Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New songs for May 29th, 2013

here they are:

"Better Days" by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros: Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, perhaps the best nine or ten piece indie rock group since Arcade Fire, seem to have a knack for sounding like a band from the 1960's. Even their techniques for production sound like something from 45 or so years ago. Their sound leaned mostly towards folk-rock until their latest song, "Better Days", though. This song sounds more like a long lost "Sgt. Pepper" track, with its steady, marching drumbeat, swirling, psychedelic electric (gasp!) guitars, and shiny, upbeat brass section. Seems like every band is trying to veer off in a new direction these days, and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are no exception. At least they're staying true to their "retro" sound, though, which is a large part of what makes them so appealing.

"Can You Get to That?" by Mavis Staples: The soul legend, Mavis Staples, seems to have been all about cover songs in the 2010's. At the start of the decade, she did a rather roots-y rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Wrote A Song For Everyone". This time around, she's covering a Funkadelic song (which was covered earlier this year by indie-pop group, The Living Sisters, coincidentally). Her choice is interesting, considering that this is sort of a folk-rock song, which was an extremely uncommon style for Funkadelic to perform in (though Funkadelic are a pretty eclectic group, esp. when it comes to songs like the not-so-funky, 8-minute, Hendrix-ian guitar jam-fest, "Maggot Brain"). Regardless, though, Mavis injects enough soulfulness and talent to make her take on "Can You Get to That?" shine through!

"Get Lucky" by Daft Punk: Yet another retro-soul styled song, but reminiscent of a different era (it sounds a bit like a disco song circa '78), and from a group I never would have expected, either! Daft Punk are typically more of a techno group - not only in sound, but in looks as well (their members regularly dress up in robot costumes!!) The instruments don't sound very Daft Punk-ish. There is clearly an electric guitar keeping rhythm throughout the song, and nary a synthesizer in the whole thing! The "robot voice" present in most Daft Punk songs only appears twice in "Get Lucky". The vocals that take place in most of "Get Lucky" sound more...well...human!! A refreshing, unique song for the guys whom I previously knew for doing a song whose sole "lyrics" were " now now now nowww...bow now now nowwww...bow now now now nowww..."

"I Will Steal You Back" by Jimmy Eat World: In the early '00s, Jimmy Eat World had one of the catchiest power pop mega-hits with "The Middle", a song that, in my opinion, rivaled the catchiness (and, arguably, popularity) of power pop classics like "My Sharona" and "What I Like About You". However, Jimmy Eat World's other songs seemed more like that messy cross between power pop and grunge that groups like Weezer (whom I've honestly never quite warmed up to) became known for. About the closest I came to liking a Jimmy Eat World song other than "The Middle" was their surprisingly neo-folk-rock-y cover of Wham!'s "Last Christmas". That being said, I was NEVER expecting Jimmy Eat World to come out with a song like "I Will Steal You Back"!! While it is nowhere near as catchy as "The Middle", it is a lot more tolerable than most of their material to me. It starts out with an acoustic guitar, for one, an instrument that is usually not present on their material. The song builds up to a chorus that has a bit more punch to it than the verses, but still manages to remain relatively mellow, almost like one of the "lighter" songs that The Foo Fighters have done, though the vocals on "I Will Steal You Back" are a bit too harmony laced to be Foos-ish. It took almost 10 years for Jimmy Eat World to win me over again, but now they finally have!! Wonder if they'll continue in this direction?!

"Pour A Little Poison" by David Ford: One of the most bitter, sarcastic folk-rock songs I have ever known is "I Don't Care What You Call Me" by David Ford, which, up until now, was the only song I knew by him. The title alone of "Pour A Little Poison" made me think it was gonna be a similar song to "I Don't Care What You Call Me", and lyrically, it is ("Pour a little poison on my good name"), but instrumentally, it sounds like an unusually catchy Bob Dylan song, complete with a "clap-along" rhythm section, a huge departure from the world-weary sound of "I Don't Care What You Call Me". "Pour A Little Poison" is also much shorter in length, clocking in at only 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Perhaps David has been taking cues from other "sarcastic but catchy" indie-folk-rock singers, like Jake Bugg and Frank Turner. It certainly sounds that way to me!

"That's Who I Am" by Neko Case: Neko Case has always peppered her brand of alt-country with a bit of snark, and "That's Who I Am" is no exception. What makes this song different is that (surprise!!) it's actually a cover of a John Mellencamp song!! Even stranger than that is that it's from a musical that John Mellencamp wrote with Stephen King (yes, THAT Stephen King). To warp your opinion of this song even further, Neko's take on this song has a sound that suggests what it might be like if Johnny Cash started doing cabaret material!! Well it sounds like that to me, anyway. See for yourself, though!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New songs for May 15th, 2013

here they are:

“Awkward” by San Cisco: If you’re used to indie rock, there’s absolutely nothing “awkward” about this song (except maybe the pace of the way the lyrics are sung for every second line of the song, haha). “Awkward” by San Cisco combines the best of…well…a couple worlds, really. The reedy, “British Aussie” vocals of Luke Pritchard from The Kooks, the uber-catchy vibes of the typical Vampire Weekend song, the missing link between garage rock and new wave that The Strokes are known for, and the exchange between male lead vocals and female lead vocals made popular by groups like The xx are all apparent influences on “Awkward”. The lyrics of the song seem like they would have fit in perfectly with a “hipster romance” film like “Juno”, seeing how they are seemingly affectionate (but not really) lyrics sung in a dry manner. “Awkward”?! Like I said, it’s only “awkward” if you’re not into the whole indie rock thing. Otherwise, enjoy!!

"Bleeding Out" by The Lone Bellow: Those who heard The Lone Bellow's "You Never Need Nobody" probably got the impression that they were a trio of "lonesome country sweethearts". Their second big song, "Bleeding Out", still has a somewhat roots-y sound, but it's not lonesome, and not exactly sweet, either. "Bleeding Out" makes The Lone Bellow sound more like a full blown band than just a trio, what with its use of both electric and acoustic guitars, a discernible, waltz-y rhythm section, and even a brass section after each chorus! The emotional quality of The Lone Bellow's music really does "bleed out" on "Bleeding Out". Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve!

“Diamonds” by The Boxer Rebellion: If it sounds like a broken hearted indie rock song, that’s because it is. The Boxer Rebellion’s latest tune, “Diamonds”, is so called because the lead singer feels like he is “No good next to Diamonds”, in terms of his love life. Wow, that must be a drag!! Thankfully, the textured, echoing, atmospheric feel of “Diamonds” makes Nathan Nicholson’s complaints worth listening to. This song gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “diamond in the rough”!!

"Hit Or Miss" by Tom Jones: "It's not unusual to be loved by anyone", as one of Jones' most famous songs states. It is unusual, however, for Tom to take a folk-rock approach to his music! He does exactly that with "Hit Or Miss", which, in spite of its not-so-Tom-Jones-ish sound, manages to be a winner nonetheless! The song is both honest and charming, with its theme centering around how refreshing it is to just be yourself. So, is this a hit, or a miss?! Hit!! And a pretty big one, at that!

"Shameless" by Lissie: Lissie?! More like "Lizzie", as in '90s indie-pop goddess, Liz Phair! After all, that's what Lissie's latest tune, "Shameless", sounds like to me, in terms of both its gutsy alt-pop, and its defiant lyrics!! So what happened here?! Did Lissie think that the bittersweet sound of songs like "In Sleep" and "When I'm Alone" didn't carry enough musical weight?! Calm down!! You don't have to get all "You Oughta Know" on us just because you haven't become a household name yet! On a more serious note, though, "Shameless" IS a good song! However, it's probably also going to end up being a song that drives away a good portion of what Lissie's fanbase has become so far.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New songs for May 8th, 2013

here they are:

“On the Road” by Houndmouth: Bearing the same title as beat poet Jack Kerouac’s most famous novel seems like it would entail quite a bit, except “On the Road”, the song, has nothing to do with “On the Road” (the novel). The song “On the Road” is about, well, being on the road. That is, it’s about traveling, and the blues-country-rock flavored sound of “On the Road” seems to fit perfectly with the theme of the song. Another possible theme of the song is anonymity (the chorus of the song states, “I’m goin’ down, and nobody’s gonna know me”). The main point of “On the Road”, though, is that it’s basically just a feel good, traveling down the highway kind of song, and there’s nothin’ wrong with that!

“Open” by Rhye: Not since the days of groups like Frou Frou and Zero 7 (which has now been about ten years ago, as hard as that might be to believe!), has there been such a sensual, authentic smooth jazz sound in indie-pop music! Imogen Heap and Sia have nothing, vocally, on Robin Hannibal’s Sade-goes-Danish approach to singing (don’t worry she’s not a scary person, despite how her last name might sound!) Another comparison that can be made between Rhye and groups like Frou Frou and Zero 7 is that all of those groups are duos, consisting of a female lead singer and a male “backup” member, but one thing that separates Rhye from such musical acts is that they are a multi-heritage group (Robin is Danish, and Mike Milosh is Canadian). If you’ve ever wondered what the non-mainstream adolescent crowd considers to be good “make-out music”, look no further than Rhye, and their song, “Open”. You’ll be amazed!!

“Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue” by Portugal. The Man: Having a name like “Portugal. The Man” is weird enough, and now they have a song that sounds like the name of a children’s book?! Go figure!! Most of the songs that PTM did before “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue” had more of a soul inflected nature in their sound, but now, it seems as though one of the most oddly named bands in indie rock want to go for more of a quirky electronic sound that ends up sounding like a cross between The Postal Service and Gnarls Barkley. Not exactly a direction I would have predicted for Portugal. The Man, but then again, this IS a song from a CD that’s being produced by Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, so that could explain the electronic influence. Also, what’s with the “I just wanna be evil” part of the latter half of the song?! It just sounds so random!! Then again, what’s NOT random about a song whose title consists only of four colors?!

“Sad Angel” by Fleetwood Mac: If groups like The Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows did the songs on “Rumours” instead of Fleetwood Mac, it would probably sound like “Sad Angel”, the first collaborative effort from Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham in almost ten years!! It is essentially a folk-rock song, but a folk-rock song that really rocks, at least rhythmically! Lyrically, “Sad Angel” is also a winner, even its opening lyrics (“My eyes were consumed by the silence in the room/Your dreams would not wake from the words that we break”) indicate this. “Sad Angel” is no “Landslide”, but I imagine it could have enough of an impact to rein in a whole new generation of Fleetwood Mac fans!! This song really pulls at the heartstrings, so I highly recommend it to the more sensitive musicians out there!!

“Saint of Impossible Causes” by Joseph Arthur: Joseph Arthur, who has graced us with such unforgettable, bittersweet indie-folk songs like “In the Sun” and “Honey and the Moon”, sounds as though he took a time machine back to 1967 to India with Ravi Shankar and George Harrison for his latest song, “Saint of Impossible Causes”. Like most of George Harrison’s material, “Saint of Impossible Causes” features both acoustic guitar and sitar as central instruments (though it doesn’t feature any twangy slide guitar solos – sorry if I disappointed any George Harrison fans with that statement!) The song also echoes the spiritual themes that would often be found in the quiet Beatle’s material (although what else would you expect in a song with the word “saint” in the title?!) Joseph repeatedly states that he needs the “saints” of various professions and tasks to satisfy him in his quest for everlasting solitude, but he never explains who exactly these “saints” are. Such is the mystery of life, though, a mystery that is preserved with a cosmic sense of love and kindness in “Saint of Impossible Causes”.

“Things Will Change” by Treetop Flyers: “Chewin’ on a piece of grass, walkin’ down the roa-oh-oad. Say there, how long are you gonna…?” Oh whoops, wrong song!! This song could quite easily be likened to a version of America’s “Ventura Highway” for the indie rock generation, though! Even the vocals of Treetop Flyers’ lead singer sound like that of America’s Gerry Beckley. Although, with a band name like “Treetop Flyers”, the ‘70s soft rock influence should pretty much be expected (“Treetop Flyer” was the name of a song by Stephen Stills). So the next time you’re wondering what the “A Horse With No Name” guys are doing at events like Coachella, just know, you’re probably just hearing Treetop Flyers without even knowing it!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New songs for the first day of May

here they are:

"Hopeful" by Josh Ritter: Just the title of this song alone indicates happiness, and its sound does, too, but such exuberant, upbeat emotional quality is not typical of Josh Ritter's mostly melancholy musical catalog. However, Josh's poetic persona is still present on "Hopeful", though, what with its reference to Alfred Lord Tennyson (the poet famous for saying, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all") during its opening lyrics. A lot of the lyrics of "Hopeful" are just that - hopeful. That is, except for the fact that the song ends with the lyrics, "Everybody's gonna hurt like hell sometimes". Way to switch the moods on us, Josh! Just kidding, this song is a good one any which way you look at it.

"Love Letter" by Clairy Browne and The Bangin' Rackettes: Somewhere between Amy Winehouse's authentic re-styling of '60s girl group soul and the more "white soul" flavor of bands like Fitz and The Tantrums is where the sound of Clairy Browne and The Bangin' Rackettes lies on the musical map. Clairy and The Rackettes' first big song, "Love Letter" (not to be confused with the Bonnie Raitt song of the same name), sounds like it actually could have been released sometime around 1965, and no one would know the difference! There have been many bands and musicians who have joined the "neo-soul" bandwagon since sometime in the mid 2000's, so I tend to be somewhat critical of it occasionally, since it has long passed its days of being a "unique" sound. However, I think that Clairy Browne and The Bangin' Rackettes have both a "retro" sound and passionate delivery that most musicians who are trying to revive pre-rap R & B tend to lack in their performances. This song just screams "retro" all over the place, really, from its colorful band name, to its amount of members, which come close to the amount that groups like Chicago and Sly & The Family Stone had!

"The War Within" by Churchill: When reviewing Churchill's breakthrough song, "Change", back in September of last year, I remarked that "Churchill" sounded more like the name of a folk-rock group than an alt-pop group. Perhaps "Change" was an anomaly for Churchill, though, since "The War Within" actually DOES sound like a folk-rock song, without all the disco and No Doubt-style influence that "Change" had. The guy-girl harmonies and banjo based sound can draw easy comparisons to groups like The Lumineers and The Civil Wars, which is not what I would have expected to hear from Churchill back when "Change" was a big song. "The War Within"'s message of having hope through the hard times and starting anew seems to make Churchill sound more like what the name of their group evokes in my mind, which is not a church, or a hill, but there is something about a name like "Churchill" that makes it sound kind of old-time-y. It would be nice to hear the band continue in this direction for their future material, but if they decide to go some other direction with it, then that's fine, too.