Hey Rosetta! just made themselves a permanent part of my Christmas music listening, thanks to A Cup of Kindness Yet, their wonderful EP which features my new upbeat-yet-dark Christmas song, “Carry Me Home” (sorry, Tom Waits). The song beautifully sums up the numbing loneliness of being a musician on tour during this most festive of seasons, though it channels Paul Simon far more than it does the “smells of hospitals in winter” written of by Adam Duritz. No, this is a hopeful tune. In the end, despite the sour surroundings of a depressing hotel room, Tim Baker still sings of hope that St. Christopher might bring him that southern wind or surprise homecoming which might make Christmas bright. The end result is uplifting, a reminder of what really makes this season special, from a Canadian band we could stand to hear much more from.
I’m always glad I follow so many bands on Facebook, because it has helped target the site’s recommendations on my behalf. Case in point: this excellent Oakland band which I never would have discovered had I not seen a note advising me to check out their debut EP via a “pay what you can” promotion on Bandcamp. The music I found upon first listen is a perfect blend of Americana and hints of soulful southern-rock gospel, an excellent way to spend a Sunday morning listening.
“At the End of the Day,” the album’s opener, introduces the band in a subtle way, letting the song’s confident grooves speak for themselves. The Hammond B3 in the background brought to mind Counting Crows, though Erik Yates’ vocals don’t necessarily draw such easy comparisons. But the band really shines on “Let It Fall,” building their strongest groove around a hook which would have sounded at home on a seventies-era Neil Young album. This is just their debut EP, but the nucleus is there — with time spent developing their road show and additional material, this could be the genesis of 2013′s first great album.
Nope, nothing sleepy about it!
We all trust the music we know, and from where Jason Karaban’s coming from on his new album Shift, it’s not a hard bet that this music’s soon to be permanently implanted in your heads. Trust me.
When you bring this much talent together, it’s hard not to craft a melodic alt-pop gem — or at least you wouldn’t think it’d be. Written jointly with Glen Phillips and featuring Counting Crows’ David Immergluck and Charlie Gillingham, as well as Lucy Schwartz, the song has everything working in its favor on paper. Still, it’s refreshing to hear “Devil That I Know,” the latest from Jason Karaban, off his upcoming album Shift, actually delivers on all that promise! This is a twisty hook of epic pop proportions, easily living up to the reputations of all involved.
Karaban, based in LA, got his start fronting the band Dragstrip Courage in ’97, which explains at least some of the depth of alt-rock nineties love you’ll feel when playing this new track. It’s a cross between early Counting Crows and more modern alternative in the vein of Only Son, and if the rest of the album is this good I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more about it … from me and any of your musical friends with taste.
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.
Counting Crows – “Underwater Sunshine” (2012, Collective Sounds)
Counting Crows completed their deal with Geffen Records in 2010 with the release of Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, which revitalized their career and featured the band sounding as good as ever. Two years later – which is an incredibly quick turnaround for the band, all things considered – they’re back with Underwater Sunshine, a live album which manges to sound as good as any album of original material the band has produced thus far as they enter a third decade of recording.
The secret? Adam Duritz has been unleashed to cover his favorite songs, but with only a few exceptions he’s chosen to focus on hidden gems. The songs on Underwater Sunshine are, for the most part, songs you probably haven’t heard a lot in recent years. Hearing them together in one extended listening session, however, reveals instantly just how brilliant Duritz is at taking any song and cutting right to the quick. Whether he’s doing a relatively by-the-numbers version of Pure Prairie League’s “Amie” (the most recognizable song on the album by a long shot) or rocking the hell out of “Untitled (Love Song”) by relatively unknown act Romany Rye, he’s immediately able to become part of the song through his unique vocals. And the band picks up the pace right behind him, developing this song cycle of covers into a cohesive Crows album on par with the best work the band has produced.
In today’s musical climate the important thing is the music. If the music is good, fans will spread the word and even a band like Counting Crows can survive as independents, free of the constraints a label places on what music eventually is released. In Duritz’s case, leaving Geffen and setting his own course could be the best thing to happen to the band since Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings brought their music full circle back to the rock of Recovering The Satellites and the roots-inspired sound of their debut August and Everything After. Here’s hoping the band’s next album of original material keeps going in this same direction, because for one happy moment it sounds like Duritz has put aside his fear of mainstream success and simply started having fun for a change.
Above: Counting Crows perform “Like Teenage Gravity” by Kasey Anderson, featured on Underwater Sunshine.
Year of the Album — #046
Graham Colton – “Pacific Coast Eyes” (2011, Independent)
Graham Colton’s been around the block more than a few times, and on Pacific Coast Eyes, his first full-length solo album since 2007’s Here Right Now, he picks up right where he left off. A labor of love for the Oklahoma City native, Pacific Coast Eyes is a refreshingly infectious pop confection, bringing together the best of Augustana and Counting Crows with a musical flair all his own. Highlights include the title track and “1981,” which may be his most radio-ready pop hook yet. “When [I] saw her she was walking on water,” he sings of a lost love, painting the past through rose-colored glasses as he wonders of a life that veered from what he’d expected. Musically the album looks at nineties-era pop-rock through similar nostalgic overtones, and it’s all the better for it. “I am no magician, I have no crystal ball,” he sings on “Twenty Something,” but when it comes to crafting earcatching pop music, he’s running circles around the competition.
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Pacific Coast Eyes is available for a limited time
as a name-your-own-price download at Noisetrade.