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 Schwartzâs Life in Letters contains the kind of songs that must make the producers of “Greyâs Anatomy” orgasm. Her music is spirited, melodic, and yet mellow enough to be the perfect accompaniment for the navel-gazing doctors on ABCâs drama. With beautiful harmonies, intricate guitars, subtle keyboards and muted drums, Schwarzâs music is pleasant to listen to, yet it feels like thereâs something missing.
Let’s be clear, this is an album full of rich, excellent material. Schwartzâs voice is reminiscent of Brandi Carlisle in its fullness and the way she wraps it around the words. âMy Darlingâ is a haunting opening number that rests in the back of your mind like caramel stuck in your teeth.Â âGraveyardâ has some wonderful, fun harmonies, âShadow Manâ chugs along like a well-tuned Chevy and âMorningâ 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 heâs brought to every artist heâs worked with, from Crowded House to Los Lobos to Sheryl Crow. Yet, it feels as if Schwartzâs 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 sheâs actually feeling all of the emotions sheâs singing about. Life in Letters needs that on a couple of tracks, at least.
Without this type of feeling, Schwartzâs album is like a cup of decaf in the middle of the afternoon: It perks you up, but doesnât 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)
We’re not sure how this one slipped past us – actually, we do know how it slipped past us; it’s because there are over 30,000 albums released each year, so it’s easy to miss one when you’re not expecting it – but better late than never when it comes to former Curve singer Toni Halliday. Her new band Chatelaine is decidedly different than her former one, opting for string-kissed, mid-tempo meditations augmented with the occasional synth. “Oh Daddy” bears strong resemblance to Annie Lennox’s cover of “No More I Love You’s,” but the rest of the album is less passive, with Halliday singing softer than she did in Curve while maintaining a pointedness in her delivery. “Stripped Out” would have fit in perfectly on last year’s grossly overlooked album by Swedish blue-eyed soulsters Ghost vs. Sanne, and “Shifting Sands” injects a dark synth line as proof that Halliday hasn’t forgotten her roots. Hard-edged techno is a young man’s game, so it makes sense that Halliday would leave those days behind her. With Take a Line for a Walk, Halliday acts her age without caving to soft-focus melodrama, which is as win-win as it gets. (Chatelaine 2010)
I’ve been waiting for months to share this song with you. And if I actually read all of my email the day that I receive it – which is frankly impossible if I plan on getting anything else done – this post would have gone up a week ago. My bad.
From the moment I received the review copy of Disconnect from Desire, the fab new record from School of Seven Bells, I’ve been hounding my label contact about one song in particular: “I L U,” a pitch-perfect mid-tempo breakup song that will make Kevin Shields actually get My Bloody Valentine back together just so they can outdo it (though I doubt they actually could). I sent this song to a fellow UK alt rock-loving friend, and she said, “Wow. I’m 18 again.” Translation: extremely high praise. The vocal is one of those simple, ‘how did no one think of this before?’ kinds of things that many, many other bands could take an example from.
Tired of hearing me pimp the song? Fair enough. Go download it, and tell your friends.
If you want to download a remix of the song, which will hit iTunes September 14 as part of the Heart Is Strange remix EP, you can get one if you’re willing to give up your email address. Go here to check ch-check check check, check it out.
If youâre a fan of Heart, you probably have an affinity for their early stuff, as in the Dreamboat Annie days. Or you might have been hooked in the â80s, when, as singer Ann Wilson says, the band âmade a devilâs bargainâ – i.e. they wrote pop songs that the label wanted them to, such as âNeverâ and âIf Looks Could Kill.â Not that those songs were bad; in fact, some would argue that this is when Heart really arrived. Still, these sisters and their band mates appear to long for the âgood old days,â when they could emulate their biggest inspiration, Led Zeppelin. And now with Red Velvet Car, Heartâs first studio album since Jupiterâs Darling in 2004, they have succeeded. A big reason is producer Ben Mink, who has re-created the best of the âoldâ Heart but has given it a slick, current feel as well. The songwriting is top-notch, and while Ann Wilson’s voice is showing signs of weathering, you can put this album up against any heritage actâs new material and it will stand up, and above, just about anything.
âThere You Goâ kicks off with a similar rhythmic riff to one of Heartâs biggest hits, âStraight On,â and itâs a solid start. And the Zeppelin vibe is in full glory on âWTF,â âQueen City,â and in particular on âDeath Valley,â with Nancy Wilson emulating Jimmy Pageâs tone and playing with sick precision. But the band shines big on the title track, on which Ann belts it out like in her heyday, and on a track Nancy sings, the acoustic driven âHey You.â âSafronias Monkâ feels like 1978, and the closer, âSand,â also sounds like classic Heart, but maybe more like an anthem from the â80s. It canât be easy to say you want to go back to your roots and actually do it, but Heart appears to have done just that. And despite the fact that the sisters Wilson have been rolling along for years on tour, Red Velvet Car is the type of effort that should, and might, win âcomeback of the yearâ awards. (Sony Legacy 2010)
Posted by Greg M. Schwartz (07/30/2010 @ 11:00 am)
RIYL: Concrete Blonde, PJ Harvey, the Dead Weather
Jonneine Zapata is a femme fatale out of LA’s famed Silverlake district, but she’s taking a much darker road than recent peers like Jenny Lewis or the Watson Twins. Zapata’s sound is much more reminiscent of LA’s early ’90s alt-rock breakout band Concrete Blonde. Zapata often sounds like she could be a sibling of Concrete Blonde vocalist Johnette Napolitano, which is classy territory.
But Zapata needs to crank up the rock factor a notch, because eight of the ten tracks here are ballads or slow blues. She has a compelling voice and powerful charisma, as evidenced on lead single âGood Looking,â a simmering tune where Zapata’s mournful voice grabs the ear. But the song never takes off, which is unfortunately the case with most of the songs. âWorryâ has the same problem â the intro is entrancing, but you keep waiting for the song to kick in and it never does. Still, many of the tunes have a cinematic sort of appeal, as if taken from the soundtrack of some dark, twisted David Lynch flick.
A notable exception is âBurn,â a mid-tempo rocker composed of just a basic riff over a basic beat, but that’s all Zapata needs to propel her voice to a higher realm. The other rocker is âCowboy,â which is downright heavy, features burning psychedelic guitar and has some serious punk attitude from Zapata. The smokey â2, 3, 4â is a highlight too, a slow burning blues song with some shimmery guitar that showcases Zapata’s mesmerizing quality when singing about what seems to be unrequited love.
Why there aren’t a few more rockers on this album is a puzzling mystery, especially considering the powerful set that Zapata and her band threw down at the Red Eyed Fly during Austin’s SXSW Festival in March. Zapata seems to come from a haunted place, so maybe she needed to cast these demons out before she can really open up. But it would be nice to see her hook up with a producer and/or creative partner who can help her fully realize the rock goddess that is clearly within. (Laughing Outlaw Records 2009)
To call 100 Miles from Memphis Sheryl Crowâs âsoulâ album would be a little misleading. It isn’t like the songwriter/songstress/Grammy favorite hasn’t always had something of a soulful streak running through her music. This latest effort just emphasizes that streak more explicitly than any of her previous albums. More importantly, it catches Crow (most of the time) in a playful, lighthearted mood. Itâs a sharp turn from the heavy-handedness thatâs made much of her last couple of albums a bit of a challenge to listen to, and it results in her best album in at least a decade.
Working with guitarist/producer Doyle Bramhall II, 100 Miles is a loose affair. In spirit and vibe, itâs the closest Crow has come to matching her charming 1993 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club. After focusing much of her material on personal and political issues for the past few years, itâs nice to hear her lighten up. The fact that she has lightened up a bit also makes the songs where she does turn serious (like the political âSay What You Wantâ) a lot easier to take.
The Hammond B-3 organ gets a major workout on 100 Miles. Not surprising, given that the instrument was a hallmark of the Memphis soul that Crow references in the albumâs title. âEye to Eye,â a standout track, matches an Al Green-type sound with a reggae beat. âStopâ is Crowâs most affecting ballad in quite some time, and she scores with big-name collaborators like Citizen Cope (on a cover of his âSidewaysâ) and Memphis native Justin Timberlake (on the albumâs most surprising track – an effective cover of Terence Trent DâArbyâs âSign Your Nameâ). As a tip of the cap to one of the people who gave her a start in the music industry, she adds a faithful cover of the Jackson 5âs âI Want You Backâ to the end of the album. Itâs casual, and Sheryl sounds like she had fun doing it – an apt way to close a record thatâs one of the loosest (and best) of Crowâs career. (A&M Records 2010)