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!