Category Archives: You Tube Song Samples

Album Review -THE BRILLIANT GLOW – Handsome Ghost

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Dear Music Appreciators,

AllMusic isn’t really paying attention yet. Even the artist’s own record label provides surprisingly little information on their website and not a single related item for sale in their store. Are they aware how good the music is? Do they appreciate the marketability of the name? Despite listener numbers in the millions on Spotify, at the time of this writing it seems there is relatively little to hang my hat on as a brand new fan of the musical artist Handsome Ghost.

So don’t overlook this new EP as some kind of too-typical playlist filler that works best for background music. This tantalizingly brief collection of personal pop songs is a pretty beautiful piece of musical art. Though I may be using words like “beautiful” based mostly on the haunting and ethereal vocals and melody from the closing track (“Didn’t I Fade”) that have been circulating in my head for the last couple of hours. Circulating and percolating on their own without any conscious effort from me.

“Graduate” is a proper album opener with a capital “O” – a radio friendly synthpop rouser with an ultra-catchy chorus and lyrical imagery that puts pictures in your mind (“bloodshot eyes under the bleachers”). “Eyes Wide” also sounds radio ready and weaves pizzicato synths around an addictive and nearly wordless electro chorus. It’s one of those soul cleansing road-tripping-to-a-new-beginning songs that works well as the soundtrack to any kind of clean slate moment. “Promises” circles quirkily and then soars, and “Lions” and “Suiteness” come down from that high to push off exploring in new and reflective directions. Which brings us back to the end that I mentioned at the beginning – the otherworldly “Didn’t I Fade,” which works so well as an exit piece for a handsome ghost.

Well I want a full length album now and there is none to be had This makes three EP’s in three years. This one and the last one can be found streaming and are also downloadable on Amazon and iTunes, which is great, but when I like an artist this much I still like to hold a CD in my hands when I can. And the only one I can find anywhere on like the whole internet right now is the first EP, released in 2014. It’s called “Blood Stutter,” and it appears it’s only available on CD and two of the four tracks also appear on the 2015 EP “Steps.” At the moment there are six copies of “Blood Stutter” available from third party sellers on Amazon for anywhere from $2-$20. Well, now it’s five copies because I just bought one. The two dollar one, of course. Hmmm, “acceptable” condition from Seattle Goodwill, we’ll see what that’s all about. Scrounging the ol’ thrift store bargain bin for a worn out copy of the only CD release by a new and sparkling musical talent that hasn’t even released his first proper album yet. The music business sure has changed.

Maybe we’ll at least be able to say we knew him when.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review -JET PLANE AND OXBOW – Shearwater

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And as of 01/25/16 the full album is streaming live here:

Dear Music Appreciators,

When I press play on an opening track like “Prime,” the change is almost instant. The music I hear is so appealing it changes my life. The ordinary life becomes the extraordinary life just by virtue of the music, if only for a few minutes. Ironically, I don’t really even know what Jonathan Meiburg is singing about. I can’t easily understand all the lyrics, but it doesn’t matter. In this case it’s all about the music and the feeling. And to me, music like this feels amazing. But why? It’s that electronic hook mainly. It lights up something inside me – some kind of internal recognition receptor turns on and just, like, glows. It’s like something was out there, or maybe it was inside me, and I knew it was there but I couldn’t find it, so I couldn’t say, it but I can recognize it when I hear the band play it.

And that’s just the first song.

And no, they’re not all like that. Musicians can’t be magicians every time. But in the case of JET PLANE AND OXBOW, the power of Shearwater’s opening trick is strong enough to light a path all the way to the end of the album for both the band and their listeners.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review -WILD STAB – The I Don’t Cares

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Dear Music Appreciators,

The last time I listened to Paul Westerberg it was 1992 and it was the songs “Waiting for Somebody” and “Dyslexic Heart” on the SINGLES soundtrack. The last time I listened closely to anything Julianna Hatfield has done it was 1993 and the album was BECOME WHAT YOU ARE. After hearing these two as The I Don’t Cares on WILD STAB, I think I may just have to rewind over twenty years and do a do-over on paying attention to their careers.

This is simply a great rock and roll collaboration record with something for everyone, and it’s brought to you by a couple of seasoned musicians who still have star power and who really know what they’re doing.

“Back” kicks it off by getting all indie rock pensive and poignant, but its follow up “Wear Me Out Loud” brings on the hooky rock-a-tude right away. Enjoy a little gimmicky humor with a song about having to pee (“1/2 2P”) before “Sorry for Tomorrow Night” busts out the fiddles around some lovable loser lyrics. On “Dance to the Fight” Julianna Hatfield takes the lead and sweetly rocks out on sour lyrics like “drunken, flunken out, I’m on my hands and knees on a Friday night.” This is followed by just a wee bit of a contrast with the slow down and cuddle up vibe on “Kissing Break” (a song that’s ready for some rom-com movie montage).

And technically the record’s not even half over yet. I’ll save the second half for you to experience without any spoiler clues, but I will say this:

Give this record a chance to be heard on something good. No ear buds, okay? No tiny bluetooth speakers in a noisy room, alright? You should break out some good headphones, preferably the kind that have ear pads of some kind. I speak from experience. For this one I started on my iPad streaming to a cheap little Amazon Basic bluetooth speaker while I was distracted doing something else, and it was nothing special. But when I put on the good headphones and paid attention it all came alive and it was great. Get to know this record on something good before you let it get short changed on something convenient.

So far I can’t decide whether I like the first half of WILD STAB better or the second half. This is a very good problem to have. And when my favorite song is the last song on the album, I think that’s a very good sign. This is a Record with a capital R and as music appreciators we’re lucky to have it.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – SING INTO MY MOUTH – Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell

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Dear Music Appreciators,

I woke up this morning singing “The trouble with the straight and the narrow is it’s so thin I keep sliding off to the side.”

And I can’t get it out of my head for some reason.

I can relate to that song and I can relate to the way Ben Bridwell sings it. He seems like the right man for the job – he takes his time and he sounds like the kind of character that knows what he’s singing about. And he keeps up the good vs. evil motif with “Am I a Good Man?” a few tracks later.

And speaking of being a man, in looking at Bridwell’s whole contribution here, it appears that in some sense he plays the man part of this collaborative covers album and Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) plays the woman part. The two singers trade off tracks, with half of the total tracks going to each of them. Bridwell sings “Am I a Good Man?” by the obscure sixties soul duo Them Two, while Beam takes on “Bonnie Raitt’s “Any Day Woman.” Half of Beam’s tracks on the album are by female singer/songwriters. All of Bridwell’s are by dudes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as they say on Seinfeld, and actually this kind of balancing act of musical sensibilities is one reason SING INTO MY MOUTH works well. Bridwell plays the rough-hewn vagabond with the more rustic vocals, singing about stuff like insecurity and isolation and loss, while evoking a sense of having been around the block a number of times and not being much better for the trips. Beam plays the sensitive and bearded hippie with the gentler vocals, singing about love and feelings, and he seems to get the lion’s share of the studio effects on his tracks.

Ironically, I normally prefer just the opposite with these two guys, in the sense that Ben Bridwell sounds better with the type of reverb and studio effects that were dripping from his first three Band Of Horses albums, while Beam sounds best alone with an acoustic guitar and a cassette recorder in his bedroom.

Some may lament the lack of original songs and signature sounds from these two bands. I think I did at first. But take this one for what it is – a fun little collaborative covers album between two musical friends letting their hair down together, so to speak.

If you’re already familiar with any of these songs though, you may be at a disadvantage. You may end up suffering from what I’ll call the “musical comparison conundrum,” where one struggles to overcome one’s predisposition to prefer whichever version of a song one hears first. But being the ignorant musical twit that I am, I hadn’t heard a single one of these songs before. I was able to enjoy these versions for what they are, and then listen to the originals later, which enhanced my appreciation of the songs. But of course I think I preferred Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell’s versions on every one – meaning that in the end, the above-described conundrum may have gotten me after all.

And basically, my dear music appreciators, what I’m trying to say with all of this blather is that SING INTO MY MOUTH is a groovy, laid-back listening experience that’s worth repeating again and again. Buy it, and perhaps you’ll get some lyrics stuck in your head like I did.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – ANGELS AND ALCOHOL – Alan Jackson

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Dear Music Appreciators,

Alan Jackson is a name I’ve heard a lot over the years, but somehow I’d never knowingly listened to one of his songs until I pressed play on ANGELS AND ALCOHOL, and it didn’t take long to know this guy is a master at what he does. Listen to just the first minute and thirteen seconds of opening track “You Can Always Come Home” and see if you know what I mean. It’s a pure genre song to be sure, but it’s done so well it transcends the genre and goes down as not just a great country song, but a great song, period. I’ve always been sort of a sucker for a slow, stripped down intro that suddenly morphs into a full-voiced, uptempo, emotional pick-me-up. No matter how bad it gets “you can always come home” – I mean, what warm-blooded human being doesn’t want to hear that, right, especially when it’s delivered in the warm and seasoned country superstar singing voice of someone like Alan Jackson?

Unfortunately there isn’t another song like this one on the album, but fortunately it seems Alan Jackson didn’t get to where he is for nothing, as the man knows how to fill his listeners’ cups all the way up.

“You Never Know” is the kind of country rocker where everyone and their brother gets a solo (including the piano player, my favorite), and suddenly the warm father figure from the first song is singing about a “curvy little bottom like a roller coaster ride.” “Angels and Alcohol” features some appropriately woozy pedal steel work while addressing one of country music’s favorite subjects – drinkin’ – and it’s notable for the double meaning of the word “angels” as well as the narrator’s apparent lack of apology or regret.

And perhaps it’s a certain lack of apology or regret through the entire album that effectively conveys Jackson’s veteran country confidence and makes this music worth listening to. Sure, some of it gets a little corny at times (“Flaws,” “When God Paints”) but when you’re as justifiably confident as Alan Jackson even corny can seem kind of cool.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – PAGEANT MATERIAL – Kacey Musgraves

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Dear Music Appreciators,

I listened to this album all the way through without knowing a thing about Kacey Musgraves and I’m pleased to report that I enjoyed the whole darn thing. Albums like this are rare for me and they remind me of an apple pie I ate once. So many people rave about apple pie and so often I enjoy parts of it but not the whole thing and the apples make me feel too full. One day my friend came home from his bakery job with an apple pie with a streusel crumb topping and the apples were all finely diced and well blended into the filling and every last bite was delightful. Still not sure if it was Dutch Apple Pie or French Apple Pie but that pie had my attention and interest to the last bite, as did this new album by Kacey Musgraves.

Less pie, more music you say? Here are three reasons to buy PAGEANT MATERIAL by Kacey Musgraves:

1. Although to some it may at times feel a little too cute or preachy, these songs are full of clever lyrics and rhymes and turns of phrase (which is sort of a tradition in a lot of country music), and when these kinds of things are done right, i.e. they appear naturally in the song and are sung earnestly and without trying too hard, they can be like memorable little gems the listener can easily remember and take away with them when the song is over. “I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t,” “mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy,” “they own too much wicker and drink too much liquor.” – the list goes on and on and it can be kind of fun to pick these out. With Musgraves’ laid-back presentation I’m willing to wiling to eat this stuff instead of sending it back to the kitchen.

2. There is an easy-going confidence wrapped in a sort of cool retro-country vibe throughout, making this all go down like a cold, sepia-colored drink on a warm country day. Notice how the album cover evokes a classic 1960’s feeling. Notice the prettiest songs with the longest phrasing beginning and ending the album and playing their natural part in the storytelling. Notice the surprise uncredited guest vocals after the silence at the end of the album – they appear as almost a sort of confirmation – “if you’ve been listening to this thinking this girl’s an easygoing natural who knows what she’s doing, well, you’re right.”

3. For all the self-empowerment, life-lesson, and daily affirmation nuggets in these songs there is also a nod to self-questioning and doubt, and with the album ending with the words “are you sure this is where you want to be?” I was left feeling that I’d been listening to an album that was maybe sort of sad and beautiful instead of just plain cute and twangy.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – STILL – Richard Thompson

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Dear Music Appreciators,

If you don’t know who Richard Thompson is for some reason, then I’ll start by saying this – if you’re looking for pretty vocals you might want to look elsewhere. For pretty vocals from a singer/songwriter with the last name Thompson, look up Teddy Thompson, Richard Thompson’s son, who sometimes plays and records with his dad and is an accomplished singer/songwriter in his own right. Teddy is the type of singer whose voice is familiar with the adjective “golden.” His father, Richard, is a much more, shall I say, “human” singer. Fortunately Richard is a guitar wizard and a first-rate songwriter. He is also a witty and wizened old folkie from the sixties, who is now in HIS sixties, but who remains in full command of his guitar playing and songwriting powers on this, his 42nd album, titled STILL.

About half of this album had to grow on me, and about half was instantly appealing, which is actually a nice balance. Enough low hanging fruit to attract me to the tree and keep me there long enough to notice something desirable is also growing in the upper branches.

And now, without further ado, I present:

CONSTANT LISTENER’S ALBUM OPINION AWARDS for STILL by Richard Thompson

Most quickly addictive guitar hook = “Long John Silver”, though “Beatnik Walking” and “No Peace, No End” are pretty great too…

Prettiest acoustic guitar work = “Josephine”

Least likably sung word = the word “doll” on “Broken Doll”, (nearly a tie with the word “hand” on “Dungeons for Eyes”)

Best autobiographical story song = “Guitar Heroes”

Greatest variety of musical styles in one song = “Guitar Heroes”

Song most likely to be skipped over by me = “Dungeons for Eyes”

Song I initially didn’t care for that began to grow on me the most = “Where’s Your Heart”

Music that most reminded me of music from another song by another artist = opening guitar on “Beatnik Walking” / “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel

Most noteworthy guitar soloing = “Patty Don’t You Put Me Down” for the tumbling and trips and bends. Well, let’s call it a tie with “She’s All Buttoned Up.” Wait, what about “Pony in the Stable?” And what about the epic, unravelling chimey-ness of “She Never Could Resist a Winding Road?” Oh man, “Long John Silver is really cool too – how that electric guitar digs low and then sprouts another personality about 3/4 through…

Best singing with a British accent = “She Never Could Resist a Winding Road” I didn’t like it at first, but this is nice to hear actually – so many singers don’t sing with much trace of their native accent, as if they’re playing the part of an American pop singer…or maybe it has something to do with how the mouth works singing vs. talking – I don’t know – whatever the reason, it feels true and authentic to hear some accent in there…

I imagine fans of Richard Thompson will find plenty to enjoy on STILL, and for those who may be new to his world, if you like folk, rock, virtuoso guitar work (both acoustic and electric), acerbic wit, failed relationships, English nostalgia and romance, songs about pirate con men…and 1960’s recording artists who have influenced hordes of contemporary musicians and who’ve still got it after all these years, then this latest offering from Richard Thompson might just be your cup of tea.

Psst…Wilco fans, this one’s produced by Jeff Tweedy.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener