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!