Saturday, July 30, 2011

PPP (Part 17)

When talking about the band GARBAGE you have to start with Shirley Manson. It's rare to find a combination of beauty and talent like hers. I met her prior to her days in Garbage when she fronted the band ANGELFISH and she was very nice at the time. Then I heard "Vow", the lead single from Garbage and I was hooked. I know they were popular in the 90's and sold a ton of records but I still feel that they were undersold a bit. Here is a live performance of their first single (since Interscope sucks and doesn't let their videos be embedded);

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Missing The 80's? Try The War On Drugs

THE WAR ON DRUGS want to turn back the clock and make believe that all music ended in about 1985. Drawing on touchstones such a vintage BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, TOM PETTY and later day BOB DYLAN, the War on Drugs craft an ode to Reagan era pop music that ends up sounding a lot like the most recent ARCADE FIRE album.

This is not meant as a slam on the bands most recent work, "Slave Ambient". In fact I quite like the record and have a deeper appreciation for it each time I dive into it. But it's hard to get passed the comparisons. Lead singer Adam Granducial morphs his voice to imitate Petty in one song, then Bruce, then Dylan. One the opening track, the medium paced "Best Night" he takes Petty's southern twang out for a spin. "Brothers" actually sounds like a BRUCE HORNSBY song minus the piano (which is saying something since that was his signature instrument.) "Your Love is Calling My Name" and "Baby Missiles" are where the Arcade Fire comps come in. The mix of keyboards, driving drums and Granducial's yelping vocals would have been very much at home on "The Suburbs". "Come to the City" has a touch of 80's era U2 with the chorus like remnant of "With or Without You".

The joy of listening to this record is not in a sense of originality but in how the band takes such care to honor their musical heroes without totally falling into outright karaoke. It's a high wire act for sure, but one that they pull off with admirable ability.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Full Length Release The Sunbird

A couple of months ago I previewed the lead single from Zach Rogue of ROGUE WAVE's solo record under the moniker of RELEASE THE SUNBIRD. Now the full length record is out and it is magnificent. Rogue has said the record was a chance to make a vocal heavy record that was softer in tone and subject matter than the usual Rogue Wave records and he has succeeded.

The opening acoustic strums of "It's All Around You" led to a drum beat and guitar line that is reminiscent of his day job but with a nice hammond organ addition. From there the record charts it's own course. The title track, "Come Back To Us", drifts on a acoustic strum and a shared vocal with singer Kate Long. The dual vocals highlight Rogue's own sensitive hushed vocal style to great effect. "No Light" has a nice shuffle to it driven by a bass line that slithers around the lyrics. "Best Thing For Me" is full of "oohs and aahs" as he does his best JACK JOHNSON impression. "Back Strikes Back" is a bluesy verse accompanied by a sunny chorus for an oddly captivating dissonance in song structure. "Running Away From Me" dips it's toes in a country twang that would not be lost on RYAN ADAMS. The closing number, "Outlook's Anonymous", borrows from THE BEATLES playbook to a nice coda to the work. The songs slow build never really materializes to anything epic but gives the listener a sense of finishing to an immaculate collection of song craft.

Rogue has said that this record does not signal the end of Rogue Wave but merely a chance to stretch out his vocal talents. I hope that some of his experiments here find their way into the cannon of Rogue Wave musical skills. It would make them that much better of a band, and that is saying something.

(mp3) Release The Sunbird -- Come Back To Us (link removed by request)

Monday, July 25, 2011

PPP (Part 16)

I often think CATHERINE WHEEL gets overlooked as one of the best bands of the shoegazer movement. Sure, subsequent albums were more rock oriented, but their debut is still a full on force of nature. "Black Metallic" is, for me at least, one of the greatest songs ever.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The World Weary Sound of Beirut

BEIRUT have risen to a blog level of fame due to the infusion of Middle Eastern instrumentation into a folk pop sound led by Zach Condon and his musings on life, love and politics. Now on their third record, "The Rip Tide", Beirut seeks to move into the mainstream by honing their sound and smoothing out the edges.

From the opening horns of "A Candle's Fire" it is obvious that Condon has a pop sensibility to his work. "Santa Fe" is a straight up pop song about moving on and away from the comforts of home. The piano line drives the song like a car on a dusty road. 'East Harlem", the records first single, sounds more like a traditional Beirut song with flourishes of old style piano and horns dripping off the song as it rambles around Condon's vocals. "Goshen" shows off the band's epic sensibilities as the slow ballad gives way to a sweeping collage of sounds and Condon's soaring falsetto. The second half of the record does get a bit repetitive as the songs sort of blend together. Things come to a nice close with the acoustic "Port of Call" that echoes the themes of moving away from the things one loves. You can almost see Condon playing this one in Union Station waiting for change from people passing by.

Beirut have all the potential to challenge bands like ARCADE FIRE as the new generation of important bands. This move to a more mainstream sound is the first step.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Introducing...The Atolls

THE ATOLLS are a two piece outfit from Glendora, CA. Being that this is practically across the street from where I live I feel compelled to give them some love. That and they are pretty damn good as well.

Most two piece rock outfits have some toehold in old school blues or noise rock. That makes the BLACK KEYS and WHITE STRIPES the comparison point for other duos. The Atolls eschew these styles for a more lo-fi SEBADOH approach to music. Their self titled debut ep has a little something for everyone into indie rock.

"Older Nazi Boyfriends" does have a bit of bluesy rip to it with vocals that are very punk rock in their tones (little David Byrne in the verses). "Low Tide" is a softer, darker ballad that drifts over a JOY DIVISION style dirge. "Tangles" is probably my favorite as it finds the band mining a simple guitar line to a nice crescendo. "Something I'm Not Supposed To Do" has the makings of an epic as it starts out slowly then builds into a fuzzy collapse onto itself.

You can get the digital download for free here. Enjoy!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Work Drugs want you on the beach

WORK DRUGS are a Philadelphia duo that make electronic music for beach reading. This is not a bad thing. There latest ep, "Tropic of Capricorn", should be required listening for lounging around the pool or by the shore. The songs seemed to be coated in lazy rays of sunshine and a little bit of tequila to make them smoother.

"Curious Serge' opens the set with soft synth line and simple drum beat. Vocalist Thomas Crystal never his voice above a hushed tone interrupt the groove being mined. "Rad Racer" is a little faster paced and has a killer hook for a chorus. "Golden Sombrero" is a retro 80's inspired keyboard vamp that could have passed for vintage OMD. The elegiac "Sunset Junction" swims lazily along a soft guitar line and shared male/female vocals. "Third Wave" returns to the earlier beat pattern and resets the mood of the ep as an after hours bar somewhere in the Caribbean. After the slow comedown of "Dog Daze" comes the acoustic take of "Rad Racer" Here the song is re imagined as a simple troubadour playing some tiki bar sound stage.

Work Drugs should just move to Tahiti and mine the summer circuit to notoriety. Their music was made for summer days and nights.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

PPP (Part 15)

The return of the Perfect Pop Song Video series leads us to the first thing I ever heard from SUEDE. These lads were supposed to be the next incarnation of THE SMITHS and while they never attained that height here in the US, the did make a few interesting records (which are being re-released with bonus stuff). Here is "Animal Nitrate" off their debut record;

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Introducing...Shoot The Image

Toronto, Canada's SHOOT THE IMAGE have released their debut album "Cranes in The City", a collection of songs that mines vintage Brit Pop sounds for the new millennium. There isn't much background information on the members of the band other than they appear to have a male and a female singer. The songs are a sleek combination of guitar and synthesizers and a female. male vocal tandem.

The opener of the album, "Fortified", has a faint touch of vintage ECHOBELLY in it with swirling guitar lines and driving drum beat. "Loveless" continues the upbeat music as the female voice carries the chorus as a chant. "Crane" is a softer synth driven number that sounds like an outtake from a SLEEPER record. "Vagabond" has the kind of bluesy start and stop guitar work made famous by the record producer. Morrissey's primary guitarist Boz Boorer. You can almost see this track being on one of Moz's early solo albums. The lead single, "Lithograph" is a retro 80's number that seems to wander around the groove like a late night taxi cab ride with the vocals like a distant relative of NANCY SINATRA. The record does drag a bit at the end before settling into the nice coda of a closer in "Sightlines".

I wish we knew more about the band, who appear to be a bit shy in most of their interviews. But on the strength of this record, they are certainly worth keeping an eye on if you have a nostalgic ear for the Britpop heyday.

(mp3) Shoot The Image -- Lithograph