Songs: Getting the Young Ones Involved

Hello all,

One new trend I’ve noticed in alt rock the past few years is the inclusion of many singers, particularly a group of youths, in a quality song. At first, I wasn’t in favor of it as I often am reminded of the gawd-awful songs I had to sing as a youngster in music class. Rather than listen it closely, I felt all of those crappy memories of singing about who knows what…(I can’t even remember, uh…Christmas elves or something probably) coming back to me and that made me quickly turn the radio dial. But despite my original prognosis, you CAN combine quality, alternative music with a group of young singers to make something pretty special. I notice it’s usually a group, almost never do you hear a solo youth artist. And that ‘s probably a good thing because I’ve seen that before and know what evil can come of that…

JUST SAY NO!

Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little…Okay, moving on, these next three songs help illustrate my point. The first is one that came out a few years ago. Maybe you’ve already heard it before, but if you haven’t (better yet, if you’re totally new to this artist), you’re in for a treat. The song is “Little Secrets” of off their album Manners. They utilize children doing backing vocals in many of their songs, most notably the popular track “The Reeling” or the more recent “Carried Away”

The song starts out sounding like a video game and has many other sounds throughout that sound like something you’d hear from your Super Nintendo. How the singer manages to sing as high as he does, I have no idea. I can’t imagine how he could do more than one or two shows a week with that style….which is a combination of high AND loud for most of the track. All that said, it is his voice and everything else unique that Passion Pit has done that has drawn my interest. “Little Secrets” features the young ones doing backing vocals during the chorus. They chant “higher and higher and higher.” What do they mean by it? I’m not sure, hopefully it’s something innocent like climbing higher and higher up the jungle gym. That’s probably wishful thinking; considering when I look at the lyrics, drugs appear to be what the singer is referring to. Many key words including the song’s title lead me to this conclusion. Maybe I’m wrong, though. Either way, it’s a hell of a catchy tune.

The next track here is from a group simply named Cults (not to be confused with THE Cult, who had a groovy tune called “She Sells Sanctuary” back in the 80’s). They are still relatively unknown and I, myself, haven’t heard anything from them since their debut self-titled album that was released in 2011. The album was a stellar effort and I implore you to listen to the opening track “Abducted.” That song is not the focus here, however. I’m somewhat cheating with this one as I do not believe Cults uses any vocalists other than the two band members Madeline Follin and Brad Oblivion. After you listen to a few of their songs, you’ll most likely agree with me that Madeline’s voice sounds a lot younger than she actually is. If you’ve never seen her singing, you might mistake her for a teenage girl or something. Maybe it’s just her style; many vocalists have singing voices that are vastly different than how they sound when they talk. Rush’s Geddy Lee is a good example of this (thanks Pavement). You combine it with the dubbing of her voice during the chorus to make it sound like a small ensemble performing, and you get that specific sound that is the reason I classified this song in this category.   “Oh My God” is the track I’m showcasing here. It’s somewhat unusual in that beat if very uplifting but the lyrics are not. Regardless of the mostly pessimistic message I get from the lyrics, I usually feel good after listening to this song.

Youngblood Hawke is a group that, how do you say…I don’t really like. I listened to a few of their songs and don’t really dig the overall mood of most of their productions. It seems a little too overblown and artificial sounding. Despite this, they have created a song I’ve come to like tremendously. I didn’t like it instantly, but after a few listens with the good headphones, I recognized it for what a great song it really is. The band features a lot of youngsters in it for multiple parts of the song. They’re mainly included in the chorus and the post-chorus “Whoa’s” (@2:16) that I think it the best part of the song overall.The lead singers voice isn’t strong in my opinion so it’s the kids vocals that make the song for me. The effort by the entire group is very solid overall and they wrap up the song very nicely with the final chorus sing little musical accompaniment. See what you think and leave your comments on one or all of the tracks…

Okay, from the top everyone. And this time, let’s try not sounding like a complete and utter disgrace.

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Quick Hitters: Long Live the 90’s Spectacle

Quick Hitters…well, not this time. I hope you have some time on your hands because the next three songs have some length to them. But believe me, when there is as much musical talent displayed throughout the entire song as three tracks have below, that is most definitely a good thing. One thing I have never prided myself in is my remarkably short attention span. I become bored rather easily. This is especially the case with music. It takes a lot of gall to release a song filled with some of your prime material that is over six minutes in length. First off, you are limiting its radio play as most popular radio stations don’t like to play songs much over 4 minutes. I suppose they either presume that all listeners will lose interest and change the station or perhaps it creates too long of a gap between advertisements. Either way those stations can fuck off. This post is a salute to the artists who, at the risk of it not being exposed to the masses, produced unique, memorable tracks that reward the listener for buying the album. I’ll never forget the first time I listened to Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia. I’ve never heard that song played on the radio and I only saw the music video on TV once…complete travesty (highlight for me is Billie Joe’s distinct voice singing out “lost children with dirty faces today” with Mike Dirnt yelling out “Hey!”  in the background).

But today, I would like to celebrate some of the most memorable 90’s (as much as I hate to say it…uh…) EPIC songs. The first is a track by an artist you probably haven’t heard of if you were born after 1990. Their name is Ride and their song is “Leave Them All Behind” Prepare to be taken for a trip. It starts out with some keyboard and some bass almost leading you to believe it’s of the techno genre but it ends up being very grungey. That mark starts roughly @ 2:16 (see top comment @ link for excellent description). The vocals are sub-par. They take little away from what is an instrumental masterpiece.They do enough to mix it up and hit you with many different combinations of meaningful lyrics and guitar riffs. My interpretation of the lyrics is that the vocalist is describing  an unearthly experience such as departing this earth for the afterlife and not really caring about what has happened up until then. Turn your headphones up and tune out to “Leave Them All Behind”

The next track I have known about only for a short time thanks to a childhood muddled by car rides where I listened to less-than-inspirational artists. I heard from Chicago more than once that “I” was the inspiration and that Londonbeat has been “thinking about me” when I should have been more exposed to groups like My Bloody Valentine. Let’s take a peak at their closing track “Soon” from their album Loveless. Little description is needed, the quality of the song speaks for itself. Especially Kevin Shields’s gloomy vocals and the kick-in of the guitars, they’re what really make this song (@3:04). My Bloody Valentine is a mysterious group. We were not exposed to all that much and then they disappeared completely it seemed. It was Siruis XMU that re-acquainted me with this artist and the very reassuring fact that they are releasing new material! I still have high hopes for this group and think that their best is yet to come. Time will tell but for now, give “Soon” a try and leave your comments on this beautiful, elongated for the sake of their listeners, work of art.

The last song I will post is by Smashing Pumpkins. They seem to be my crutch when it comes to signifying momentous works of art. The work they produced though their 1st-3rd albums still leaves me speechless…it’s that remarkable. I wanted to use “Thru The Eyes of Ruby,” however, I have already posted a track from Mellon Collie and this appears to be a good opportunity to share what is and will always be my favorite Smashing Pumpkins song “Hummer.” The intro is misleading; it’s a scrambled mess that, while intriguing in itself, does not exemplify the clarity that is achieved for the duration of the song. The first episode of this occurs @ 1:44. Notice a theme between all three songs I’ve posted? They all have long running times, yet by comparison, there are not a whole lot of lyrics. That is because all three artists have the capability to say more than most of us ever could with some simple yet thoughtful lyrics mixed in with powerful instrumentals.  The best part of an already brilliant song starts @3:12 and goes on through the 4:00 minute mark of “Hummer.” It doesn’t drop a beat when the guitars kick right back in @4:04 and rehash the grass roots of this masterful track.  After that, it’s mostly low-key the rest of the way. Still, one cannot downplay the effect that listening to “Hummer” will have on your whole perspective of things…literally (on the link, sit through the ad…it’s worth the excellent sound quality of this player)

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5690210/smashing_pumpkins_hummer_1993/

So young…even they may not have known at that time how much influence they would ultimately have on the alt rock/music scene for years to come

Quick Hitters: oldies in present day

You can never have enough keytars…

Hi. If you’re like me, you wonder what things were like back in the 80’s. If that resemblance to me is aged-based then the reason for your inquisitive nature on this decade is attributed to only being around for the tail end of it. Needless to say, I like myself a hefty dose of new wave now and then. There’s the artists that I’m proud to name off as my favorites: Joy Division, The Smiths, Simple Minds. And there’s the others that…uh, despite their image I still liked…A Flock of Seagulls, Mr. Mister, and Wang Chung (Yes, Wang Chung Dammit). Regardless of how cheesy some of them went about their business back then (Flock of Seagulls case in point…Good Gawd,that lead singers hair!), they created catchy, unique songs and paved the way for modern alternative as we know it.

What’s reassuring is that there’s artists out there that are trying to recreate that 80’s sound. These three songs showcase today’s artists ability to bring back those days and with the aid of modern day musical technology, heighten the experience for a truly exceptional new wave experience. The first song I’ve posted is by a pioneer in the revival of 80’s music. He continues to put out good albums and inspire many along the way. His most recent, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, is a masterpiece. Anthony Gonzalez, or M83, successfully made several tracks that have an overall ambient pop sound with plenty of synths and even some saxophone . It all combines to give one awesome trip back to the 80’s. Pay special attention to Gonzalez’s surprisingly excellent vocals and Morgan Kibby’s memorable monologue during the uplifting “Reunion.”

That was fun, now onto our next winner. Jack Tatum’s project Wild Nothing is drawing a lot of attention on the indie scene. I, for one, cannot get into a lot of his work. He does produce that pseudo new wave sound that I’ve made clear I’m practically obsessed with but I find myself disinterested when listening to a lot of his songs.  To me, it’s a lot of loopy singing combined with awkward instrumentals that almost annoy me. Then I heard “Paradise” and it completely changed the way I saw Wild Nothing. It’s quite brilliant for those that won’t let go to their new wave listening roots. The ambiance he creates along with the monotone singing allows for the ultimate trip back in time. My only beef with the song is the minute and a half gap where practically nothing happens besides this weird whaling sound that I guess it supposed to be the feature of that particular segment. But after that’s over, it returns to greatness.

I’ll finish with what I believe is the strongest of all 3 songs showcased here and one of my picks for top artist of 2012. Twin Shadow is put on by George Lewis Jr. He sounds a lot like Eddie Money and right from the beginning of his songs, you’re hooked. Whether it’s his talent in the voice department or the unique, retro sound he has, it makes for something that has been gone from my CD player (vinyl, I wish) for too long! Check out “Run My Heart.” The lyrics are simple and to the point, not overly thoughtful but not really needing to be. Especially when you have the vocal talent that George does. My favorite part is the chorus where he confesses to his and supposed former love interest’s respective genders and the non-relevance of it all in regards to the plight they find themselves in. I hope you enjoyed all these tracks and if you didn’t, I’m very interested to hear your opinion through means of comment postage. Later

Artist Profile: Tame Impala

Welcome back, you may be asking yourself (although you’re more than likely not), what is the objective of a artist profile? There’s several…I’ll write these in hopes that you discover a new artist that you come to deeply admire and follow closely after hearing some select songs. –OR–…you may have already heard of them. In fact, you knew about them before they were semi-famous! Congratulations, if that is the case, my aim is to provide you with my take on them, introduce you to songs by them you may not be familiar with, and of course open the floor to discussion on the band being reviewed.

I’ll do my best not to make all of these artists profiles posts love-fests where I gush on and on about how all these bands and songs have changed me forever. No, I will try to add in some more critical reviews of artists that I believe are getting too much hype.  But I’m not going to throw too many stones as I have little musical experience myself. I have no idea the amount of work that goes into just learning to play an instrument well much less write an entire song. We’ll go ahead and assume it is a lot, not an insurmountable amount, but still probably a lot.

Onto Tame Impala. Some bands have a break-in period with me where I need multiple listens of a few different songs before I become invested in them. Not Tame, was all about them as soon as I heard “Elephant.” This psychedelic group from Australia sounds very Zeppelin-like (not a huge Zeppelin fan, myself, interestingly enough) but they also pour on the synths to produce a classic rock yet, trance like sound. I wouldn’t think those two would go together very well but in this case, I am dead wrong. We’ll start ‘er off with “Elephant,” the track on Lonerism that has received the most airplay. It starts of like a something you’d hear off of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album from 1970. After only a few verses, the meat and potatoes of the songs kicks in and you experience the trance and hypno qualities of the song. Eventually, the more electronic instruments come in and merges the more classic sound with something almost MGMT-like for a spectacular finale (starts at 2:18). Enjoy!

It only gets better, my friends. I love bands that don’t follow the basic hit song composition of 2 sets of verse-bridge-chorus followed by a middle 8 and then one final rendition of a chorus and an outro. Tame Impala does that approximately 0% of the time and it’s so refreshing. “Endors Toi” is up next. A song that is almost entirely an intro, and a great one at that. When the lyrics finally arrive, they’re gone again before you know it. And I, for one, have already been blown away by everything else that has happened up until that point. This really makes me relish what little singing occurs in this song. Give her a whirl and please leave me your opinion on this quirky little number.

The final song I will post of Tame Impala is a goodie off of their last album, InnerSpeaker. “Solitude is Bliss” Can’t say I agree with them but the terrific lyrics and beats make a pretty good case. I interpret the meaning of this song as…”we’re tame impala, you’ll never be as cool/hipster as us, we’re fine with just chilling by lonesome, deal with it.” I mean, just look at the way one of the members wears his jacket in the picture at the top of the page. Nobody who gave even the tiniest fuck about what others thought about him would wear his jacket like that. Personally, I think it’s a rather moronic way to wear a jacket but does he care, not one iota. Ok, I need to stop talking. Enjoy “Solitude is Bliss”