Archive for the ‘blues’ tag
I always find it interesting when a band’s ‘sound’ seems to moves in opposition to the cultural scene they come from, but I guess music can take you wherever your mind goes. The fact is, there is no limit to what type of music you may hear coming out of Brooklyn. The city is home for musicians of any genre there is. Singer-songwriter Dan Mills and his band are Brooklyn natives whose album, Home Before the Rise of Tide, wears a sonic identity from elsewhere. The album is mostly acoustic with elements of blues, country, pop, and jazz within its’ content.
The album kicks off with “Birds Eye View”, an easy-listening track about the love music and a special someone. The track stays true to the traditional style of country music with a romantic theme – as well as the tracks “Keep Me Till the Morning”, “Stuck on You” and “Bernadette”. Frontman Dan Mill’s vocals are resonant, lucid, and warm like toast. Ladies may enjoy his voice for the same reasons they listen to John Mayer. Mill’s band mates chime in on multiple tracks with additional vocals for harmony, and they do it well.
Listening to this album definitely provides an idea of Mills’s personal journey and life stories. “Young and Free” contains some fun, feel good lyrics as Mills sings about the bliss of being young and carefree with the future ahead of him and his ‘thick chick’ by his side. The following track “In Your Eyes” maintains the theme of never getting old. “Mama in the Corner” is a flirty piece telling the story about meeting and obtaining a female interest – for the night, at least. “Find What You’ve Been Looking For” features the confident side of Mills, in what would possibly be considered as the country-pop form of a diss track. “Ain’t Done With Me” slows things down with a waltz rhythm guitar and accordion. The album wraps on a serious note with “Best I Could” – which is a favorite of the tracks. The realness of the lyrics takes things to a personal level, yet the lyrics remain relatable to all listeners.
Home Before the Rise of Tide is an album for the lovers of that old school blues or country sound. Listen if you want to hear a fresh take on the life of a young man – but do not expect to hear anything trailblazing.
3 / 5 bars
Dan Mills – “Young and Free”
Dan Mills – “Mama in the Corner”
Dan Mills – “Bernadette”
Dan Mills – “Ain’t Done With Me”
Every so often, there’s nothing more refreshing than some good ol’ classic live instrumentation, given the electro-driven era of music we liven in today. I personally have a soft spot for a good horn section and an organ. Brooklyn-based jammers The Manahan Street Band give us something raw and fresh in their new record The Crossing, out now. The album is packed with live blues, funk, and soul – straight out of the juke joint! The band takes us into the Brooklyn life in their new video for “Keep Coming Back”. They certainly take us back with this bluesy tune. Check out the video below and listen to another track from the album down under. Feels nice with a glass of whisky!
My alma mater, the University of Chicago, loves this phrase: the life of the mind. We love questions, in theory, and ambiguous problems, mainly because they lead to more questions-all of which in turn, enriches the life of the mind. So to hear the band that helped me through my formative years and had almost forgotten about, put a distinct sound to that enigmatic life is too poetic. It’s been over 10 years since the last Ben Folds Five album but the musicianship hasn’t faded and their music is as relevant and witty as ever.
The characteristic Ben Folds Five sound and the lyrics haven’t strayed. If anything, the sound has developed into a grander feel similar to the score of a Broadway play. The composition of “Thank You for Breaking My Heart” makes me picture Ben Folds walking down a gloomy street after a bad break up. Specifically, it’s the breaks in the melody and supporting vocals that set the action in my mind to happen all on stage. At times, the band has a heavier feel with more electric bass than their previous albums that reminds me of the Black Keys but the riffs are distinctly Ben Folds Five. The band takes the right amount of liberty throughout the album to jam and trade solos so as not to dilute the lyrics and melodies. And as usual, the Ben Folds meshes the piano with whatever Blues/Jazz/Rock/Country/Pop feel the rest of the instruments are producing.
Ben lets a lot off his chest on The Sound of the Life of the Mind. Fans have come to learn a little about his love life and its woes, and we get more details filled in with relationships that didn’t work. They’re not major plot points but they are the most poignant memories he holds of them, which is better in a way. He also opens up about the realization of the effects of holding onto an image of his father, frozen in time, who died when he was young on “Away When You Were Here.”
Chan Marshall has always been beautiful, undeniably weird (the first and only time I saw her live, she performed almost her entire set while writhing on the stage floor), and almost untouchably cool. The daughter of a blues musician who grew up in various parts of the deep south, Chan– who, of course, performs under the name Cat Power– is representative of a sort of rootsy, uniquely American rags-to-riches tale that I thought hadn’t existed since the likes of Johnny Cash. She moved to New York at age 20, signed with Matador Records at 24, and– despite admitted difficulties with alcohol and anxiety– has been churning out acclaimed record after record ever since.
Now, at age 40, Chan Marshall is still way too cool for school, but it’s a far more mature cool. Sun, her ninth album, is a very grown up record. Its release coincided with two major, personal events: Chan’s chronological advancement into a new decade of life, and her break-up with actor Giovanni Ribisi, with whom she had been living in Los Angeles. Just months after their split, Ribisi eloped with model Agyness Deyn (I probably shouldn’t judge, but come on, man; douche). And while the album was apparently written before all of this had transpired, the timing feels all too fitting.
I don’t usually hunt for such personal details when listening to a new record, but with Cat Power, there’s an intimacy that invites you right in; it’s in her voice, in her style, and even in the way she moves. But in addition to sounding grown up, Sun is also a very modern record, making it strikingly different from all of her past releases. This time, Chan’s signature personal lyricism is peppered with synths, drum machines, handclaps, and electronics. It’s Chan with a newfound confidence, and it suits her all too well.
“Cherokee,” the album opener, is where this confidence first begins to take shape. As Chan’s smoky vocals ooze right out of your speakers, they’re quickly followed by a bouncing back beat as she boldly yet delicately sings, “marry me to the sky.” On “Ruin,” the album’s upbeat first single, Chan makes note of people’s incessant “bitchin’,” “complainin’,” and “moanin’;” the song is, dare I say it, the catchiest single that Cat Power has ever released.
You can’t go wrong with “Nothin’ But Time,” in which Chan duets with Iggy Pop himself. Much like the borough itself, “Manhattan” is a grand, ambitious ballad, featuring an unexpected disco-punk beat that swerves in and out of the track. The instrumentals on Sun are so glorious and daring that they almost overshadow Chan’s voice– but not quite.
Chan Marshall is everything that we should all be at forty; on Sun, she proves that she’s only grown bigger and badder with age. By the time they hit their ninth album, most artists are ready (or should be ready) to call it quits. Not Cat Power. An LP as truly bold and bright as Sun shows that it can only get better from here.
4 / 5 bars
Cat Power– aka Chan Marshall– had been living with actor Giovanni Ribisi for quite some time until the couple went through an ugly breakup, right after which Giovanni married model Agyness Deyn in secret– Ouch. And while I usually don’t hold much stock in the personal lives of celebrities (that’s their business), the recent heartbreak seems to have had a huge impact on Cat Power’s upcoming record, Sun. If the album’s first single, “Ruin” is any indication, we’re going to be in for a quite a ride. The snazzy, saucy single finds Chan asking, “What are we doing? We’re sitting on a ruin.” Sun, Cat Power’s first LP since 2008′s covers record, Jukebox, will be released this September.
Who is Jack White? An omnipresent force in the world of music, he’s been purposefully vague about his backstory for years. But here’s what we do know: Jack White is one half of the White Stripes, mastermind of side projects The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, a skilled and enigmatic figure in rock n’ roll. Now, though, he finds himself at a crossroads. With the Stripes (sadly) kaput and without a faithful group of collaborators behind him, Jack White is facing somewhat of an identity crisis. Can the same rock star who has captured our imagination still keep us guessing after all these years? For a decade, critics have been calling him the only great rock star of our era (or is it the last?)– so if anyone is up to the task, it’s him. With his first– if you can believe it, his very first– solo release, Blunderbuss, White has firmly established himself as a Jack of all trades.
Blunderbuss reflects not just the evolution of Jack White’s career, but his personal journey, as well. Remember– that white-and-red clad young man who first emerged with his “sister” Meg is now 36 years old. Last year, he ended his six-year marriage (with a divorce party, no less) to model and singer Karen Elson. Add all of that to the dissolution of the White Stripes, and what you’ve got is a lot of heartache, heartbreak, and thoughtful intensity. On album opener, “Missing Pieces,” White addresses unexpected changes, manifested physically. He sings, “I woke up and my hands were gone, yeah/I looked down and my legs were long gone/I fell forward with my shoulder but there’s nobody there.” The rest of the album is made up of pieces that he’s trying to fit together.
And fit they do. Blunderbuss is a classic record, the kind that’s filled to the brim with soul and intensity. There’s a nice mix of all the things that Jack does well; the early garage-rock style of the Stripes meshes with the bluesy Southern rock of the Raconteurs and the powerful riffs that no one else can quite replicate. “Sixteen Saltines,” the rip roarin’ first single, serves as the perfect ambassador for this lethal combination of perfect rock fundamentals. It’s fierce, exciting and dynamic yet tinged with a wide pop appeal. “Freedom at 21″ explores youth with a wild guitar that can be both smooth and deliciously scratchy; no one can match White as a guitarist. The jangly “I’m Shakin” is hip and almost Black Keys-ian. On “Love Interruption,” White gets right to matters of the heart, singing, ”I want love to walk right up and bite me/Grab a hold of me and fight me/Leave me dying on the ground.” The anger and loneliness seeps through, just like it should on any good love song.
Folk music has a sort of innate ability to affect the heart of the average American listener. Much of its charm lies in its sincerity and simple, straightforward ethos; folk music calls upon some sense of an earlier, simpler time, before some trauma estranged us from our families or lovers or friends. It’s not nostalgic, exactly – more historic, perhaps, an impulse towards the past in which the loss of, say, the old family farm comes to represent not just itself, but actually all of our losses. And then it’s also about the world after that loss, the process of reordering one’s world without a certain thing in which the song is itself an instrument. Folk music is a peculiar combination of past and future, and as such it has a primordial power over its listeners.
The music of Spiritualized, the English space-rock band led by Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman), is not exactly folk music, but it harnesses much of the same energy. Pierce has head several brushes with mortality in the last few years – serious pneumonia and a degenerative liver disease – and Spiritualized’s new record, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, alternately captures the devastation and ecstasy attendant to such extremes in lush strings and gentle cymbals. There are up- and downtempo songs, but on the whole Sweet Heart is a remarkably revealing album, one that makes you feel somehow closer to its author.
It’s rare to hear retro-rock of this sort sound so fresh. Pierce’s musical allegiances are obvious, many of them well beyond his years: the careful song-craft of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young springs immediately to mind on tracks like “Little Girl,” as do Bob Dylan’s taste for simplicity (“Freedom,” “Too Late”) and the electric blues of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. There’s a brief Beatles moment on “Get What You Deserve,” on which the band summons a spunky, White-Album-chaos to wondrous effect. My Bloody Valentine and the Flaming Lips are more recent touchstones, but neither band has the sensitivity or peace that’s at the center of Sweet Heart Sweet Light’s best moments.
Lately it seems as if everyone’s been tripping over themselves to praise the Alabama Shakes. They were a buzz band even before the real buzz; even those who hadn’t yet heard them seemed to know that they were like the second coming of southern rock, apparently. But finally the album that everyone’s been talking about is here. It’s called Girls and Boys, and it’s already selling a lot of copies, but does it live up to all the chatter? Pretty much, yes. Girls & Boys is an album that will have any classic rock or blues fan drooling onto the floor.
And much of this is due to singer-guitarist Brittany Howard. She was just in high school when she began making music with bassist Zac Cockrell, but like all great blues singers, she sounds twenty years older than she is, at least. How is it, that at just 23, everything she sings makes her sound like she’s lived a thousand lives? Whatever it is that’s in the water down there in Alabama, I’m gonna get me some.
So it’s fitting that Girls & Boys is at its best when it lets Howard’s voice shine. But it’s not all about Howard, all the time; a picture that nice needs the proper frame, if you catch my drift. The rest of the Shakes are just as adept at crafting that rich, classic rock sound, without sounding boring or redundant. They’re dynamic and skilled at setting the highs and lows that let Howard’s voice soar. The band’s influences seem to be a hodgepodge of acts that range from Janis Joplin to Lynyrd Skynyrd to even a little Rolling Stones. There’s something for everybody.