Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!! :D

I must say, it's been an interesting year! One post on a leap year, another on the 4th of July, and NOW one on Halloween!! :D Sorry, no "scary" songs this time around, hehe, but I've got three good ones that I think you're gonna like! So here goes.

"Babel" by Mumford and Sons: The Celtic influenced folk-rock quartet known as Mumford and Sons have ruminated on religious themes before ("can you kneel before the king, and say I'm clean?", for instance, from their "White Blank Page" could refer to Jesus for all I know!), but they've never had a song title so far with a religious/biblical reference until now (though they mispronounce "Babel" as "BAY-bul" instead of "BAB-ul"). Given the point of reference here (the Tower of Babel, from which the word "babble" supposedly comes from), I would think that "Babel" might be about problems in terms of communication. This is part of what "Babel" is about, but the meaning behind its lyrics go deeper than that. It is more about the fall of mankind (which can be interpreted from the lyrics, "So come down from your mountain and stand where we've been/You know our breath is weak and our body is dead"), and about trying to reach God directly, but struggling to do so in the process (for which the lyrics, "Press my nose up to the glass around your heart, I should have known I was weaker from the start" are sung). For a band whose first big hit had the "f" word in its chorus, Mumford and Sons are quite an honest, intelligent, and soul searching band (and yes, I even love the song I just referred to by them in that sentence)!!

"Here Comes My Man" by The Gaslight Anthem: A sequel to The Pixies' "Here Comes YOUR Man", perhaps?! 'Fraid not, this song doesn't sound anything close to The Pixies. "Here Comes My Man" is just Brian Fallon and the rest of the members of The Gaslight Anthem doing what they do best - mixing the earnest, heartfelt approach to roots-rock of Bruce Springsteen with the "thinking man's punk rock" sound of The Clash. The Springsteen influence is pretty obvious here, perhaps more so than any other Gaslights song, from the Phil-Spector-goes-rock sound of the percussion to the "sha-la-la"'s in the chorus (all that's missing is a killer sax solo!) As if having Springsteen and The Clash as influences wasn't enough of an old school rock move for The Gaslights, Brian Fallon also takes on an interesting perspective in the lyrics that was previous reserved for people like Joni Mitchell. Much like how Joni sang "I was a free man in Paris", instead of "HE was a free man Paris", Brian also takes on the opposite sex perspective, with lyrics like "Don't you think I knew about all your pretty girlfriends?", and of course, the chorus, in which he sings "here comes MY man", from a woman's point of view to (presumably) another guy. Thank you, Brian Fallon, for bringing lyrical narrative back into music, I appreciate it very much!!

"I Don't Believe A Word You Say" by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite: So, what happens when rock 'n' roll chameleon Ben Harper teams up with bluesman Charlie Musselwhite?! Powerhouse rock 'n' roll, that's what!! "I Don't Believe A Word You Say" captures the feel of some of the best known classic rock anthems, from its "Mississippi Queen"-ish rhythm, and its combination of hard rock guitars and blues harmonica, which recalls songs like Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks". The lyrics are repetitive, but in a song in which the main focus is on jamming (for both the guitar AND the harmonica) instead of singing, that shouldn't really matter too much. The song is aiming to please fans of blues music and classic rock, and if it does so, then mission accomplished, and rock on!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New songs for October 17th, 2012

here they are:

"Doom And Gloom" by The Rolling Stones: "A rolling stone gathers no moss", or so the saying says. Mick Jagger, on the other hand, has gathered his fair share of "moss", as even the title of his latest song, "Doom And Gloom" indicates. Mick doesn't go down without a fight on this song, though, as an army of electric guitars and passionate vocals go up against current events, and how "All (he) hear(s) is doom and gloom!" It's clear here that Mick is sick of politics (trying saying THAT ten times fast!), so he diverts from the topic in the chorus of the song, urging his listeners to "take a chance" and "dance" with him. The Stones just keep on rolling in "Doom And Gloom", and just in time for Election Day, too!

"Hero" by Family of the Year: While on the subject of classic rock musicians, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith (of all people) apparently really likes Family of the Year, so much so, that he referred to them as "The Mamas and Papas on acid"! This description is probably quite fitting for a band like Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, but does it do justice to describing Family of the Year?! Perhaps, but "Hero" sounds more like a Fleetwood Mac song to me (albeit with male vocals), nothing "acid"-like about it, just a gentle, bittersweet folk-rock song about how FOTY's lead singer doesn't want to be anyone's "hero", and how he, instead just wants to be like an everyday person. So basically, "Hero" is a song with "Landslide" style acoustic guitar picking about trying to fit in. Sounds like my kinda song!

"Now Is the Start" by A Fine Frenzy: So far, the 2010's seem to be a decade of change for Allison Sudol from the one-woman band A Fine Frenzy. She's dyed her hair blond, as opposed to the darkish shade of red it once was, and she seems to be channeling Florence more than she is Fiona (the latter of whom is a more typical influence for her) on her latest AFF song, "Now Is the Start", which also seems to have a dash of Killers influence in there. Allison's experimentation with electronic sound is definitely a departure from the average AFF song, but she seems to ease into "Now Is the Start" quite naturally, without trying too hard at any point in the song. In fact, she actually seems to be having fun with what she's doing in this song!

"Tore Down" by Wanda Jackson: Back when rock 'n' roll was young, Elvis Presley was proof that a white man could sing the blues! But what about a white WOMAN singing the blues?! Well, that would be Wanda Jackson, who was around during Elvis' era, but isn't nearly as well known! Wanda is quite convincing as a blues musician here, nailing not only the typical blues structure, but also the smoky, world weary vocals, lovelorn lyrics, and flawless transitioning from chords to guitar riffs! Even the two and a half minute length recalls blues music from the days of old. What can I say, it's always great to hear a new take on an old style!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New songs for October 10th, 2012

here they are:

"All Your Gold" by Bat for Lashes: Natasha Khan, better known as "Bat for Lashes", could be called a 21st century Bjork. She is a mysterious, but strangely charming figure in the music world, whose music is both dark and unpredictable. Her last big song, "Daniel", was a moody, hypnotic combination of electronica and rock, with some classical violins tossed into the mix for good measure. "All Your Gold" retains the mystique that Natasha put into "Daniel", but with even more of a sense of unpredictability. During the first minute or so of "All Your Gold", the listener is led into thinking that he/she won't get much more than a faintly thumping bassline and a light, ticking percussion sound. As "All Your Gold" progresses, though, more instruments (both acoustic and electric guitar, synthesizers, and string sections) get thrown in, and Natasha's voice gets increasingly higher and more dramatic. You never know what you're gonna get in a Bat for Lashes song, and "All Your Gold" continues to prove this!

"Default" by Django Django: And the weirdness continues in our second song of the week, "Default" by Django Django. It isn't just the repetitive name repetitive name of Django Django that makes them "weird". Their song "Default" also has some of the most bizarre mix of instruments (and even vocals) since some of Beck's songs from the mid-'90s! The lyrics don't seem to make a lot of sense either (e.g. "Forget about the cause, press rewind then stop and pause"). Yet, like Beck, Django Django are as out there as they are catchy! "Indie" doesn't always mean "quirky" like it used to, but Django Django are determined to put the "independent" back into "indie". And how!!

"Flavor" by Tori Amos: Been waiting for Tori to put out a song that's both tender and haunting like she did throughout the '90s! She put out quite a bit of material in the '00s, actually, but most of it was largely unnoticed in comparison to gems of hers like "Silent All These Years" and "Cornflake Girl". Tori's inner poet seems to be largely rejuvenated in "Flavor". Instead of writing almost embarrassing attempts to be sexual (like the "M-I-L-F, don't you forget" part of "Big Wheel"), or lyrics that are angst-y but generic ("Welcome to my world of hurt", from "Welcome to England"), Tori is now waxing philosophical about God ("Whose God, then, is God? They all want jurisdiction in this Book of Earth. Whose God spread fear, spread love?"), much like she did in some of her more classic songs like "Crucify" and "God". Unlike some of her peers from the '90s (i.e. Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, etc.), Tori has continued to attempt to straddle the line between "alternative" and pop music even after the '90s, instead of just going straight for pop. She has struggled along the way, but now, with "Flavor", it seems as though she has finally come full circle!

"Midnight On the Interstate" by Trampled By Turtles: Trampled by Turtles tugged at quite a few heartstrings earlier this year in spring, with their bittersweet song, "Alone". Their second big song, "Midnight On the Interstate", isn't exactly "bittersweet", but it still has the tender, mellow feel of "Alone". There aren't a lot of lyrics in "Midnight On the Interstate", but its beautiful melody and harmonies speak for themselves. Somehow, TBT are able to paint a picture of traveling down the highway in the dead of night just by playing their instruments in "Midnight On the Interstate". The lyrics, of course, are important in the song, but "Midnight On the Interstate" seems like the kind of song that could function just as well with lyrics as it could without.

"Picture This" by Rhett Miller: Whether he's singing about losing his cat ("Murder Or A Heart Attack") or losing his girlfriend ("Every Night Is Friday Night Without You"), the Old '97s frontman never seems entirely happy with anything he sings about, and is often snarky in the process of delivering his lyrics. "Picture This" is a departure from this. The lyrics are completely sincere, and they revolve around "living together happily, never a dull moment" with his girlfriend. The gentle, swaying melody of "Picture This", combined with its earnest, heartfelt lyrics, make the song seem almost nostalgic in a way.

"Santa Ana Wind" by Everclear: Much like Alanis Morissette, Everclear are '90s rockers that usually sound better when they're angry than when they're not. "Santa Ana Wind" is a notable exception to this. Art Alexakis and co aren't trying too hard to be pop-y in "Santa Ana Wind" like they did in "Wonderful" and "AM Radio". It has a catchy enough guitar hook that you would almost expect Art to explode with fury like he did on some of Everclear's best known material like "Santa Monica (Watch the World Die)" and "Father of Mine". But no, "Santa Ana Wind" is mellow throughout. The weird thing is, it actually WORKS here!! No lyrics about "watching the world die", arguments with parents, or "making me feel like a whore" here. Instead, they revolve around things like "Sunshine and Mexican food on a Christmas day", and "almost see(ing) the blue sky in the middle of the day". Some classic Everclear lyrical themes, like escapism from the frustration of everyday life, are present in "Santa Ana Wind", though, and the music, while not "hard" rock, is still rock enough for Everclear's original fans to enjoy it.

"Waiting" by The Whigs: Not to be confused with proto-grunge group The Afghan Whigs, The Whigs are also an interesting brand of alternative rock, but more in the power pop-y direction of Fountains of Wayne or Dandy Warhols (albeit a bit harder edged than both of them). "Waiting" is a pretty simple song, built mostly around A major and D major chord progressions, and not much else. While its nothing new, it doesn't mean that "Waiting" isn't an enjoyable song! It still boasts an incredible riff and passionate vocals, enough to get stuck in one's head at the end of the day!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New songs for October 3rd, 2012

here they are:

"Better Weather" by Good Old War: The bouncy folk-rock trio of Goodwin, Arnold, and Schwartz are back for a third time around this year with a song whose title echoes the sentiments that Sacramento residents such as myself wish were going on right now (I REALLY wish we had "better weather" up there right now!!) "Better Weather" almost seems to recall earlier GOW songs like "Coney Island" (only with more of a "studio" sound behind it) with its shiny but still roots-y folk-pop sound. The "weather" in this song could be a metaphor for just better times in general, though some of the lyrics (e.g. "Maybe tomorrow the storm will blow over") tend to indicate otherwise. What works in "Better Weather" is what works in pretty much every GOW song, and that is how it has an upbeat vibe to it that never fails to make me smile!

"Do the Trick" by Dr. Dog: Of all the indie-pop groups that have cropped up within the past couple years, I'm honestly quite surprised that Dr. Dog hasn't achieved major success beyond the indie and adult alt crowds! Every song they have ever done is catchy (and often clever). They don't fit the indie "stereotype" of being ultra-mellow and/or morose, and they are instead known for their circus-like post-psychedelic organ sound and upbeat, quirky tunes! "Do the Trick" is no exception. Clever lyrics (like "My tock is a nervous tick", brilliantly punny line!!) pop up in "Do the Trick". This aspect, combined with the rapid fire rhyme schemes and the song in general make Dr. Dog seem almost more like Dr. Seuss in "Do the Trick". "Will you do the trick?", asks the lead singer of the band repeatedly. Yes, he does "do the trick" for me, and quite well at that!!

"Into the Remembering Sun" by The Brew: Not sure if "The Brew" was the best choice for the name of a band that sounds like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and what an "American-ized" version of Snow Patrol might be like, since those are only two bands and not a "brew" of different ones. Nevertheless, their debut song, "Into the Remembering Sun" is a good one. Perhaps the most entertaining feature about this song, aside from its dynamic sound, is how the lyrics personify natural non-living elements. The sun, of course, can't actually "remember" anything, but that is part of the poetry of "Into the Remembering Sun", whose opening verse also has the moon "give no shoulder", the wind "feel old", and the stars "find a cloud to hide behind". Almost sounds like a love song set to Native American folklore!

"Unfinished" by Ben Sollee: And yet another Springsteen-goes-indie homage for this week's blog comes from Ben Sollee, who could be described as the "lovechild" of The Boss and indie-pop violin virtuoso Andrew Bird. It's interesting to note also that "Ben" seems to be the most common name for male solo indie/alt performers, led by Ben Folds, and followed by people like Ben Harper, Ben Lee, Ben Gibbard (from Death Cab) and Ben Kweller (even band names such as "Ben's Brother" are evidence of this!) Our latest "Ben" combines Springsteen-ian guitars with a weeping, sweeping cello sound, as well as raw, passionate vocals. Given that the song's subject matter revolves around feeling incomplete, I would say that Ben has a good reason to sound as passionate as he does on "Unfinished"!

"Walk Like A Giant" by Neil Young: No more Mr. "Heart of Gold"!! Almost every Neil Young song that has come out in the 21st century (with the notable exception of "The Painter") has been a crunchy hard-rock number, and "Walk Like A Giant" is no exception! It also has a sound that doesn't sound too different from what Neil was doing in 1969 with songs like "Cowgirl In the Sand", "Down By the River", and "Cinnamon Girl", made more distinct by its whistling in between the verses. What's especially interesting here is that "Walk Like A Giant" is not only Neil's second big song of 2012, but it's also from his second big ALBUM of 2012!! Yep, he released two albums in one year! Neil is definitely walking like a giant here - a rock 'n' roll giant, that is!!