We have never been what one could call on the cutting edge of country music, but this clip was too cute to pass up. Say what you want about country music, but there is one thing that they have steadfastly held on to, and that is a desire to see clean-cut girls on their charts. Those girl next door types…they just do something to us. Beats the hell out of the strippers dominating the pop charts, that’s for sure.
Say hello to Sarah Darling, who hails from Iowa and could easily pass for Jane Krakowski’s little sister. The clip for her single “Something to Do with Your Hands” is delightfully simple and sweet – she looks for excuses to have her man “fix” things for her – and the chorus is earworm central, with the “uh uh oh” part serving as the ellipses to the opening line, “If you need something to do with your hands…” Message received, loud and clear. And while that would sound dirty in the hands of a more provocative artist, Sarah somehow makes it sound sweet, even though her man is getting lucky tonight. Strange double standard, but there you go.
Lastly, how nice it is to hear singers that aren’t hung up on melisma and vocal runs. Hmmm, maybe we should start listening to country more often. Ooh, and she covers vintage Elton John, too? Score.
It’s been another bad year for the recording industry, but another great year for music fans. Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well, as is the opportunity to see it performed live. Musicians can still make a living, but they have to hit the road and seize modern marketing opportunities. One thing that will never change is the public’s desire to hear great music. Bands that can deliver still have a chance to write their own ticket.
Top 10 lists are of course inherently subjective, and this observer’s faves will always lean toward the guitar-driven rock side of the music spectrum. I was certain that the debut album from the long-awaited Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band would be topping my list this year, especially after the slew of terrific new tunes they delivered in two stellar shows at the New Orleans Jazzfest back in April. But the album isn’t coming out until 2011. Here’s my take on the best albums and songs that were released in 2010.
10. The Henry Clay People: Somewhere on the Golden Coast
This is just an old-fashioned, ’90s-style indie-alternative rock ‘n’ roll album that stands out with its energetic yet down-to-earth sound. No Pro Tools trickery going on here, just a band plugging into their amps and turning up the volume. It’s got loud guitars with melodic hooks, rocking piano and zeitgeist lyrics from singer/guitarist Joey Siara that tap into this modern era of Depression and discontent. “Working Part Time” is one of the great anthems of the year, while “End of an Empire” sounds like an alt-rock prophecy.
9. The Sword: Warp Riders
The Austin, Texas hard rockers deliver a blast from the past that is easily the best metal album to come along in some time. It’s like a cross between Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, which equals metal heaven. It’s chock full of great riffs, furious rhythms and tight metal mayhem with a twist of classic rock flavor.
It’s great to see the ‘___ and the ___’ trend come back to music names. The world used to be full of them – the band behind the late ’70s one-hit wonder “Driver’s Seat”? That would be Sniff ‘n the Tears – but it fell out of favor in the mid-’80s and has rarely showed its head since. But between Fitz & the Tantrums and Austin dream poppers Candi and the Strangers, we may be witnessing the next new/old band name trend. Which is fine with us, if it means no more of those goddamn triple word score band names that were clogging marquees for a while there.
A quick spin of 10th of Always, the band’s sophomore effort set for release in early February, makes us wonder how we missed their first album. This is gorgeous, shimmering pop, like Blondie covering the Cocteau Twins. And if you like this song, wait until you hear “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful.” Hypnotic bliss, this. Consider us entranced.
Welcome to the first, and for all we know, last installment of our new column that celebrates beautiful women in music, which is a nice way of saying that we’re objectifying the bejeezus out of them.
We’ll keep this one simple: Kylie Minogue is awesome. She will likely never sing a song that will change the world, or rewrite the rules of pop – though the Flaming Lips did cover her song “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” so that’s worth something – but the world is a much happier place for having her in it. Even better, she’s actually gotten better looking as she’s gotten older, something the teen pop idols of today will appreciate when they’ve been kicked to the curb the second they’re old enough to legally order a drink. Lastly, Kylie’s a breast cancer survivor, though our theory is that once it discovered that it had appeared in her body, the cancer willingly left, apologizing as it did so.
She has a new record, the better-than-Madonna’s-last-one Aphrodite, and last week, she sang second single “Get Outta My Way” on “The Tonight Show.” We’re the last people to pimp anything that features Jay Leno on it, but sweet Jesus, look at her. Guuuuuuuuuuh.
Lucy Schwartzâ€™s Life in Letters contains the kind of songs that must make the producers of “Greyâ€™s Anatomy” orgasm. Her music is spirited, melodic, and yet mellow enough to be the perfect accompaniment for the navel-gazing doctors on ABCâ€™s drama. With beautiful harmonies, intricate guitars, subtle keyboards and muted drums, Schwarzâ€™s music is pleasant to listen to, yet it feels like thereâ€™s something missing.
Let’s be clear, this is an album full of rich, excellent material. Schwartzâ€™s voice is reminiscent of Brandi Carlisle in its fullness and the way she wraps it around the words. â€śMy Darlingâ€ť is a haunting opening number that rests in the back of your mind like caramel stuck in your teeth.Â â€śGraveyardâ€ť has some wonderful, fun harmonies, â€śShadow Manâ€ť chugs along like a well-tuned Chevy and â€śMorningâ€ť is a lovely ballad that closes the record.Â Everything is pretty and neatly in its place.
Acclaimed producer Mitchell Froom oversaw Life in Letters, and he brings to it the same precision heâ€™s brought to every artist heâ€™s worked with, from Crowded House to Los Lobos to Sheryl Crow. Yet, it feels as if Schwartzâ€™s passion has been tamped down, the reins pulled in, making the record too pretty and too mellow. You keep waiting, hoping, for the moment in which the singer loses her shit and lets out a guttural howl or some throat-shredding scream. Anything to indicate that sheâ€™s actually feeling all of the emotions sheâ€™s singing about. Life in Letters needs that on a couple of tracks, at least.
Without this type of feeling, Schwartzâ€™s album is like a cup of decaf in the middle of the afternoon: It perks you up, but doesnâ€™t give you a jolt. While Life in Letters has some finely crafted musicianship (especially when listening through headphones), nothing grabs you by the throat, or the heart, and pulls you back for repeated listens. (Fortunate Fool Records 2010)