Category Archives: Song Spotlight

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy! (Yet Another Beatles Blurb)

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With the 50th anniversary of its release just passed and a deluxe reissue already having hit the market, the highly-regarded Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has once more become a hot topic amongst music lovers. From coffee shop conversations to the nightly news to most every music publication, the album that some consider to be the band’s best has been discussed, dissected and doted upon, ad nauseum. Aside from the many positive reviews Giles Martin (son of “fifth Beatle” George Martin) has received for his remastering efforts, few new remarks or revelations have been revealed with these revisitations.

A common criticism that has caught my eye, however, is contempt for “Lovely Rita,” much to my surprise. While it has never garnered the attention “A Day in the Life,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and other Pepper tunes have, I think the catchy bass line alone is enough to brand it as ear candy as opposed to ear worm.

Though Revolver will forever be my answer when “forced” to choose my favorite Beatles record, I think “Rita” (coupled here with another less-heralded track) was an important inclusion on what was the Beatles’ most diverse collection of songs to date. And whether they’re being criticized or praised (each for the umpteenth time), Fab Four features will forever be newsworthy.

(Since much of the Beatles’ catalog has been removed from YouTube, I have chosen to use this live McCartney clip instead. I will gladly accept any and all donated tickets to Sir Paul’s current tour, as I have yet to see him live! #bucketlistgroveling)

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Song Spotlight: Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Sacrilege

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YeahYeahYeahs Sacrilege

The first priority I established upon entering the crowded blog scene was to focus on music I love and exude all of the positive aspects associated with the art. And while it is not my wish to abandon that approach, there are few bright spots to highlight on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ new single, “Sacrilege.”

Arriving four years after the band’s last studio effort, 2009’s It’s Blitz, “Sacrilege” is the first single from the upcoming album Mosquito. The song starts out promising enough, with lead vocalist Karen O’s voice at its sugary sweetest as she sings, “Fallen for a guy / fell down from the sky” before using her trademark high-pitched yelp to deliver, “Halo, ’round his head.” This back and forth exchange continues throughout the first half of the song, separated by repetitious choruses partly sang, partly yelled. “It’s sacrilege, sacrilege, sacrilege you say.” Meanwhile, bandmates Nick Zinner (guitar, keyboards) and Brian Chase (drums, percussion) lay down a restrained groove that becomes increasingly aggressive and layered as the song progresses.

Those traits are normally a good thing in the trusty hands of the trio, yet I found myself underwhelmed during the first two minutes of the song. Still, I had high hopes of a payoff in the end. However what I received instead was a tired, overused cliche often employed anytime a band incorporates language associated with religion: you guessed it, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Tabernacle Choir! While it worked triumphantly for the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and, to a lesser extent, Madonna’s “Like A Prayer,” I found it to be a cheap, unimaginative ploy that fell flat on the ground the band walks on. I also couldn’t help but think that the song sounded better suited for the introduction to a movie, appropriately enough given Karen O’s recent soundtrack contributions.

A cynic would declare the first indication something was amiss was the Mosquito cover art the band released when announcing the new album.  While the quality of their music has often outweighed the sub-par album art, the new cover appears like something you could expect from Green Jelly or Ugly Kid Joe.

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Raw, chaotic energy and Karen O’s in your face shrill-sung vocals have always been the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ strong suits. Though utilized to a lesser extent on It’s Blitz,  the band managed to deliver a solid product not too far removed from their previous efforts. I am not suggesting that the group shouldn’t evolve, as I never advocate “creating the same album” twice. But the sins of “Sacrilege” and the Mosquito album cover can only be atoned if the rest of the tracks bring forth deliverance. Can I have an amen?

 

 

 

 

 

Song Spotlight: The Lumineers-Slow It Down

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A lot has been said or written in recent years about a “resurgence” in the Americana music scene. But much like the countless stories detailing renewed interest in vinyl, it is something that never truly went away. Rather, more bands are getting mainstream attention and therefore reaching a wider audience and media coverage. Much credit has been given to the 2000 Coen Brothers film, O, Brother, Where Art Thou?  for bringing this music to the forefront once again, as well as artists like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and others.

While many of the current Americana favorites are made up of large ensembles employing fuller sounds, The Lumineers might best be described as minimalist folk in comparison.  Starting out in 2005 as a two-piece band, they evolved into a five-person group by 2012, but managed to keep their sound simple. Instead of relying on an onslaught of instruments, they have found their strengths in Wesley Schultz’ worn, convincing crooning and honest lyrics.

Like many of the songs on The Lumineers’ self-titled debut album, the words in “Slow It Down” focus on a broken relationship and the desperation to understand  what went wrong.  Written by guitarist/vocalist Schultz and drummer Jeremiah Fraites, it’s clear that one or both of these gentlemen has endured his share of heartache.

An aptly-titled ballad, the song starts out with Schultz calmly describing his world crumbling around him:  “I feel a filth in my bones / Wash off my hands ’til it’s gone / The walls, they’re closing in / with velvet curtains.” But by the third verse, he is channeling his inner Black Francis in the way he sings, “They’re making noise in my street / My blinds are drawn, I can’t see / Smashed in my car window / Didn’t touch the stereo.” The manner in which he yelps the last two lines effectively conveys his increased frustration about his lover’s infidelity. His indifference concerning the world around him also speaks volumes about his singular focus on the hurt he is experiencing. The remaining lyrics are delivered in much the same manner, faintly accompanied by slowly strummed, electric guitar.

As the song continues to unfold, Schultz repeatedly declares a willingness to welcome his lady back, but not without lamenting about her indiscretions. Still believing their relationship is salvageable, he opines in the last verse that “Only love can dig you out of this,” in reference to what they once had and still can, with her cooperation.

The raw emotions expressed in songs like “Slow It Down” and a simple, folkafied sound have brought The Lumineers much recognition and several sold-out concert appearances, less than a year since their album’s release.
If they continue to approach their craft in this manner, it should help establish them as true artists and not just poster children for a “revitalized folk movement.”