Tag 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 – 4 1/2 – Steven Wilson

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Dear Music Appreciators,

Here is an alphabetized list of random words and names that came to mind while I listened to 4 1/2 by Steven Wilson:

addictive, artful, art-pop, atmospheric, avant garde, epic, experimental, futuristic, George Harrison, groovy, grungy, hard rock, haunting, healing, heavy, industrial, jazzy, Jeff Lynne, Jon Auer, Led Zeppelin, Manheim Steamroller, masterful, Neal Casal, Nick Drake, noirish, outer space, prog rock, psychedelia, robots, rubbery, shimmery, soaring, soothing, sprawling, swirling, Yes…

These are things that came to mind based on my own music collection, experiences, and exposure – some of them may not be relatable or even make sense, I don’t know, but I do know that they popped into my head. This is my first Steven Wilson experience and I feel lucky coming in late on him. Looks like I’ve got some more albums to work back through, that is, if I ever feel like I want to stop listening to this one.

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 – MIRAGE ROCK – Band of Horses

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Sample “Slow Cruel Hands of Time” on You Tube from MIRAGE ROCK by Band of Horses

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Dear Music Appreciators,

INFINITE ARMS is one of my all-time favorite albums. The music, the lyrics, the sequencing of such a consistently interesting and awesome sounding collection of songs – but really it’s the overall feeling and sound of the album I think. There’s just something about that lonesome-canyon-big-starry-sky sound that resonates with me. I think it has a lot to do with the reverb.

That sound is mostly missing from MIRAGE ROCK.

For me, listening to MIRAGE ROCK for the first time was like seeing a favorite movie star without their makeup. It’s the moment of truth. Does the lack of artificial enhancements confirm or deny their star power?

Despite its flaws, I believe MIRAGE ROCK is a confirmation.

Even without their studio effects these guys are still good. Maybe not great, but good. For me here are the most glaring missteps on the record:

-the misplaced hard rock departure during the “Horse With No Name”-ish track “Dumpster World”

-the patches of corny words and music and weak-sauce vocals on “Electric Music”

– not letting Tyler Ramsey just have the vocals on his song “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” all to himself. Is that Bridwell in the background or somebody else? They need to pipe down a bit and let Tyler Ramsey have his moment to shine.

– the bland instrumentation and monotonous tempo on “Feud.”

This is all forgivable as far as I’m concerned, and with great songs like “Slow Cruel Hands of Time,” “Shut In Tourist,” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone,” this is a worthwhile purchase for music fans who want a great little organic sounding country rock record from an increasingly essential American band that isn’t afraid to strike out in new and unexpected directions with every release. But what will the next album sound like? As good as MIRAGE ROCK can be at times, I don’t think anyone will want MIRAGE ROCK Part II…

I for one will want more reverb. And maybe some cow bell.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

 

Album Review – THE CARPENTER – The Avett Brothers

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Sample THE CARPENTER on You Tube

Watch/listen to more of The Avett Brothers on You Tube

Dear Music Appreciators,

I got to know The Avett Brothers through their album EMOTIONALISM, but I haven’t been able to get excited about anything they’ve put out since that record. What’s going on with them? I would imagine their live shows are still great but on record they seem to have lost some of their magnetic pull. EMOTIONALISM felt full of, well, emotion, and infectious energy – scrappy and soulful, kind of a lovable hillbilly crazy quilt of an album.

There was something about I AND LOVE AND YOU and now there’s something about THE CARPENTER as well that just doesn’t draw me in. The first song is great, and when I heard that acoustic guitar work I thought oh boy this is gonna be good. But things seemed to fizzle out from there…I feel guilty writing this for some reason…maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s me…maybe I need to spend more time with the music…

You know, it’s funny, because I turned the record on again a few minutes ago, but this time I’m listening on my headphones…suddenly it’s better.

Suddenly I like this album.

Songs that seemed kind of overdone before are now sounding just right. “Live and Die” doesn’t seem kind of whiny and desperate anymore. With a pair of $45 Sennheiser headphones, a high quality stream, and my full attention, whiny and desperate now sounds heartfelt and imploring, with the banjo work and other instrumental details resonating now instead of falling flat.

“Winter in My Heart” doesn’t seem boring and corny or like one of those weird slow numbers from The Muppet Show anymore – it seems like it’s honest and delicate and kind of sad, and hey, maybe this actually would have been great on The Muppet Show – Kermit would certainly approve of the sentiment…

And then comes “Pretty Girl from Michigan” and this time I notice the lyric “You go back to the high life and I’ll go back to the low – I should have known…” And this time the vocals, piano, strings, and plodding fuzzed out guitar work combine for a very Beatles a la Abbey Road flavor.

At the beginning of the next track a bit of Avett Brothers banter gets caught on tape – someone says “Roll it just like we been running. Feeling good” Then the band kicks into a high-energy kiss-off number called “I Never Knew You,” loaded with Beatlesque backup vocals and harmonies.

Again with the Beatles references, I know, but once I actually paid attention to this album I started to hear and feel the heart behind it – and whether they were happy or sad or high The Beatles had loads of heart – well The Avett Brothers have it too, and I guess I’ll have to work my way back through their catalog now – this time I’ll bring my headphones and I’ll try to pay closer attention.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener