Tuesday, December 30, 2014
2014 was another fantastic year for music. I got a lot of new music. Some from old friends and some from new friends, some from bands I've never actually met but admire greatly. A lot of the music this year, much like the last two, was discovered through The Outlaw Roadshow and Nekkid Armadilla Extravaganza, but some I found on my own. Thinking back on my year in music, thinking about what records to include on this year's list, I decided to include the records that meant the most to me, the ones I find myself listening to on a near daily basis. These are the records that made this year in music just that much more special to me. Some of the songs on some of these records have meant more to me than many in the last 32 years of my life.
So here you go, my favorite records of 2014:
I discovered Elbow just a year and a half ago. But in those 18 months they have become one of my favorite bands. I had the opportunity to see them live back in May in Portland, Oregon, and it was an amazing show. I have a huge music crush on lead singer Guy Garvey. His voice is perfect, and he's adorable. Back in March Elbow released The Takeoff and Landing of Everything. (Full review here)
I instantly fell in love with the record. The lead off single, "New York Morning" remains one of my life changing songs. I came full circle with this song just a few months ago, listening to the song while walking down the street in New York City on a cool Autumn morning. As I listened to the record more and more, the song "This Blue World" became my second favorite song on it. There's one line that just keeps jumping out at me, and can be applied to so many people in my life, both current and past:
"While three chambers of my heart
beat true and strong with love for another
the fourth, the fourth is yours forever"
The Takeoff and Landing of everything is a beautiful record from start to finish. If you haven't listened to it, I highly suggest you do.
Seattle singer/songwriter Star Anna released The Sky is Falling as a digital only album in April. I've been meaning, trying, to write a full review of the record since I got it. But I just couldn't find the right words. I couldn't find words that would express how brilliant the record is. I couldn't form sentences that would convey the feelings the record created. The songs are heartbreaking, but in a totally relateable way. The Sky is Falling was recorded before last year's Go To Hell, but wasn't released until the moment was right. Star Anna's voice is special. It's really not like anything else you'd find out there these days: smooth, but just a little but gritty, full of so much feeling and power, but not over powering.
My favorite song on the record is "Love Song." A sort of cynical love song, almost mocking those who believe in love, and love at first sight and fairy tale love. The song is a duet with Screaming Trees' Mark Pickerel, whose voice perfectly compliments Star Anna's. The best part of the song is the chorus:
"I don't believe in fairy tales
I think they're overrated
I think they're outdated
oh and I, I don't believe in love at first sight
it's only something you'd write, it's only something you'd write"
Other stand out tracks on the record are "Little Voices," "Annie," and "Easier to Shine," and "Only Guessing."
But seriously, the record as a whole is fantastic.
What can I say about this record that I haven't already said? (Read that here.) It's no secret that Counting Crows are my favorite band. I still can't believe that I can call lead singer Adam Duritz "friend," the whole thing is all still very weird and surreal, but it's my life. Somewhere Under Wonderland is Counting Crows' first studio album in 7 years and it's amazing. It's a little big different that their previous records, but still brilliant. "God of Ocean Tides," "Earthquake Driver," and "Possibility Days" are my favorite songs on the record. But I could listen to the whole thing over and over for days (and have.)
~Field Report - Marigolden
Field Report's debut, self titled album has been one of my favorites over the last two years, with "Taking Alcatraz" and "Fergus Falls" being in constant rotation on many of my playlists. Their long awaited sophomore album, Marigolden, came out in October. Just like the last, it is a colorful, lyrical piece of story telling genius. Chris Porterfield has a way of stringing words together in a way that makes you really listen, to take it all in, coz you'll miss the point if you don't. The songs come from life experiences and he weaves them into songs that you can't turn away from. One of the coolest moments for me this year was seeing Field Report here in Seattle a couple months ago. Seeing these songs live is mesmerizing. The best part though was the acoustic, on the floor sing-a-long to "Taking Alcatraz" and "Fergus Falls." Singing along with the songs, literally a foot and a half from Porterfield, was incredible.
Stand out tracks:
"Home (Leave the Lights on)," "Pale Rider," "Ambrosia," and "Enchantment"
I know, I know, this record was also on last year's list. Well, it wasn't officially released until Nov. 2014, so there. I LOVE this record. Obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have included it on two "best of"
lists. OldJack, over the last two-ish years has become one of my favorite bands, and their lead singer, Dan Nicklin, one of my favorite people. My original review of the record still holds true, if not even more so. Every song on the record is noteworthy (but for the record my favorite track is "Lonely Alone," a song which I refer to as "my song.") The record is so full of feeling, heart, and soul. Now that is available to get on BandCamp, there's no excuse not to have this record.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Brooks recently released his first record in 13 years. Man Against Machine is classic Garth. It sounds like nostalgia. It sounds like Nineties Country music. It sounds like the Garth Brooks I grew up listening to. Garth is back, and this makes me happy.
I have no idea how this album compares to any other Country music out there these days, as I don't listen to it. However, I love the sound of this album. None of the songs sounds the same, they all have their own distinct feel to them. Ranging from traditional country western, to country-rock, country-blues. Brooks' vocals are clear and as "Garthy" as ever. Listening to the album, you can't even tell that it's been 13 years.
I like to think that the title track, Man Against Machine has something to do with Garth Brooks hating the internet. But really what I get from it is a tale of the struggles of working Americans whose manufacturing jobs are being handed over to machines:
"Day in day out
Bust your back and turn it out
Next morning do it again
Hard job or two
So your children won't have to
That's just the way it's always been
But lately I swear the machines
Are living the American Dream"
What ever the song is about, it kinda makes you think. Or at lease sing along.
She's Tired of Boys is a story of a girl looking for a real relationship, or at least real to her, one with a mature man.
"She said I’m tired of boys
I’m tired of first dates and I’m tired of toys
I want a lover that will understand
Someone who will touch me with a knowing hand
I am tired of feeling emptiness inside
I want to be the one left satisfied
I looked around and now I've made my choice
I’m tired of big talk and I’m tired of noise
I’m tired of boys"
Really, though, how many times has a girl in her 20s, 30s, whatever, said something like that to herself? This is a very relateable song, and I love it. The background vocals from Trisha Yearwood make the song that much more awesome. (I just love that she and Garth ended up together.)
Cold Like That is an emotionally charged country ballad about a woman with a cold, uncaring heart. All-American Kid, a story of the High School football hero who joins the military and makes it home alive, all the while his hometown cheering him on.
Rodeo and Juliet is a fun, up tempo, true country track about a rodeo queen laden with Shakespeare quotes (from Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.) I love this. Mostly because I love Shakespeare. But it's also a really catchy song.
Midnight Train is one or my favorite tracks on the album. It's another classic Garth song, though it reminds me just little of the Alan Jackson song, Drive, Not in an "oh my gosh, he ripped him off" way, but in a "I love this sound, this feel, this pace of song. Well done." way. The song plays on like a train chugging along.
Cowboys Forever isn't all about cowboys. It's about the spirit of the Cowboys. How cowboys aren't just farm boys, or cattle wranglers, or what have you, but cowboys have evolved over the years. Cowboys are heroes, humans.
"Now they're cops in the city with their lives on the line
They're truck drivers hauling that freight
They're young soldiers leaving their loved ones behind
They're the ones who pull their own weight"
People Loving People could be the unofficial sequel to 1992's We Shall Be Free from The Chase. Basically the song is saying that we need to love one another, that it will fix all the issues in the world.
"It's people loving people
That's the enemy of everything that's evil
Ain't no quick fix at the end of a needle
It's just people loving people"
Oh, Garth. If only it were that easy. The song is great, the message is great. If only people would heed the message.
Another favorite on the album is the bluesy track Tacoma. A painful story of running away, trying to, needing to, get away so fast that the hurt can't follow.
"I might make it to Memphis
And if that ain't far enough
I'll speed down the highway to Tulsa or Missouri
So fast that the hurt can't catch up
I'm burning your memory one mile at a time
All the way to Tacoma
By then I hope you're of my mind"
I am so glad Garth Brooks is back, His music shaped a lot of my childhood. I'm so glad that this album turned out to be so good. I am really, really enjoying it. And for the record, I still have a music crush on Garth Books.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
|Poster art by Frank Germano @ Man On Fire Design|
Another October, another cross-country plane ride to the once mythical city of New York for what has become my favorite musical thing, The Outlaw Roadshow. Just two years ago New York City, to me, was like a magical far away place, a place oft thought about, but never really meant much. But now, now New York City is something completely different, New York City is part of my life. New York City is Outlaw Roadshow territory. And for three days in October, New York City is home.
It's come to be expected that Ryan Spaulding (of Ryan's Smashing Life,) Adam Duritz (of Counting Crows) and their team of amazing Outlaws, will give the fans one heck of a three day musical party down at the Bowery Electric, with this year being no exception.
The line up included old friends, new friends, and unknown friends.
CHRISTIAN MCNEILL & SEAMONSTERS
CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING
LE ROXY PRO
HALLELUJAH THE HILLS
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER
ARCHIE POWELL & THE EXPORTS
THE GROWNUP NOISE
SONIC COW GRUNT
Some of the unknowns surprised me. Some I liked, some I didn't, But not everyone will like everything, right? What matters is I gave them a chance. I was thrilled to see some old favorites in the line up. Though most of them I had seen only seven months prior at SXSW in Austin, it had been seven long months since I'd seen them. The Outlaw Roadshow has become more than just a music showcase, more than just a mini music festival. The Outlaw Roadshow is a musical family reunion. Days began with friends leaping over railings to give you nearly-knock-you-over hugs, and scanning the crowded club each night I saw some of the same familiar faces, faces I'd seen the year before, faces I didn't know the names to, faces I knew and couldn't wait to see. The faces of Outlaws.
For me this year is was really the old favorites who were the highlight of each day. While I enjoyed several of the "new" bands, there really weren't any that I had to rush home and re-listen to as soon as possible (except maybe for the Longwalls, I really enjoyed them.)
Following Tallahassee was a long time Roadshow favorite, Golden Bloom. Well, really it was Shawn Fogel of Golden Bloom, backed by Scott Thompson and Matt Raskopf of Tallahassee. Fogel is one of the best song writers out there right now. His catchy, poppy songs are laden with feeling, depth and thought provoking images.
Fogel played several songs from the new record Golden Bloom is working on. Two of these songs are in my current favorite song rotation: Circles Round My Mind and Books You Never Read (I saw Fogel do a solo show Friday afternoon at Rockwood Music Hall. He played Books You Never Read on the piano. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. It seriously nearly made me cry (sure, it was mostly the lyrics really hitting me, but still.)) Their set ended with an on-the-floor acoustic Outlaw sing-a-long of Searching For Sunlight. Always good times when an Outlaw sing-a-long happens.
Boom Forest played a haunting, echo-y set. J.P. Roney, aside from being one good lookin' dude (yeah, I said it,) writes some amazing songs. I was immediately sucked into his set, it was one you almost couldn't get away from.
|K Philips and DTP|
Friday's line up held the Outlaw band who over the last two years has become one of my personal favorites, like listen to them pretty much all the frickin' time favorites. Also, the band is led by one of my favorite human people, Dan Nicklin, the band Oldjack.
Another Outlaw alum from Boston, Oldjack brings classic rock and soul in the form of a seven piece band. Oldjack's set was one of the strongest they had never played. Nicklin was on fire, and back-up singer Kelly Davis was in top form. The set included classic Oldjack and several tracks from their new record, What is Home to You?
The highlight of the set, for me anyway, was just as the band is going into the song Lonely Alone, Nicklin gestured to me and said, "This is for you, Jen." Great moment. So yeah. If anyone asks, Lonely Alone is my song.
Friday's show also included great sets from Hallelujah the Hills, The Silks and another favorite of mine, Air Traffic Controller. Another Boston band, Air Traffic Controller's brand of catchy, jubilant pop filled the Bowery Electric with an undeniable energy. Mixing new and old, The House, What You do to my Soul and If You Build it, Hurry, Hurry, You Know Me, and The Work, Air Traffic Controller had the whole room the whole set. I really loved the new stuff, and am looking forward to their new album (release date unknown.)
|Air Traffic Controller|
Mean Creek is probably the most hard rock/punk band I'll ever listen to. Nothing against that genre of music, I'm just not that big a fan. But Mean Creek, well you have to experience Mean Creek to get Mean Creek. They have a fresh intensity about them, When they get going, you'd better watch out, they will rock your socks right off. Their whole set was incendiary from start to finish.Also playing a mix of new and old, highlights of Mean Creek's set were My Madeline, Johnny Allen and Young & Wild.
The last show of the night was a solo set upstairs from Nakia. I didn't catch all of his set, but I did get to hear most of his cover of Counting Crows' Raining in Baltimore, and that, my friends, was awesome.
But, probably the best set of the night was that from Sonic Cow Grunt, who for those in the Outlaw loop, is a fragmented version of Counting Crows, this year only David Immergluck, Dan Vickrey and Adam Duritz.
Like I had the two years before, I had claimed my spot directly in front, and just to the right, of the stage earlier in the day (coz I'm that kind of crazy.) This was my idea of musical nirvana. It's no secret that Counting Crows are my favorite band, and being about to see them play literally less than two feet away from me is amazing. It's kinda like we're all singing together (especially during Rain King when the whole room was singing along together. That was a moment.) I didn't grab the set list that night, so I don't remember what order they played these songs, I'm pretty sure they played The Ballad of El Goodo, Scarecrow, Four White Stallions, Sullivan Street, High Life, Earthquake Driver, God of Ocean Tides, Richard Manuel is Dead, Washington Square, and Rain King.
Also, Dan is a pretty funny dude. Or at least he was that night. They told good stories, made us laugh, maybe even made us cry.
Their closing number was a cover. Probably the most touching and surprising cover ever. A cover of a song written by a friend and fellow Outlaw. Adam didn't say whose song it was in the introduction, that "he'll figure it out when we play it.." Well, he did. A few bars into the song, which turned out to be Kat's Song (What I can't Have) by K Phillips. K was about 5 or 6 people away from me. The look on his face as Adam, Dan, and Immy (accompanied by Nakia on keys) played/sang that song was that of sheer disbelief and happiness combined. K is a great guy and a great songwriter. That must have been utterly amazing for him. I can't think of a better person to have the Crows cover their song. Finally K was able to get up on stage and sing with them. The moment was magical. The air of the room was full of Outlaw love.
After saying my goodbyes to my Outlaw family at the Bowery Electric, I headed out to Dan Nicklin's
South by Northeast showcase, For Liberty's Sake, at Carroll Place. Oldjack was playing again and I had to see them one last time before it was all over. Again, that set was amazing. Oldjack is one of the best live bands out there right now, well, one of the best bands in general.
Once again, New York treated me well. I had the most amazing time, but then I always do. Seeing all my Outlaw friends and hearing the music that had over the last two and a half years completely changed by life, has become one of my favorite things. The Outlaw Roadshow feels like home. Seeing an Outlaw band feels like home. I feel honored and blessed to be able to call these people my friends, and to say that this is my life; my music life.
Thank you to Ryan, Adam and everyone involved in making the Outlaw Roadshow what it is. Until next time, Outlaws!
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
It's been seven long years since the music world has had an all-original Counting Crows record. Though they have released two records since 2008's Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, this is the first to contain all new, all Crows written tracks. The wait has been long. But the wait has been worth it. Somewhere Under Wonderland delivers the goods. The Crows are back.
I first heard three of the songs off Wonderland last October. In a crowded basement club in New York City, four members of the band, billed as Sonic Cow Grunt, preformed "Scarecrow," "God of Ocean Tides" and "Cover Up the Sun" for the first time. I felt extremely lucky to be able to hear these songs in their infancy, and couldn't wait for the record.
Though the whole album has been streaming on iTunes radio for the last week or so, I tried my best to not listen to it in it's entirety. I had the first four songs that had been released already ("Palisades Park", "Scarecrow", "God of Ocean Tides" and "Earthquake Driver") and heard a couple more at the show I went to on their summer tour. So, as soon as the record became available to download, I jumped on it. It couldn't download fast enough. I needed these songs. The songs I'd already heard were amazing, and I knew the rest of the songs would follow suit.
Somewhere Under Wonderland carries all the emotion a Counting Crows record should. All those angsty feelings from the 90's come rushing back. It's like running into an old friend you haven't seen in years, but getting along like you haven't missed a beat. Listening to the record the first time though is a little overwhelming. There's so much to soak in. The words, good gourd the words. I love words. I love the way random words can be so beautifully strung together. There are so many amazing words on this record. Adam Duritz has long been one of my favorite songwriters, and with the nine songs on Wonderland he just keeps drilling that fact into my brain.
Several of the songs have lyrical arcs that connect them, keeping a kind of theme on the record, not a blatantly obvious theme, but a theme nonetheless. We have spacemen and aliens, "I was an alien in utero / somehow missed New Mexico" (Dislocation,) "Mary steers clear of the men from space... Ivan the ancient spaceman race fan / Corners the market on American tastes / And says 'Spaceman! Scarecrow! Peepshow! Freakshow!" (Scarecrow,) "There are aliens on motorcycles / Riding on the radio while we destroy the world" (Elvis Went to Hollywood.) Then there's the climbing, escaping through windows, "He said 'come outside / climb out your bedroom window / shimmy down the fire escape / and say goodbye'" (Palisades Park,) "If you decide to climb out your bedroom window / pain a picture on a cloud" (John Appleseed's Lament.) I love how that works out. I have no idea if it was done on purpose, of if it just kinda happened. Either way, I totally dig it.
"'Palisades Park' is a story. It's an epic. It's a feel good call back to the likes of Mrs. Potter's Lullaby. It's the prefect summer song. It's flows flawlessly from the distant sounding trumpet solo to Adam Duritz's vocals; fresh, refreshed, and slightly jazzy. I think the lyrics to the song might be the origin to the "come outside, come out your window...." lyric inserts Duritz has been adding to live versions of Round Here over the last couple years. Or maybe I'm wrong, who knows. But seriously though, the lyrics are good. And then there's the hook right before the chorus. Good gourd, the hook. But my favorite line, well, lines, the few lines out of the whole 8 minute song, that speak to me the most, right now anyway are:
"Andy said, "Man, I need a break from the world outside"
And these days my life just careens through a pinball machine
I could do so much better but I can't get off the tilt"
The last couple years my life has felt just like that.
The song builds as it goes, grows, grabs your attention every step of the way...Palisades Park is an instant classic"
"Earthquake Driver" is a trip. On the outside a jaunty, melodic ride of guitars and carefully timed hand claps. When you listen to the words, you realize it goes deeper than that. I hear it as someone who wants to be involved, someone who doesn't want to be alone, someone who wants to be. Maybe that's why I'm drawn to the song. Or maybe it's just the carefully timed hand claps.
The song that held the title of favorite up until the whole record came out is "God of Ocean Tides." For as much as I love the guitar driven, rocking Crows songs, I love those classic Durtiz ballads even more. "God of Ocean Tides" has a bit of a "Washington Square" twang to it, but a bit dreamier. The simple acoustic guitars flow flawlessly throughout the song, the piano dancing along beside them. There are so many lines in this song that I love. I won't list them all, it'd take to much time. So I'll just leave you with this one:
"Colored lights and birthday cakes
Candle wax on paper plates
Breathe the water
You can see through the water
All the way up to the sky"
The record jumps from electric guitar laden to acoustic and then back again. "Johnny Appleseed's Lament" is one of the heavy guitar laden tracks. It is also one of the songs on the record that surprised me the most. It's one that up until the record came out I hadn't heard. One that I had no idea what to expect. "Johnny Appleseed's Lament" is a confessional song. It opens much like "Round Here" but moves in a different direction:
"I stepped out the front door into winter and the world outside
I stepped out the door to New York City
My hair was barely dry
I could not remember where I was going
So I went back inside"
The song is like a narrative, with the writer expressing insights into thoughts and dreams and love and life: “Come on Adam, tell me what the hell is wrong with you
Come on Adam, what the hell am I supposed to do?
I could love you, I could leave you, but I can’t live with what you put me through”
In some ways the song reminds me of the unreleased, holy grail of Crows songs, "August and Everything After." Autobiographical, honest, whole:
"I cigarette the winter air
and then I Fred Astaire my way down 7th Street
Some chick yells 'Jesus loves you more than I know, but less than I need'
I parade down the Bowery to the Battery
and then I step off into the air
Point my sunglasses east toward Jerusalem
And then follow all the Pharaohs there..."
But I think my favorite part of the whole song, the part that gives me all the feels:
"I call the wind Maria because I do not know her face
I call the endless sky Amelia
Because she stays with me from place to place
I call the sun my love Emmanuelle
Because she cradled me in her embrace"
The damn song just gets better and better every time I listen to it. And those guitars. Holy cow.
The song that blew me away the most, the song that when I first listened to it left me breathless (literally, I had to remind myself to breathe, it hit me that hard,) the song that still after listening to it like three dozen times still gives me butterflies is "Possibility Days"
Why? It's amazing, first off. The words are ridiculously brilliant. The song is heartbreakingly beautiful. Adam's vocals are perfect, with a hint of yearning, a vulnerability, that makes them infectious. The lyrics tell of love, of love that just doesn't work, of love no one wants to admit isn't working, of love that falls apart. The personal aspect the story makes the song all that much better.
"It was a cold 3am at JFK
I guess you stayed because you wanted to stay
We went from zero to everything all in a day
And then Kennedy took you away...
You know that the worst part of a good day
is hearing yourself say goodbye to one more possibility day
it goes on and on...
And the worst part of a good day is knowing it's slipping away...
We were waiting for winter this year
But you came and it never appeared
Me and you, we know too many reasons
For people and seasons that pass like they weren't even here"
And on and on with word that mean so much. Word that stop my heart waiting for the next line. Words that I haven't been able to get out of my head since I first heard the song. Word to a melody that waltzes through my body with every beat. Words that with every note make me fall even more for this band.
Every song on this record is brilliant. Every song is worth everything it offers. This record is a long awaited collection of the most brilliant songs the band has ever put together. The band is sounding tighter than ever, Duritz's writing is just as awesome as it's ever been, if not better and his vocals are sounding better than ever, refreshed, fresh, healthy. I listen to the record and am just so happy that I have this band in my life, that I can call Adam a friend.
I highly recommend getting your hands on this record, getting your ears on this record (If you haven't already)
If you want it, the track list:
1. "Palisades Park"
2. "Earthquake Driver"
4. "God of Ocean Tides"
6. "Elvis Went to Hollywood"
7. "Cover Up the Sun"
8. "John Appleseed's Lament"
9. "Possibility Days"
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Counting Crows have a new single out. It's called Palisades Park. It's the first track off their upcoming, 7th studio release (out September 2, 2014) titled "Somewhere Under Wonderland"
Within one listen there's one thing I know for sure: Counting Crows are back. Now, I'm not saying that they ever really left, but this single is reminiscent of classic Crows. "Somewhere Under Wonderland" is the bands first record of original music since 2008's "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings" and as a Counting Crows fan, I can tell you that this is a welcome, long awaited addition to their catalog. While 2012's "Underwater Sunshine" was a brilliant album, it was a covers album, and well, I know the world is ready for some Duritz originals.
And we get one. Palisades Park is a story. It's an epic. It's a feel good call back to the likes of Mrs. Potter's Lullaby. It's the prefect summer song. It's flows flawlessly from the distant sounding trumpet solo to Adam Duritz's vocals; fresh, refreshed, and slightly jazzy. I think the lyrics to the song might be the origin to the "come outside, come out your window...." lyric inserts Duritz has been adding to live versions of Round Here over the last couple years. Or maybe I'm wrong, who knows. But seriously though, the lyrics are good. And then there's the hook right before the chorus. Good gourd, the hook. But my favorite line, well, lines, the few lines out of the whole 8 minute song, that speak to me the most, right now anyway are:
"Andy said, "Man, I need a break from the world outside"
And these days my life just careens through a pinball machine
I could do so much better but I can't get off the tilt"
The last couple years my life has felt just like that.
The song builds as it goes, grows, grabs your attention every step of the way. The band, Dan Vickrey, David Immergluck, Dave Bryson, Millard Powers, Charlie Gillingham, and Jim Bogios, backing with the talent we've come to expect from them, but always proves to exceed expectations.
Palisades Park is an instant classic, though that phrase has never really made sense to me. It's got to be one of the best Counting Crows tracks I've heard in a while (and I love all of them, so that's saying something.) If the first track is this good, I can't even imagine how ridiculously good the rest of the album is going to be.
Pre-order "Somewhere Under Wonderland" via iTunes, or to pre-order vinyl packages, go here.
Friday, July 4, 2014
Breezy, whimsical, melodically magical. These are the words that come to mind when listening to Baraboo, Wisconsin's Phox.
With their self titled debut record hitting stores June 24th, the indie music world had no idea what they are about to hear. The record is flawless. Lead singer Monica Martin's voice is one of the best I've heard in a
long time; the airiness of her vocals, the lyrics seem to float on the melodies. The songs seem effortless. The backing band never failing to perfectly match the feelings the lyrics bring.
The album as a whole is a refreshing listen. I don't even know how to being to describe the sound. Take a little 1960s girl group, add a bit of pop, a bit of folk, a bit of magic, a clarinet solo, and I guess there you have it. That is Phox.
Of the twelve tracks on the album, Slow Motion, 1936 (which for some reason reminds me of my grandmother,) Noble Heart and Kingfisher are my favorite songs. But really, they are all my favorite.
This album is an essential for listening on warm, breezy summer afternoons, moonlit summer nights, and all times in between. I'm sure It's even great in Spring, Fall and Winter.
The band is currently on tour. Check out the schedule here: http://phoxband.com/
Get the record at iTunes, Amazon or at your local Barnes & Noble, or at the website above.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
My favorite band, Counting Crows, are going on tour this summer. Not that it's a rare thing, they go on tour nearly every summer. Which is fantastic; they are an AMAZING live band.
There are different kinds of people who go to these concerts. You have the super die-hard fans who follow the band around, you have the fans who see the band when ever they come to their town, and then you have the casual fans, the people who have one or two of the band's albums, or who liked the band "back in the day" and saw that they were playing a local show, and well, they have nothing going on that night, so sure, they'll go. I'll admit that the first time I saw Counting Crows back in 2009, I was a casual fan, but now I'm one of those die-hard fans.
The funniest thing to me about the casual fan is that they get really, really excited when the "radio hits" get played, or on the other hand, get pissy when they don't. But Counting Crows is far more than the radio hits. In fact, some of their best work hasn't ever made it to the radio. So, for the casual fan, I've put together, in my opinion, and also taking suggestions from friends, a list of essential Counting Crows' Deep Cuts, or songs you should know before seeing the band this summer. Now, there's no guarantee that they will play these songs, but at least you'll be prepared if they do.
1. Cowboys - Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
There's a very, very slim chance of the band playing this song. But that doesn't mean it's not one to know. The guitars are amazing, Adam's vocals incredible, and the song as a whole is just incendiary. The lyrics are some of my favorite ever, the story they tell, well, just check it out.
2. Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes To Hollywood) - Hard Candy
Hard Candy is a hell of a record. There are so many amazing songs on that album, a few of them will show up here, Up All Night is just the first. From the simple piano intro to all the fantastic guitar work, to Adam's brilliant vocals, this song is all around great. It's one of my favorites to sing in the car, and though the band plays it frequently at live shows, I have yet to experience it. Maybe this year?
3. Anna Begins/Margery Dreams of Horses/Another Horsedeamer's Blues - August & Everything After/Bootleg/Recovering the Satellites
I've read that the trilogy of Anna/Margery/Horsedreamer was both intentional and unknown/unintentional. Does it really matter? Probably not. All I know is that these are three great songs, and being that they all weave together is great.
4. Baby I'm a Big Star Now - The Rounders Movie Soundtrack
Now we're getting into the real deep stuff. You won't find this song on any Crows albums, it's not even onthe Rounders soundtrack on iTunes, if you want it you'll have to do some digging, but it's totally worth it.
5. Chelsea - Across A Wire: Live in New York City
To call this a Counting Crows song may be slightly incorrect, it's really just Adam Duritz, a piano and a horn section. But that doesn't make it any less special. Listening to this song makes you dream of NYC, makes you visualize every word. But again, don't expect to see this one live, unless you've brought along your own horn section.
6. Kid Things – This Desert Life
When you make it to the end of St. Robinson on This Desert Life, you’re treated with the hidden track Kid Things. This jaunty little tune is complete with jangley guitars and great pop-rock vocals. The Crows will sometimes play this one live, sometimes.
7. Good Time - Hard Candy
Another awesome song from Hard Candy, Good Time showcases one of my favorite things about the band: the guitar players. Not only is the acoustic guitar great, and there’s the added bonus of the banjo, but the main attraction for me is that sultry, slide-y guitar from David Immerglück. And there’s that last “would you please invite me in?” that just kills me every time.
8. On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago – Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
This song is heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s just Adam Duritz singing, backed simply by Charlie Gillingham on the piano. From the “Sunday Mornings” side of the record, the songs lonely, yearning feeling fits so well with the theme of the record as a whole. The
“come back to me” lines just gut you. It doesn't get much better than that.
“come back to me” lines just gut you. It doesn't get much better than that.
9. August and Everything After – Bootleg
This is the quintessential Counting Crows deep cut, the ultimate bootleg, the holy grail of Counting Crows songs; the title track of their first record that never made it on the record, or any record for that matter. There are a few versions of this song floating around the interwebs. In my opinion, it is lyrically the best thing Adam Duritz has ever written. I even found my favorite version for you. Enjoy.
10. Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation)
Yes. The whole damn album. I’m always surprised how many “fans” don’t know about this record. Or they heard about it, but as it is a covers album, didn’t pay much attention to it. It’s their loss, the record is fantastic. Yes, it’s all covers, but the band takes all the songs and makes them their own. Most of the songs unfamiliar songs, so you’d never know they were covers if you didn’t know they were covers. Like Teenage Gravity, Start Again, Four White Stallions, and Borderline (iTunes bonus track) are my favorite tracks, but the whole record is golden.