Two bands, opposite directions.
Paramore – Paramore
In a publicized dispute December 2010, Josh and Zac Farro left Paramore and didn’t go quietly. From their viewpoint, the entity that is “Paramore” is a crooked mess. Summing up Josh’s post, it’s Hayley Williams – and those guiding her – using the band as a mere vessel for her own solo project. Which is odd, because I’d argue that the band has been to her detriment, at least musically.
With a handful of exceptions, Paramore suffers from “Lady Gaga syndrome”: addictive choruses (“YOU TREAT ME JUST LIKE…”) and dull verses that make dryer lint seem thrilling. This is because Williams, who has a shimmering set of pipes, and the band’s style of music doesn’t always fit. Remember “Airplanes”? That’s some good stuff. She needs to be more of a singer, not a rocker, so that our eardrums have time to recover from that incessant piercing. Despite the band showing some growth on each album, the same conundrums persist: Is Paramore a synthetic product of the industry who’s sole purpose is to promote Hayley? And, how can Hayley’s voice exist in the confines of a “rock” band?
We have one answer. The self-titled Paramore was named as such because the band felt born-anew after the recording process and this is their “reintroduction.” Yeah right. We all know that this is the ultimate slap in the face to the Farro brothers. This is the first album without them, and they were the ones who founded the band in the first place. You may call it a coincidence, I call it irony. But even with all this squabbling, we don’t really know the truth. All we know is Hayley took some time to herself in LA and got a new producer for this album. But it’s not like you care about that anyway. Music is music. As long as a record gets put out, why bother with the semantics of its creation? So, as painful as it might be to hear, this is Paramore’s best album.
Paramore speaks to angsty young-adults coming of age in a tumultuous world (there’s a song called “Grow Up” and an interlude titled “I’m Not Angry Anymore”). They are on every Twilight soundtrack for a reason. But there are 17 tracks here that add up to more than an hour of ambitious songwriting, so we’ll focus on the new Paramore rather than the handful of throwbacks.
When the first interlude came on, I about lost my mind. THIS is what Hayley Williams should be doing all the time. Strip the instruments around her to bare essentials and let her voice carry those songs to the moon. Use Ingrid Michaelson as a template for how heavenly that could sound. Luckily, we get more than that little sample in the three short-but-sweet interludes.
“Ain’t it Fun.” Listen to it, seriously. It’s not a “Paramore” sound by any means, but that song exemplifies how far they can deviate from the cookie-cutter sound of their past. I can’t imagine how much Chaka Khan listening it took to inspire this. Oh, that gospel chorus. “Part II” bridges this new sound and the former sound: catchy chorus and enthralling verses, keeping the skip button at bay. The ballads smell a lot less cheesy this time around, too. “Last Hope” and “Hate to See Your Heart Break” show an emotional maturity anyone can tolerate.
And that is sort of how this album breaks down. Chances are, unless you are a true Paramore fan, you won’t like the entire album but there will be something playlist-worthy for your music taste. Evolving bands can alienate fans in the process, but this one seems to do more of the opposite. Hayley Williams can thrive in this band when they step out of that punk-rock quagmire and when the need for screaming is at a minimum. Even so, whether the industry is pulling the strings or not, this album retains what Paramore has always been about: Hayley.
Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll
Pete Wentz said that he and Patrick Stump started writing songs just for the heck of it and one of them gave him chills. That just about says it all. They reunited the band and started recording this album in secret. No song in recent memory has made me want to run head-first into a brick wall more than Fall Out Boy’s comeback single, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark.” But there is a whole album to account for now. Please, please, don’t be a one-track wonder. When the group disbanded in 2009, who mourned? By that time, Fall Out Boy had eroded into an odd semi-hit pop-rock concoction. And though their music evolved, it was kind of bleh. I listened to Folie à Deux in preparation for this album, thinking my ear-buds had changed and there would be a hint of what was to come. Wrong on both accounts.
The Save Rock and Roll claim is a bit of a stretch, but this record may have saved the band. That “secret” album Stump and the boys created is full of SICK BEATZ and arena-caliber explosives. Big Sean, Courtney Love, Foxes and, yes, Elton John all make appearances but they are merely afterthoughts. From the get-go, “The Phoenix” reintroduces the band by knocking you flat on your rear. “Just One Yesterday” and “Death Valley” all have that “MSKWYDITD” ferocity, which is perfect. The album can’t be all crazy, but you can’t leave us hanging after that first single either. Old school fans can find vintage FOB in “Young Volcanoes,” an anthem for the adolescents, just like the good ol’ days.
The hiatus and side projects have seemed to do wonders, but perhaps the best change for Fall Out Boy was creating an album solely on its own accord. They had fun making this album and it shows. We might not have missed them when they left the first time, but it’s feels good that they’re back.
It quickly becomes abundantly clear that there are few things David Draiman isn’t comfortable talking about. The man’s been around the block more than a few times, with a decade-plus behind him working with Disturbed, and his new album with super-group Device has breathed fresh air into his creative process. So he’s excited to sit down prior to the band’s show tonight at Ft. Lauderdale’s Culture Room to talk about the new album. Just don’t ask repeatedly what’s happening with Disturbed and all’s fine.
“Is Disturbed getting back together? When is Disturbed getting back together? Why did Disturbed break up?” he laughs. “We didn’t break up. We will be getting back together. Stop asking me about it! It’s a hiatus – look up definition of hiatus!”
With that out of the way, there’s plenty of time to talk about what went from being a one-off project for a potential soundtrack contribution to becoming a project which would consume his creative energies and push them in new directions. In the process, however, he also discusses what it’s like to hear early Disturbed albums more than a decade later, why he no longer feels trapped by his own voice, and that he really really wishes there was an app out there to smack “motherfuckers who say stupid things.”
It’s definitely a wild wide — you’ll want to read along below!
[Read the "Hear! Hear!" review of Device's album,
which came out officially on April 9th!]
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You’ve referenced Maynard James Keenan’s work with A Perfect Circle when asked about why you hope fans will accept Device as willingly as they have your work with Disturbed. Are fans today as willing to embrace artists experimenting with more than one project?
I hope so! [Laughs] I think that all of us are definitely stretching our wings out. It seems where there’s room to create art there’s then a reason to do it. This is, as I’ve said in previous interviews, not something I set out to do or planned. It’s a very fortunate accident. Geno [Lenardo] and I meant to write a song for a soundtrack together, not for the material to lead to writing more songs, or for those songs to lead to the creation of a band. The grouping of material was so strong, even after the first two week period when we already had seven songs in the bag, we were so cohesive and powerful it became a very compelling idea with powerful momentum behind it. When you are creating, the music tells you what to do. The music will always dictate where it needs to be. This grouping of material spoke very loud and clear.
Though the industrial sound of the new album does draw comparisons to Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, I’ve always noticed your interest in reviving something of a New Order 80s industrial pop sound. This album updates that in a more modern context, particularly on the cover of “Close My Eyes Forever.” What drew you to cover that song in particular? What was it like finally working with Lzzy Hale after she’s been such a longtime supporter of Disturbed?
And we have been longtime supporters of her, and I will continue to be a longtime supporter of her until the day I die. She’s an amazing woman. In my opinion she is the top of the mountain as far as female rock singers are concerned. I don’t think anybody holds a candle to her – she is the best of the best.
That’s a song I’ve loved for years, since it first came out. Who could forget the video? Who could forget the hook? It was such a memorable moment, one of the great rock duets of all time, so timeless. And Lzzy and I have been talking about doing this since she first started supporting Disturbed way back in the day. Initially we thought about doing it with Disturbed, but I’m very glad we ended up doing it with Device because in Disturbed it couldn’t have gone in the direction it did, with that ambient nature, the more synth-heavy, string-heavy sample-laden vibe to it. And I think it needed that. I think doing a heavier version wasn’t necessarily the answer.
You told Tony LaBrie of Flint, Mich.’s Banana 101.5 that after twelve years of cycling between record and tour with Disturbed, you all started to feel like “part of the machine.” That plus the album cover’s twisted take on technology absorbing our humanity, do you ever start to feel totally out of place in the modern world of social media?
I don’t know, man. I think that people are as heavily invested in the social media and that they follow the details as rapidly as they do because they are continually interested, and there is that continual desire for more, to be a part of the life, to a certain extent, of the artist that you love.
Does there come a point where a fan’s need to know everything about a band makes it impossible for an artist to ever try anything new or interesting?
You know, the minute you are focused on any expectations other than your own as an artist, that’s the minute that you fail. It should never be about trying to fit within a certain demographic or style. You have to stay true to yourself. You have to make music or make art that fulfills you, that speaks from your heart. That’s really the beginning and the end of it. The fans, you hope, will always value your music whatever direction you take. Maybe there are some fans of Disturbed who won’t dig where Device went with some of these new songs, with some of the more synth-heavy or electronic-fueled factors. And that’s okay! Device is going to appeal to some people who Disturbed wouldn’t, and the reverse as well. That’s why you do something like this, hopefully, is to be able to go in some of those different directions. I’m obviously also haunted by the identity, which is a blessing and a curse, of my voice. When I sing, it sounds like me no matter what the direction.
Right. You’ve said “as a vocalist you become a prisoner to the style you develop.” I found that interesting, because fans who listen closer to the vocals over time will hear how you’ve developed that style, adding more melodic tones to the staccato rhythms of the delivery. Do you still feel trapped by what you’ve done with Disturbed vocally? Or could any of that be solved by a few Meatloaf-esque “Bat Out Of Hell” moments?
Maybe. [Laughs] Maybe, man. It really is wonderful to do more of the “classical” delivery. To not always have to go to my safety spot, to the spot that I know I can own pretty well which is that rapid-fire staccato style delivery.
That and the microphone-assisted growl.
Yeah! That just comes out if there’s a primal element in the music, if there’s something that brings it out. That’s another thing which isn’t necessarily planned. Some of these rhythms are as tribal and primal as anything on a Disturbed record, sometimes I push the envelope even more. So it definitely can sometimes bring the animal out of you. But it’s really satisfying to let one of those things rip. Satisfying to be able to go back to your home base or even more satisfying to be able to expand it.
I love the things that I did on “Run For Cover.” I love being able to write a song like “Through It All” for my wife on the record, working with Glenn Hughes, where had I not gone in that direction, having a voice like his and mine on the same track wouldn’t have made sense. Or even a track like “Haze” – no one has ever heard me sing the way I do on the verses of that song anywhere on any record at any point in time. So it was really nice to be able to go into those directions and to still be myself, to be unashamed of being myself. At the same level I allowed what I’ve become to grow, and that’s been very refreshing.
What did become stifling and has become stifling was what the expectations were for a Disturbed record. “Okay, we fit within certain parameters, we have to stay within those parameters relatively, you have to know who your fan-base is, to know who you’re playing for, performing for.” We always did, and we kept that identity strong. That’s part of why we’ve been able to maintain the level of success that we have. But it also can be trapping when you are forced to do that much of a direction all the time.
I can hear that, listening to the albums in order like I did prepping for this conversation. You can hear how far you guys have come from doing a song like “Dropping Plates” to what you would do with “Never Again.” I can’t imagine many would have expected to hear “Never Again” based on what they heard on the first album.
I would agree with you. And to be honest, even though that first record captured us at a point in time where we were very raw, primal, and a lot of people really connected and loved that, there are parts of that record where I listen back and I cringe a little. “Oh my God, what was I thinking? Did I really think that was a good idea?” It really seemed to work back then. Lyrically, definitely there are things I wish I could have done better. But I was just starting out, feeling things out. I certainly didn’t have the knowledge base or even the fundamental skills that I do now. So it’s nice to come from that and to grow, to continue to learn and I’m continuing to build on what I’ve done with each passing day.
Well, it progressed quickly – I’ve always been interested in the way you’ve discussed your religious heritage through your music over the years, and I still think “Never Again” and “Prayer” don’t get nearly the critical respect they deserve.
What message would you hope fans would take from a song like “Opinion,” where you sing “Are you blind? Are you cold? How can you say you don’t have an opinion?”
That is a call-out to all those people who say “ignorance is bliss.” And they’d rather not know what’s going on in the world, they’d rather live in their own little bubble. Whatever happens outside their door doesn’t really affect them. “I don’t have an opinion.” Well you have to. If you don’t have an opinion then you don’t have a voice, and nothing ever changes. Then we can never affect change. There’s so much change that is necessary in this world, it takes people who have their eyes open and if you keep your eyes closed too long something ends up coming by and smacking you in the face. It’s definitely a wake-up call.
Are we all so afraid to offend anyone we won’t actually say what we really think anymore? Or has the world of social media made it too easy to empower ourselves anonymously without ever really saying anything worth standing behind?
Definitely. Oh, no shit. But as you’ve probably borne witness to, I’m never afraid to say what I think. I definitely think that the Internet has made people exceptionally mighty, unnecessarily and unjustifiably so. There are no repercussions. There’s no responsibility – you can say anything you want, pretend to be anybody you want, and somehow that’s okay. I don’t think that it is. I think that there should be consequences for actions. I am a believer in freedom of speech to a point. I don’t believe in hate speech. I don’t believe people are entitled to do that. I don’t believe people are entitled to bully. I don’t think that’s a right, that we’re protected to do that. I think other people should be protected from it.
That’s a flaw in the way that our laws are structured. I think that we give too much license to be predators, to do damage for the sake of quote-unquote “freedom of speech.” And that’s not freedom anymore. People should be free from being bullied, from being persecuted, from being tormented. That’s a freedom as well, and people often will go ahead and waive that freedom of speech flag and think that it entitles them to say just about anything.
You know what? It doesn’t. There should be repercussions. I often say I would pay a million dollars for an app that enabled me to just smack people through the computer. I mean it, I would pay a million dollars. There would be so many dumb motherfuckers getting smacked, it would be a smacking spree. And all of a sudden everybody would have a little bit of consequence. “What the hell is wrong with you? You are not just some computer jockey, some wannabe maniac sitting behind a keyboard trying to one-up the next guy in insulting some poor individual.”
And I can take care of myself. I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about the countless others out there who fall prey to these online predators and end up taking their own lives or end up living in isolation. They’re unable to deal with their own image of themselves. It’s disgusting what some of this technology has empowered people to do.
Well, maybe after this runs somebody will come up with Digital Bitchslap or something and you’ll get credit for it.
Dude, I’m in! If you know some developer guys, let’s go ahead and do it. We’ll build in some kind of shock technology into the computer. I’m in, let’s co-found the company!
After more than a decade working in the world of music, is there any subject you wish simply wouldn’t be brought up anymore?
“Is disturbed getting back together? When is Disturbed getting back together? Why did Disturbed break up?” [Laughs]. We didn’t break up. We will be getting back together. Stop asking me about it! It’s a hiatus – look up definition of hiatus, I don’t have any other way to explain it. And I’ve explained it in a hundred interviews and everybody still ends up asking me the same damned question.
Look, this way we’re all going to grow in our appreciation of each other as a group. Everybody steps away from it for awhile, the band and the fans. It’s not something that’s predictable anymore, you know you’re not going to get a new Disturbed record every other year. When a Disturbed reunification does occur — and it will occur because we don’t go ahead and dedicate sixteen years of our lives and all our blood, sweat, tears and souls to walk away forever — when the time comes we’ll come back to it with renewed vigor and inspiration, make a killer record and take this thing to new heights! But everybody needs to be conscious from here on out that when Disturbed does get back together, does make a new record, that’s a special occasion. It isn’t something that’s going to happen cyclically every other year anymore. We all need to cherish it, not just from the fan’s perspective but even from the band’s perspective as we become re-inspired by it rather than feeling like we have to do it. It’s going to make a tremendous difference.
In the reverse, what do you wish someone would talk to you about in an interview, yet they never do?
I’ve never been shy about talking about anything, brother. So I really don’t know that too much hasn’t been covered. I’ve gone in pretty much every direction I could possibly imagine. All I can do is reassure people and consider it a tremendous compliment that people love Disturbed to the point where they become so worrisome, so fearful. I think that’s a great thing. People should care, and I’ve definitely been shown that they do. I’m flattered for that.
In the meantime, you’re out on tour with Device now, not Disturbed. What would you tell those fans who wait for the inevitable reunion? What would you want them to get from seeing a Device show?
The same sort of release, man. That’s what music is about, even though it’s electronically saturated, this is still hard rock, so it’s still all about catharsis, having that moment of empowerment and release. Feeling like you can transcend the obstacles of life, that still draws water from the same well and I think this well is even more diverse. It can give people a lot of different flavors they’ve never had the opportunity to experience with Disturbed. You should just enjoy the ride. Please, come on board, because you’re welcome!
Classical piano meets Lil Wayne’s lyrical perversions on “IANAHB,” subverting any claim to good taste
For a minute you might be forgiven for wondering what the hell this track is — have I stumbled onto some odd alternate universe wherein Lil Wayne has converted into an off-kilter pianist?
“I’m in a crib, butt-naked bitch,” he chimes in ninety seconds in. “She said my dick could be the next black president.” Whatever the hell that means. From there, “IANAHB” expands to celebrate everything which is patently absurd about the entirety of Weezy’s schtick.
Yes, he’s crazy.
No, he doesn’t care what you think.
For those reasons, he’s willing to throw any ridiculous sleaze rhyme against the wall in hopes that it might stick and piss off someone, anyone, anywhere. In the course of nearly six minutes of perversely inane lyrical mind-fuckery, Lil Wayne manages to boast about everything from fucking every bitch in sight to even fornicating with the very piano backing his rhymes.
The message in the end is that he’s not a human being, so there’s no line he won’t cross in search of so-called hip-hop greatness. That, of course, is already clear to anyone with ears, as any rapper who would think it’s even remotely reasonable to equate the murder of Emmett Till with hardcore rough sex lacks the humanity to understand the concept of what it means to cross a line.
This is Wayne’s World, and if there ever was a line separating good from bad taste in hip-hop, he’s already gotten it drunk and had his way with it.
We’ve all been through romantic situations where “should have known better” comes to mind. We make mistakes, but often pray we won’t become defined by them. This is a playlist full of songs which ride that roller coaster from the highs of first love to the lows of wishing we’d just said no before having one’s heart ripped to shreds became a legitimate possibility. Highlights include “Flowers,” from Anais Mitchell’s acclaimed Hadestown folk-opera, “Homage for the Suffering” from a stunningly under-appreciated Matthew Perryman Jones effort, and “El Matador,” one of the best soMngs from Semisonic I can almost guarantee you’ll never have heard. That, and you can expose yourself to a number of artists on the edge of fame who sorely deserve a wider audience — Meaghan Smith deserves to be mentioned as one of the stronger “vaudeville pop” vocalists working the pop scene, and Diane Birch’s “Fire Escape” sorely needs a cult following.
The 184.108.40.206′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 220.127.116.11′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.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Foals burst into Holy Fire vs. new music from the Virginmarys and Atoms for Peace
When “NOW 45″ is the third highest-selling album, you know it’s been a slow week for music. You’re telling me I can play “Die Young” more than once every half hour? SOLD.
I’m constantly looking at upcoming releases and the only ones that remotely pop out are Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” on March 19 then The Strokes’ new one a week later. It’s a torturous time for new-music fiends.
But hey, this is also a time for discovery. New band/listener alliances are formed everyday, so may you find one as we wait for the ol’ faithfuls to wrap up production. Recovering from the absurd snowstorm, here are select albums from the past few Tuesdays. There are some new bands here, so it’s been an adventure.
Foals – Holy Fire
This is the third album by Foals and I cannot speak on behalf of the first two. But after the first few tracks, Holy Fire left an impression. Apparently, those songs are now singles, but the clicky-groove in “Inhaler” and the infectious pop anthem “My Number” are the highlights of the album.
Because the first half of the album is so catchy, the rest of it just fades away. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it parties a little too hard, too fast. You might even be satisfied with playing “My Number” on repeat.
That said, there’s an energy throughout that is never in-your-face. The guitar is more plucky instead of grungy and it helps push tracks like “Out of the Woods” into more of a ballad category. It’s not a fair comparison, but I feel the same way listening to this as I do when I listen to the John Butler Trio. Some strange balance between rocking out and chilling out.
The Virginmarys – King of Conflict
Free downloads can be like digital pamphlets, destined for the closest trashcan. But sometimes, you get a gem that opens a gateway to spectacular musical avenues. Here’s such a case.
Sitting on my iPod since (scrolls through iTunes purchase history) 2010 (!) was “Bang Bang Bang,” a hard-hitting free download of the week that spewed out an unforgettable hook: “Take that gun, girl, and blow my mind.” Ooh man, this was a keeper. The band had nothing else out there, so their relevance was short lived. That single became buried and eventually forgotten.
Well now, three years later, The Virginmarys has surrounded that bombshell with an arsenal full of explosive tracks. These British rockers are not unlike the era of Jet and Wolfmother, Australians who sent music to the states to say, “This is how it’s done. Remember?” Mainstream rock music can get bogged down in the meaningless muck of sex, drugs and alcohol. It should be kicking down doors and pillaging all the awesome out of life. OK, maybe there is some mention of the three taboos of rock on this album, but it at least has meaning behind it. “Lost Weekend,” being the prime example, is more a cry for help: “And my body aches and my head it hurts. I’ve long found out that drugs don’t work. Will someone save me from myself tonight.”
“Just a Ride” barrels through the grieving process of a failed relationship while tracks like “Dressed to Kill” are almost the opposite, claiming “She’s my world.” Does King of Conflict bring anything new? Not quite. But sometimes the new can get so nauseating it takes nostalgia to cure it. This isn’t the dawning of another British rock invasion like we had in the early 2000s, but if it were, The Virginmarys would be at the forefront.
Atoms for Peace – Amok
So, this is Thom Yorke.
Atoms for Peace is merely an alternate label, but we can all assume that one Yorke incarnation sounds like the rest. Listen to Amok followed by The Eraser, his solo album, and for good measure, give The King of Limbs another whirl. The atmosphere is static. Compare that to a, let’s say, Tom DeLonge from Blink 182 and Angels and Airwaves. I never have to wonder what I’m listening to because those two bands are vastly different and serve different emotional purposes. Yorke, as unique as he is, is all under one bracket.
With the addition of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, drummer Joey Waronker, who has worked with everyone from REM to Norah Jones to Beck, and percussionist Mauro Refosco, this could have been something a “fun” album. It’s not as dark as Yorke’s other work, but you won’t be craving this on a sunny day.
“Unless” feels like a car revving up in snow and going nowhere. Just once I’d like to see Yorke vocally detonate in the middle of a song. It’s a fine track, but it would have pushed this song into elite territory if it had some sort of climax. It’s like Radiohead’s cerebral and experimental style. All brain, not enough brawn. Do you work out to a Radiohead song? Can you? If this qualifies as exercise, I’m all in:
“Before Your Very Eyes…” and “Stuck Together Pieces” have prevalent bass-lines and that Flea/RHCP funk is trying so hard to get out. This album sounds as if it were produced with the utmost care and precision, but with the weapons at his disposal, this was a perfect time for Yorke to let loose. When you focus on what the band does well – smooth synth with a multitude of unconventional layers on top of it – the album is exceptional. Like deep-meaning lyrics, there are sounds on this album that require multiple listens to discover, and that’s most of the fun. But the minimalist approach and lack of diversity kept Amok from being something truly special. Oddly, this album is yet to reach Spotify.
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.
Billy Joel’s special Valentines’ Day hits compilation She’s Got A Way: Love Songs brings together eighteen of his best-known hits on the subject on one hook-filled disc, and today you can win a copy of your very own for yourself or the love of your life. All you need to do is email me at email@example.com with the subject Billy Joel, before the end of the day Thursday. I’ll then put everyone’s name in a hat and let my wife do a blind drawing and email the winner on Friday.
The track-listing for the album is below, along with Joel’s video for “The Night Is Still Young.” Feel free to comment below about your favorite song by Billy Joel — there are so many great songs on his albums it’s tough not to forget a few classics on any hits collection.
Billy Joel, ‘She’s Got A Way: Love Songs’ Track Listing
‘The Night Is Still Young’
‘This Is the Time’
‘She’s Got a Way (Live)’
‘Until the Night’
‘She’s Right on Time’
‘You’re My Home’
‘Just the Way You Are’
‘She’s Always a Woman’
‘State Of Grace’
‘An Innocent Man’
‘All about Soul (Remix)’
‘And So It Goes’
If you’ve come into this late, just refresh the page every few minutes. I add all the new posts at the top! Enjoy …
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10:27 p.m. – Awesome that they fit in “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” to really give Adam Yauch the send-off he deserved. Too bad they then cut it off with a commercial for the Grammy Foundation. Hopefully the whole performance goes online. I’ll post it on here tomorrow if it does. That’s it for the night, y’all! Feel free to sound off in the comments! It’s been fun, but I’m glad this is a once a year thing
10:25 p.m. – I hear you Grammys, saving all the hip-hop for last, but at least it was worth all the hype. Too bad they couldn’t give out the real great hip-hop awards on here, and give some credit to the new generation of artists. Instead, the best albums got their awards online, if at all.
10:22 p.m. – Gearing up for the final performance of the night, featuring LL Cool J, Chuck D, Tom Morello, Travis Barker and others … coming up! Whew. I’m ready for a nap!
10:16 p.m. – And the Grammy goes to … MUMFORD! WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT? Definitely didn’t see that coming for “Babel.”And our first big bleep of the night … always good.
10:15 p.m. – Adele can’t help but steal the show. She’s here to present Album of the Year. Great joke about getting “knocked up like last year’s winner.” Fun’s been dominating but I still think Frank Ocean could have this one.
10:11 p.m. – And now Frank Ocean’s much hyped “Grammy performance debut.” I love “Channel Orange,” and think he deserves all the praise he’s gotten for it, but this was a ragged out of key start. He must have been having a hard time hearing himself.
10:09 p.m. – A nice version of “Your Song,” by legendary artist Juanes, which isn’t exactly the greatest Elton John song, but it is the most played. Blending English and Spanish was a really really nice touch.
10:03 p.m. – We’ll miss you Levon.
10:02 p.m. – I really think Alabama Shakes was robbed … Fun is great, and maybe this performance has me enjoying everything a bit too much, but that woman’s voice … just let me listen to her and Mavis Staples the rest of the night. Elton can’t even hold a candle to it, and he’s working his damned ass off. THIS is the Grammy Moment LL’s been waiting for all night. And it won’t be topped.
10:00 p.m. – I enjoyed Mumford’s performance earlier, but they’re having way more fun on this cover of The Band … this is why I remain a fan. I’d love to see them twist more beyond the four-to-the-floor folk stomps they’ve been known for.
9:58 p.m. – I love Mavis Staples’ voice … can she sing more on shows like this? Daaaaamn!
9:57 p.m. – Commemorating the life of Levon Helm, Elton John also calls out the Sandy Hook families for our rememberance, then plays “The Weight” at long last — a great performance I’ve been waiting for all night! Talk about an all-star band up there playing one of the best songs EVER written.
9:55 p.m. – Those we lost this year starts with Dave Brubeck and Andy Williams, then Donna Summer. Robin Gibb gets a few seconds, love his voice … Patti Page (reminds me of Kelly Clarkson’s great performance). Davy Jones of the Monkees … Dick Clark gets the same time as anyone else. Andy Griffith gets a nod as an actor and singer. Kitty Wells … love that song “Honky Tonk Angels.” Doc Watson’s another great we’ll miss. But Ravi Shankar made a huge impact as well. Adam Yauch got a good Beastie Boys clip on there. I appreciate that they put producers and writers in this as well — they deserve their moment. It’s a shame when they put four or five on a screen, you can’t differentiate between them. But I thought it was a classy mix.
9:52 p.m. – Justin Timberlake’s back to talk with Ryan Seacrest about making noise for great performers we’ve seen tonight … suggesting it might be the Best Grammys Ever. Eh … but more he wants to thank the music teachers, unsung heroes that they are. The Grammy Foundation is now creating a music educator award for Grammys 2014. Let the whoring begin … it’s nice to have teachers get an award, but I suspect it’s just going to be more politics.
9:48 p.m. – Can’t go wrong with some Dave Brubeck! Digging this indeed … I just might “take five” and relax a bit …
9:44 p.m. – Classless Grammy Moment: Would it kill them to have let Kimbra talk for 30 seconds without playing her off? Douchey move.
9:43 p.m. – Love it even more that Gotye thanked Prince for inspiring him to make music. I hear more Phil Collins in much of his work, but it’s always great to be able to thank your inspirations. Great speech, Gotye!
9:42 p.m. – Record of the Year goes to Gotye! FINALLY I got one right! Too bad I’m still blocked on Twitter, or I’d boast the hell out of this one, by posting pictures of myself in Gotye inspired bodypaint. Now the world can never see them. Take that, Twitterlimits!
9:41 p.m. – Record of the Year presented by PRINCE … why not let him play his song? It’s better than 99% of this show so far!
9:36 p.m. – That glowing dress is definitely eye-catching, and this song is going to wind up stuck in my head the rest of the night. LL’s probably backstage loving his latest predicted “Grammy Moment,” but at least with this one I think he was right.
9:34 p.m. – Hunter Hayes sounds great. Too bad he hasn’t won anything. And now he gets to sing with Carrie Underwood, which is excellent if you like country. If you’re tired of all the country and wish they’d go back to the CMAs, I guess you need to mute the next few minutes.
9:26 p.m. – And the Grammy goes to …………. FUN! Wow … take that, folk rock revival AND new artists all at once … they’ve been at this TWELVE YEARS! But great speech: “I’ve got to pee so bad!”
9:25 p.m. – Katy Perry presents BEST NEW ARTIST … I called it for Alabama Shakes earlier, but can they turn back the Fun. tide?
9:23 p.m. – Leave it to Jack White to show us why, even when his album Blunderbuss wasn’t a flat-out classic, it’s still better than most stuff out there. “Freedom at 21″ definitely IS a stone cold classic, and it should win more kudos than it does. I love that solo!
9:22 p.m. – WTF? Apparently I’m over my limit for Tweets. They need to up that limit if they want to advertise “live tweeting” as a thing. Booo ….. but hey, there’s Jack White, I feel better now!
9:20 p.m. – The Lumineers need to get a deal with Hallmark to market this chorus, which I still say could sell a million Valentines. It’s really great to hear music like this getting big radio play. Should be a fun race in the soon-to-be-announced “Best New Artist” category!
9:11 p.m. – This has improved greatly now that they finally got done with the Bruno Mars song and let the real reggae shine. Damien Marley is killing it!
9:06 p.m. – The long awaited Marley tribute starts with Bruno Mars singing his own song, “Locked out of Heaven.” Not an auspicious beginning, though it’s a rousing version of his song.
9:02 p.m. – Entering hour three of this live blogging experience, so you don’t have to. I’d love to hear what you think, if you’ve been reading along — @Sanders_SSv is active on Twitter!
8:58 p.m. – Best Country Album goes to Zac Brown Band. Meh. I was rooting for Hunter Hayes, but man the Time Jumpers had a nice Lyle Lovett sound.
8:55 p.m. – That version of “Tennessee Waltz” is why I was so bored with Rihanna. Kelly had all the soul Rihanna lacked … and she’s continuing to kill it on “Natural Woman.” This is what Grammy performances are made of, people! Take note …
8:53 p.m. – Kelly Clarkson on lifetime achievement winners … waiting for her to really wail on some Carole King. This should be good!
8:52 p.m. – I think that’s gonna win as performance of the night unless someone really pulls a rabbit from their hat. Watched the Black Keys on Austin City Limits playing just the two of them. Comparitively, this is a total circus … and I still dig it!
8:49 p.m. – The Black Keys with Night Tripper, Dr. John and the Preservation Jazz Band … this better be GOOD! I’m really looking forward to this …
8:43 p.m. – Jay Z wins the night with his quote: “I’d like to thank the swap meet for his hat!”
8:41 p.m. – Best Rap Sung Collaboration goes to “No Church In The Wild” featuring Jay-Z’s entire posse!
8:39 p.m. – Mikky Ekko really elevated that song into a solid duet when all was finally said and done. I wouldn’t call it fantastic, but I enjoyed it.
8:36 p.m. - Around and around she goes, where she’ll stop no one knows. I don’t know how I feel about her insisting on playing her song about how she wants Chris Brown to stay in her life, But it’s a nice enough sounding song. Still, nothing I’d write home about.
8:28 p.m. – Wow, Kelly Clarkson wins Best Pop Vocal Album … thought Fun was gonna win that one, but she seemed glad to get it, and it’s a great album — even if it was written by committee.
8:25 p.m. – Not a big fan of this direction of Alicia Keys tuneage. “Girl On Fire” leaves me feeling like Fun getting rained on.
8:23 p.m. – The first WTF performance combo of the night goes to Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys. I’m played out on Adam Levine, and I’m not sure how this is going to lead properly into anything from Keys.
8:21 p.m. – Way to go Black Keys! I thought Alabama Shakes might win this earlier in the day, but as the Keys dominated the pre-Grammy awards, I figured the tide was turning in their direction.
8:11 p.m. – Urban Contemporary Album better go to Frank Ocean and not that asshole Chris Brown. Okay good, crisis averted! Thank you Grammys for rewarding a great album!
8:07 p.m. – This just in: the next JT song equates love with drugs and addiction. He’s the user, she’s the pusher. But it’s got a fat groove, and I’m liking it more than what he’d previously released from the “20/20 Experience.” I’m going to guess it’s called “Pusherlove.” We’ll see.
8:05 p.m. — Jay Z pumped it up after the average “Suit and Tie” performance. The sepia filter beat us over the head with the idea that JT wants us to see this as “retro inspired.
8:03 p.m. – Ellen and Beyonce introduce Justin Timberlake’s … triumphant? … return? We’ll see how it turns out.
7:58 p.m. – Justin Timberlake’s coming up along with a ton of other random performances, including a tribute to Bob Marley featuring Bruno Mars. Wow. Wonder if Taylor Swift’ll sing along with it like she was with Mumford out there in the crowd.
7:55 p.m. — Great song by Mumford. And these guys always look like they’re enjoying themselves, though they’re much more restrained here than on SNL earlier this season. THAT was a live performance!
7:51 p.m. – And the Grammy goes to … Fun.
7:50 p.m. – Song of the Year — should go to Carly Jepsen hands down!
7:41 p.m. – Weirdest segue into the Best Country Solo Performance award. I’m going to bet on Hunter Hayes here. (Edit: Oops, it went to Carrie Underwood. Go figure. I think I’m out of touch on what works in mainstream country, now that Americana’s gone pop.)
7:40 p.m. – I’m not hating this song from Miguel and Wiz Khalifa. Hadn’t heard it before, so it was a nice surprise as we near the end of hour one.
7:36 p.m. – Miranda really elevates this song, but it sounds like too many others before it to be really that memorable. I’m yawning and waiting for more awards.
7:32 p.m. – Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert get to play instead. Miranda Lambert sounds great as usual, though this isn’t my favorite song of hers. It’s a fairly typical tearjerker with the kind of chorus anyone from Kelly Clarkson to Carrie Underwood could pull off indiscriminately. Dierks, meanwhile, sounded bored out of his mind singing there — either that or he took too many pills backstage or something.
7:31 p.m. – Bonnie Raitt and John Mayer … ought to be good! Oh wait, they’re not singing … boooooo!
7:23 p.m. – Not a bad performance from Fun, though they have this song down to an art now. No real surprises here. Anyway, nothing’s gonna stop them except perhaps an onstage rainstorm …
7:20 p.m. – Solo Pop Performance should go to Carly Rae, but … Adele sucks up all the awards in the room.
7:10 p.m. – Enjoying this duet between Elton John and Ed Sheeran, and Sheeran gets to actually play his own song (“The A Team”) rather than suffering through someone else’s song as a “tribute.”
7:05 p.m. – That was a hot mess. But LL says it’s the greatest show on earth, and he’d never lie … and he thought Swifty was “spectacular.”
7:02 p.m. – Taylor Swift opens the Grammys, which means we can now get on to the real business of rocking once she sits back down. I like her album, but man this song got overplayed!
6:56 p.m. — The Black Keys won big online, but won’t get as much love during primetime, while I question how much we can expect from Timberlake’s big performance and again, with LL Cool J back to “host,” do the Grammy’s really need a host? Doesn’t all that music speak for itself?
6:49 p.m. — Drake’s win for Best Rap Album for Take Care has his fans in Canada excited, though in the end it seemed like a pretty weak field. Having a hard time remembering how rare it is for this category not to make the live telecast.
6:40 p.m. — Welcome to the 2013 Grammy Live Blog here at “Hear! Hear!” With no Adele around to dominate every single on-TV award like it seemed she did last year (with a few detours for the likes of Chris Brown … ugh!) I’m expecting some key surprises. Here are my picks in the “Big Four” categories:
Record of the Year: I think this one’s going to come down to Fun vs. Gotye, with Taylor Swift sitting on the sideline disappointed. I’m going out on a limb and predicting Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” will win based on just how dominant that song was across pretty much every platform.
Album of the Year: Jack White fans can attack me now, but while the Grammys won’t give big awards to rap albums, they do love R&B, and Frank Ocean’s story is the kind that gets voters salivating. My bet’s on a surprise win for Ocean.
Song of the Year: “Call Me Maybe” may be annoying as all hell, but it is clearly a song which became ubiquitous because it was ultimately the most incredible earworm you’ll hear anywhere. If it doesn’t win, I’ll be stunned. Fun’s “We Are Young” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” don’t even come close.
Best New Artist: I think the tide’s turning in Alabama Shakes’ direction, based on all the pre-Grammy hype, Above all, though, this category is stacked deep with talent. Alabama Shakes will most likely be the winner — but if Frank Ocean or Hunter Hayes pull out a shocker, expect a Twitterbomb of vitriol. And with Grammy voters’ past moves, who’d put it past them?
Just like last year, “Hear! Hear!” will be live-blogging the 2013 Grammys, both here on this site and via Twitter (@Sanders_SSv) using hashtags #Grammys and #TheWorldIsListening. For more information about accounts you should follow to get the latest behind-the-scenes goodies from the official Grammy folks, read here, and then follow my critic friend and fellow PopMatters editor Evan Sawdey (@SawdEye) for even more Grammy night hijinks … his feed was insane last year!
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “II” (2013, Jagjaguwar)
Reviewer: Matt Sanderlin
There are albums that can be and should be played at maximum volume on loud speakers for full appreciation. Other albums are the quiet-but-lush type, and need a great set of headphones for complete understanding. And then there are albums that are just great no matter how you listen to them.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s highly-anticipated second album (II), is somehow both a “car stereo” album and a “headphones” album at the same time. The album starts off quite quietly, like an entry from a hippie’s diary (“From the Sun”) – Hushed harmonies melt naturally over gentle acoustic guitar picking, and little bass bubbles and drum gusts float by as the song progresses. This, of course, is the subdued side.
And then there are tracks like “No Need for a Leader.” The metallic electric guitar scratches steadily build a violet and red undercurrent, and the punky drums and serious bass bleed black and blue. And then, about 4 and a half minutes in, the band shifts comfortably into a brief jam session, chugging ferociously like a psychedelic Clash.
The band’s appetite for blending savory blues chords and 60′s rock rhythmic structures is the main key to their success on II. Influences as far-reaching as George Harrison, Pink Floyd, and even Jimi Hendrix marinate the already flavorful, lo-fi sound-scape with fitting synths or fuzzy electric guitar tones.
If “magical” wasn’t an already-overused (and often humorously-applied) adjective, I’d be tempted to deem II as such. Whatever word fits best, it is dreamy, layered, and absolutely entrancing. This is without a doubt one of the year’s best albums thus far. Try “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” and “Faded in the Morning,” and let the rest follow from there.
Mumford and Sons’ The Road To Red Rocks joins the ever-burgeoning ranks of unnecessary, indistinct live albums
I can understand the band’s interest in releasing The Road To Red Rocks — the idea three years ago that Mumford and Sons would have a US fan-base capable of filling the legendary outdoor venue would have seemed laughable, before their blend of Euro-folk traditionalism became pop via “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave.” But there’s nothing unique about the recordings here, little which bends the songs and makes them any different live than they were on the albums we already own. It’s one thing for the band to take a victory lap, but don’t be surprised if most fans choose to let this one pass them by, for if you weren’t there to actually experience this show, the audio portion of The Road To Red Rocks is the definition of expendable.
The video portion of the album, on the other hand, showcases the oddity of an Arena Folk band in all its glory, which at least warrants a second look. That, and the fact that the band opened up the path for bands like the Lumineers to achieve radio success, at least gives room for hope as we leap into 2013.
Check out the live album below via Spotify, and get a glimpse of the DVD portion via a YouTube clip of “Little Lion Man” from the concert:
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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.
“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 …
“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.
“Hey Mama, Rock Me” — Darius Rucker’s cover of “Wagon Wheel” should make a True Believer out of any Hootie-loving holdouts
I’m already a huge fan of Darius Rucker, whether he’s performing with Hootie and the Blowfish or as a chart-topping country solo songwriter. And though I’m always more interested in originals, this cover he chose to record of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” should convert many who haven’t yet jumped onto his solo bandwagon. The song totally fits where Rucker comes from as a down home South Carolina boy born and bred, and should prime the pump for all the great songs we can expect to reside on True Believer when it comes out later this spring. Hell, Rucker sounds way more comfortable on songs like this than he had on any Hootie single of the last decade.
Even the way he stumbled on the song in the first place has a great feel to it (thanks to The Boot for the great quote!)
“Somebody had played ‘Wagon Wheel’ for me years ago,” Darius explains. “It was one of those things that I didn’t really get. So, I’m at my daughter’s high school talent show, and I’m sitting in the audience with my family. We were watching my daughter, and the faculty band gets up. It’s just the faculty from her school, and they play ‘Wagon Wheel.’ I’m sitting in the audience, and they get to the middle of the chorus, and I turned to my wife, and I go, ‘I’ve got to cut this song.’ I’m serious. This all happened in three-and-a-half minutes, four minutes, while they’re playing the song.
The singer-songwriter knows the tune, written by Bob Dylan, may be a bit of a gamble, but believes it’s worth the risk. “[I texted producer] Frank Rogers, ‘Do you know this ‘Wagon Wheel’ song?’” he recalls. “He’s like, ‘Yeah. It’s by Old Crow Medicine Show. A lot of people have cut it.’ I said, ‘I don’t care! I’m cutting it!’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, dude. We’ll try it. We’ll cut it.’ So I cut it, and it was great after we finished it.”
Anyone else out there excited to hear the rest of True Believer?