Hi everyone! Sorry I missed out on posting some songs to review here yesterday but I was a bit busier than I expected to be. Anyway, I'm not as busy now, so here are this week's latest songs. Enjoy!
"I Wonder" by Brittany Howard (from Alabama Shakes) and Ruby Amanfu: Sixto Rodriguez (better known simply by his last name), the 1960's folk-rock musician who was barely known in the U.S. until the documentary "Searching For Sugar Man" came out, doesn't seem like he'd be very likely to have someone influenced by soul and jazz, like Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard, covering his work, but now she has, along with singer/songwriter Ruby Amanfu. Considering what a soul inflected beat the original song has (slightly reminiscent of John Lennon's "Nobody Told Me"), it's definitely a more fitting choice for a Brittany Howard cover song than, say, the more folk-rock-y, sedate song, "Sugar Man", which could be said to be Rodriguez' other "hit". Towards the middle of Brittany's version of "I Wonder", the song segues into a reggae beat, perhaps simply because she and/or Ruby Amanfu wanted it to sound that way, as there is nothing remotely Marley-esque about any of Rodriguez' music. Another way that this version of "I Wonder" can be distinguished from its more gentle, baroque-ish 1960's counterpart is by its use of fuzzed out, Dan Auerbach-ish blues-garage rock electric guitar sound. One more thing worth mentioning is that this is the second time that Alabama Shakes' lead singer has been associated with an indie flick ("Searching For Sugar Man"), the first being "Silver Linings Playbook", with Alabama Shakes' "Always Alright" being her contribution to that film.
"Just Make It Stop" by Low: Like The Killers, Low are one of the rare indie/alt bands that just happen to be Mormon. Unlike The Killers, Low have never made even the slightest attempt to sound commercial. Low are a band that seem to live up to their name, in a couple ways. Their ranking is probably "low" as far as how well-known they are, and their sound is also pretty "low" (as opposed to upbeat). Yet none of these factors have stopped Low from making music, and thank goodness for that! Their latest song, "Just Make It Stop", sounds like Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins singing lead vocals for a Bon Iver song. It is never made quite clear what "it" is in "Just Make It Stop", but it probably refers to depression or some other negative emotion, considering how detached both the music and the vocals sound for this song. In spite of its gloomy nature, though, "Just Make It Stop" is actually a catchy song, in its own, weird way, and it is also written in major key. Perhaps that's why it's getting more attention than most of Low's other material.
"Love Has Come For You" by Edie Brickell and Steve Martin: Did you ever think it was possible for a wisecracking goofball like Steve Martin to have a chance with a more artfully minded, reserved person like Edie Brickell?! I'm guessing you probably thought it was about as likely as Jim Carrey doing a project with Natalie Merchant. That's what I thought, until I heard this song! For those who forgot (or simply didn't know), Steve Martin once had a bluegrass band called The Steep Canyon Rangers, which is probably why his (and Edie's) song, "Love Has Come For You" sounds like something that came straight from the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack! While bluegrass music is nothing new for Steve Martin, "Love Has Come For You" marks what is perhaps the first time since his late '70s novelty hit, "King Tut", that he has had a specific song that has gotten noticed by certain radio stations. As for Edie Brickell, jumping from folk-rock (even that of a more jazzy, "alternative" nature, like "What I Am") to bluegrass really isn't that far of a stretch if you stop and think about it!
"Love to Get Used" by matt pond PA: Yet another indie rock tale about love gone wrong. Matt pond (whose first and last name are both lowercase, like k.d. lang and e.e. cummings) has been writing songs like this long before it became a trend in indie music, though. There are also certain ways matt tries to keep it real in this song, too, from what I can see. For instance, the chorus of the song mentions the names of birds (blackbirds and hawks, specifically), but it is unknown as to why the birds' names are being evoked in the song, which gives the listener a lot more to think about when hearing the song than just pontificating over lovelorn emotions. Also, the two verses of the song both open with the words, "in Athabasca", the name of a Canadian university, which brings matt closer to the ranks of bands like Vampire Weekend, who name dropped Oxford in their "Oxford Comma" (though that is probably a much better known university than Athabasca, at least here in the U.S. it is).
"99 Shades of Crazy" by JJ Grey and Mofro: 99 shades of crazy?! That's almost twice the amount of shades of grey (and a whole heck of a lotta crazy, too!!) JJ Grey and Mofro have always had a thing for blues and jazz music, but this song pushes them slightly closer to rock 'n' roll, with its driving beat, chunky guitars, and its almost Stones-y take on organ driven R & B music. I'm thinking that the kind of "crazy" mentioned in the song might the kind of "cool" crazy one hears of in beatnik poetry and jazz music, especially considering that JJ is referring to HIMSELF (as opposed to an object of his affections) as "99 Shades of Crazy". Now that I think of it, this song could be as many shades of crazy as it is shades of rock 'n' roll! I already mentioned the Stones influence in this song, but I can also detect some Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin influence (another review I read of this song even brought up how the song sounds like it could have been from 1970's rock group, Grand Funk Railroad). Well that's four shades of "crazy" right there. Maybe I'll let you know what the other 95 are when I have time to figure 'em out!!
"Nothing Arrived" by Villagers: An "existential indie rock quandary" might be a good way to describe this song. The oddly worded but curious chorus of the song states that The Villagers' lead singer, "waited for something, and something died", so his solution was to "wait for nothing, and nothing arrived". Almost seems like what you'd get if you mixed Radiohead's "Karma Police" with Samuel Beckett's "Waiting For Godot". Radiohead's Mr. Yorke and literature's Mr. Beckett might seem like they're worlds apart, but I think that, in their own way, they were both philosophers of their time, and music can be a philosophical medium, so it's not much of a surprise, really, that the seemingly distant lands of rock music and philosophy met up with each other in The Villagers' "Nothing Arrived". It's still quite a cosmic, profound meeting of the minds though, I must say!
"Safe And Sound" by Capital Cities: Mixing electronica and rock has become somewhat of a trend in indie rock music, especially in bands like Phoenix, The Postal Service, and Foster the People. There doesn't seem to be a "rock" element in Capital Cities' "Safe And Sound", though, it just seems to be pure electronica, which I ordinarily do not like. Yet SOMETHING has me drawn to this song! What, though?! Perhaps part of it is how it has a soothing sound, in spite of its artificial beats and pulsating synths. Another thing I like about it is how a brass instrument gets thrown into the mix seemingly at random, yet it actually fits in with the rest of the song! It almost sounds like what it would be like if The Human League's "Don't You Want Me?" got a British dance hall makeover! Not too fond of any of those sorts of things either, so, again, I must ask myself, why DO I like this song?! I guess I'll never know!!