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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Reach Down" - Temple of the Dog

I do not even know where to begin with this song. From a musical standpoint I am not sure how much better it can get than having Pearl Jam being the backing band for Chris Cornell. We are talking about the Mecca of grunge here. Not only do we have two great bands joining together on this, but this song is also one of the longest songs in the entire grunge catalog, clocking in just north of 11 minutes. As with most songs, the lead singer gets a lot of the credit for how a song sounds. However, this song is one of the few exceptions. While Cornell sounds like vintage Cornell with his tremendous vocal range, it is actually Mike McCready who steals the show. A good six minutes of the song is McCready soloing. He has always been known for his solos and his unique take on playing lead guitar, but he really brings it to a whole new level on this song. Everything is extremely tight, which is a little surprising because this was recorded before Pearl Jam's debut album and the band had not been playing together for that long, and a person can get lost in the music just from their first listen.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Elton John - "All the Girls Love Alice"

Recently discovering Elton John's brilliant double album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," I knew I wanted to highlight one of the lesser known tunes from this great disc. Everybody knows "Candle in the Wind," "Bennie and the Jets" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," but this album is great top to bottom. I decided upon this gem because it shows the rocking, upbeat side of Elton so well. Blasting off with a badass guitar/piano riff, this song alternates between this upbeat section and a perfectly integrated slower section. It ends with a rousing finale featuring some cool guitar work with trippy effects added to the mix. Great song, great album. Can't wait to see what he does at Bonnaroo - he's a perfect fit for that festival. Unfortunately, I could only find this live version of the song, although it's pretty awesome.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Beautiful War" by Kings of Leon

The Kings of Leon took the music scene by storm with their fourth album, Only By The Night, and more specifically with their songs "Use Somebody" and "Sex on Fire". Then they released a great album called Come Around Sundown.  Shortly after, Caleb Followill suffered a breakdown and they were forgotten for a few years. Last year, they released their sixth album, Mechanical Bull, after a three year hiatus. This album sounds very much like the Kings of Leon sound we have come to expect over the years. The album is very solid for a band who hasn't put out an album in a few years. There are a bunch of gems on there, including one of my favorites, "Beautiful War".  

This song is absolutely beautiful and reminiscent of Kings of Leon's slower songs ("Arizona" and "The Runner" to name a few). The song is roughly the same all the way through - same drum beat, same guitar, and same singing rhythm - which may sound repetitive, but it does not feel that way at all because everything just flows. This song shows a more mature side to Kings of Leon and shows a great promise of things to come.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Never Tell" by The Violent Femmes

The Violent Femmes will always be known for their classic song about masturbation, "Blister in the Sun", but their first two albums were so much more than that.  Their second album in particular, Hallowed Ground, is a masterpiece of dark rock.  It is also home to their finest song, "Never Tell".  It's a seven minute romp through the human psyche.

The lyrics are fairly cryptic and I'm not entirely sure what it all means, but the subject matter is very dark, disturbing and uncomfortable.  References to "sister" and "father" can be interpreted in the familial sense or in the religious sense.  Constant repetition of certain lines and words helps the listener connect to the narrator's voyage into darkness.  Musically, the instrumentation wavers between calm and quiet to frantic and frenetic, with the bass being the driving force.

As if to mimic a person's descent into psychosis, the song begins slowly but constantly builds.  Things start to quiet down in the middle, but that makes it all the more unsettling.  Just vocals & bass.  It's a sort of calm before the storm.  A brief explosion follows but then leads right back into another quiet section before finally heading into the grand freak-out finale for the final minute of the song.  The bass squiggles out of control and screeches along until it eventually lets up and the listener can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

This is rock 'n' roll

This.  This right here is rock 'n' roll.  Because you know what?  I'm tired.  I'm tired of this "new age" (VU reference, unintentional pun, I promise...) era of rock and roll.  I'm tired of electronic music.  I'm tired of pop music.  I'm tired of hip hop.  I'm tired of music without meaning.  Give me something with meaning.  Give me something with value.  Give me something worth listening to!

Damn, I mean, there's a plethora of never-ending (literally) music discoveries with the click of a mouse on the Internet, but will any of it ever get popular?  Will radio stations be playing all of it a year from now?  Will future generations be listening to any of it in 30 years?  I am 100% confident that today's studio manufactured pop music that is delivered in a beautiful gold box will be recycled and thus re-engineered for the next 5...10...15....shit, 50 years, until it's lost all meaning (who am I kidding?...we already established it has no meaning as it is)...I want something real.  Which is why I'm jamming out to the Velvet Underground.

But really though, I want something real for everyone.  I believe in sharing (my parents raised me right), and I want something real for everyone.  Not just me - because I want to share it with everyone.  I want the next "big thing" to knock everyone on their ass.  And I mean everyone.  When you think of bands that have united the entire nation, who can you think of?  I'm talking the entire U S of A.  U2?  Pffft, not even close.  Nirvana?  Come on.  Michael Jackson?  Definitely not everyone.  Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Yes?  Fantastic artists, but no.  We have to go back to the Beatles.  Which was 50 (!!) years ago!  It has been 50 (!!) years since a single band has united the entire country.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the pleasure of living through the 60's (even though my parents repeatedly tell me I was born 30 years too late), but I feel like I did.  Because I appreciate art.  I appreciate music.  I appreciate what's real.  I appreciate real art.  And if I have to look back 50 years to find the last rock band that truly inspired and brought together a nation, then something is wrong with the state of music today.  Or is something wrong with the state of the nation today?  Because, let me tell you, I am finding plenty of talented, worthwhile musicians around today.  You just have to look harder.  Work harder.  Spend more time trying to discover what you love.  If you truly love something, then isn't a little extra work in order to attain it worth it?  Anything this good is always worth the extra push.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Cholula" by Time Lapse Consortium

Dear Mike Einziger,

Please make music like this again. A blend of funk/jazz featuring all current members of Incubus, Neal Evans of Soulive and an orchestra? Why are you writing songs with Avicii?

I always loved your work with Incubus (until your latest travesty.) Your solos were always explosive (Priceless, Sick Sad Little World, Pendulous Threads, Deep Inside all being masterpieces) and your riffs always kicked ass. I viewed you as one of the most underrated guitarists out there and still do.

I know you only put out one live album with this outfit, with  in 2003's "Live at the Roxy," but it's an excellent album. I chose "Cholula" because it features some of your best guitar work. It has a nice little chill groove to it and I love the touches you add to the song. Solos are sprinkled in throughout, but they fit perfectly with the song and groove. Other songs are funkier and dancier, but this one has your best solos - and I do love your solos, Mike.

So, please - do me a favor. Get these guys back together and play me a funk show, Mikey!

Your dear fan,


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Maybe in an Alternate Dimension" by Ozma

I would first like to congratulate Ozma on their upcoming 5th studio album which is being released today to those who helped fund it via Ozma is the product of five musicians from California who were inspired by nerd rock. What is nerd rock you might ask? Well, we would have to time travel back to May 10, 1994 with the release of the Blue Album by Weezer. This was the beginning of a new age of rock and roll, a time when being a nerd was cool and catchy tunes were all the rage. Flash forward seven years later to 2001 with the release of "Rock and Roll Part Three" by Ozma and it is clear to the listener that this band was full of talent and catchy tunes.  
This brings me to "Maybe in an Alternate Dimension," which embraces everything nerd rock is all about. This song reeks of nerdiness. It describes an alternate universe where you can hide away in a land of imagination. Link, the Zelda Warrior, guards the gates to your paradise and Zack the Lego Maniac is there to build Lego's with. The song is full of smooth riffs and catchy tunes that represent Ozma's musical catalog very well. I am looking forward to their newest album and will have a review once it is released.

Monday, February 10, 2014

"The Tower" by Nicole Atkins

Epic.  If asked to describe this song in one word, it would be "epic".  It begins fairly gently with an unassuming guitar riff that wouldn't be out of place on a classic rock record from 1970.  Then Ms. Atkins enters with her hauntingly beautiful vocals.  The verse leads way to a powerful chorus that causes the listener to question why she hasn't garnered more attention from the masses.  There is such power and passion in her voice that it's refreshing to hear.  After another verse/chorus, we arrive at a dazzling instrumental section with a climactic guitar solo while Atkins wails over the music.  Things quiet down for a moment until she begins repeatedly singing "There's a tower", which serves as the vocal climax and is truly chill-inducing.  The song winds down once again for a slow, quiet finish and ends the album, Mondo Amore, on an epic note.

Friday, February 7, 2014

TTT - "Someone's In The Wolf" by Queens of the Stone Age

Triple Treat Thursday coming at you a day late...

This song encompasses everything Queens of the Stone Age does so well - crunchy guitar riffs, unpredictability, and plenty of psychedelia to make your head swirl.  It truly has it all.  It's an epic track (clocking in at over 7 minutes) that contains multiple parts - some quiet, some boisterous, but all interesting and unique.  This is rock 'n' roll done right.

- Steven

This song may as well be a master's class in riff writing. They come fast and furious in this ridiculously awesome rock epic by the always amazing Queens of the Stone Age. If the end of this song doesn't induce you to wildly flail your head up and down and back and forth (it's called headbanging) then you don't like rock music.

- Chris

I'm stunned at the fact I had never heard this song before today. For some reason, I had never listened to the back catalog of Queens of the Stone Age. On my first and only listen of the song as of writing this, the song sounds exactly like the quintessential QOTSA sound. I will certainly be coming back to listen to this song and the entire album.

- Josh

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"More" by The Shivers

I'd say the most definable characteristic in all of the music I love is passion. Sure, most of the stuff I like is melodic, most of it is at least a little bit stranger than most of what's out there, but if you've got some passion and some soul, I will usually like it. Enter The Shivers. I discovered "More" on Spotify and I immediately connected with Keith Zarriello's soulful, raspy voice. They also happen to write some great tunes. The title track is my favorite on the album. Melancholic, wistful, poignant lyrics, Zarriello's voice and a pretty piano part carry the song.

The song really pops live, though. You can really hear the intensity and feeling in every note the duo plays (as far as I know, they are a full band in studio, but for this performance at WFUV, it is just Zarriello and Joanna Erdos on keys.) Obviously, the singer has experienced some kind of loss and he feels it and makes the listener feel it. I'm posting the live version. It's the best way to experience the song because of the extended intro and piano solo, but mostly because of the sheer power of the performance. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Bad Habit" by The Offspring

You Stupid Dumbshit Goddamn Mother Fucker!!!!!!!!!! Those words changed my entire life. I first heard this song when I was 8 years old over the summer at my friend Scott Freifield's house, when he put on a tape. I had no idea what I was in for. The tape clicks play and you hear this "Ahhhh It's time to relax and you know what that means, a glass of wine, your favorite easy chair, and of course this compact disc playing and your home stereo. So go on, indulge yourself, that's right, kick off your shoes, put your feet up, lean back and just enjoy the melodies. After all, music soothes even the savage beasts". These are the opening words to Smash

I had no idea what I was in for, but I knew I was in for something. The second track "Nitro" really hooked me with its drum beat and fast paced guitars, but it wasn't until track three that my ears would be blown off. "Bad Habit" describes a man's journey in his car and the terrible road rage he has for thee other drivers on the road. This is a song we can all relate to because everyone has a little road rage. However, as an 8 year old kid I had no idea what the song was about. All I just knew was there was cursing and a type of music I had never heard before. 

To say I was hooked would be an understatement. I was in love with a new kind of music and a new band. That summer I went on to discover Green Day and further expand my dive into Punk music. I owe it all to those 6 words because without them I would not have the musical taste I have today.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"A Day Away" by Seventh Wonder

Catchy progressive metal with soaring vocals and top-notch musicianship?  Yes please!

My latest music obsession for the past two months has been Swedish progressive metallers, Seventh Wonder, and more specifically their 2008 masterpiece entitled Mercy Falls.  The band doesn't break new ground in the genre but they have rock solid musicians (the bass player in particular is an absolute beast) as well as one of the best singers currently in metal, Tommy Karevik.

It all started for me when I went to see the prog/power metal band, Kamelot, perform last year.  Not being too familiar with the band, I wasn't aware they made a personnel change in the vocalist department on their latest album.  Needless to say, they blew me away live and the highlight was their new singer, Tommy Karevik.  I got heavily into their latest album, Silverthorn, and was delighted to see that Tommy would be a guest vocalist on the new Ayreon album, The Theory of Everything.  Well, that album turned out to be one of my favorite albums of 2013 and Tommy was one of the main reasons why.  It didn't take me long after to become a Tommy fanboy and seek out everything else he has done.  That's when I discovered Seventh Wonder.  And that's when I fell in love with Mercy Falls.

"A Day Away" is a gem of a song from that album.  An infectious keyboard line immediately gets things going, leading way to Tommy's perfect vocals.  The chorus is like crack - it's so addictive and catchy and it always seems to find it's way into my head.  The guitar riff that follows the chorus is pure prog-metal, reminiscent of John Petrucci's guitar work with prog-metal giants, Dream Theater.  Nice keyboard and guitar solos pave the way for a melodic little bridge before finishing things off with a 3rd helping of that magical chorus.  There are better songs on this album, but I'm not sure any other track is as catchy as this one.  Hell, I can't remember the last metal song I've heard by any band that's as catchy as this one.