Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Song of the Day 11/24: "Tonight the Streets Are Ours"

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and I’m making lists of all the things I am thankful for, as well as the people to whom I am thankful. I am thankful the street artist Banksy for so many things, but among them is this song, which was featured in his recent ‘street art disaster film’ Exit Through the Gift Shop
. In many ways, it is perfect song for the documentary, which a tale of mischief, art, opposition to authority, all in good and playful fun, but never failing to recognize the gravity of its message. The song is perhaps a bit childish in its polarized view, presenting a black and white picture of ‘us vs. them,’ ‘we who feel and love vs. they, with nothing in their souls, who seek only to blind us of our vision;’ but this affirmation of youth and fun perfectly represents the power that lies also at the heart of street art, one that reclaims spaces, feelings, and lives once controlled by established authority. We youth shall rise in the night and rejoice in the truth and feeling that we experience and express. The brilliance of this message shines ever brighter as Hawley sings it in an art-pop context, reminiscent of artists like Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello. The heavy use of chorus and soaring strings strikes the listener as dated, even fogey-ish; this juxtaposition further emphasizes the urge to take back the night from those who wish to control and suppress its radical energy.

-Will Darwall, Staff Writer

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Song of the Day 11/18: "Confession of a Time Traveler"

In our remix-heavy culture, it's tough to tell what's an original, or what's a remix of a remix. "Confessions" could easily be mistaken for a remix of some acoustic song, but that'd be missing the dark electronic sound at the core of Home Video. Check it out now, before someone remixes it.

—Joe Pinsker

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Song of the Day 11/17: "Palmistry"

Whether you’re a sucker for albums with a good recording story or just a fan of good folk music, the Great Lake Swimmers are among the most consistently interesting acts out there. Their fourth album Lost Channels was recorded in a variety of locations around the Thousand Islands, on the border between Canada and the U.S. There are rather obvious appearances of the geography in their music, with the Singer Castle bells chiming their way through an interlude, for example. But there is also a more subtle undercurrent carrying through the album, like a salty Atlantic breeze fills its lungs. “Palmistry,” the album opener, is reminiscent of some of R.E.M’s more mandolin-laden songs, and showcases the spirit of what remains one of my favorite albums from 2009.
-Melany Barr

Friday, November 12, 2010

Song of the Day 11/12: "Guarantees"

Many musicians use their music to express the hardships of life below the poverty line. Rap duo Atmosphere take that idea and turn their albums into stories. Slug doesn't just rap about his life; he creates archetypal characters—drug addicts, single mothers, the homeless, etc.—and waxes about their trials and tribulations. On When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold, Slug's characters have a resigned view of the world. "Guarantees" places the listener in the mind of a warehouse worker struggling to cope with his problems. He reflects on his life: how did he get here? As he sits at a happy hour, he describes his problems at work, home, and in the neighborhood. As the guitar line—the only source of melody—adds to the sorrow, and the chorus questions the worth of life, you begin to wonder just how simple life really is.
—Prasanna Swaminathan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Song of the Day 11/11: "Atlas Hands"

There's no shortage of moody, introspective singer-songwriters out there, but there is a shortage of really friggin' good ones. Benjamin Francis Leftwich is one such standout. His recent "Atlas Hands" is poignant, heartfelt, and un-cliche. While you're waiting for Bon Iver and Iron and Wine to release new albums, check out his recent EP, "A Million Miles Out."
— Joe Pinsker

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Song of the Day 11/10: "Pure Country Gold"

Last Night, I went to a show at a bar called PJ’s Lager House in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, just a block from the former site of Tiger Stadium, now Ernie Harwell Park, which is just an enormous empty lot with a baseball diamond in the middle of it. This morning, my ears are still ringing, but lord am I glad, as they ring with memories of a two-man outfit that like to call themselves Pure Country Gold and hail from that great Northwestern utopia of Portland, Oregon. If the genre ‘punkabilly’ didn’t yet exist, they’ve created it. Perfectly simple, hard driving, high-energy rock music with a healthy dose of country-blues twang. To quote the band's website, they like to play "fast fun loud rock music for the people." And to quote Petey, the terrific twosome's frontman, they're called "Pure Country Gold, and this is a song called Pure Country Gold, off the album Pure Country Gold; it's about being us: Pure Country Gold. We hope you enjoy it."

Listen here:
Pure Country Gold by Pure Country Gold

-Will Darwall, Senior Foreign Correspondent

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Song of the Day 11/09: "Drops in the River"

It’s no secret: Fleet Foxes are currently making some of the best music out there. Drawing inspiration from Bob Dylan’s guitar work, and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s harmonies, the Seattle-based quintet created a sound that is intrinsically their own. Their Sun Giant EP was released in a rush, in order to have something to sell on tour; and despite the band’s admission that the EP did not live up to their ambitions, Sun Giant has been considered among the strongest releases of 2008. “Drops in the River,” the second track on the album, is a great display of the band’s aesthetic: natural, organic imagery, and a harmony-laden form freed of the constraints of usual verse-chorus-verse progressions. It’s the perfect soundtrack to such a crisp, sunny fall day.
—Melany Barr

Monday, November 8, 2010

Song of the Day 11/08: "Hey Scenesters!"

It's hard not to like the Cribs, even if you're not into punk music. They straddle a particular boundary between indie rock and classic punk that makes them endearing to almost everyone who's ever given them a listen. This song is no exception. In fact, it's probably the one that established the rule. From their 2005 sophomore album, The New Fellas, "Mirror Kissers" features their trademark start-stop dynamic, along with one of the catchiest choruses and breakdowns this side of 2000. Though the band has now abandoned the majority of their DIY aesthetic and sonic quality with the addition of Johnny Marr (a terrible move in almost everyone's opinion), it's always great to look back on great tunes like this one. An instant classic, "Mirror Kissers" is sure to please even the most discerning indie fan.

—Juan Carlos Melendez-Torres

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Song of the Day 11/06: "Honey Honey"

There are some songs that will be remembered for corresponding soundtrack moments; others, that will forever be associated to some commercial or another. Among the latter, Feist’s “1234” is most likely fated to conjure up the memory of an iPod nano, more so than its colorful music video. Hopefully, Leslie Feist will be remembered for more than this pervasive advertising moment. 2007’s The Reminder was an unforgettable album, its quirky indie pop varying from exuberant to melancholic with equal success. “Honey Honey” is among the more contemplative tracks on the album, with a sparse arrangement showcasing Feist’s wonderful, warm, soulful voice as well as her impressive ability to create atmospheric sound.
— Melany Barr

Friday, November 5, 2010

Song of the Day 11/05: "Bleak"

Upon first listen to Swedish band Opeth, you'd probably group them with the myriad death/black metal bands littering the scene. In fact, the first three minutes of "Bleak" sound pretty much like what good death metal should sound like, no more, no less. The first indication that this might be something unique comes around 2:40, when an acoustic guitar begins to take prominence in the mix, if even just for a bar or two. Further into the song, through dynamic shifts, Arabian-influenced guitar melodies, and the blues-rock breakdown, it becomes clear why Opeth is a pretty celebrated band. Blackwater Park is not just great metal; it's a great album that showcases the band's immense creativity and virtuosity. —Prasanna Swaminathan

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Song of the Day 11/04: "Ready For the World"

Some have said that How to Dress Well sounds like Bon Iver with some, well, different influences. It really just sounds like Bon Iver was tripping acid or something. "Ready for the World" is certainly poignant, but it's also airy and atmospheric. It's somehow both chill and chilling.

— Joe Pinsker

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Song of the Day 11/2: "Extraordinary Machine" - Fiona Apple

The release of Fiona Apple’s third album, Extraordinary Machine, was surrounded by controversy. A first version, produced by Jon Brion, was shoved aside by Epic Records, apparently due to its lack of commercial appeal. As fans launched a campaign supporting Apple, she went to work re-recording the album with a new set of producers, finally releasing the album in 2005, a full six years after When the Pawn… The comparison between the bootleg version of the original album and the official Epic Records release has a lot to say about record labels’ interference in artists’ work. Among the songs that were not tampered with during the re-recording sessions, the title track reveals the strength and progressiveness of the original recordings. “Extraordinary Machine” is a great song, with strong lyrics and vocals emphasized by a quirky, baroque yet uncluttered sound that is lost in the re-recorded set. It will leave you wondering why it is that commerciality so often comes at the expense of originality – and thanking the internet for undermining that tradeoff.

-Melany Barr

Monday, November 1, 2010

Album of the Week - It's Blitz

It's Blitz - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2009)

Though generally praised as the cream of the ‘punk revivalist’ crop, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn’t exactly exude versatility before 2009. But, seemingly against all odds, Karen O and company switched from tried and true alt punk to electro dance pop – and it worked. It’s Blitz manages to bridge the gap between serious rock sensibilities and utterly infectious enthusiasm, all while maintaining the emotional honesty that made them cool in the first place. Friendly pulsing beats and “Soft Shock”s will have you laughing, dancing, crying, and headbanging before album’s end – and if you don’t feel an uncontrollable urge to rock out during “Zero”, you might want to have your blood pressure checked. Who could have predicted that the authors of such lively pop rock once relished in punk minimalism? It goes to show that, thankfully, you shouldn’t count anyone out these days.