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!!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New songs for June 13th, 2012

here they are:

"Dragging You Around" by Greg Laswell: This is the third time Greg Laswell has done a duet with a female singer/songwriter. However, the previous two songs, "Take Everything" (with Ingrid Michaelson) and "Come Back Down" (with Sara Bareilles) were both sincere love songs. "Dragging You Around", which features Sia from the chill electro-pop group Zero 7 on backing vocals, is NOT a love song. Well not a sincere one, anyway. It's more tongue-in-cheek than that. Greg points out in the first verse of the song that his current relationship is a "grand waste of time", but, once the chorus comes around, he says that he's sticking around with his significant other because he LIKES "dragging (her) around" and "dragging (her) down". The contrast between how biting the lyrics are and how mellow the song itself is only prove to me what a clever musician Greg Laswell really is! Who knew such a moody sounding guy had such a sharp sense of humor?! I didn't, but I'm glad he does!

"If I Wanted Someone" by Dawes: From the Wallflowers-ish sound of "Time Spent In Los Angeles", the Jackson Browne-ish vibe of "A Little Bit of Everything", and now a Neil Young/Tom Petty soundalike with their latest song, "If I Wanted Someone", it's becoming increasingly clear to me that Dawes are like a 21st century Black Crowes! They're classic rock junkies in a modern rock world, particularly when it comes to the more roots-y side of classic rock (could a Bruce Springsteen soundalike from Dawes be far behind?!) The guitar solo in this song practically apes Neil Young, yet somehow, the artists in question that Dawes lift from like them! Jackson Browne has played with them, and apparently Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers has, too. Mostly, "If I Wanted Someone" is more worth talking about for its music than its lyrics, but the chorus is notable for its somewhat humorous lyrics ("If I wanted someone to clean my life, I'd find myself a maid").

"Old Mythologies" by The Barr Brothers: Simon and Garfunkel have been a major influence on quite a bit of the indie music scene for the past 5 or so years, but, with the possible exception of Norwegian indie-folk duo Kings of Convenience, none of them sound more like S & G to me than The Barr Brothers. This is not a bad thing, though. "Old Mythologies" has a bittersweetly nostalgic vibe about it, with its rippling acoustic guitar sound and hushed vocals. Poetry of a somewhat abstract nature flows throughout the lyrics of "Old Mythologies", be it haunting ("when I'm one half child and the other ghost"), spiritual ("Solomon's song sang Sheba's grace and he kissed her soft and sulking face"), or just plain enigmatic ("100 Degrees Fahrenheit and he's cool as an ermine", which could be compared to "I wish I was a Kellogg's Cornflake" from Simon and Garfunkel's "Punky's Dilemma"). This is my fave song of the week and I highly recommend it!!

"The Way We Move" by Langhorne Slim: Langhorne Slim's only other "hit" so far, "Say Yes", was a bittersweet but hopeful sounding love song. Not exactly what you might expect from someone with a blues/country-ish moniker like "Langhorne Slim", is it?! Langhorne's latest song, "The Way We Move" has a more roots-y, country-rock type sound that is closer to what the sound of his (stage)name might evoke. The saxophones and old-time-y sounding piano almost make this a honky-tonk song, but there is something about "The Way We Move" that gives it a rock 'n' roll flavor as well, probably the beat of it. The title of the song can be taken in one of two ways, either in a poetic vein (in which "move" would mean something closer to "flow" or "come together"), or a literal one. Langhorne Slim opts for the latter here, though, as the jaunty rhythm of "The Way We Move" is central to its delivery.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New songs for June 6th, 2012

here they are:

"Anyone Else" by The Fixx: Whoa, hold up a second!! You mean the same guys who did "One Thing Leads to Another"?! Yep, that's right! A new wave band that hasn't had a hit in over 20 years is coming back to the spotlight with a song that sounds uncannily like one of their vintage '80s tunes! One aspect of The Fixx that made them so appealing in the '80s was their ability to mix catchy hooks with dark, post-apocalyptic lyrical themes (as evidenced on "Saved By Zero", "Red Skies", and "Stand Or Fall"), and the cynical lyrical themes continue to surface in "Anyone Else" (i.e. "The jealous cursed, crashed and burned, the unaccountable way to die"). The one thing missing from "Anyone Else" that I was hoping to hear, though, was Cy Curnin's rather underrated, but still incredibly talented guitar solo techniques. At the heart of some of The Fixx's older songs were funky, driving guitar riffs ("Saved By Zero"), and sometimes, more complex solos driven by hammer-ons and pull-offs ("Red Skies"). "Anyone Else" has no defining guitar hook or solo, sadly, though guitar playing is still present on the song. Other than that, though, this is quite a stunning comeback from a band that I never thought I'd hear recording music in the 21st century!!

"Born To" by Jesca Hoop: Born to...what?! Run?! Be wild?! Nope, just "Born To". And yeah, "Jesca" is not a typo, that's the way she spells her name. Jesca Hoop's music is, perhaps, as unique as the unusual spelling of her first name, with her seemingly effortless combination of Celtic, folk, and indie-pop. The title of the song, "Born To", is somewhat of a cliffhanger title, as she never actually answers what it is she's "born to" do, but it seems as though much of the song is lyrically enigmatic (take, for instance, the refrain, "Now you've got to get in with what you've got, what you've been given, or not". Huh?!) But Jesca manages to combine her quirky sound (and quirkier lyrics) with a catchy, danceable beat, and an oddly endearing sense of energetic satisfaction in her vocal delivery. So sit back, relax, enjoy the music, and know that we were born to...ummm....something, I'll get to that part later.

"I'm Shakin'" by Jack White: The sweet folk-rock of Jack's "Love Interruption" from earlier this year could be contrasted by "I'm Shakin'", a smoky, blues-y rocker that's actually a cover of a song from bluesman Little Willie John. The opening guitar hook of this song initially reminded me a bit of the "Mr. Heatmiser" song from one of the Rankin-Bass claymation holiday specials (of all things!!), but now that I know this is a cover song, I'm thinking that the same type of hook was probably used on the original version and has nothing to do with imaginary singing Christmas characters. Until Jack gets to using his trademark guitar sound during the solo of "I'm Shakin'", it's a song that sounds like it could have very well been from the late '60s/early '70s, which is not surprising given how much into that era of music he seems to be. The best thing of all about this song, though, is how he pronounces the word "nervous" as "noivus", seemingly on poipose...ummm...I mean on "purpose"!! There's such an "I-meant-to-do-that" factor behind his pronunciation of that word that it just cracks me up!!

"Into the Wild" by LP: "Into the Wild" sounds like it might as well belong on the soundtrack to "Into the Wild" (that is, if Florence Welch sang all the songs on the soundtrack instead of Eddie Vedder). Its attention isn't getting garnered by trailers for movies, though, but instead by advertisements for Citibank. Lyrically, "Into the Wild" (the song) is a lot closer to, well, "Into the Wild" (the movie). Both the movie and the song deal with escaping from the pressures of society, so it's ironic that a major corporation like Citibank is using the song in its commercials. With "Into the Wild"'s yearning, urgent questions of "How do we not fade?" and "How do we live?" in regards to the human condition, as well as its sweeping, largely acoustic guitar based sound, I really do think "Into the Wild" would have been a perfect fit for the "Into the Wild" soundtrack if it included musicians other than Eddie Vedder!

"It's Only Life" by The Shins: It figures that the first single off The Shins's latest CD would be a dynamic, rocking one, and it took until the SECOND single for The Shins to get back to their trademark laid-back, folk-rock-y sound. If there's something catchy from a musician or band that normally isn't, it seems to be a surefire radio hit, and such was the case with "Simple Song". "It's Only Life" is more of a typical Shins song, musically. Lyrically, this song provides an interesting contrast to The Shins' typically weird lyrics. The lyrics to "It's Only Life" are still wrapped up in metaphor, but they're easier to understand than, say, "New Slang" or "Phantom Limb". For instance, one phrase from "It's Only Life", "we all spend a little while going down the rabbit hole", refers to how everyone has his/her "down days", and "you used to be such a lion, before you got into all this cryin'", points out how we might not be as "tough" as we would like to think we are. But in the chorus, James Mercer assures us that "It doesn't have to be so dark and lonesome", and that "It takes a while but we can figure this thing out and turn it back around", shining a light through the darkness of the rest of the song. In a world of weird and weary indie rock, this song manages to be wistful and wonderful!

"New Wild Everywhere" by Great Lake Swimmers: With their combination of folk, rock, country, and the hippie spirit in both their sound and their words, Great Lake Swimmers are likely musical descendants of groups like The Band and The Flying Burrito Brothers. The phrase "new wild everywhere" itself is rather hippie-ish, taken from the chorus of the song ("there's a new wild feeling dancing in the air/there's a new wild everywhere"). If a "new wild feeling dancing in the air" wasn't enough for you, there are plenty of samples of phrases from the first verse of the song ("Colors burning brighter, hunger for the spark"), to the last ("Fly up to the heavens, anchored in the clouds/Fly beyond the night, love the blooming sounds"), that just burst with the spirit of the '60s! Whether you've just come back from a nature walk, or you're looking for something to meditate to in a flower garden, or you just want the spirit of song to soothe and satisfy your soul, "New Wild Everywhere" is the perfect "peace and love" song for the 2010's!