Whew!! Had a lot of catching up to do within the past couple weeks, so much so that I missed some good ones from December that I'm just now starting to pay attention to. So here they are:
"Cut Me Some Slack" by Paul McCartney, Pat Smear (Foo Fighters), and the remaining members of Nirvana: Paul McCartney and WHO?!? I like Paul McCartney, and I like Nirvana, but putting them together is like having jalapeno flavored ice cream!! Or so I thought before I actually heard the song. Although Macca is mostly known for softer material, he can crank out a solid hard rocker every once in a while (just look at The Beatles' "Helter Skelter", which McCartney sang the lead vocals on!!) Sir Paul lets out a primal scream of angst throughout "Cut Me Some Slack". Sure, Paul's no Kurt Cobain, but he must have been channeling Kurt's spirit (or maybe John Lennon's) when he did this song. After listening to "Cut Me Some Slack", all I can say is, "I've got blisters on me fingers!!"
"Hang Loose" by Alabama Shakes: A catchy Creedence Clearwater Revival style guitar riff, Memphis soul saxophones, and raw, passionate vocals that would make Janis Joplin proud can only mean one thing. Alabama Shakes are back again!! For their third major song, "Hang Loose", they do exactly as the title says. That is to say, Brittany Howard and co just take things easy in "Hang Loose", a song that is as mellow as it is danceable and soulful. My only complaint about this song is that it's only two and a half minutes long. I wish it were longer!!
"Joy to You Baby" by Josh Ritter: The song's title might indicate "joy", but the song itself is more of a melancholy one, though I've come to expect this from Josh Ritter. It's what makes his music likable, after all. Ritter's clever lyrical imagery, however, is what makes his latest song, "Joy to You Baby", so memorable. For instance, he sings about how, when he goes to parties, he drinks "cups of who cares", and how ghosts in the graveyard float between "what is" and "what if". Of course, the song wouldn't be complete without his capoed acoustic guitar either, as that is central to both the mood and the melody of the song. "Joy to You Baby" is as lovely as it is witty, a rare, but certainly enjoyable feat in music these days!
"New Alphabet" by Eels: New alphabet?! OK!! Z Y X, W V, U T S, R Q P!! Oh wait, it's not THAT kind of "new alphabet"?! Oh. What Mark Everett (better known simply as "E") means by "new alphabet" is (probably) that he wants a new way to express himself "When the words just sound like noise", and "when the world stops making sense". Like most of The Eels' material, "New Alphabet" sounds like the kind of song Beck might do, both vocally, lyrically, and instrumentally (but keep in mind that Eels have been around since 1996, a mere three years after Beck's debut in the music scene, so it's not exactly a "rip-off"). Most of the songs Eels have done within the past couple years have a soft, almost billowy sound to them. "New Alphabet" has a bit more "meat" on it, so to speak, but it's still as melodic as ever, and it has a neat little plucked string section between the verses and chorus.
"Nowhere, Massachusetts" by Black Prairie: When it comes to country-rock, the music is usually a bit more upbeat than its plain ol' country counterpart, but Black Prairie are different than that (what else would you expect from a band whose first known song was called "How Do You Ruin Me?") Country-rock probably hasn't been this sad (and especially with such authentic sadness) since the late '60s, when The Flying Burrito Brothers did their tearjerker of a song, "Hot Burrito # 1". "Nowhere, Massachusetts" is even sadder than that, at least in terms of its lonesome, homesick sound. The acoustic guitar and vocals at the beginning are already bittersweet enough, and it only gets more so from there, especially with the sighing violin in the song. This was the very last "new" song I heard in 2012, so I guess it's only fitting that it sounds like a "goodbye song".
"The John Wayne" by Little Green Cars: THE John Wayne?! Not sure why there's an article preceding the title, because it makes it sound like the latest dance craze (as in, "Come on everybody, let's do The John Wayne!") However, "The John Wayne" is FAR from a dance craze. It is, instead, a bittersweet sounding song about how it's "easy to fall in love", and the dangers that come with doing so. The title of the song comes from how the lead singer feels "shot down" (as though he's in a John Wayne movie) by the one he has fallen in love with. More melancholia?! Sounds like more music for me to become enamored with!!
"Two Fingers" by Jake Bugg: Aside from his last name, one of the most memorable things about Jake Bugg is that he's only 18 years old!! He sounds like he's in his late 20's or early 30's, but he isn't, and he's also British (take THAT, One Direction!!) It's also pretty easy to get the impression that Jake probably enjoys his parents' music more than that of his own generation, since he sounds like a cross between The Beatles and Bob Dylan. "Two Fingers" is also a very deep and somewhat depressing song, lyrically. No one I know of has written a song like this in their teens since Jackson Browne did with "These Days" when he was only a year younger than Jake!