Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Songs for the day before Valentine's Day

Well, ok, so not all of these are love songs, but I'll review 'em anyway! Here goes:

"Follow the Road" by The Dunwells: With the strength of their first big hit, "I Could Be A King", I initially thought that The Dunwells were like an American version of Mumford and Sons, but now that I'm getting to know the brothers Dunwell a little better, I can see that they are much more eclectic than that! No song proves their willingness to be different more than their latest song, "Follow the Road". It even starts out kinda cool, with its vaguely sitar-ish psych-folk sound. It quickly turns into a roots-rocker of the finest quality, with a wicked guitar solo to boot! As "bluegrass-rock" has quickly become the latest, hippest trend in rock music of the 2010's, The Dunwells really put the "rock" in "bluegrass-rock", at least for "Follow the Road", and how!!

"From A Window Seat" by Dawes: One of the two most anticipated new releases of the week (along with the latest from blue-eyed soul group Fitz and The Tantrums), "From A Window Seat" by Dawes shows Taylor Goldsmith and co's ever growing fascination for the roots-y side of classic rock (perhaps this was partly influenced by the members actually MEETING Jackson Browne, and then collaborating with him shortly afterwards). It's a bit more bouncy and upbeat than the typical Dawes song, and it seems to echo both the beat and style of guitar playing from songs like "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits. Lyrically, Dawes seem to be stretching their boundaries on "From A Window Seat". Instead of waxing poetic about "judg(ing) the whole world on the sparkle that you think it lacks", or talking about someone with that "special kind of sadness", far more surreal imagery concerning "dreams of captains and explorers eating boots" (whatever THAT means!!) comes up instead. Go figure!!

"Gone Gone Gone" by Phillip Phillips: With the word "Gone" mentioned three times and the name "Phillip" mentioned twice, saying the name of this song and artist out loud seems kinda funny, but the person who is (so far) "American Idol's" sole folk-rocker is no comedian. It's honestly unbelievable to me that Phillip would have another song besides "Home" getting attention, since "Home" was in so many places in the fall of 2012 that it seemed like one of those songs that just couldn't be topped. Though "Gone Gone Gone" hasn't had near the level of success "Home" has so far, Phillip Phillips seems to know what the basic formula is for having one of his songs becoming a hit. Positive message ("I'll love you long after you're gone")? Check! Acoustic guitar in the verses and bright shiny horns in the chorus? Check! A bouncy, irresistible earworm of a song? Well, "Gone Gone Gone" is different than that. It's a bit more poignant than it is happy, but there is still plenty of charm and warm, cozy vibes to be found in "Gone Gone Gone"!

"Good Love" by Jenny O: The echo-y acoustic guitars, funky beat, and honey-sweet vocals of Jenny O's breakthrough song, "Good Love", could liken her to being like an indie Fleetwood Mac (though plenty of people have taken that title already, most notably Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley). The fact that "Good Love" uses only two chords (E minor and A minor) makes it a bit more minimalistic than Fleetwood Mac, but it still sounds like a song that came straight out of the mid-'70s for some reason. Simple though it may be, "Good Love" still has that sort of organic, earthy honesty that provides a breath of fresh air in comparison to most songs of the 2010's. Not much more to say about this song, aside from how sometimes, the easiest approach to crafting a song can also the best approach.

"Inch of Rope" by Courrier: "Inch of Rope", the second major song from British sounding alt-pop group, Courrier, seems to pick up where The Airborne Toxic Event (also listed for this week's blog) left off. Where The Airborne Toxic Event seemed to want to take more of a generic alt-pop route to music, Courrier dabble in a more honest brand of what sounds like Brit-pop (though they are actually Texans) that has become scarce in a world full of piano-based Coldplay and Keane sound-alikes. A kind of contemplation is present in Courrier's music that actually makes me feel drawn to it, and about the only bands I really find comparable to them at the moment are groups like Scars on 45 and A Silent Film (both of whom are ACTUALLY British). Courrier are a rarity in this day and age, but perhaps sometimes, good things are better when they're a rarity.

"Out of My League" by Fitz and The Tantrums: Fitz and The Tantrums first broke through in fall of 2010, with their soulful alt-pop/rock mega-hit, "MoneyGrabber", known for its Motown-esque "white soul" sound. For their latest song, the heavily anticipated "Out of My League", Fitz and co shake things up a bit by adding a bit of new wave influence, while still keeping a bit of R & B at the core of their sound. Perhaps the small but still somewhat significant trend of "new wave soul" in bands like Graffiti6 and Electric Guest was part of what made Fitz and The Tantrums want to add more of a new wave-y sound into their own music. Hall and Oates are one of Fitz and The Tantrums biggest heroes, though (they even recorded some music at Daryl Hall's house once!) and it seems like that's who FATT are trying to emulate the most on "Out of My League". Hall and Oates made a similar transition between the '70s and the '80s from being "blue-eyed soul" to being more new wave influenced, so that would make sense. Though "Out of My League" doesn't seem like it will have near the impact "MoneyGrabber" did, it's still well worth the listen!

"Roots and Vine" by Sons of Fathers: Both the name of this song and the name of this band bring to mind a sort of folks-y, 19th century America kinda vibe, don't they?! Well, that's not too far from the truth, in this case! At least in terms of the roots-y, accordion laden music, it isn't. The song itself seems to be more of a "drinking song", though, particularly during the chorus ("You're the roots and I'm the vine, together we can make the wine"). Like Courrier (reviewed earlier during this week's blog), Sons of Fathers are a Texan band. Unlike Courrier, Sons of Fathers actually SOUND Texan. Lead singer Paul Cauthen's Texan heritage are an obvious reason why "Roots and Vine" sounds the way it does. A less obvious influence on Cauthen's music, for those who are interested, is how he spent time on a chain gang when he was younger. Talk about your American history!

"Timeless" by The Airborne Toxic Event: There isn't really anything "timeless" about the way The Airborne Toxic Event's latest song sounds, as it doesn't stand a chance against "Sgt. Pepper", "Pet Sounds", and other songs/albums that truly ARE "timeless". However, there's still a good reason why the song has the title it does, and it's quite touching, really. It is because that is the way lead singer Mikel Jollett feels about his grandmother, who was recently deceased. Somehow, I feel like "Timeless" could have been a much more effectively melancholy song, but still, it deserves an A for effort, since it's the first song I know of by The Airborne Toxic Event that deals with death, and the death of someone terribly close, at that.