Sunday, January 30, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Eight)

I don't care what anyone says, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for TOAD THE WET SPROKET. They will always remind me of college and all the awkwardness that went into that time of my life. Here is there big hit...enjoy!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Oh Liam, Beady Eye is not what we needed

Okay so I am an OASIS fan. I have enjoyed their work even if it was at times derivitive of THE BEATLES. It was kind of the collective deal we made with them. The Beatles were gone and Oasis was what they could have been if technology had allowed Lennon and McCartney to blast the volume up to 11. When Noel and Liam Gallegher announced that they had had enough of each other (talk about awkward Christmas moments) we all thought Noel would be the one to go on to some form of new career. After all he was largely credited with the success of the band as the principle song writer and musical genius (similar to what PAUL WELLER has done with his time.)

So along comes BEADY EYE. For those who don't know, this is the rest of OASIS as imagined by Liam Gallagher. He has taken the reigns of the songwriting and singing all the songs. Of what I have heard (about four songs), I can say it is now clear that Noel was in fact the driving force. Beady Eye's songs not just mimic The Beatles, they openly ape even the post fab four with nods to JONH LENNON'S solo work as well as WINGS. "The Roller" has all the markings of "Let It Be" era musical cadences mashed up with "Instant Karma's" pacing. "Four Letter Word" opens with "Live and Let Die" flourishes before settling in to another Oasis style rock song. "Bring The Light" is Liam's ode to early Beatles as a rockabiliy act.

(I can say that I listened to these songs more than once before writing this and at one point thought about skipping this whole enterprise in it's entirety.)

It's not that the music is bad. The work is very well played and very professional. It's just so devoid of any individual voice. It's more like a cover band than a genuine muiscal entity. Maybe the full length will be better. Let's just say at this point I'm not holding out much hope.
(I don't feel right offering up a song. If you're interested I'm sure they are available in various places.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Best Coast/Wavves remind us about Summer

So it is unseasonably warm here in Southern California (which is like rich people complaining about the quality of their caviar but I digress) and as if to remind us that summer is right around the corner BEST COAST and WAVVES have released a split ep to commemorate their upcoming tour.

"Summer is Forever" is surprisingly cohesive for two bands who although alike do have some striking differences. Best Coast is a female led LA collective that contributes two sprightly songs. "Crazy for You" sounds like it is a long lost outtake from one of those old Beach Blanket Bingo type movies complete with all the teenage angst that came from the boy who wouldn't look the girl's way. "When You Wake Up" has a nice pop shimmer to it and vaguely reminds me of THE BREEDERS in their poppier moments. Again the sound of summer love is alive and well here.

As if in response WAVVES, the San Diego indie rock outfit, provides the male perspective to summer. "King of The Beach" is a surf rock, lo fi anthem that sounds as if it should be played over some killer surf footage. "Stained Glass (Won't You Let Me Into Your Heart) is by far the darkest thing on the ep. The song revels in its discord as the narrator pleads with the girl to see things his way. It seems a bit out of place until you realize that it may be that the end of summer brings about fruitless promises of long lasting love.

What makes the whole thing work is the commitment both bands make to crafting images with their sound that make you fill in the blanks on the story (even though there isn't one). For those of you shoveling snow it will serve as a welcome reminder that someday you too will see the sun again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Seven)

I will have some thoughts on Liam Gallagher's new band BEADY EYE in the coming days, but here is the first song from OASIS that made me fall in love with the band. Too bad it all ended so badly..

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sometimes you just need some Kick Ass Rock and Roll

So there are those times when I want my music to provide a specific emotional release. Traditionally, happier sounding songs can have a mood enhancing effect. Sad songs can heighten a sad sensation. Angry songs about angry things can increase the vitriol in my demeanor. Whatever it is, music can have the effect of moving us in a given emotional direction. I say this because I feel that there are times when I just want some kick ass, balls to the wall, rock songs. I have in the past spoken about music that passes "The Driving Test". Music that sounds better in the car then it does at home or work. Music that is meant for driving in open roads, sung at the top of your lungs even if it is out of key.

Chicago's THE LAUREATES make exactly this kind of music. It's raw and full of raging guitars. they have released a couple of records and their latest ep "No Kontrol" is available for free through the band's website. The title track swings with dueling guitars and driving bass line. It establishes the band's sound as somewhere between THE REPLACEMENTS and THE WHO. You kind of imagine the band slamming away on stage followed by everyone sitting down for beers on the tour bus afterward. The surf rock twang of "Get Sensitive" sounds like a long lost HUSKER DU track and gives way to the slightly mellower "Disconnected" and the Springsteen-esque "Beauty Spies." The ep's closer is the bluesy romp of "Cooler Birds".

As a bonus on the bands site are killer covers of REM, THE BREEDERS, and THE ROLLING STONES among others. Seriously if your are in need of some low down, dirty rock and roll on a Friday afternoon after a hard day, this is the band for you.

Visit the band's site here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Low Goodness of Kurt Vile

It may not be a name that jumps right at you but KURT VILE is an artist to take seriously. Prepping for his second full length release, "Smoke Ring For My Halo", Vile makes the kind of introspective catchy rock that reminds me of PETE YORN mixed with the more folky moments of TOM PETTY. You can almost hear the pops and crackles from a vinyl record permeate through his music.
The two teaser tracks released reinforce his love of obscure lyrics and simple, straightforward song structures. "Jesus Forever" has a catchy melody (even if it is somewhat obscured by the intenti0nally lo-fi approach to his recording process) but I especially enjoyed the other released track, "In My Time". Opening with a soft strum of an acoustic guitar and a singing style reminiscent of Dylan and his more lucid moments, the song glides into the chorus rather than hitting you over the head with a chord change. As the song builds an electric accompaniment adds depth to the song as the author reminisces about lost time and getting older. It is apparent to me that Vile is one of those old soul types who looks beyond simple songs to find deeper meaning in it all. I am very interested in experiencing the whole album.

(mp3) Kurt Vile -- Jesus Forever (care of the good folks at Matador Records)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Six)

THE CURE's "Just Like Heaven" is about as close to a perfect four minutes of music as you can get. The fact that it was pretty much the go to song for their one off award show performances for the bulk of the career only sealed the deal. I had forgotten just how damn catchy it was even after all these years...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why I'm Torn over Sleigh Bells

Okay, so I have listened to SLEIGH BELLS debut record a few times upon the wife's recommendation and have been unable to make up my mind if I like it or not. I can see the attempt here to marry MY BLOODY VALENTINE, CURVE, and 80's heavy metal as an intriguing idea on paper. Upon first listen I found the odd construction of some of the songs sonically off putting. "Tell 'Em" just sounds like a mess of riffs thrown together with little or no hook or thread. Elsewhere on the album, like "Kids" and "Riot Rhythm" sound like they are copping what M.I.A. has quite frankly done better on her earlier records.

Things change however with the single "Infinity Guitars" which finally shows a semblance of a hook in the music. "Run The Heart" are "Rachel" are a mash-ups of LUSH and hip hop beats that in a weird way almost makes sense. I wish this was the more dominant sound on the record because I think it is more interesting than the big chunky guitars that the band seem to favor. Somewhere in here is a good sound I just don't think they found it. My concern with this band is that they get the misguided notion that bigger and louder guitars will translate to an edgier sound when I think the more textured approach would benefit them in the long run. So in the end I still feel conflicted and maybe that is what they wanted from me all along.

Friday, January 14, 2011

NEW Mogwai!!

It's odd to say that in many ways Scottish Post rockers MOGWAI have become predictable. One would have thought that this far into their career, releasing their seventh record entitled "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will", that the band would start to tinker around and experiment with their sound more. But true to form the band mines similar territory as their last two records. (ed note. I kind of ignored their last album outside of the single "The Sun Smells Too Loud").

The opener, the misleading "White Noise", is a simple guitar and piano drone that leads us to "Mexican Grand Prix" which borrows a synth line from STEREOLAB over hushed vocals and KRAFTWERK like computerized voices. As is usually the case with Mogwai, the bass is the real star of the song. "Rano Pano" is the lead single and has all the earmarks of the harder, darker sound similar to MY BLOODY VALENTINE playing 70's classic rock. "San Pedro" could actually be a radio hit since it clocks in at under 4 minutes and has a nice hook (too bad there are no vocals to go with it). The closing half of the record has a lot of M83 touches to it with the finale "You're Lionel Ritchie" starting as a Disintegration-era CURE song before building to a massive wave of guitars, bass and drums.

"Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will", is not going to add any fans to Mogwai's base. At this point, I don't think they care. I think what they do care about is refining, honing and polishing their sound for those who have already drank their brand of Kool-Aid.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Five)

One hit wonders are often good examples of the perfect pop song. A song captures a specific hook or phrase and becomes an instantly catchable ear worm. "Breakfast at Tiffanys" by DEEP BLUE SOMETHING is that marriage of a great chorus that you can't stop humming.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Last Battle -- Why Did I Wait So Long?

Sometimes bands slip by you. In this day and age of digital publishing it is easy to miss something even when it is right under your nose. Such is the case with THE LAST BATTLE. From the absolutely wonderful 17 Seconds records comes this Edinburgh collective who specialize in acoustic folk with an emphasis on mood and atmosphere. Their songs use a variety of instrumentation to highlight the intertwining vocals of Scott Longmuir and Arwen Duncan. You can almost see the band playing in some coffee house or small pub over in the corner.

Their debut record "Heart of the Land, Soul of the Sea" contains songs about longing and death and love. The recently released single "Natures Glorious Rage" starts with a simple mandoling strum then builds and builds to an intense high before quietly fading out. They have also put out a one off single for new years entitled "365 days" which is a more playful tune that sounds as if it was recorded in one take. Don't make the same mistake I did and sleep on this band. Go and immerse yourself in their excellent material.

Friday, January 07, 2011


Something is in the water in Portland, Oregon. All they seem to produce is pop groups who know their way around a hook. DERBY are a fivesome out of the Northwest who, similar to JONAH (previously featured right here), write classic pop songs that have some sounds reminiscent of 70's artists mixed with a 60's sheen to them. The two teaser songs sent to me from their second full length record "Madeline" show the two sides of the band.

"Madeline" is a mid tempo tune that while not super memorable at first listen grows on you over time. It has a nice build to it as the lead singer opines about how the title character is slowly shoving those she loves away. Better is the more rocking "Don't Believe in You" which is a nice marriage of THE SMITHEREENS and TOM PETTY that gives the song a great retro vibe. The guitars have that nice crunchy sound that would be great coming off a piece of vinyl that hisses and pops. If the rest of the record sounds like this, it will be a hidden treasure.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Examples of the Perfect Pop Song (Part Four)

If you haven't figured out that I'm a sucker for a grear guitar line then you haven't been paying attention. THE CHURCH'S "Reptile" fits that bill perfectly. It also has a great guitar solo and the simple video highlights the greatness of the song.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

NEW!! The Decemberists

2011 is already shaping up to be a very good year musically. Kicking it off is the new release from THE DECEMBERISTS entitled "The King is Dead." Lead singer and principle songwriter Colin Meloy has long held affection for two of my favorite bands, REM and The Smiths. Although musically this new material leans in the direction of the former the imprint of Marr and Morrissey is also evident in the lyrics.

The opening country swing of "Don't Carry it All" gives way to "Calamity Song" which apes "Don't Go Back To Rockville" almost a little to closely for comfort.
"Rox in The Box" tells the tale of a working man trying to do the best he can over a accordion and acoustic strum. "This Is Why We Fight" and "Down By The Water" are the clear standout tracks which both benefit from a heavier guitar presence. "Fight" also has a nice big sing-along chorus that sounds like it will easily be a live staple when they hit the road. (I already detailed my love for "River" and the presence of Peter Buck earlier last month).

The duets between Meloy and Jenny Conlee bring a nice quiet respite the record. You can almost smell the summer rain and the flowers coming through "June Hymn" and a longing in the closing coda "Dear Avery". Although it's probably not Meloy's most intricate lyrical work he still knows how to put a couplet together to evoke emotion. After the disaster that their last record was, "The King Is Dead" is a return to form for the band and a harbinger of a new commitment to making pop confections that in true Smithian fashion make you think and feel at the same time.

(mp3) The Decemberists -- January Hymn (Not my favorite but it seems to one that will keep me out of trouble)