Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New songs for July 31st, 2013

here they are:

"Better Man" by Beth Hart: Not to be confused with the Pearl Jam song of the same name, Beth Hart's "Better Man" continues in the blues-y direction that Beth has been more actively pursuing in the 2010's. Beneath its pop-y beat and uptempo piano sound beat the heart of "Better Man", which can be defined by Beth's gutsy, passionate vocals, and its electric guitar based sound that blends country, rock, and blues into one spicy, catchy musical gumbo! A sizzling ode to whoever Beth's current lover happens to be, "Better Man" is great at capturing the jubilation anyone feels when they finally find the one they want to spend the rest of their life with!

"The Dream's In the Ditch" by Deer Tick: Deer Tick are one of the more roots-y indie bands whose sound owes more to Bob Dylan and Neil Young than it does The Velvet Underground and The Beatles. As far as I can tell, though, between their 2011 song, "Main Street", and their most recent song, "The Dream's In the Ditch", one of Deer Tick's biggest influences is none other than The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen! "The Dream's In the Ditch" evokes early Springsteen, in particular, with its vaguely "Thunder Road"-ish chimes and guitars (though that colorful, tinkling piano solo in the middle is purely Deer Tick's own!) The subject matter of "The Dream's In the Ditch" is not uncommon to the roots-y side of classic rock either. It's basically a song about the ups and downs of touring on the road, not unlike Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty", or The Grateful Dead's "Truckin'". Happy trails!!

"Thirst" by City and Colour: It seems as though Canada's one man indie band, Dallas Green (or "City and Colour"), tired of the neo-folk-rock schtick about a year before it became big on alt-rock stations. He started with the folks-y "Sleeping Sickness", and has gone for a fuzzier, more rock based sound ever since (with the exception of the largely acoustic, "The Grand Optimist"). Dallas' latest song, "Thirst", continues in the more contemporary rock 'n' roll direction that he seems to want to become more known for. "Thirst" has what could be called a "White Stripes lite" distortion in its guitar sound, while the beat of the song is closer to Gary Numan's proto-synth-pop classic, "Cars". The lyrics in "Thirst" would not seem out of place for Dallas' former band, the hardcore "screamo" group, Alexisonfire (Alex is on fire), with its mentions of "fates worse than death", "an ocean of anger", and being "gracefully cursed".

"Walk Us Uptown" by Elvis Costello, featuring The Roots: For a musician, "The Three R's" are probably rock, rhythm, and rap, and this song just happens to have all three!! And you thought that the coolest connects between rock and rap ended with The Beastie Boys, and Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith's collaboration of "Walk This Way"?! Well, think again!! Rocker Elvis Costello and hip-hop group, The Roots (both of whom are quite eclectic for their respective genres), have now come together in an unlikely, but quite catchy musical teaming, in "Walk Us Uptown". The song marks a high point for both musicians, with its sleek, street-smart vibe, and its seemingly effortless combining of jazzy horns, reggae influenced rhythm guitars, the occasional use of shattering, blues influenced lead guitars, and its smooth hip-hop beat. Is it just me, or has Elvis Costello gotten hipper as he's gotten older?!

"Where We Came From" by Phillip Phillips: "American Idol"'s number one musical oddity is now up for a THIRD hit song on adult alt radio stations. If it were any other contestant on the show, I probably wouldn't care, but this is Phillip Phillips we're talking about here, who has clearly mastered the Mumford-ian way of playing acoustic guitar in songs like "Home" and "Gone Gone Gone". His third major song, "Where We Came From", doesn't have the graceful, finger-picked sound of his other two songs, instead opting for more of a half folk, half blues type sound, a la Dave Matthews (supposedly one of Phillip's biggest influences). The cello in "Where We Came From" adds a nice touch to it, too, making it distinguishable from his other material. The "precious" element in many of his songs shows up more in the lyrics than the song itself in "Where We Came From", especially given its nature related imagery (i.e. mountains, shores, moon, sun, etc.) in the chorus. Once again, Phillips has won peoples' hearts more than he has a reality show contest, and I hope he continues to do so!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New songs for July 24th, 2013

here they are:

"Follow My Feet" by The Unlikely Candidates: In the 2010's, there have been two ways to define "alternative" and "indie" rock so far. There's the folks-y way that groups like Mumford and Sons have set a trend for, and then there's the more pop-y one used by groups like fun. The Unlikely Candidates have somehow combined both of these styles into one song with their debut song, "Follow My Feet". All three verses of this song deal with making hard decisions, but ultimately choosing to go in the direction that feels the most natural and correct for the person doing so, or, as the song says, to "follow (one's) feet". Perhaps "follow my heart" would have made more sense, but a little alliteration never hurt anyone!

"Neon Eyes" by Saints of Valory: With the best post-U2 "anthem rock" songs (The Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around Midnight" and The Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition") having both come out 4 years ago, do you think maybe it's time we had another such song to grace the alternative and adult alt charts?! Well, the guys from Saints of Valory certainly seem to think so! "Neon Eyes" has a sound that is both earnest and catchy, much like how a lot of U2's material tends to be. Though the guitar in "Neon Eyes" doesn't have the signature ringing sound that The Edge's has, it still sounds vibrant and echo-y throughout. It repeats the same riff throughout the song, but with different chords being played in the background.

"One Heart" by Leftover Cuties: Somewhere between Zooey Deschanel's "innocently" sassy attitude in She & Him, and the jazzed up alt-pop of April Smith and The Great Picture Show, is where the sound of Leftover Cuties can be properly defined. Lead singer Shirli McAllen cleverly croons about "How much hurt can one heart take?" and "How many times can one heart break?" over an infectious groove that is anything but melancholy in "One Heart"! Definitely not a mopey song, by any means, in fact it is probably more energetic than any song on my list of reviews for this week! I dunno about you, but my heart can take this song pretty well. In fact, I think it can't get enough of Shirli's sexy, swingin' setup for this sizzlin' summer song!

"Supersoaker" by Kings of Leon: No, this has nothing to do with the water gun toy known as "Supersoaker"!! However, that name is a suitable one, considering the summer-y vibe that the more energetic Kings of Leon songs (including this one) tend to have! And, might I add, "Supersoaker" has made quite a "splash" on the alternative and adult alt charts in the past week, perhaps more than any other song for the month so far! Okay, enough with the bad puns, and on with the song. As it has been with the past two KOL albums, "Supersoaker" is from a CD whose first single is irresistibly catchy!! The song is full of references to the good ol' U-S-of-A ("Down in the Delta, they're ringing the bells", "The flags are flying across the Plains", etc.), perhaps appropriate, given how its month of release is the same as America's month of independence. As for bad puns, it seems as though KOL themselves appreciate one now and again, as in the chorus's "Red, white, and BLEW 'em all away"! Hardy har harr!!

"Ways to Go" by Grouplove: Summer just seems to be the perfect season for Grouplove's music!! Last year, their irresistibly pop-y "Tongue Tied" became an anthem for the season (though it was actually released in late spring). Their latest song, "Ways to Go" is another song to get the corners of your mouth smiling and your feet moving! Perhaps the most appealing (and strange) thing about "Ways to Go", though, is its video. Most of it centers around a lookalike of Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Quite weird, and rather incongruous for such a happy sounding song, but towards the end of the video, we see a Korean soldier with a flower at the end of his gun. "Springtime For Hitler", anyone?! Also, check out the wild, '60s influenced hairdos on both lead singer, Christian Zucconi and backing vocalist Hannah Hooper! Hannah looks soooo darn cute in that skeleton outfit, too!! The video can be viewed at Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New songs for July 17th, 2013

here they are:

"Mind Your Manners" by Pearl Jam: In spite of what songs like "Just Breathe" and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town" might indicate, Pearl Jam are not always a band who plays nice. After all, they were a major part of the grunge era, and they had an ongoing feud with Ticketmaster back in the day. Their latest song, "Mind Your Manners", is probably their hardest rocking song since "Even Flow". This song does not concern itself with melody or harmony much at all, which most of Pearl Jam's songs do. Eddie Vedder has never been more openly atheistic or antagonistic as he has in this song. Other than the fact that Pearl Jam are typically a hot item for adult alt playlists, I'm not exactly sure what "Mind Your Manners" is doing on so many adult alt stations. The intensity of this song makes all the songs on Led Zeppelin's fourth album sound like they were done by a folk band (including "Stairway to Heaven" in its entirety).

"Mystic Highway" by John Fogerty: And now, yet another song from a famous rock 'n' roller, but thankfully for the average adult alt audience, this one has a calmer feel to it. As its title implies, "Mystic Highway" has an almost country-rock-ish feel to it, and a rather dreamy sound, at least for CCR's leading man. John Fogerty has many "road songs", both with and without CCR, and "Mystic Highway" makes for a great "road song" for traveling on the way back home from a vacation. With this song, Fogerty is still doing what he's done best since the 1960's - feel-good music with a Southern twang.

"Stare At the Sun" by Eleanor Friedberger: Anyone else find it a little odd that this is the only indie-pop song I'm reviewing for this week?! Well, anyway, "Stare At the Sun" makes for a fine slice of summery indie-pop, with a bit of a snarky attitude underneath its upbeat sound. For those familiar with the duo, The Fiery Furnaces, Eleanor Friedberger comprises one half of that band. As a solo artist, Eleanor is quite intriguing to listen to. She dryly quips about how fast-paced technology has gotten in the 21st century in the opening lyrics ("In the back of your taxi, you turned off the TV, and read me a book on your phone"), over a guitar riff that falls somewhere between Rilo Kiley's "Portions For Foxes" and Television's "See No Evil". For those who like to listen to sunshiny pop music with some bite underneath it, "Stare At the Sun" makes for quite an excellent song!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New songs for July 10th, 2013

here they are:

"I Won't Be Long" by Beck: Earlier this year, David Bowie released his first single of the year shortly after his birthday, and now, rock 'n' roll's other "chameleon" has done the same thing a few days after HIS birthday!! Coincidence?! Unlike Bowie's latest material, Beck's most recent song, "I Won't Be Long", does not delve into crooner jazz or neo-psychedelia, and instead, it sticks to the tried-and-true "melancholy techno" sound that Beck originally became known for. "I Won't Be Long" somehow manages to sound both wistful and catchy. Beck's voice repeatedly echoes the title of the song during the chorus, as his voice slowly resonates, and then vanishes without a trace into the distance afterwards. Definitely ranks among the more haunting songs in Beck's catalog.

"Kissin' On the Blacktop" by Daughn Gibson: When you think "stoner metal", you probably don't think of country-rock, and you probably don't think of words like "goofy" either. However, Daughn Gibson, the ex-drummer of stoner metal group, Pearls and Brass, provides both country influenced rock music, as well as rather eccentric vocals, on his latest solo effort, "Kissin' On the Blacktop". Also, when I say "country", I don't mean the kind of quaint, down-home-y sorta thing that country has become today. I mean country inflected with a mean brand of dirty blues that you could blast during your next major barbecue event!! Daughn's vocals are incredibly low in this song, but I almost feel like they are intentionally low. I don't think that even Elvis has as many "dips" in his singing voice as Gibson does!!

"Right Action" by Franz Ferdinand: In many ways, Franz Ferdinand are an oddity among indie-pop groups. Every song they do is catchy and funky, yet (with the possible exception of "No You Girls"), their songs always seem to have a deeper meaning than what is implied upon merely listening to them. Subjects like war ("Take Me Out") and pyromania ("This Fire") are not uncommon in their material. The lyrical theme of "Right Action" is not as violent as those sorts of themes, but it still creates a contrast to their upbeat Talking Heads/Blondie influenced style of indie-dance-pop. Is there any other band from whom you'd expect to hear almost Buddhistic thoughts ("right thoughts, right words, right action") set to a Saturday night party song?!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New songs for the day before the 4th of July

here they are:

"Most People" by Dawes: Taylor Goldsmith and his roots-y indie-folk-rock band, Dawes, recently performed their newest song, "Most People", live, with folk-rock legend, Bob Dylan. The sound of "Most People" is closer to Jakob Dylan than Bob, though. "Most People" adheres to the typical sort of folk-rock sound that Dawes have, but between this song and their previous adult alt smash hit, "From A Window Seat", I can tell that Dawes are shaping up their sound to be more dynamic and energetic than it was when they debuted at the end of the '00s. Some hints of Springsteen and Mellencamp type influence in this song, too. With their endless fascination for the roots-y, heartland side of classic rock, Dawes are well on their way to becoming the Black Crowes of 21st century rock music!

"New Constellation" by Toad the Wet Sprocket: And now, a new song from a group of guys who really ARE classic rock (or at least classic alt) by today's standards!! Toad the Wet Sprocket, a folk-pop/rock quartet from Santa Barbara who named themselves after a "Monty Python" skit, have not released a new album in 16 years!! Quite a long time gone for a band who made some of the biggest hits of the '90s! So how does their new song, "New Constellation", hold up in comparison to Toad standards like "All I Want" and "Walk On the Ocean"?! Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, but it doesn't hold a candle to those songs. However, "New Constellation"'s catchy, indie-pop influenced sound seems to indicate that Toad are not behind the times, and that they have a good ear for what sounds good now just as they did about a decade and a half ago. As for the lyrical direction of the song, lines like "write your name in a new constellation" might sound poetic, but it almost seems like Toad were struggling for lyrics to fit with this bouncy song. A three star effort from a four star band. Not bad, though, by any means.

"Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons: This song has already become a hit on...hmmmm...let's see...alternative rock stations, pop stations, and for some weird reason, even hard rock stations at this point, and it has been so roughly since fall of last year. So what took adult alt radio stations so long to catch up with this song, esp. since "It's Time" and "Demons" have already become hits on Triple A radio stations?! Perhaps one reason why is because "Radioactive" is considerably darker than most of the more ethereal alt-pop that Imagine Dragons have become known for. It is written in a minor key, unlike "Demons" and "It's Time", and it also has somewhat of a mood whiplash about 30 seconds into the song. "Radioactive" starts out with rather heavenly sounding instruments before going into a rather grim (by pop standards, at least) techno influenced sound for the verses. Interestingly, the chorus of the song brings back the shimmery guitars from the beginning of the song. "Radioactive" is also a rather defiant song for Imagine Dragons, as Dan Reynolds repeatedly chants "welcome to the new age" during the chorus, as though the words are supposed to signify some sort of "this is the way it is, so get used to it" kind of attitude.