Showing posts with label Musings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Musings. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XVIII

After being a critical darling for years, Kings of Leon shot for rock supremacy with their fourth album Only By the Night (okay, technically they tried with their previous album but failed) and became the biggest band in the land thanks to throbbing rock songs like Use Somebody and Sex on Fire. Like most rock bands, they did overindulge with their follow up (of course they brought in a black southern church choir for the album’s first single). Then on cue, like every other brotherly based band (see the Gallagher’s, the Robinson’s, the Davie’s et. al.), they imploded on themselves while on tour. After a three year layoff repairing those bruises, the Followill brothers (and one cousin) are back with Mechanical Bull. Sure it will not do as big as Only By the Night, and maybe not even Come Around Sundown, but it sounds like the most fun they have ever had. Case in point is first single Supersoaker: no “serious” rock band has been this silly and catchy since U2 released Discotheque. Songs like Family Tree are just as fun. They do occasionally try for stadium anthems again like Come Back Again, but the album is much better when they are clearly just sitting back and having some fun.

Mechanical Bull gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Diane Birch quite possibly made the best seventies blue eyed Philly soul album of this century with her debut Bible Belt. But that was four years and since then it sounds like Birch updated her sound by a decade because sophomore outing Speak a Little Louder is a decidedly more eighties shoe-gazing new wave sound which is more in the line these days with the music of Daughter than Mayer Hawthorne. Speak a Little Louder is a more synth driven, darker sound than her debut. Although the music of the title track is very reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Stranger In Moscow (I would have never thought of Jackson as a shoe-gazing fan of synths, but after making this connection, it makes his sound more interesting than I first thought). The best song on the album Tell Me Tomorrow which is the most upbeat, and least synth dependent song on the album. There are a couple of other influences throughout the album, Love and War has a disco beat to it, Pretty in Pain is the closest she get to the sounds of her debut, while Frozen Over sounds like a long lost Pat Benatar song. I appreciate Diane trying to expand her sound, but I do prefer the Philly soul version. Now I wonder which nineties genre will inspire her for her third album.

Speak a Little Louder gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

The latest trend for legacy artists is to rerecord their biggest hits with the biggest stars in country today. Both Lionel Richie and John Fogerty have done so in the past year. The latest to do so is Willie Nelson. But do not expect Willie to just piggyback past artists. First off, as the title To To All the Girls... suggests, Willie only duets with the fairer sex. And do not expect Willie to bring out his biggest hits and just add a female voice to them, really aside from Always on My Mind there is not a massive hit of Willie’s on this album. Half of the songs on the album are written by other people like Bill Withers and even Folgerty’s own Have You Ever Seen the Rain, one of the album’s best as recorded with his daughter Paula. And though he brings out heavy hitters like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, most of his duet partners are his contemporizes like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn as well as some newbies like Brandi Carlile and Melonie Cannon. All the songs are ballads and at eighteen tracks, that does drag on a bit. But like his fellow Highwayman Johnny Cash, Willie is still aging quite well.

To All the Girls… gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XVII

It is easy to write off Jack Johnson as a modern day hippie or the beach bum equivalent of a beach bum, who is so mellow he can gets lampooned by Andy Sandberg on The Mellow Show sketch on Saturday Night Live. Sure Johnson got his revenge on Samberg in the hilarious At or with Me music video. If you have already dismissed Johnson, his latest From Here to Now to You is not going to change your mind as it is filled with another batch of sleepy acoustic song. Of course if you own all or most of his previous catalogue, you will be happy to know that the new album is filled with even more sleepy acoustic songs to play in the early evening be it around a bonfire on the beach or in your landlocked back yard.

From Her to Now to You gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

I usually start off my reviews for new albums from The Roots by saying how I thought their album releases would become far and few in between after signing on as Jimmy Fallon’s house band for Late Night, but this is actually their fifth album since taking the gig in 2009 (and there could be a sixth one coming as soon as later this year). Wise Up Ghost is their second collaborative album, but where the soul classic cover album with John Legend made sense, most people had to do a double take when it was announced they would do one with Elvis Costello. Wise Up Ghost (of which the title track is the best song on the album) continues the experimental sounds of Undun mixed with Costello’s voice and lyrics about urban decay. The combination is as weird as you would expect, but it will take many more listens before I decide if it is a good weird or a bad weird. Check back in December when I do my list of the best albums of the year to see where Wise Up Ghost lands to see where it falls.

Wise Up Ghost gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on Terror Alert Scale.

A year before Kimbra and two years before Lorde stormed the American charts all the way from New Zealand; fellow kiwis The Naked and Famous released their ultra catchy indie-pop anthem Young Blood that should have been as big as Somebody That I Used to Know and Royals. But now that their countrywomen pushed opened the door they cracked for them, The Naked and Famous are poised for their breakout moment. Except there is nothing as intrinsically catchy on their sophomore album In Rolling Waves like Young Blood from their debut. The closest is first single Hearts Like Ours which comes off like a more mature and pensive version of Young Blood. But overall the new album is just missing some punch.

In Rolling Waves gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XVI

To put into perspective just how long it has been since Black Sabbath put out an album with Ozzy Osbourne, I had not even been born yet and I am old enough to remember when Dr. Dre started working on Detox. Really, when I think of Ozzy, I think of his cheesy power ballads from the lat eighties / early nineties. Which I guess is better than the generation or two that came after me who think Ozzy only as a reality star. But their reunion album 13 got me intrigued if only because it was being produced by Rick Rubin who may have the greatest batting average among producers since the band last released an album together. Unfortunately unlucky 13 is a rare swing and a miss as it turns out sounding exactly what a bunch of sixty year olds playing heavy metal would sound like. A Johnny Cash redefining album that Rubin produced, this is not. And it is mostly Ozzy’s fault who sounds phoned in (anyone who saw his reality show probably knows why) even though Tony Iommi’s riff are for the most part still haunting as ever. I just wished Rubin pushed them more. The most intriguing song on the album is Damaged Soul where the harmonica sends the song into a bluesy direction before getting drowned out by Iommi’s guitar. I just wished 13 had more moments like that.

13 gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Back in the late nineties, electronic music became such a big fad even Eric Clapton and R.E.M. were making albums that relied heavily on drum machines. At the same time, Barenaked Ladies were enjoying their biggest success creating music more organically. Fifteen years later we are in the second electronic boon and the Ladies finally jumped on board with the trend on their tenth studio album Grinning Streak (depending how you count them). They never drop the base or any of those other annoying trends in EDM these days, but the album is easily their more electronic embracing to date. Well that is primarily the opening song Limits, after that all the hints of electrics are tempered down. The rest of the album may have been more interesting if it were more like the opening track. And despite the title Grinning Streak, the trademark wit the band usually has is once again downplayed. I always thought the token rapper Ed Robertson was the fun guy in the group, but ever since Steven Paige has left the group, their album as much less fun.

Grinning Streak gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Tom Petty once sang about the ups and downs of being a rock and roll star during Into the Great Wide Open and one line that always stick out to me is when he sings, “their A&R guy said ‘I don’t hear a single.’” That line comes up occasionally when I listen to albums like the last Jimmy Eat World album. Invented was good, but nothing on the album really stood out as being particularly great. Same goes for their latest Damage. You are still getting a solid ten song, which really does not add anything new to their catalogue. But alas I do not hear a single worth downloading and if you already own Bleed American and Furtures, you really do not need to add Damage to your library.

Damage gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XV

A lot has been made about the sophomore slump, but the third album may be the hardest. Look at Coldplay, their debut was good and improved on their style with the follow. By their third album X&Y, they started to sound like just another Coldplay rip-off band that littered the English countryside by the middle of last decade. Luckily for Coldplay they started to evolve with their fourth album. Vampire Weekend recently just released that tricky third album, Modern Vampires of the City. And though their sound has not changed much from the Benetton anthems from that first album, Vampire Weekend had tweaked their sound enough not to fall prey to the same rut Coldplay did (it may also help that Vampire Weekend has yet inspired knock-off band). The best song from the new album is Diane Young which sound like a sound Vampire Weekend did for a Buddy Holly tribute album except it was not originally a Buddy Holly song. Go ahead and add the song to your summer 2013 playlist now.

Modern Vampire of the City gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Legacy artists have been doing duet albums with modern artists since Frank Sinatra did it over twenty years ago but last year Lionel Richie added a new twist to the concept: do an entire duets album with artists outside your genre. And though John Fogerty’s Wrote a Song for Everyone is not totally a country duets album, half of the guests are pure country acts like Brad Paisley who may not be the best duet partner lately (*cough*Accidental Racist*cough*); most of the others have country and folk leaning. The best here is the trippy version of Long as I Can See the Light with My Morning Jacket. And though the Jennifer Hudson assisted, Bourbon Street version of Proud Mary with Allen Toussaint and Rebirth Brass Band is another stand out, you cannot help but wonder how it would be better if they could have actually gotten Tina Turner to sing the song one more time. There are two new songs her but neither that memorable. But much like the Ritchie duets album, I am content with just having the original versions on my iPod.

Wrote a Song for Everyone gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

The debut album from Eisley was extremely catchy and the band could have caught the indie pop wave of the past decade. Instead each successive album they released has gotten more and more melodic. By their fourth album, Currents, it almost sound like they are recording an Explosions In the Sky album with lyrics over them. I actually like the band better when they strip the sound down a little like when they do on songs like Milestone and The Night Comes.

Currents gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XIII

If it were not for Limp Bizkit’s fifth attempt at being relevant again, Fall Out Boy may have been the most unwanted comeback of the past year. Even worse is they called their album Save Rock and Roll (so when you look at the album, you will see Fall Our Boy Save Rock n Roll) even though they along with their whiney contemporaries destroyed the genre (good riddance My Chemical Romance, the world will not be anticipating your inevitable reunion at Coachella 2020). Apparently the band did not watch the Grammy’s this year which featured Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys, Jack White, and Fun., four critically and commercially successful rock albums, all fight for Best Album.

But I am not a Fall Out Boy hater, a couple of their songs made my Best of the Year lists. Despite the first single My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light em Up) and its pretentious long title the band is known for, Save Rock n Roll is the band’s grown up album. Besides Light em Up, the rest of the album has “normal” titles and less tongue in cheek lyrics (Courtney Love spoken word diatribe on Rat a Tat notwithstanding). This album reminds me a lot of Blink-182’s “grown up” albums, they may have been musically better, but their songs where they would make prank phone calls about sodomy were more entertaining. Same for Save Rock n Roll where the album may sound better, but the most entertaining song is the one that sound most like their older work.

Save Rock n Roll gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Taylor Swift set up the template for country cross-over success. Hook in that country crowd then slowly creep closer and closer to pop music with every subsequent album until you are making crappy dubstep songs with Max Martin. It look like The Band Perry is copying that blueprint to a T. Much like Taylor did with Teardrops on My Guitar, Kimberly and her brother released a “Pop Remix” of If I Die Young to pop and adult contemporary stations. And that turn to the mass center continues on their sophomore album Pioneer which dips one toe into the country pool and the other in the pop world. The album starts off with their best song to date, the banjo infused Better Dig Two which is as much pop-rock as it is country. They continue to go back and forth and combine the two for the rest of the album, but none of it is very memorable. Maybe the true key to Taylor Swift's successes is dating and writing about douchebags when they inevitably break her heart.

Pioneer gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Last year I became obsessed with who the record companies would try to pass off as the “Next Adele.” First out the box was internet lightning rod Lana del Ray who was maybe the most prepackaged “indie” act ever with her devil may care attitude, thin voice, pretentious lyrics that wanted you to think they were much more important than they are, and music that borrows as much from retro sounds as it does modern day hip-hop. Though we never did get a Next Adele (at least until Emili Sandi manages to break out here stateside) you could call Jessie Ware the Next Lana Del Rey but Jessie comes off much less pretentious, less annoying and has a slightly better singing voice. The music is still draped in as many rap references while it borrows from music from the sixties (Wildest Moments is the best here which will grow on you with every new listen) but most songs come off as a little too sleepy and boring. But that is what makes her debut Devotion a great bedtime album, whether that is a good or bad thing may depend on how much Ambient you take on a monthly basis.

Devotion gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Musings from the Back 9: AARP Edition

Whenever asked the eternal question: The Beatles or The Stones? My answer is always, “Snitch please; The Beach Boys are much better than those hacks.” They made the catchiest pop music of all time with their surf infused harmonies before going on to make more profound music. Then mastermind Brian Wilson retired from touring and later dropped out of the band, not to be seen or heard from until he finally dusted of the abandoned Smile album and even managed to tour behind it. And just in time for their fiftieth anniversary, Brian reunited with his cousin Mike Love for a reunion album and tour.

Did we really need a new Beach Boys album? Probably not, but the group recently released That's Why God Made the Radio and it pretty much sounds what you would expect a Beach Boys album would sound like five decades later. Where their early records celebrated the exuberance on teenage youth, surfing and chasing girls on the beach, the new collection of songs is a mellow look at retirement with your toes in the sand and maybe a grandkid or two running around. None of the new songs are as catchy as their early hit singles (or even as catchy as Kokomo) or as profound as anything on Pet Sounds but the harmonies are still tight, the songs will put a smile on your face, and will probably get massive rotation in retirement home. That is if grandpa can figure out how to download it from iTunes, get it on his iPod, and then get it to play on the docking player you bought him for Christmas.

That’s Why God Made the Radio gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

If we were playing the old Remote Control segment Dead or Alive and Bobby Womack came up I may have actually had guessed “dead.” Even after he showed up on the Gorillaz song a couple years ago I may have just assumed that it was vocals from a track I was unfamiliar with. But as it turns out Womack is very much alive and released his latest album in over a decade. Gorillaz’s mastermind Damon Albarn produced The Bravest Man in the Universe and brought his electro-beats that he used for his own band. Unfortunately sometime this distracts from Womack’s voice which has aged into a creepy haggered sound that does not need all the bells and whistles behind it Albarn adds. Even more distracting is the appearance from Lana Del Rey (presumably recorded in the month and a half between when she went from internet phenomenon to laugh stock) who’s voice does not mix with Womack’s at. The album is at its best when the studio magic is pulled back and it is just Womack and a solitary instrument like the acoustic guitar on Deep River. Love Is Gonna Lift You Up is the only overproduced on the album that did no made me wish I could hear an acoustic version of it. It is not hard to wonder how much better the album would have sounded if Rick Ruban had produced the comeback instead of Albarn.

The Bravest Man in the Universe gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

When you hear that Neil Young is singing kindergarten anthems like Clementine and This Land Is Your Land, you would probably think it is some lame sketch concocted by Jimmy Fallon. Nope, Americana is Neil Young singing these songs and other big among the Cub Scout set but adding some of the original darker verses routinely dropped out when sung by the youth. Much like the older Beach Boys album, Americana sound just like you would expect Neil Young singing campfire ditties with Crazy Horse (their first new album together in almost a decade) backing him up would sound. The sing-a-long choruses are there in-between fuzzed out guitar solos, some veering dangerously close to sounding like a Fallon parody. As weird as it sounds on paper, it probably does not even raking in Young’s top five weirdest albums. Do not fret Crazy Horse fans, after this album, Neil continued to work with them on new material they are writing.

Americana gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Musings From the Back 9: New Shows Edition

Amber Heard, Naturi Naughton, and Leah Renee fill outn their bunny costumes on The Playboy Club

The Playboy Club

When every critic bemoaned that The Playboy Club was simply just a simple Mad Men rip off, I came to the show’s (and the upcoming Pan Am, look for the review tomorrow) defense saying The Playboy Club was a rip off of Mad Men because they were set in the same time period would be like saying Mad Men was a rip off of American Dreams. But now that I have seen the first episode, Eddie Cibrian (Invasion) completely steal Don Draper’s cadence is really distracting and it is not a good sign for the show that Cibrian’s speech managed to be more distracting than Amber Heard (Hidden Palms) in, or out, of her bunny costume. Sure if there is anyone who can reach Don Draper level of douchebag, it is Cibrian who does not even need to act to pull it off, but he did not need to also copy his speech patterns.

It is also not a very good sign when Heard is your strongest actor on the show. The other bunnies range from bland to over the top to painful to watch. Jenna Dewan-Tatum (Melrose Place) falls in the latter category as a bunny that is dating the bartender who, surprise, is not happy that he has to watch his girlfriend get ogled every night. Laura Benanti (Starved) is the house bunny whose lip syncing was so distractingly bad, I thought I was watching an episode of Glee. Naturi Naughton (3LW) is simply the token black chick who says something sassy at the end of every scene.

Even though she came across as only a caricature of a Playboy bunny, Leah Renee (Runaway) started out by having the only interesting part of the first episode, hiding a deep dark secret from her co-workers. Was she some sort of Gloria Steinem undercover spy? Did she have some vendetta against Hugh Hefner and was using the job to get to him? Nope. Her husband is gay (and she may or may not be a lesbian, it is unclear at this point) and is the leader of some underground gay homosexual society. What?

The Playboy Club airs Mondays at 10:00 on NBC. You can stream recent episodes over at You can also download The Playboy Club on iTunes.

2 Broke Girls

Ever since they broke up How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, neither has really shared a timeslot with anything else worth watch. 2 Broke Girls (when it moves to 8:30 next week) looks to break that trend. Kat Dennings (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist) is the queen of snark and if Beth Behrs (American Pie Presents: The Book of Love) can find some subtleties in her socialite character could be the breakout star of the television season. And who knew Garrett Morris was still alive? But they need to find a new cook because dude got annoying quick. Is Vic Tayback available for the role? (Wait, unlike Morris, he actually is dead? Nevermind.) But I really like the running tally of money at the end of the episode and I have a feeling that number will go down almost as many times it goes up.

2 Broke Girls airs Mondays on CBS. You can stream recent episodes over at


Whitney Cummings (Comedy Central Roasts) created two shows on the schedule this fall and just based on first impressions only, she clearly chose to star in the wrong show. 2 Broke Girls was filled with laugh and set up an interesting premise for the future. Whitney is a bland relationship sitcom from the nineties that tries to update the format with unfunny crass jokes. The show is also reminiscent of crappy sitcoms that NBC usually orders for midseason but ends up burning off during the summer (100 Questions, Friends With Benefits). The only thing you can get coming away from the show is wondering just how bad is the Chelsea Hander sitcom that Whitney made it to air first is. A couple years back NBC tried to launch a Wednesday comedy block before it moved 30 Rock to Thursday about two weeks later and dropped the other one. I would not be at all surprised is either Up All Night or Free Agents (hopefully the latter) gets the Whitney timeslot before we start handing out candy to trick or treaters.

Whitney premieres Thursday at 9:30 on NBC. You will be able to stream episodes over at You will also be able to download Whitney on iTunes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Musings From the Back 9: Music Edition XII

Listening to the debut album from Parachute is reminiscent to hearing Augustana for the first time: an Americanized version of Coldplay, lots of crushing chords and catchy melodies. But with Augustana, they had a few radio ready hit songs like Boston for anyone to latch onto but most of Losing Sleep sounds like the filler tracks on most albums that just blend into each other. Decent enough pop-rock songs, but nothing worth hitting the repeat button. The only song that comes close to being a stand out track on the album is She Is Love a sweet song that you get two versions of, the acoustic original and a Full Band version at the end of the album.

Losing Sleep gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Christian music can be a mixed bag. Most focus too much on overtly religious lyrics while forgetting to make memorable music with hooks and melody. Sarah Reeves does not fall into that category. Sure there are those obvious lyrics like when she begs “Come Jesus, come awaken us,” but there is musicianship throughout Sweet Sweet Sound that can make the album enjoyable to secular and pop fans alike. Reeves saccharine voice, sounding like the lead singer of Sixpence None the Richer, is a great compliment to songs such as the breezy title track, the lovely Come Savior, and the guitar heavy Fresh Anointing and Let Us Rise wouldn’t sound out of place on any adult contemporary station.

Sweet Sweet Sound gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Swan Feathers by Leslie Mendelson has such an old time feeling, you can almost hear the vinyl scratching even on a crystal clear CD. And the keyboards that start off the first couple songs put her right in the coffeehouses of seventies New York. The jazzy songs even conjure up comparisons to modern day folks like Norah Jones. Each song has a mellow smooth groove that may are perfect for Mendelson’s sweet voice. But sometimes the album gets too mellow as you might find yourself drifting off while listening to the album if you are not paying close attention. There is an extremely slowed down cover of Be My Baby that is so slowed down that it may take most people until the chorus to even recognize the song.

Swan Feathers gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Musings From the Back 9: Music Edition XI

Have you ever wondered what The Fray would sound like if there were fronted by Adam Levine of Maroon 5? Well if so you will want to check out The Script. Lead singer Danny O'Donoghue does his best blue eyed soul over the melodic music. But much like The Fray (or Maroon 5 to a lesser extent), their self-titled album is mostly mediocre with throwaway tracks a plenty. But also like The Fray, they are able to crank out one or two tracks that hit an emotional chord and on The Script, that song is The Man Who Can’t Be Moved, a song that follows a guy who hoped to reunite with a past love by camping out at the place where their first met.

The Script gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Mat Kearney busted on the scene three years ago thanks to some helpful television placements and a quirky half sung, half spoken word type delivery. The rapping Chris Martin set him apart from the other Coldplay wannabes that scattered the landscape during the middle of this decade. Which makes you wonder why he dropped all the spoken word delivery for his sophomore album City of Black & White. The result is none of the songs here really stand out especially after realizing Fire & Rain isn’t a James Taylor cover.

City of Black & White gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

There is nothing better in music than a great blues song. Even blues that isn’t that great is still pretty good and that is where the Blues Caravan: Guitars and Feathers falls into. The main problem with the album is most of the songs are nondescript and it is sometimes hard to distinguish one from another. Most songs are originals from Deborah Colman, Candye Kane and Dani Wilde with a couple covers thrown in from Ray Charles and Willie Dixon. But if you have some hankering for some blues, this disk will certainly be sufficient.

Blues Caravan: Guitars and Feathers gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Musings From the Back 9: Music Edition X

There is no bigger scam than the “Deluxe Edition,” a phenomenon where record labels add a couple songs onto a new album a couple months after it was originally released to squeeze a couple more dollars out of their investment knowing the fanatics will grab both. Coldplay has been nice enough to release the bonus tracks added to Viva la Vida as an ad on to the disk or you can buy it separately as Prospekt’s March.

The addendum features four new songs recorded during the Viva la Vida sessions (not including the forty-five second piano laced Postcards from Far Away), adds lyrics to Life in Technicolor II, adds a Jay-Z rap to Lost+ (that detracts the song), and a remix for Lovers in Japan (that sounds none different from the original). As for those four new songs it is not surprisingly that they were left off the album proper because none would have added anything to it and would have been inexchangeable with some of the filler that did make the album.

The closest thing to a stand out is the album closer Now My Feet Won’t Touch the Ground. A stripped down song with just an acoustic guitar with some weird sound creeping in near the end that balloons into a brass band that is reminiscent of the hidden track off of X&Y, but doesn’t quite have the gravitas of ‘Til Kingdom Come.

iTunes and Amazon MP3 has made compilation albums obsolete. Why buy a whole album when you can just buy the one or two songs that you know you like? But you can look at Sounds Eclectic: The Next One as more of a sampler as unless you are an indie music fan you may not now any of the artist let alone any of the songs as Spoon and The Shins lead the album in name recognition.

And the album does live up to its name with an array of different style from the sweeping epic by The Swell Session (you may remember them from winning the most recent Oscar for Best Original Song), the synthetics of Architecture in Helsinki, the quirky pop of The Ting-Tings, the hipster rock of Sea Wolf, and the haunting vibe of Bat for Lashes. All the songs were performed live at radio station KCRW and there are untouched from their original performance. So if you are looking for some new music, this may be the place to look.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Musings From the Back 9: Junior Slumps Edition

There has been a long standing belief of a sophomore slump that transcends all medium and is no more found than in music. Seal may caught on to the reason why when asked why he took so long to record his second he said it took him twenty years to record the first, he should be expected to take only a year to make the next. But in recent years, there seems to be a trend of artists being able to get two quality albums under their belts before falling into a funk, most notable Coldplay whose third album X&Y found the band in such a rut that the album sounded like it was recorded by a cover band, not a band on the verge of being the biggest band in the world.

Also on the cusp of the title was Snow Patrol, the trendy band in recent years for musical montages in television and movies. Like Coldplay, on their second album, they pushed the boundaries of their musical limits, but with their third album, A Hundred Million Suns, Snow Patrol has made the ten safest songs they could. Even the last track, the sixteen minute The Lightning Strike is just basically three songs just without a break in between. While the best song on the album, Crack the Shudders follows the blueprint laid by Run and Chasing Cars on previous albums. Hopefully Snow Patrol follows Coldplay's lead and just completely deconstructs their sound for the fourth album.

A Hundred Million Suns gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

The junior slump does not just apply to rock acts as John Legend has fallen into the category with Evolver where the R&B sadly does not actually evolve. And that can be heard from the start which is front loaded with guest stars even though his first two album shows he can command a song on his own. On Green Light Andre 3000 mentions he usually does not freestyle and if his rap on the song is any indication he should go back to writing his rhymes down first. And Kanye West really needs to give back the voice modulator to T-Pain because it just does not work for him on It's Over. Things are a little better when Legend is own his own like the slow burning Everybody Knows or This Time which reaches the emotional impact that Ordinary People did on is debut. But he over reaches on If You're Out There, an overtly sappy song that tries but does not hit the gravitas of Coming Home from his last album.

Evolver gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Musings From the Back 9: Music Edition IX

There are very few voices in music these days than that of the raspy mountain man Ray LaMontagne and the whiskey soaked quiet yell of Nikka Costa. Their respective third albums seem like a departure from their pasts as both sound as if they are listen to classic Stax albums, with Costa going so far as to have her record being distributed by the label.

The influence on LaMontagne comes and goes throughout Gossip in the Grain but is collimated in the opening track You Are the Best Thing with all its upbeat horns and back up singers which would lead you to look at the album cover to make sure you popped in the right album if it weren’t for the distinctive voice that you swear was singing a Sam Cooke cover. Then there is the jug band groove of Hey Me, Hey Mama. And really, there just isn’t enough use of jug bands in pop music these days.

Maybe most bizarre is the ode to The White Stripes drummer, Meg White, a marching love letter that sounds like something right out a bad western movie, yet disturbingly works in a Meg better get a restraining order soon kind of way. But don’t worry, there are plenty of heart felt, heart wrenching, and love lorn songs sung over sparse piano, acoustic guitars and string section that surrounds that voice perfectly and led you to discover the bearded wonder in the first place.

Gossip in the Grain gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

On the other hand, for Pebble to a Pearl, Nikka Costa completely drenches herself into soul with little of the dance funk that she made a name for on her previous solo album. Costa’s horns infused Aretha Franklin moment comes on the second track Can’t Please Everybody. Elsewhere on the album she effortlessly blends that sound with jazz (Love to Love You Less), eighties R&B (Without Love) and even some Marvin Gaye type social responsibility (Bullet in the Sky). Few artist can successfully transition from a wild child to a more mature sound, but count Nikka Costa as one of the few.

Pebble to a Pearl gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Musings from the Back 9: One Hit Wonders Edition

One has to wonder why some groups don’t just close up shop after scoring that one hit they know they are never going to top. Does Lou Bega actually think the country is clamoring for Mambo #6? You have to hand it to the New Radicals who disbanded after assaulting our ears with You Get What You Give. Yet some bound for one hit wonderdom actually do score that allusive second hit, but let’s face it, Beck is an exception to the rule. Her are a couple of artist hoping to some him by defying the odds.

Plain White T's scored their big hit with the prom anthem of last year Hey There Delilah, an ode to a steeplechase runner. No seriously, that is who the real Delilah was. While nothing on Big Bad World could ever reach the allure of the acoustic gem, what the T’s got for them is what seems to be unending well of sing a long disposable pop hooks and melodies. After just one listen to Natural Disaster, I dare to try and not emphasize the "Oh" in the chorus while you sing with the band. But the key word in the review is disposable, so buy the tenth listen you be wanting to movie onto something new. If you are hoping for the band to get back on upper part of the charts check out the charming 1, 2, 3, 4 (to answer your question, no it’s not) as sweet as Delilah but with much more depth. But stay away from Sunlight, an unnecessary try at Beatle-esque psychedelic pop.

Big Bad World gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Everlast is the rarest of all one hit wonders because to my knowledge he is the only act who managed to actually amass two one hit wonders in his career, Jump Around as a member of House of Pain then again with his solo outing What It’s Like. And if you have heard his previous three solo album there really isn’t much new ground to hear on Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford which just retreads his folk-hop hybrid that actually sounded fresh ten years ago when songs like Kill the Emperor and Tuesday Mornin’ may have sounded better. The only song of note is Folsom Prison Blue (to answer your question, yes it is) where Everlast sing the Johnny Cash classic over the beat of Insane In the Brain. I wish I were joking. Needless to say if the Kid Rock All Summer Long mash up of Sweet Home Alabama and Werewolves of London made you queasy, you will want to stay away from this song too.

Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford gets a Terror Alert Level: Guarded [BLUE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Most artists wait a few albums in before releasing a rarities album, but The Killers recently did so just after two albums, so why not the recent queen of the music montage Ingrid Michaelson. And as a plus part of the proceeds of Be OK go to the charity Stand Up to Cancer. Obviously her one hit Way I Am shows up here via a live recording the same for a rousing version of The Chain (to answer your question, no it’s not). As for actual cover songs, there are hits, a live piano version of Can’t Help Falling in Love, and misses, a way too slow version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The gem of the set is the title track that bookend the album with an acoustic version too, a upbeat song that is a fitting anthem to the cause it is supporting.

Be OK gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.