Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New songs for June 19th, 2013

here they are:

"The One That Got Away" by The Civil Wars: The second album from The Civil Wars, a folk-rock duo comprised of one guy and one girl, is finally out. Its first single, "The One That Got Away", sticks to a lot of the bluegrass and folk influences that The Civil Wars have had for a while now, but it has a considerably "darker" sound. "The One That Got Away" could be considered the first Civil Wars song that is truly "folk-rock" for its use of both acoustic and electric guitars (and drums, another instrument previously unheard of in a lot of their material). The song's instrumentation, along with its rather brooding sound, remind me more of an acoustic Led Zeppelin song ("The Battle of Evermore" and "Gallows Pole" both come to mind here) than they do of The Civil Wars. Not a bad direction for the band to go in, though, and who knows, it must just set the template for the next Mumford & Sons or Lumineers album!!

"You Can't Be Told" by Valerie June: The typically folk-y Valerie June doesn't sound so folk-y here, which is ironic, considering that this is the first song that's gotten significant attention from her. There's a reason for "You Can't Be Told"'s blues-y snarl, though, and that is because of how The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach produced it. The particular blues-rock sound used on "You Can't Be Told" brings to mind a lot of bands from the '60s and early '70s who used that same sound, such as The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Allman Brothers Band (The Allmans' cover of "Trouble No More", especially, since it has the same rhythm and distortion as this song does). Though the song only lasts a little over three minutes, it still delivers a powerful, spicy sound. As with most blues-rock songs, "You Can't Be Told" is more about the instrumentation, rhythm, and raw vocal quality, than it is about the lyrics of the song, but that should be enough to get people to like it. It worked for me!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New songs for June 12th, 2013

here they are:

"Born Again" by Robert Randolph: Funk, jazz, blues, and rock is the kind of musical gumbo you can expect from Robert Randolph and The Family Band!! It's been about 7 years since Robert last released a CD with The Family Band, though, so I was curious to know if his musical blend still held up well. Not only does his latest song, "Born Again", retain an eclectic musical sound, but it's also incredibly fun to dance to! It has a catchy rhythm. When Randolph says in the chorus of the song that he feels "born again", I think he's referring to more than just the religious sense of the term (if that). I think he's also feeling "born again" musically, as anyone should when listening to a song like this!!

"Don't Want Lies" by The Rides: The name of this band made me think it was another up and coming indie group, but the voice of Stephen Stills (yes, THAT Stephen Stills) on "Don't Want Lies" is unmistakable!! Blues-rock aficionado Kenny Wayne Shepherd is also a part of this group, a supergroup as it turns out (I guess it's the second one Stills has had since Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young!!) Like the typical CSN & Y song, "Don't Want Lies" uses both electric and acoustic guitars. The acoustic guitars, with their crisp sound, would not have sounded too out of place on a mid-'70s CSN album, and the blues-y electric noodling is brimming with the signature sound of Kenny Wayne Shepherd. And here I thought Neil Young was the only musically active member left of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Guess I was wrong!! "Don't Want Lies" is a mellow song, but it also has a dynamic enough sound to possibly become a future concert favorite!

"Man" by Neko Case: Neko Case's music has been referred to as "indie rock" and "country rock", but the "rock" element has never been that apparent in her music. Until now, that is! "Man" is quite a "man"-ly song, if you know what I mean!! Perhaps it could be said that both the lyrics and the music of "Man" are an attempt at redefining gender roles. Rock 'n' roll has had its fair share of women before, but usually, phrases like "I'm a man" aren't present in the music of female rockers. That very phrase is the most repeated one (and perhaps, the most defining one) in Neko Case's "Man". This song is not the typical Neko Case song, by any means!! She even throws in a couple choice swears towards the end of the song, which I don't remember her doing in any of her other songs. "Man" rocks hard and pushes boundaries!! Who knew?! I sure didn't!!

"Part of Me" by The Tedeschi-Trucks Band: Yet another talented rock 'n' roll woman from the past decade or so is the blues-y, soulful, Susan Tedeschi! "Part of Me" places more emphasis on soul than on blues or rock, though. Tedeschi's signature slide guitar sound is still present on the song, but most of it just sounds like Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" with the gender roles reversed. Tedeschi and Trucks typically have upbeat music to begin with, but "Part of Me" is probably the most upbeat song they've had together so far! I don't think it's too much of a stretch to describe this song as the first feel-good jam of summer 2013!!

"Royals" by Lorde: This "Lorde" is a lady!! And a very young one, at that (she's 16 years old, believe it or not!!) Unlike the other songs I've chosen to review for this week, there is more emphasis on vocals and rhythm than there are on instruments for "Royals". Nevertheless, there is something quite alluring about "Royals". Perhaps it's the smooth, slinky vocals of Ella Yelich O'Connor (whom, by herself, is "Lorde" - it's her stage name, not the name of a band), or the way the chorus just burns its way into your subconscious when you're trying to concentrate on something else during the day!! At first listen, "Royals" probably just seems like your everyday pop song, but it seems to have this vibe that is both icy and smooth underneath. If you want your Top 40 music to have a bit more sizzle to it, then I highly recommend "Royals"!

"Stockholm" by Jason Isbell: Perhaps both the mellowest and most bittersweet of the songs I have set to review for this week, "Stockholm" marks the second time I've heard a solo release from alt-country group, Drive-By Truckers (the first being Patterson Hood's "Disappear" from last year). Between this song and the Patterson Hood song, I can tell that the Truckers have some talented, accomplished poets in their group! Examples of some of the (mostly) metaphorical, poignant lyrics of Jason's "Stockholm" include lines like, "Ships on the harbor and birds on the bluff don't move an inch when their anchor goes up, and the difference with me is I'm falling in love, Stockholm, let me go home". I love how this song utilizes the themes of loneliness and homesickness in such a playful manner. Highly recommended!!

"Wanna Feel It" by The Olms: Last, but certainly not least, is a song that comes from what you would get if you combined an indie musician (Pete Yorn) with an indie AUTHOR (J.D. King)!! Clearly Pete Yorn is taking the lead in this song by a band whose name refers to an obscure species of amphibian (an olm), with his vocals dominating the song, and his brand of bittersweet, moody folk-rock giving the song its direction. One thing that's not so Pete Yorn-ish about "Wanna Feel It" is its use of Moog synthesizer, creating a psychedelic, hypnotic swirl in the song (J.D.'s idea, perhaps?!) In any case, "Wanna Feel It" makes me...well...wanna feel it!! That is, it makes me wanna feel good!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

New songs for June 5th, 2013

here they are:

"College" by Rogue Wave: "College", eh?! Perfect song title for a guy who has just moved on to a four-year college (me!!) Anyway, this also happens to be a very good song, especially for those who are used to Rogue Wave being an indie-folk-rock group, as opposed to the more techno influenced sound they opted for back in 2010. So glad they are back to the sound they do best!! A jangly guitar sound, slightly reminiscent of R.E.M. circa the mid '80s, rings throughout the song, though the sound starts to gradually fade out towards the end of it. As a matter of fact, even lead singer Zach Rogue's vocals seem influenced by Michael Stipe on this track (once again, specifically reminiscent of mid '80s R.E.M. songs), as the vocals are both melodic and garbled, like those on Stipe's earlier works. It's easier to tell what Rogue is saying during the chorus, as he picks out the word "knowledge" for a somewhat cliche, but still memorable rhyme for the title of the song.

"Every Little Thing" by Eric Clapton: Not exactly the most rockin' song for Clapton, but still one worth checking out. "Every Little Thing" actually serves as a nice little combination of Clapton's folk/country influenced side during the verses, and his flirtations with reggae during the chorus. Yes, he DOES have a reggae side to his material, and not just his cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff", either. His cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" also has a reggae sound, and he even did a duet with Bob Marley once called "Slogans". The chorus of "Every Little Thing" is probably its saving grace, actually, as it lifts up the song enough rhythmically to make it a more enjoyable song to hear. The weird part about this song is how a chorus of children come in out of nowhere towards the end of it. Huh?! "Rastaman Clapton" doesn't seem to flow as well for me as blues-y, rockin' Clapton, but "Every Little Thing" is not among his worst material either.

"6 A.M." by Fitz and The Tantrums: Like their last big song, "Out of My League", Fitz and The Tantrums once again have made the jump from the best Motown band that never was to the best Hall and Oates tribute band that never was. Ummm...that is, if Hall and Oates got an indie-pop makeover. The combination of new wave and soul music is actually even more apparent on "6 A.M." than it was on "Out of My League". The sax in the song provides the more soulful side of it, while the synth on the song not only gives it a new wave-y sound, but it also seems to be the main instrument in the song! "6 A.M." actually contains synth SOLOS, which I never thought I'd hear from a group like Fitz and The Tantrums. From what I've read, Fitz and The Tantrums apparently think that guitars are an overrated instrument, but I would rather hear guitar solos than synth solos, myself. Perhaps something to keep in mind for their next album?! Soul music with guitars can work, just ask the guys from Funkadelic!

"Soothe My Soul" by Depeche Mode: Hmmmm...this is weird!! I NEVER thought I'd be reviewing a Depeche Mode song on my blog, yet here I am, doing exactly that! The closest I would come to being a Depeche Mode fan would be the songs on their late '80s/early '90s smash album, "Violator", which contains songs like "Personal Jesus", "Policy of Truth", and "Enjoy the Silence", all of which used electric guitars, despite the fact that DM were primarily viewed as a "synthesizer band" at the time. While there are no guitars I can hear clearly enough in "Soothe My Soul", it DOES sound an awful lot like "Personal Jesus" in terms of the rhythm of the song. Perhaps the fact that "Soothe My Soul" has a familiar sounding rhythm is what I like best about it. Other than that, it just kinda sounds like your typical song from "Depressed Mode" (as one DJ for an alt-rock station decided to call them, heheh). Once again, I feel like this song COULD use a bit more guitar, but then again, that's probably because I play guitar, and have done so for over 10 years now.

"Trying to Be Cool" by Phoenix: I once read that one of Phoenix's fave bands is Electric Light Orchestra. It was a little hard for me to believe that until I heard "Trying to Be Cool", which has a very similar A minor chord progression (and rhythm) to ELO's "Evil Woman". Rest assured, though, Phoenix is still Phoenix, they haven't switched their Talking Heads-ish brand of danceable indie-pop to '70s prog-rock. "Trying to Be Cool" isn't as catchy as most of Phoenix's material, but it's definitely still catchy! Lyrically, "Trying to Be Cool" is a pretty weird song!! What exactly IS "mint julep testosterone", and "two dozen pink and white ranunculus" (also, what IS a "ranunculus" in the first place)?! Such is the appeal of Phoenix, though. Their lyrics don't need to make sense, as long as the tune of the song is good, and, as usual, it is!!

"Unbelievers" by Vampire Weekend: And I thought "Diane Young" was a "retro" sounding song from VW!! That song sounds positively modern compared to their "Unbelievers", though, which has a piano based sound reminiscent of some of The Beatles' more piano based songs. I'm used to Ezra Koenig and co imitating the sounds of The Police, Bob Marley, Peter Gabriel, and "Graceland" era Paul Simon, but this takes the band to an era about 10 years before music like that became known! As the title of the song indicates, "Unbelievers" deals with topics like religion and fate, yet it sounds like such a happy song, that it makes me want to get up and do a Snoopy dance!!