Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The third time's the charm!

What is Borns' followup song to "Electric Love" and "10,000 Emerald Pools"? What is Houndmouth's followup song to "Sedona" and "Say It"? Find out tonight, in this edition of my weekly music blog!

"American Money" by Borns: The sultry sound and Borns' androgynous vocals pretty much define "American Money". Comparisons of this song have been drawn, musically and vocally, to icily enjoyable indie-pop musicians like Lana Del Rey and Lorde, in spite of the fact that lead vocalist Garrett Borns is a male. "American Money" sounds more like the title of a political protest song than a love song, but it is actually the latter. The title comes from the description Garrett gives of his lover's eyes, "green like American money". Likening a body part to dollar bills doesn't exactly sound like the most seductive thing in the world to me, but hey, whatever works!

"My Cousin Greg" by Houndmouth: "My cousin Greg, well he's a greedy son of a..." well, you probably know which word comes after the phrase "son of a". What a way to start out a song! However, that's the way neo-roots-rock group Houndmouth open their latest song, "My Cousin Greg". For Houndmouth, time probably stopped somewhere between 1969 and '70, when bands like The Band, The Grateful Dead, and The Allman Brothers Band were getting their careers off the ground, which is kinda funny considering that the members of Houndmouth don't look like they're older than their mid 30's. "My Cousin Greg" seems to evoke the sounds of all three of these groups. The song also seems to serve as a subtle warning against taking too much pleasure in fame, as the words, "If you want to live the good life, well you better stay away from the limelight" make up the chorus of the song. This is a lesson Houndmouth themselves could have learned before "Sedona" became a surprise radio hit on alt-rock stations!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New songs for May 18th 2016

here they are:

"All For One" by The Stone Roses: Contrary to popular belief, The Stone Roses' name actually has nothing to do with The Rolling Stones, but rather to do with a novel from the late 1950's. That hasn't stopped The Stone Roses from trying to rock it like The Stones can in "All For One", though, The Roses' first song in over 20 years! Despite nominally being a "rock band", The Stone Roses songs don't often SOUND like rock, with the notable exception of the blues-y "Love Spreads". "All For One" lays it heavy on the rock instrumentation, though. Based around a rhythm that can be found in many rock songs ranging from The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" to David Bowie's "The Jean Genie" and a three-chord vamp in the key of G major, "All For One" combines the fervent passion for melodies that power pop has with the red-hot punch of garage rock. The rock 'n' rollers among my followers will probably also dig the brief but noteworthy guitar solo in the middle of the song, too!

"Not A One" by The Young Wild: Hmm, it's Hall and Oates...or is that Bruce Hornsby...Richard Marx, perhaps?! Well it definitely isn't ANY of those musicians, but there's something I can't put my finger on that makes 'em sound like they'd fit right in with an '80s soft rock playlist. Decidedly modern sounding guitars can be heard in the background during the chorus, but other than that it sounds kinda cheesy, albeit enjoyably so. It's like Grouplove trying to cover an '80s Billy Joel song. Awkward, to be sure, but endearingly awkward. That piano hook is also catchy enough to be used on commercials, too.

"The Community of Hope" by PJ Harvey: Fittingly, I first heard this song by '90s proto-hipster queen PJ Harvey at an independent record store while purchasing a book about alternative rock music from the '90s. PJ is still just as left-of-center as ever, but the unbridled rage she was known for the '90s calmed down by the time the next decade rolled around. Her latest song, "The Community of Hope", sounds unusually happy for a PJ Harvey song. Behind that happiness, though, lies Harvey's typical cynicism. "The Community of Hope" is actually about the Hope VI, a project in which the central aim was gentrification of neighborhoods. Harvey unleashes her negative opinions of the Hope VI, even going so far as to refer to it as a "Demolition Project" in both this song and its album. Elsewhere, she refers to South Capitol as "the highway to death and destruction", aptly so considering the city's crime rates. Towards the end, she repeats the phrase "They're gonna build a Wal-Mart here" as though it is a madness mantra. Miss Harvey, tear down those walls!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rudolph the Red Nosed Radiohead!! (and three other good ones)

I can't help myself. I'm a goofball sometimes. The video for Radiohead's "Burn the Witch" looks so much like those stop-motion Christmas specials from Rankin-Bass that I just had to reference that somewhere in the title of this week's blog! Anyway, on we go!!

"Burn the Witch" by Radiohead: What happens when you put Rankin Bass Christmas specials, persecution of women based on false accusation, a classical orchestra, and electronic beats into the same setting?! You probably were going to say either "a bad dream" or "an acid trip", but the answer is Radiohead, whom I guess kinda resemble those two things sometimes! The song that combines all these factors, "Burn the Witch", is calming and edgy all at once, like a lot of Radiohead's songs tend to be. Both the lyrics of "Burn the Witch" and its accompanying Rankin-Bass-goes-to-the-dark-side music video are Thom Yorke's way of expressing criticism towards many facets of contemporary society. For instance, the song's chorus of "Abandon all reason/Avoid all eye contact/Do not react/Shoot the messenger/Burn the witch" could be interpreted as a "madness mantra" against how foolishly people tend to react to political events (just about any events, really). The jarring yet brilliantly hilarious juxtaposition between innocent children's show imagery and people causing chaos amongst themselves also lends itself to many interpretations, one of which is the dissonance between the idea of "family values" and how grim some think the reality of such "values" can be as a result of impinging them upon society. After seeing the music video for "Burn the Witch" (, you might never look at "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" the same way again!!

"Casual Party" by Band of Horses: Band of Horses have experimented with quite a few sounds on the rock spectrum during the 2010's. "Laredo" found BOH trying out a sound that mixed CCR with Gram Parsons, "Knock Knock" was BOH at their most rock 'n' roll sounding, and their latest tune, "Casual Party", is BOH at their most alt-pop-y. What do I mean by that?! Well, think along the lines of groups like Walk the Moon or Neon Trees, but with a slightly quirkier direction in sound and not as much synth reliance. It's a long way off from sensitive power pop ballads like "No One's Gonna Love You" and "The Funeral", but it still manages to work relatively well for the band. The vibe of "Casual Party" makes it sound like it belongs at a nightclub on the beach (or perhaps a beach turned into a nightclub) that exists solely in the listener's imagination. The keyword to "Casual Party" seems to be "party", as there appears to be more emphasis placed on the instruments and the energy they give off than on the lyrics of the song.

"Dark Necessities" by Red Hot Chili Peppers: Hard to believe RHCP have been popular for 25 years, and around for just a little over 30, isn't it?! Well, it seems like Anthony, Flea, and the boys have taken to being an aging rock group rather well. Their latest song, "Dark Necessities" even sounds a little like The Who's "Eminence Front", albeit a notch or two softer. It's notable for being one of the first (if not THE first) RHCP song with a piano as one of its leading instruments. The band who once prided themselves on being relentlessly wild funk-rockers who frequently performed half-naked onstage are growing up, it seems, with this song. It's not as though they haven't had mature songs before. After all, their biggest hit, "Under the Bridge", is probably one of the saddest songs I have known, especially towards the end. "Dark Necessities" seems to really solidify the "mature" aspect of The Chili Peppers, though, like hardly any other songs I have known by them, as if they are responding to the induction they got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 4 years ago.

"Need You Tonight" by Bonnie Raitt: Bonnie sure has eclectic taste in cover songs, and she does them rather well, too! 2012 saw the release of her spiced-up reggae inflected version of soft rocker Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line". Neither Rafferty nor Raitt have much of anything in common with Australian rock group, INXS, yet that is who Raitt is choosing to cover this time around! INXS seem to be unsung heroes when it comes to influencing the indie rock scene, influencing at least in part a number of popular indie groups like Phoenix, TV on the Radio, The 1975, and Walk the Moon, among others, yet rarely talked about as an influence on such groups. I thought one of them would have covered "Need You Tonight" before Bonnie did, but lo and behold, I was wrong!! "Need You Tonight" is a funk-rock classic that came out about a decade after funk had its day in the limelight, and many a rock historian knows that funk has its roots in the blues, which Bonnie Raitt is excellent at playing, so perhaps it should have come as such a huge shock to me that she chose to cover this one, but it did. Nonetheless, Raitt's spin on this song manages to pack in both more funk and more riffs than the original version did! If only Michael Hutchence could have heard this version, I think he would have loved it!