She may not want to go back to the 90′s, but on No Fairy Tale Lisa Loeb fits right in with her hits.
Lisa Loeb states early on her latest album that she’s not particularly eager to go back to the 90′s, while managing to straddle the line between Fountains of Wayne-esque eighties nostalgia and Mike Doughty’s longing to put the past behind him and get ears to focus on his latest output. Funny thing is, No Fairy Tale may not pick up right where we heard her on the Reality Bites soundtrack, but these songs still have the crisp fly-on-the-wall hooks that brought fans in the first place, proving that when a singer has pop smarts, they don’t necessarily fade with age.
The title track in particular could be a long-lost Rilo Kiley out-take, daring fans to hit repeat and “share” on Facebook:
It’s no fairy tale
There’s no bread-crumb trail
To lead you back but it’s just as well
You can close the book
And curse the turn it took
It told the true story of how you fell
And that’s a better one to tell
This is one of those brisk pop albums which plays it straight, casting just the right spell to keep you listening from start to finish. I’m not going to say there’s a ton of potential hits here, because what constitutes a “hit” is such an oblique term these days. But when a songwriter can follow something as poppy as “The 90s” with the equally impressive “A Hot Minute,” it becomes clear why she’s continued to put out singable pop nuggets for twenty years while we’ve yet to hear anything new from a flash-in-the-pan like Anna Nalick.
Nothing on No Fairy Tale suggests Loeb needs to take as long between albums as she has since 2004′s The Way It Really Is, her last album aimed at adult pop audiences. No, it’s not as relentlessly catchy as her ubiquitous hit, “Stay,” but you’ll only require a few listens to the new album to prove we really don’t miss that slick sound. Resist the urge to live in the past, relying on false nostalgia to suggest there’s nothing worth hearing in today’s pop world. These dozen tracks prove Loeb still has pop smarts and hook-filled songs written in the now which capably fill the space between our headphones, just waiting for that moment when the chorus leaves our lips.
That’s more than enough for me.
I was born in the gutter from a mother just seventeen
No father or a brother in a world so hard and mean
I learned to fight before I learned to read
I could could throw my hands with a devilish speed
And someday, Mama, you’ll see I’m gonna be somebody
For this 90s-music veteran, having cut my teeth on Counting Crows’ August and Everything After and whetted my appetite for roots-alternative via the Wallflowers’ Bringing Down the Horse, it’s refreshing to hear a songwriter with the honest songwriting ability of Jason Myles Goss. The Massachusetts songwriter who is equally indebted to similar influences, owes a great deal to the former Dylan’s ability to craft a memorable lyric, coupled with Joe Pug’s amazing modern folk delivery. Couple that with an amazing pop-rock hook which instantly reminds of Tonic’s Emerson Hart, and “Black Lights” is a stunning discovery which serves as a perfect introduction to the songwriter’s fourth album, Radio Dial, an album which works as hard as this song’s boxing protagonist to craft meaningful music which resonates like a brutal right-hook.
All I have are bad nights
Wrapping knuckles, taping hands tight
The calm after a fistfight is the hollowest sound I know …
Almost like the hollow sound you’ll briefly hear between your ears before you hit play and dig up a copy of this stellar album so you can hear a dozen more just as good.
You haven’t heard the Trillions. But if you’re a fan of Weezer, you’ll enjoy hearing the Trillions.
These are nuggets of blissful 90s alt-pop held in a time capsule and released cryogenic-fresh for your audio enjoyment. This Richmond, Virginia “shred-pop foursome” has a new album, The Tritones, coming out next week, and their brand new single “The Experts” is available to stream or download above. Still, I’m partial to the addictive-yet-simple concept of “You Got To Be Kidding Me!”, which is punctuated by frequent echoes of Fountains of Wayne-esque “oh yeahs” and distinctive vocals which, coupled with the effectively simple guitar hooks, will hold your brain for ransom. You can view their video for below and decide for yourself, but you’ve been warned!
Bottom Line: The Trillions are working their way up the hard way, as complete indies, but their dedication to helping foster a stronger local music scene is laudable, and the music itself is top-notch. Give the Trillions a shot and you’re likely to become one of their soon-to-be-legions of loyal fans.
Brian Jarvis – “Beautifully Broken” (2012, Soundwave)
Brian Jarvis has a singer-songwriter pop sound which instantly reminds one of bands like Vertical Horizon back during the late 90s alternative pop heyday. Yet there’s a distinct soul-searching touch to these songs which is deftly handled — “Beautifully Broken,” was written barely a day after the loss of his father, but the melody builds on a bouncing keyboard backdrop, with frantic stuttering percussion and background vocals One Republic would kill for. The result is a song about loss which looks forward more than it dwells in the past.
There’s nothing vague here; Jarvis paints vivid pictures, but does so with pop music in mind – the hooks, therefore, propel the songs. “Some days I want to run away, some days I want to stand right in place,” he sings on “Runaway,” hitting the nail on the head. “You can’t look back …” is the theme of these eleven songs which make up Beautifully Broken. The result is an album which plays brilliantly as an exploration of loss which dares to be upbeat and honest. The thundering percussion touches on “Tidal Wave,” as the song breaks down into a full-on celebration of living life while we can, showcases Jarvis’s ability to carry us away in song. “I’m in the wake of a tidal wave, brings me back around again and I will make it through …” he sings, and in this moment we believe.
Take his advice: start by letting go of your preconceptions. The music will speak fully for itself. That’s the mark of a songwriter worth paying attention to.
If you’re among those who feel a new Emerson Hart album can’t come soon enough, this new single from Nashville songwriter Jameson Elder comes along just in time. A sunny melody propped up by hook-infused vocals, “Take Me Back” would have been a surefire mainstream hit in the 90s, but should still warrant word-of-mouth praise even in this “here today gone tomorrow” music climate. “It’s taking me back again from my heart down to my skin,” Elder sings, and his praise of second chances seems fitting, considering the nostalgia these days for hook-filled pop without hidden motives. With summer looming months ahead of schedule, this is the perfect track to play with the windows down and an arm out the car window, a breezy example of alt-pop done right. Whether you’re into roots-rock, pop or Americana, Jameson Elder’s got somethign for you; The Home I’ve Never Known, his upcoming studio EP, can’t come soon enough.