Monday, January 31, 2011

Song of the Day: Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Exciting news today that the new Fleet Foxes album, Helplessness Blues, comes out on May 3rd. I've sung the praises of the band before, so I don't feel the need to reiterate how great they are. The first release is the title track from said album, and if it's any indication, the album could surpass my already high expectations.

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues by subpop

Friday, January 28, 2011

Song of the Day: Hall & Oates - I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)

So yeah, I guess it's cool to like Hall & Oates again? Or can one only enjoy them ironically?

I became reacquainted with them last year, as my parents found a copy of the "Maneater" 45 in the attic. For me, 2010 was the year that I rediscovered a lot of music from my formative years that I had sworn off as I got older - mainly the over-produced, distinctly late '70s or '80s sounds of Def Leppard, Boston, Hall & Oates, etc. I've recently gained more of an appreciation of how these bands put together their songs and what it takes to make them sound so slick - and in the case of H&O, how they can write a near-perfect pop song.

"I Can't Go for That" delivers the goods completely - the keyboards, the drum machine, the backing vocals, and of course, the sax solo. Is it cheesy? Yeah, a little. But if you're not humming this song and marveling at how damn good it sounds (listen on headphones), then at least try and enjoy it ironically, as you stroke your Oates-like mustache.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Song of the Day: Guns N' Roses - Rocket Queen

Like R.E.M.'s Green, Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction was a game-changer for me. I distinctly remember hearing "Sweet Child O' Mine" at my seventh-grade dance, and pretty much half the album was on Top 40 radio.

But my fondest memory is my dad buying me a copy of the album on cassette at the flea market. When he gave it to me, it was pretty obvious, even to my 12-year-old self, that it was a bootleg copy - the cover art looked like it was copied on a cheap printer, and the tape itself had no labeling on it whatsoever. My dad still jokes about it till this day.

The other thing I remember is my parents listening to the album (without me around) and telling me they didn't approve of it. Thankfully they didn't forbid me from listening to it, but I knew why they didn't like it - what you don't hear on the radio is the cursing, the orgasm sounds...oh, and the references to heroin (no matter they are so oblique I didn't know what "Mr. Brownstone" meant until I was in college).

However, what you do hear throughout the album is one of the best bands of the '80s. The guitar interplay of rhythm and lead rivals anything from the Stones heyday, the rhythm section drives most of the songs, and of course Axl's voice could melt hearts and make parents cringe.

Without a doubt one of my favorite songs on the album is the closer "Rocket Queen." Though I could do without the orgasms, this song starts off with the aforementioned rhythm section killing it and closes with a somewhat uncharacteristically sweet Axl (starting with "I see you standing...").

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Song of the Day: The Waterboys - Purple Rain [live]

I've posted a song by The Waterboys, and I've posted a song by Prince. But I know what you're thinking - why haven't I posted a Prince cover by The Waterboys? What am I, an idiot?

A Scottish-Irish folk band playing "big music," complete with fiddle, covering the R&B power ballad? Sign me up! Well...OK, it may not sound like a match made in heaven, but don't knock it 'til you try it.

P.S. This is song #300 on the blog. It seems like just yesterday I was at #200.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Song of the Day: Wire - Lowdown

As I've mentioned before, I became an R.E.M. fanatic when I was 12. When I become infatuated with a band, I usually want to know what they listen to and what inspires them. This is how I became familiar with Wire.

Actually, I should say I first came to know Wire without knowing that I knew Wire; that is, R.E.M. covered Wire's "Strange" on Document, only I didn't know it was a cover song. But I later read in an interview that Michael Stipe was especially influenced by three albums: Television's Marquee Moon, Patti Smith's Horses, and Wire's Pink Flag (it's scary to me that I still remember reading this some 20 years ago, but I digress).

While I wasn't able to get my hands on the latter record, I did get a best of that encompassed their first three albums. At the time, I didn't think it was all that great, but it's really grown on me over the years, especially as I've come to love similar bands, such as Gang of Four. In fact, thanks to vinyl reissues, I now own the first three Wire albums, and when this song from Pink Flag came up on my iPod the other day, it reminded me how great the band is.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Song of the Day: Wilco - Jesus, Etc.

A friend bought me Wilco's Being There for my birthday about 15 years ago, and I've been a fan ever since. However, I have a confession to make - I like Wilco, but I don't love them. Keep in mind, I've tried desperately to love them, and the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot story that everyone knows engenders massive respect. I think all of their records are really good, some of the songs are especially brilliant, but something has kept me from becoming infatuated with them (and I'm infatuated with many bands), despite my best attempts. That said, when I hear this song from YHF, they seem like the best band in the world.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Song of the Day: Smith Westerns - Dance Away

Dye It Blonde, the just released debut from Smith Westerns, is already getting a lot of "record of the year" hype, and while it's maybe too early for those proclamations, I kind of agree with them (though records released early in the year often suffer in year-end lists).  I hear some T-Rex, Smiths, Clientele...there are too many influences to count.  I haven't listened to the album enough times to definitively say that this is my favorite song, but it's a damn good one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Song of the Day: The Replacements - I Will Dare

I recently made the following claim on Facebook:  "The Replacements' Let It Be might be better than The Beatles' Let It Be" and I got one comment in agreement and one in dissension.  But the more I think about it, the more I agree (with myself, at the time).  The Replacements LP is damn near perfect (hell, even the Kiss cover kills), and if The Beatles had taken the garage-rock approach that the Mats did (which you can hear on the "Naked" Beatles versions), it would be more of a toss-up.  Here's the opening song:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Song of the Day: Super Furry Animals - It's Not the End of the World?

Rings Around the World, one of my top 21 albums of the 2000s, was my first exposure to Super Furry Animals.  It's an eclectic record - a bit Radiohead, some Doves, Britpop and other influences - so picking one song is a tough task.  My usual favorite is one of the slower songs, featuring a wah-wah guitar and a lot of "wah wah"s. 

Fun fact: the vinyl version of the album is two LPs, with side three playing from the inside of the record to the outside. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Song of the Day: Elliott Smith - Waltz #2 (XO)

My iPod randomly chose a lot of Elliott Smith songs this weekend, so he's been on the brain.  I became a big fan with the release of XO, still my favorite Smith record.  Unfortunately, I didn't even know who he was when I saw him open for Sebadoh in about 1996, and if ever there were a show I could revisit, that one's near the top of the list.  Stylistically, XO is all over the place, with ballads, pop songs, and of course, waltzes. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Song of the Day: The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist

I can't believe these guys haven't released a record since 2000's Since I Left You. Before Girl Talk's overzealous mash-ups, I don't think anyone had used as many samples on one record as The Avalanches.  If you're too busy or lazy to make a dance mix for a party, just play this album from front to back and a dance party may break out immediately.

Although the record is solid from front to back, there are a number of great singles.  For my money, none is better than "Frontier Psychiatrist" and its Frau Blucher horse neighs, cuckoo clocks and scratched bird calls.

Furthermore, The Avalanches released the "Literal Video" before it was a comedy meme. This video is so ridiculous that it's completely awesome.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Song of the Day: Dinosaur Jr - Get Me

Where You Been was a monumental record in my life. I was a junior in high school and just getting into music, particularly "indie" stuff (ignore for a moment this record was released on a major label - it's still "indie" in spirit, whatever that means).  I was also into Neil Young big time, and from the opening Crazy Horse-inspired riffs of "Out There" to the obvious Young homage "Not the Same," this record was the epitome of everything I liked about music at the time.

I remember playing it for some friends, and let's just say the reaction was not quite as complimentary.  I realize that J Mascis's voice is a potential distraction, but anyone who likes guitar-based rock music would have to at least appreciate the fact that this guy can play the shit out of the guitar.  I still love this album through and through, so picking a favorite song is not an easy task.  "Get Me" is definitely one of the best though - it features J's trademark croak, some excellent backing vocals, and two guitar solos that completely and thoroughly destroy most others.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Song of the Day: The Who - The Kids Are Alright

I watched the movie The Kids Are All Right last night, so I've naturally had this Who song stuck in my head all morning.  Although the early Who differs from the '70s song I posted before, you can hear strains of the later band here - Keith Moon's drumming is particularly raucous for an under-three-minute pop song. As usual, the harmonies in this song are especially fantastic.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Song of the Day: Alice in Chains - Would?

I was inspired to post an Alice in Chains song after reading this piece from the AV Club about the band.  As I've mentioned before, I could probably make this a grunge blog, and Alice in Chains would certainly dominate a lot of the posts.  I first heard the band on the Singles soundtrack, and while I hate to post a band's most popular song, "Would?" encompasses what made the band great - it's heavy, it's melodic, there's great vocal interplay, and of course, Layne Staley's voice is awesomely powerful.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Song of the Day: The Byrds - Lover of the Bayou [live]

I've posted a song by The Byrds before, but if ever a band could not be accurately portrayed by just one song, it's this band. This track does not feature the early Dylan 12-string chiming guitars and harmonies, nor is it Sweetheart-era country-rock - just a driving rock song, featuring Roger McGuinn's voice at its most gravelly, sans harmonies.  One of my favorite songs in their catalog.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Song of the Day: Yo La Tengo - From a Motel 6

My first Yo La Tengo purchase was 1995's Electr-O-Pura, a record that received accolades from many of the mainstream publications (remember, this was pre-internet, more or less).  This led to other purchases and a love for a band that continues to release viable records, 25 years into their existence. 

This track comes from 1993's Painful, my favorite YLT album.  It seems to perfectly encapsulate everything the band excels in - boy/girl vocals, glorious feedback, and groove.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Song of the Day: Unbunny - Pink Lemonade

Snow Tires is probably one of the most underrated albums of the past 10 years - to paraphrase Bill Simmons, it's so underrated, I'm not sure it's even rated.  I've played this album for a number of friends, and all of them loved it (those that didn't are no longer friends).  I would especially recommend Snow Tires to Neil Young fans - the singer has that NY whine to his voice (I mean that in the best possible way), and the music has traces of Harvest-era country rock. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Song of the Day: Talking Heads - Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place) [live]

I watched Stop Making Sense last night - it was the first time I had seen it since I was 8 or 9 years old and my parents dragged me to the theater (I remember that I fell asleep). Maybe this memory subconsciously affected my future enjoyment of Talking Heads - I always liked the singles, but it took me years to realize how great a band they are.

Two events changed my opinion of the band - the first was hearing Phish covering Remain in Light in its entirety for one of their Halloween shows. The other was buying Fela Kuti's Zombie and hearing the parallels between it and Remain in Light (and most of Talking Heads' catalog).

But the biggest gateway to my fanship was getting a copy of The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, the live double LP that was released before SMS (this was before the excellent CD reissue was released a few years ago with bonus tracks).  I don't know if there are many bands that can touch Talking Heads in a live setting, whether it's just the four of them or the expanded band.  Stop Making Sense makes a case for them as a visual band as well - this song was not only my favorite when I heard it live, but it's probably the coolest thing they do in the movie.

Here's one version of the song:

And here's the video from the movie, in a slightly different version:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Song of the Day: Tennis - Baltimore

I guess I'm a little late on this bandwagon, though Tennis's debut album has yet to be released. But this band is big in the "blogosphere," and though my first reaction was "are all new bands lo-fi and led by females?" (see also: Best Coast), I really like the singer's voice.  I hope their debut lives up to the strengths of this single.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Song of the Day: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Typecast

Well, I predicted it (sort of) - the new Ryan Adams album, III/IV is really good and probably would have made my best of 2010 list. Since I ended 2010 with Whiskeytown for the song of the day, let's start out 2011 with more from DRA. This song, which leads off side B of IV, is the first one that really caught my ear.

P.S. Not only is the album good, but the vinyl version is amazing. Check it out (but note the actual vinyl is a darker red and darker blue than in this pic.