhett’s last solo tune, “I Need to Know Where I Stand” from Spring 2009. “I Need to Know…” was done almost entirely in major key, and “Out of Love” is done almost entirely in minor key. Yet BOTH songs share the same sort of “alt-country” twang, and they BOTH take on rather cynical themes revolving around relationships. Rhett might be “out of love”, but it’s good to know he’s not out of ideas!

“Wasted” by Lukas Nelson: So Willie’s son decided to release something about a week or two after Willie himself?! Well, why not! Lukas seems to want to run with a more rowdy crowd than his dad, though, and this evident from the almost Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque southern rock sound of the song, and even from the song’s title, “Wasted”. Lukas is daring enough here to do what few “country-rock” musicians have done – to really put the “rock” in “country-rock”! From the amped up guitars in “Wasted”, to Lukas’ rough, ragged vocals, to the risky themes mentioned in the song, it’s pretty clear that Lukas is not a big cuddly teddy bear, at least not in “Wasted”!! Like father, like son?! Maybe not completely, but somewhere deep inside, the apple probably doesn’t fall TOO far from the tree!