Quick Hitters: the ABS’s of non-singles

It’s becoming a sad fact of the music industry, people aren’t buying albums anymore. With the advances of technology resulting in being able to stream almost any song for free, there really isn’t a reason to purchase your favorite band’s album anymore. I am guilty of this myself, even though I still like to support that band however I can. With unlimited access to great music while in the comfort of your home, at work, or out and about; carrying albums around with you to listen has become a thing of the past.

That said, I’ve had many meaningful listening sessions courtesy of the albums I’ve purchased over the years. Like most, I would usually buy a CD based off of the strength of two or three songs. You hoped that the whole album was good start to finish but it didn’t always work out that way. However, there was more than one occasion where I discovered a song that I may not have otherwise found without buying the album. Sometimes they ended up being just as good or better than the “hit singles” that I originally bought the album for.


Therefore, we’re going to do something different in this post. I’m going to post songs from well-known bands that received little to no airplay but are remarkable nonetheless. I’m going to cover bands from A-Z. Some are going to be hard, no doubt (Q and X come to mind), but I’m willing to navigate the library in order to bring you some new, old songs that you’ll like.





This song came off of Sever, which was an underrated album in itself. Sever is a wonderfully complex, highly rocking song that delivers classic 311 beats with one of my favorite guitar solos from the band. It starts @3:30 after a climatic build-up. One of the best outros ever




Alice in Chains-Sunshine


My favorite song off of the album, “Sunshine” was another example of how great this band was (especially in their early years) and how vocally talented Layne Staley was as well. I thought about putting “Sea of Sorrow” in this spot but I did recall that song receiving some radio play whereas I never heard this one until I bought the album. It’s grunge at its best and features some changes of course as far as the direction the song is going in.




Breaking Benjamin-Forget It


A very non-Breaking Benjamin sounding song, “Forget It” is a pleasant sounding escape from their normally heavier, semi-screamo sound. This track features a few tone changes as well as some soothing vocals you’re probably not used to hearing from frontman Benjamin Burnley.




Catherine Wheel-The Nude


Coming off of their masterpiece of a debut album, Ferment (album review here), Catherine Wheel came out with some great songs on their follow-up album, Chrome. Namely this one, “The Nude”. Catherine Wheel sound is what I would describe as easy-listening shoegaze. There’s plenty of fuzzy guitars to satisfy your shoegaze fix; but there’s also plenty of well written and melodic vocals to please those who like a more pop style. This is definitely evident here:




Deadmau5-There Might Be Coffee


Deadmau5’s stock is on the rise no doubt. I’m certainly impressed with how many albums and singles he’s been able to dish out in not that long of a time period since he first hit the scene. This is one of his lesser known greats from the album, >Album Title Goes Here<. It features some great, fast paced beats. I don’t really like the high pitched keyboard that goes on for part of it, but it doesn’t ruin this song for me.




Everclear-Heartspank Dollarsign


A band that I’ve liked less and less over the years, Everclear once was pretty good. Sparkle and Fade had a number of winners on it. This was my favorite off of it (while “Heroin Girl” is a very close 2nd). It sends a powerful message while maintaining a gloomy, pessimistic vibe. The well thought-out lyrics and guitar riffs are brilliant in this one.


Gigs: Twin Peaks


No, I didn’t catch a show at the Hooters knock-off restaurant that has become the poster-child of classiness among restaurants. Twin Peaks is a punk group out of Chicago. Short and sweet would be the best way to describe their work…oh, and also awesome. Their first album, Sunken, comes in at a mere 20 minutes in length. Amongst that short album duration, is one of the most eye-opening indie songs I’ve heard in awhile. I have my brother to thank for introducing me to this particular track. It’s called Fast Eddie and in addition to some killer guitar work that changes speeds throughout, it has a pretty bitchin’ music video to go along with it…available here, audio file below



The show was at Vaudeville Mews, a smaller venue that has been able to bring in some fairly well known acts (bands that I’ve at least heard of anyway) . It’s a good joint, acoustics are just fine and there’s plenty of good brews to choose from while you enjoy the show. As you can tell, there’s a lot of different factors that go into me evaluating the quality of a music venue. From what I can tell they played a lot work from their latest release, Wild Onion. Most of their songs are fast-paced already and I noticed that they kick up a notch further during their live shows. This was not the case, however, for their performance of “I Found a New Way”. This was the song that really kicked things off an got the crowd into it. The lead vocalist puts an insane amount of effort into his vocals and it blends well with this seemingly chill song. It’s my personal favorite off of their latest album.




When I said that it wasn’t until then that crowd got into the show, it was through no lack of stage antics by the band itself. They definitely know how to rock and and at one point, the lead guitarist left the stage to play amongst the fans. It seemed to be going over quite well until he tripped over his cord and almost biffed it. Nonetheless, it was a fun sideshow that the crowd appreciated.


Overall, they seemed like a cool group of dudes. The only knock on them was that there practically NO in-between song dialogue. I know that some people can do without that but there needs to be something to keep the band from playing a set straight through with virtually no pauses. In fairness, I haven’t seen any band talk much at that venue and that’s not something that newer bands specialize in. Besides that, they put on a great show. I hope Des Moines left a good impression on them and that they make a return trip. If they’re in a city near you, check them out. The last song I’ve posted is off of Wild Onion. It’s called “Strawberry Smoothie” and it’s a good flagship song for them. But it also features a great guitar outro. Enjoy




What I’m Listening To…

1. Mr Little Jeans-Good Mistake


This is a band I almost never hear on the radio. I don’t know why; they have quite a few great songs (including this  Arcade Fire cover here). Gotta love the instrumentals in this one. As always, great vocals by Monica Birkenes. These two things combine together create a relaxing and cool vibe. It’s the kind of sound that few other groups can replicate.




2. San Fermin-Bar


Very simple name; yet an interestingly complex, magnificent song. This band is not your typical alternative group. They more utilize horn instruments, piano, and it sounds like there’s some violin thrown in there as well. The lyrics and vocal manner in which they’re sung are beyond amazing. It appears to be a tune with a very deep meaning. Don’t let the pic below fool you (that’s a mean lookin’ bastard of a bull BTW), this is a very pleasant and meaningful track



3. Aphex Twin-Minipops 67


It’s EXTREMELY difficult to top the beats provided by the enigmatic artist Aphex Twin. He’s foreign, it’s been 10 years since his last album…and he comes roaring back with this insanely catchy and hip track. Be ready to be hit with a full range of instrumentals that are blended together perfectly. Not necessarily a song you would dance or chill out to, it resides somewhere in between those two genres. That said, it’s completely fucking awesome and I’m thinking you’ll dig it after the first listen.




quick hitterz: sunshine indie pop

Tracks of this genre are very refreshing to me. While it’s easy to make something along the lines of this style and have it sound awful (like this), when it’s done right, you have a timeless, feel good tune that you can always go back to. Case in point; these three songs. It’s hard for me to listen to them and not feel good afterward, even when the lyrics are of a possibly depressing nature (as in the 2nd video). Whatever the case, here’s a few tracks that I hope will get you to dig deeper into the albums and groups from which they are featured.


1. Silversun Pickups-There’s No Secrets this Year

This is the opening track off of their masterpiece album “Swoon”. The opening guitar riff give you the hint that you’re in for something killer. It lightens up after the verses start and leads into a heavy but chill chorus. They make very good use of  instrumental elements throughout this album and this song is no exception. The best parts of this song come after the second chorus @2:24 and during the guitar solo @2:54 (there’s also a reprise right at the end). An under-loved song that was overlooked partly because there were so many other great songs on that album.


How did the photographer keep a straight face when asking “so how many prints would you like of the strangling family pic?”



2. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart-Heart in Your Heartbreak

This song incorporates keyboard/synths and guitar as good as any other that I’ve heard. Although this group has not come out with anything else I really like, this song is one of my favorites OF.ALL.TIME. While the main vocalist has a voice I’m not crazy about, it fits this song very well. It’s a song about, well…heartbreak, duh! The lyrics get a little cheesy at some parts, but in contrast there’s some really good ones (And your friends don’t understand that the world could end,
And it would feel no worse than this). It’s an awesomely bittersweet song that features a great guitar kick @1:54. The closing chorus and instrumental solo during the outro capitalize this magnificent effort by Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The band name needs some work, however.



3. Wolf Gang-Lions in Cages

Another goodie that was overshadowed by the band’s hit single “The King and His Men”, Lions in Cages is a track worth your time from the London based group Wolf Gang. It appears to be a song about not allowing yourself to be confined and just getting out there and embracing life. It appears there’s some type of love story tied in with it as well, I don’t know…it’s hard to follow. The point I’m trying to make is that this is a very nice change of pace song and this is a band that doesn’t follow the trends set by many other groups. The vocals are unique, and they provide an interesting piano/synth combo in this particular track. Thepart @1:35 with some excellent  backing vocals is the highlight for me.



Album Review: Ferment



Ferment was the debut album of the little known or remembered grunge band Catherine Wheel. I had not heard of them until earlier this year. Even their bigger hits did not render with me the first time I heard them. But soon after I heard “Black Metallic” for the first time, I immediately started to look more into their work. Their sound would probably be best as a mix between grunge and shoegaze. Despite some high quality vocals, their sound was not completely accepted by mainstream audiences, could have something to do with the fact they were foreign. When discussing the great rock bands of the 90’s, hardly anybody mentions Catherine Wheel. This review is a small outcry against that, as this band and especially this album were truly great.


1. Texture (9/10)

While very few people would recognize this song if they heard it today, it is one of the best on the album in my opinion. An excellent start to Ferment, the song has many complex and fast-paced guitar riffs. They pair well with the lyrics in the chorus. It’s a song that serves as a great preview of what you’re in for for the rest of the album.


2. I Want to Touch You (8.5/10)

This a track that did receive some radio play and did make a mark on some of the charts. While it’s certainly not my personal favorite, it’s still a solid song. Catherine Wheel would go on to make a similar but better sounding medium paced song called “Crank” on their next album. I would suggest listening to them back to back and making the final decision on which is better, although they are both very good.


3. Black Metallic (10/10)

If you had heard anything from this band, this would most likely be it. This song did receive a significant amount of radio play back in ’92. It reached as high as #9 on the billboard charts. Right from the beginning, an atmospheric , semi-fuzzy guitar riff kicks in. The vocalist Rob Dickinson unique voice takes over shortly after that. It’s hard for me to accurately describe it to you. It’s certainly deep but has another indescribable quality to it that you just have to listen to for yourself. The chorus is very simple but straight-forward and effective. There’s a lengthy guitar solo and one final chorus that completes the song. It ends up being quite the journey.

4. Indigo is Blue (9.5/10)

This is a song I can almost assure you you haven’t heard yet. You’ll be glad you did after listening to the video posted below. In my opinion, it’s just as big as “Black Metallic”. This one just doesn’t appeal to the masses as much. My guess is because of the almost odd sounding vocals throughout. Dickinson’s accent really sticks out in this one, especially in the chorus. Aside from that small flaw, the song is dope. Very deep, almost ambient at times. Like the track before it, it features an awesome, but much more condensed guitar solo. It builds up the whole time until the concluding chorus which puts the finishing touches on it perfectly.



5. She’s My Friend (8/10)


A nice, medium paced track. It’s an angsty sounding track that is laid back at the same time, kind of a loked out Soundgarden song.


6. Shallow (8.5/10)


For whatever reason, this song really sticks out to me. Not just because it sounds different than the rest of the songs on the album (even though it still contains that lackadaisical shoegaze sound that I like from Catherine Wheel ), it’s probably because of the lyrics. Upon reading them, I have zero idea what this song is about. See for yourself. But that’s never stopped me from enjoying a song. When it comes to appreciating something, especially art/music, you don’t have to know everything about it and it doesn’t need to have a complete meaning. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something for what you see it as and nothing more.




7. Ferment (6.5/10)


Well it’s time for the obligatory slow song to make an appearance on the album. I’m glad that it took all the way until song 7 before it happened. Now I realize that not every rock song needs to be medium or fast paced to be good, but this one is WAY too slow for my liking. Despite it picking up in a hurry and getting intense at the 3:35 mark, it’s not a song I would go out of my way to hear.


8.Flower to Hide (7/10)


Starts out very progressively. It eventually builds up to a slightly disappointing chorus. There’s a rather quirky guitar solo but other than that, not much else noteworthy.


9. Tumble Down (6/10)


Again, it appears the album is starting to falter down the stretch. Filler song, tries to recycle a riff from “Texture” but fails to deliver on the near the same level.


10. Bill and Ben (6/10)

Sporadic, has some good rock elements to it but they don’t really come together as a whole very well.


11. Salt (6.5/10)

Catchy guitar riff at the intro. The song sputters after that. The instrumentals remain good throughout, but like the previous track, they aren’t able to muster up much of a final product.


12. Balloon (8/10)


This is a worthy closing track. No one part really sticks out other than the Bah, Bah-Bah, Bah’s that occur during some crunchy guitar riffs. It incorporates many good 90’s grunge elements and works as a short yet effective final song on a stellar album by Catherine Wheel.

Gigs: Collective Soul-Surf Ballroom



On July 6th, I had the distinct privilege of seeing one of my favorite bands from the 90’s. Collective Soul has been around since ’94 and they’re still going to this day; their most recent album release coming out this summer. In that time, they’ve unleashed upon us many great singles and accomplished albums. From reading the band’s story, it seems that front-man Ed Roland never envisioned the band taking off the way it did. 20 years and 9 studio albums later, Ed finds him and his band mates still selling records and playing shows for large audiences.  I can’t recommend seeing them in person highly enough.


I had not previously attended the Surf Ballroom prior to this event. It is located in very scenic Clear Lake, IA. There’s plenty of history within this venue, hence the “…and museum” included in its title. It’s most famously known as the last venue that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper performed at before they were tragically killed. I did not have a chance to check out any of the other attractions there besides the main stage. This spacious facility has held up very well and still has a very old-timey feel to it.






We arrived just in time to see Collective open. They played a couple of their newer tracks to start things off. The singer, Roland, then acknowledged that he was appreciative that the audience “put up with the new stuff” and proclaimed that there was going to plenty of the hits that everybody’s heard too many times. While I didn’t mind hearing some of the newer material that they had to offer, I was relieved to hear this. They immediately started up the guitar riff to “Heavy”. The crowd got into it and never looked back. This is arguably my favorite song by them. It ultimately ends up being a tie between that one and “Precious Declaration”. I’ve included both below.



“Precious Declaration” definitely gets a vote from me as a vintage, obscure music video from the 90’s



The band provided an eclectic mix of their collection throughout the night. I thought they included the audience very well, especially when getting the crowd to sing along with one of their newer works, not an easy proposition by any means. I was impressed by the classiness showed by the Clear Lake audience. They cheered loudly throughout the show and there were no boorish requesting shouts of the band’s hit singles in between songs. There was a sizable crowd present in this town of only 10.000. I think Ed and the rest of the band responded to this well. They would have delivered a terrific show regardless but they seemed to appreciate the crowd’s energy and took it to the next level during their performance of “Hollywood.” I was never a huge fan of this track until now. They really made a spectacle of it and it made for an unforgettable act. I did find something similar to it on the web but I don’t think most of you are all that excited to watch videos of live shows online. It’s one of those things you have to see for yourself. Needless to say, it fucking rocked.





They unofficially closed with one of their newer tracks and of course the “one more song” chant (which I’m a huge proponent of) was started shortly after. They came out a minute later and put the finishing touches on what was already a remarkable show. They led off the encore with “Shine“, which is a timeless classic. They officially ended the show with their epic ballad “Run”. Many people don’t know that that song was featured on the “Varsity Blues” soundtrack. Once again, they were able to get the crowd into it rather easily. By the end, you had an audience full of fans singing out the chorus with the band to the tune of a slow clap, instead of instruments. They’re  a class act, and I urge you to see them while they’re still performing live.



What I’m Listening To…

1. GFOTY-Bobby

I could not tell you what the acronym that this group goes by stands for. I could tell you little else about them other than they have a fresh new track called “Bobby” that is very easy on the ears. As long as you don’t mind a heavy dosage of electronics and a semi-sing talking method of vocal delivery, I’m sure you’ll find this song very catchy. Going off of the lyrics, it appears the singer is going through a break-up…a regrettable predicament indeed but a classic idea to build a song around. The final lyrics reveal her final disposition, put out there simply as “basically, I’m over it”. Basically, I think this song is fantabulous


In the absence of an actual photo, I would like to think this is what my viewers envision me as in person


2. Sisyphus-Rhythm of Devotion

As I’ve described on this blog before,  a great rap song has a lot going for it besides just the laying down of some sick rhymes. Mainly, a quality offering of instrumentals will accentuate the track and make it a more complete work of music. “Rhythm of Devotion” does just that. It’s a great mix of hard hitting beats/rapping and some chill instrumentals/electronic effects. The song gets noticeably more down-tempo @ 2:00 where the softer instruments take the front stage accompanied by some more relaxed, traditional vocals. I’m excited to see what else this hip new group, Sisyphus, comes out with. They’re a group to keep you’re eye on for sure.



3. The Used-Cry

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard a song I liked by this group. While I respect what they’re all about and how successful they’ve been, I typically couldn’t get into most of their work. I don’t mind screaming in music but it seems like these guys relied on it a ton in some of their earlier work. Not the case here; it’s a very straight forward piece of work that focuses on their instrumental and vocal strengths. One plus from their earlier works, however, is that they have one of my favorite lyrics in any song ever “you bleed just like you puke while running the mile”. That is grotesque, I realize, but it does hold some truth in that having to run the mile for PE class was a little too much for some to handle back in the day (mainly the dudes who chose smoking in their van over regular physical activity). I’m hoping you’ll enjoy this new single by the The Used



Quick Hitters: Epic Music Videos

I’ve stated in a previous post that for the most part, I don’t like music videos all that much. It seems like they are even less in the public eye now than they once were. At least, nobody I know talks about them anymore except when a artist does something in the video so outrageous it generates a jaw-dropping reaction from the masses. This is usually not the mark of a GOOD music video. No, to be something that actually adds to the song rather than just using footage to market the track, you mainly just need to be creative and come up with something cool. The following music videos are ones that I feel are shot not only to the tune of a great song, but were videos that didn’t do what everyone else did. They thought outside of the the box, effort was put into it, and at some point something happens that makes you picture the music video whenever you hear the song.


I included a video from each decade that I’ve been around for-90’s,00’s, and now (I purposely excluded the 80’s as I was not at a point in my life where I could appreciate a good music video…and a lot of them were weird).


1. The Prodigy-Smack my B!tch up

****NSFW**** (for language, drug use, nudity…I could keep going on so just don’t watch it at work)

“Woah”…that was the only reaction I could muster the first time I witnessed this video. The effect of all that is going on is further amplified by the fact that I was only 10 years old when I would have seen this. The premise of it is the night out from a direct first-person perspective. You know nothing about this person going into it. You get the idea the person is going to be making some questionable decisions later on in the evening simply by their behavior while preparing for the evening. The person involved doesn’t disappoint as you are taken on a roller-coaster ride of debauchery that includes several physical altercations, destruction of property, and graphic loss of bodily fluids. It’s uncomfortable and entertaining at the same time. They also made sure to include a twist at the end to make it that much more memorable.


2. Steriogram-Walkie Talkie Man

One could make the argument that this is the type of music video we’ll look back at in 20 years and laugh at. It is somewhat campy but still very original. It is the first and likely only music video to be composed mostly of string. Besides the band-members and extras, nearly every other part of the set is knitted on-site. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This video takes on the refreshing  mindset that they’re just trying to have fun with it, and nothing else.

There’s an interesting subplot going on as well’ with the antagonist, “giant string man” we’ll refer to him as, trying to destroy the entire city. He is successful in the early going, wreaking carnage on everything in sight and appearing almost invincible. But eventually he tries to take out the capitol records building which ends up being his undoing. Two studio execs, who appear to be no older than 12 years of age, save the day and the lead singer who ends up being partially dismembered as a result of the attack. All the while, there’s a decent song playing featuring some of the fastest dishing out of lyrics I have ever heard in my life.



3. Lorde-Tennis Courts

Earlier I said a good music video needs to think outside of the box. Lorde does that and more here. While it’s insanely simple, I think it’s a great music video. It says so much more that your typical vid that just has the artist strutting/dancing in the middle of an entourage of fellow strutters/dancers while trying to look cool mouthing out their lyrics. “Tennis Courts” is creepy, unique, and has great use of back lighting. You may wonder what the hell you’re watching if you’ve never seen it before but once you get into the song, I think you’ll learn to appreciate the whole experience.









Quick Hitters: Summer Jams

Summer is here, and with that comes the absence of poor weather outside of the occasional spell of sweltering heat or pouring rain. For me, everything seems to be better in the summer. Lots of activities to do, longer periods of daylight, and of course many outdoor live shows to catch. One of note that I plan to see on July 29 is Fitz and The Tantrums at the Simon Estes Ampitheater in Des Moines. This is part of their Nitefall on the River series.


But if you’re like me, you don’t need a band playing in front of you to enjoy the great summer vibe. You can enjoy life just as much out on your deck, with some friends, and some tunes that capture the positive waves that summer sets out. I’ll post three songs here that I think do this quite well. Hopefully they’ll get your summer started off on the right foot…and maybe it’ll even bring back a few cherished memories like…



Wow, that got dark quickly.


1. Metric-Stadium Love (Che Andre Remix)

A much more chill version than the original. This is a remix of a song off of one of my favorite albums, Fantasies. The original is a much grittier, while still fun, track. This takes the original lyrics and puts a more acoustic, summery feel to it.



2. Junior Prom-Sheila Put the Knife Down

A lot of swearing, a violent theme…this is still one of the more jubilant sounding tracks I’ve heard in recent memory. Given the nature of this song and the name of the band, I have a bad feeling these guys may be headed toward one-hit wonder territory. Hopefully I’m wrong. Sheila put the knife down is a peppy, upbeat track filled with lots of good synths and and great guitar bit @2:23.




3. Best Coast-Who Have I Become

While I am a big fan of this group, I used to think that not much thought went into writing their songs, especially the lyrics. This song made that mindset go away quickly. Most of Best Coast’s songs are pretty short but this track clocks in just under 5 minutes. It moves along well the entire time. It’s a thrill-ride that has some more complex guitar playing and lyrics than I’m used to hearing from this group. I really like the opening verse:

“Sometimes I hate myself for loving you…
And my dreams are just dramatic versions of
My real life.
And life is short, but so am I.
What does it matter anyway?
Just a small price that I pay to feel the same way every single day…
Every single day…”

Everything about this song is awesome, from Bethany Cosentino’s vocals to the guitar solo @3:33 all the way to the excellent outro that features some well placed backing vocals. I doubt you’ll have a hard time getting jacked for summer after giving this a listen.


What I’m Listening To…

1. The Horrors-So Now You Know


A modern day Smiths sounding track, “So know you know” has a rather genial intro and creates an almost ethereal sound-scape during the chorus. I had never heard of this group before listing to this song. They’re based out of the UK and have already come out with a few albums since they formed back in 2005. This is off of their latest one Luminous, and it came out on May 4th.



2. A. G. Cook-


I’m very confident you will either like or completely hate this song. It could probably the theme song for Sonic the Hedgehog given its pace and sporadic nature. Through the craziness (and a few listens), I found a song that has a ton of effects that are put together with excellent execution. You’ll start to notice how well they blend together after the 2nd listen or so. The last minute of the song is my favorite part and is like a reward for sticking it out for having to deal with the really high-pitched vocals throughout most of the song.




3. Prodigy-Firestarter (Death Grips Remix)

Firestarter” will always be one of Prodigy’s most well known songs. It’s fast and vicious.  It ended up being one of my least favorite tracks off their memorable 90’s record “Fat of the Land”. It’s hard to pinpoint what it is that I don’t like about that song but I know I’m not big on a song that doesn’t seem to have a redeeming part of it (usually in the chorus) that counteracts all the disturbing and negative sounding vibes that “firestarter” has.


This version by Death Grips is not that much different from the original but it seems to have a more laid-back and less chaotic feel to it; which I appreciate. It’s slightly ironic as Death Grips is no slouch when it comes to producing some abrasive tunes. This would not fit that description, however. The synths are very fluid throughout this version. See what you think.