Great name for chicks
I know a jealous sapphire
And an amethyst
And if she’s a square
I can work with her
But I prefer my joints to be circular
This one’s not to be taken too seriously, but damned if it won’t stick in your head, the ultimate pop-hop throwback. All you need’s a phat beat, some shiny beads, plenty of Snoop Dogg-sized blunts and you’re ready for what Chris Clarke brings to the table. “Every time you see me I got some fresh-assed clothes and some beads. And some weed,” he raps early on, before seriously breaking it all down for us: “I got rare beads, prayer beads, square beads and player beads.”
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Australian hip-hopper Dialekt has a lot going for him, particularly on his solid single “Fortress.” First off there’s the hook, which echoes but doesn’t carbon-copy the piano-tinged flair of “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna. Then there’s the chorus, sung ably by Xy Latu, which is as memorable as anything you’ll hear from Mikky Ekko or Gotye, a perfect ear-worm which does as much to demand repeat plays as does Dialekt’s rapping. That’s the clincher, though, is that this kid has serious flow. At first I wasn’t convinced — the first verse sounded a bit too much like B.o.B.’s work on “Airplanes” — but when he really gets going during the second verse, it is immediately clear there’s more here in the vein of Macklemore than anything else in pop-versed hip-hop.
No guarantee he’ll hook our ears with anything else, but “Fortress” is a solid first swing toward the fences. I could hear this song getting plenty of top 40 radio-play, and the video’s professionally produced, with a distinctive look. Start it at the two-minute mark if you’re not interested in the pseudo-story presented by the video, which in the end is just a chance to get Dialekt to light a few giant flares and let a helicopter spread color around him as he raps. What matters is that the quality of the song speaks for itself. This is everything pop programmers salivate over. Will it be enough to break Dialekt here in America? I’m going to bet yes.
ALL YOU EVER DID WAS WRECK ME: Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” as an examination of teenage hypersexuality
So, in the wake of the VMAs and Miley Cyrus’s unfortunate Twitter-bait bomb which was Twerking It 2013, you think she’s undeserving of any pop respect. And on first glance the video for “Wrecking Ball” stands to reiterate that. But give it a second look / listen. What, I have to wonder, is wrong with a teen sensation growing up and taking creative and artistic risks, even if it means perhaps alienating her from today’s crop of tween pop followers? Bear in mind Cyrus came to instant fame years ago and has aged alongside her audience — is there not room for a young woman to make her own moves in a male-dominated industry?
Here Miley pushes to take control of her own body, claiming her sexuality as her own as a backdrop to a song which, lyrically, crushes her beneath the memories of a relationship left in ruin. And while you may object to the video’s seemingly casual nudity and the often awkward sexual juxtapositions as Miley sings of taking to love like a wrecking ball only to be wrecked by the very love she so desires, bear in mind — she doesn’t owe you anything. Beyond giving pop fans a hook-filled melody, which this song does repeatedly and with gusto, her job as an artist in this pop era is to produce hits. And “Wrecking Ball” is a hit to anyone with ears. Whether her personal life is a mess, or her decisions as a young woman violate your personal sense of “shame,” I say resoundingly: “So what?” In that case she’s probably not singing this song in your direction anyway.
All that should and does matter is the song itself. Imagine getting this single sent to your inbox without a name attached, without the baggage of the video, and listen. Better yet, load the video and then turn your screen off, then press play.
Walk around the room and listen to that plaintive opening verse, a hook unto itself. Then the chorus hits, taking the song from plaintive pop to full-on anthem. “I came in like a wrecking ball / I never hit so hard in love / all I wanted was to break your walls / all you ever did was wre-eh-ehck me! You wre-eh-ehck me!” This is everything Lady Gaga still wishes she could put out there, every inch of what Katy Perry’s “Roar” can’t reach.
Love really is war, and when you lose you spend so much wasted time blaming yourself for the failings, to the point of self-destruction. That’s where the twisted sexual imagery of the video comes to bear. Yes it’s disjointed, creepy, desperate and disturbing, but it’s a view into what many of our young teenage women grow up thinking they have to do to win in love. Robin Thicke can put out a song like “Blurred Lines” which all but endorses the “I can treat you like an object because deep down you really like it” mentality, and yet we publicly scorn only the women who take part in the video, not the men who take credit for the song itself. Miley is a slut for twerking it onstage while Robin Thick plays the role of R&B referree.
And when our sisters, our daughters, fall in love and have their hearts broken, they’re left reeling, wondering what they didn’t do that could have kept the man in their life from wrecking them. Far from glorifying young women and open sexuality, as the Guardian obliquely opines, the video implies the opposite. The whole world tells me I should be this way, how could I be the only one who’s wrong?
I never meant to start a war
I just wanted you to let me in
And instead of using force
I guess I should have let you win
What message do we send when we trash the messenger — in this case an overly sexualized music video — when the message within is that in a world where everything’s hyper-sexualized, it’s okay coming from a man but when a woman claims even a touch of that sexual power, it’s off limits? I’m sure Miley Cyrus isn’t worried too deeply about this debate as she pushes “Wrecking Ball” toward what’s almost certain to be mega-hit status. But while she didn’t write the song, she uses the video to hint at the pain and hurt which lies below both the lyrics and the nudity in her video.
All of which warrants a second listen if you’ve chosen already to write the song off as meaningless … or worse, mere filth.
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AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Dotted Line”
(f. Double B / Nathalie Elam)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Put On Blocks”
(f. Nathalie Elam / Andrew White / Nicatine of Free Whiskey)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Supersonic Love”
(f. Nathalie Elam)
AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods – “Last Call”
(f. Nicatine of Free Whiskey)
From the land of the mighty Pacific Northwest comes the rumbling of a burgeoning hip hop community, that is uniting all things hip hop. Graffiti, Djing, B-Boying, Emceeing and a growing battle rap scene.
Brazilian singer / cellist Dom La Nina’s “Sambinha” brings out the smiles, requires further review of debut Ela
If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face when you wake yourself up this morning, I don’t think anything will.
Over a plucked cello melody and guitar backdrop, the talented young songwriter lays down a layer of sweetly catchy vocals, creating one of those to-the-point singles bands like Sergio Mendez and Brasil 66 used to put out back when this music had its brief heyday in America.
It’s a song worth checking out, and it makes me want to dig deeper into her debut LP Ela, out since January on the Six Degrees label. Some have likened this sound to what Cat Power might manage if produced by the likes of Brian Wilson. I’ll leave the comparisons up to you, because I only have half an hour before work and I need to hear the song at least five more times first.
Dom has been featured on WNYC’s Soundcheck Blog, KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, and NPR’s Weekend Edition and Studio 360. She made her US performance debut at the Make Music Pasadena festival and Hotel Cafe last weekend in Los Angeles, and returns to North America in early July, including a New York City date at Joe’s Pub. Hopefully she’ll do well and they’ll announce more dates for those of us stuck in the midwest. Until then, the recordings will have to suffice.
For the old-school fan of classic rock who isn’t afraid to mix plenty of Humble Pie and Jeff Beck into their listening schedule, Blades of Grass by Dirty Streets should be an album on your immediate listening list when it hits shelves on July 9th. Until then, get your fix with a few repeats of “Stay Thirsty” to keep your pump primed, a track which the Memphis-by-way-of-Mississippi power trio recorded at the legendary Ardent Studio with production help from sound engineer Adam Hill, with added power provided by Lucero’s Rick Steff on keyboards. With two full-lengths already to their name along with an extensive touring history, expect big things from these guys in the coming months. To learn more, check them out on Facebook!
Doing all she can to show us pop love, Naia Kete’s “Crazy Glue” sticks to the skull like the best ear candy
Back in October we premiered the single “Cherry Love” by Natania Lalwani. If you fell instantly in love with that slice of perfect pop candy, you’ll be just as enamored with what Naia Kete offers on her latest single “Crazy Glue,” which fits right into that vein of enthusiastic addictive surrender to the art of love. She gets positively high over the touch of a hand and vows to stick to her lover like glue, melding the message via sing-song vocals to a backdrop of guitars, pianos and light percussion, crafting a generous singable hook which is the perfect complement to the endlessly repeatable “Cherry Love.”
Kete, who now lives in LA, was a contestant on The Voice‘s second season and is set to play the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee this June, at which point she’ll release her third EP, followed by an appearance at Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco this August. If the material on the new EP continues in the vein of “Crazy Glue,” expect the hooks to bounce around the confines of your skull like the best summer songs pop music has to offer.
“These Diamonds In Our Hands” — Cris Cab’s “When We Were Young” melds Dave Matthews, Rob Thomas for robust single
This single by Miami-based singer-songwriter Cris Cab caught me by surprise this afternoon, a refreshing blend of Dave Matthews instrumentation with vocals which blend echoes of Rob Thomas with hints of reggae in the hook. The overall backdrop, when played on repeat, keeps drawing me back to Paul Simon’s Graceland, particularly when the horns come in strong at the 2:35 mark. This is a sunshine-soaked pop hit-in-the-making which should easily warrant proper headphone treatment followed by a proper blasting from your car’s speakers as you cruise down the highway.
If you dig the single as much as I have, check out his Red Road mix-tape, which arrives ahead of Cab’s upcoming debut album due this fall. The mix features collaborations with Hip Hop artists Mike Posner and Wyclef Jean, and can be streamed via SoundCloud.
The evolution of Snoop Dogg from hip-hop to wannabe Rasta is hands down the most frustrating musical development of 2013 thus far. There’s nothing about this music which isn’t both over-calculated and under-inspired. It isn’t surprising that Snoop would gravitate toward the American idea of Rasta culture, being that he’s made a career out of loving all aspects of weed society, but crossing that over into his music means we’re inundated with every faux-reggae cliche.
“No Guns Allowed” fails in every aspect, drawing on cliches at every corner, decrying gun violence and a society where “money makes the man,” while mixing the message. “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” is the implicaton, but there’s also the idea that if we were all rich, we’d spend more time with our children and keep them from choosing violence. That, and “the District Attorney could use a conviction … they can’t wait to get you in the system.” So which trope should we latch onto?
At least “Lighters Up” and “Cali’ Livin’” play to Snoop’s strength, trying to get us all to unite, “east side, west side, north side, south side unified” — nothing can divide us if we just light up with Master Snoop. But the beats lack inspiration, drawing on a sound which brings weak UB40 Casio-reggae hooks together with weak iterations of early-90s Snoop gangsta, pleasing fans of neither in the end. It remains easier to unite behind bashing this material as a crass cash grab than to find any real musical impetus behind its reason for being.
Meanwhile, the less said about his collaboration with Miley Cyrus, “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks,” the better, as we al raise a glass to what used to be Snoop’s “career.”
At the very least, the most successful of these singles — “Cali’ Livin’” — makes me long to hear the Mamas and the Papas and perhaps “Nothin’ But A G Thang,” while I pretend I never heard any of this Snoop Lion nonsense. I suspect April 23 will prove I’m not the only one leaning in that direction when Reincarnation rightly bombs.
First off, watch the video below then “Like” the band as quickly as possible:
Done that? Good … bring on the 90s nostalgia!
Afew repeats and I’m wanting to dig out my copy of the Blue Album along with my other favorites from the era, including some Marcy Playground, Harvey Danger and … nah, I’ll just go to Bandcamp and rock out to the rest of Unmacho, which includes the blisteringly good two-minute track “Van Man,” which deserves a video as ridiculously cool as the one they’ve made for the title track. That and the album’s opener, “Bonehead,” which showcases there’s more under the hood than just aping Rivers Cuomo. A quick stream suggests there’s not a dud in the bunch, which is more than a good reason to like them on Facebook and then buy a copy to blast with your windows down all summer.
Justin Timberlake filters his NSync past through hook-fueled “Mirrors,” proving “Suit and Tie” made a terrible first single
Skip to just shy of the four minute mark of this eight minute super-jam, and you’ll hear why “Mirrors” should have been the standard-bearer single for JT’s latest album The 20/20 Experience. This is the first track to meld his new soul leanings with the pop smarts of those boy band tracks which made his vocals ubiquitous in the first place. “Forget the old me, he’s already gone,” he sings, and though that won’t happen completely, “Mirrors” is an apt reflection of where he’s been and where he wants to go, even if at times he spends too much time standing in his own way. There’s no reason he needs to be such a perfectionist, waiting half a decade between albums. If he wants to be an actor, act. If he wants to be a musician, he needs to be willing to release things before they’re polished to death. That’s what made “Suit and Tie” come off as such an overplayed hand … all the talk of needing to hold these songs until he really felt they were ready was left meaningless when the song he did choose to be his comeback didn’t sizzle when we finally got past the “JT comeback” smokescreens.
That said, while I’m still not entirely convinced that Timberlake hasn’t set himself for a dramatic crash and burn, “Mirrors” is the next best thing he’s written since “What Goes Around Comes Around.” It’s the first thing to make me excited to hear the rest of the album, Is The 20/20 Experience going to leave Future/Sex/Love/Sounds in its dust? Unlikely. But it could wind up standing strong as a proper follow-up, even if it took too long to gestate. And though anything less than a global sales explosion will be seen as a failure, if Timberlake actually builds on this new expansion of his sound to build future albums, he could finally live up to the hype and prove he’s more than a jack of all trades and master of none.
The 126.96.36.199′s subvert pop, punk, surf and rockabilly expectations with Bomb The Twist, the best EP of 2012 you didn’t hear
Play this EP straight through and you’ll feel like you’ve just taken a time-warp back into the classic era of pop singles. “Three Coolchicks” may be the best mock-Beatles track I’ve heard to really hit on the sound the band made famous, while distilling how that sound must have sounded to these three Japanese women coming up in the era of Quentin Tarantino “aural re-evaluation.”
Yoshiko “Ronnie” Fujiyama, Sachiko Fujii and Akiko Omo formed the 188.8.131.52′s in Tokyo back in 1992, achieving a modicum of underground fame when they briefly appeared in Kill Bill Volume 1 performing “Woo Hoo” by the Rock-A-Teens, but their music has yet to catch fire. That boggles my mind in this era of retro-pop nostalgia — the EP’s title track sounds like a long-lost Bill Haley smash as though filtered through the Ramones with a touch of surf-rock Beach Party mix thrown in for good measure. This is the essence of “fun” and “rock” distilled into 18 minutes of furiously twisted pop. Like Tarantino the music ably steals from an era long past, but the key is that filter which is applied liberally to the music to make it distinctly theirs. That alone makes this worth a listen. I dare you not to start singing along with “Dream Boy” as though it truly was the logical follow-up to the Chordettes or Leslie Gore.
All night awake
In the moonlight I’m with you
In the moonlight I’m with you
Brighter than gold
They’ve owned my ears since I first heard their Cuban-fueled masterpiece Two Shoes nearly a decade ago, and since that moment I’ve never ceased to be surprised at the levels to which they take their obsessively catchy blend of global pop. This latest single, a bright exercise in full body enrichment, sets your speakers afire with horn soaked exuberance, as Felix Riebl lets loose his distinctive Aussie vocals and the band holds sway over us all. In this musical empire the only reason the sun ever sets is so we can blast off with music like this under the moonlight. And with American pop music lacking any distinct edge, something this good is worth ten times its weight in gold. Their yet-untitled sixth album, due in May, can’t come nearly soon enough to sate my appetite for more as I, stuck awake way into the night, continue to press play. “Oh la aye!” indeed.
Casey Abrams’ new “Get Out!” video puts a humorous spin on obsessive crushes with an unforgettable hook
Memo to Casey Abrams. As much as we all love your songs and want you to succeed, it’s dangerous to film a video where you’re seen stalking a hot chick wearing her best “I Love NY” t-shirt, leering behind her like Seattle’s latest serial-killer-in-waiting. That, and telling a girl “you got me like a bug bite and now you’re under my skin” while your eyes bug out eerily might not quite come off as “sexy” as you’re hoping. This time it gets you punched in the face. Next time she might cut you, and we’d hate to see you get hurt, with so much great pop songwriting yet for you to do!
All kidding aside, this video perfectly sums up what made Casey so damned likeable when he was on American Idol back in 2010. If this hook doesn’t win you over, and you don’t find something to champion via this interview I conducted with him for PopMatters, I then officially excuse you. Please now safely give up pop music for life, you’re just not going to be in the right frame of mind for music which doesn’t take itself so seriously.
Lately I’ve been going crazy looking for a juicy pop hit to champion as we head toward spring. Well, folks, this is the one … roll those windows down and crank it full-volume, make sure the whole neighborhood hears. Represent for happy-go-lucky bearded weirdos everywhere, because with a hook this good, if this can’t be a hit I don’t want to listen anymore.
“We Don’t Even Live Here” — P.O.S. and his “Weird Friends” showcase just how far ahead they remain of mainstream hip-hop via new video
I’ve been a champion of P.O.S.’s magnificent hip-hop effort We Don’t Even Live Here since it came out late last year, but the rapper continues to find ways to mine that album for gold as the new year gets going, proving he leads the genre’s vanguard by a wide distance. Reset your opinions of hip-hop by giving these lyrical anarchists a listen or ten. They won’t be beat, and any chance to dig deeper into their catalog is worth the effort. Their tour was cancelled last year due to P.O.S.’s imminent need for a kidney transplant, but they will be playing Sasquatch! Fest with Mumford and Sons, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, the XX and an astonishing number of other cutting edge alternative artists, when the festival takes over George, Washington on May 27, 2013. Based on everything I’ve heard about his live shows, this won’t be one to miss.
Check out the video below! It definitely deserves a shot at wider mainstream acknowledgement, even as the band refuses to give up an ounce of their indie credibility to get it.
Fall Out Boy knows what we did in the dark but hasn’t figured out it’s been six years since their relevance expired
I wish Fall Out Boy could see just how far they’ve fallen since their career crashed and burned with the collapse of Folie a Deux. Unfortunately they think that a dash of Maroon 5 mock-swagger plus Bruno Mars-esque backdrop hooks equals a whole lot of Fun. And it’s not. Not by a long shot. “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” merely showcases a band whose career long ago went up in smoke attempting to create a pop juggernaut while playing by the old rules, figuring we’re all so desperate for a radio earworm we’ll gladly submit our brains for their control.
While once a powerful fixture in the world of top 40 hitmaking, Infinity On High marked their peak, and the five-year absence after “hits” like “America’s Suiteheart” failed to exceed trainwreck status suggests a total lack of direction. It’s been a long slow slide, and worse yet, they think they can Save Rock and Roll with their absurdly titled sixth studio album, due out in April. If this single is the best they can do, I think rock and roll would rather die a slow painful death than to submit to Patrick Stump and Co. as its savior. Sorry boys … the fall-out shall be swift: This critic knows what your songs did during the hiatus, and he’s not buying. Here’s hoping the rest of America follows suit.
The last time I wrote about Hugh Laurie’s surprisingly adept blues debut nearly two years ago, the world of WordPress took note and rocketed the little review to Freshly Pressed status. The album never quite took off in the US, but my post did because at the time the music was only available in the UK — I’d just happened to luck into a press copy by accident, becoming the first US critic to say anything about it. What’s great about Laurie’s blues work, which makes the album stand out even two years in, is the fact that he comes at the music as a fan. He’s heard this music all his life, and it’s soaked into his soul — something which makes his performances work even when you perhaps wouldn’t otherwise take him seriously.
Today I learned he’s putting his music out there further in the UK to promote the NHS’s Organ Donor Registry via ITV, at a time when there is a desperate shortage of donors in that region. Laurie took to Oceanway Studios in Los Angeles, recording a rollicking cover of “Unchain My Heart” for the cause in the same venue where everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald have recorded. You can watch the video below, and then dig deep into Let Her Talk like you should have done two years ago. It’s not too late to recognize a wide-ranging talent when you hear one.
With their album released at long last this week, check out the visionary hip-hop outfit ready to set the game on its ear as we head deeper into 2013.
“Play It Loud, Ray!” — Jacob Jones teams up with Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard on the perfect throwback single for any Music City Sweetheart
Jacob Jones’ Good Timin’ In Waynestown doesn’t come out until next week, but that’s no reason not to play his single loudly a few times in celebration of Jones’ throwback rock-a-boogie vibes, which blends the sounds of New Orleans jazz with fifties-era rockabilly and hints of Motown soul. Adding the vocals of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard to “Play It Loud, Ray” was an inspired touch, adding to the singalong chorus’s unstoppable hook. The rest of the album more than sustains the hype, with “Now That I Found You,” “Lost on the Ohio” and “Don’t Turn Me Loose” proving in particular that Jones has an ear for making these throwbacks fit in a modern pop context. If you too are ready to, as his website proclaims, “Honky Tonk yourself to death,” play this album loud and proud. Nothing else comes close to putting Chuck Berry into the same company as Ryan Adams or Alabama Shakes, which for this critic is more than enough reason to listen.
Welcome to “No Tyme For Nowhere,” a column wherein DJ Frank Cardoza, of Olympia, Wash.’s KAOS 89.3, will introduce us to his world of music, featuring bands the rest of us may not otherwise ever be exposed to. This week he features Olympia-based hip-hop acts Afrok & the Movement and AKA & the Heart Hurt Goods.
As I travel through life, there has always been a soundtrack in my head. Songs that fit the road and the cities I visited and created an aural atmosphere for trips. Through punk rock, dirty garage rock and hyper-kinetic ska, I continued to devour music. Foreign balladeers and flirty U.K. chanteuse always tearing a piece of my ear away, with trip hop slow motion and languages that I would never speak but could still feel the emotional bleeding from the melodies. I love music with a passion that has never flickered.
I never had enough skill to stay in groups, I was the bass player who could keep a beat but wasn’t going to be able to hit the strings like Claypool or Jamerson. Yet I always could pick out a great song and frequently was among those people who loved introducing music to others via mix CDs (or for you older people, the ever meaningful mix-tape.) Always wondering where in the musical landscape I could fit in. One day it hit me that I had all the qualities of a great radio DJ. Yes the format is probably ten years past it’s prime as a outlet but in the area I resided in, there was a very well known community radio station that went by the iconic call sign KAOS.
So I ventured down and joined as a volunteer, took the DJ training course and was certified to be a on-air DJ on February 8th, 2012. I spent the first few months subbing on shows and holding down the Monday slot on the KAOS Block Party. All the while I was putting together the plans for my own radio show, No Tyme For Nowhere. A show that would encompass all the music that I’ve heard and felt throughout my 36 years and the newer music I’m still discovering. I finally found the perfect slot on May 26th, midnight, and ending when the time felt right. I’d had the idea of starting each show with a song from The Clash, a couple picks from the vinyl library in the KAOS studio and a 4 song set at the end I dubbed “The Last Call Set.”
As months passed, I came to love the process of putting together a set list that would be encompass new music, but would also keep some of the older music that may have never had much play into the ears of my late night listeners. With a chaotic playlist, I especially keyed in on some fantastic local hip-hop that is very prevalent in the Olympia area, a much maligned genre of music that in Olympia takes a lot of different forms.
Two of the unique groups that cover not only Hip-Hop but R & B, rock, funk and in some instances a vocal type of jazz.
Afrok & The Movement “Doin’ My Thang” Live at the Olympia Ballroom for Hip Hop 4 The Homeless
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AKA & The Heart Hurt Goods “Falling off the End Of The Middle” Live at the Eastside Club
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Just an introduction to the madness and the beginning of this madcap journey. Until next time I shall leave you with the immortal words of Joe Strummer “If I had five million pounds I’d start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn’t make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat.”
Jesus-loving, flag-waving jingoistic country hits all-time low with Thomas Rhett’s crass single “Beer With Jesus”
I thought I’d heard it all, until I hit play on “Beer With Jesus,” the crass new “let’s get the bible-belt listener” single by Thomas Rhett. For all the strides country music has made into the mainstream to evolve into lowest common denominator pandering such as this leaves me shaking my head in disappointment:
If I could have a beer with Jesus
Heaven knows I’d sip it nice and slow
I’d try to pick a place that ain’t too crowded
I’d gladly go wherever he wants to go
You can bet I’d order up a couple tall ones
And tell the waitress to put ‘em on my tab
I’d be sure to let him do the talkin
And careful when I got the chance to ask
Tell me how’d you turn the other cheek?
To save a sorry soul like me?
Do you hear the prayers I send
And what happens when life ends
And when you think you’re coming back again?
I’d tell everyone but no one would believe it
If I could have a beer with Jesus
The song says nothing of note except that Mr. Rhett wants to drink all night with Christ his savoir, making sure he buys plenty of good beer and plays all the best jukebox jams for the Lord while they have their private conversation — “and don’t forget, Jesus, to tell your daddy God I said hi!”
I thought it would take years to top the lame pandering of the chorus to “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band, which manages to proudly give shout-outs to God, the stars and stripes, freedom, soldiers, chicken-fried steak, beer, tight-fitting jeans, radio love, sunrises, children and his woman all in about forty seconds. But I think “Beer With Jesus” now safely takes the cake.
You’ve been warned …
Tori Amos’ out-of-print masterclass performance from Sessions at West 54th proves the incendiary power of live rock
There are times words fail, and many of them occur during the viewing of these seven incredible live videos taken from Tori Amos’ performance on the oft-missed program Sessions at West 54th. Amos and her backing band set these songs afire in a series of performances which rival the Sessions release by Ben Folds (one of the few remaining in print). This is rock music the way it’s meant to be experienced, so powerful and raw in its depth you can only absorb it more completely with an ear pressed suicidally against the side-stage speakers. I’ll let the songs do the talking, thanks to the wonder that is YouTube.
Enjoy, and feel free to post in the comments some live performances which inspire you as a listener. The more the better!
Guitar: Steve Caton
Bass: Jon Evans
Drums: Matt Chamberlain
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SONG #1 — “Precious Things”
SONG #2 — “iiieee”
SONG #3 — “Past the Mission”
SONG #4 — “Caught a Nice Sneeze”
SONG #5 — “Take to the Sky” (Solo)
SONG #6 — “Cooling” (Solo)
SONG #7 — “The Waitress”
“HEAR! HEAR!” EXCLUSIVE: Danielle Wehr’s “Blue Tattoo” introduces a confident, relatable songwriter ready to conquer Nashville
I’ve tried my best to forget that night by the sea
But this little blue heart keeps reminding me
Now I’m bluer than my blue tattoo
I’m bluer than blue
Sixty seconds and Danielle Wehr wins you over with the indelible ink tattoo of this song’s addictive chorus. We’ve all been there: a spring break mistake when in love for the first time becomes that memory we can’t forget, even if it’s more subtle than a blue tattoo. But it’s not regret she sings of, but rather the empowerment you get from jumping in head-first and making those memories while you’re young. In her words:
This song is a song about making mistakes, you want to be young, you want to be bold and fierce, and sometimes these memories are permanently attached to you for the rest of your life, like the blue tattoo. The only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes.
Wehr is smart enough to keep the song short and sweet, introducing the hook early and then hammering it home for the songs remaining ninety seconds, demanding fast-fingered repetition and surefire radio call-ins from fans itchy to hear it just one more time. With a voice which keeps me flashing back to Pam Tillis and Patty Loveless at the start of their respective careers, and a hook which plays into the more traditional country feel of the Dixie Chicks’ stronger moments, “Blue Tattoo” is a fresh take on pop country, introducing a songwriter you’ll surely hear more from on a national scale. Fire it up and see if you don’t agree that feeling blue never felt so good!
Hyperbole Alert! Either Ben Ivory is a God on earth, or he’s merely the “average” of which his handlers speak.
In a world where most music is average or sub-par at best, one in which we’re constantly overwhelmed by mediocre music as we struggle to find the next great band, it’s easy to be swept up in hyperbole over some new band with a groundbreaking take on pop music. But what happens when the hype train derails? From Ben Ivory’s press material:
Ben Ivory is a walking contradiction of light and shadow, East and West, soul and intellect, melancholy and euphoria. It’s easy to forget Ben’s a human: he’s so easy to think of in abstract terms. But when he opens his mouth and the music comes out, his humanity overwhelms the moment. Ben’s singing is a powerful, passionate and blood-warm experience in a world that feels otherwise dominated by the sterile, the cool, the pre-packaged and digital. A world dominated, most of all, by the merely average.
With this much smoke being blown up everyone’s ass in sight, I had visions of a singer with the voice of Freddie Mercury melded with the undeniable charisma of classic Bowie — or at least something worthy of viral attention. Instead I was greeted by a dismal four-to-the-floor bass drum Eurosynth track, complete with cheesy synth stabs and out-of-focus chants a-la anything by Enigma in the early 90s. Worse, however, were the lyrics, which began: “It was good / it was sad / it was the best we ever had / before we live / before we die / there must be something worthwhile.”
The first commandment of “Hear! Hear!” — if you’re going to trash the average among us, you damned well better make sure you’re better than average. This song is not.
Even the video itself remains so out of focus it’s impossible to get any idea of what Ben Ivory thinks he can do for pop music beyond the insular walls of contests like Eurovision, which pander to “here today, gone tomorrow” tripe which rarely successfully crosses the pond in America’s direction. Sometimes the truth hurts, but average is as average does, and Ben Ivory’s done nothing with “Better Love” to make me think he’s capable of anything worth hearing.