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!