Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New songs for the day before Thanksgiving 2013

here they are:

"Afterlife" by Arcade Fire: Win Butler's orchestral indie-pop group are really going for ambitious songs this time around, aren't they?! Their "Reflektor" was 7 and a half minutes long, and their next big song for 2013, "Afterlife", is 6 minutes!! As its title indicates, "Afterlife" deals with death, specifically the loss of someone who was very important to one of the members' lives (though they never specify who). Not quite the meandering song "Reflektor" was, but it still has that sort of "progressive indie" feel to it. The final minutes of the song serve as its "grieving stage", during which Win Butler repeats the mantra, "It's just an afterlife", possibly for reassurance that everything will turn out alright for him.

"High Hopes" by Bruce Springsteen: When it comes to The Boss's material from the 21st century, it's definitely a mixed bag. He seems to like going for passionate, world weary ballads these days, but "High Hopes" is a rocker!! (Well, kinda) It features fiery electric guitar playing from Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello (complete with soloing in the middle), attempting to battle it out with the song's backing acoustic guitar. As with many of Springsteen's contemporary songs, "High Hopes" is a song that revolves around political angst. The song becomes even more triumphant during the chorus, with its brass instruments breaking down the angry walls of this song into a jubilant celebration! My "high hopes" go towards The Boss himself, to crank out more good tunes like this one!! I think he can still hang in there for quite a while!

"Little Games" by The Colourist: I haven't heard many indie/alt groups channel the spirit of Michael Hutchence (from INXS) quite so well as I have with this song!! Over a 1980's style drumbeat, an electric guitar roars loud enough both to rock and to make people dance, in The Colourist's "Little Games"! The smooth, suave vocals of the song also seem somewhat Hutchence inspired (though not nearly as high). "Little Games" is about cheating in a relationship, but with the song's super catchy vibe, you'd probably never know!!

"Love Like This" by Kodaline: Before I get started with this one, the name of this Irish indie-folk group is pronounced "KO-duh-line" (not "KO-duh-leen", as I originally thought it was). Perhaps the song's opening mandolin-ish sound makes it obvious they're Irish?! The harmonica makes it sound more like a Dylan or Springsteen song, though, both of whom, of course, are American. Kodaline's songs seem to all be love songs so far ("love like this won't last forever" is the chorus of this song, and their other big song, "All I Want", is about the longing to feel loved by someone). Their folk-rock sound has me drawn to their material regardless, though, it just makes them seem like such a calm, down-to-earth sorta band!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New songs for November 20th, 2013

here they are:

"Down to the Well" by Hard Working Americans: For once, the name of a band actually describes who it is! This eclectic folk-rock/country-rock supergroup, featuring Americana musician Todd Snider, Ryan Adams' backing guitarist Neil Casals, and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, is all American, and clearly all hard working since they managed to come up with a group this eclectic! So how do they sound all together?! Well, like a country-rock group, which isn't really that surprising, considering that both Todd Snider and Ryan Adams started out with a country influenced sound. While Widespread Panic tends to focus more on blues-rock than the other two, some of their songs ("Dirty Side Down", for instance) still have a country-rock sound to them. "Down to the Well" itself was originally a song by roots-y country musician Lucinda Williams. Don't let the "country music" description of this song prevent you from listening to it, though. There is absolutely nothing about this song that aims to appeal to a "pop-country" audience. Instead, it's honest and heartfelt, while still somewhat raw, the way a GOOD country (or country-rock) song should be!

"Pretty Green" by White Denim: If Daft Punk were re-envisioned as a neo-psychedelic rock and roll band instead of an electronica duo, they would probably end up being White Denim. It is clear from the video of White Denim's debut song, "Pretty Green", that at least half of the band members prefer hiding behind masks to showing their actual faces, much like Daft Punk did (though this could also be influenced by the "eyeball masks" of '70s avant-garde group, The Residents). The video only gets weirder as the song goes on, as the members of White Denim take a vivid voyage through a land of...ummm...lips with no body or face attached. The second half of this bizarre journey involves entering into a realm of splattering paint (didn't "Sesame Street" already do this years ago with their new wave styled song about "Wet Paint"?!) Perhaps I should have expected the song to involve kaleidoscopic, colorful imagery. After all, the band's name is WHITE Denim, and the song is called "Pretty GREEN"!! If you are willing to let your mind blow out of your butt (or is that the other way around?!), then check out the music video for this song, which can be viewed here (

"Thirsty Man" by Blitzen Trapper: Between this song and "Shine On" (the one they put out in early fall of this year), I could swear that if time machines were real, that Blitzen Trapper took one to the 1970's somewhere in the Southern United States. "Thirsty Man" is more of a return to the folk-rock-y roots that Blitzen Trapper were originally known for, yet it sounds more like an acoustic Allman Brothers song ("Midnight Rider", "Melissa", etc.) than it does like Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, and the like. When lead singer, Eric Earley, sings about being a "thirsty man" walking through the desert, his vocal delivery tends to give off a "been through it all" attitude that can often be found in the music of bands like The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Doors-y organs and fuzzed-out "psychedelic" guitar solo are about the only things keeping "Thirsty Man" from completely sounding like a Southern rock song.

"This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" by The Lumineers (originally by Talking Heads): So the first song we hear covered from The Lumineers ISN'T by Simon and Garfunkel, or Crosby Stills & Nash?! That's a shocker! What's even MORE of a shocker is that they chose to cover a song by quirky new wave legends, Talking Heads, whose sound seems a bit too jittery and electronic in comparison to the laid-back, acoustic sound of The Lumineers. If a band like, say, MGMT covered it, that wouldn't be too surprising (and they have done so, too). But The Lumi's?! I love them, but I would NEVER have expected them to choose a song from David Byrne and co. According to their cellist (and only girl member) Neyla Pekarek, the reason they chose to release a cover version of "This Must Be the Place" is because The Lumineers usually ended their live shows with the song, since its lyrics center around going home ("Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there...") So how does their version measure up to the unstoppable, oddball energy of the original?! It's a decent cover, but it pales in comparison to their originals, like "Ho Hey" and "Stubborn Love". As a folk-rock song, "This Must Be the Place" just doesn't feel like it should! I'll give it an A for effort, though.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New songs for November 13th, 2013

here they are:

"Dirty Paws" by Of Monsters and Men: The fourth single from this exceptional Icelandic folk-rock group provides an answer as to why their debut (and so far, only) CD was called "My Head Is An Animal" (it's the words to the second line of this song). "Dirty Paws" continues in the pattern of a lot of what OMAM's material has had so far. A gentle folk-rock sound that evokes medieval and mythological imagery in both its instrumentation and its lyrics. The song can be interpreted many different ways, but it is most likely an allegory for war, using animals to tell its story ("Animal Farm", anyone?!) I would think that OMAM would be better at coming up with a hook to this song, which sounds a bit too much like their own "King and Lionheart" mixed with the beat of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros' "Home". Quite a thrilling tale of a song otherwise, though!

"Elephant" by Tame Impala: If the name "Tame Impala" reminds you of bands with equally bizarre names like "Jefferson Airplane", "Strawberry Alarm Clock", and "Quicksilver Messenger Service", you should have a pretty good idea of what Tame Impala's music sounds like! It has a vaguely psychedelic influenced sound, but with a heavily pulsating beat that brings to mind bands like The White Stripes and Cage the Elephant. Another thing Tame Impala's "Elephant" shares in common with psychedelic rock songs is that the lyrics don't quite make sense (the opening lyrics are "well he feels like an elephant shaking his big grey trunk" - Huh?!) The song also meanders into quite adventurous instrumental territory during certain sections, which seems to be a defining feature of some of the best known psychedelic rock songs. So, as they say in "Hairspray", "Welcome to the '60s!!"

"Got It Wrong" by Wild Feathers: It could be said that The Wild Feathers are the indie-folk scene's answer to groups like The Allman Brothers Band and The Black Crowes. Their sound is clearly Southern influenced (well, they're from Nashville, Tennessee, so I guess that makes sense), but it is done in a more sincere and heartfelt manner than one might expect from, say, ZZ Top. The Feathers' latest song, "Got It Wrong", continues in that direction, with its down home-y (but still fun) sound that seems like it came straight out of a classic cowboy movie. The refrain of this song ("it's all right, we've got it all wrong"), only seems to further cement their "good ol' Southern boy" image, but I'm guessing they don't mind that.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New songs for November 6th, 2013

here they are:

"Holding On For Life" by Broken Bells: For the first time since the start of the 2010's, The Shins' James Mercer and Gnarls Barkley's Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton are back together again for a new album called "After the Disco"! An appropriate title, considering the disco influence that Danger Mouse brings into their latest song, "Holding On For Life". The folk-y acoustic strums in the background of the song make it very much of a James Mercer tune as well. Songs like this one are proof that sometimes, two heads are better than one! As Danger Mouse pumps disco/techno beats into "Holding On For Life", James adds in enigmatically soul searching lyrics, lush, mellow harmonies, and folk-rock influence, and together, the elements of the song melt into a nice, tasty, out of this world stew!

"She Lit A Fire" by Lord Huron: Lord Huron first hit the adult alt airwaves last November with their dreamily psychedelic song, "Time to Run". Now, exactly one November later, the dreaminess of Lord Huron has come around a second time with "She Lit A Fire". Between this song and "Time to Run", I'm starting to notice a lyrical theme in Lord Huron's music. They seem to write love songs, but they do so using really abstract lyrics and evocative imagery. The chorus of the song states that the girl of the lead singer's affections "lit a fire, and now she's in (his) every thought", so the love theme here is pretty obvious, but what makes the song so special to me is the ultra-mellow, acoustic guitar based sound the song uses, as well as the imagery of deserts, mountains, seas, and (of course) fire. This is the song all the hippies merely wish they had written!

"Swimming In the Sea" by Bob Schneider: And now, more indie-pop love poetry featuring lyrics that evoke nature (specifically fish and the sea, this time around)!! This is certainly not a bad thing, though. After all, Bob Schneider is one of those people who has a way of making love songs sound dreamy in a good way, rather than a cheesy one. It seems like he was quite influenced by Snow Patrol when he did "Swimming In the Sea", at least musically. The lyrics here seem to concern love at first sight, rather than a more general love theme, but the sentiments of falling in love certainly abound in this song!

"This Lonely Morning" by Best Coast: The Los Angelean duo of the fun but sassy Bethany Cosentino and her bandmate Bobb Bruno are doing what they do best on their latest tune, "This Lonely Morning". That is to say, they are making fun, summery music that mixes the sunny pop of early Beach Boys music with the sneaky indie-pop snark of Rilo Kiley. "This Lonely Morning" is anything BUT lonely!! Well, musically, at least. The lyrics are a bit darker than the song itself, as Bethany is "running from (her)self this time", and stating (negatively) how her "feelings never change". Perhaps this is the reason they released the song in fall instead of summer?! Because otherwise, it totally sounds like a summer song, like pretty much all of their material tends to!

"Workin' Woman Blues" by Valerie June: Valerie June first sizzled her way onto the adult alt airwaves in the summer of this year, with her Black Keys-esque (and Dan Auerbach produced) blues-rocker, "You Can't Be Told". Despite the use of the word "blues" in the title of Valerie's "Workin' Woman Blues", its sound more suggests a blend of folk, soul, and jazz that people like Joan Armatrading were known for using in the mid 1970's. It's the lyrics of the song that bring the "blues" part into the title. Valerie is clearly worn out from all the demands people put on women of being mothers, wives, etc. in the song, and addresses the issue of poverty in it as well. Definitely worth listening to, especially for those who identify with oppression, whether the roots of it are sexual or political (or both).