Keaton Henson – Alright

June 27, 2016

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything that could be described as beautiful, gorgeous, or fragile. I, like many other bloggers, publications, etc., have found myself drifting away from the neo-folk, for lack of a better term, that I had written about so often here over the past few years. As I drifted away from that genre, I found myself drifting back towards rock. Be it indie, alternative, or whatever other modifier you’d like to append to the genre.  Rock music isn’t often described as beautiful, gorgeous, or fragile. “Alright” by Keaton Henson is not a rock song. “Alright” is as tender as they come.

Rock music can often be pummeling, aurally speaking. “Alright” is pummeling, but in an entirely different sense. It’s emotionally pummeling. Keaton Henson’s lyrics, soft vocals, and piano playing affects you in a way that only certain songs can. As a defense mechanism, humans are adept at neatly tucking away their negative emotions, such as anger, jealousy, fear, doubt, and sadness. By tucking these emotions away, we are able to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning to do it all over again. Every so often, like a forest in need of burning, we need to purge ourselves of those repressed emotions. Songs like Keaton Henson’s “Alright” are vital because they act as that catharsis for us. Disclaimer, I am not overly masculine. However, I am unfamiliar with the feeling of “needing a good cry.” I don’t know if it’s a guy thing or not, but it’s a foreign concept to me. Songs like this are as close as I get.
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Whitney: Light Upon the Lake

May 27, 2016

The other night, in between our daughter’s excited screeches, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “I wish I could feel that level of excitement again.” The excited screeches were in response to Penguins from Madagascar (which was much better than I expected, by the way). Our daughter is now 19 months old and loves watching TV. I’m not sure she knows what’s going on, but that fact does little to diminish her love of it.

Before I had a child of my own, I swore that I wouldn’t let my yet-to-exist-child watch a lot of television…we now watch about 15-30 minutes of television each night with our daughter shortly before she goes to sleep. This is but one thing that I swore I wouldn’t let any child of mine do. In fairness, the TV is never on during the daytime and it’s never more than 30 minutes a day. One of the main reasons I have softened on my previous anti-TV stance (beside her overall cuteness and my inability to say no to her) is her excitement each night when the TV comes on. It’s a level of excitement that I, as a 37 year-old, will probably never experience again in my life. Her birth was as good as it gets, but the hallways of the hospital did not echo with my shouts of exultant joy on the night she was born. Perhaps if I was hanging out with Eddie Vedder my inner-me would feel this way, but I could never express it outwardly like she does. She has an ear-to-ear smile on her face the whole time. Laughs when we laugh. Acts surprised when we gasp. She just loves it so much, who am I to deny her of this joy?

Earlier today, while browsing some music blogs, my girlfriend’s observation about our daughter’s level of excitement popped into my head. While there is plenty of new music that I enjoy, that level of excitement just isn’t there anymore. If I listen to 10 songs, I might really enjoy about 1 or 2 of them. 10 or 15 years ago, that percentage would have been much higher. I could tell myself that it has to do with the music itself. You know, music was better back then, but isn’t that exactly what older people start telling themselves?
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Twin Fires: Two Hands

May 12, 2016

Did I mention that I haven’t been listening to a great deal of new music lately? Thanks Pearl Jam.

Maybe it’s just me…or maybe it’s part of being an adult. Between a full-time job and a family, music has taken a backseat in my life. Regardless of the reason, I really don’t have the time for “growers” anymore. With all the new music available via streaming and limited time, I can’t be bothered with albums that I need to listen to 3+ times to appreciate. A song, album, or band either grabs me instantly or not at all.

“Two Hands” by Aussie band Twin Fires is one such song. It took all of 30 seconds to decide I liked the song and wanted to keep listening. I don’t know much about Twin Fires, seeing as how “Two Hands” is the only song they have officially released so far, but V Music described “Two Hands” as “Kurt Vile crossed with rollicking ’80s Springsteen.” Who wouldn’t like that, right? Rolling Stone Australia described the band’s sound as “referencing the guitar-led, southern-US blues of mid-2000’s indie rock over the electro-laced direction of their current brethren…they delicately flirt with the line of nostalgic charm.” Nostalgia. If you’ve been reading my recent posts, this seems to be an underlying theme. Again, maybe it comes with age, but I have been jonesing for nostalgia lately. If it sounds like it was made between 1991 – 2005, there’s a good chance I’ll like it. I didn’t hear it at first, but after reading Rolling Stone‘s description, I also hear a bit of Kings Of Leon in Twin Fires.

I wish I could tell you when the band’s debut album is going to be released, but I could not find any information on future releases from Twin Fires. Based on “Two Hands,” they are a band I will make it a point to keep checking in on.

Featured, Music

Pearl Jam: 25 Years Later…and Still the Best

May 5, 2016

Post-tour blues have set in. Granted, I am seeing Pearl Jam at Fenway in August…but that’s not until August. So far away. Ugh. I haven’t been listening to a lot of new music the past week or two because I’ve been listening to a lot of Pearl Jam. And by a lot, I mean it’s practically the only thing I’ve been listening to. MSG I from 2003. Gorge 2005. Moline 2014. Philly III from 2009 when they played four nights to close down the Spectrum. Granted, I don’t see nearly as many concerts as you’d expect a fan of music to see, but I still feel confident in my opinion that Pearl Jam is one of the top three live acts today.

They are such a great live band that I expect everyone to have the same reaction that this guy had after seeing them at MSG earlier this week, his first time seeing Pearl Jam live. Then again, the wife / girlfriend of the guy sitting next to me and my friend may have disagree. I should also emphasize the sitting part since that is what she did for all but three songs. 25 years in and they still play every show with the passion and intensity of a band playing in a small club. At no point do you get the sense that they are simply going through the motions. Eddie Vedder is running around the stage, dancing, and finishing many of the songs on which he plays guitar with a Pete Townshend-esque jump. Lead guitarist Mike McCready puts on a show all his own. Besides for his dazzling guitar work, McCready is constantly playing with the audience, pointing at audience members, throwing guitar pics, etc. It’s actually exhausting watching him work. Possibly less entertaining to watch, bassist Jeff Ament, guitarist Stone Gossard, and drummer Matt Cameron are all top notch musicians.
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Bleached: Wednesday Night Melody

April 27, 2016

Wednesdays. Ugh. The second worst day of the week. Halfway though the week is still better than the beginning of the week, but it’s still a tough one. Wednesday is a glass half-full, glass half-empty day. When you wake up in the morning, it’s like, “Ugh, it’s only Wednesday.” Then again, it’s like, “Wednesday, halfway home baby!” Perhaps if you were looking forward to singing a catchy melody on Wednesday night, the day wouldn’t be so bad (it still would be). Enter “Wednesday Night Melody” by Bleached. I listened to “Wednesday Night Melody” on my way to work this morning and it already made my Wednesday a little better.
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Sioux Falls: Rot Forever

April 22, 2016

About 6 years ago, my girlfriend and I drove coast to coast to coast. New Jersey to California and back. As much as we reminisce about our favorite places, we spend just as much time talking about the least favorite places we visited. Really, these are places that she disliked. I didn’t mind them all that much. There’s Indiana, where she got a speeding ticket…in a work zone…while located in the middle of a pack of cars all going the same speed. Other than that, Indiana was fine, but she still hates it. There’s Kansas. To this day, I still don’t know why she hates Kansas so much. It’s flat, there are a lot of fields, and not much else. Hardly hatable offenses. Honestly, her opinion was formed at a rest stop. I never asked what happened in the 5 minutes we were inside, but whatever it was, it forever shaped her views of the state as a whole. Then there’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
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Big Thief: Real Love

April 19, 2016

I am definitely not the first person to write about Brooklyn’s Big Thief, but if their first two tracks are any indication of what we can expect on Masterpiece, the band’s debut album due May 27th on Saddle Creek, I certainly won’t be the last. The album’s title track and “Real Love” are highly enjoyable folk rock tracks that incorporate elements of folk, pop, and hard rock to create an interesting sound that will appeal to fans of those genres.

“Real Love” starts out quietly with Adrianne Lenker’s vocals backed only by an electric guitar that ascends and descends with her voice, matching the songs melody note for note. As she reaches the end of the first verse, she kicks on the distortion and the drums kick in. By the song’s conclusion, it’s a full-blown rock song. In a recent interview with Noisey, Lenker was asked about “Real Love.” “Playing ‘Real Love’ is like taking a medicinal tincture,” the Big Thief front woman said, “and by the end the stress in my body is dissipated. There’s no answers in it. Struggle is inherent in love. Without consciousness, human or animal, would love exist? We make love, and love makes us. Maybe that’s why it is so hard for us when we feel that we’ve lost it, as if we’ve disappeared.” At this point in my life, I don’t really identify with that at all, but I’ll be sure to revisit the thought if my current relationship ever ends. Being a parent, I’m going to be that dick that argues that the only real love is between parent and child. Clearly, this is not the type of love she is singing about in “Real Love.” Either way, “Real Love” and “Masterpiece” are both fantastic songs and I am eager to hear the rest of Big Thief’s LP when it arrives in late May.

You may have noticed, but this post does not feature a live version of the song. I have contemplated whether to post this or not, but I am operating under the assumption that the one person who might actually read this doesn’t care that much if the song is live or not. Good music is good music, right? From here on out, I will always try to feature a live version of a song, but when one is not available, I’ll do without.


Pinegrove: Aphasia

April 15, 2016

Aphasia (\ə-ˈfā-zh(ē-)ə\) noun. 1. loss or impairment of the power to use or comprehend words usually resulting from brain damage.

It’s not often that I need to look up a song title in a dictionary. Not that I’m complaining, I’m all for expanding my vocabulary, it’s just not something that’s often required when listening to music. The song “Aphasia,” by Montclair, NJ based Pinegrove (big ups Jersey), details songwriter’s Evan Stephens Halls’ great relief that comes from baring one’s soul to someone pined for after being previously incapable of doing so. “So satisfied I said a lot of things tonight / So long aphasia & the ways it kept me hiding / It’s not so much exactly all the words I used  / It’s more that I was somehow down to let them loose,” sings Hall in a warbly drawl. Based on the way “Aphasia” ends, it does not sound as if the feelings Hall divulged were mutual. “But what you’ve got was in your reaches all along / Plus one day you’ll be reaching for me & I’ll be gone,” sings Hall.
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Motel Radio: Gimme Your Love

April 13, 2016

Earlier this week, I wrote about the song “Looking For Signs” by Leif Erikson. At a loss as how to best describe their sound, I ultimately decided to use the term modern-day classic rock. Since I’m essentially making up genres at this point, it only seems right to place more than one song in said genre. Here’s the second song in my modern-day classic rock genre, “Gimme Your Love” by Motel Radio. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve listened to this track more than any other song in the past week…and it’s not that close. I understand that there are plenty of artists and songs whose appeal is limited to fans of a certain genre, but this is not one of those songs. “Gimme Your Love” isn’t alternative rock or indie rock or prog rock or hard rock. It’s good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n roll and is deserving of your attention.
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Frightened Rabbit: Die Like A Rich Boy

April 11, 2016

A few artists have made magnificent albums early on in their careers and thus create expectations that are nearly impossible to live up to. Two of the first who come to mind are Pete Yorn and Frightened Rabbit. The former’s Musicforthemorningafter and the latter’s The Midnight Organ Fight are top-notch albums from start to finish. I still play them with regularity and hope that each artist can match or even surpass those masterpieces. So far, it hasn’t happened. Honestly, neither has come close. That’s not to say that they haven’t had some great songs here and there scattered amongst all the albums they have released since, but neither has been able to create an album as good those defining albums.

This past Friday, Frightened Rabbit released Painting Of A Panic Attack, their 5th full-length album. Each time I hear Frightened Rabbit is releasing an album, I get excited and hope for something as great as The Midnight Organ Fight, but the two albums that have followed were somewhat disappointing. That’s not to say that they were bad pe se. Each album has had its share of enjoyable songs, such as “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” and “Nothing Like You” from The Winter of Mixed Drinks and “The Woodpile” and “Backyard Skulls” from Pedestrian Verse.
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