Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 20 Songs of 2014!!!!

Since my finals are finished now, I thought, "Why not? I'll put up my Top 20 list early!!" So, without further ado, here they are!!!

20. "Do I Wanna Know?" by Arctic Monkeys
19. "Invisible" by U2
18. "Call Me" by St. Paul and the Broken Bones
17. "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons
16. "Chocolate" by The 1975
15. "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" by U2
14. "Gimme Something Good" by Ryan Adams
13. "West Coast" by Lana Del Rey
12. "Supernova" by Ray LaMontagne
11. "U Get Me High" by Tom Petty
10. "Gotta Get Away" by The Black Keys
9. "Take Me to Church" by Hozier
8. "Holding On For Life" by Broken Bells
7. "Do You?" by Spoon
6. "Southern Sun" by Boy and Bear
5. "Coming of Age" by Foster the People
4. "Stolen Dance" by Milky Chance
3. "Come With Me Now" by Kongos
2. "Blue Moon" by Beck

annnnd...the number one song of the year issss.....


Have a great holiday season, everyone. I'll be back next year!!!

Friday, November 28, 2014

New music FRIDAY (for the day after Thanksgiving)

Would have done my usual Wednesday post, but I was busy then. So here are six songs for the days before December. Hope you enjoy 'em!

"All the Time" by Bahamas: The newest album from indie-pop musicians, Bahamas, has been out since July of this year. I would have thought that their funky, catchy, soulful song, "Stronger Than That" would have been a hit on adult alt stations across the country, but only a few picked it up. I guess sometimes featuring your songs on commercials really does help, as this is what has happened to Bahamas' latest tune, "All the Time", this month. It was featured on a phone commercial. Although not nearly as catchy as "Stronger Than That", "All the Time" certainly has its reasons for being appealing. Perhaps the combination of folky acoustic guitar, lively brass instruments, quirky keyboard sounds, and its 1970's style electric guitars in the song have won people over, as that is a pretty unique mixture of sounds. Almost like The Black Keys' "Little Black Submarines" if the song was a bit slower and had its electric and acoustic guitar sections working together instead of as separate parts.

"Earthquake Driver" by Counting Crows: Steely Dan's famous guitar riffing in "Reelin' In the Years" seems to have become a hipster favorite over the years, what with everyone from hipster prototypes like Nick Lowe (in "So It Goes") to more recent definers of hipster-dom like Stephen Malkmus ("Gardenia") having used it in their songs. Counting Crows might not be what you would call a "hipster" band, but they do take after indie rock legends like Big Star and R.E.M., so I suppose they kinda count. The Crows' latest song, "Earthquake Driver", has a similar rhythm to "Reelin' In the Years", but it also has the country-rock twang of groups like The Old 97's. Adam Duritz and co seem to be trying hard to create more of an "indie" image for themselves, lyrically, on their latest album, with their abstract, seemingly out of context choice of words like "I was born a little north of Disney Land, somewhere under Wonderland and Hollywood", and "I want to be an earthquake driver/I want to be an aquarium diver". Huh?!

"Every Breaking Wave" by U2: Has U2 now taken to ripping off their own material?! The beginning of this song sounds awfully similar to "With Or Without You"! Thankfully, it starts to sound more original by the time the chorus comes around. Where "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" was (fittingly) straight up rock and roll, "Every Breaking Wave" sounds more characteristic of what you might be likely to hear from a band like The Killers, Snow Patrol, or Coldplay. Lyrically, "Every Breaking Wave" does not have as much substance or meaning as "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)", but musically, it does sound more refreshing, and more characteristic of a classic U2 song.

"Inside Out" by Spoon: I am now convinced there is no such thing as a Spoon song that isn't catchy and clever! They never fail to please me in either aspect! Their latest song, "Inside Out", continues in that direction. Though nowhere near as catchy as their summer smash, "Do You?", "Inside Out" still manages to have a memorable rhythm and sound. The hypnotic ambiance of the synthesizer at the beginning just draws you in, before the other instruments start making their entrance and giving the song more form. The song retains its initial trance-y vibe throughout, but it's still something you can tap your toes to. "Time's gone inside out", Britt Daniels sings during the opening of the song. The fresh but mysterious sound of the song certainly fits with those lyrics!

"The River" by Son Little: And you thought Gary Clark Jr. was reviving blues-rock for the 2010's?! "The River", the debut song from blues-rocker Son Little (actually a stage name for Aaron Livingston from neo-soul/hip-hop group, The Roots), goes even further back in time!! It sounds like an old blues song with a slightly rock and roll-ish instrumentation that came out some time in the '60s, or perhaps even earlier! Little/Livingston's chorus of "walk me to the river, darling" seems like something that could have easily passed for a Robert Johnson lyric if he was still around today!

"Turn It Up" by Robert Plant: Our last tune of the week is yet another attempting to revive blues-rock. However, this IS Robert Plant of the mighty Led Zeppelin we're talking about here, and he has exposed people to his unique, distinctive brand of blues-rock since the late 1960's! He's no newcomer to the blues, though he has gotten more into folk and country in recent years. "Turn It Up" does exactly what its title implies. It takes the now folk-ified soul of Plant, and transforms it into more of a rock and roll sound. No, it doesn't crank it up to 11 like Zeppelin did, but it does give people craving a blues-y sound from Plant what they want, more or less. Best part of the song?! When Plant pleads, "I'm stuck inside the radio...let me out!!", followed by the stark, hollow sound of a drumbeat for about five seconds, before the song gets back into its basic groove.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New songs for November 19th, 2014

here they are:

"Rollercoaster" by Bleachers: Jack Antonoff from fun.'s side project, Bleachers, exploded onto the alternative and adult alt charts in spring 2014 with an irresistibly catchy, almost bubblegum-y slice of stadium worthy indie-pop with "I Wanna Get Better". Did you expect Bleachers' second big song to sound like an outtake from Bruce Springsteen's "Born In the U.S.A."?! Didn't think so! But that IS basically what you get in "Rollercoaster", which sounds a bit like "Dancing In the Dark" if it was covered by The Killers. As if influence wasn't enough for the classic rock quotient of "Rollercoaster", Jack also brings up a "killer queen" during the chorus, which may or may not be a reference to Queen's "Killer Queen" (there's a good chance it might be, since all of the members of fun. have been said to be huge Queen fans). The "rollercoaster" in this song is not one that is skyrocketing to the future, but plunging backwards into the past!

"Stay Gold" by First Aid Kit: Our only other song of the week is one that provides a relaxing low to contrast with the high energy '80s style rock and roll of the previous song. In fact, if the Swedish all female duo First Aid Kit ever did a song with a higher energy sound, that would be quite a shock! First Aid Kit are known for being soothing, melodious, and folks-y, and the pattern continues with their latest song, "Stay Gold". Johanna and Klara yearningly croon about what might happen if their "hard work ends in despair" and "the road won't take (them) there", and wonder why they can't just "stay gold", which probably means something roughly along the lines of "Why can't life always be fair?" The words "no gold can stay" are repeated twice before the first chorus comes into the song, which makes me think that First Aid Kit are probably S.E. Hinton fans, as "nothing gold can stay" is a famous quote from her book (and one of my personal faves), "The Outsiders".

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New songs for November 12th, 2014

here they are:

"Beggin' For Thread" by Banks: This song is basically what it would be like if a Florence and The Machine song were used in some sort of crime drama. Catchy, somewhat quirky indie-pop, but with a rather murky, mysterious undertone. In spite of the plural noun moniker Banks has, she is but one girl, not multiple people. This is the type of the song that just begs to get under your skin at some point, with subtly scathing lyrics comparable to the typical Fiona Apple song. One more thing I should mention, Banks hails from L.A., my hometown!

"Kansas City" by New Basement Tapes: Not to be confused with the '50s song, "Kansas City", though before I actually heard this song, I thought it might have been, since none other than Bob Dylan is a part of the new folk-rock supergroup known as New Basement Tapes! Dylan is the only oldster in the band, though, the rest of which consists of some of his many heirs to the throne, such as Mumford and Sons' Marcus Mumford (who takes the lead on this particular track), My Morning Jacket's Jim James, and Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith. "Kansas City" itself isn't exactly Mumford-esque, though, and takes more after the roots-y folk-rock fuzz of My Morning Jacket and Dawes. All four of the guys in the band have a rather rustic sound to their music, so it makes sense that "Kansas City" is one of those "driving back home from the freeway" kind of songs.

"Stay With Me" by Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams has done what I never thought he would do for both of the songs I've heard so far from his latest album. He has gone totally '80s!! I'm more accustomed to hearing Ryan with a late '60s/early '70s folk-rock influenced sound, but it is nonetheless interesting to see who he has chosen to influence him on his latest album. On the summer adult alt smash, "Gimme Something Good", he emulated Tom Petty. For "Stay With Me", his sound is even closer to mainstream rock, with a sound that matches the kings of rock 'n' roll themselves, The Rolling Stones (though "Stay With Me" specifically recalls the way The Stones sounded in the '80s). Brace yourselves, people, someday soon your local classic rock station is gonna grab this song and play it by mistake!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New songs for November 5th, 2014

here they are:

"I Bet My Life" by Imagine Dragons: Seems like only yesterday Imagine Dragons debuted with their first hit, "It's Time" (which actually happened three Februaries ago). Since that time, they went on to score five hits total from their debut album, which is quite a feat in this day and age, and perhaps even more of one for a band who had hits with that many songs from their debut! Their fresh blend of pop, folk, dance, and rock won the hearts of millions in 2012 and well into 2013 as well. So what are their plans for 2014?! Well, now ID fans can get their first taste of their new sound (which isn't all that different from their old sound, really) with "I Bet My Life", which once again showcases their seamlessly catchy mix of folk, rock, and dance. Its chorus, which sounds slightly like a sped up, arena ready version of "Kumbaya", is perhaps the most memorable part of the song.

"Make You Better" by The Decemberists: The Decemberists have already garnered plenty of comparisons to R.E.M., and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck has even guest starred on two of The Decemberists' songs! "Make You Better" seems more like a tribute to two of Michael Stipe's heroines - Patti Smith and Natalie Merchant. Perhaps the members of The Decemberists wanted to know who their heroes' influences were, and that might have been how "Make You Better" came about. The lyrics of the song read like the quietly brooding poetry that Smith and Merchant became known for, with lines like "I loved you in springtime, I lost you when summer came", and "But we're not so starry-eyed anymore, like the perfect paramour you were in your letters". Could a "Because the Night" cover from The Decemberists be next on their list?!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New songs for October 29th, 2014

here they are:

"I Wish You Would" by JD McPherson: JD McPherson's self-consciously "retro" blend of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley made a huge splash in 2012 with "North Side Gal" and "Fire Bug" (and again in Christmas of that year with "Twinkle Little Christmas Lights"). "I Wish You Would" is more of the same, which is definitely not a bad thing, as I have grown quite accustomed to JD's sound, but it has two differences from his previous work that are both worth noting. First of all, "I Wish You Would" is actually a cover of an ACTUAL "oldie but goodie" from blues musician Billy Boy Arnold. It is also only 1 and a half minutes long. "I Wish It Would" be longer!!

"September Fields" by Frazey Ford: Equal parts country, folk, rock, and soul, but entirely soothing both vocally and instrumentally, Frazey Ford's debut solo song, "September Fields", sounds like a missing link between Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt. Frazey used to be a member of indie-folk group, The Be Good Tanyas, who are perhaps best known for their bittersweet holiday song, "Rudy" (about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer). Her humble, down-to-earth qualities, from what I hear, come across both in her music and her personality. I think somebody needs to introduce me to her!!

"Something From Nothing" by Foo Fighters: And you thought The Foos' "The Pretender" was their attempt to emulate "Stairway to Heaven"?! I would say that "Something From Nothing" falls under that category as well!! It has an acoustic intro, slowly builds into more of a rocker, and then goes to full-blown hard rock by the end. Sound familiar?! Those chunky riffs in the middle of the song also seem to be heavily influenced by Zeppelin. I would say that this song is more like "nothing from something". Dave, Jimmy Page called. He wants his guitar back!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New songs for October 22nd, 2014

here they are:

"Unpack Your Heart" by Phillip Phillips: We've all heard of the term "arena rock", but so far, only Phillip Phillips has pulled off "arena folk" - lilting, acoustic guitar playing, accompanied by lively drums and string sections. Phillips tends to have songs that are either deep in thought or uplifting, and "Unpack Your Heart" definitely falls into the latter category in terms of how it sounds. Phillips' repeated urging his listeners to "bring their secrets" and "unpack their hearts" sounds rather deep in thought without the musical accompaniment, but with all the vivacious instrumentation in the background, perhaps the best way to describe "Unpack Your Heart" is "sincere".

"You + Me" by You and Me: Wow. I don't think anyone has seen a musical redundancy of music like this since Bad Company's song, "Bad Company" (which was also from the ALBUM "Bad Company"). You and Me (the band, that is, not the song) is a duo consisting of pop sensation, P!nk (whose name I can't pronounce anymore since she just had to put that stupid exclamation point in the middle of it!), and Dallas Green from indie-pop one man band, City and Colour. The somber folk-rock sound of the song is typical of Dallas, but not of Pink (oh, ex-CUSE me, I meant "P!nk"). Then again, P!nk has tried hard to drift away from the pure pop sound she became known for for awhile now, having lent her voice to songs by Butch Walker ("Here Comes the Heartache") and even The Indigo Girls ("Dear Mr. President"). "You and Me" is by far her most poignant song. It's nothing new for Dallas Green, as I mentioned before, but lately Dallas has drifted away from folk and more towards rock, so it's nice to hear him come back to his roots on this song.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New songs for October 15th, 2014

here they are:

"Dancehall Domine" by The New Pornographers: Who knew that The New Pornographers would be responsible for one of the biggest adult alt radio hits of the summer ("Brill Bruisers")?! Usually, a band as quirky as they are is lucky to get ONE song off their latest album to make waves on the radio, but The New Pornographers actually pulled it off this summer, so much so, that they've decided to release a SECOND single to adult alt radio stations for the fall! That song is "Dancehall Domine". Like most of their material, "Dancehall Domine" is a song that is as enjoyably weird as it is catchy. As you might expect from the title, the song is basically the NP's ode to dancing and having a good time. The song also contains such oddly juxtaposed couplets such as, "Just like every idea/Wants to be like no other". The New Pornographers are like Barenaked Ladies. They both have risque names, but they also both have a fun, upbeat sound!

"Dearly Departed" by Shakey Graves: Just the name of the band "Shakey Graves" probably fills your mind with Halloween-y imagery apt for the month of October. Combine that with lyrics like, "You and I both know that the house is haunted, and you and I both know that the ghost is me", and you've got the perfect ingredients for a song that'll scare the pants off of you! Or so you would think. "Dearly Departed" is actually an upbeat country-rock stomper, whose sounds don't even come close to being "spooky". It is a song more fit for playing out on the barn porch on a hot afternoon than it is for feeling frightened on a dark, cold night.

"Louder Than Words" by Pink Floyd: PINK FLOYD?!? (pretends to spit milk through nose) WHAA-AATTT?!?! There are two reasons I never thought I'd be reviewing a Floyd song. First of all, it's been about 20 years since they last released an album, so I assumed that they had broken up for good, what with David Gilmour and Roger Waters having both released solo records in the '00s. And second of all, most of their material isn't exactly the folk-rock-y, roots-y, melodic stuff I usually review if I'm blogging about a new song from a classic rock band. But lo and behold, Pink Floyd's "Louder Than Words" was all over adult alt radio in less than a week!! One thing people tend to forget (or at least overlook) about Pink Floyd's material is that they had more "soft" songs than just "Wish You Were Here". "Goodbye Blue Sky", most of "Mother", and "Fearless" are also great acoustic Floyd songs. That being said, "Louder Than Words" isn't entirely acoustic, but it does lean towards the more sensitive side of the band's catalog. The song centers around how "this thing that we do" (presumably either playing music or existing as a band) is "louder than words", which I'm guessing refers to the phenomenon of relaying musical messages from one person to the next. The length of the song stretches for a while, like most of their songs, in this case, totaling to around 6 minutes.

"She's the One" by Ray LaMontagne: And speaking of classic rock, contemporary folkie Ray LaMontagne is using a lot of influences from such bands on his latest album. The exuberant, summery splash of "Supernova", one of the biggest adult alt radio hits of 2014, recalled groups like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. "She's the One" goes for a bit of a harder-edged sound, deriving its sound from the propulsive, defiant riff of The Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post". As you could probably guess from the title of "She's the One", though, it has none of the angst and turmoil that The Allmans had lyrically on "Whipping Post". Still, this song serves as a nice way of introducing rock fans to a previously folk oriented musician!

"Then Came the Morning" by The Lone Bellow: A year ago, The Lone Bellow joined the ranks of Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and The Civil Wars as being a successful folk-rock group with a string of catchy songs (though they weren't quite as big as those three groups were). "Then Came the Morning" is a bit less like Mumford, and a bit more like Morrison. Van Morrison, that is. The song seamlessly mixes folk, rock, and soul, much like Van the Man did. Surprisingly, the Irish folk-rock hitmaker was not the first person that The Lone Bellow's lead singer, Zach Williams, had in mind when he wrote "Then Came the Morning". Instead, the person Zach had in mind was none other than Elvis. Yes, Elvis Presley, not Costello! Specifically, he thought of what Elvis sounded like during his final years as a Las Vegas performer. Long live the King!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New songs for October 8th, 2014

here they are:

"Above the Clouds of Pompeii" by Bear's Den: This beautiful, heartfelt song has been around since August, and, two months down the road, it has finally gotten the radio play on adult alt stations that it has deserved for so long! A bittersweet acoustic ballad, "Above the Clouds of Pompeii" is one of those songs that comes around only once in a blue moon. The song is about the death of someone important in the lead singer's life, probably his mother, but the song itself sounds more like the achingly lovely event of life starting anew! Highly recommended!!

"Cigarette Daydreams" by Cage the Elephant: Cage the Elephant are really putting the "mellow" in their latest album, "Melophobia", with each new song they've released from it. "Cigarette Daydreams" is, by far, the mellowest song on the album, and perhaps even of CTE's career. Though CTE aren't exactly strangers to "soft" rock, they have never done an acoustic song, to my knowledge, which makes "Cigarette Daydreams" a first for the band, since it is dominated by an acoustic guitar sound. "Cigarette Daydreams" is far from sounding pungent like a cigarette, and instead sounds light and airy, like a daydream. For a group of guys who started with frat-rock anthems like "Ain't No Rest For the Wicked", they sure have come a long way!

"Ex's And Oh's" by Elle King: Elle King could be the one to give fellow jazz/rock/blues/roots hybrid femme fatale, Gin Wigmore, a run for her money. Even their voices sound somewhat similar. Elle King's cleverly titled "Ex's And Oh's" is, of course, about Elle's ex-boyfriends, and how they have treated her, and has nothing to do with tic tac toe. Gin Wigmore exudes more energy and has more of an edge than Elle King, but Elle knows how to be sultry and jazzy with the best of 'em!

"From Eden" by Hozier: Does religion play a theme in the music of Irish indie-pop artist, Hozier? With titles like "Take Me to Church", and now, "From Eden", I would venture to say that is so! The two songs couldn't sound more opposite, though! "Take Me to Church" sounded like a dirge turned into a pop song, and was somewhat controversial (probably why the song was such a big hit on "alternative" rock stations), but "From Eden" sounds more like a bouncy indie-pop song, written in a more major key than its predecessor. Beneath the chirpy sound of "From Eden", however, lies yet another dark theme, and that is the temptation of lust, as indicated in the song's refrain, "I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door". What a two-faced "snake" Hozier is!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New songs for October 1st, 2014

here they are:

"Come From the Heart" by Hard Working Americans: "Hard Working Americans" sure is an apt name for this roots-y rock supergroup! They're a little bit country ("Down to the Well"), and a little bit rock 'n' roll as well ("Stomp And Holler"). Hard Working Americans' third big song, "Come From the Heart", is a slow, heartfelt song, that sounds like a soul-inflected country song. The organ solo in the middle almost gives "Come From the Heart" a gospel-like feel. "It's got to come from your heart, or it's not going to work", Todd Snider smoothly croons, accompanied by Johnny Cash's daughter, Rosanne. This is the kind of song that definitely comes from the heart, and it works great.

"Dangerous" by Big Data: Sometimes, an irresistible dance-rock tune comes about, and makes almost everyone a fan (or sometimes a hater, if it gets overplayed). Songs like Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" are surefire winners in this category, and it looks like a new song is about to join their ranks. That song is "Dangerous" by Big Data. With its thumping, funky guitar hook, "Dangerous" is catchy!! This is the sort of song you'd be equally likely to hear in independent record stores and shopping malls, and it's what everyone's gonna be shakin' on the dance floor to this fall!!

"Easy Money" by Johnny Marr: Unlike Morrissey, Johnny Marr's melancholy, angst-ridden former bandmate from The Smiths, Johnny Marr seems to have more upbeat solo songs. I first started listening to Johnny's solo work in early 2013, with the garage rock influenced "Upstarts", and his latest song, "Easy Money", continues in a similar direction. "Easy Money" isn't straight up rock 'n' roll like "Upstarts" was, though, and instead has a more pulsating, new wave-y alt-pop sound reminiscent of groups like Foster the People and Phoenix. A similarity Johnny has to Morrissey is that they are both all about addressing social concerns to the media, but the way Johnny does so is a bit more on the sly side than the more obvious and melodramatic way that Morrissey does so. In the case of "Easy Money", the song is about exactly that - money - and it is also a satirical jab at how people think that money can "buy you happiness".

"I Don't Want to Change You" by Damien Rice: Damien Rice seems like the type who is introverted and fragile, so I had thought for a long time that his late 2006 album, "O", would have been his last. It appears as though I was wrong! After 8 years of musical hibernation, Damien has finally come out with a new song! "I Don't Want to Change You" is trademark Damien, all over! Melancholy acoustic guitar, delicate vocals, lovelorn lyrics, lush string arrangement in the background. Pretty much every Damien Rice song sounds like this, but it's why people like me love his work. Traits like this define who Damien is, and he still has 'em! Damien, I don't want to change you, either!

"I Want to Know" by Kongos: Kongos' uniquely catchy "Come With Me Now" was such a smash hit for this year, in multiple formats (including Top 40), that I just knew somehow they were bound to have another hit! For awhile, it looked like that song was going to be the rocking, menacing "I'm Only Joking", but perhaps that was too rough for adult alt audiences, so instead, the more reggae inflected "I Want to Know" has become the second song from Kongos to hit the adult alt airwaves. While nowhere near as catchy as "Come With Me Now", it still has its high points. It actually sounds similar to another reggae-rock fusion I reviewed earlier this year (Magic!'s "Rude"), but since the two bands came out around the same time, this is probably merely coincidence. "I Want to Know" also has a great, reverb soaked guitar solo, to really make the reggae-rock fusion of the song sound more solid.

"Low Key" by Tweedy: The title of this song is quite an apt description of how Jeff Tweedy from Wilco's music typically is. "Low Key", performed with his son, Spencer, is a mellow tune, in which the lyrics ("I've always been low key") match up with the mood of the song quite well. The song is also somewhat autobiographical, and Jeff even claimed in an interview that he thought the song was "meant for (him)". There are probably many times when you've sung a song to yourself, but not every day you've sung songs about yourself!

"Yellow Flicker Beat" by Lorde: Is Lorde a fan of the "Hunger Games" movies?! Between "Glory And Gore", and her newest song, "Yellow Flicker Beat", I would say that could very well be the case! (Or perhaps the people who make the movies are big fans of her music). The typical Lorde song seems to sound like a darker version of Madonna, and "Yellow Flicker Beat" is no exception. Perhaps the one thing that makes this song stand out from her other material is the lyrics, in which the 17-year-old New Zealand native describes a "yellow flicker beat sparking up (her) heart". Quite a vivid description there! Not sure exactly what that's supposed to be a description of, though.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New songs for September 24th, 2014

here they are:

"Shut Up And Dance" by Walk the Moon: Is there any hit song by Walk the Moon that hasn't proven to be an absolute anthem so far?! The answer to that, of course, is "no", as "Anna Sun" and "Tightrope" have both proven to be some of the biggest hits and catchiest songs of the 2010's! WTM's third big song, "Shut Up And Dance", is sure to follow in the footsteps of their first two smash hits, as far as I'm concerned! There is no underlying, "deep" message behind "Shut Up And Dance", it's pretty much a song that celebrates how fun it is to just get up and dance to music! So, do as the song says, and "shut up and dance"!!

"Simple Machine" by Guster: Hard to believe Guster have now been around for a little over a decade and a half! Their material still sounds so fresh, from their breakthrough song, "Fa Fa", to their 2010 song, "Do You Love Me?" Guster's latest song, "Simple Machine", shows that they are still keeping up with the times! "Simple Machine" is a catchy, quirky indie-pop song, which has become standard for the 2010's, but Guster have been churning out songs like this ever since bands like Third Eye Blind were hot items on the pop charts and the term "indie-pop" was not yet in widespread usage. "Simple Machine" also combines the best of both worlds when it comes to its sound, in that it is equal parts folk-rock and new wave!

"The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" by U2: And last, but certainly not least, U2 brings us the most anticipated song of the week! It looks like their whole ALBUM ("Songs of Innocence") is going to be all the rage for the rest of this year, and well into 2015, but for now, let's focus on the first single of their new album, "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)". The Ramones aren't the most obvious influence in U2's music, but they were one of many CBGB's punk groups that inspired U2 to become musicians themselves. Joey was the first member of The Ramones to die, and, as if by coincidence, one of the last songs he heard before he died was U2's then new song, "In A Little While". Perhaps Bono and the boys knew about this, and are not only paying tribute to their fallen hero in this song, but are also keeping in mind how it was their song that got Joey Ramone through his last day on Earth. The sound of the song is a chugging, crunchy hard rock sound, but definitely more characteristic of U2 than of The Ramones.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New songs for September 10th, 2014

here they are:

"Budapest" by George Ezra: He might not be from Budapest (he's British), but George Ezra's song about the capital of Hungary is still a song that grabs your attention just from the first listen! "Budapest" combines the world music influenced rhythmic patterns of later Paul Simon songs with the more galloping acoustic rhythm of Mumford and Sons. As neo-folk-rock is becoming more and more in demand these days, it's no wonder George Ezra's rise to stardom has climaxed so quickly! "Give me one good reason that I should never make a change", Ezra demands during the chorus. I'm with Ezra, personally. He should make a change, stylistically, as many musicians do, so I can see just how capable and diverse his musical range is. Some folks might sound better than Ezra (including Better than Ezra), but he's still worth listening to for the moment.

"Forgotten Man" by Tom Petty: In less than three minutes, Petty proves that he can really rock no matter how little time he has, with "Forgotten Man"! The song opens with a Bo Diddley shuffle and Chuck Berry licks, and it continues to use them both throughout. Not too many chords are used in the song, either. Petty might be complaining that he "feels like a forgotten man" during the song, but it's pretty much impossible to forget a song like this one! Sometimes, simple is best!!

"Happy Idiot" by TV on the Radio: If "love will tear us apart", as Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis coldly claimed almost three and a half decades ago, then what is there left to do afterwards?! Well, according to TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, the answer to that is to be a "happy idiot". The chords, atmosphere, and lyrics of "Happy Idiot" all owe a lot to Joy Division. "Happy Idiot" is an icy, brutally honest song about how retreating to idiocy can be a way of escaping the harsh reality of certain situations. In this particular case, the other TVOTR members are probably using this song to grieve over how their original bassist, Gerard Smith, died last year. It almost seems eerie that the word "idiot" and the Joy Division influence in the song can serve as a potential parallel to how Iggy Pop's similarly titled album, "The Idiot", was the last album that Joy Division's Ian Curtis listened to due to the fact that he hung himself after putting it on. Isn't music history fascinating?!

"Home (Leave the Lights On)" by Field Report: Folk-rock group, Field Report, seemed like they had one of the saddest, most beautiful songs of 2012, with the stark "I Am Not Waiting Anymore". The fact that no other songs from their debut CD got any attention led me to believe that Field Report were pretty much destined for one-hit wonder status. Two summers later, it appears as though I've been proven wrong with the release of Field Report's "Home (Leave the Lights On)", the bouncy sound of which shines like a glimmer of hope next to the more bittersweet "I Am Not Waiting Anymore". With "Home", Field Report actually sound more like a band, as opposed to sounding like one person posing as a band. A rhythm section is added in, and it sounds like there are two different guitars being used as well. Field Report probably kept their original fanbase in mind, though, as "Home" still sounds as poignant as ever.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New songs for September 3rd, 2014

here they are:

"Fools' Gold" by Fitz and The Tantrums: No foolin'! This song somehow sounds old and new at the same time! Those "Be My Baby"-style hand claps at the beginning and its initial vintage R & B style keyboard sound make it sound like a song from the '60s, yet as the hand claps fade away and the synthesizer changes from authentic soul to more artificial new wave, it doesn't sound that different from your typical Top 40 hit. I honestly have mixed feelings about this song (and their sophomore record overall, really). Fitz and The Tantrums' shift in sound from Motown revival for their debut to more straight up alt-pop for their follow-up isn't entirely a bad thing, as it has resulted in the infectiously catchy whistling of "The Walker", the equally infectiously catchy beats of "Out of My League", and even the soul-meets-new-wave sound of "6am". Four singles from one album is an impressive feat to brag about in this day and age, but FATT were fools to make "Fools' Gold" sound as spruced up for Top 40 radio as they did. This song will probably grow on me later on, though, as many of their songs have.

"Half the City" by St. Paul and The Broken Bones: And here is yet another band who started off being a "soul revival" band. Thankfully, St. Paul and the Broken Bones have only had one album so far, so I'm hoping they continue to stick with their sound, because I like what I've heard from them so far! For their latest song, "Half the City", they mix Al Green influenced vocals and rhythm with crunchy, blues-y guitars that wouldn't sound too out of place in one of the more soulful songs in The Rolling Stones' catalog. In contrast with Fitz and The Tantrums' image as a "neo-soul" band fading away, St. Paul and The Broken Bones seem like the type of group that will probably slather on even more old school soul influences if they come out with another album. Tell me you don't detect hints of Al Green, Sam & Dave, and Otis Redding (among others) in this song!!

"Strong" by London Grammar: It's tempting to dismiss this song as a "Florence and The Machine ripoff", except this song has a sound all its own!! It is equally as haunting and emotional, if not more so, than Florence's material. This song does what Goo Goo Dolls' "Naked" did almost two decades ago, lyrically, by exposing the most raw, vulnerable part of the emotional psyche in the lyrics, albeit using a soft, angelic sound, instead of a more raw, grungy one like The Goos did. The title of this song only indicates what the lead singer appears to be on the outside. There is a much deeper story to be told upon actually listening to the song!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New songs for August 20th, 2014

here they are:

"Flaws" by Bastille: Synth driven beats and melodic British vocals made for a winning combination for Bastille's first two hits, "Pompeii" and "Bad Blood", both of which became chart toppers, so it only seems natural that their fans were just begging for more from them. With the strength of Bastille's third big hit, "Flaws", fans of the band have yet another chance to experience their music! Like Bastille's other two songs, "Flaws" combines catchy beats with brooding, angst-ridden lyrics. "Flaws" is more a song about self-blame than the more outwardly accusatory "Pompeii" and "Bad Blood" were, though.

"Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating In the Future" by Mike Doughty: Mike Doughty isn't an Imagine Dragons fan...or is he?! Mike's latest song, "Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating In the Future" (wow, that's a mouthful!!) seems to take after Imagine Dragons' folk-guitar-meets-pop-beats type sound. Knowing Doughty, if he intended to emulate Imagine Dragons at all, it was probably satirical. Then again, there is the inspirational sounding chorus (consisting only of the words to the title), so maybe it's a sincere song after all. However, if you consider that the title is the only part of the song that really makes sense (and that he actually got it from a newspaper article, as opposed to feeling the need for being inspirational), then you basically have a song that is folk-rock in sound, but an oddity in lyric, typical of Mike Doughty's material.

"Stop Your Crying" by Lake Street Dive: So apparently we're starting AND stopping with bands who are (so far) three-hit wonders, with one album each. Unlike Bastille, Lake Street Dive haven't been on multiple pop charts yet, and are instead exclusive to the adult alternative charts. Given how catchy Lake Street Dive's songs are, as well as their slow but steady status as a "cult band", I don't understand why Lake Street Dive haven't made that big of a splash beyond one format yet! Beginning with a crunchy guitar riff that somewhat recalls "No Matter What" by Badfinger, "Stop Your Crying" quickly turns into an irresistibly fiery combination of both classic rock and classic R & B by the time the drums enter the song! Lead singer Rachael Price is able turn yet another tale of romance gone wrong into a joyous musical celebration as she leads the rest of the band into action with her passionately exciting vocals!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New songs for August 13th, 2014

here they are:

"I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You" by The Hold Steady: Where Bruce Springsteen romanticized city life, The Hold Steady expose the seedy underbelly of city life. "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You" is basically meant to frighten you, at least lyrically it is. It's a woefully angry tale of Craig Finn's current life breaking into shambles before his very eyes. The passionately grungy sound of the song recalls similarly themed life-gone-wrong, downward spiraling songs, like The Afghan Whigs' "What Jail Is Like" and Goo Goo Dolls' "Long Way Down". The Hold Steady are clearly not holding steady!!

"Let's Be Still" by The Head and The Heart: While seeing The Head and The Heart in concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, I got a taste of this song before I reviewed it! "Let's Be Still" is a very calming song, as its title implies. It is probably one of the best contemporary songs to meditate to, for both its soothing melody and for its message of trying to find a blissful escape from the fast pace of the modern world. The vocal harmony of the song flows quite well with the spiritual harmony of the lyrics.

"Three Headed Woman" by Boy and Bear: For Boy and Bear to even come up with a song title as bizarre as "Three Headed Woman", they are probably more eccentric than the quaint folk-rock group they appear to be. The title is only mentioned at the beginning of the song, when Dave Hosking sings about how he "had one of those dreams where you were a three headed woman". What this means is anyone's guess, and Sigmund Freud would probably have a field day with trying to figure out its meaning! As for the song itself, it seems to be about being caught between loving and hating one's object of affection.

"Work It Out" by Knox Hamilton: Don't be fooled by the name, Knox Hamilton are a quartet, not a single person. You should also not be fooled by the gentle "Mr. Rogers"-ish chime of the xylophone in the intro of the song, as it is does not define the song, and it is also not used in the rest of the song, which is one of many alt-pop songs that I have come to label "new new wave" (using an anthemic contemporary pop/rock sound in which guitars and synthesizers are both dominant instruments). Not a whole lot of particularly memorable substance in the song, and the chorus of "I know we can work it out" is nothing new. Sure is catchy, though!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New songs for August 6th, 2014

here they are:

"Gotta Get Away" by The Black Keys: The Black Keys' latest record, "Turn Blue", has been interesting so far!! The infectious funk-pop of "Fever" and the more adventurous, uneven, "Weight of Love" were already reviewed on the site earlier this year. For all their experimentation, though, it is great to hear The Black Keys return to their rock 'n' roll roots on "Gotta Get Away", their third single from "Turn Blue". No fancy tricks here, just basic, three-chord rock! To give the song a good ol' American flavor, famous cities like Kalamazoo and Atlanta are mentioned in the song. Try, though you may, there's no getting away from "Gotta Get Away"!!

"The Great Unknown" by Jukebox the Ghost: Taking a detour away from the blues and into more contemplative territory, our only other song of the week comes to us from Jukebox the Ghost, an upbeat indie-pop group who named themselves after the lyrics of a song by avant-rock legend Captain Beefheart, but whose music sounds far more mainstream than the Captain's. Jukebox the Ghost's latest tune, "The Great Unknown", does not take any ventures into the unknown of the music world. It does, however, have a charm all its own, with its simple but universal message about how "there's something waiting for you in the great unknown". Built around a piano riff that sounds like it got caught between the sentimentality of Five For Fighting and the wit of Ben Folds, "The Great Unknown" is a song that aims to bring change not to the world, but to your heart.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New songs for July 30th, 2014

here they are:

"Every Morning" by J. Mascis (from Dinosaur Jr.): With a past full of sardonic, grungy rock songs, it's a bit of a surprise to me that J. Mascis, the lead singer of noise-rock pioneers, Dinosaur Jr., has mellowed out in recent years! I didn't believe I'd hear anything even remotely acoustic from him until I heard him cover Edie Brickell's "Circle". Mascis' latest solo effort, "Every Morning", is a folk-rock song. The song is not without his fuzzy yet spastic trademark electric guitar solos, but those are not the defining features of "Every Morning" by a long shot! Mascis' dry attitude is still there in both the lyrics ("every morning makes it hard on me") and in the way they're delivered. It seems as though he has been quite the busy man this year, having also provided the guitar solos on "Goshen '97" by up-and-coming indie rock group, Strand of Oaks.

"Family Tree" by Kings of Leon: Kings of Leon have done plenty of odes to classic rock, but so far, none of those songs quite capture the spirit of the vintage 1970's electric guitar sound like "Family Tree". It is by far the most upbeat song from KOL's latest album, "Mechanical Bull", and quite possibly their most upbeat song in general! The chorus of the song is memorable, though it does have some awkward rhyming ("I am your family tree, I know your A to Z, this is a secret proposition, lay your hands on me"). It seems as though the whole song centers around the subject of the song trying to make it with the girl of his dreams, but that is rather typical subject matter for a 1970's rock song, so the Followill brothers once again manage to capture the essence of the glory days of rock 'n' roll!

"Rise Up Singing" by Trigger Hippy: You know that a band with the word "hippy" in the name is probably going to sound like something from the past, and it does, but in a rather fresh, soulful way! Trigger Hippy are a supergroup that comprise of various members of The Black Crowes (including newer member, Jackie Greene), and alt-rocker turned soul mistress, Joan Osborne. Not surprisingly, Trigger Hippy sounds like a group whose music got stuck in the early '70s, combining elements of rock, folk, and soul all in the same sound. The message of the song is simple, but quite joyful and exuberant.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New songs for July 23rd, 2014

here they are:

"Are You Behind the Shining Star?" by Trampled by Turtles: Their name is funny, and their music is excellent! I fell in love instantly with Trampled by Turtles' melancholy, bittersweet "Alone", and their calming ode to the road, "Midnight On the Interstate" was almost as good. Their third big song, "Are You Behind the Shining Star?", maintains the rustic, old world charm of their first two hits, and it also sounds more energetic, as if TBT are just now trying to get on to the Mumford and Sons bandwagon. After lead vocalist Dave Simonett opens the lyrics with the title of the song, he asks, "Am I as hopeless as you are?", perhaps indicating that, although this is their happiest SOUNDING song so far, it might not actually BE their happiest song.

"From Now On" by Delta Spirit: Although there is (so far) no such thing as a guitar-less Delta Spirit song, their last two songs to make an impact on adult alt radio stations ("California" and "Tear It Up") focused more on rhythm than on guitar. Their latest song, "From Now On", returns to the guitar-focused sound that Delta Spirit originally had. In spite of the chorus's reassurance that "from now on I'm gonna be your friend", "From Now On" is probably the least friendly sounding Delta Spirit track I've heard so far! The sound of the song tends to evoke the moody indie-pop of both contemporary groups like The National and the even darker sounds of classic indie groups like My Bloody Valentine.

"Scarecrow" by Counting Crows: Though Counting Crows have only released one other album so far in the 2010's, I'd say it's been a great decade for Adam Duritz and his fondly remembered '90s folk-rock group! They tend to be currently focusing on songs with a roots-y Neil Young/Tom Petty type sound, and their latest song, "Scarecrow" is no exception to the rule. The song seems to largely work as an exercise in clever wordplay and quirky lyrics, from its opening lyrics ("Mary steers clear of the men from space"), to its silly but memorable chorus, which varies from "snowman, scarecrow, John Doe, buffalo" to "spaceman, scarecrow, peep show, freak show", but always includes the word "scarecrow".

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


This deserves some sorta celebration!! Ummmmmm....I dunno what, though. Anyway, here are this week's songs:

"Bad Habit" by The Kooks: At first, Luke Pritchard's voice appears to be surrounded only by various forms of percussion, a la Adele's "Rumour Has It", on the latest Kooks song, "Bad Habit". This made me a bit skeptical as to how I would like "Bad Habit". However, about a minute into the song, the faux-retro garage rock sound of Hugh Harris' guitar shows up, and makes it sound more like a typical Kooks song. It's definitely a catchy song (although what Kooks song isn't, really?!) However, it just doesn't measure up to that '60s folk-rock style charm of songs like "She Moves In Her Own Way" and "Junk of the Heart (Happy)". It sure is great to hear Luke and the boys back in action, though, nonetheless!

"Don't Know What It Means" by Puss N Boots: Norah Jones (yes, THAT Norah Jones) has attempted to assert herself as the lead singer of bands before, such as The Little Willies, but that didn't quite do the trick for me. Norah's new group, Puss N Boots, however, has actually gotten me to like her music. Initially, I didn't even realize she was in the band, when in fact she is the lead vocalist and guitarist! Their sound is country-rock, but a rather enjoyable, catchy sort of country-rock (think what a less rowdy Old '97s might sound like). "Don't Know What It Means" is only a little over two and a half minutes long, and Norah repeats the title phrase quite a few times, but there is still something quite likable about it. It is also worth mentioning that Puss N Boots is a trio of women (unlike The Little Willies, in which Norah was the only female in the group).

"Hayloft" by Nickel Creek: We've heard Nickel Creek attempt to blend bluegrass and rock before, and they're quite good at it. What about mixing bluegrass and pop, though?! Well, the answer to that comes to us in the form of Nickel Creek's latest song, "Hayloft", which combines the plucked strings of bluegrass with the synthesized beats of a typical 21st century pop song. Don't mistake this for a sugar-sweet pop song, though, as Sara Watkins' repeated mantra of "my daddy's got a gun, so you better run", as well as the rather menacing tone of the song overall, give "Hayloft" a bit of an edge that previous Nickel Creek songs haven't had. Sure is a sharp turnaround from the bittersweet, yearning sounds of "Destination"!! Makes me wonder what the rest of Nickel Creek's latest album, "A Dotted Line", sounds like.

"Heart Is A Drum" by Beck: Beck once covered the song "Pink Moon" by folk-rock cult hero, Nick Drake. Perhaps that rubbed off on him somehow, as Beck's latest song, "Heart Is A Drum", sounds a lot like a Nick Drake song. Its tuning even sounds similar to songs like Nick's "From the Morning", and the piano sounds awfully similar to a couple of Nick Drake's songs (most notably the songs from "Bryter Layter"). The electronic echo and drums in "Heart Is A Drum" make the song into more of a Beck song. With its continuously aching yet soothing melody, "Heart Is A Drum" is pure autumnal melancholia at its finest!

"Left Hand Free" by alt-J: Alt-J (who named themselves for how the ∆ symbol appears on computers) are pretty much as eclectic as their name would suggest they are! They've gone through quirky goofball rock with the Adam Sandler-esque "Fitzpleasure", as well as psychedelic pop with their "Where the Wild Things Are" homage, "Breezeblocks". Now it appears that alt-J are going for more of a blues-y garage rock based sound with their latest song, "Left Hand Free". If "Left Hand Free" sounds more simplistic than alt-J's previous work, there's a reason for that. Apparently, they were trying their hand (no pun intended) at creating a song that was more fit for American audiences (alt-J themselves are British) since their latest record was recorded on an American label, so they intentionally did a sloppy, haphazard sounding song. Perhaps they don't view American culture in the highest regard, but they were still able to come up with a good song in the process.

"Long Time Coming" by Saints of Valory: Saints of Valory are one of those bands who just seem to have a sound that's riding hot on the wave of what has become popular in alt-pop/rock of the 2010's. Their previous hit, "Neon Eyes" (from only one summer ago), was an excellent U2 homage, and SOV's follow-up song, "Long Time Coming", sounds a lot like Imagine Dragons, only with more emphasis on the electric guitar. While the sound of this song might not be terribly original, there is one thing that is, and that's the video, which boasts an electric neon glow (and talented dancers) throughout! Check it out here:

"My Hurricane" by Jamie Scott (from Graffiti6): And the hit(makers) just keep on coming! "Free" and "Stare Into the Sun" might not be titles that are immediately recognizable (and a lot of people don't seem to know the name Graffiti6, either), but whistle a few bars (if you're good at it) to either song, and a lot of people will probably know what you're talking about! Now Jamie Scott, the lead singer of the wildly successful alt-pop/soul group, Graffiti6, has struck out on his own for the first time, with his song, "My Hurricane". "My Hurricane" doesn't seem like it'll fare as well on the charts as "Free" and "Stare Into the Sun", but the song does have a style all its own. Instead of being influenced by early '70s soul like his previous hits were, it seems to be influenced by more contemporary folk-pop (and legendary folk-rock like Bob Dylan - check out that harmonica solo at the beginning!) Another thing about "My Hurricane" that sticks out is its shifting from E major verses to C major choruses. I don't know too many songs that have verse to chorus changes quite like that!

"Navigate Below" by The Revivalists: "The Revivalists", indeed! What these guys are reviving is the sound of blues and jazz, wrapped up neatly in a pop/rock package! Though there have been a small number of musicians (i.e. Gary Clark Jr., Trombone Shorty, Alabama Shakes, etc.) who have attempted to keep the blues alive and well, there still have not been many, so a band like The Revivalists are a welcome addition to my blog, and hopefully, to your music collection. The hopeful lyrics ("we can work it out") and bright, shiny tone of "Navigate Below" set it apart from the mostly either world-weary or lovelorn blues/jazz-rock of the 2010's. Oh, did I mention they're from New Orleans?! No wonder they sound so good!

"White Lies" by Max Frost: As the title indicates, this song is basically about the lack of trust in a relationship that the lead singer (probably) experienced. Nothing new here. As for the sound of the song, it's been done, but it definitely has a way of creeping into your head! It mixes folk guitars with electronic beats (Avicii, anyone?!), but there's actually a very good reason for this. Apparently one of the first people Max Frost collaborated with was indie-folk-rocker Bob Schneider, and he first heard the music of contemporary R & B musicians like D'Angelo and Erykah Badu shortly afterward, which ultimately led to his combining of folk and hip-hop. Also, if this song sounds familiar, it might just be because you watched a commercial for Beats Electronics!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New songs for July 9th, 2014

here they are:

"Crazy For You" by Scars on 45: Named for a quote from Emmylou Harris' father, but sounding more like a guitar-centric version of Coldplay, Scars on 45 managed to win me over three times in a row with songs from their debut a couple years ago. Normally I'm not thrilled with a lot of the faux-Coldplay bands, but there's something about Scars on 45 that continually draws me to their music! The chorus of their latest song, "Crazy For You", tends to pour a bit more musical syrup than the verses do, with its slowed down, piano-centric sound, as well as its gooey guy/girl harmonies, but I can deal with the faster, more guitar oriented verses pretty well. Besides, the fast verse/slow chorus focus of this song makes it distinguished from Scars' other material.

"Do You?" by Spoon: Perhaps Spoon thought their fans weren't QUITE ready for the Stones-y, soulful "Rent I Pay" (though the comments I've read about the song would indicate otherwise), so they've already released a new single, "Do You?", that sounds a bit more...well...Spoon-y. And what is "Spoon-y", you ask?! Basically it's fun, bouncy, quirky music that combines piano-pop with folk-rock. "Do You?" adds a soft jazz element to their music, with its use of major 7th chords to comprise the majority of the song. The fact that this song was released in summer is quite apt, considering how its lyrics center around activities like getting popsicles, and asking "someone (to) do something 'bout this heat". The sound of the song doesn't sound quite right for summer, though. It has more of a breezy, autumnal flavor to me.

"Summer Noon" by Tweedy (Jeff Tweedy from Wilco): Now THIS song feels like summer! The title alone says so! However, it's not a summer party song, but more of a "lazy, hazy days of summer" sorta song. This being a song by Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, I wouldn't exactly expect this to be a party song. Another thing Tweedy is known for is having a "retro" flavor to a lot of his songs, though it seems hard to top how retro "Summer Noon" sounds. It doesn't seem to sound a year older than 1969, even though it was (obviously) released years later. "Summer Noon" is meant to evoke exactly what its title would indicate it's supposed to - a summer noon, of course! A restful, peaceful summer noon!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New songs for July 2nd, 2014

here they are:

"Gimme Something Good" by Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams could easily be likened to a younger Neil Young, with his tendency to switch between heartfelt, acoustic ballads, and electrifying, arena ready rockers. The "rock side" of Ryan's material seems to be largely influenced by U2 and Bruce Springsteen. Opting for a Tom Petty style sound is not something I recall Ryan Adams doing. Until now, that is. "Gimme Something Good" clearly recalls Tom Petty, circa the late '70s/early '80s, in many ways. First off, there's that mix of roots-y but gutsy electric guitar that evokes the sound that The Heartbreakers' Mike Campbell typically used, and there's even a keyboard in the background that sounds remarkably like Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench. To top it all off, the chorus of "Gimme Something Good" kinda sounds like "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around", Petty's duet with Fleetwood Mac vocalist, Stevie Nicks. Not sure if Petty would be honored or insulted if he heard this song, but chances are, probably one of the two. With Petty having recently released a new record, it'd be interesting to find out what he thinks of Ryan Adams' latest song!!

"Goshen '97" by Strand of Oaks: The title of the song is never mentioned in the lyrics, but it's a pretty clear statement of what the song is about. It is a no-frills, cheekily nostalgic look back on what life was like for Strand of Oaks' lead singer, Timothy Showalter, in Goshen, Indiana, back in 1997. The chorus of the song tells it all, as Showalter creakily growls that he was "lonely but (he) was having fun", and that he does not want to "start all over again". Various bits of '90s nostalgia are laced through the song, from its mention of "singing Pumpkins in the mirror" (Smashing Pumpkins), to the fact that Dinosaur Jr. guitarist J. Mascis provides guest guitar work on the song. Welcome to the '90s!

"Rainbow" by Robert Plant: From Zeppelin to zen. This seems like an apt way of describing how Robert Plant's recent work has turned out. Yes, he still performs rock music, but not the mighty, thunderous roar of Led Zeppelin. Instead, it is a more mature, transcendentally influenced, and almost meditative form of rock music. His latest song, "Rainbow", continues in this pattern, having not only a peaceful sound, but soothing, hippie-like lyrics as well, especially when he describes himself as being the "rainbow" in the title of the song. "I will sing my song for you, and carry on", Plant sings, in a blissfully existential manner. Also, I'm sorry to dash the hopes of any Led Zeppelin fans who might be reading this, but Plant is not planning a reunion tour with the band, as he would much rather focus on the here and now than dwell on the past.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New songs for June 25th, 2014

here they are:

"Brill Bruisers" by The New Pornographers: If you're familiar with the "Brill Building" movement of the early '60s (which included mostly "girl groups" like The Shirelles, The Ronettes, and The Chiffons), then "Brill Bruisers" actually seems like quite an apt way to describe the innocent on the outside, snarky on the inside sound of a group like The New Pornographers. Don't be fooled by their risque sounding name, it's merely based on how someone commented on how music is the "new pornography". That squeaky clean "ba-ba" dominated harmony in the beginning of "Brill Bruisers" pretty much sets the blueprint for the song. It's a somewhat punchy, yet still enjoyable "feel-good" song like many of The New Pornographers songs are, and that's pretty much what makes the song enjoyable. Aside from the filler words uttered in harmony during the song, it's a bit hard to make out what the lyrics are at first, but it seems as though music matters more to The New Pornographers than lyrics do. After all, these are the same guys who did "Sing Me Spanish Techno", a song that even the group themselves has no idea what it's about!

"Call Me the Breeze" by Eric Clapton: Back when Lynyrd Skynyrd made this song famous, they really emphasized the rock 'n' roll element of what was originally more of a laid-back blues-y country song by J.J. Cale. Almost 40 years later, it appears that guitar hero (and avid J.J. Cale fan) Eric Clapton has come back to do Cale's song justice by sticking to the blues-y, yet still mellow sound that the song originally had. Lynyrd Skynyrd fans may disagree with me, but I personally think that "Call Me the Breeze" sounds better as a Clapton cover than as a Skynyrd cover!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New songs for June 18th, 2014

here they are:

"Just One of the Guys" by Jenny Lewis: The Rilo Kiley frontwoman's latest song is a piece of alt-country melancholia, centering around how she feels regret for how she just can't be "one of the guys" no matter how hard she tries. The titular phrase could be interpreted in one of two ways. It could refer to how she always feels like a female in a crowd full of males, or it could refer to how she doesn't feel like an individual even though she wants to be seen as one ("guys", in this case, would simply mean "people", referring to both genders). The second part of the chorus states that she also feels regretful about not having an open mind. The irony about the statements in this song are that she is incredibly individual, she usually blends in successfully with men (I particularly like it when she collaborates with Elvis Costello, which she has done a few times by now), and that she (as far as I know) does have an open mind. Is this a song of true regret, or just four minutes of sarcasm disguised as a lonesome country-rock song?! Perhaps we'll never know!

"Rent I Pay" by Spoon: It's been about four years since the indie-pop/rock quintet known as Spoon last released an album. Their simple but quirky name goes well with their musical style, which is also simple but quirky, influenced equally by rock, pop, and folk, with a dash of Elton John/Billy Joel-esque piano-pop thrown in there on occasion. Spoon's latest song, "Rent I Pay", almost seems like their attempt at trying to be The Rolling Stones, with its main riff sounding somewhat like a slowed down version of "Street Fighting Man". The lyrics, though, are pure Spoon. I mean honestly, would you expect Mick Jagger to have lyrics like, "that's the rent I pay/like my brother say"? Probably not. But such offbeat lyrics would seem pretty typical for a guy like Britt Daniel!

"Slow Motion" by Phox: Monica Martin is a black woman who leads an indie-folk-rock group!! Not every day you come across that! The instrumentation of "Slow Motion", the debut song from her band, Phox, is also something unusual, even by indie standards. In the beginning of the song, you think you're gonna get a bluegrass song, but it quickly turns into something that comes off as a cross between Florence & The Machine and The Kopecky Family Band. Top it all off with a clarinet solo in the middle, and a section towards the end with a slight reggae influence, and you've basically got a tasty indie-pop stew on your hands! "Everything I do, I do in slow motion", Monica sings during the chorus. An apt description for the song, but the eclectic mix of sounds chosen for the song seem like they were done in anything but slow motion!

"U Get Me High" by Tom Petty: Doesn't it bother you when musicians release one single off their new album one week, and then the VERY NEXT WEEK they release ANOTHER one?! Well, it bothers me!! This is exactly what Tom Petty did with his latest album, "Hypnotic Eye". "American Dream Plan B" was released last week, and now we have "U Get Me High". Not exactly as forceful and driving as "American Dream Plan B", but rest assured, "U Get Me High" is still good. It sounds a bit like something Petty might have done circa the mid '90s, using rock 'n' roll guitars with a mid-tempo drumbeat. This song may or may not be about drugs, as it is equally likely to be about a girl he's in love with, who gives him "something so deep". There's only one other complaint I have about this song, aside from its earlier than expected release date, and that is that eye don't no Y Tom Petty chose 2 have the letter "U" in the title of the song instead of the pronoun "you", with its proper spelling. Seriously, what did he have 2 do that 4?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Songs from A to Z!

From Tom Petty's action-packed anthem "American Dream Plan B", to the zephyrean zen of Conor Oberst's "Zigzagging Towards the Light", we've got 'em all! Here they are:

"American Dream Plan B" by Tom Petty: Is there a better way to start out this week's blog than with a solid, rockin' tune like Tom Petty's "American Plan B"?! I don't think so! One of the greatest advantages Tom Petty has over fellow "heartland rockers", like Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, is that Petty typically seems to stick to rock 'n' roll music more than they do, instead of switching between rock and folk/country. Apparently, this time around, Petty wanted his entire album to have a no-frills rock sound, from start to finish. That being said, "American Dream Plan B" brings his newest album, "Hypnotic Eye" off to a great start!

"Out On the Street" by Spanish Gold: This marks the second time that a member of My Morning Jacket has joined a supergroup, the first of whom was lead singer, Jim James, with his side project, Monsters of Folk. This time, MMJ drummer Patrick Hallahan takes a swing at joining a supergroup, along with Dante Schwebel from Canadian indie-folk/rock group, City and Colour, and Adrian Quesada from Grupo Fantasma. Though two thirds of the group started out as folkies, their song "Out On the Street" doesn't fit that description, and is instead a rather soulful number that sounds remarkably like "Somebody's Watching Me" by '80s one-hit wonder and R & B musician, Rockwell. The coincidence in sound to that song is not accidental, as the members of Spanish Gold wanted their sound to recall the R & B and early hip-hop music of the 1980's, since all three of them grew up watching MTV during the first couple of years the channel was on the air.

"The Line" by Phish: And here we have yet another soulful, slinky, jazzy track, albeit in a more mellow, blissed out mood, typical of Phish. At least it SEEMS like a typical Phish song until you realize that the song is actually about a basketball player! Not exactly a common subject among post-hippie jam bands, but apparently the members of Phish were big fans of basketball player, Darius Washington, Jr., so they decided to dedicate a song to him. The song is written from the perspective of a basketball player whose destiny hangs in the balance (or "the line", hence the title of the song). I'm the last person you'd ever want to have join a basketball team, but I still appreciate this song.

"Zigzagging Towards the Light" by Conor Oberst: You've gotta love the title of this song!! It uses both an unusual letter and an unusual word beginning with the letter, and adding "towards the light" after the first word of the title makes it sound poetic! The song is a laid back, roots-y folk tune with a rock 'n' roll undercurrent, almost like a long, lost Traveling Wilburys song. The title is not the only poetic lyric in the song. It is full of cosmic sounding metaphors and descriptions, actually, like "my mind's a weathervane, it spins around just like a top", "it forms a figure eight, and goes on for eternity", and "I fly by interstate across a purple mountain range". So basically, "Zigzagging Towards the Light" is the tale of a dissatisfied youth product of bohemian pop culture trying to search for the meaning of life through dream-like descriptions of his surroundings. It's like Kerouac's "On the Road" set to music!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New songs for June 4th, 2014

here they are:

"Back to You" by Twin Forks: Is it just me, or is "bluegrass rock" getting even more catchy than it was before?! "Back to You" by Twin Forks certainly seems to prove that this is so! With its proficiently plucked banjo strings, and its jovial, stomp-along rhythm, "Back to You" is one of those songs that's guaranteed to put a smile on anyone's face! Seriously, who wouldn't wanna just break out into song and dance during this one?!

"My Silver Lining" by First Aid Kit: I only heard three songs ("Blue", "The Lion's Roar", and "Emmylou") from First Aid Kit before I heard their latest song, "My Silver Lining", but those three songs were enough to let me know what First Aid Kit typically sound like. They are a Swedish folk-rock duo consisting of two sisters who use their honey-sweet harmonies and soft, billowy sound to melt the hearts of even the most cold-hearted people out there. "My Silver Lining" is like a "survival in times of trouble" type of song, contrasting dulcet harmonies with despairing emotions, which is typical of their material. In spite of their sweet nature, First Aid Kit often have negative subject matter within their songs, but their songs are just so sweet and lovely, I usually don't remember what their true nature is!

"Taking Chances" by Sharon Van Etten: How do you make a leap from the PJ Harvey-esque angst of "Serpents" to the Joni Mitchell-ish folk-rock of "All I Can", and now trip-hop in the style of Portishead and Massive Attack for "Taking Chances"?! Don't ask me how, but all I know is that Sharon Van Etten can do it! "Taking Chances", indeed! With musical style, anyway. The subject matter of the song is nothing new, as it deals with dissatisfaction in a relationship like most of Sharon's songs tend to, but the delivery of her passionate, sulky yearning on this song, combined with its moody, electronic musical aspects, does the trick for me here.

"Violent Shiver" by Benjamin Booker: Take the "chug 'n' pound" drumming of Delta Spirit's Brandon Young, and combine it with the mighty, forceful guitar sound of an old Chuck Berry or Rolling Stones record, and you've got "Violent Shiver" by Benjamin Booker. This is one powerhouse song!! Defiant and headstrong throughout, "Violent Shiver" is more violent than shiver inducing, but more of a righteous violence than an unjust one. And then there's the subject of who Benjamin Booker IS!! He is a young black man, probably not much older (or younger?) than I am, who is from New Orleans, and enjoys hardcore punk groups like Black Flag just as much as he does more "traditional" New Orleans jazz and blues. You don't meet (or hear) someone like THAT every day, do you?!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New songs for May 28th, 2014

here they are:

"Just One Drink" by Jack White: Just listening to the beginning of this song, I can already tell it's good! It has the chugging beat of The Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting For the Man" coupled with scathingly funny lyrics about opposites (for instance, "You drink water, I drink gasoline", and "I watch TV, you watch the ceiling"). Much like Jack did on the title track to "Lazaretto", "Just One Drink" also combines rock 'n' roll guitars with bluegrass fiddles. Just ONE drink, eh?! I don't need a single one for me to enjoy a song like this one!

"Step" by Vampire Weekend: Of the three songs that have been released as singles so far from VW's latest album, "Modern Vampires of the City", "Step" seems to be the mellowest one so far. It has a soothing sound that is influenced by the bright shiny organs of 1960's baroque-pop songs. VW tend to be going for a '60s vibe for many of their latest songs, actually, including the oddball rockabilly sound of "Diane Young" and the jaunty, Monkees-esque piano-pop of "Unbelievers". Ezra Koenig delivers lyrics in "Step" that are as cheeky and clever as ever, rattling off a list of mostly American cities in the first verse, showing off knowledge of obscure idioms (i.e. "rich as Croesus", meaning extremely rich), and even referencing another indie-pop group ("such a modest mouse" in the chorus - Isaac Brock, are you paying attention to this?!)

"Stolen Dance" by Milky Chance: "Stolen DANCE" by Milky CHANCE?! Well, let's take off our pants, make romance, and watch out for ants as we water the plants! Not every day you come across a song whose name rhymes with its performer(s)!! Its sound is quite unique, coming off as an unlikely (but still quite catchy) cross between Mexican folk music and indie-pop. Using only an acoustic guitar, smooth, hushed vocals, and hand claps for a percussion section, "Stolen Dance" could be described as "The Gipsy Kings from outer space" in terms of how it sounds. The words "stolen dance" do not make an appearance anywhere in the song, but the song's refrain of being "stoned in paradise" is a rather apt description of it. The song goes nowhere, but maintains a blissful mood all the while, as though it is dangling down, perpetually suspended in mid-air, from somewhere in the night sky.

"Tennis Court" by Lorde: Lorde knows (pun intended) that high school is not an easy thing to go through! As a high schooler herself, Lorde seems to have a rather cynical point of view about her peers in her latest song, "Tennis Court". Here, she takes the high school stereotypes of "class clown" and "beauty queen" (casting herself as the latter, in a manner that is probably tongue-in-cheek), and viciously deconstructs them to the point in which they engage in a battle of trash talk. Ironic that someone whose songs present a rather sour point of view towards teen pop culture is getting revered by the teen pop crowd (and beyond)! Perhaps we'll wait and see what she has in store for us once she reaches her 20's!!

"Waiting All Night" by Phish: As a jam band who followed directly in the footsteps of The Grateful Dead from the moment they debuted, Phish are typically a very blissful band to listen to. However, none of their songs so far have had a vibe quite as blissed out as their latest song, "Waiting All Night". Those expecting the guitar noodling that Phish usually have will probably be disappointed, but it is still a song worth listening to nonetheless. "Waiting All Night" is pretty much what you'd get if you tried imagining what an extremely mellow version of Pink Floyd might be like. The lyrics are a bit repetitive, but Phish are usually more about sound than they are about lyrics, and the sound of "Waiting All Night", fittingly, is perfect for gazing into the night sky.

"You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover" by Kenny Wayne Shepherd: In which two generations of rock 'n' roll music meet up!! "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover" is a cover of a song by rock pioneer Bo Diddley, as performed by '90s blues-rock extraordinaire Kenny Wayne Shepherd. It's hard to measure up to a legend like Bo, but Kenny comes very close in his rendition of "You Can't Judge A Book...", retaining all the chugging beats and relentless, high spirited energy of the original!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New songs for May 21st, 2014

here they are:

"Control" by Broken Bells: Broken Bells' latest album is called "After the Disco". So what IS after the disco? New wave?! From the sound of their latest song, "Control", I would certainly think so! Opening with fuzzy guitars and a flange soaked bass (and a soulful sax solo to boot), "Control" is the best song David Bowie never wrote. As usual, though, James Mercer adds a Shins-y touch of light pop-rock bounce and lovely, sweet harmony to the song. Perhaps this could be said to be a "sequel song" to their previous hit from "After the Disco", "Holding On For Life". In that song, they were talking about clinging to things, but in this one, they talk about losing control. Will their next song have a theme of trying to get things back to normal?! We'll see. Only time will tell.

"Don't Just Sit There" by Lucius: With the relentless, danceable energy of Lucius' previous song, "Turn It Around", I was expecting "Don't Just Sit There" to be just as catchy if not more so. It's not. However, it is the perfect song to listen to after a bad day with its more melancholy folk-rock-y flavor. "Don't Just Sit There" is a rather somber, brokenhearted song about the aftermath of a breakup. The song has a bit of an R.E.M.-ish jangle-pop sound, as well as gently strummed acoustic guitars in the background. Lucius - do they want to make us tap our feet or cry our eyes out?! I guess we'll never know for sure until we hear other songs of theirs!

"I Don't Know You Anymore" by Bob Mould: As an ex-punk rocker, Bob Mould doesn't always make an immediate connection with the more mellowed out adult alt crowd. One of the few times he did was with the beautiful, R.E.M.-ish "See A Little Light" back in 1988. "I Don't Know You Anymore" isn't exactly Bob's mellowest, but I guess with the rise of bands who have a brand of "Springsteen-ian punk" (Hold Steady, Gaslight Anthem) who have become popular with the adult alt audiences, a song like "I Don't Know You Anymore" is probably more palatable to those whose taste in music is more soft and melodic than it would have been 10 or 20 years ago. "I Don't Know You Anymore" does indeed boast a sound similar to groups like The Hold Steady and The Gaslight Anthem. The song rocks relentlessly, but it also has a sense of pathos underneath it all that not every rock song does.

"Saturday Night" by G. Love and Special Sauce: G. Love's "Nothing Quite Like Home" came out in winter of this year, and that song brought back the signature blend of rock, blues, jazz, and hip-hop that G. Love had originally become known for. His second single of the year, "Saturday Night", doesn't rock out quite as hard as "Nothing Quite Like Home", but it is still worth listening to. G. Love might be a Pennsylvania native, but the spicy gumbo he cooks up with the drums and harmonica of "Saturday Night" make it seem like it comes from down south in Louisiana instead! "Saturday Night" is a bit more folk-rock-y than his previous hit of 2014, but it still has just the right sort of flavor for the typical G. Love fan to indulge him/herself in. The song is basically the auditory equivalent of eating a jar of salsa marked "mild".

"Weight of Love" by The Black Keys: Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney seem to enjoy the comparisons to classic rock musicians they have gotten with their last two albums. As any fan of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, or The Rolling Stones knows, "rock" doesn't always have to be hard, and some of the best known rock songs are quite ambitious in terms of their length and/or structure. The Black Keys' "Weight of Love" is BOTH!! It is a softer song (at least it starts as one), that clocks in at almost seven minutes!! It seems to take the form of a Floyd-esque "stoner jam" during its first two minutes, which are entirely instrumental. Turn on, tune in, and drop out with The Black Keys. Wow, I never thought I'd say THOSE words together in one sentence!!

"West Coast" by Lana Del Rey: For a pop star, Lana Del Rey is quite bittersweet in pretty much all of her songs! I can't really think of a happy Lana Del Rey song, actually. This is a good thing for me, though, since it proves that you don't have to sound happy or energetic to be popular. "West Coast" continues to go in the poignant direction of Lana's other material. There are some things that are noticeably different about "West Coast", though. For one, the song seems to be almost like a Moody Blues song for the indie-pop generation, alternating between faster verses and a slower chorus. It is also one of the few songs of hers in which the electric guitar plays a central part. The guitar also stays throughout the song, rather than wandering off into the background like it did in "Blue Jeans". The guitar we get on "West Coast" is drenched in reverb, but a rather sad sort of reverb, serving more as an echo of painful emotions than merely as a "psychedelic" sound effect used in the song.

"Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" by Arctic Monkeys: And now we have yet another song that uses a reverb guitar sound. This one is a more bouncy, energetic kind of reverb, though (is there such a thing as a sad Arctic Monkeys song?!) Much as the title of this song would indicate, "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" has a rather mischievous sound, as though someone is creeping up and down a stairway in the middle of the night. Midnight (or rather, after midnight) is when the song takes place, actually, so they probably used this sound on the song on purpose. The lyrics basically give out the message of "don't bother me, I'm trying to sleep, and you're on drugs", but the song itself tells an entirely different story!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New songs for May 7th, 2014

here they are:

"Home" by Johnnyswim: Johnnyswim seem to belong into a subclass of modern day folk-rock musicians who happen to be duos consisting of one guy and one girl. It started early in the 2010's with The Civil Wars, and since then, groups like Shovels and Rope and The Wind and The Wave have joined their ranks, and now Johnnyswim are part of that scene too. As the "Johnny" of their name implies, the male in the group takes the lead vocals, but the female provides some nice harmonies to go with his voices. Their first song, "Home" (which seems to be a common title for neo-folk-rock tunes - Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and Phillip Phillips both have songs with the title), is an upbeat, sweet-natured song, with a beat and chord sequence reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" and Bob Dylan's harmonica. "Home" is where the heart is in this tune!

"Rude" by Magic!: Every decade seems to have their share of successful "regatta de blanc" (white reggae) musicians. In the '80s it was The Police, in the '90s, Sublime, and in the '00s, Matisyahu. In the 2010's, it doesn't seem like we have one quite yet, but Magic! could end up being the band that defines white reggae for the decade! A major difference between Magic! and the aforementioned groups is that the lead singer of Magic! doesn't feel the need to don a pseudo-Jamaican accent in order to get his point across. It is interesting to note that the title of this song begins with an "R", a letter that seems to be difficult to enunciate with a Jamaican dialect (perhaps that is part of the reason that such an accent isn't used in this song, though this didn't stop Bob Marley from performing a song with a triple "R" title - "Roots, Rock, Reggae"). The guitar solo in "Rude" has a rather exotic, "aquatic" flavor to it, soaked in the best kind of fuzzy, reverb laden sound.

"Seasons (Waiting On You)" by Future Islands: The word "future" might be in the name of this band, but their sound dates back to around 30 years ago, when synthesizers were the hip, new instrument that everyone was talking about and using. With its romantic sentiments and repetitive lyrics, "Seasons..." seems like it could very well have passed for being a 1980's pop radio hit. There are only two main chords used in this song (except during the bridge), also, which adds to the simplicity of it. When an indie band does something simplistic, you never can tell whether they are being sincere about it, or if they are just doing so as a joke. Not a bad song, but somehow, I feel like the future of Future Islands holds better songs in store for us.

"Take It Or Leave It" by Cage the Elephant: Is it just me, or are Cage the Elephant getting more melodic with each album they release?! Their debut suggested them to be a sub-par "frat boy" version of The White Stripes, yet the album that followed had the neo-psychedelic song, "Shake Me Down" on it, hinting towards a mellower sound. CTE's third and latest album had "Come A Little Closer", which became their most popular song on the adult alt charts, even making the Top 10 of those charts (which had not happened with CTE previously on the adult alt charts). Their next single off of "Melophobia", "Take It Or Leave It", is another breezy, melodic tune that flirts with neo-psychedelia, albeit with a somewhat disco influenced rhythm. The sound of "Take It Or Leave It" recalls the quirkier side of indie-pop, like Dr. Dog and Devendra Banhart (both of whom I had the pleasure of seeing at First City Festival in Monterey last summer). It's funny that their latest album is called "Melophobia", as this seems to be their mellowest one yet!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New songs for the last day of April

here they are:

"Glory And Gore" by Lorde: Having already had two successful singles in just her mid-teens, New Zealand alt-pop sensation Lorde now has a third song up for grabs on the radio. As if that wasn't enough, this song in particular has gained popularity from being on the "Hunger Games" soundtrack (a surefire way for success, it seems!) "Glory And Gore" sounds like Madonna would if she were more of the "ice queen" type. With a pulsating, catchy beat playing over accessibly droning, frigid synthesizers in F minor, "Glory And Gore" lives up to its title. Its dark pride on the outside is glorious, yet its darker undercurrent could be said to be "gory" (metaphorically, at least).

"Higher And Higher" by Galactic (featuring JJ Grey): JJ Grey is already a blues-rock powerhouse by himself!! That being said, he must have had a really good time jammin' with funk/jazz/blues/rock combo, Galactic! And what a powerful jam "Higher And Higher" is!! Crunchy Hendrix-ian hard rock guitars and space-funk rhythms and horns a la Sly and The Family Stone combine forces in this free-flowing retro anthem! You'll swear someone set the calendars back to 1971 after hearing this one. Chances are, though, you'll never wanna come back to the present!

"Holly" by Nick Waterhouse: Nick Waterhouse, meanwhile, is stuck in an even further time warp when "James Bond" and surf music ruled the world, and his song "Holly" manages to be a catchy blend of blues, rock, jazz, and funk just like the last song I reviewed this week! "Holly" is not the name of a girl in this song (even though it's about a girl), but rather "holly", the Christmas decoration, as in "holly lights" (the only two words in the chorus of this song). Like many songs from the late '50s/early '60s, which seems to be the era Nick is trying to evoke, "Holly" clocks in at only a little over two and a half minutes, but it also manages to be a super fun song. Highly recommended for fans of other "retro" '50s rockabilly styled acts of the 2010's, like Imelda May and JD McPherson.

"I Know It's Wrong (But That's Alright)" by Hurray for the Riff Raff: Try saying the name of the band AND the song in one breath!! Probably about as much of a tongue twister as "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around", so maybe I'll just refer to the song as "I Know It's Wrong..." from this point on, and the band by its initials, HFTRR. This one goes even FURTHER back in the musical time machine, as it has sort of a honky-tonk sound that you might be likely to hear in an old Western movie. Lead singer Alynda Lee Segarra has husky but sweet vocals that wouldn't seem out of place for a cowgirl. Thing is, Alynda is NOT a cowgirl. She grew up in the Bronx, and is of Puerto Rican descent!! Not surprising that they're currently touring with fellow country-rock contemporaries, Shovels & Rope, is it?! Cary Ann Hearst of Shovels & Rope even has similar vocals to Alynda, although as a South Carolinian, Cary Ann actually COULD qualify as a cowgirl!

"Lazaretto" by Jack White: Did anyone else here think that "High Ball Stepper" was a bit TOO experimental, even for Jack White?! Well, I guess a lot of people thought so, since the song just came and went in two weeks. In its place is "Lazaretto", a raucously catchy rock 'n' roll song typical of Jack White's material. Thankfully, unlike "High Ball Stepper", "Lazaretto" has lyrics! "Lazaretto" also gets into rather experimental territory towards the middle of the song, but maintains a consistent pattern for the most part. Jack's "sing-speak" vocals are aggressive and powerful enough to be compared to Zack De La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, yet they seem to have an undercurrent of humor to them, unlike most of Zack's material.

"Stomp And Holler" by Hard Working Americans: Hard Working Americans contains many musicians who have had marginal success in such recent rock groups as The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Widespread Panic, and The Derek Trucks Band, all of whom could be classified as "jam bands", in the style of The Grateful Dead or The Allman Brothers Band. Hard Working Americans' breakthrough song was a quaint country-rock tune called "Down to the Well". Given all the blues-y rock musicians that went into the making of this supergroup, though, I should have known that Hard Working Americans also had some rock 'n' roll tunes up their sleeve, of which "Stomp And Holler" is one such song. An archetypal but catchy rock song, using the same rhythm as Rod Stewart's "Hot Legs" and Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself", "Stomp And Holler" is a song that makes you wanna do just that - "stomp and holler"!! This song is a definite crowd pleaser, and probably how HWA typically either open their shows, or close 'em!!

"You Go Down Smooth" by Lake Street Dive: There's great rock 'n' roll all over this blog today!! The last one for the week comes from Lake Street Dive, who graced us earlier this year with the smooth folk-jazz-rock tune, "Bad Self Portraits". "You Go Down Smooth" proves that Lake Street Dive have a more upbeat side to their catalog! This one apes the same basic guitar riff in songs like Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" and Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?", only it has a bit more of a jazz influence than those two songs do. This song is so danceable, it kinda makes you forget that the song is actually about getting drunk!! Sorry if I spoiled anything for ya there, heheh.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New songs for the day after Earth Day

here they are:

"Cardiac Arrest" by Bad Suns: As the title of this song implies, your heart will be stopped after listening to this one, in a good way, of course! Pretty much all the essential ingredients of a catchy indie-pop song go into this song. There's the faux-British, melodic vocals, complete with sweet, memorable harmonies, the switching between minor and major chords throughout (while using only a few chords altogether through the whole song), the stick-in-your-head catchiness, and of course, the strange but kinda cute metaphors for love (comparing love to cardiac arrest, because the kissing the lead singer experiences is "high voltage"). There's nothing bad about Bad Suns, but there's definitely something sunny about them!

"I Wanna Get Better" by Bleachers: Jack Antonoff has enjoyed both marginal success as part of the alt-country group, Steel Train, and massive success as part of the catchy alt-pop trio, fun. His side project, Bleachers, definitely leans more towards the sound he had in fun., but "I Wanna Get Better" lives up to its title, and manages to be more fun! The deceptive darkness that lurked beneath the bright, sunny pop of "We Are Young" and "Some Nights" is nowhere to be found in "I Wanna Get Better". The rousing, uplifting chorus of this song is sure to get people singing and dancing along in no time!

"Let's Get Drunk And Get It On" by Old '97s: The term "rock and roll" might not be the first term that comes to mind when describing alt-country icons, Old '97s, but their roots are definitely in rock, and the title of their latest song, "Let's Get Drunk And Get It On", pretty much encapsulates the not-so-holy trinity of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll in just seven words! Rowdier than Johnny Cash, mellower than Social Distortion, but somehow slightly similar to both due to its sloppy country-rock sound, "Let's Get Drunk And Get It On" is just the tip of the iceberg of the many songs (with titles like "Wasted" and "Intervention") dealing with risky lifestyle choices that the '97s have on their latest album, fittingly titled "Most Messed Up".

"The Soundmaker" by Rodrigo y Gabriela: Instrumental flamenco music might not be what I normally review, but Rodrigo y Gabriela are great at doing Mexican folk styled songs with no words! Aside from The Gipsy Kings, they're probably the only flamenco band I even LISTEN to. Part of the reason for Rodrigo y Gabriela's unusually widespread appeal is their ability to mix flamenco with rock music (their song "Buster Voodoo" borrowed riffs from Jimi Hendrix, one of their favorite bands is Metallica, and they have even covered Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" in its entirety, albeit without words). "The Soundmaker" is basically what you'd expect from Rodrigo y Gabriela - flamenco riffs and rock 'n' roll beats, but they have added in elements to the song to distinguish it from their other material. For one, it is the first hit they've had that is in E minor (most of them are in A minor, with "Buster Voodoo" as a notable exception in B minor). For another, they have a "walking" riff towards the end of the song that uses the E minor scale as its "root sound".

"With Your Two Hands" by The Wind and The Wave: "The Head and The Heart" and "Belle and Sebastian" are merely clever names in indie-folk music. They aren't actually duos, but full bands. This is where The Wind and The Wave differs. They are, in fact, two people, and "The Wind" and "The Wave" are actually affectionate nicknames for Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker, respectively, the latter of whom is also a member of Plain White T's (best known for the bittersweet folk-rock ballad, "Hey There Delilah"). Their song, "With Your Two Hands", sounds a bit like fellow contemporary folk-rock duo, The Civil Wars, only a bit more sped up, and not so forlorn and world-weary. Could end up being this year's "Ho Hey" with its combination of pop hooks and bluegrass sound!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New songs for April 9th, 2014

here they are:

"High Ball Stepper" by Jack White: If you thought the experimental days of rock music were over, think again!! "High Ball Stepper" has a crackly blues sound like most Jack White songs, but it also repeatedly fades in and out, has a minimalist one chord vamp throughout, has a random piano solo during certain points of the song, and (get this) NO LYRICS!! I believe this is the very first instrumental track I've ever reviewed on this blog!! The video for the song ( is also rather avant-garde! I guess you could say that this is more white noise than it is White Stripes!!

"Red Eyes" by The War on Drugs: Considering that The War On Drugs' first big song, "Brothers", was basically a Bob Dylan soundalike, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that their next musical emulation is towards Bruce Springsteen, a musician who was initially hailed as the "new Dylan" when he debuted! However, this suggests more of the "gothic Springsteen" sound that groups like The Killers, The National, and Arcade Fire have attempted. Even the lyrics here are somewhat Springsteen-ian, such as "come and ride away" and "surrounded by the night and you don't grow old", both of which are reminiscent of The Boss's romanticism of city life. I guess it's only a matter of time until The War on Drugs do a musical ode to Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits!!

"You Move Me" by Robert Cray: It's hard to believe that a man who revived the blues-rock sound in the mid-'80s is still making music today, but he is, and he's pretty good at it too! Using mainly an F sharp minor chord vamp, briefly accompanied by some blues-y 7 chords, "You Move Me" doesn't need to do much to prove its point. Blues-y subject matter here, too, about Robert basically being a fool who is helplessly in love with someone. Plenty of blazing hot guitar licks over the main chord to keep you on your toes!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

There will be no blog this time...

....APRIL FOOLS!! Yeah, I had to throw one in there a day late! Anyway, here is today's blog:

"Dark Sunglasses" by Chrissie Hynde: Just from the title of this song, I guessed that this song would be one of the "tougher" sounding songs of the Pretenders frontwoman's catalog. Boy, was I right! Not necessarily hard rock here, but certainly rock!! Opening with a cowbell driven percussion section, "Dark Sunglasses" is full of both attitude and mystique. This is my first taste of Chrissie minus The Pretenders, yet it still sounds like The Pretenders! It doesn't quite sound like a solo effort with its full band instrumentation keeping it together. However, it's still great to know that even into her 60's, Chrissie can still rock it, and sound as young as ever!!

"Fall In Love" by Phantogram: One woman, one man, yet tons of sound!! This is a good way to describe the New York duo known as Phantogram, whose debut song, "Fall In Love", takes electronica to new, more orchestrated heights! In fact, "Fall In Love" doesn't even open with electronic instruments, but instead with a string section. The synthesizer in the song comes in at about 30 seconds into the song. Sarah Barthels' soothing vocals contrast with the scathing lyrics of the song (i.e. "I was the reason you feel sick inside", "The lines on my face that ate away my smile", etc.) In spite of all this, "Fall In Love" still lives up to its title, and makes you want to do exactly as it says, with its sultry, seductive sound!

"Lanterns" by Birds of Tokyo: For any anime/Japanese culture fans who may be reading this, I hate to burst your bubble, but no, Birds of Tokyo aren't actually from Tokyo. They are an Australian band who named themselves after a newspaper headline that talked about the increasing endangering of birds in Tokyo. Their song "Lanterns" is a rather dreamy, wistful sounding one, set to sparkly synthesizers, tranquil vocals, and poetic sounding lyrics like, "On we march to the midnight sun, we will light our way with our lanterns on". Midnight is definitely a good time to be listening to "Lanterns", but preferably when envisioned as a still, starlit midnight, as opposed to one bustling with nightlife.

"Mr. Tembo" by Damon Albarn: Damon is one hard working British musician! He started out in the Brit-pop group, Blur (whose biggest hit, the "woo-hoo" dominated "Song 2", didn't sound a THING like most of their songs), and then went onto unlikely success as a band of wild, hip-hop/techno loving cartoon primates in The Gorillaz. A lot of his material can be described as "quirky, but edgy". His latest song, "Mr. Tembo", is certainly quirky (just look at the title of the song!) Edgy?! Not really. In fact, I'd even venture to say that it sounds like a Latin tinged version of a Raffi song! It's certainly repetitive and (insanely) catchy enough to be compared to Raffi! The subject of the song is in the chorus, about "Mr. Tembo, and what he's going to do". So who IS "Mr. Tembo"?! I haven't the slightest idea! Sure is a fun song, though!

"Take Me to Church" by Hozier: The funny thing about most successful Irish musicians is that you can't really tell they're Irish at first when you hear them sing!! Just ask Bono, or Van Morrison, both of whom have that soulful sound that fellow Irishman Hozier has now adopted with his debut song, "Take Me to Church". The "church" in the title of the song is not your grandma's church, though, make no mistake! "Take Me to Church" is not meant to sound like uplifting gospel music, but rather like a slow, aching dirge, exposing the dark side of religion and spirituality. The chorus opens with the title of the song, followed by lyrics like, "I'll worship like a dog in the shrine of your life", and "I'll tell you my sins while you sharpen your knife". Chilling words, but sometimes it can be just as enlightening to explore the dark side of life as it is to explore the light side!