Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New songs for August 28th, 2013

here they are:

"Are You Listening?" by The Kopecky Family Band: Well, ARE you listening?! 'Cause if not, you're missing out on a good one! Though not nearly as catchy as their adult alt smash hit, "Heartbeat", "Are You Listening?" reveals a more folk-y, contemplative side to The KFB. Being that the record this song came from ("Kids Raising Kids") came out in late 2012, the exchange between male and female vocals (a la Of Monsters and Men, Civil Wars, etc.) is not surprising, as it seems to have become somewhat of a trend in indie-pop/contemporary folk-rock music. The billowy, buoyant sound of "Are You Listening?" almost seems to provide a contrast to the relentless happy energy of "Heartbeat", but the diversity in their sound choices is just one more thing that makes The KFB so likable!

"Come to My Party" by Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears: The greatest James Brown imitators of the 21st century continue to bring in the funk into what is slowly becoming the middle of the 2010's! No real deep message to this song, but there doesn't need to be, really. "Come to My Party" is a song whose title pretty much explains what it is. It's a song about just having a good time! Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears bring the party straight to your ears in just a little over two and a half minutes. So there's only two things you have to remember when listening to this song. Put on your dancin' shoes, and boogie!!

"Rollin' N' Tumblin'" by North Mississippi Allstars: North Mississippi Allstars are another band who are more focused on the roots of rock 'n' roll than on what it has become. Their latest song, "Rollin' N' Tumblin'", doesn't have very many words (though the words it does have seem to be references to various parts of rock history - "drinkin' muddy water" = Muddy Waters, "I ain't gonna be your dog" = The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog", etc.) It does have a lot of instrumental parts, though, which seem to combine the dirty blues of The Black Keys and the neo-psychedelic freakouts of The White Stripes. "Rollin' N' Tumblin'" seems to basically be a song that makes rock 'n' roll come full circle, from its Robert Johnson style guitar licks to its memorably odd homage to neo-psychedelia towards the middle of it. Rock lives!! Too bad no one seems to notice.

"Sunnier Days" by Diego Garcia: Like most Diego Garcia songs, "Sunnier Days" has a breezy, tropical folk-rock sound. Unlike most of his songs, "Sunnier Days" is more upbeat. It is not an aching ballad like "You Were Never There", "All Eyes On You", or "Nothing to Hide". Instead, it's a "sunny" song, like its title suggests. At least it tries to be. The suspended chord changes during the pre-chorus of the song give "Sunnier Days" a more moody flavor that most Diego Garcia songs tend to have. Its rhythm makes the song sound more hopeful, though.

"The Way I Tend to Be" by Frank Turner: A similar case to The Kopecky Family Band (see "Are You Listening?" - also listed in this week's blog), Frank Turner had a super catchy adult alt mega-hit ("Recovery"), which has a notable contrast to his second hit so far, the more subdued, reflective, "The Way I Tend to Be". So what IS the way Frank tends to be?! Eclectic, as far as I can see it. Although every Frank Turner song I've heard is centered around acoustic guitar, he always manages to use the instrument to convey different emotions like confidence, mixed with sarcasm ("Recovery") and more anthemic moods as well ("I Still Believe"). "The Way I Tend to Be" is more of a bittersweet song, as far as I can tell. "If you remember me, you can save me from the way I tend to be", Frank sings, over a melancholy strum of acoustic guitar. I dunno about you, but I think music itself is saving Frank from the way he tends to be!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New songs for August 21st, 2013

here they are:

“All Things All At Once” by Tired Pony: When Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody first formed the indie rock supergroup, Tired Pony, with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, their plaintive song, “Dead American Writers”, was an adult alt smash hit! From that point on, though, I thought it would be their only hit, as there was no other song from the album that became quite as popular (and plus, I thought Tired Pony was one of those “too good to last” groups). Turns out I was wrong. Tired Pony now has a second hit on their hands, “All Things All At Once”. It is a bittersweet song, much like “Dead American Writers” was, though the subject matter is more direct this time around. Instead of centering around deceased poets and authors, “All Things All At Once” is a song about the ever popular subject of unrequited love, a subject that Tired Pony melts into lyrical tears and makes their own!

“Fire And Brimstone” by Trombone Shorty: The title of the song may be a reference to hell, but Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews’ blues/jazz/rock song, “Fire And Brimstone”, is pure musical heaven for those who like their music to sound soulful but gritty! Andrews claims in the chorus of the song that “everything that comes out of (his) trombone” is “fire and brimstone”. Perhaps that’s just a clever excuse to come up with a memorable rhyme, but another meaning to take out of that line is how “hot” the music of Trombone Shorty is. The musical equivalent of a jalapeƱo pepper! Just one taste of the sound of “Fire And Brimstone” is as steamy and passionate as it is catchy!

“Hopeless Wanderer” by Mumford and Sons: Many Mumford and Sons songs have become instant hits in the 2010’s, but “Hopeless Wanderer” marks the first time (to my knowledge) that a music video by the band has become so popular! So what is it about the video to “Hopeless Wanderer” that has so many people hooked on it?! Three words – “Saturday Night Live”!! Well, kinda. SNL alumni Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte appear to be posing as half of the band members in the “Hopeless Wanderer” video. Fellow comedian Jason Bateman makes his appearance as another member of the band, and the remaining member is played by Ed Helms. There are some things to be said about the song itself, too. “Hopeless Wanderer” encapsulates just about everything that made me fall in love with the band’s sound when they debuted. Its rhythm is especially captivating, going from a waltz rhythm in the verses to a rock beat in the chorus. The harmonies of the song shine through, as though M & S were a modern-day Crosby, Stills, and Nash, with a banjo replacing the electric guitar (though Mumford and Sons come awfully close to having an electric guitar sound just before the chorus of the song). The video for the song can be viewed here:

“Stay Young” by Okkervil River: If this is indeed a song from contemporary folk-rock group, Okkervil River, then why do I keep hearing Simple Minds instead?! Have the Texas indie group suddenly decided to do a “Breakfast Club” tribute?! Nope, they have simply decided to change direction in their sound, after all, it must get rather tiring sticking to one sound after a while. “Stay Young” contains a lot of dueling instruments. Electric guitar and synth battle for lead instrument, while sax and harmonica both vie for the position of top backing instrument. The harmonica sports yet another ‘80s rock influence, this time from U2, as it recalls the sound of “Joshua Tree” songs, such as “Trip Through Your Wires” and “Running to Stand Still”. Not the Okkervil River that any of their fans are used to, but still worth listening to nonetheless.

“The Idiot Kings” by Mike Doughty: If this songs sounds more like the eclectic, Beck-ish alt-pop from Mike Doughty’s days with Soul Coughing than it does like something from his more folk-rock focused solo career, that’s because “The Idiot Kings” is actually a Soul Coughing song that Mike has just released as a solo effort. There’s definitely more of a ‘90s dance-rock feel to “The Idiot Kings” than most of what Mike did away from Soul Coughing. The title alone to this song recalls Mike’s dry, clever sense of humor. Apparently he always wanted the song to become a hit in the same way “Circles” and “Super Bon Bon” did during the mid ‘90s, though it took nearly 15 years for “The Idiot Kings” to become noticed the way he wanted it to, and he credits part of its slow but steady trail to success to hip-hop producer, Good Goose. There’s absolutely nothing idiotic about “The Idiot Kings”, but the song does have its “king-like” qualities, in that this song RULES!!

“Wake Me Up” by Avicii: Uh-VEECH-eye?! Not quite sure how to pronounce this guy’s name, but he sure is getting his name out there with “Wake Me Up”, a song that almost seemed like it was destined to be a pop radio hit! “Wake Me Up” starts with a Mumford-esque acoustic guitar hook, but as soon as the beats are dropped about 40 seconds into the song, it just seems like your average pop song. “Mumford and Sons goes clubbin’” doesn’t seem like a very likely scenario, but Avicii has made this possible. Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, personally.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New songs for August 14th, 2013

here they are:

"Another Is Waiting" by The Avett Brothers: Seemed like only yesterday that The Avett Brothers released a new album (though it was actually a year ago). Anyway, their latest song, "Another Is Waiting", is one that really seems to put the "rock" in "folk-rock". Part of the uniqueness of this song comes from how the instrumentation is led by a banjo (and not an acoustic guitar, as far as I can tell), but backed by an electric guitar and drums. That's right, DRUMS!! An instrument that is not typically featured on The Avetts' material, at least not prominently. Perhaps they have created a whole new subgenre with this song - "banjo rock". To accomplish all these instrumental feats in just a little over two minutes shows how amazing the band truly is to me!!

"Moving" by Travis: There's progressive rock, and there's progress-ING rock. Scottish indie-pop group, Travis, fits the latter category here. Their song "Moving" is all about...well...moving. Moving on through life, that is. Instrumentally, this song could easily be mistaken for a Radiohead or Snow Patrol song (though a lot of their material could be), but Fran Healy's distinctive vocals set Travis apart from such bands here. The recurring theme of going outside one's comfort zone becomes apparent in the ending lines of the first verse ("Home isn't where you are"), and third verse ("Home isn't where you stay"). Travis might not be "moving" from their typical sound, but they are making strides lyrically here, and that's a start!

"Shake" by The Head and The Heart: When The Head and The Heart debuted back in early 2011, their plaintive song "Lost In My Mind" won the hearts of many indie-folk fans, and the success of two more songs of theirs ("Down In the Valley" and "Ghosts") made them a household name among musically mellow twenty-somethings everywhere! So how does their newest song, "Shake", hold up in comparison?! The first few seconds of it make it sound noticeably different from most Head and The Heart songs because of the use of the electric guitar, but the piano that seems to serve as the central instrument in The Head and The Heart's music gradually makes its entrance shortly afterwards. "Shake" seems to have a similar rhythmic pattern to the band biggest hit so far, "Lost In My Mind", and perhaps The Head and The Heart purposely chose this rhythm for the song in hopes of making it another hit for them, and so far it's working! As for the use of electric guitar on the song?! Well, the band had their reasons. Though they don't mind doing folk-rock music, being likened to an "American Mumford and Sons" was not exactly what they wanted. The Head and The Heart desired to be a more musically eclectic band, and "Shake" is heading them in that direction so far!

"Sun Song" by Laura Veirs: Already, we have seen The Avett Brothers and The Head & The Heart leaning more towards the electric guitar than the acoustic for this week's reviews. Laura Veirs seems to have been the opposite. Her breakthrough song was the bubbly, neo-psychedelic pop song, "Galaxies", but every song since seems to have focused more on acoustic guitar than electric for her. Many of Laura's songs deal with an almost Neo-Paganistic view of nature and the universe, and her latest song, "Sun Song", is no exception to the rule (though the title of the song should make that obvious). This song "revolves" around the sun, so to speak, with every verse leading up to a chorus that praises how the sun makes many things possible. Neko Case also lends backing vocals to "Sun Song", which is interesting considering how defiant her song, "Man", from earlier this year was.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sizzlin' Songs for a Sizzlin' Summer!!

Interestingly, all three of the songs I'm reviewing for this week are blues-rock tunes!! (Hence the title of this week's blog). Anyway, here they are:

“Blew Up (The House)” by Jonny Lang: One of the two best known names in ‘90s blues-rock (the other being Kenny Wayne Shepherd), it seemed as though Jonny Lang took on a more pop-y sound in the ‘00s, with songs like the slow “Red Light”, and the slightly more upbeat but still pop-y “Anything’s Possible”. The messages and deliveries on the songs Jonny did in the ‘00s didn’t seem to match the powerhouse quality he had in the ‘90s. Finally, after 7 years, Mr. Lang has redeemed himself, with the barn-burnin’ blues-rocker, “Blew Up (The House)”. It looks like Jonny has rekindled the fire within his soul, and is letting it light up the hearts of blues and rock fans the world around! Rock on, Jonny!!

“Funny Little Tragedy” by Gov’t Mule: So what do you get when you mix Allman Brothers alumni with Elvis Costello?! This song!! And yes, Mr. Costello contributes a guest vocal spot on this song!! Fans of Costello’s punk-pop days from when he was with The Attractions will love the relentless energy of “Funny Little Tragedy” (as well the organ solos towards the end of the song), while fans of The Allmans can still get their kicks with the song’s blues-y guitar solos and ragged guitar distortion (though the distortion is closer to Neil Young than it is to The Allman Brothers Band). I have to say, between this song and the one that Elvis Costello did with The Roots from just a week ago, I think Elvis is doing a fantastic job at retaining his hip-ness cred, and will probably continue to do so, as long as he continues making music!!

“Somebody Else” – by JJ Grey and Mofro: JJ Grey is da man!! He is more proof that white men can, in fact, sing the blues! JJ injects plenty of good ol’ fashion soul influence into his latest song, “Somebody Else”, too, simultaneously evoking the gutsy, raw, passionate R & B of James Brown, Al Green, and Otis Redding, among others. You get twice the instrumental prowess in “Somebody Else”, which boasts both a gritty sax solo and a mean guitar solo! Nice use of the organs on this song, too, though that instrument is not as prominent. To top it all off, the song ends on a jazzy, suspenseful, “James Bond”-ish chord. Could a “Blues Brothers” revival be far behind?!