Song of the Day: “Everlong” – Foo Fighters

 

Before it was officially announced sometime yesterday, I had a sneaking suspicion that Foo Fighters would be the last musical guest for The Late Show with David Letterman. They are after all, Letterman’s favorite band and share a unique bond with him. At his request, they were the band to appear on the show following his open-heart surgery in 2000.

Having the Foo Fighters play “Everlong” for Letterman’s retirement may have been a bit predictable, but the band gave a tight and energetic performance as a series of classic Late Show clips flashed over the television screen. Since “Everlong” is part punk bombast mixed with somber undertones, it was somehow a perfect ending for a program that never really centered on sentimentality, sincerity or nostalgia even in its last days.

For a variety of reasons, I have mixed feelings about Foo Fighters and specifically Dave Grohl. On one hand, the dude knows his rock history (Sonic Highways the show is proof of this),  is one hell of a drummer and seems like a pretty decent guy. On the other hand, too often Foo Fighters seem too reductive and continue top churn out generic songs. Watching Sonic Highways only confirmed this for me: the band never really soaked in the sounds of the cities in which they were recording.

All that being said though, “Everlong” is a legitimately great song and is rightfully recognized to be a modern classic. The main guitar riff  that chugs the song manages to be brutal and sad, perfectly suiting the song’s lyrics. Grohl gives one of his best drumming performances here (which is saying a lot), tightening the tension with his furious rolls into the chorus.

And to anyone who believes that the acoustic version is superior, I’m going on the record to say you’re wrong.  The song sounds robbed of its power when presented in a stripped down form.

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Song of the Day: “Thank You (Falentinme Be Mice Elf Again)” – Sly & The Family Stone

 

“Thank You (Falentinme Be Mice Elf Again)” has got to be one of the funkiest tracks ever put to wax, mainly due to Larry Graham’s inventive slap bass that spawned a decades worth of imitators. Even Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers owes his signature sound to Graham’s playing on this song.

As for the rest of the band, they sound incredibly tight on this track. Greg Errico’s simple snare drums lock perfectly with Graham’s bass, giving Sly, Rose and Freddie Stone (and Graham as well) plenty of room to harmonize. Their co-lead vocals aren’t exactly complex, but like everything else in the song, the vocals are their own rhythm.

Sly & the Family Stone were such a forward thinking group (musically and lyrically) that’s it’s worth noting that they dip into a bit of nostalgia and name-check their own past hits in the third verse including “Every Day People”, “Dance to the Music” and “Sing a Simple Song”.

The song is only 5 minutes long, but I could listen to a 15-minute rendition no problem.

 

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Song of the Day: “The Wake-Up Bomb” – R.E.M.

 

New Adventures in Hi Fi is one of my favorite R.E.M. albums for a variety of reasons. Mostly, it’s because it’s the album where they found the sweet-spot of combining the rock songs of Monster with the more introspective side found on Out of Time and Automatic for the People. Almost all of the loud songs work much better here than they did on Monster.

Case in point is the second track, “The Wake-Up Bomb”. Peter Buck distorted riff drives the song, but it doesn’t overload the rest of the band: there’s even plenty of room for an organ to be heard in the background. Bill Berry offers up some pretty great drum-rolls leading into the song’s chorus-that’s not-technically-a-chorus.

Michael Stipe is at his best when his lyrics are mere fragments, rather than a cohesive hole. “The Wake-Up Bomb” is a great example of that with youthful references to T. Rex, boot-cut jeans, Queen and of course the famous Coca-Cola ad, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” (which after last night’s series final of Mad Men is the sole reason I picked this song). In Stipe’s universe, the slogan is a declaration for his own stardom: “I’d like to teach the world to sing by the age of 21.” (Stipe was 21 when they recorded their first single and parts of their debut Chronic Town in 1981, though it was released in 1982.)

 

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RIP BB KING

 

BB King’s Live at the Regal is one of my all-time favorite albums for a lot of reasons. If you’ve never really listened to BB King, Live at the Regal is a great place to start. It’s got all of his hallmarks: bent strings and fluid notes, a loose but tight performance and King’s entertaining stage banter. It’s also one of the rare live releases where you actually feel as if you’re in the room: check out the crowd going crazy at the very beginning of “Sweet Little Angel”.

For many, BB King was the Blues. Casual music fans might not know Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf but they certainly know BB King. His playing style is so recognizable that even if you don’t know the particular song, you know it’s him. There’s not a lot of artists you can say that about.

I always loved the fact that BB King was playing hundreds of shows a year until late last year. Besides the fact that this meant that anybody who wanted to see him could still see a legend, it was a testament to the fact that he loved and lived the Blues even in his old age. (For what’s it’s worth, King’s performance schedule is a reason why I don’t think the Rolling Stones touring into their ’70s is that ridiculous.)

I was lucky enough to see him several years ago on a bill that included Little Richard and Al Green, each a master in their respective genre and could easily. Green strutted like the ’70s never ended while old ladies thrown roses gleefully at his feet. And Little Richard rocked the joint, over the top as ever. But it was King who stole the show, even as he was confined to a seat due to his diabetes. His sparse and tasteful playing filled the summer evening sky with more emotion than most people can dream of.

And that’s really the heart of King’s playing style. He could channel more feeling into one single note than most guitar players could in an entire song. He wouldn’t need to sing on “The Thrill Is Gone” and you’d still sense his loss.  Similarly, there’s dirt and grit in his breaks on “Ghetto Woman”.  His playing oozes of sex on “Sweet Little Angel” from Live at the Regal giving “I love the way she spreads her wings” even more resonance. No wonder the women were screaming at the beginning of this song.

I first heard BB King through U2’s “When Loves Come to Town” as a little kid. I had no clue who he was, but I was enthralled at the contrast between his playing and the Edge’s trade-mark textured tone. It’s slightly ironic that it took a band virtually ignorant of the Blues to introduce me to the King of the Blues. I loved the song as a kid, but as I got older I realized the only thing that’s actually good about the song is his performance.

That’s how good he was: he could make a mediocre song into something memorable and infectious.

 

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New EP Preview: “Wildfire” – Hunter & The Bear

Hunter and the Bear perform an acoustic version of their song “Wounded”.

British band Hunter & The Bear’s newest EP Wildfire (due out July 28th) is a mix of 90’s melodic post-grunge with elements of country-rock thrown in for good measure. Most of the songs found on this set are acoustic driven mid-tempo numbers with tasteful electric guitars over top.  It takes a while for things to really sink in, but the band’s slow-burn melodies pull you in.

Opener “Burn It Up” is Wildfire’s hardest rocking song with its crunchy riffs and fiery solos, but even that fits in with band’s penchant for mid-tempo arrangements. After that little bit of blast, Wildfire comes to life. Hunter and The Bear seem more comfortable in when they pull back.  This is especially true of the melancholic “Since September” and “Blood Red Skies”, perhaps Wildfire’s best song. The slow-start builds to a crescendo near the end of the song and concludes with a cathartic guitar solo.

For more info on the band, check out their web-site.

 

 

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Exclusive Interview With 80’s Inspired Musician Midnight Boy

 

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Swedish pop-act Midnight Boy’s infectious 80’s influenced sound can be found on his latest single, “Don’t Say No.”  Upon first listen, it would be easy to think that the song was actually recorded in the ’80s. Midnight Boy nails the sound and attitude of that era flawlessly with layered synths and an over-the-top performance.

Midnight Boy performances are known for their theatrics, and in one video he stripped down naked with the words, “When naked, there is no difference” smeared in a blood like liquid on his back.

Midnight Boy was kind enough to his thoughts on his music, inspirations, influences and thoughts for the future with Leading Us Absurd.  Check it out below.

Your sound is very 80’s influenced.  What is it about the ‘80s pop that inspires you musically?

It’s basically the melodies and the groove. Rhythm is a very important thing and I want to feel the music, not just listen to it. I’m also inspired by the idea of expression and all that 80’s craziness and lack of boundaries really speaks to me.

When did you decide you wanted to be a pop star/musician?  Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?

It got into music and theatre very early. Michael Jackson and Prince were my childhood heroes and I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror, dancing and singing their songs. It wasn’t like an official decision to become an artist. I think this music has grown on me very naturally and it’s become who I am and what I do.

Let’s talk about songwriting process for a second.  Do you start off with a melody or sounds and go from there?

Most often I get the melody from either a cool sound or a beat. Again, the rhythmics are very important to me and I need to feel the groove in order to be creative. I also like to be effective when I work, somehow the songs you write fast often turns out to be the best ones. The most important thing though is just to have fun and to keep it playful. I like to feel that I can do whatever I want to in the creative process.

Your image is very much a part of your act.  Do you see it as part of the complete package or just an extension of your music?

Many of my influences comes from different visual expressions and to me it’s something that just makes it more interesting. I think it helps when it comes to telling a story or to communicate my message. I want people to react on Midnight Boy and to do that they need to see the full picture.

“Don’t Say No” is a very fun song.  Do you think the world needs more songs like this – that make people want to get up and dance without a care in the world?

Thank you! I think the world needs all kinds of different songs, including songs that tends to make you feel happy and careless. If I can get people to feel that way and also to be more comfortable with themselves that’s a fantastic thing.

Life is so surrealistic and complex, there are moments when we need to be serious but in general I think we should try to have more fun.

You’re very free with your body and we hear your next video you’re naked – how does that play into your music? Is being naked different then wearing clothes? What is it in your mind makes people scared about being naked?

I wanted to fulfill the vision with the song which was to make the video in that specific way. There’s a difference of course but I think it’s just one of many rules in the society that we’ve come to live by. The nakedness in the video is more of a symbolic thing but even if it wasn’t it’s nothing that I find uncomfortable. We’re all born naked and I think most people can relate to certain situations in life when it feels completely natural to be so. In the shower or even when cooking in the kitchen.

You recently toured in the US – how are US audiences different than the European ones?

That’s so hard to say since it’s such a general thing. Also European countries are very different from each other. But since I had some really wild nights on my LA tour last time I’d say the American audience is probably a bit more likely to get crazy and that’s a compliment!

One last question – what’s next for Midnight Boy?

I just released the video for ”Don’t Say No” in the U.S. and I’m gonna follow that up with some cool stuff. The video for ”When You’re Strange” will also be out soon. Meanwhile I’ve got some shows coming up, mainly in Sweden but I’d love to do a tour overseas later this year. I’m also spending a lot of time in the studio right now, working on some new songs that I’m very excited about.

 

Listen to “Don’t Say No” below and check out Midnight Boy on Facebook.

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Feature: “City Country” – Spinn

 

 

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Country act Spinn takes a lot of their cues from the Dixie Chicks on their latest EP, City Country. It’s a record with a country heart that infuses rock elements meant for a large crowd. Interestingly, this female trio aren’t from the South, but that doesn’t stop them from embracing Country music or a Southern flair.

In fact, on City Country they take it as challenge to prove how bad-ass they can be.  On the title buoyant track they brag about “drinking whiskey boys under the table” and “rocking cowboy boots”.  They fully embrace time-honored country tradition of story telling on “The Bank Robbery Song” where they walk up to “the bank door and [blow] that sucker down”.

Of course none of that would matter, if Spinn didn’t have songs or the sound to back up their claims. Their luscious harmonies are the focal point of City Country and elevate the slower songs such as “So Hurtful” and the acoustic lament “Goodbye Missouri”.

There are those that might think that Spinn’s Nothern origins are a gimmick, but on City Country they more than prove that country isn’t just a Southern Charm.

Take a listen to “The Bank Robbery Song’ below:

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Review: “Revolt” – The Unraveling

 

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Industrial hard-rockers The Unraveling recently released their latest single, “Revolt”.  This latest song from The Unraveling comes after a health crisis for the band. After the release of their last album, 13 Arcane Hymns, lead singer Steve Moore was diagnosed with cancer. Luckily, Moore has since recovered and The Unraveling have returned with a scorching new song in the form of “Revolt”.

“Revolt” is special to the band for a variety of reasons. As Moore himself explained about the song’s origins: “The lyrics to ‘Revolt’ convey a rejection of the false and a need for inner change. This is an inner revolt that we are talking about.”  Those worried that Moore’s health scare have softened the band’s attack or his outlook need not worry. “Revolt” is a nearly five-minute attack over angular guitar riffs, industrial beats and Moore’s distorted vocals. The band’s approach is perfect for Moore’s current outlook of society: that revolution must start within first. No more is this clear when he declares that, “revolt is the kindling that must burn your mind.”

Take a listen to “Revolt” here.

For more info on The Unraveling, check out their Facebook page here.

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New Music: “Psycho Dreamer” – StickyBackPlastics

 

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England’s Stickybackplastics’ “Psycho Dreamer” wouldn’t sound that out of place if it had been released in 1995. There’s a grunge-element to the song, but the crunchy and slow rhythms recalls the darkness of mid-90’s Nine Inch Nails. The mid-tempo pace along with the ghostly vocals from lead singer Heather Niven make for a haunting combination.  If the song weren’t sonically scary enough (in a good way), there’s the chorus where Nixen declares, “I’ll kill you in my dreams.”

“Psycho Dreamer” can be found on the band’s latest release, Reptile which is the follow-up to their 2014 self-titled debut.  For more information on Stickybackplastics, visit their web-site and listen to “Psycho Dreamer” below:

 

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New Music: “Wrong Guy” – Kin Cayo

 

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A while back, I featured Kin Cayo’s fantastic “Our Ship”.  Equally as impressive is the band’s latest single, “Wrong Guy”.  Like “Our Ship”, the song combines an indie-rock sensibility with Caribbean-influenced guitars and rhythms.  The band’s intricate harmonies on the chorus are also a highlight.  If you’re looking for a new indie rock band with an original sound, check out Kin Cayo.

Listen to “Wrong Guy” below:

 

 

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