FEATURED SONG: Good Guy Bad Guy – “Hello Cleveland”

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Indianapolis’ Good Guy Bad Guy in action at Birdy’s Live

Rockin’ and a Rollin’ all day long, these guys from Indianapolis just love the act of being in the band … as they put it: “Playing loud and aggressive music to get you moving. Grooving to the sweet sweet sounds of two guitars and a drum. Look for songs about sex, wrestling, sex again, rock and roll.” Check out their latest, “Hello Cleveland,” as our featured song of the day! Then catch them June 20th at the St. Anthony’s Parish Festival (337 N. Warman Ave, Indianapolis), where you can hear more of their originals plus a bunch of covers they’re itching to bust out!

Read their interview with “Hear! Hear!”

I REALLY (REALLY) WANT YOU TO LIKE ME: Carly Rae Jepsen returns with earbender “I Really Like You”

If you thought Carly Rae Jepsen had her only moment in the spotlight with “Call Me Maybe,” you may want to give her latest a listen. The blisteringly catchy “I Really Like You” was co-written by Peter Svensson, who wrote “Lovefool” with his band the Cardigans, and Jepsen really captures that pop sound that crosses the boundaries of 80s and early 90s. “Lyrically, it’s about that time in a relationship when it’s too soon to say ‘I love you,’ but you’re well past, ‘I like you’ and you’re at the ‘I really, really like you’ stage,” Jepsen says of the song, which really really really really really really wants you to sing along by the time she gets to the chorus. I know you don’t think it is cool to fall hook, line and sinker for a song like this, but get out of your head and go full Taylor Swift on this one. I really really think you’ll be happy with the decision, at least until radio gets hold of the song and plays it into oblivion. And they will.

THE BEST KIND OF COMPLICATED: James McMurtry’s latest, Complicated Game, a worthy listen

We grew up hard and our children don’t know what that means
We turned into our parents before we were out of our teens
Through a series of Chevy’s and Fords
And the occasional spin ’round the floor at the Copper Canteen

Nobody paints a lyrical picture of modern American life better than James McMurtry, who has the balls to open his first album in six years with the positively brilliant lyric “Honey, don’t you be yelling at me when I’m cleaning my gun; I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate when deer season’s done.” This is the man who wrote the searingly honest “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore” about the “WalMart”ification of American life, as well as the beautiful “Ruby and Carlos” off Just Us Kids, the perfect love song about the honest love most people experience rather than the Hallmark-style tripe we’re frequently force-fed.

According to a great interview in Rolling Stone Country, McMurty still takes his work seriously enough that he regrets how most fans misinterpreted his song “Cheney’s Toy”:

“People thought that I was saying that the soldiers were Cheney’s toys — I was saying Bush was Cheney’s toy. There were clues like Cheney saying, ‘You’re the man,’ to Bush to pump up his ego, so he’d go out and sell his politics, which I read in the New York Times. Not everybody reads the New York Times it turns out.”

Willing to admit that he erred in making such a polarizing song anchor the album as a single, he’s chosen to focus Complicated Game, his latest album, on songs tied to real people living real lives. And he’s taken on vocal coaching, apparently, which has given his road-weary vocals even more power.

I’m still digging into the album, but so far I hear no reason to suspect McMurtry’s voice is anywhere near wearing out, nor that his lyrics risk losing relevance. Check out “How’m I Gonna Find You Now” below — his latest single echoes back to the frantic vocal percussion of the fan-favorite “Chocktaw Bingo” in its lyrical Molotov cocktail of American experience.

Three decades into a career with no limits, McMurtry’s proving yet again that he’s the best kind of complicated. And Complicated Game is well worth making an appointment to play.

THE LIVE WIRE: Against The Clocks – “Top Floor”

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Rockville, Ind.’s Against The Clocks perform during Birdy’s Battle Royale. They won, advancing to perform again in April. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

When you come from a small town, sometimes half the battle is explaining to fans where your band got its start without having to resort to pulling out the Google Maps app. Against The Clocks, based in tiny Rockville, Indiana, will dispose of that problem when their new album, 47872, comes out hopefully this March. With any luck the album will put them and the town squarely on the musical map, because what this band offers is an ear-catching blend of classic rock and modern pop, heavy on the keyboards and the hooks you won’t find anywhere else.

With two keyboard players sharing vocal duties, the band really hits the ground running, merging the big melodies of Journey with the rock aesthetic of the Allman Brothers, adding the hooks and production smarts of a guy like Ryan Tedder. Everything comes out in the mix to create juicy pop music you’ll want to have on repeat all summer.

The band performed their song “Top Floor” at Birdy’s Battle Royale in Indianapolis this past Friday, winning their competitive round and advancing to perform again this coming April. You’ll want to be there when they do, but you can enjoy the video below. This is the only place to hear the entire song until the band releases 47872 later this spring!

BEFORE I LOSE CONTROL: Lebanese performer Jay Wud is the best guitarist you haven’t heard

It only takes a single listen to Jay Wud’s single “Low” to know you’re listening to someone who knows his modern rock music, someone who should be better known here in the U.S. than he is. The Lebanese singer-songwriter, based in Dubai, has worked regularly with producer Howard Benson (Motorhead, My Chemical Romance) and has been influenced by the likes of Steve Vai and the Foo Fighters. He’s toured the world supporting Guns ‘n’ Roses and Aerosmith, building a reputation for being a versatile guitar presence with electrifying vocals and the stage presence to draw in even the most jaded fan. “Low” is centrally featured on an upcoming EP which he hopes will introduce him to American audiences.

Check out a live video below of “Masquerade” which features Malikah, known as the Queen of Arabic hip-hop. To learn more about Jay Wud, check out his official website and Facebook page.

HANG ON, ST. CHRISTOPHER: Jake Owen – “What We Ain’t Got”

Jake Owen’s latest is also his career zenith, and the genre’s best of 2014.

Anyone who thinks great songwriting is a lost art in country music needs to hear “What We Ain’t Got,” as written by Travis Meadows and Travis Jerome Goff and recorded by Jake Owen. Bare necessities abound, as Owen’s voice and a piano provide the backbone for the most moving song I’ve heard this year in any genre.

I wanted the world until my whole world stopped
You know a love like that ain’t easily forgot

Neither is a song that hits so close to the bone. Forget “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” or “Beachin'” … this is going to be the song people will remember Jake Owen for.

FEATURED SONG: J Tex and the Volunteers – “This Old Banjo”

Credit: Ole Kragh Jabobsen

Billed as “Denmark’s coolest artist,” J Tex and the Volunteers would be the face of Danish Americana (if that can be a thing) were T-Bone Burnett to go to Europe to produce it. “This Old Banjo” showcases that sound to its fullest extent, a bare melody of acoustic guitar intertwined with flourishes of banjo which expertly back Jens Einer Sorensen’s dry, wind-broken vocals in a very cinematic fashion. “I hear that banjo and it makes me sad,” he sings, but the effect of the song itself is the opposite, making listeners want to hear more. Like another long-lost European country outfit called Funky Nashville, J Tex and the Volunteers dig out what’s great about classic Americana while twisting it through their own unique lens, something I could stand to hear plenty more of. It’s a good thing their new album Old Ways vs. New Days comes out January 30, 2015 on Heptown Records!